Pastor Craig Carter
According to Luke’s gospel, Jesus ended His earthly ministry by speaking these words to His disciples: “And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven.” (Luke 24:49 NLT)
It’s interesting that Jesus’ final words focused on “power” because that’s exactly how He was introduced as well. When Jesus’ mother, Mary, was informed that she would give birth to a son who would be the Lord’s Messiah, she asked how this was possible. The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come down to you, and God’s power will come over you. So your child will be called the holy Son of God. (Luke 1:35 CEV)
And, of course, we all know that Jesus’ earthly life and ministry was characterized by power: “Then Jesus returned to Galilee, filled with the Holy Spirit’s power. Reports about him spread quickly through the whole region.” (Luke 4:14 NLT)
Since the disciples were to continue Jesus’ ministry after His return to heaven, power was to be the dominant feature of their lives as well. So Luke ended his gospel by saying Jesus told His followers to wait for God’s power to fall upon them and he began his Book of Acts with a similar statement: “But when the Holy Spirit comes to you, you will receive power. You will be my witnesses…” (Acts 1:8 NCV)
Of course, that promise came true on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit fell upon Christ’s followers in a miraculous way: “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they began to speak by the power the Holy Spirit was giving them.” (Acts 2:4 NCV)
And if there’s one word that could be used to describe their subsequent ministry, it would be “power” – the first believers exhibited great power through their words and their deeds.
As a matter of fact, according to the Bible, to be a Christian is to have incredible power. The word is used more than 100 times in the New Testament – 118 to be exact.
Now let’s fast forward 2,000 years to the Church today. If outside observers were asked to describe those of us who call ourselves Christians, would they use the word power to do so?
I can think of a lot of adjectives they’d probably use (some positive, some negative), but I don’t believe “powerful” would be one of them. I believe the reason is quite simple – by and large, we are devoid of any real power. We modern day Christians tend to be self-reliant and depend on our own strength.
The church is a reflection of our society that tells us, “Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” and “Put your nose to the grindstone.” So our faith is primarily a human effort, based on what we can do or accomplish.
But we are missing what is most essential – God’s power. As a result, we are just a “shell” of who we are intended to be, pretending to be something we’re not, and fooling nobody in the process.
TV reality shows have been popularized in recent years, but the original one first made its appearance on the airwaves way back in 1948 and was called, Candid Camera. Hosted by Allen Funt, it used hidden cameras to film ordinary people in unusual staged situations, sometimes using trick props like a talking mailbox or desk drawers that would pop open when another one was closed. When the joke was revealed, the victims were informed with the show’s catchphrase, “Smile, you’re on Candid Camera!”
One the most famous gags involved a car without a motor. The engine and transmission were removed from a vehicle and pushed downhill. A woman behind the wheel then guided the vehicle into a service station or garage. She asked for help and the unsuspecting mechanics looked under the hood.
“You don’t have a motor!”
“Can you fix it and get me running again?”
“Lady, you don’t understand, there’s no motor!”
“What happened to it?”
When the mechanics’ frustration boiled over, they’d say, “Smile, you’re on Candid Camera!”
Could that car without an engine be a parable for many of us as Christians? Or could it be an image of how most churches operate? Outwardly everything looks okay, but a closer look reveals that we are operating without power.
Sadly, we may have become what the founder of our denomination feared might happen.
In the early days of Methodism, John Wesley wrote in a letter: “I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid, lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power.” (John Wesley)
If that indictment is true, do we understand the significance of that finding? Do we even care? Do we realize how truly necessary God’s power is?
I’d like to identify a couple of reasons why God’s power is so essential. We’ll draw from the automobile analogy to guide us.
1) God’s power is essential to travel anywhere but downhill.
A car without an engine is fine when you’re able to coast, but most roads aren’t like a “soapbox derby” track.
In a similar way, there are times in our lives when we seem to be able to get along just fine ourselves. We might be “coasting” or “skating” without a worry in the world, but then we hit a spot or approach a “hill” where it becomes obvious that we are sorely lacking in power.
What are some times we need power in our journeys through life?
Power for holiness
The Bible makes it clear, “You must be holy because I, the Lord your God, is holy.” (Leviticus 19:2 NLT)
How successful have you been in fulfilling that command? Not successful at all? Me either! That’s because we, being unholy, do not possess the ability to be holy.
So we need the power of the Holy Spirit to do for us what we cannot do ourselves.
“And because you belong to [Christ], the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin…” (Romans 8:2 NLT)
Most of us feel helpless against the power of sin and harmful habits. The reason is quite simple: we’re doing battle based on our own strength. But there is incredible power at our disposal if we will only utilize it.
It is the power of God’s Holy Spirit that roots out and displaces sin and evil in our lives. Without it, our attempts to remove sinful habits are futile. With that power at work within us, sin doesn’t stand a chance – it can and will be removed and carried away and we become who God intended us to be – holy and set apart from the things of this world.
Power for healing
We live in a broken world and both ourselves and others around us are broken – spiritually, physically, emotionally, and relationally speaking. And try as we may, we cannot fix ourselves, and much less anyone else.
