The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Practical Power of God

If we accumulate facts or knowledge about God and His word and never apply what is learned, it is useless. If you fill your car with four plus dollar a gallon gasoline, but never turn the ignition to start your vehicle and drive it, what good is it? None. If you plug your power tool into the electrical socket or put the charged battery into it, yet never use it for your home improvements or work, what good is it? If you empty the dirty clothes into the washing machine, arrange all the right settings for the load, yet never push the start button, what good is it? And if all you do is read the word of God and accumulate facts, yet it has no life changing impact in your life, what good is it? At some point what we accumulate in terms of knowledge of God and His word has to be applied to our lives.

We read about the power of God in His word and see the great things for the glory of God people were able to do in His power, but what about us? Where’s God’s power in us? Where’s the power of the outpoured Spirit in our lives? Where’s that New Testament world changing people influencing power of God? I look around and I don’t see it. I look at me, and a lot of times, I don’t see it. I look at you, I don’t see it. Where is it? What’s the problem? Why the power outage?

The problem is that we have drifted too far into theoretical abstractions and not been grounded in practical concrete solutions. Instead of applying the power of God we’ve lost it. And the sign of its loss in us and those around us is complaining, spiritual lethargy, and sinful living. God’s power is practical and we need to make the connection to it and turn on the ignition. Vance Havner once said, “We are not going to move this world by criticism of it, nor conformity to it, but only by the combustion within it of live ignited by the Spirit of God.” Light us up Lord!

On May 31st, 1792 William Carey preached a sermon on Isaiah 54:2-3 (“Enlarge the place of your tent, and let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings; do not spare; lengthen your cords, and strengthen your stakes. For you shall expand to the right and to the left, and your descendants will inherit the nations and make the desolate cities inhabited.”) It was this Spirit empowered sermon that led to a world mission movement that continues to this day. In this sermon Carey spoke the famous words, “Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God.” That’s the heart of the practical power of God. We need that today and always. How do we get it? How do we experience the practical power of God?

There are nine practical outlets for God’s power in our lives. This isn’t meant to be exhaustive. As we prayerfully study God’s word we may come up with additional practical outlets of His power in our lives. But these nine are a start to applying God’s power. Practically speaking God’s power is seen in the following ways.

First, God’s power is a provision for every need (Phil. 4:19). Paul writes the Philippians:

Philippians 4:19 - 19 And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

The context of this verse is material provision from God but God is able to provide for us in all areas of need, e.g. finances, relationships, circumstantial needs, etc. There are various and numerous needs we have in life and God promises to powerfully provide for all our needs. If God is not providing in an area, you must go to Him in prayer and ask, “Lord, is this a want or a need?” Sometimes we confuse wants with needs. God’s powerful promise is to provide for our needs, not our wants. Seek His simplicity in life and His power will be released in you.

Secondly, God’s power is a pathway to avoid sin when tempted (1 Cor. 10:13). Sin does not have to dominate us (Rom. 6:14). And the way God helps us to win over sin is by providing an escape route. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians He is inspired to write them:

1 Corinthians 10:13 -13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

Everyone is tempted. Even Jesus was tempted (Mat. 4:1-11). Temptation is not sin. Our decisions in the face of temptation are what determines if we sin. If we choose to disobey God and step outside the parameters of His word when tempted, we sin. The power goes off. But God promises to give us an escape route that we can “bear it” or avoid sinning. That is part of the power of God. Living a holy life based on holy scriptural guided decision when tempted releases God’s power in and through us.

Third, God’s power is an incarcerating power to control our thoughts (2 Cor. 10:4-5). Scripture states:

2 Corinthians 10:4-5 - 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,

The spiritual war that rages is to a great extent in our minds and thought life. God provides the capability to the believer to “take every thought into captivity to obedience of Christ.” This requires walking in the Spirit on our part. We need to prayerfully listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit in order to identify wrong or sinful thoughts and once identified lean on God to help us take the thoughts into captivity. God helps us cast aside sinful or wrong thoughts and follow the truth of His word. A great part of this is using the word of God to discern truth from falsehood in our thought life (Ps. 119; Eph. 6:10-18; 2 Tim. 2:15; 3:16-17). Throw out the garbage thoughts of your mind and feed on Holy writ and God’s power will flow in and through you. (I suggest you go to Philippians 4:8-9 for a list of thoughts to cultivate. These will keep the power on in you.)

Fourth, God’s power is a providential care (Proverbs 3:5-6). As we trust in the Lord He promises to “direct our paths” according to the Psalmist (Prov. 3:5-6). In the New Testament we are told that God will direct us into His love and the patience of Christ (2 Thess. 3:5). God will direct us in life and when we follow His instructions we find His power unleashed in incredible ways.

