His Spirit of Power, Love, and Self-control

“For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and self-control” (II Timothy 1:7).

The Spirit that lives in you, the Spirit that God has given to you is not a spirit of weakness or shame.  It is quite the opposite.  It is a Spirit of power, the Holy Spirit that carries God’s power in you.  And I love how that power is expressed through our practice of love and self-control.  The same Spirit of power in you is the Spirit of love and self-control.

The command to love your neighbor as yourself is an old covenant instruction.  It is similar to the golden rule; treat others as you would like to be treated.  But as a command to love, it falls way short of loving others under the new covenant.

Jesus gave us a new commandment for a new covenant.  “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34).  “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you (John 15:12).  We are to love others just like Jesus loves us.  This is way higher than loving like we love ourselves.  This is loving as Jesus loves.  And it is really an impossible standard if you think about it.  Except …

This is where the power of God comes in.  We have the power, by the Spirit inside, to do the impossible!  God’s power, flowing through us, is the ONLY way we can love as Jesus loves.  This is the beauty of our new covenant power.  We don’t have to buck up and try harder to love.  We can only love in this beautiful way by tapping into the power of the Spirit that God has promised to all who believe.  We have what it takes to love as Jesus loves.

It works the same way with self-control.  We can only successfully engage and defeat temptations, addictive behaviors, and the lies of the evil one through the Spirit’s power.  I think all of us have had the experience where our self-effort, our willpower, our disciplined lives all break down at some point if that is what we are relying on to stay on the righteous path.  We live righteous lives as we rely on God’s power within to set us free from sin’s power and patterns.

What does this look like in practice?  I know this can sound almost alien and Spock-like with no emotion, but here goes.  When temptation comes my way, I try to answer with, “This is not who I am.  This is not my identity in Christ.  This is not what a new creation, created in righteousness and holiness looks like.  This might have been my old pattern.  But this is no longer me, the one who carries the Spirit of power, love, and self-control inside.”

Do I ever lose the battle with the flesh?  Yes, I still sin.  I still give in to patterns of the flesh.  But by the power of God, I can often walk away.

These three aspects of the Spirit of God in us work beautifully together.  God had given us the POWER to LOVE others with a supernatural love and to practice a life of SELF-CONTROL.  It all rests in the Holy Spirit of power living in us.

Protected By the God’s Power Through Faith

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (I Peter 1:3-5).

What does it mean to be “protected by the power of God THROUGH FAITH”?  What does faith have to do with God’s protection?

One of the lessons of the gospels is that our faith matters.  Jesus choose who to heal, when to heal, how to heal.  But concurrent with Jesus’s actions, the faith of the recipient made a difference based on Jesus’ own words.  Just look at this short list.

When a paralytic’s friends lowered him through the roof:

“And they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed.  Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, ‘Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven’ ” (Matthew 9:2).

To the woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ cloak:

“But Jesus turning and seeing her said, ‘Daughter, take courage; your faith has made you well.’  At once the woman was made well” (Matthew 9:22).

When Jesus was approached by two blind men:

“When He entered the house, the blind men came up to Him, and Jesus said to them, ‘Do you believe that I am able to do this?’  They said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord.’  Then He touched their eyes, saying, ‘It shall be done to you according to your faith.’  And their eyes were opened” (Matthew 9:28-30).

To a Gentile woman whose daughter was demon-possessed:

“Then Jesus said to her, ‘O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish.’  And her daughter was healed at once” (Matthew 15:28).

For a blind beggar named Bartimaeus:

“And Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has made you well.’  Immediately he regained his sight and began following Him on the road” (Mark 10:52).

To the woman who anointed Jesus’s feet:

“And He said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’ “ (Luke 7:50).

To a leper on the road to Jerusalem:

“And He said to him, ‘Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.’ “ (Luke 17:19).

I don’t know all of the ins and outs of how this works.  I only know that taking Jesus’ words at face value, their faith mattered.  And your faith matters.  Your faith in God’s power to protect you makes a difference.  It secures your peace and joy and calm in whatever you are facing that needs God’s protection.

It is an interesting comparison to when the disciples were not so sure of God’s protection in the storm.  When Jesus was awakened in the storm and proceeded to calm the sea, He turned to His disciples with just one question, “Where is your faith?” (Luke 8:25).

May our faith to trust in God’s protection be completely and unflinchingly in our Savior, Jesus.

Serving in the Power of God

“Giving no cause for offense in anything, so that the ministry will not be discredited, but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, … in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love, in the word of truth, in the power of God” (II Corinthians 6:3-4, 6-7).

