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Believe in the power of God

Believe Again: Gospel of John  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  44:57
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Our problem with recognizing God as powerful is that we don’t recognize true power. Power (in our thinking) is the ability to bend people to your will. Is that power, or is that just being a bully? There is another way of thinking about power. God is not just powerful, he is the definition of power, and power, by His definition, is not what we usually think.

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Our theme for 2022 is “Begin Again”
This series is called, “Believe Again”
You may have already believed the gospel, but it is time to believe again.
We began with “Believe in Jesus”
Then we talked about believing in spiritual reality.
We talked about how an encounter with Jesus leads to transformation, living in both realities.
We talked about life - remember the great circle of life - God’s life in us and flowing through us?
We talked about light and how light displaces darkness and exposes what is hidden.
We talked about truth and freedom. - that knowing the truth about God and about yourself sets you free from guilt and condemnation.
last time we talked about how Jesus shows us the Father as a Good Shepherd who loves us and who has a plan to redeem us.
There are two things that anyone needs to know about God in order to trust Him with your life.
God is good. - We have established that.
God is powerful. - This is today’s topic.
If God is powerful, but not good, then God could be evil. - You might fear Him, but you would never trust Him.
If God is good, but not powerful. - Then you might like the idea of God, but you wouldn’t expect God to help you or to intervene in your life.
Which do you believe?
Is God good?
Is God powerful?
Is God both good and powerful?
Our problem with recognizing God as powerful is that we don’t recognize true power.
Power (in our thinking) is the ability to bend people to your will.
It is the capacity to control vast amounts of wealth and influence.
It is the ability to exert force and cause mass destruction (only as a last resort, of course) but the fact that you can is power.
Is that power, or is that just being a bully?
There is another way of thinking about power.
Which is more difficult and which requires more control, to unleash your fury or to restrain yourself?
Which is more likely to win: extreme force or unlimited patient persistence?
Which is a more effective strategy for lasting change: the ability to destroy or the capacity to create?
God is not just powerful, he is the definition of power, and power, by His definition, is not what we usually think.

The power of resurrection.

Today we are in John chapters 11 and 12. It is the story of Lazarus.
This is arguably the greatest of Jesus’ miracles - he raised a man from the dead!
It is a long story to read, so I encourage you to have you Bibles open and browse it while I am speaking and I will be highlighting some specific passages.
John 11:1–4 ESV
1 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. 3 So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” 4 But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
You know the end of the story, but Jesus’ disciples didn’t.
Do you remember getting the news that someone significant has died?
Do you remember where you were?
Do you remember how you felt?
Do your remember the impact, like a sucker punch to your gut?
You feel helpless, perhaps even hopeless, like your world is coming crashing down on you.
Death is so powerful, so ominous, so final.
The Bible calls it the last and final enemy.
1 Corinthians 15:26 AMP
26 The last enemy to be subdued and abolished is death.
But does death have the last word?

Death is not the worst that can happen.

Most people think that death is the worst thing that can happen to them or to someone they love, but is it really?
In this story, Jesus said that Lazarus’ sickness would not end in death.
In fact, Lazarus probably died within a day or two of the news reaching Jesus, certainly before he could have reached him.
Martha is going to say, “if only you had been here.”
But the truth is that it would have been too late.
But is it too late? Is it ever too late?
That depends on what you think “too late” is.
Is death really final?
Is physical reality ultimate, or is her another reality?
When a person ceases to physically exist, when their body gives out, are they really gone?
Jesus says, death is not the end of the story - the glory of God is going to be how this story ends.
If death was the worst thing that could happen to a person, then survival would be the ultimate goal of life.
Soldiers would not fight for freedom, because there would be no freedom in death.
Firemen would not risk their lives to save lives that might already be lost.
Police would not put themselves in harms way to protect the innocent.
There would be no standing up to bullies who threaten to destroy life, because the only instinct would be to preserve one’s own life.
But death is not the worst that can happen.
Life, light and goodness are all in God.
Death is just the end of mortal life - there is another kind of life after death.
There is spiritual reality and spiritual life!
1 Corinthians 15:20–26 ESV
20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
Even death (mortal death) has an end.
Death itself will be destroyed.
But the goodness, life and light of God goes on forever.
So dying is not the worst thing that can happen to you.
Dying without hope in Christ is the worst thing that can happen.
Separation from God (which is what “hell” is) - now that is far worse than death!
So what is life then?

