FORGET NONE OF HIS BENEFITS
volume 17, number 43, November 1, 2018
“Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.” -Acts 4:13
Gaining, Regaining, or Maintaining the Divine Swagger
Peter, the man who some fifty-five or sixty days earlier, was so intimidated by a little girl that he vehemently denied that he even knew Jesus; is now standing before the movers and shakers in Jerusalem (priests, the captain of the temple guard, Sadducees who were religious liberals who denied the resurrection, Annas the high priest and the former high priest, Caiaphas, and many others of high priestly descent). Peter had healed a lame man, a crowd gathered, and Peter preached Christ to the crowd. Many believed and the church then numbered five thousand in a matter of days since Pentecost. In the presence of the Sadducees, Peter does not shrink from proclaiming the death and resurrection of Jesus. Luke tells us that Peter, filled with the Spirit, tells these movers and shakers that they were guilty of crucifying Jesus, whom God had raised from the dead, that they were guilty of rejecting the cornerstone, Jesus. Peter then proclaims the exclusivity of Christ, saying that there is no other name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved.
Peter and John possessed the “divine swagger.” Do you? What do I mean by that? How do you gain it, regain it, or maintain it? The “divine swagger” is a spiritual confidence, a boldness, a lack of intimidation, a willingness to accept cheerfully and humbly whatever comes one’s way in his service of Jesus Christ. You see it in Peter and John, don’t you? Being thrown in prison for one night to “scare them out of their folly”, to so intimidate them by experiencing a filthy prison, that they would stop their preaching, did not deter them. Nor did being put in front of the religious and political power brokers of the day. Nor did the sophistication of the Sadducees. Nor did their radical statement that all religions of the world are false, that only Christianity can deliver on the promise of heaven.
To go further, Luke tells us that the people watching what was “going down” were amazed (more like startled, troubled, convicted), having clearly seen the confidence (shall we say swagger) of Peter and John, having understood that they were uneducated (the Greek word is literally “non-writers”, men not educated as the priests where in the finer points of theology, country bumpkins, red-necks so to speak) and untrained (the Greek word is transliterated into English as “idiots”). Peter and John were clearly not intimidated by the humiliating monikers laid on them by the Jewish power brokers. Paul also gloried in the names people called him (1 Cor.4:9,10,13).
When brought before the Sanhedrin, the religious council, Peter and John were told that they must stop preaching Jesus to the people. Again, we cannot miss the divine swagger of these two apostles. They say, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard,” (Acts 4:19,20). To expand on what Peter means, consider this paraphrase. “We have been with Jesus for three years. We have seen Him heal people of many diseases. We have seen Him raise several people from the dead. We have seen Him cast demons out of people. We heard His powerful sermons. We watched Him closely and we never saw Him sin in any way. We were with him many times after His resurrection. We were standing with Him on the Mount of Olives as He ascended into heaven, and you what? You want us to stop speaking in His name? How can we possibly do that? No way. We cannot stop speaking of what we have seen and heard.”
Do you presently have this boldness and confidence? Or are you unwilling, even to suffer ridicule and rejection by your friends because of your faith in Jesus?
How do you gain the “divine swagger?” You must note two key issues in the text of Acts 4. First of all, Peter who had received the promised Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, is also filled with the Spirit in Acts 4:8. This tells us that Peter perhaps had “leaked out” the Spirit, something we do everyday. He needed to repent in order to receive again the filling of the Spirit. So, as I pointed out in my devotional of October 11, when we sin, when we grieve or quench the Holy Spirit, we are to repent, receive the forgiveness again of our sins, and believe that we afresh and anew receive the power of the Holy Spirit. And we are also told that the place where they were gathered together was shaken and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and they began to speak the word of God with boldness (Acts 4:31).
Secondly, we are told that the leaders were amazed because these mere fisherman, unlearned and untrained men, were speaking with confidence and boldness, in no way deterred by the opposition standing against them. And what was the reason for their boldness? The leaders had observed that these men had been with Jesus. Oh, my friends, that is the key. How can you possibly have the divine swagger if you are not much alone with your Savior and Lord? Do you make time daily, at the beginning of your day, in prayer and Bible reading, memorizing, meditating, and applying the word of God very specifically to your life? Are you more in love with Jesus today than you were this time last year, two years ago, five years ago? Are you moving forward in spiritual intimacy or are you regressing? Nothing remains the same in your physical, financial, or professional life. Why should your spiritual life be any different?
Too many of us speak of Jesus in a theoretical manner, like a physician who gives a case history of a patient to a colleague, but who is not emotionally connected with the patient. Oh, that we may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death in order that we may attain to the resurrection from the dead, (Philippians 3:10,11). An academic approach to Jesus, like a linguistics scholar studying an ancient Sanskrit text, will never do. Feed daily on Jesus. Eat of His flesh and drink of His blood in the Lord’s Supper, and go to Him daily for refuge from your sin which so easily entangles you with the world, flesh, and the devil.
Just as you loved to spend time with your girlfriend who eventually became your fiancee and later still, your wife; you likewise want to spend time with the lover of your soul, the One who gave Himself up for your sins, who was raised up for your justification and glorification.
1. Receiving the Holy Spirit, A Vital Necessity, October 11, 2018, archived at <pefministry.org>