July 11, 2014

Has the church lost its power?

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. (Ephesians 2:19–21)

I read yesterday that the Gospel turned the world “upside down” because it is “upside down” good news. Humanity expects that pleasing God means pulling ourselves up to His level; the Gospel says He came down to our level. Humanity thinks we must be good enough; the Gospel says Jesus died for us “while we were yet sinners” and that He became poor for our sakes that we might become rich. The Gospel is not what we would assume nor invent. It makes no sense for a holy God to declare sinners righteous without any merit on our part. But even faith is a gift from Him.

So when the disciples began telling their world this good news, the people latched onto them and dragged them before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also . . .” (Acts 17:6)

The Spirit of God did this. The church is made up of ordinary people. We are from all walks of life, all ages, and all cultures. Most of us are weak in that we have nothing remarkable about us. We are not world-changers even if we wanted to be. Instead, we are helpless and dependent on God, which is how it should be.

Jesus gives us our start. He said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” (John 15:16) This is incredible. God picks sinners to produce results that last, world-changing results. He also gives us the remarkable privilege of being able to ask Him for whatever we need to do it.

If that is shocking, so also is the power that He gives us through the person of the Holy Spirit to tell others the good news about Jesus Christ, the Gospel. He said, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

This good news is not always well-received. When the first Christians were speaking to the people, “The priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they arrested them and put them in custody . . . .”

Yet the power of the Holy Spirit prevailed. At that time, “many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.” This shook up the rulers, elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem. Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family latched onto the disciples and confronted them saying, “By what power or by what name did you do this?”

Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders . . . let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this (miracle happened). This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
These world-changers prevailed. As the leaders of the people “saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished . . . and recognized that they had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:1–13)

I will not make excuses for the seeming lack of power in the church today, except to say from my own observation and experience, I am powerless when I do not spend time with Jesus. I cannot do anything of any significance if I am not filled with the Holy Spirit. He may bestow on His people all His gifts and power, but if we neglect this wonder to do other things besides what He asks us to do, then we are just uneducated, common people without any ability to change anything.

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