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Jan 7, 2011

An Example of Sanctification in Action

This is a story of two men you may know.

The first man was enthusiastic, well intentioned, and bold but often lacked insight and faith. He publically denied knowing Christ. He was so brash and impulsive that he once attacked and severely injured someone with a deadly weapon. Even after coming to know the Lord, on one occasion he was so scared and had such a crisis of faith that he almost died. Later after entering ministry he fell into theological error and had to be privately and even publically corrected by another church leader.

The second man, however, became a major figure in his church. He preached such powerful sermons that even one of his earliest messages led to three thousand conversions in one day. He wrote theological masterpieces still studied in the church to this day. A martyr of the first order, after being arrested for his preaching and sentenced to death by the dictatorial government, he insisted on being crucified upside down as he felt unworthy to die in the same manner which his Lord died.

These two men, of course, are both the apostle Peter. Perhaps more than any other figure in the Bible we see Peter as an example of the transforming work of sanctification in a man’s life. Peter was one of Christ’s three closest and most trusted friends and disciples. Along with Paul, Peter ascended to one of the two most influential leaders of the early Christian church. He was the official apostle to his fellow Jews. He preached the very first Christian sermon after Pentecost. He was called The Rock long before Dwayne Johnson ever took the nickname.

But before that Peter also had a few embarrassing missteps and even one or two colossal failures. Only as God transformed and sanctified Peter did he become the spiritual giant who led the first century church. Peter gives me hope as a fallible, often impulsive man myself, who has made plenty of mistakes in my life. Even though I groan every time I read about Peter denying Christ (Three times, even after Jesus told him he would!), I still take comfort to know how mightily God used him after his repentance and forgiveness. Even though I snicker sometimes when I read how Peter would sometimes miss the point of Jesus’ teaching or go off half-cocked, I’m also encouraged to see that God seems more than willing to take enthusiastic men like that and steer them in the right direction.

Peter at times was presumptuous, slow to comprehend, cowardly, timid, arrogant, lacking faith, and even blasphemous. And what man isn’t all of these at some time in his life? So far, he sounds a lot like me. But by the time God was done with him, after pouring out his Holy Spirit on him, after teaching him and illuminating truth in his heart and mind, and after progressively and continually sanctifying him, Peter became someone willing and able to do great things for God. This same Peter became bold, courageous, teachable, insightful, immovable, faithful, self-sacrificing, and a true leader of his people and of his church. This Peter sounds more like a man I can only hope and strive to be.

So how did Peter transform from such a typical, flawed man into such an effective and bold leader of the church? The early Jewish leaders were wondering the same thing after they arrested Peter and John for preaching of Christ. After hearing Peter, "filled with the Holy Spirit", answer their charges, they reached this conclusion in Acts 4:13;
"Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.
That’s the key for any of us who hope to be used by God; to be with Jesus. Only through spending time with Jesus will we ever reach the potential God has in mind for us. Only through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit will we ever be transformed into faithful and effective servants of God. Only by dedicating our lives to glorifying the Father will we ever hope to share in his glory. Let Peter be an example of the power of God’s sanctification in our lives.

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