It rings out like a great church bell, “the kingdom of God,” said Paul the Apostle, “is not talk but power” (I Corinthians 4:20). But today, who would have guessed that to be true by looking at many churches in the world? We could actually reverse the word order of Paul’s statement and say it this way: “The kingdom of God is not power but just talk.” And to make it worse, too much of the talk is about things that do not really matter. The church talk is about things that are unreal to most people or of trivial importance. Study the tone of the announcements made after the pastor’s sermon or at a business meeting in the church and you will soon agree with me!
Recently at a church in England that was declining in attendance, before the people went to their homes after the message of the morning, the planned announcement was about the expense for installation of a new toilet! But after the message, which was on “So Send I You” (John 20:21), thankfully, it was decided by the one chosen that those announcements were not appropriate to talk about after the great moving of God’s Spirit in the church.
The theme of the power of Jesus is very fascinating, and yet when did you hear a sermon on it or see the evidence of it? Why? Well, of course, the greatest need of Christians is to display this power and get outside the walls of the church building and into places where decisions about life are made and demonstrate it with acts of love. Jesus did! He walked into places where abused people lived without hope, in places where might overwhelmed right, and there He got involved with people. It was there His power was displayed. To see evidence of the powerful Christ is absolutely necessary for all of us today. If we are to get involved with people and follow His example, we will make an impact.
A comment made by an intelligent young man headed for the university is true. He said, “It seems to me that everything in life has to do with power.” Do we not see that today in the world around us? The subject of power is the issue! We hear it constantly in the media, the remarks focus on all kinds of power—nuclear power, economic power, military power and political power, the power of technology, and the power of wealth. The list is seemingly without end.
In politics there is the frequent abuse of power, and in our lives individually we see the active misuse of power to get what people selfishly desired—people prove it when they scream out at life and walk out of marriages. A British thinker once said, “Of the infinite desires of man, the chief are the desires for power and for glory.” The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who was regularly read by Hitler, once wrote in an essay, “Wherever I found a living creature, I found the unconditional will to power, to overpower.” That is certainly true in today’s world. We have seen it too often!
In the Roman Empire, a historian of respect said, “The lust for power, for dominating others, influences the heart more than any other passion.” In the 18th century world William Hazlitt spoke clearly about what he saw in people, “the love of power is the love of ourselves.” Paul Tournier, the mental health Christian physician of Switzerland, said, for hundreds of years “the flames of human ambition or a thirst for power have been fanned. There is a sickness for a headlong dash for power.” He said, “The glorification of power has gone along with the devaluation of the weak, the old, the odd, the abandoned and the dreamers.” So the theme of power is so central to everyday human experience, and yet, we need to fully understand how totally different this was in the person of the Lord Jesus and how it applies to us if we are His follower.
Conversely, in Jesus Christ we also see power, but it’s a totally different kind of power. Let us briefly examine the subject of authentic Christianity and the power it displays. The Christian faith has always been dynamic. It changed the sordid lives of millions and millions of men and women. It also changed the attitudes of whole societies. It was powerful enough to confront and outlast evil political systems, one after another. It was the power of Jesus Christ in control of individual people, that was often their secret of success. And even today, in spite of all the evil, Jesus Christ refuses to be put out of the picture or to be marginalized. He continues to display His power, often behind the scenes.
Jesus today, with a combination of humility yet with great authority, through people, challenges the worst in us and the world around us. With enormous power He confronts our sins, our prejudices and practices. A close study reveals His impact can be seen worldwide with individuals and within entire nations.
We see the power of Jesus in the humility of humble service. And we see it as our human weakness and inadequacy is overcome by the risen Christ alive within. Yes, thank God, His authority and power overcomes our inability! As Paul said, “when I am weak, then I am strong.” (II Corinthians 12:10)
What is the challenge before each of us? All of us must study the revolutionary teachings of Jesus again. We must seriously reexamine, for example, the Sermon on the Mount, to apply it toward our actions and attitude. For the truth is, we have most certainly allowed ourselves, without realizing it, to be molded and made by the world around us. This is evident by the fact we cannot even imagine how far we have drifted away from the way of life Jesus taught. Someday a new Christian is going to read the Bible, believe what it says, and become a radical follower of the real Jesus and embarrass the rest of us!
We must, I am convinced, draw out the key principles Jesus proclaimed about how to use our influence and place in life to honor Him and bless people; that would display His power in us alive. Admittedly, this is only a brief introduction to the whole subject to help us consider how He dynamically can use us. Our behavior and attitudes, under the authority of His Lordship, are seen when we grow in grace and put His teaching into radical practice. That would be seen as the power of Jesus alive in and through our lives. (read Philippians 3:8-10)
Most simply, what is the power of Christ? It is the power of love, love which lays down one’s life as He laid down His life. By self denial we “take up the cross daily and follow” (read Luke 9:23). So, be sure of it—we reflect Christ’s character and nature most accurately when we willingly lay down our lives for His glory. That is, most surely, His power alive in us! We are then living in the power of Jesus when, in the midst of a world that continues to shout and scream as it tries to overwhelm us with its empty claims and big lies, yet when we faithfully follow Him resolutely, it shows “the deep things of God.” (I Corinthians 2:10) The living person of Jesus has lost none of His ancient power. We can become living proof of it. Let Christ’s power be seen in us. So I repeat with purpose, Paul tells us the secret, “… that I may know him and the power of his resurrection …” (Philippians 3:10). So, we can know Him intimately and literally live in the power of His resurrection continually. Let us all seek it!