Jesus left the earth in the first chapter of Acts. He told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the promised Holy Spirit, and they did. Jesus had discipled them, but after three years of living with them, setting an example for them, they fled on the night that he was betrayed and arrested. One denied him three times; one betrayed him; one doubted to the very end, and they all fled. He warned them, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41, ESV).

It wasn’t until the Holy Spirit came that things turned around. That’s what the Lord gave us. “The Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you” (John 14:17).

You can have all the teaching, guidebooks and study guides — they all have their place — but unless God does a work inside of you by his Spirit, you’re just going to act more moral. Only the Holy Spirit brings conviction of sin. Only he makes Christ real. Only he produces the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. In fact, Paul says the Spirit is the spirit of Christ, so he becomes our life. God’s not working with the old Jim Cymbala; he wants Christ to live through me and through all believers.

When Peter, the one who denied Jesus, gets up after Pentecost, he preached a sermon so powerful it brought deep conviction of sin. The true gospel which Peter preached is the power of God for salvation, for everyone who believes. Not the sound system, not the building, not what colors you make it, not the signage. Paul said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” Peter preached it, and thousands came into the church that day.

The only change for anyone in my church or your church or in me or in you is God’s Spirit in us. “For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).