Reading today in Acts 4, once again I came on verse 13. It's a verse I've read often before. Peter and John have been dragged in front of the religious leaders to explain themselves after a crippled man had been healed at the temple gate.
When asked about it, they answered directly and unapologetically, stating clearly that the man had been healed in none other than the name of Jesus Christ.
"When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus."
The first observation that I make in this text is that there was a quality or a characteristic that these religious leaders observed that made Peter and John stand out. And knowing their backgrounds, it surprised them...astonished them actually, that these ordinary men would possess such qualities. Peter and John spoke with authority to them, not in fear and trembling as others who were brought before them did. There was a confidence and a conviction about them that was unusual...even extraordinary. And it made these leaders wonder, and in their analysis of Peter and John they took note of one distinctive fact about them. These men had been with Jesus. It became obvious to these religious leaders that this is what set them apart from all the rest.
It begs a question for me...for all of us really. Can people that I know and interact with recognize the same quality or characteristic in my life? Is it obvious to my colleagues and my peers, both inside and outside the church, that I have been with Jesus? I would like to think that this is always the case - but I would be fooling myself.
You see, I don't think you can fake this. There's not enough theological education available in all the seminaries in all the world that can give you the kind of confidence and authority that time spent with Jesus can give you.
Peter and John had spent three years with Him. And now, raised from the dead, Jesus had instructed them to wait for the promised Holy Spirit that He would give. And when the Holy Spirit came, He put the confidence and the boldness of these disciples into overdrive.
Time spent with Jesus...yes, but also an openness to whatever Jesus wanted to do in their lives. That's what made the remarkable difference.
I believe that Jesus makes all the difference in a life. He has in mine. But the subsequent experience when Jesus baptizes in the Holy Spirit as found in Acts 2 takes everything learned at Jesus' feet and puts it into hyper-drive. It's like a simmering pot of water suddenly being cranked up to high heat and brought to a rolling boil.
If you want to stand out, be open to the power of the Holy Spirit in your life. Ask Jesus for it and He promised He would give it (Luke 11:9-13). And then keep on asking. Because we need to continue to be 'being filled' with His Spirit so that He can change the world through us. Just like He did through Peter and John and the other apostles in the early church.
Because it is far to easy to let our relationship with Jesus and our openness to the Spirit slip and before we know it, we are once again, just ordinary men and women.