The Power of the Spirit
We hear a lot about “power” today. Some people want more of it, others feel like they have none. There’s coal power and nuclear power. There’s the power to create and the power to destroy. We seem to be living in the age of “power.” The church, too, is living in an age of “power,” and a church or a Christian without spiritual power is living behind the times. When Christ ascended to continue His work in Heaven, the Holy Spirit descended to continue His work here on Earth. But the Holy Spirit didn’t come to us as a helpless baby in a manger, He came in power, as “a rushing mighty wind,” a symbol of self-generating power. It is God’s will that every church, regardless of the “label” attached to it, live and work in this spiritual, “pentecostal,” power. And yet, as we look at the Church of Jesus Christ today, we see a distinct lack of spiritual power. We see lots of programs and man-generated systematic doctrines and we see plenty of churches looking for the acceptance of man, but so many of them are bereft of the Spirit. We have ministers with more letters after their names than you can find in a can of alphabet soup, who can speak with great eloquence and quote other eloquent (often dead) ministers in their sermons, yet they have no spiritual power. What’s really needed in the Church today – all churches - is the power of the Holy Spirit, manifested from behind and in front of the pulpit. Christians are desperate for that power, whether they realize it or not. It’s not another program or committee or dinner or choral presentation the Church needs. It’s the power of the Holy Spirit. The great thing is, this power resides in EVERY believer. This power of the Spirit is:
1. Desperately needed
Think about what Jesus told the disciples in Luke 24:49–
“And now I will send the Holy Sprit upon you, just as my Father promised. Don’t begin telling others yet—stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven.” (Luke 24:49 TLB)
As far as Jesus was concerned, there was no point in doing His work without the power of the Holy Spirit. In the context of Luke 24, Jesus had assured His disciples of His resurrection and He gave them some final instructions. But then Jesus did something significant: He talked to them about the Scriptures. And He explained that even beyond the resurrection, something else had to happen in order to fulfill Scriptures written generations ago. It involved preaching the Gospel and it involved waiting in Jerusalem for something to happen. Before they attempted to do anything Jesus had told them to do, they NEEDED a power from Heaven that only the Holy Spirit could give. We, today, are called to the same work and we need that same power.
Then he said, “This is God’s message to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty—you will succeed because of my Spirit, though you are few and weak.’ Therefore no mountain, however high, can stand before Zerubbabel! For it will flatten out before him! And Zerubbabel will finish building this Temple with mighty shouts of thanksgiving for God’s mercy, declaring that all was done by grace alone.” (Zechariah 4:6, 7 TLB)
Work for The Lord, be it building the Temple or preaching the Word or just sharing your testimony with one who is lost, cannot be done by your determination alone. It cannot be done in your power alone. It MUST be done in the power of the Holy Spirit. William Carey famously said,
Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God.
That’s a good quote as far as it goes. But, if you are going to attempt great things for God, you’d better make sure you are doing them in the power of the Spirit. If you aren’t sure the power of the Spirit is behind you, then you’d better wait to make sure. King David, one time, was told to wait for the tree-tops to move before he could do what God had called him to do.
When you hear a sound like marching feet in the tops of the balsam trees, attack! For it will signify that the Lord has prepared the way for you and will destroy them.” So David did as the Lord had instructed him and destroyed the Philistines all the way from Geba to Gezer. (2 Samuel 5:24, 25 TLB)
You and I need the power of the Holy Spirit if we are to do anything of lasting value for Kingdom of God.
But when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power to testify about me with great effect, to the people in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth, about my death and resurrection. (Acts 1:8 TLB)
It was Jesus who said this and Jesus always keeps His promises! He fulfilled that same promise in Timothy’s life through the apostle Paul:
This being so, I want to remind you to stir into flame the strength and boldness that is in you, that entered into you when I laid my hands upon your head and blessed you. For the Holy Spirit, God’s gift, does not want you to be afraid of people, but to be wise and strong, and to love them and enjoy being with them. (2 Timothy 1:6, 7 TLB)
Timothy wasn’t anywhere near the Upper Room when the Spirit fell and neither was Paul, yet here we see Timothy receiving the fullness of the Holy Spirit – God’s gift or promise to believers – through the ministry of Paul.
Just as becoming a Christian involves coming into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ through His death and resurrection, power to live for and serve Him comes through a relationship with the Holy Spirit whereby He endues you with His power. You need it!
Consider these verses:
He is the one who has helped us tell others about his new agreement to save them. We do not tell them that they must obey every law of God or die; but we tell them there is life for them from the Holy Spirit. The old way, trying to be saved by keeping the Ten Commandments, ends in death; in the new way, the Holy Spirit gives them life. (2 Corinthians 3:6 TLB)
But God is so rich in mercy; he loved us so much that even though we were spiritually dead and doomed by our sins, he gave us back our lives again when he raised Christ from the dead… (Ephesians 2:4, 5 TLB)
And if the Spirit of God, who raised up Jesus from the dead, lives in you, he will make your dying bodies live again after you die, by means of this same Holy Spirit living within you. (Romans 8:11 TLB)
The Holy Spirit will not only raise your mortal body as He did Christ’s, He imparts abundant life to you today! The Holy Spirit gives you life today; it’s a new life, full of God’s grace and mercy and power.
