Saturday, March 19, 2011

Fruits of Study: People Need the Power of God

It is not my intention to use this blog as a pulpit or a place to express what I am learning beyond those things which add to the purpose of the blog and my original vision (see also A Little More About Bible Reading Project). That said, I would like to share the fruit of my study occasionally and give some insight on where some of these projects have taken me. I hope my desire to humbly allow God to use the blog as His vessel will overcome any selfish desire to make the blog a platform for my own thoughts. To God be the glory.

PEOPLE NEED THE POWER OF GOD. Our skills and abilities, our gifts, our experience, our techniques, our methods, our wisdom and our talents are worthless without the Holy Spirit. People need the power of God. We cannot meet their needs without that power. It is the Holy Spirit that comes in power and changes the believer and brings them from death to life. Salvation is of the Lord and His power; by God’s grace we have a part to play. It is His pleasure to use us. He has given us a ministry of delivering the Word, a privilege that even the angels desire. But if we are ministering in our strength we will effect no change. People do not need our human wisdom. They need the power of God’s wisdom. The world does not need our skills; they need the power of God. People don’t need our word; they need the power of God’s word. The world does not need us and our strength; they need the power of God. We are helpless without the Holy Spirit.

Romans 1:16 
 16For 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.

The foremost weapon of our warfare is the gospel. The gospel is the power of God. It is the power of salvation and our timidity, our fear, our cowardice can keep us from that power, but it is God’s design and our responsibility to not be ashamed but preach the gospel and to wage a good warfare in Jesus Christ. We have not been given a Spirit of fear, but of power. . . love and a sound mind. Spiritual warfare begins with the gospel, fulfilling the great commission puts us in a place to receive and wield the weapons of our warfare which are mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds, the casting down of arguments, and every vain thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God.

1 Corinthians 2:4 
4and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,
Paul did not preach the gospel out of his own wisdom or eloquence but in the power of the Holy Spirit. Wisdom and eloquence are not wrong, but they are vain and empty without the Holy Spirit. Is the Holy Spirit using our gifts through us or are we trying to use the Holy Spirit through them? God is the giver of gifts and He gives them for His own use, to be used in His own power.

1 Thessalonians 1:5 
5because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.

The gospel holds power within itself, this power is given and added to by the ministry of the Holy Spirit which convicts the world of sin, righteousness and judgment. We have no power to convict anyone. Any persuasion that we accomplish will surely fall away and die, proving false. If we persuade any one to come to Jesus, they will surely fall away. If the Holy Spirit persuades someone to come to Jesus they will endure, convicted and sealed by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit-empowered proclamation was confirmed by a Spirit-empowered life of holiness. The Holy Spirit is very holy. His power will be evidenced not just by the fruit of outward displays of power, but by an outward display of power to walk a holy life.

1 Corinthians 9:16 
16For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!

We are compelled to preach the gospel. It is our deep responsibility. It is our commitment. In 2 Timothy 4:5 Paul tells Timothy to do the work of an evangelist. Timothy was a pastor, but Paul instructed him to do the work of an evangelist. Not all are called to be evangelists, but all are called to do the work of an evangelist. Not all will receive the reward or the gifts or the fruit of an evangelist, but all are still called to do the work of an evangelist and proclaim the gospel.

Zechariah 4:6 
6Then he said to me, "This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts.

There is no might or power or ability that we possess in ourselves. Power to accomplish what God desires only comes by the Holy Spirit. Let us press on and hunger and yearn for Him and His power to be made manifest in our lives and our ministries.

Matthew 10:7-8 
7And proclaim as you go, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay.

Jesus commissioned His disciples to evangelize before His death and though this was to the twelve specifically, it is also a command to the body of Christ. The first command is to “go” to enter an area of ministry, be it geographical or spiritual, far or near we must relocate ourselves in some way to minister. We must go where the Spirit leads. We cannot stay still, a static believer is a stagnant believer. The second command is to proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is at hand: that it is right now! This is the vital, immediacy of the gospel message which we are called to preach. The commands that follow in verse eight reveal an increase in the manifestation of God’s power: heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. As we obey the call of Christ to follow in His footsteps and go into the world with the gospel, His power will be made manifest and He will destroy the works of the devil in demonstrations of power. People often comment that overseas in places where missionaries minister its more usual for people to get healed or for miracles to happen, but I believe that it is not the location that matters but our obedience to go and truly preach the gospel. We preach many things and encourage each other in many ways, but it is the gospel that we are primarily called to preach and that should connect to every aspect of our lives. Are we shining the light into the darkness or huddling our lamps together and shining light into one another alone? When we go and preach the gospel, God goes with us and confirms the gospel with power. Our obedience to this primary simple commission to go and proclaim brings us to a place of need and brings us to a place where God’s power will follow His word.

