It’s one of the easy temptations of Pentecostal experience and theology. It’s easy when you know you’ve been empowered by the Holy Spirit for the ministry of Jesus. It’s easy when the Scriptural promises say “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.” It’s easy when you can feel the power in the presence of God. And it’s so compelling…it draws us in. It draws in those who aren’t so sure about the experience. We crave more of the power and we’ll pray, preach or do anything else we’re told by powerful anointed leaders to get it. But that, brothers and sisters, is a false gospel and it is completely opposed to what the Lord was doing in Pentecost.
Jesus didn’t pour out the Holy Spirit so we could have the power we craved. He didn’t send the gifts to His people so that they could be an army of prophets to match the sorcerers of Satan’s kingdom. He wasn’t demonstrating the inbreaking of the Kingdom of God in our midst so that we could all have a turn bruising the serpent’s head. No, Jesus is the only one with power, and Pentecost is the demonstration of His power, not our participation in it.
If this wasn’t the case, Acts wouldn’t have so much to say about power-grabbing. In all, there are 14 occurrences of the word power in Acts:
1:8 — But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
3:12 — When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?
4:7 — They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?”
4:28, 33 — They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. …With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all.
6:8 — Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people.
8:10 — …and all the people, both high and low, gave [Simon] their attention and exclaimed, “This man is rightly called the Great Power of God.”
9:22 — Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.
10:38 — Peter said…”how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.”
13:17 — The God of the people of Israel chose our ancestors; he made the people prosper during their stay in Egypt; with mighty power he led them out of that country…
19:20 — In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.
26:18 — Jesus told Paul…”to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”
Now, of these occurences, power refers to the control of Satan twice, to human supernatural ability three times, as a quality of God’s people twice, and directly to God’s redemptive power seven times. Every time it refers to human supernatural ability or to Satan’s dominion, this “power” is overcome by the Holy Spirit and judged by Jesus. When ever it refers to God’s people, it’s always in reference to their preaching the good news. But for the most part, it is connected with the work of God, apart from human influence or decision, for His own redemptive purposes. In other words, what we think we get about God’s power, we don’t even have a clue, because we don’t share in that in quite the same way that Scripture talks about the power of God.
The power of God isn’t some experience or gift as we tend t understand them. The power of God is Jesus Himself. He has been given all authority (Mt. 28:10). He reigns from heaven over His people (Rev. 4-5), has been exalted to the highest place (Philippians 2), and will triumph over all worldly powers (Ps.2). The power of God is what Jesus has done in the cross and resurrection.Remember Romans 1:16-17:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel,because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
In other words, although we do experience the power of God, those prophetic gifts, those visions, those tongues, and those gifts of healing and encouragement, and all others, aren’t the power of God that we so desperately need. We don’t need that kind of power. What we need is God’s love, and that love has been shown to us in Jesus’ death and resurrection and poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). Sin, death and the devil have been overcome by the Lamb who was slain, the Lion of the tribe of Judah. They’re finished. We don’t need to get power. We need to get Jesus. We need to lay down and die, so that His victory and life can be proclaimed in us and by us.
Sisters and brothers, let’s not give in to the temptations for the craving of power. Let’s leave aside the thrill of our experiences and imagined experience of greatness. The power of God, that Christ has come, that Christ has died, that Christ is risen, and that Christ will come again, is the only power we require. It calls to us to embrace our inabilities, weaknesses, and internal deaths and recognize that what we were and are powerless to do has been done for us by the Power of God, Jesus Christ. So when we seek God, let’s not seek power. Embrace the Triune God –the Father who loved us with an everlasting love; the Son who loved us through a sacrifice in our place; and the Spirit who loves us by pouring out the love of God in our hearts. Don’t trade the gracious gift of God’s righteousness for your own comfortable legalism. Confess your powerlessness and let the Power of God transform and empower you on His terms, for His glory, not your own.