I came to you in weakness—timid and trembling. And my preaching was very plain, not with a lot of oratory and human wisdom, but the Holy Spirit’s power was in my words, proving to those who heard them that the message was from God. (1 Corinthians 2:3, 4 TLB)
Paul was not a weak man. Looking at the incredible work he did on his missionary journeys, the churches he founded and the lives he changed, we know that he was not weak. So to what was Paul referring when he told the Corinthians he “came to them in weakness?” Paul described his attitude as he preached the Word in any city. Wherever he found himself doing the work of The Lord, he decreased so that Christ in him might increase. He shared Christ without gimmicks and without relying on the the wisdom of man, of which he had plenty. Instead, Paul shared Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit. He relied on the Holy Spirit. Paul found out that the power of the Spirit was all he needed.
When I think of the wisdom and scope of his plan, I fall down on my knees and pray to the Father of all the great family of God—some of them already in heaven and some down here on earth—that out of his glorious, unlimited resources he will give you the mighty inner strengthening of his Holy Spirit. (Ephesians 3:14-16 TLB)
It was Paul’s earnest prayer in light of God’s plan that Christians be filled with God’s glorious, unlimited resources: the power of the Holy Spirit.
5. Cannot be purchased
When Simon saw this—that the Holy Spirit was given when the apostles placed their hands upon people’s heads—he offered money to buy this power. (Acts 8:18 TLB)
A man named Simon was so impressed with the power of the Holy Spirit, he thought he could buy this power. It sounds foolish, but there are Christians who are just as foolish. They see other other believers working in the power of the Spirit and they think they can “buy” this power, not necessarily with money, though. They think they get the power of the Spirit through education, for example. Or through church membership. Or through being baptized in water. Or through other means. That’s wrong-headed thinking of the highest order! The power of the Holy Spirit is a gift to be received; it is not something you can buy any more than you can by a puff of wind.
6. Cannot be imitated
“And say to the people of Israel, ‘This shall always be my holy anointing oil. It must never be poured upon an ordinary person, and you shall never make any of it yourselves, for it is holy, and it shall be treated by you as holy. Anyone who compounds any incense like it or puts any of it upon someone who is not a priest shall be excommunicated.’” (Exodus 30:31-33 TLB)
The anointing oil in the Old Testament is a type of the Holy Spirit. God made it explicitly clear to His people that it could could not be imitated. There could be NO substitute acceptable to God. When it comes to doing great things for God, you cannot substitute anything for the power of the Holy Spirit. You cannot substitute enthusiasm for the power of the Holy Spirit. You cannot substitute worship songs for the power of the Holy Spirit. You cannot substitute education for the power of the Holy Spirit. Clever plans and programs cannot do the what only the Holy Spirit can do.
7. May be taken away
Finally, as difficult as it may be to imagine, the power of the Holy Spirit may be taken away from a believer. The power of God rested on Samson, but because of sin and selfishness, that power was snatched away.
Then she screamed, “The Philistines are here to capture you, Samson!” And he woke up and thought, “I will do as before; I’ll just shake myself free.” But he didn’t realize that the Lord had left him. (Judges 16:20 TLB)
Without the power of the Spirit, the mighty Samson was reduced to an ordinary man. He was so focused on himself he didn’t even realize he last that power. He took the Holy Spirit for granted. He was utterly helpless with the power of the Spirit.
There is nothing so pathetic as a Christian who has lost the power of the Spirit. It’s not that the Holy Spirit has been taken from them, but the Holy Spirit is sensitive, and if a believer neglects Him or lives in open rebellion to Him, though His presence may remain His power He will withhold from that believer until that believer makes his heart right.
But there is another way the Holy Spirit may be taken from a believer.
I will come down and talk with you there, and I will take of the Spirit which is on you and will put it upon them also; they shall bear the burden of the people along with you, so that you will not have the task alone. (Numbers 11:17 TLB)
This is God speaking to Moses. Interesting, isn’t it? When you are serving God in the power of the Holy Spirit, God knows if and when you need help, and He will help you! God never expects any of us to “go it alone.” When the Church of Jesus Christ is full of people full of the Holy Spirit and full of His power, a believer who is without that power doesn’t stand a chance! The power of the Holy Spirit is self-perpetuating. We may pray for other believers to receive it. We may lay hands on believers to receive it. But in the end, it is God who will endue that believer with the power of His Holy Spirit. There is not begging involved. Only receiving.