Believing is really living!

John 11:21–27 ESV
21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”
I called this series “believe again” because sometimes we believe, but somewhere along the way, we stopped really believing.
What have we been saying all along in this message series?
Believing in Jesus is encountering a new reality.
Living and believing in Jesus is living in both realities.
Yes, we still live in the real world with physical bodies, pain, suffering and oppression.
But we also live in a spiritual reality which transcends what we know and see.
In that reality, death is just a passage into a fuller expression of life.
But to show us that this other reality is totally real, God transforms our present physical reality to become more like His transcendent spiritual reality.
Romans 8:11 ESV
11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
This world can be a difficult place, but when you live in both realities, your spiritual reality can transform your physical reality!
All you have to do is believe - live in both realities!

The power of resurrection is the glory of God.

So what is resurrection power? - it is the power to reverse death!
Not only is death not final, but it can be undone.
In 2018 Marvel came out with the Avengers movie “Infinity War”. Major spoiler alert here: at the end of the movie Thanos (ironically sounds like thanatos the Greek word for death) snaps his fingers and half of all life in the universe vanishes. People were literally traumatized by that movie! It seemed so final.
I won’t tell you how, but when the next movie, Endgame, came out in 2019. It was all reversed, five years later according to the story line. On one hand, like the biblical story, it shows that the end is never really the end. But all of the Marvel movies since then they ironically refer to the event as “the blip” but the characters are all greatly impacted in both positive and negative ways.
Why do I refer to a movie as an illustration?
Because Jesus’ death and resurrection was that kind of event in real history.
Jesus reversed the curse of death which resulted from the fall.
Now death hasn’t completely gone away, we are still impacted by it - but we are forever changed by it!
Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead was a foreshadowing of his own resurrection.
Lazarus walked out of the tomb at the command of Jesus voice.
He was unbound from his grave clothes.
The next time we see Lazarus in chapter 12, he is seated at the table with Jesus.
And then we hear that his life is threatened again because he is telling everyone about Jesus?
Isn’t that a picture of the life of a believer?! (respond- restore- release - relate)
When you know what resurrection power is, then nothing can stop you!
Death is not ultimate - the glory of God is ultimate!
There is power in living you life to the glory of God.

The power of worship.

John 11:45–53 ESV
45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, 46 but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” 49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. 50 Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” 51 He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. 53 So from that day on they made plans to put him to death.
So this conversation was about getting rid of Jesus by putting him to death - but John sees it as God revealing His plan to restore the world through Jesus Christ.
You see - death is not ultimate, the glory of God is ultimate.
When we see the glory of God as ultimate, it leads us to worship and glorify God with our lives.

Worship is adoration.

John 12:1–8 ESV
1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. 3 Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, 5 “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 6 He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. 7 Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. 8 For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”
Mary the sister of Lazarus, perhaps the same as Mary Magdalene according to early church tradition, poured out her expensive perfume on the feet of Jesus.
The account in Luke’s gospel makes sure that we know that she had a reputation as a sinner.
John emphasizes that what she did, Jesus declared to be a prophetic act by anointing his body for burial.
The main point of the story is that what she was pouring out was a costly expression of her love for Jesus and one that demanded nothing in return.
That is powerful!
It’s a picture of love, sacrifice and humility all rolled in to one incredible act of responding to God’s love, sacrifice and humility.
What makes this story so incredible is that after Jesus’s death, she would carry that same perfume to the tomb to anoint his body and would encounter the risen Christ!
Do you see how powerful her worship was?
Her story will forever be an example of what it means to worship in spirit and in truth!
What she was doing was led by the Spirit, expressing her devotion and had meaning beyond what she could have known.

Worship is exaltation.

