Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God


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16. The Power of All – Part 1

Matthew 28:16-20
16 “Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 “When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them doubted!” 18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all power in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.””
It is here in Matthew 28 that Christ calls His disciples to meet Him on the mountain so that He can commission them to be about His mission. Now suppose that you had just bought a brand new car, I know very few of us do, but myself included. But imagine that you have and you take the instruction manual out and read it, paraphrase it, even writing a commentary on it as you make an outline of the material. You even go as far as to put it into poetry and set it to music so that you can sing about it. You even take time to sit in this new car and admire the beautiful craftsmanship while relaxing in its power reclining seat as you enjoy the rich Dolby surround sound stereo. But you never actually start it up, put it in drive and take the car out. What good would that car be? Even though you know all about the car you have never actually put it to use. No matter how beautiful, or comfortable the car is, it would be useless to you, because it was designed to be put into action and driven not just stared at or sat in. To put it to use and actually get somewhere we all know that we must get in it and drive it. Today many of us are missing the mission because we are approaching Christ’s call the same way, we read about it in God’s Word, some of us even sing about it; but very few actually put it into action. In 1994, over 20 years ago, the Barna Research Group found that among American adults who said that they were “born again,” seventy-five percent couldn’t even define the Great Commission. Sadly, 95% of all Christians have never won a soul to Christ let alone discipled anyone; more than 80% of all Christians do not regularly witness for Christ. It is here in the Great Commission as Christ sums up discipleship that He makes it clear that it is every Christians responsibility to make disciples of all people. In the Great Commission, Christ emphasized the small word “all” three times to convey important truths about the mission He has entrusted to us as His disciples. The fist all is:
1. ALL Power
In Verse 16 we see the disciples respond in obedience to Christ’s call to come and meet Him on the mountain. Upon seeing Jesus they immediately break out in spontaneous worship but even in the praise we are reminded that some still doubted. It is here that we see so often our own sad response to the Redeemer, where one moment we find ourselves in deep devotion and the next we are overtaken by doubt. It’s like looking into the mirror of our own lives where we are faced with the twin realities of our hearts, we start with worship but soon our hearts are ruled by questions and doubt. What is so shocking about their doubt and disobedience is that this comes on the heels of Jesus greatest miracle, being raised back to life, where He conquering sin and death. It doesn’t get any bigger or better than this and yet some still doubted. The same is true for us Jesus shows up in powerful ways, conquering our enemies and disarming our fears and yet in no time at all we respond to His miracles not with marvel but with doubt. So how does Jesus respond to their doubt, He quiets their questions not with a rebuke but by reminding them of His power. Verse 18 says, “ALL POWER has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” Jesus reminds them that He holds ALL power not some power or most power, but ALL power. Two Greek words are used in the New Testament; dunamis from which we get words like dynamite, dynamic, and dynamo, and exousia which denotes permission or right, privilege, control. He has the right to command and enforce obedience. Jesus is declaring to His disciples that He had been given “All Power” reminding them that He possessed the divine attribute of Omnipotence. So what is His power sufficient to prevail over, first:
A. ALL MY INIQUITIES.
In Psalm 65:3 the Psalmist writes: “When we were overwhelmed by sins, you forgave our transgressions. There is an intended contrast made by the Psalmist in these two clauses, which are more pointed and emphatic in the original than in our English Bible. They call attention to man’s impotence and God’s power in the face of the fact of sin. The first clause might be translated, with perhaps a little increase of vividness, ‘When my iniquities are too strong for me’; and the next clause ‘as for our transgressions which we cannot touch, ‘you shall forgive and purge them away.’ As Isaiah 1:18 states “Come now, and let us reason together,” says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”. When the true power He possesses penetrates our hearts we will come to understand that there is no sin so great that Christ our Savior can’t forgive it. There is no sin whose chains are so great that Christ cannot unshackle. Only Christ has the power to break our bonds and set us free. As 1 John 1:9 so clearly states: ” If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness. Not some sin, or most sin, but ALL sin‬‬‬. In Mark’s Gospel we have the account of a paralytic man who friends sought to bring to Christ for healing. In verse 4 of chapter 2, we pick up the narrative, “And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!” Mark 2:4-12. Jesus demonstrated that He has the power over both our sins and our sickness. So what do you need to come to Christ and confess, so that He can break the shackles of sin in your life? Many of us are living powerless lives today because we are not walking in the freedom of forgiveness. For some it is because we have never confessed and come clean before Christ. As a result we are trading true freedom for faking. Instead of living on mission we are wearing masks. Instead of faking it to make it we need to seek His forgiveness and start faithing it. What about you are you living in the power of forgiveness or the prison of faking?

