Releasing Gods Power To Change Us
Releasing God’s Power To Change Us
Pastor Paul Dawson shared this illustration: While visiting Grand Coulee Dam, my family and I were surprised to see that the visitor’s center was dark. It was a sunny day, so we thought the center might have tinted windows, but as we got closer we realized there were no lights on. We went in and saw that none of the displays were working. Suddenly it became clear: there was no power to the center. Due to a technical difficulty of some kind, the visitor’s center that sat only hundreds of feet from a hydroelectric dam had no power. How could something be so close to the power source, yet not be "plugged in"?
This illustrates the way many of us feel even though we’re trying to follow Christ. By faith we’re connected to the ultimate power source of the universe. We should be a shining city on a hill, but we’re having trouble just turning the lights on. We read the Bible and get pumped up when we think about the things God wants to do in us and through us. We repeat Jesus’ words when he told his followers, “You’ll do greater things than the miracles I’ve done” and we want to believe. We’re all juiced up to win the world for God, but then our enthusiasm implodes when we see that we’re still struggling with the same stupid habits and hang-ups and sins that have been plaguing us for years. We want to be world-changers for God, but give up because we seem unable to change ourselves. We feel like the visitor’s center on top of the dam – disconnected and powerless.
If you’re a follower of Jesus Christ this morning, here’s what God wants you to understand: You’ve got the power. You’ve just got to let it out. Because of your faith, you have the power to produce the fruit of the Spirit -- love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control – no matter what difficulties you face. Your life should be so much more than some kind of dry religion. You’ve got the power to experience an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. You’ve got the power to truly and deeply love other people. You’ve got the power to be steadfast in your faith and values. You’ve got the power to share your faith and see other people come to trust in Christ. You’ve got the power to make disciples of all nations. You’ve just got to let it out.
That’s exactly what we’re going to talk about today. How can we unleash God’s power into our lives? RELEASING GOD’S POWER TO CHANGE
I’m going to show you how to uncover and tap into the secret agent of change God’s Holy Spirit. First, you’ve got to get really basic:
1. Trust Jesus for the power to change.
This is what faith in Jesus Christ brings. When you trust that God’s Son, Jesus Christ, died for your sins and rose from the grave after three days you know that several things happen. God forgives all your sin debt and views you from that moment forward as “righteous,” completely right with him. You meet his perfect standard by faith. The judgment and wrath that you deserved was deflected and poured out on Jesus. You have a right relationship with God that will never end. You’re in his family for all eternity. God also recreates you on the inside. You come alive spiritually. By faith you are a new person. I’ll let Jesus’ words in John 7:37-39 explain it:
On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified. (NIV)
God’s Spirit takes up residence in your heart and that’s where the power is. The Holy Spirit is the agent of change. When you come to faith you have everything you need to be the person God created you to be.
2 Peter 1:2-4 says, “Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” (NIV)
During Superbowl XXXVII, FedEx ran a commercial that spoofed the movie Castaway, in which Tom Hanks played a FedEx worker whose company plane went down, stranding him on a desert island for years. Looking like the bedraggled Hanks in the movie, the FedEx employee in the commercial goes up to the door of a suburban home, package in hand. When the lady comes to the door, he explains that he survived five years on a deserted island, and during that whole time he kept this package in order to deliver it to her. She gives a simple, "Thank you."
But he is curious about what is in the package that he has been protecting for years. He says, "If I may ask, what was in that package after all?" She opens it and shows him the contents, saying, "Oh, nothing really. Just a satellite telephone, a global positioning device, a compass, a water purifier, and some seeds."
Like the contents in that package, the resources for growth and strength are available for every Christian who will take advantage of them.
I’m afraid many of us will feel like the guy in the commercial when we meet God in eternity. The power for change was within us all along, but we never opened the box. If you want the power to change it begins with faith in Christ and faith that he indwells you with his Spirit. One of the ways to do this is to …
2. Overcome your personal obstacles to the Spirit’s influence.
The way we think, speak and act can actually thwart the Holy Spirit’s influence in our lives. The Holy Spirit is personal. You can affect him. Ephesians 4:30 says, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”
Although he is powerful he will not overwhelm you. Even as a Christian you have the ability by your freewill to block his influence. That’s why we’re given warnings like this one in 1 Thessalonians 5:19 Do not quench the Spirit.
One of our obstacles involves our motivation for personal change.
A. Check your motives. Answer this question for me: What is your motive for wanting change in your life? Why do you want be more godly and effective in your spiritual life? Maybe you want to see more fruit in your life. Perhaps you feel that God will finally approve of you if you can just get it right. It could be that you want people to approve of you too, even Christian people. Maybe you’re into self-improvement for greater happiness or fulfillment. If any of those were your answer, your motivation is wrong. If your motivation is wrong you will not experience the full power of God’s Spirit.