The question that repeatedly echoes in my heart is how to receive that power in ministry: how to preach the gospel with our whole lives and see God move in a way that changes people forever. We’ve seen God move in awesome ways, we’ve experienced the continual ministry of the Holy Spirit, but so often we see that the work is not finished. We preach the gospel in power, but we wait to see the salvation of our city and that will take a manifestation of the Holy Spirit that goes beyond what we have experienced so far. We have a promise. We have a hope. And we know that we will see the hopeful yearning of our heart fulfilled.

2 Timothy 1:8 
 8Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God,

Paul encourages Timothy to share in the cost and the price of ministering the Gospel. There is a cost to ministering the gospel in an area of spiritual darkness. We face a continuous onslaught from the enemy and our staff has suffered for being here. They have paid the price. Some have paid it for years and years, enduring and suffering long to fulfill the calling of God and see the fulfillment of God’s promise to us and to our city. In this long endurance there is victory and a growing empowerment in the Spirit of God.
You cannot earn the power of God. It is given by grace. The Holy Spirit was a gift, which Jesus sent when He prayed to the father to send it. It is not up to us to achieve some feat of prayer or unity in order for the Father to send the Holy Spirit. Jesus has already prayed and united us in the Spirit and by His word the Spirit comes. Our task is to seek heaven in faith.
When I was a new-born believer, I was given the opportunity to speak at the half-time of an NFL game at our campus ministry. I remember I fasted for 48 hours and literally spent two hours lying in a puddle of mud in prayer, because I thought that if I really humbled myself and really sought God. He would grant me power in what I said. When I finally spoke, I stopped after six minutes because I knew that the power of God was not with me. I had tried to earn it. My faith was not in the grace of God and His compassion, but in my own efforts to achieve some worthiness of God’s anointing. We do not have to earn the power of God. We just have to obey and seek the face of our Father. If we seek the power of God alone, we will receive little. If we seek the face of God, we will receive fellowship with Him and out of that relationship will come a power to minister in the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 4
 1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

The Holy Spirit led Jesus into a time of suffering in the wilderness. Before His ministry began, He was tempted and tried in a time of fasting and an intense period of death to the flesh. Out of this breaking loneliness and trial Jesus came from the desert and began to preach “Repent, the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” the beginning of the gospel message. Through a time of suffering a trial came an empowerment by the Holy Spirit to preach the power of God in the gospel.

Luke 9:16 
16And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing over them. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd.

At the feeding of the five thousand Jesus first broke the bread. As He broke it and passed it out, it was multiplied by the power of God and met the needs of five thousand people, and even overflowed into twelve baskets. But it was broken first. If we allow God to break us, our small offering will be multiplied by the Holy Spirit and we will be used far beyond our natural capabilities, so much so that as we are broken and poured out, that flow will over flow beyond the needs presented. Jesus always does more than we ask or think.

Mark 14:3 
 3 And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head.

In the same way, the prostitute came and broke her most valuable costly possession at the feet of Jesus. This was her life. It was the representation of her income, and in an act of worship she took it and broke it before Christ. When she broke it the priceless oil poured out and presented a sweet fragrance to Jesus. When we come and are broken at the feet of Christ the Spirit is released in worship to God. Jesus said that this act of worship would go everywhere the gospel went, and it has taught believers and unbelievers for two millennia about true worship of God. Jesus took a simple but costly sacrifice and multiplied it to teach nations.

2 Corinthians 4:6-7 
6For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
 7But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

We possess the glory of God, but we have this treasure in earthen vessels, jars of clay. We carry the glory and the knowledge of Jesus Christ within our hearts, but it is contained in our fleshly bodies and human frailty. It is when this vessel is broken that the “surpassing power” pours out. It is the breaking of the outer man and the release of the Spirit. When we are humbled and submitted and our foolish pride and fleshly identity is broken before God the power and knowledge of Christ and His glory flows from our lives. The verses reveal that He does this to reveal that the origin is from Him and not our own lives. Pride would claim the power and glory for ourselves and so it must be broken before the power can be released from within our hearts where Christ sits on the throne.

