Some people in the Church think Christianity is all about persuasion and the use of one’s intellect. That’s true as far as it goes, but the driving engine of the Christian life is not words, but power. Just ask Paul. When writing about people who opposed him at the church in Corinth he said, “If the Lord wills, I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power” (1 Corinthians 4:19-20).
Or ask a friend of mine. (I’ll call him Lopez since some might think I’m talking about someone else if I use his first name!) Lopez used to hang out in bars every night with his buddies. Drinking. Hard liquor. Doping. Pot and cocaine. He thought he needed those things to cope with life. Then one day he let Jesus Christ into his life and never went to a bar again. When he bumped into an old bar buddy who asked him where he’d been, he informed him that the power of Jesus Christ had changed his life and he didn’t need mind-altering drugs anymore.
Too often today intellectual pursuits along any line relevant to Christianity take the place of the power of Christ in an attempt to persuade others to accept Christ or to do what is right. Lopez didn’t need someone telling him that hard liquor and drugs were ruining his body and his mind. That line of reasoning made him want them even more. But when he heard that the power of Jesus Christ would give him eternal life and also transform his life he jumped at the opportunity.
Today Lopez is a changed man with a good job and marriage.
All because of the power of Jesus Christ.
Christianity began with Jesus being conceived by the power of God. The angel Gabriel told a skeptical Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).
When Jesus began his ministry around the age of 30, he did so with power and authority. The crowds who began to follow him were astounded at his miracles, because, they said, “with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out” (Luke 4:36). Mark says that when a woman desiring to be healed of a devastating disease touched Jesus’ clothes he knew instantly that power had gone out of him. The woman’s faith made her well (5:25-34).
The apostles and disciples were ready to give up their beliefs in Jesus as God’s promised Messiah when Jesus was captured and crucified on a cruel Roman cross. But when God raised Jesus from the dead, his appearances confirmed their faith in him and in the power of God, and they too, filled with the Holy Spirit and the power of Christ, began to preach and work miracles of healing in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and beyond just as Jesus had commanded them (Acts 1:8).
No longer were they filled with fear for their lives, but with the power of Jesus Christ and God’s Holy Spirit. When the apostles John and Peter healed a man who had been lame from birth and could do nothing but lie at the gate of the temple to beg for money, the authorities arrested them and asked them, “By what power or by what name did you do this?”
Peter answered without fear, “Let it be known to all of you and all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well” (Acts 4:7-10, ESV). And the authorities let them go, because even they, along with all the people who knew the lame man, could not deny that it had taken an incredible power to heal a grown man who had been lame from birth.
The book of The Acts of the Apostles continues with incredible stories of the apostles and disciples working miracles by God’s power in Jesus Christ. But the greatest story of all in this saga is how the very presence and power of Christ spiritually healed a man called Saul.
Saul was filled with hatred for anyone who was foolish enough to believe in a false Messiah called Jesus. How could people be so stupid to believe in a dead man? He would show them by getting letters from the Sanhedrin to arrest them and throw them in jail to rot. To think this way, Saul had to dismiss all the miracles Jesus’ followers did throughout Judea.
Isn’t that sometimes our problem? Even though we see miracles with our own eyes, and hear about them with our own ears, we dismiss the reality of God’s power.
Until Saul himself ran into the person and power of Jesus Christ!
Knocked off his feet on the way to Damascus to arrest more believers in Jesus, he lay flat on the ground, blinded by a light from heaven. And the voice of Jesus said to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Saul had no idea what had happened to him, but he did know that he was no longer in control of his life. He had run headlong into a greater power. He could only say, humbly, “Who are you, Lord?” The astonishing answer came immediately from heaven, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:1-7).
Amazed by this pronouncement, and blinded until he had an opportunity to think over what he had experienced, Saul was led by the hand into Damascus where he eventually ended up in the presence of Ananias, a believer whom God had to convince that Saul was his chosen instrument who would no longer persecute Christians. Ananias chose to believe the voice of God. He prayed for Saul’s eyes to be opened and to receive the Holy Spirit. Soon he was baptized–a new believer in Jesus Christ.
