At least, the American church is a wimp. Happily there are exceptions, but for the most part, I see American Christians going to church, doing “good deeds,” perhaps tithing (although most give far less), even praying. But something is lacking. In most areas of life, we don’t stand out from the crowd. And we’re supposed to.
I think the problem lies in what a friend of ours (thanks, Dave) summed up as the focus of most Evangelical churches—they worship the Father, the Son, and the Holy Bible.
I’m reading Romans now, and in the very first chapter Paul writes, “who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power….” A footnote explains that this verse could also be translated “who was declared with power to be the Son of God.” (Romans 1:4) Either way, it boils down to the same point—Jesus and power go together.
We have Jesus, so why don’t we have his power? Or do we? Consider:
- You, God, are awesome in your sanctuary; the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people. Praise be to God! (Psalm 68:35)
- I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49)
- But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8 )
- With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Acts 4:33
- My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power…. (1 Corinthians 2:4)
- For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. (1 Corinthians 4:20)
- For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7, all italics mine.)
I could go on (and on, and on), but you get the idea. As Christians, we’re supposed to have God’s power working in and through us. It’s not something special, that just occurs at a revival or on the last day of the youth group retreat. This is to be our normal experience. Yet, this is what I see:
- Believing friends and family gathered around the sick, praying for comfort—but not for healing.
- A frustrated Christian doubting if it’s all real since he’s never see any evidence of God in his life.
- Churches full of talk instead of power.
- People (including me) afraid to testify about their faith. What will people think?
- Judgment and condemnation instead of love and self-control.
We claim to be indwelt by the Holy Spirit. We claim to have a direct line to the Father. Why then are we so weak? Why don’t we pray for the miraculous—and see God answer? If we have the Holy Spirit, we already have His power; why then don’t we allow it to work through us?
I think some churches lack power because they don’t realize it’s available. Some Christians believe the power of God was only for the early church—they deny that God still does miracles. Others believe that the Holy Spirit is still at work, but that displays of His power are rare. And still others never think about the issue at all. In the churches I’ve been to, this is not a common sermon topic.
Others might believe, but they tell God “no thank you.” Letting the Holy Spirit loose is scary; who knows what He’ll do next? He might interrupt our schedule. He might ask us to do something outside our comfort zone. He might embarrass us! (Do we want to be accused of being drunk at nine in the morning, as in Acts 2?)
I know several believers who desire God’s power in their lives, but they don’t see it because they refuse to relinquish control. While they say Jesus is Lord, they don’t truly trust God to run their lives. Then they complain that He doesn’t work through them. We can’t have it two ways—either God’s in control, or we are.
Without God’s power in our lives and in our churches, we’re not that different from anyone else. We can’t do this on our own. Apart from God, we’re powerless.