Friday, November 1, 2013

The Power of Christ

18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.

Ephesians 1:18-21

It is an awesome thought -- that as believers the same power that raised Christ from the dead is available to each of us.  But, like so many things in the Christian faith, I fear that our emphasis is often in the wrong place when it comes to the power of Christ in our lives.

For some of us, the power of Christ seems to be mostly about making it through the day.  There is no doubt that all of us find ourselves from time to time just trying to make it to tomorrow.  It might be health issues, financial concerns, broken relationships, addictions or any number of other circumstances that cause us to focus on the power of Christ simply as a means of survival.  Even for believers in Christ -- maybe particularly for believers in Christ -- life can be hard, and in those hard times we truly need the power of Christ in our lives just to make it through the day.  I get that.  Indeed, at times I live that.

At the same time, we  need to understand that the power of Christ in our lives is about so much more than mere survival.  It is fundamental to who we are as followers of Christ.

For others, the power of Christ is mostly about the miraculous.  It is about seeing things in the natural that simply make no sense.  It is about "signs and wonders," physical healings that baffle the medical community, or prophecy and speaking in tongues.

Again, I do not discount any of these things.  In fact, I too long to see the power of Christ manifest itself in such extraordinary ways.  How awesome it is when God shows the world even a glimpse of his power on earth!

At the same time, being overly focused on such things has the potential to distract us from the fundamental nature of the power of Christ in our lives.  I would even say that being overly focused on such things has the potential to cheapen what Christ did for us on the cross.  The power of Christ is neither a circus act nor a side show.  It is about so much more than that.

At the end of the day, our focus needs to be not on "signs and wonders" or survival -- but simply on "Jesus Christ and Him crucified."  1 Corinthians 2:1-4. 

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
    the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”
20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age?  Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
1 Corinthians 1:18-25.

To begin with, we need to understand that our very faith depends on the power of Christ operating in our lives.  Ephesians 3:16-17.  Think about that for a second.  The same power that raised Christ from the dead allows us to have faith in Him, and so to raise us from the dead also to spend eternity in His presence.  He is, after all, the author and perfecter of our faith.  Hebrews 12:2.  I don't know how you think about it, but to me what is a physical healing -- or any other miracle for that matter -- compared to knowing that by the power of Christ we have faith and are saved?!

In the same way, it is the power of Christ that gives us the ability to love others as he calls us to do, and "to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ" for us.  Ephesians 3:18-19.  It is the power of Christ that brings joy and hope to our lives.  Romans 15:13.  It is the power of Christ that gives us endurance and patience.  Colossians 1:1-14.  It is the power of Christ that gives us righteousness.  Philippians 3:10.  It is the power of Christ that allows us to suffer for God -- for the gospel.  2 Timothy 1:7-8.

Indeed, it is this last point that really brings us to the heart of the matter.  The power of Christ ultimately is primarily neither about the ability to survive nor about signs and wonders.  It is first about the gift of faith.  And, second, it is about the ability to accomplish God's purposes for our lives.  It is about the ability to see beyond ourselves, to put aside our rights and our feelings, so that God may use us for His greater purpose.  It is about a power that, if used correctly, allows us to become all things to all people for the sake of the gospel.  It is about the ability to love those who persecute us so that they may see the power of what Christ did for them on the cross. 

It is a power residing within us that is so great that we may endure anything -- put up with anything -- rather than hinder the gospel.  It is a power within us that is so great that we can be whatever we need to be, suffer whatever we need to suffer, so that some might be saved.

"With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.  We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ."

2 Thessalonians 1:11-12.


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