12. Spiritual Power
Article contributed by www.walvoord.com
Those who become Christians by faith in Christ soon discover that being born again does not automatically solve all their spiritual problems. Satan, who has done everything he can to keep a person from becoming a Christian, now changes his tactics to keeping a Christian from achieving a real testimony for Christ.
1. The Christian is faced with a world system that is contrary to serving the Lord. The world’s standards, its values, its immorality, and its materialism constitute a formidable opposition to a Christian who wants to serve the Lord effectively.
2. Satan also will do all he can to keep a Christian from fulfilling God’s plan for his life. Christians, accordingly, are exhorted to “be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings” (1 Peter 5:8-9).
3. In addition to satanic opposition, which can be very real in a Christian’s life, we still have a sin nature. Even though we are born again and have a new nature in Christ, the sin nature resists the desires and goals of the new nature. What we were before we were saved tends to draw us back into the old life, which does not honor Christ. This is not a peculiar problem for some Christians; it is a problem for all Christians. The apostle Paul speaks of this when he states, “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it” (Rom. 7:18-20). After further discussion of this problem, Paul concludes “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom. 7:24-25).
The answer to this inadequacy of human beings to solve their own problems, even after they are saved, is found in God’s provision for power over sin and the power to have victory in Christ. To accomplish the purpose of a Christian leading a holy life, God has made rich provision.
The Power of the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit indwells every Christian, and because He is God and has all the power of God, He is able to help a Christian to overcome his inadequacy and to have a life and testimony that is honoring to God. The secret of drawing on His power is one of faith so that we live by the Spirit. Paul wrote to the believers in Galatia saying, “Live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (Gal. 5:16-18).
Living by the Spirit is depending moment by moment on the power of the Spirit to overcome our own inadequacy. Christians need to realize that within them is the omnipotence of God and that there is no problem that God cannot solve. Accordingly, the life of victory is a life of faith as we live day by day, relying on the Holy Spirit to give us power to serve the Lord effectively.
Today airplanes provide rapid transportation from one place to another. It is possible to get on a plane and travel thousands of miles in just a few hours. The secret, however, is trusting the plane enough to get on board and let the plane carry you. Likewise, a Christian faces the impossible task of honoring God on his own, but as he rests in the power of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God can support him and carry him moment by moment in his service and testimony for the Lord. It is impossible for a believer to achieve what he should by way of obedience and commitment to God without relying upon the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Power of the Word of God
In addition to what God provides by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, the Bible with its infinite revelation of God is available to Christians. One of the ministries of the Holy Spirit is to teach us the Word of God and to acquaint us with the facts of God’s provisions for our needs as well as God’s standards and values.
In the epistle to the Hebrews, the power of the Word of God is described, “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any doubled-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). The Bible provides a most essential avenue of communication of God to us. In it He declares infinite truths that acquaint us with God and His purposes in the world. The Word of God, because it is such an accurate presentation of the truth of God, serves to purify and to guide.
The psalmist asked the question, “How can a young man keep his way pure?” (Ps. 119:9). The same verse gives us the answer, “By living according to your word.” Knowledge of the Word of God and the availability of divine power does much for a Christian and enables him to lead the kind of a Christian life that will be an honor to God. The psalmist states, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” (Ps. 119:105). In the darkness of the night a lamp will show enough of the path ahead to guide us in the next step. The Word of God is like that. It may not give us guidance regarding ten years from now, but it does give us guidance concerning what we should do day by day. In addition to the Word of God itself, the Holy Spirit interprets the Word and applies it to our particular need and gives us even more direct instruction.
Scriptures are a work of the Holy Spirit. As stated in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” As this passage states, the Holy Spirit teaches us the truth we need. It rebukes us if we have transgressed the Law of God. It provides a way of correction and shows how we should be living, and then it gives us training in how to live a righteous life before God. The result would be that if the Word of God has its full effect upon us, the individual Christian is equipped for the work that God has called him to do.
The blessed man described in Psalm 1:2-3 is the one who meditates upon the Word of God, “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.” Just as a tree planted near water can draw water and prosper even when the rest of the area is dry, so a Christian living in a world that does not support his spiritual life can draw upon the deep springs of the Word of God and in that truth be able to live above the standards of the world. Christians soon discover the necessity of reading the Bible every day. It is important to have a daily appointment with God to read the Bible and to pray and, if possible, to make it a family practice.
In Scripture there is a revelation of who God is, His holiness and righteousness, His infinity, His omniscience, His omnipresence, His love and grace. The Bible also reveals who man is—that he was created in the likeness of God but fell through willful sin. Man is capable, however, of receiving the transforming grace of God, and those who put their trust in Christ begin the process of sanctification that ultimately will present them perfect in the presence of God. The Bible outlines God’s philosophy of history, including His program for the Gentile nations as illustrated in the book of Daniel, His program for Israel in the past, present, and future, His program for the church, and His warning of the future of the unsaved. The Bible is the timeless book that meets our current needs and helps us to achieve the utmost in a godly life and useful service for God.
The Power of the Blood of Christ
The Bible also speaks of the power of the blood of Christ that was shed upon the cross. The fact that the blood of Christ was shed assures us of the power of God to forgive sin. This is stated in Hebrews 9:22, “The law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” It is through the blood of Christ that we have redemption (Eph. 1:7; Rev. 5:9). Through the shed blood of Christ we receive propitiation, or satisfaction before God, so that our sins may be forgiven (Rom. 3:25). The blood of Christ has the power to cleanse us from sin.