I have to admit that much of my prayer for change is so that I’ll be a better pastor or preacher. Why? So that the church will grow. Why? So that I can be successful. Why? So that I can get approval from people.
But there is only one legitimate reason we should desire change: To honor Jesus Christ with my life. If you need religious terminology to understand, it means that your desire for personal change is so that God will be glorified by your life. This motivation will be empowered. 2 Corinthians 5:9 says, “So we make it our goal to please him [Jesus]”
This is not about going after God’s approval. By faith he’s already approved you. It is a response of thanksgiving for what Jesus did for you on the cross. It’s waking up every morning and asking yourself, “What can I do for Jesus today?” Another obstacle …
B. Beware of religious boundary markers. “What’s a religious boundary marker?” you ask. “Boundary markers are external, superficial signs or practices that set one group apart from another.” Sometimes we equate godliness with how much we study our Bible study time or the time spent in prayer or whether we’re in church faithfully. Boundary markers are religious practices that make us feel good about ourselves. We may even think that God favors us when we practice them.
The religious leaders of Jesus day set up boundary markers like tithing, washing your hands before eating, observing the Sabbath to the last detail, circumcision etc. Jesus’ condemned them for it. He did not say there was anything wrong with the practices. The problem was that they used boundary markers as evidence of their spirituality. The only true sign you are growing in your faith is; if your love for God and people is increasing. Don’t rate yourself on religious boundary markers because it’s an immature way of trying to be spiritual. It’ll also block the work of the Holy Spirit in your life, if you’re not careful.
C. Put your feelings in their proper place. Many times we equate our emotions with a spiritual experience. I’ve noticed that in worship that if somebody cries we tend to say, “God was really moving today.” In some churches they don’t believe that God’s Spirit is present unless someone gets worked up into an emotional frenzy.
Emotions are not wrong and they are sometimes a byproduct of an encounter with the Holy Spirit. The problem is that many people use emotions as their guide. Sometimes we depend on our emotions as indicators of what God wants us to do. This can be a big problem because God often calls us to do things that we don’t feel like doing. For example: Genesis 22:1 says, Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then He said, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”
Do you think Abraham, who’d waited decades for his one and only son, felt like tying him up, placing him on the altar, slamming the knife into his heart, and then burning up his dead body? I don’t think so. What if Abraham had depended on his feelings?
Or consider Jesus. Look at his feeling the night before his execution: Matthew 26:37-39 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.” He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”
Does it appear to you that Jesus felt led or had a peace about going to the cross? No. He had to go against his feelings.
So how did Abraham and Jesus make their decisions? They relied on the word of God first and foremost. We should follow their example. After all 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says. “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.” (NIV)
If you want a word from God go to the Bible. As you fill your mind with the Bible you are filling yourself with the Holy Spirit. He, after all, inspired the writing of the Bible. God’s inspired word has a transforming effect in us. Let feelings be the byproduct of your faithfulness to God’s word.
D. Stop harboring sin. One of the main reasons why we fail to see change in our lives is that we live with a lot of unconfessed sin. As a follower of Jesus you have been forgiven forever. However, you should still confess and turn away from sin as often as it occurs. The reason is that it disrupts your present relationship with God. Isaiah 59:2 says, “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.” (NAB)
It is for this reason that John writes 1 John 1:9, If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. God wants to empower you, but he’s only going to fill up a clean vessel.
3. Observe God’s pathways of grace.
You can open up your sails to God’s Spirit through spiritual disciplines like prayer, fasting, mediation on the Bible, giving, and celebration. These activities aren’t proof that you’re spiritual. They are pathways to the transforming grace and power of the Holy Spirit within you. Here’s one practice that’s explicitly a Spirit empowering action: Ephesians 5:18-21 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God.
Two things are going on here: praise and togetherness. Let me say this emphatically: YOU CANNOT BE ALL THAT GOD WANTS YOU TO BE, YOU WILL NOT GROW IN YOUR FAITH, YOU WON’T BE FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT UNLESS YOU ARE DEEPLY CONNECTED TO A LOCAL CHURCH! It is only as we worship, serve, and fellowship together that we encounter the power of the living God.
4. Ask God to fill you.
Some of us don’t have the power of God’s Spirit simply because we’ve never asked him to fill us completely. It sounds silly, but could it be that you don’t have the power to change because you’ve never asked for it? Jesus said: Luke 11:13 “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” We are filled with the Holy Spirit by faith alone. However, true prayer is one way of expressing your faith.