Fifth, God’s power is protection from harm (Job 1-2). We might not think of Job as an example of God’s protection but he is. Satan had to get permission from God to afflict Job. God set limits on what the devil could do to him. God’s protection is contingent on His ultimate will and His ultimate plans. But He does protect us from our enemies and from harm in ways we are probably not even aware of. God defends us (Ps. 5:11). God is our hiding place (Ps. 32:7). He is our refuge and strength (Ps. 46:1-3). His right hand saves us (Ps. 138:7). He is always with us (Is. 43:1-2; Acts 18:9-11). He protects us from the evil one (John 17:15; 1 John 5:18-19). And we are kept by His power (1 Pet. 1:5).

Nothing happens in this world or to us that God does not give permission for. And God’s decision as to whether or not He allows certain things are all contingent on His Divine plans. His ways are not our ways and He knows what is best in the end (Is. 55:8-11). We may not understand what God allows to happen, but we do know He is holy, just and good and we need to trust Him and His decisions in faith. When we do, no matter what, His power is unleashed in us.

Sixth, God’s power is seen in Christ’s propitiation for sin (Rom.3:23-26). The cross of Christ stands at the center of history as God’s propitiation of His just wrathful penalty for sin for the sins committed past, present and future. In Romans it states:

Romans 3:23-26 - 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Propitiation is the satisfying of God’s just sentence and penalty against sin. Jesus did this for us on the cross. When by His grace we in faith trust Jesus’ propitiating work, God’s powerful gospel effect is released in us (cf. Rom. 1:16).

Seventh, God’s power is a dynamic enabling boldness to serve Him and share the gospel with the lost (Acts 1:8). Through the baptism with the Holy Spirit we are empowered with a holy boldness to serve the Lord and share the gospel. This is the fulfillment of God’s promise (Acts 1:4-5, 8) and it is illustrated in the sermon of Peter at Pentecost. At Pentecost one who had previously cowardly denied Jesus three times now stood in the midst of the enemies of Christ and boldly preached the gospel of Jesus Christ. In Acts we see the church born and boldly sharing the gospel (Acts 4:31). This is God’s dynamic practical power that can change a world.

Eighth, God’s power is His presence in our lives (Psalm 16:11). Someone has said, “One with God is a majority.” With God on our side we need not fear. When God is with us there is nothing impossible. Where God guides God provides. Where God guides God empowers. God’s power is passed on to us by His own presence. We see this in particular in our joy.

In God’s presence is His powerful fullness of Joy. Joy is the presence of Jesus within assuring, guiding, and empowering us through the circumstances of life. This is illustrated in Paul’s letter to the Philippians where he speaks of God’s incredible joy to them, as he writes from a jail cell (cf. also Acts 16 where Paul and Silas are beaten and thrown in jail and still able to sing to the Lord.)

Nine, God’s power is in the resurrection (1 Cor. 15). Because of the resurrection we don’t have to face death in fear or darkness or despair. The great question mark that all humanity faces, death, can be faced with certainty and victory because of the resurrection.

In the book Jesus Freaks the account of Jack Vinson in Kiangsu Province, Mainland China in 1931 is given. When a bandit “told the missionary, ‘I’m going to kill you. Aren’t you afraid? Jack Vinson replied simply, ‘Kill me, if you wish. I will go straight to God.” A friend of Jack Vinson was inspired by his courage and wrote the following poem:

Afraid? Of What?
To feel the spirit’s glad release?
To pass from pain to perfect peace,
The strife and strain of life to cease?
Afraid – of that?
Afraid? Of What?
Afraid to see the Savior’s face
To hear His welcome, and to trace
The glory gleam from wounds of grace?
Afraid – of that?
Afraid? Of What?
A flash, a crash, a pierced heart;
Darkness, light, O Heaven’s art!
A wound of His a counterpart!
Afraid – of that?
Afraid? Of What?
To do by death what life could not –
Baptize with blood a stony plot,
Till souls shall blossom from the spot?
Afraid – of that?

Scripture states:

1 Corinthians 15:55-58 - “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

That is a great comfort to those facing death. For that victory we should forever worship Jesus. This is living hope (1 Pet. 1:3-4). This is the most practical manifestation of God’s power; the defeat of death and resurrection to eternal life. Praise Him!

God’s power is practical. God’s power is seen in many ways. You have to experience it to really know it. Paul prayed he and all Christians would experience the practical power of God (Eph. 1:15-22; Phil. 3:7-10). We should pray to know God’s power in our lives by the Holy Spirit. God's power is practical. Don't leave home without it!

No comments:

Post a Comment