But Jesus demonstrated in His earthly ministry that God’s power is available for healing. And we can tap into that same power through prayer.
“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” (James 5:16 NLT)
There is no situation beyond repair when we utilize God’s power through prayer.
Power for hope
When we rely on our own strength and willpower it is easy to lose hope because we face many hopeless situations from a human perspective.
But with God all things are possible so Paul says, “I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Roman 15:13 NLT)
How much hope do we have? According to Paul in Ephesians 1:18-20, the same power that raised Christ from the dead is now available to us. That, my friends, is a powerful hope that will get us through anything and everything. There’s no situation gloomier than being dead and buried for three days, right?
Are you in need of power for holiness, healing, or hope today? Where and how do you get it?
God’s power = Believe + Receive.
Do you believe in a power greater than yourself? Quit trying and start trusting.
Will you receive the power of the Holy Spirit? Pray and ask for it.
2) God’s power is also essential to be of use to other people.
A car without an engine might be okay to look at, but that’s not why it was made. Automobiles were made to move and designed to transport passengers from point A to point B.
As Christians, we have been created for a purpose – to honor God and carry out His divine work in this world. And, for that to happen, we must be energized with power from on high.
That is, it is essential that we live powerful, Spirit-filled lives so we can impact our community and world for Christ. Otherwise, we’re like cars without engines sitting in a museum or on a showroom floor.
Here’s an interesting principle about vehicles: the bigger and more powerful, the greater things you can accomplish. So the more power we have, the greater good we can do…and what good is that?
Power to witness for Jesus
This was the primary reason for pouring out His Holy Spirit on God’s people. “When the Holy Spirit comes to you, you will receive power. You will be my witnesses…” (Acts 1:8 NCV)
And that’s exactly what happened:
“With great power the apostles were telling people that the Lord Jesus was truly raised from the dead. And God blessed all the believers very much. (Acts 4:33 NCV)
You and I need power to witness because it’s a hard thing to do. Ever tried it? It’s easy to talk about the news, weather, and sports, but serious subjects are hard to address, so we need power from on high to witness.
Power to minister in Jesus’ name (Acts 4:7-12)
When the first disciples were filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, not only did they say something, they did something. Namely, they continued Jesus’ ministry by doing the same things He had done – they healed, they cast out demons, and yes, they even raised the dead.
When asked how these miracles were possible, they replied that it was all done “by the powerful name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 4:10 NLT).
Do you ever encounter situations and don’t know what to do or say? It may be a friend going through a divorce, an abused student, or your sister is caught in addiction … These kind of situations show us that we need power from on high – power to witness about Jesus and power to minister in Jesus’ name.
And the more we possess God’s power, the greater work we can accomplish. Powerful witness for Christ and powerful ministry in His name go hand-in-hand.
In the Early Church, we read that “the apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 4:33 NLT), but they also “performed many miraculous signs and wonders” or deeds of power (Acts 2:43 NLT).
Maybe the reason the modern day church has so little impact is because we do neither, or perhaps I should say, I do neither.
I was convicted by a recent Daily Text devotional by our friend, J.D. Walt. In it, he referenced 1 Corinthians 2:4-5 NIV, where the Apostle Paul says, “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power … God’s power.”
Reflecting on that passage, J.D. Walt writes… “Where the gospel is proclaimed with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, the attention of the people will be irresistibly drawn into an encounter with the living God rather than an assessment of the preacher or the message … [As preachers], I would assess our major problem as being far more concerned with our ‘delivery’ of the message than we are about a demonstration of the Spirit’s power. Sure, we want a demonstration of the Spirit’s power but we readily confuse this with a demonstration of our own polished skills.” (J.D. Walt, Daily Text, 6/6/20)
I feel convicted by J.D. Walt’s observation. But I would trade all the “good message, preacher” comments in the world for one changed life. For that to happen, God’s power is absolutely necessary.
Let me close with a story I heard about a historic church in a large city that engraved on the cornerstone of their building Jesus’ words to His disciples when He sent them out in ministry. Using the King James Version, it said, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils.” (Matthew 10:7b-8a KJV)
One day a gentleman entered the church office and asked, “Well, do you?” The secretary was confused by the inquiry and replied, “Do we what?” The man answered, “I saw the sign outside that said, ‘Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils.’ Do you do those things?”
The woman was taken aback and began to explain that those words were taken from Scripture and placed there to remind people of what Jesus had once said. The man responded, “That’s just what I thought. But you know, if you’re not going to deliver the goods, you shouldn’t advertise!”
I’d love to be able to post those words on a sign outside our church building. But if we’re going to deliver the goods, it is essential that we have God’s Power.
Divine power, provided by the Holy Spirit, is truly necessary for our existence and is an absolute must if we’re going to make a difference for Christ in our community and world. Can we all agree we’re not going to proceed a step further without it? Then let’s ask for it by praying the prayer Jesus taught us to pray:
Our Father, who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power,
and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.