Paul wanted folks to recognize his ministry as sincere.  A minister known for his purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, filled with the Spirit, loving, truthful, and all of it energized by the power of God.

I think we recognize what it looks like to be patient, kind, truthful, loving, etc.  But what does it look like to exercise the power of God?  How do we show God’s power in us to love and serve others, and to overcome sin, shame, pride, condemnation, and other obstacles we have talked about?

I think one way we demonstrate God’s power in us is to refuse to take on a victim mentality in the circumstances of life.  A victim approach says, “I cannot practice these powers that God promises when I am facing such dire situations.  The world is throwing so many curves at me that you cannot expect me to walk according to the power of the Spirit.”  But I believe in the challenges of life is exactly when we have an opportunity to show off the power of God; a power that the world knows nothing of.

Look at the complete II Corinthians passage we began this post with.  “Giving no cause for offense in anything, so that the ministry will not be discredited, but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger, in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love, in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left, by glory and dishonor, by evil report and good report; regarded as deceivers and yet true; as unknown yet well-known, as dying yet behold, we live; as punished yet not put to death, as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things” (II Corinthians 6:3-10).

It is in the very challenges of Paul’s life; in afflictions, in hardships, in distress, in beatings, in imprisonments, in sleeplessness, in hunger; facing dishonor, evil reports, sorrow, poverty … it is in this tumultuous journey that Paul seeks to be known by the power of God in his ministry.

We are not to blame our circumstances for why we cannot show the power of God to others in our lives.  It is in these times of weakness as the world sees weakness that God’s power can have its most amazing display.  “And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’  Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me” (II Corinthians 12:9).

Your weakness is not an obstacle to God’s power.  Let it be the pathway to the world seeing God’s power perfected in you.

Praying for God’s Power

“For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light” (Colossians 1:9-12).

Tucked in the middle of this beautiful prayer for the saints at Colossae is a request of the Father that they be “strengthened with all power according to His glorious might.”

Paul shared a similar prayer for the church at Thessalonica.

“To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (II Thessalonians 1:11-12).  Paul’s prayer is that God’s power would fulfill your desire for goodness.  You want to be good.  You want to live a righteous life.  And God’s power is available and needed to accomplish that in you.

In our last post on the power of God in us, we looked at these prayers from the book of Ephesians.

“I do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.  I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe” (Ephesians 1:16-19).

Paul’s prayer is that the Ephesians would know the surpassing greatness of His power.  I don’t believe this “know” is just a head knowledge, but to literally experience the surpassing greatness of His power.

And finally, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man” (Ephesians 3:14-16).

Paul’s prayer for the saints is that they would be strengthened by the power that comes through the Holy Spirit, not strengthened by the power of self-discipline, of willpower, of trying harder.  The power that flows THROUGH us is the power of God brought TO us by His Spirit.

My prayer for all of you who read these words today is a sincere prayer to the Father that you would taste God’s promise of power through the gift of His Spirit.  Power over sin, power over shame, power over condemnation, power over religious pressure, power over selfish ambition, power over pride, power over fear, power over depression, power over trauma, power over pain.

May you experience the power of a free life today!

The Power of God in Us

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.  These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might” (Ephesians 1:18-19).

God’s power toward us is described as surpassingly great and working according to the strength of His might.  That is a lot of power.  And it is directed at us who believe.

Here is another reference to the “working of God’s power.”  “The Gentiles are fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel, of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of God’s grace which was given to me according to the working of His power (Ephesians 3:6-7).

Paul’s gift of being a minister of the gospel is not only given according to God’s grace, but also given according to God’s power.  This gives us a hint that not only is God’s power directed toward us, but could it also be working through us?

“That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man” (Ephesians 3:16).  God’s power dwells in you by His Spirit in your inner man.

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” (Ephesians 3:20).  God’s power is not just directed toward us.  It is living and working in us.  You have the power of God in you!

“For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me” (Colossians 1:29).  The mighty strength of God’s power shown in our first verse is now working mightily in us.  Paul works, Paul labors, not in his own willpower or self-effort.  He only labors in line with the Spirit’s power working mightily in him.

God wants to work mightily through you.  Mightily is not measured in number of folks reached, not measured in number of verses memorized, not measured by your social footprint.  Mightily is us doing the work that God has placed in front of us by the power of His Spirit dwelling in us.

That is why God can call us to “work” and “rest” at the same time.  Jesus is doing the heavy lifting.  Jesus is drawing the lost.  Jesus is empowering the fruit of the Spirit in us.  We are the participants as we align our lives with His leading.  May you find rest and at the same time feel the rush of the powerful Spirit of God working through you.