Summary: The one necessary ingredient for effective service before the Lord is power. This is what few contemporary Christians have, perhaps because they are uncertain what they should look for.
You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.
When the disciples came down from the upper room, an impossible task loomed before them. They were charged to announce that Jesus of Nazareth, a man executed as a common criminal, was in very fact the divine Son of God. They were responsible to persuade others that Jesus, so humiliated in His death, rose on the third day from His grave. They were also to declare that this Jesus was risen on high from whence He was surely coming again to reign!
Left to herself, the church was doomed to die as thousands of other abortive sects had died. That she did not so die is due to the miraculous element within her. That element, supplied by the Holy Spirit, was power. Of necessity, we must conclude that the church is not merely an organisation, but that she is a living embodiment of power.
The church began in power and advanced in power. So long as she possessed power, she advanced. With diminution of power, she resorted to mechanisms of conservation. Every return of the church to New Testament power has been marked by fresh blessing and new advancement, an upsurge in missionary zeal and bold proclamation of the Gospel of Christ. During those periods when the church has retreated into scholasticism, monasticism, and institutionalism, the blessings which she tried to keep became as kept manna, full of worms and stinking.
There can be no doubt, as we look on the churches of today, that by-and-large we are in a period of conservation marked by institutionalism. Amongst fundamental Bible believers is this odious retreat especially to be marked and shunned. Institutionalism, the feeble efforts of puny man, has largely replaced the power of God in our churches today. Christians and churches are resorting to trickery, gimmicks, and outright deception rather than return to the source of their power.
Our modern state is accurately set forth in 2 TIMOTHY 3:1-5: Understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness but denying its power. Avoid such people. The saddest aspect of this description is this: having the appearance of godliness—being religious, being churchgoers—but denying its power. Most of us are churchgoers, we have a form of godliness, but we deny the power thereof.
How desperately we need the power of God in our lives, individually and as a Body. We have a problem, and our first impulse—and perhaps our last—is to turn to the denomination, to experts, to promotions—there is no room for the Holy Spirit! No room for the working of the power of God. The better our organisation, the less power we possess. I fear that we have about organised the Holy Spirit out of our churches.
Dr. A. W. Tozer, in a marvellous little booklet entitled PATHS TO POWER, describes power with a five-fold definition:
1. spiritual energy of sufficient voltage to produce great saints;
2. spiritual unction that will give a heavenly unction to our worship
and make our meeting place sweet with divine presence;
3. that heavenly quality which marks the church as a divine thing;
4. that effective energy which God has, both in biblical and post-
biblical times, released into the church and into the circumstances
surrounding her, which made her fruitful in labour and invincible
before her foes;
5. that divine afflatus which moves the heart and persuades the hearer to repent and believe in Christ.
This is a marvellous definition, capturing the observable quality necessary to a full understanding of supernatural power. We cannot explain power … it must be experienced. Neither can we observe power; we must confine our observations to the result of power. I think it fair to state that most of us want nothing to do with a religion which can be explained; such would draw God down to the level of the ordinary and make Him no greater than man. You and I need to do some experiencing of the power of God. We—you and me—need to experience the power of God in our lives.
BIBLICAL POWER IS SPIRITUAL ENERGY OF SUFFICIENT VOLTAGE TO PRODUCE GREAT SAINTS. The power which we encounter in the Word of God resulted in the production of great saints. They did not find it necessary to resort to commentaries, analytical concordances or the original languages in order to prove they were saints; their lives proved their relationship to God. The life of the believer is supposed to be testimony of his saved status. For the most of us, there is nothing peculiar about our lives to distinguish us as saints. Where New Testament power is manifest, lives serve as proof of our claim to sainthood. Look at the lives of saints in the Book of Acts.