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The Power of God

By David A. DePra

That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; (Phil 3:10)

Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us. (Eph 3:20)

But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. (1 Cor 1:24)

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 1:18)

In the King James translation of the Bible, there are commonly two Greek words translated, "power." One is, "exousia." This word means, "right," or, "authority to do." The other is, "dunamis." This word means, "might," or, "ability to do." So we have RIGHT vs. MIGHT.

One way of contrasting the two words that I like to use is that I say that EXOUSIA is my membership card to an exercise gym. Through that card I have the RIGHT to use the weights and exercise equipment in the gym. DUNAMIS, however, is my MIGHT Ė my ability to lift the weights and do the exercises in the gym. The translation of both of these words as, "power," is one place where the KJV can be improved upon.

Everyone who is IN Christ is a Christian. And as a Christian, we have certain RIGHTS to a relationship and access to God Ė all freely given to us through Christ, of course. But again Ė we are not yet talking about ABILITY. Or MIGHT. It is one thing to have the right to access God, it is another to have the ability to walk with Him.

Probably the best example of a RIGHT is justification by faith. If you place your faith in Christ, you are justified, or declared righteous by God Ė solely on the basis of what Christ has done. We might call that a RIGHT Ė because it makes you a son of God, and brings you into a relationship with Him.

Can we see, however, that merely possessing a legal standing Ė a RIGHT Ė doesnít do a thing to give us any ABILITY to do? And once we see this, it explains why the church in general today, while perhaps justified by faith, and in possession of many rights, has little ABILITY or real POWER.

Just as a membership card to a gym only gets me into the gym, but does not give me the ability to lift the weights in that gym, so salvation births me in the kingdom of God, but does not necessarily give me the automatic ability to operate in the POWER of the kingdom. For that I must, shall we say, "exercise," and, "grow in strength."

Power Through Weakness

How do we become strong in Christ? Or gain MIGHT in Him? The great irony is that in order to INCREASE in Christ, I must DECREASE in myself. And then HIS strength will manifest because of my weakness.

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. (2 Cor 12:9-10)

The power of God in and through me will be directly related to my dependence upon Christ, and weakness in myself. This is not merely a doctrine to believe Ė it is a SPIRITUAL CONDITION based on my RELATIONSHIP with God.

ABILITY or MIGHT is found only in the Person of Jesus Christ. Thus, the more Christ has control of me, and is seen in me, the more the POWER of Christ will be evident. And the way in which Christ comes to be seen in me is if I die, so that He might be raised to a greater degree in me. This, again, is strength through weakness; life through death.

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death works in us, but life in you. (2 Cor 4:7-12)

Donít think of this in terms of, "trying to be weak," or, "trying to act weak." No. This is about really BEING weak in myself. Only God can bring us to this place through the ongoing work of the Cross. Then our weakness will be unconscious. It wonít be something we try. It will simply BE. It will be a reflection of who we are to Christ, and who Christ is to us.

I drew the contrast earlier between RIGHT and MIGHT. I said RIGHTS get us into an exercise facility. But MIGHT enables us to lift the weights. RIGHTS are immediate. MIGHT takes time and exercise. Well, to continue the analogy, there is one exercise in the Christian life, and really, one alone, that will build our spiritual strength: Carrying our Cross. Do that, and you will be made WEAK in yourself, but STRONG in Him.

According to Godís Will

There are Christians who think that if they have the RIGHT, that they have the MIGHT. But the one does not necessarily equal to other. Why? Well, first of all, any ABILITY we have through the Holy Spirit isnít going to function to Godís glory unless we are doing Godís will. This mandates that we KNOW Godís will. And it mandates that we WILL to do Godís will. And for this to be possible, God will have to deal with US.

But again, this is why we must be made WEAK. God doesnít hand a THING called power to people and give them authority to use it as they deem best. No. He makes us weak, and brings us into a relationship with HIMSELF. Then we are able to be used of God in power. That is the only way God can trust us Ė no matter how sincere we might be otherwise.

Right away we see the necessity of US becoming adjusted to the will of God, so that we will seek to do His will. God wants to work through people. But He also wants to do His will. Thus, the way in which God seeks to work is through people who have BECOME His will, are yielded to Him, know His will, and can be used for His will. The POWER of the Holy Spirit isnít going to flow any other way.

We know this by simply reading John 14-16. There Jesus lists the things the Comforter would do when He came Ė and He did come two thousand years ago. If those are the things that the Holy Spirit will do, then do we actually think He is going to be with us if we stray off the path, and try to do something else? No.

This is not maybe. It is for certain. Otherwise there would be no way to test the Spirits. If God gave a THING called power to us, and let us use it as we deemed best, and backed us up, there would be no guidelines. There would be an, "anything goes, because it is God," attitude. But no. The Holy Spirit does Godís will, and if what is happening is not Godís will, or does not glorify Christ, then it isnít the Holy Spirit doing it.

God doesnít need us to so His work. But He has chosen to work through people Ė His people. Thus, God gets a hold of people and brings them into a knowledge of Himself, and then they can rightly be used of Him in power. There is simply no other way it could work. Power in the hands of the ignorant is bad, but power in the hands of the self-serving is destructive to all.

Where Has All the Power Gone?

Christians wonder why the power of God doesnít work like it did in the book of Acts. Some of us tend to resign ourselves to the notion that such power was only for that time. Others think Godís power is working the way it did back then, but think this means signs and wonders only. But in reality, the power of God never has worked like it did back in Acts. It is not working like that today. This is a sad fact, despite some isolated cases where God does work a miracle.

Why? Where has all the power of God gone? Well, it actually hasnít gone anywhere. The power of God always was, and always has been, embodied in Jesus Christ. And if Christ is in us through the Holy Spirit, then all of the power of Christ is there too -- potentially.

So why donít we seem to have much power? Because the church is not weak enough. We are not carrying our Cross. We are not generally doing what will manifest Christ through us Ė which is the ONLY WAY to manifest power. We are busy with almost everything else that comes under the name, "church," except what God says we ought to be busy with: Growing in Jesus Christ.

Until Christ is manifested, the power wonít be manifested. Until Jesus reigns in us, His power cannot work through us. Yet we donít like to hear that. Thus, people turn the power of God into a THING God gives us, or an, "anointing," He puts upon us. No. Christ IS the power. Christ IS the anointing. Only as HE is given preeminence, will His power be there, and work to the glory of God.

But again, this requires the work of the Cross. It requires the dealings of the Holy Spirit to make us weak and dependent in ourselves, so that we might be strong in Him. This will exact a great cost that many are not willing to pay.

In the final analysis, the only way in which the power of God is going to be able to flow through us, is if we are first under His power Ė for when we are weak, He is strong. It is only as we come under the authority of God Ė which is the very life of Christ IN US -- will the power of God flows through us. May God make us weak enough for Him to be strong through us!

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