Judges 7:16-20 
16And he divided the 300 men into three companies and put trumpets into the hands of all of them and empty jars, with torches inside the jars. 17And he said to them, "Look at me, and do likewise. When I come to the outskirts of the camp, do as I do. 18When I blow the trumpet, I and all who are with me, then blow the trumpets also on every side of all the camp and shout, 'For the LORD and for Gideon.'"
Gideon Defeats Midian
 19So Gideon and the hundred men who were with him came to the outskirts of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, when they had just set the watch. And they blew the trumpets and smashed the jars that were in their hands. 20Then the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the jars. They held in their left hands the torches, and in their right hands the trumpets to blow. And they cried out, "A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!"

When Gideon defeated Midian the Lord drastically cut down his army, deprived them of weapons and ordered them to surprise the enemy in this weak condition. They all held torches contained in jars. When these jars were broken, the fire was released. In our lives the jar of clay must be broken for the fire to be released. I was provoked when a dear friend and mentor said, “. . .I know you’re not a very enthusiastic person. . .” I felt a rebuke from the Lord. In high school I learned to contain every emotion and shut off all displays of any hurt or any feeling otherwise as a defense mechanism, and to this day I’m not always demonstrative. But that defense mechanism is of the flesh. Self-consciousness is of self, not God, and that must be broken to release the powerful fire of God.

Daniel 7:9-10 (New American Standard Bible)
    9"I kept looking
         Until thrones were set up,
         And the Ancient of Days took His seat;
         His vesture was like white snow
         And the hair of His head like pure wool
         His throne was ablaze with flames,
         Its wheels were a burning fire.
10"A river of fire was flowing
         And coming out from before Him;
         Thousands upon thousands were attending Him,
         And myriads upon myriads were standing before Him;
         The court sat,
         And the books were opened.

Daniel had a vision of the King of glory and out of his throne came a river of fire. A river of the Holy Spirit, a river of God’s power.

Luke 3:16 
16 John answered them all, saying, "I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

Jesus’s ministry remains the baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire. John baptized in the Jordan river; Jesus baptizes in the river of fire. Even now Jesus stands in that river of fire before the throne of God and immerses believers. It’s an awesome image. That Jesus would stand with us in the spirit with the river of Holy Spirit fire flowing around us and in His power, He immerses us, burning away the dross and surrounding us with the power of God. Fire burns, it seems like we may be singed. Things in our lives are burnt away, but we are empowered and set on fire by the Holy Ghost.

Malachi 3
 1 "Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. 2But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap.

The Lord promises to come and come in power, but when He comes, He comes to refine. He comes in fire to burn away the dross: the flesh and the self. He is like a refiner’s fire. The thing about refining gold, is that when gold is placed in the refiner’s fire and the dross is scooped out, none of the gold is lost. It comes out the same weight, the same value as it was before. Nothing is lost. But it comes out pure, and the refiner can see His reflection in the gold. When we enter the fire of God, the dross of our lives is stripped away, but we remain whole. Much of our self-life and soulishness may be burned away, but that which God has created in us, that which God values is not reduced, it is set apart and purified. We lose nothing of value, and we come out pure.

Acts 2
The Coming of the Holy Spirit
 1When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them.4And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
36Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified."

Just as Malachi promised the Lord arrived in fire, a tongue of fire sat on every believer’s head and that tongue of fire connected with their fleshly tongues to empower them to speak in other languages. And what did they speak? The glorious gospel: the power of God. When God the Holy Spirit comes he comes in a fire that will miraculously empower us to preach the gospel in a way we never could have before.
Peter, who a few months previously had denied Christ in cowardice because of the question of a little servant girl, is suddenly emboldened to preach the gospel and confess Christ before 3000 people. The climax of his message is verse 36, where he points his finger at a huge congregation and accuses them of crucifying the king of glory: “God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Before he was afraid to confess that he even knew Christ to a single servant girl, now he confesses not only that he knew Him but that He is Lord and that He was crucified by his audience! This is the power of God. Peter’s fear is broken and he preaches the word with such a power, accompanied by such a potent ministry of the Holy Spirit that 3000 people repent and follow Christ. It wasn’t his gifts or his courage or his wisdom. It was the power of God. Peter was a man who stuck his foot in his mouth often because he said whatever was on his mind without thinking, but in this moment the Holy Spirit uses his foolishness to loosen his tongue and that tongue of fire inspires his tongue of flesh to boldly and blatantly preach the gospel, placing the weight of Christ’s death on the shoulders of the audience.
The longing and hunger of my heart is that this power would be with us, fulfilling the ministry that God desires, and while we cannot earn the Holy Spirit, I am determined in my heart to seek the face of my Father with prayer and fasting in a way I never have before in order to see the fire of God fall on our city in a power that convicts every heart and draws each person to the feet of Jesus.

Parts of this study were inspired by Leonard Ravenhill and Reinhard Bonnke.

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