The Power of God 2/1/98

I Corinthians 1:17, 18
Page 1667 Come Alive Bible

Jesus Christ said, “All power is given unto Me in heaven and earth…”

The Greek word translated “power” is EXOUSIA, meaning ability, or strength, or authority. Here Jesus boast “all authority”, that is, power has been given unto Him.

This opens one of the major mysteries of life. If that is so, and it is, why doesn’t He make everything and everyone conform to His will? Good question worthy of our exploration. In exploring it you might well find why some things you don’t understand are happening in your personal world. A better, though never complete, understanding of this may revolutionize your life as you come to realize God is very much in love with you and more active in your life than you know.

Let me tell you a story and let me tell it from the end forward. Listen and draw your own conclusion of what is happening and why.

I met a couple who are both now deceased. He loved his wife very much. She “could not walk” and had not walked for some time. She stayed in bed most of the time. However, each afternoon when he came home he would go into the bedroom and pick her up in his strong loving arms and take her outside on the patio and place her in a comfortable chair. There they had refreshments and talked as he shared his day with her.

This was their regular delightful routine. To say the least she looked forward to the sound of the key turning in the door and his coming home. She watched the clock in expectation awaiting their time together.

One afternoon he came home but didn’t immediately come into the bedroom as usual. She called out to him and he responded casually. She urged him to come on in. After what seemed to be an undue delay he came in and stood some distance from the bed. She smiled warmly and appealed to him to pick her up so they could go outside and enjoy the beautiful day. He stood motionless. She appealed more earnestly and he remained unresponsive.

She struggled to sit up on the edge of the bed and begged him to pick her up. He refused. Her frustration gradually turned to anger. In her frustrated fury she stood and stumbled across the room throwing herself on him. He lovingly embraced her and wept. He then picked her up and carried her to the patio.

If you had seen that happen what would you have thought of him? Would you perhaps have thought he didn’t love her. Maybe, he didn’t care for her. Perhaps that he didn’t have the capacity to carry her. His conduct would have appeared to be foolish.

Now the first of the story. The loving husband had gone to see their doctor again that day. They had been to many doctors with no helpful response. This doctor told him they could find no physiological reason why his wife could not walk. Her inability to walk was psychosomatic. That is, she had a mental block. For some reason she thought she couldn’t walk and that disabled her. The doctor had told him he had to force her to walk and suggested the tactic he used. It worked. She walked that day and that set in motion a series of events resulting in her overcoming her mental block and eventually walking normally.

It wasn’t that he didn’t love her, didn’t care, or didn’t have the power to help her. He wasn’t being foolish at all. In reality he was exercising power.

Power is the ability to achieve purpose. Put that definition on the screen saver of your mind: POWER IS THE ABILITY TO ACHIEVE PURPOSE.

Candidly, as you look at certain things happening or some people and what they are experiencing you might tend to conclude God doesn’t love that person or God doesn’t have the power to help. Not so. He has all authority, all power. However, he wisely uses it to achieve His purpose.

As we look on the husband and wife scenario without the understanding given by the doctor, we might well be critical not knowing it was love that motivated the lack of action.

As we see events in life from our perspective without God’s view point we might well be critical of Him.

Look at Jesus on the cross crying, “My God, My God, why have you forsake Me?” From our vantage point it may appear God the Father no longer loved God the Son or that He didn’t have the power to intervene. He did, but remember, power is the ability to achieve purpose. His purpose is found in our text: “For 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” (I Corinthians 1:18).

On the cross God was achieving His purpose — our salvation.

God’s purpose is for His kingdom to come — what does it involve — for His will to be done.

The will of the husband was for his wife to walk. The will of our Heavenly Father is for us to walk in His loving will.

God has a purpose and to achieve that purpose it has to be done voluntarily by us. In all of life God wants to win but NOT BECAUSE OF HIS MIGHT BUT BECAUSE HE IS RIGHT.

God has lovingly imposed limitations on Himself. In His sovereign will He has chosen to give us human beings a free will. That is, the right to make choices. If we did not have a free will we would be nothing more than marionettes, puppets, dangling on His strings under His control.

God has imposed upon Himself limitations that His goodness demands. One limitation is to allow us to exercise our own free will.

He does not force or coerce. He guides and guards in order to enable us to come to understand His will and have the joy of doing it.

God wants people to love Him because they want to not because He has a big stick. Again I say: He wants to win because He is right not because of His might.

As with the husband and wife God’s power can’t be understood without comprehending His purpose.

God’s purpose is to change persons by the power of the cross. That is why God the Father didn’t intervene and bring the Son down from the cross. That is why we are to be constantly “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

He endured the cross and despised the shame in order to achieve His purpose — our salvation. That is the power of God unto salvation.

We are constantly in a state of becoming and what we become is determined by our choices. Our choice of the will of God or the will of Satan determines what we become.

This week on a flight I had two delightful seat mates. One was from England and one was from Scotland. Both had a PhD in chemistry and they were here in the states for only four days. I turned the conversation to these amiable delightful young men and we had a very warm free interchange. One of them said candidly, up front, clearly, “I am an avowed humanist.” The other said very little, but listened and watched intently.

