The essence of legalism is substituting human power for God’s power; human ability for divine ability. This is arrogance, whether we intended it or not. That’s why Jesus denounced the Pharisees:
- “Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God.” Matthew 22:29, NKJV.
- “But He said, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.”” Luke 18:27, NKJV.
God doesn’t stutter: “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal,” yet how many of Christ’s followers seek to do God’s work in their own strength (2 Cor 10:4)! Millions of Christians try very hard every day to do God’s work in unaided human power. The weapons of their warfare ARE carnal. Unfortunately, well meaning pastors like me encourage this insanity.
We desperately need the power of God.
How do we obtain it? What are the sources of divine power in the life of God’s people? Here are four sources of God’s power, and please note that they all play together nicely… actually, omitting even one makes you a bedraggled pilgrim.
1. THE FILLING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. Regardless of your theology on how this happens, we must be filled with the Spirit. Hasn’t God been super-clear that good works done for him, apart from his Spirit, are meaningless?
- “‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ Says the LORD of hosts.” Zechariah 4:6, NKJV.
Notice that little word “not.” In the original Hebrew it means exactly what it means in the English: “NOT!” We will not do the work of God by human might or power. Do you believe that? Does Bono believe that? Does the new generation of emerging pastors believe that? Do Christian activists believe that? Do I believe that? Do I really believe the word “not” at the beginning of Zech 4:6? How about this one: “Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the LORD guards the city, The watchman stays awake in vain.” Psalms 127:1, NKJV. How much of our work is in vain!
Because we have not asked for the filling of God’s Spirit. In my theology–and I’m not going to be a stickler here–God’s Spirit fills us when we ask him to, when we trust him to. I’ll save that teaching for another time (Luke 11:13; Rom 15:13; Eph 1:17). Your theology may be different; that’s fine. Even so…
We need to return to the power of the Holy Spirit, a moment-by-moment sense of trust and dependency on Him. When we walk in the Spirit, we honor God. He provides his supernatural and spiritual power to do what must be done in every given circumstance.
No matter how we feel!
But the Spirit does not work in isolation. He uses a specific weapon in our hearts to wield his power:
2. THE WORD OF GOD, BUILT INTO OUR PSYCHE. We often view the Bible as simply a “how-to” manual. It is that, but it is far more. The Bible is not simply a collection of data-bytes for us to think about. When we ingest the Bible, we don’t just get information, we also get POWER.
- “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12, NKJV.
- ““Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.” Luke 8:11, NKJV.
- “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11, NKJV.
- ““Is not My word like a fire?” says the LORD, “And like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?” Jeremiah 23:29, NKJV.
- “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” Romans 1:16, NKJV.
This is why it is so important to learn “the whole counsel of God.” As a kid, I memorized this verse in Awana…. if only our churches would really believe its message:
- “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16, 17, NKJV.
Notice that you can’t have the underlined part without the doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness first. But isn’t that exactly what we are doing?
Compare the Biblical content of today’s sermons with sermons of past generations. Today we have sermonettes for Christianettes. Back then, they had red meat. They had spiritual muscle. The revivals that swept America always followed biblical reformations that swept the church.
Why isn’t the Spirit enough? Because the “sword of the Spirit” is the Word of God. Every Christian has the Spirit (indwelling), but not every Christian has the Word. You have disarmed the Spirit, so to speak, if you have not grown in God’s Word. You are powerless in the fight.
The Bible is the backbone of the church; without God’s Word sounding from pulpits across the land, the church loses ground. So do Christians.
Next post: Two more power sources.