Saul, who then went by his Greek name Paul, became perhaps the greatest missionary and evangelist the Church has ever known. Even though Saul was not forced by God to have a change of heart and a new direction in his life, God knew what was in Paul and knew what he could become.
God knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows what we can become if we will trust him and let the presence and power of Christ take control of and guide our lives.
Paul wrote in Romans 1:16, “I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Who understood better than Paul the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? He was knocked off his feet by Jesus himself! Given time to think while blinded by this same Jesus, he became a changed individual. Not only did he share the message of Jesus Christ to save people for eternal life, but he worked miracles all around the Mediterranean by the very power that saved his own soul. He writes in Romans 15:19, “by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Holy Spirit . . . I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.”
The devil thought he had defeated Jesus and rid the world of God’s power and voice when the Romans nailed Jesus to the cross. How wrong he was!
The power of the cross of Jesus Christ was what fueled Paul’s life and ministry. “The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God,” he wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:18. He goes on to say in the same chapter, “to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ [is] the power of God and the wisdom of God” (v. 24).
Just as Jesus was conceived by the power of God, every believer is born again in that same great power. John writes in 1:12, “But to all who received him [Jesus], who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God” (RSV). Other translations, such as the ESV, use the word “right” instead of “power.” And they are correct, for here the Greek word means “the power of authority.”
It is by our right to become God’s children (the power of authority), through our faith in Jesus Christ, that we have God’s power dwelling in our lives. Paul tells the Thessalonians that the gospel came to them in power (1 Thess. 1:5). And he reminds the Ephesians about the “greatness of his power in us who believe,” the same power that raised Christ from the dead (Eph. 1:19-20).
The power of Christ has been in the world ever since the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the apostles and disciples (including Jesus’ mother Mary) on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2. Millions of lives have been changed by his power, including some of ISIS’ killers who now love and serve Jesus Christ.
My wife and I prayed for a young lady, who (I will call her Kate), after I had preached on the power of Christ changing our lives, informed me that I was wrong. It wasn’t that easy to put a sinful habit behind her even though she had tried. After we prayed for her she was still in misery. But God gave me a word of knowledge. “Kate,” I told her, “the reason you can’t get over this sinful addiction (she never did tell us what the sin was!) is that you still like it. You not only have to believe it’s wrong in God’s eyes, but you need to despise it and get it out of your life.”
We prayed for her again and the next morning she called, bubbling with the joy of the Lord, something she had not felt in years. “It’s gone!” she cried. “I’m free in Christ.”
And she was. Soon she married a wonderful guy and went on to become a great success in her field of work.
The power of Jesus Christ changed her life for God’s greatness!
Another story is that of Scott Infante, told by American Family Association (AFA Journal, August, 1995). Scott’s father left him when he was 4. When he was in middle school a larger boy abused him sexually, and his journey into homosexuality began. In his teen and early adult years he abused drugs and alcohol, and he was in such misery with many gay relationships that he tried to kill himself.
While at Indiana University he met a Christian woman who led him to believe in Jesus Christ and in his power to change our lives. At first, like Kate, he struggled with his sinful habits. But when he made a determination to fully commit his life to Christ, his addictions were gone, including his homosexual desires. Soon he met a wonderful young lady, and, as of the date of the story, they had 3 grown children.
It’s a total myth—if not an outright lie—that homosexuals or anyone else cannot change their lives. The power of Christ can change anyone!
We should never think that the power of Christ is magic, or that it has anything to do with astrology or silly superstitions new or ancient. The power of Jesus Christ is the very power of God inherent in Jesus Christ and his death for our sins, and in his resurrection to new life.
Jesus Christ is not a shadow or an ancient fable. He is the reality of God himself, for he is God’s own Son. When we believe in Jesus Christ, when we commit our lives to him, his power is at work in our lives.
Paul warned Timothy that in the last days people would appear who pretend to be godly, but who deny the power of God. “Avoid such people,” he writes (2 Tim. 3:5). Earlier in the same letter he reminded Timothy, “God did not give us a spirit of timidity but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim. 1:7).
Power, love, and self-control are the presence of Christ in our lives. And with his presence, “[God] is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20, ESV).
The power of Christ is in the life of every Christian. Personally. And to minister to others. Believe it! And his power will be yours for the glory of God.
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