 


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15. The Paradox of Power – Part 3

2 Corinthians 12:1-10

This boasting will do no good, but I must go on. I will reluctantly tell about visions and revelations from the Lord. 2 I was caught up to the third heaven fourteen years ago. Whether I was in my body or out of my body, I don’t know—only God knows. 3 Yes, only God knows whether I was in my body or outside my body. But I do know 4 that I was caught up to paradise and heard things so astounding that they cannot be expressed in words, things no human is allowed to tell. 5 That experience is worth boasting about, but I’m not going to do it. I will boast only about my weaknesses. 6 If I wanted to boast, I would be no fool in doing so, because I would be telling the truth. But I won’t do it, because I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message, 7 even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.8 Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. 9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

We need to remember that we are weak for at least three reasons:

  1. Because we are.
  2. Because if we don’t, we run the risk of falling into the temptation of pride and trusting in self-strength instead of the Spirits.
  3. And third if we don’t remember our weakness we will be in grave danger of miss one of the greatest truths in Scripture:

That the strength of Christ’s Kingdom is built upon weakness. Jesus said: “My grace is sufficient for you, for MY POWER IS MADE PERFECT IN WEAKNESS.” 2 Corinthians 12:9. This is the universal truth of Christ’s kingdom, that the strength of His Kingdom is built upon weakness. Today in the church we have all but rejected this truth, because we want it to be built on our strengths, not our weaknesses. That is why instead of seeing powerful things we see pathetic and puny ones. For when we built on our strengths, we get what we can do not what He can do. One of the problems with trying to build based on our power is that we end up pointing people to self instead of the Savior. It’s also exhausting because we live lives as if everything rests on us instead of on Christ. Now if you want to see this truth, that the strength of Christ’s Kingdom is built upon weakness you don’t have to look any further than the cross of Calvary. II Corinthians 13:4 tells us that while Christ was crucified in weakness He now lives by God’s power: “Although he was crucified in weakness, he now lives by the power of God. We, too, are weak, just as Christ was, but when we deal with you we will be alive with him and will have God’s power.” Christ built His kingdom on the weakness He experienced on the cross. Poet Dorothy L. Sayers captures this truth in the poem:

The Choice of the Cross

“Hard it is, very hard,

To travel up the slow and stony road

To Calvary, to redeem mankind; far

better to make but one resplendent miracle,

Lean through the cloud, lift the

right hand of power

and with a sudden lightning

smite the world perfect.

Yet this was not God’s way,

Who had the power,

But set it by choosing the cross,

the thorn, the sorrowful wounds.

Something there is, perhaps, that

power destroys in passing, something supreme,

To whose great value in the eyes

of God – that cross, that thorn, and

those five wounds bear witness.”

It would have been so much easier for God to just lean through the clouds and smite the world perfect with His power. But Jesus didn’t do it that way because in order for the Savior to bring us salvation He had to become weak. As Philippians 2 tells us, He had to set aside His divinity and humble himself, making Himself NOTHING, taking the very nature of a servant. Trading first his crown for a cradle and then for a cross. Becoming human and humbling himself even unto death. The world looks at this Biblical truth in unbelief for they cannot understand it. Why would Christ allow Himself to die in weakness? Why die in this helpless and humiliating way, after all, isn’t He supposed to be King of Kings and Lord of Lords the One who in Matthew 26:53 claimed to have all the forces of heaven at His disposal?  Matthew 26:53: “Don’t you realize that I could ask my Father for thousands of angels to protect us, and he would send them instantly?” So why did he die in weakness to win the war? Because Jesus couldn’t buy our salvation by force. The constant message throughout the Bible is that in order for us to be forgiven of the guilt and shame of our past there had to be a sacrifice for sin. Throughout the Old Testament, we see worshippers needing to bring an animal to the Temple to be sacrificed for their sins. A sacrifice was needed as a substitute so that even though they deserved to die for the guilt of their sins something else could take their place. The New Testament tells us that the blood of those innocent animals really couldn’t satisfy and take away sin, it just covered but didn’t clean. These sacrifices were really just pointing forward to the time when the Savior, the Lamb of God would come and allow Himself to be nailed to a cross and die in our place. Jesus gave up His throne for a crown of thorns, trading glory for groaning so that we could go from sinner to saint. On the cross, Jesus became weak, so that we could become strong. To the world this weakness is foolishness but to the ones who have experienced the power of His weakness it is life. As Paul wrote in I Corinthians 1:18: “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Jesus power was made perfect in His weakness upon the cross, He became weak so that we could become strong. As the old hymn “Just a closer walk with Thee” states: “I am weak, but Thou are strong. Keep me Jesus from all wrong. I’ll be satisfied as long as I walk, let me walk, close to Thee.” What about you are you trying to serve in your own strength or are you walking in His strength because you have not only admitted your weakness to Him but submitted them to Him?