Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve possessed two qualities: I’m very emotional (even more so than most people) and I’m confrontational. I’ve never really had trouble confronting people when I need to!
I haven’t always used these qualities very well. When I was a little girl, I used my emotions to manipulate my parents and get myself out of trouble. When I was a teenager, I used my ability to confront people without love and often I just made others feel bad or angry. If I were a superhero, people would have said that I used my powers for evil.
Both qualities are great qualities; God gave them to me, but I didn’t know how to use them effectively and I was selfish. In order for these qualities to work the way God intended, I needed to be transformed from a selfish person into a person who put God and His will first.
I’m not the first person who had great personality traits but didn’t know how to use them properly–most of us have characteristics that we’d like to use better. In the Bible, Peter is stubborn, impulsive, loud-mouthed and passionate, but like most of us, Peter had to learn to use the qualities God had given him the right way. So let’s take a look at the amazing transformative power of God!
In John 13 beginning in verse 1, Jesus and the disciples are eating. When Jesus finishes His meal He gets up, wraps a towel around His waist, grabs a basin of water and begins to wash the disciples’ feet.
Most of us know the story: When Jesus gets to Peter, Peter freaks out at first, stubbornly refusing to let Jesus touch his feet! Jesus patiently explains why this must be done and Peter finally relents, but this is an example of stubbornness being used poorly. Are you stubborn with the Lord when He wants to do something for us or asks us to do something for Him? I am more often than I’d like to admit.
In Matthew 26:33-35, Jesus tells His disciples that they will all fall away once He is arrested. Jesus doesn’t single Peter out until Peter begins to argue. Always stubborn and impulsive, Peter passionately denies that he will deny Jesus. We all know how this story ends. I love this passage because it reminds me that I often act like I know myself better than God when it’s actually the other way around: God knows me better than I ever will.
John 18:10-11 tells us that Peter drew his sword and cut off the ear of Malchus, the high priest’s slave, when they came to arrest Jesus. Later in John 21, Jesus restores Peter, takes away the shame of his denial and calls him to shepherd His sheep–that is, to care for His people. Jesus has been transforming the disciples for three years as they walked with Him, but I think that here, when Peter’s forgiven for denying Christ and asked to care for God’s people, is when Peter’s heart just gives in to God’s transforming power.
Suddenly, Peter’s personality matures. He still possesses the same qualities–impulsiveness, passion and stubbornness–but now he begins to use them properly and with wisdom. In Acts 2, on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples and people thought they were drunk, Peter gave an impulsive and passionate sermon to help the people understand what was happening. The Bible says that 3,000 people repented and were saved that day.
In Acts 4, Peter and John are taken before the Sanhedrin (Jewish legal council) and told not to preach the name of Jesus. The last time Peter was confronted by someone working for the Pharisees and Sadducees, he cut off the poor man’s ear. This time Peter uses his stubbornness with wisdom and grace, refusing to stop testifying about Jesus Christ. The Sanhedrin let Peter and John go because they couldn’t argue with what they said.
When we read the gospels, two figures are mentioned repeatedly. One is obviously Jesus Christ, the other is Simon Peter. Peter is so human! He sticks his foot in his mouth a lot, makes rash decisions and even questions God, but Jesus always shows him grace, just as He does for us.
If we let Him, God will use His grace and kindness to transform our hearts. He’ll teach us how to use what He has given us for His kingdom, but we have to turn everything over to Him.
How are you being transformed by God?
Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? (Romans 2:4)