The humanist said, “I cannot believe their is a God. For if there is a God why are things so messed up in this world?” I said simply, “because God imposed upon Himself a limitation allowing us to have a free will and in that free will human beings have created man’s inhumanity to man. God created a perfect environment and placed Adam and Eve therein, and they made a choice. And folks like them who are now us have made mistaken choices similar to theirs. That’s the reason things are so messed up.”

We continued to talk throughout the flight with him raising every old humanistic question there is, and there many, and every one has an answer. As we approached Atlanta I said to the other young man, “have you ever considered the matter of faith in Christ?” Here is a young man with a PhD in chemistry about 40 years of age and he said, “I had never even thought about God.”

As we continued to converse the one who had been so very articulate said, “I believe God is just a figment of the imagination.” I said, “do I understand you correctly? That you are saying, God did not make man, but rather man made God.” He said, “that’s right.” I said, “that would never have happened.” He said, “why?” I said, “because man would never have made a God like that.” He laughed and said, “you know, you’re right.”

I said, “part of the problem people had with Jesus when He was here was that He was a loving and a suffering servant who came to die for the sins of His people and every god on earth that man has ever created is exactly the opposite of that.” He said, “you’re right.”

When Leonardo Da Vinci was working on his famous painting of the Last Supper, he saw a young man in one of Rome’s fine church choirs who had admirable features. He asked him to model for Jesus. That young man’s name was Pietro Bandinelli. If you want to know what he looked like observe his face in the painting by Da Vinci of the Last Supper.

The complete painting took years. The hardest face to depict was that of Judas. Da Vinci searched back alleys looking for a hardened face impacted by sin. At last he found the perfect model. The man sat for him several times. He was a beggar, a thief, murderer, a person who had squandered his life. He was a product of his choices. His face was a masterpiece of evil.

Near the completion of his modeling time Da Vinci asked his name. He replied, “Master Da Vinci! I’m Pietro Bandinelli! I was your model for the Christ.”

You are changing and your choices are determining what you are becoming.

In our text the power of the cross is referred to as impacting two groups of people. Those who — “are perishing.” This refers to a process that is continual BUT which can be changed.

When W.C. Fields was on his death bed a friend visited him. The friend was surprised to find Fields reading the Bible. This was untypical of this man who regularly mocked Christianity. His visiting friend asked what he was doing. He replied, “I’m looking for loopholes!” There are none. Be certain you are not “perishing.” It is a state that can be changed.

“are saved” refers to a principle that is constant BUT which cannot be changed.

God has imposed upon Himself limitations that His goodness demands. Part of that self-imposed limitation is to allow us a free will. That free will sits between the will of God and the will of our adversary, Satan. God has a will for us and Satan has a will for us. We have a free will and can choose which of these we comply with.

Note, it is your free will. God will not impose on it. No human being can determine it for you. It is yours. We revel in that freedom. However, it shouts of individual accountability. That means we can neither blame God nor anyone for our conduct. We demand and delight in having a free will yet when we make a wrong choice we look for someone to blame.

While not imposing His will on us God does work in our lives to bring us to the point of accepting His will.

“For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).

Some of what God is doing in your life may look as unexplainable as the behavior of the loving husband who refused to assist his pleading wife. The husband’s actions looked foolish. What was done on the cross looks foolish to some but to others it is “the power of God unto salvation.”

Mark Twain wryly said, “it is not the part of the Bible I don’t understand that bothers me, it’s the parts I do understand.” Twain understood much of the Bible but did not want to comply with it.

Be committed to doing the will of God before you ask Him to reveal it. Express your love and commitment to obedience. Imagine a child coming to its parents, throwing its arms around the neck, hugging, and saying, “I love you!” Could you conceive of the parent saying, “OH, I have been waiting to hear you say that so I can make your life miserable.” NO! The parent would respond in love. So our Heavenly Father responds when we tell Him of our love.

God is presently employing His power to help bring each of us into conformity to His will. Certain aspects of His known will are well defined in His Word. Such as:

SALVATION: “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (II Peter 3:9).

SANCTIFICATION: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality;” (I Thessalonians 4:3).

SPIRIT: “in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (I Thessalonians 5:18).

SACRIFICE: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12:2).

SUBJECTION TO AUTHORITY: “and will receive the wages of unrighteousness, as those who count it pleasure to carouse in the daytime. They are spots and blemishes, carousing in their own deceptions while they feast with you” (II Peter 2:13).

I minister to a number of persons on death row and have great sensitivity regarding their state.

I want to tell you of the most humane way of it being administered of which I know.

In another state the maximum security prison in which prisoners await execution has a compassionate warden. He is of the spiritual persuasion that anybody can be forgiven by God of anything. He believes those who have faith in Christ go to heaven when they die.

He operates his prison within the law and is discrete. He offers his personal assistance to those awaiting execution. Those who desire it are afforded it. He sees to it they have a clear understanding of what repentance and forgiveness is. Within the bounds allowing it chaplins are urged to disciple the prisoner. That is, teach Scriptural principles. Part of this teaching relates to believers death.

On the day of the execution the warden meets with the prisoner. By now the two have become friends. They share the prisoner’s last meal and pray together. Together they walk into the death chamber. The warden stands by the prisoner holding his hand as the lethal injection is begun. Compassionately he urges the condemned man to relax and anticipate the moment he will see the face of Jesus. He continues to talk to the prisoner until his hand goes limp.