John 12:12–15 ESV
12 The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” 14 And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, 15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!”
Another powerful moment! _ the triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
It resembles another time between the Old and New Testament times when Simon and Judah Maccabeus ride into Jerusalem after having defeated and enemy who defiled the temple and enslaved the people.
The imagery is more that coincidental, because what they did in the physical realm, Jesus was doing in the spiritual realm.
Except Jesus is not riding on a war horse - he is on a donkey.
Matthew 23:11–12 ESV
11 The greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
Yes, God is powerful, but He doesn’t use power the way human rulers do.
Sure God is capable of subduing nations and when necessary, He has done so.
Sure He is capable of asserting authority and it would be His right to do so, but can you command someone to love you?
Sure he could wipe out everyone who refuses to worship Him, many earthly kings have done that - give people a choice to love or to die, but is that love?
Jesus took a different path, an unexpected one, and demonstrated humility.
He wasn’t afraid of death, making Him more powerful than death.
And for that, the people loved him … for a while.
There is power in worshipping with humility - posturing ourselves the way Jesus did.

Worship is proclamation.

John 12:16–19 ESV
16 His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him. 17 The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. 18 The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.”
There is also power in proclamation.
Once again, the Pharisees are saying more than they even understand - they are declaring Jesus to be the Savior of the world.
The people were shouting “hosanna,” which means “save us.”
That’s another proclamation that we can make in worship.
Calling out to God to save us is an acknowledgement of His power and His goodness.
He is the only One who can and He will!

The power of sacrifice.

John 12:23–26 ESV
23 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.
Sacrifice? Really? Sacrifice is power?
In world religions sacrifice has always been a source of power.
People appease the gods by offering sacrifice and invoking their power.
But Jesus was not appeasing anyone, except if God were appeasing Himself.
The biblical story is not one of sacrificing to the gods but of God sacrificing and modeling sacrifice as a way of life.

The way up is down.

John 12:31–32 ESV
31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
Remember how Jesus said that whoever exalts himself will be humbled and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
Satan wanted to exalt himself against God.
He led the world in rebellion.
People became egotistical, oppressing other people to exalt themselves.
Jesus did the opposite.
“lifted up” has an irony to it, because it refers to the crucifixion.
Satan is being cast sown because he lifts himself up.
Jesus is being lifted up because he voluntarily humbles himself.
Do you get it? - The way up is down!
That’s powerful!

The secret to greatness is humility.

John 12:42–43 ESV
42 Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.
The message of the cross is counter-intuitive - it goes against human nature - or against the sinful nature.
Here are people who can see and recognize the power of God in the humility of Jesus, but they can’t do it.
They are wired to want human approval - forget about what God thinks!!
They are only living in one reality.
Living in God’s reality is going to require thinking differently.
The secret to greatness is humility.
Why is it a secret? - because nobody talks like that, because nobody thinks like that - unless they have the mind of Christ.
Philippians 2:5–11 ESV
5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
The name above every name …now that is power!

The key to God’s power is obedience.

John 12:46–50 ESV
46 I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. 47 If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48 The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. 49 For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. 50 And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.”
So far we have been talking about believing in God’s power, and it’s not what most people think it is.
But is there a way that we can have, use or participate in the power of God?
Jesus demonstrated human participation in the power of God.
Jesus is God, right?
But he is also fully human.
As human, Jesus surrendered himself completely to the will of the Father.
He did only what the Father told Him to do and the Father gave him the power to do it.
Jesus demonstrated exactly what we should do.
The key to supernatural power is obedience.
Do you want to move in the power of God - then obey God.
There is not independent exercise of God’s power outside of obedience to God - that would be witchcraft.
Witchcraft seeks to manipulate principles of the universe that God has put in place apart from God, or even against God.
People seek power for themselves by tapping into spiritual forces - where in fact they are being used and controlled by spiritual forces to gain greater control in the earth.
There are forces of evil at work in the world today with an insatiable thirst for power - they promise to deliver power, but they will take it from you.
But there is another kind of power that is not like worldly power at all.
It’s like God, who is so powerful that He doesn’t have to prove it.
It’s like Jesus, who lays his life down to draw us to Himself.
It looks a lot like love, which can never be forced or coerced, it can only be freely given in worship of the One who turns death into life.

Questions for reflection:

What is the worst thing that can happen? Death, of you or someone you love? Is separation from God worse than death? Then what is ultimately important? Life and survival or glorifying God?
What does it mean to glorify God? Do you love God? Do you look for ways to know God more or better? Do you tell people about God? If you said ‘yes’ to any or all of these, then you are glorifying God.
Do you believe that God is powerful? Is God powerful in different ways that you have thought about power? Given what you have learned about God’s power, how can you be powerful in God?
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