This is the argument of Hebrews 9:13-14, “The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!”
Our cleansing is not through a redemption purchased with silver and gold but with the precious blood of Christ as stated in 1 Peter 1:18-19, “You know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” The power of the death of Christ, as stated in these many passages that refer to the blood of Christ shed for us, is one of the important aspects of God’s process of sanctification of a believer. As we contemplate the death of Christ and all He did for us, it serves to remind us of God’s holy purpose and His desire that we might be examples of His righteousness even in our daily lives.
The Power of Prayer
One of the great privileges given to a Christian as a child of God is his access to the throne of God in heaven. Again and again in Scripture the Christian is reminded that he can come to God with his petitions and expect God to hear and answer. Christ reminded His disciples frequently of this. On the night before His crucifixion He told them, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you” (John 15:7). Later the same evening Christ said, “I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name” (John 16:23).
In offering prayer to God, it is important to ask in the name of Christ. As Jesus told His own disciples, “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (John 14:13-14). Jesus also said, “In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name” (John 16:23).
Asking in the name of Christ implies that it is God’s will. This is stated more clearly in 1 John 5:14-15, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”
Prayer is not a means by which a believer receives something contrary to the will of God. It is rather the means by which God miraculously brings into a believer’s life that which he requested in prayer according to His will.
Some companies that write checks today require two signatures, and the check is only good when both signatures are affixed. Likewise, in our prayer life we send our petitions to God and sign the check. We then send it to Jesus Christ. If He signs it, it does not make any difference how great or impossible it is—that prayer will be answered in keeping with what has been asked.
It is a fact of human experience that sometimes God does not seem to answer prayer, and this may indicate that our prayer has not been according to the will of God. It is also true that sometimes God will answer our prayer, but not immediately. For this reason we need to keep on praying. God in His own time and in His own way will fulfill our request even as He honors and glorifies Himself in our prayer life. This, of course, is all that an intelligent, God-fearing Christian would desire. Once we have presented our petitions to God, we can rest in God’s answer even if no apparent answer is received. Now that our request has been made, the problem remaining is in the will of God, at least for the present.
The Power of Christ’ s Intercession
An important aspect of the prayer of believers is the fact that Christ is in heaven interceding for us. According to Hebrews 7:25 Christ “is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” Because God is infinite, He is able to give His full attention to one believer without detracting from His attention to another. It is a marvelous truth of Scripture that God continuously gives His attention to us, and Christ is interceding on our behalf. When believers pray to God, they are joining a prayer meeting already in session, and the object of their prayers is to fulfill and coincide with what God desires for them.
Scriptures also make clear that sometimes believers do not receive answers to prayer because they do not ask or they ask from the wrong motives. As James expresses it, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3). James also expresses the problem of failing to pray, “You do not have, because you do not ask God” (James 4:2). The challenge in the prayer life, accordingly, is to ask and present our needs to God, but to ask with the right motives and with the right goals. If we ask according to the will of God in the name of Christ, our prayers will be answered. In addition to moment-by-moment fellowship with God, we need stated times for daily prayer.
Appropriating the spiritual power that God has provided is an important factor in a believer’s life and service. In view of his own inadequacy, he needs the power of the Holy Spirit, the power of the Word of God, the power of the blood of Christ, the power of prayer, and the power of Christ’s intercession. God has richly provided, and Christians should avail themselves by faith of what God has provided in His grace for a Christian’s life.
1. Is it normal for Christians to realize that they are inadequate in themselves to solve their spiritual problems?
2. What is the effect of the world’s system upon a Christian?
3. What is Satan’s desire in regard to a Christian?
4. Define the problem of the sin nature, explaining how it relates to the new nature received in the new birth.
5. What is the secret of gaining victory over the sin nature?
6. How does the Holy Spirit relate to a believer’s inadequacy?
7. How can the Christian draw on the power of the Holy Spirit?
8. How does flying in an airplane illustrate the Christian life?
9. Explain why it is impossible for a Christian in his own power to lead a Christian life.
10. How is the Word of God described in its relationship to a believer in Hebrews 4:12?
11. How does the Word of God affect a person’s purity? And how does it serve as a guide for a Christian’s life? How does a lamp illustrate this?
12. According to 2 Timothy 3:16-17, what can we expect that the Scriptures will accomplish in our lives?
13. How is the blessed man of Psalm 1 an illustration of how a Christian can draw from the unseen power of God?
14. To what extent does the Bible provide God’s philosophy of history?
15. Why is the shedding of blood essential to the sacrifice for sin?
16. What do Scriptures teach that the precious blood of Christ accomplishes?
17. What are some of the promises that God will answer prayer?
18. What are some of the conditions that relate to God’s answer to prayer?
19. How can prayer be defined?
20. Explain how a check with two signatures illustrates prayer.
21. How does prayer change things even if the prayer is not answered?
22. How does the fact that Christ in His resurrection lives forever relate to His intercession for us?
23. How much of God’s attention do we have moment by moment?
24. To what extent are we joining a prayer meeting already in session?
25. How do wrong motives hinder answers to prayer?
26. Is it possible to miss blessing because we do not ask for it?
27. In summarizing God’s provision for the Christian and its availability, how are we to experience spiritual power in our life?