Monday, September 8, 2014

The Power of God

For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.  Now this I say , that every one of you saith , I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.  Is Christ divided ? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?  I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius;  Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name.  And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.  For Christ sent me not to baptize , but to preach the gospel : not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. 1 Cor 1:11-18


  Modern Christianity has a lot in common with the characters from "The Wizard of Oz".  The Tin Man and  Dorothy and the Scarecrow and the Lion all traipsed off to the Emerald City on a quest for things that, as it turned out, they already possessed.  Modern Christians spend a great deal of time and effort seeking  things that, according the Bible ( Eph 1:3) , they already have.  
  One of the most commonly  sought after things along these veins  is 'the power of God'.  I have been to  tent meetings and revival meetings where  'the power of God' was sought through  prayer on a wooden bench, or fastings.  'The power of God' is sought after over the preaching, or the testimonies, or the singing.  People  ask for 'the power of God' over their  marriages or their ministries. I have also seen very lively  services with lots of excitement where , in retrospect, people would say that 'the power of God' had fallen or that 'the power of God' had been present.   By usage, one would  have to conclude that the power of God is some sort of  cloud or fog that descends on a person or a group of people with various effects to follow.  These  effects include excitement,  persuasive preaching,  lively singing and people 'getting help'.
  Here's the problem with all that; the power of God has a very precise biblical definition, and we redefine it at our peril. It is one thing, and is not a whole slew of other things.   According to  1 Cor 11 as well as Romans 1, the power of God IS the preaching of the cross. Singing isn't defined as the power of God, and neither for that matter is  expositional doctrinal studies.  The power of God isn't contained in preaching your opinions or your standards or telling heart-warming stories from the pulpit . In fact, it looks like the only preaching subject that defines itself thusly is  cross-preaching.  Furthermore, according to Acts 1:8, the power from the Holy Ghost isn't given so that  we can build a great congregation or so that you can  belt out a  tear-jerking rendition of 'Just As I Am'.  The power of God is doled out for the express purpose of being a witness to lost people.
  Notice that the Bible doesn't say that the cross is foolishness to the lost, but rather the preaching of the cross is foolishness.   That in itself is interesting, and I'll tell you why.
  When I was in the military, I knew this guy who had  married a Budweiser girl.. This young  woman made her living  showing up at promotional  events for Budweiser and wearing a bathing suit with the corporate logo on it.  As far as I can tell, that was the extent of her responsibilities.  When not 'on the clock', both her and her husband were devout Catholics and some of the  most genuinely nice people  I have ever known.  I had only been saved a short time, and for some reason this couple liked me, and would listen to me while I tried to  witness to them.  I asked him once why it was that he  put so such  confidence in his priest.  His answer was stunningly simple. He said "He went to school for that stuff."  In his mindset,  you don't let just anybody work on your car, and you don't let just anybody perform brain surgery.   It was completely logical to him that a small cadre of specially trained specialists would be the authority in spiritual matters.  The religious  crowd understands a hierarchy.    
  The lost world understands a hierarchy too. If it was announced  that  the United States government was going to detonate a warhead on the moon, that announcement would not come from the Assistant Deputy Director of Widget Inspections. It would  come from at the very least from the White House Press Secretary, but probably from the  President himself.  The reason is simple; important  messages  must come from important people.  This makes sense to lost people.
  That's what makes the  context of 1 Cor 11 so  compelling.  The context  is that, since God's thoughts are not our thoughts, and his ways are not our ways, God decided to do it completely backwards from the way  men would do it if men were in charge.  He would take the most important message ever proclaimed and he would give it  to absolute unlearned, ignorant nobodies to deliver.  He would call that act "the power of God".
  When I got saved, I didn't change colors or  sprout big muscles.  When I witness to a lost person, I cant  rip telephone books in half or levitate 3 feet off the ground to prove my point.  My salvation is invisible and  sort of unprovable. I have absolutely nothing I can show them that would impress them.  My only weapons are words, and they aren't even my words.  That is exactly contrary to how the world would do it, and that's how God chooses to show his power.  That's why a big mean looking biker guy will back up away from an  8 year old kid with a gospel tract.  That is the power of God on display. 
  It  means that anybody regardless of talent or skill or training or 'calling' can claim the power of God if they are willing to do one thing; preach the cross.  Little kids, old people  and village idiots are all perfect vessels to carry forth this God-approved foolishness. In fact, the less you have to offer, the more you have to offer. The power of God isn't found by laying all night on an altar; it is found in opening your mouth and proclaiming the  death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ to lost people.  It is  not a job given to  little club of  'called to preach' guys, but rather to everybody who has been saved by the blood of Jesus Christ.
  It also means that, unless you are making it a regular part of your life to look men and women  in the face and deal with them about their souls, you are forfeiting the power of God.  I don't care if  your church is running 1000 every service, and  you're the most beloved ministry figure in your town.  I don't care if your crowd shouts and runs the aisles and throws song books. Without  cross-preaching to lost people, your ministry will be a powerless shell of what it could be, and you will spend an inordinate amount of time running around looking for the wrong thing in the wrong place.

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