By Jim Hennesy
Jan. 8, 2012
Paul’s salvation experience gave him credentials to pronounce hope in any situation. Once an enemy of Christ and His followers, Paul experienced God’s transformational power while riding his horse to the city of Damascus. After being knocked to the ground and temporarily blinded, Paul never saw the Church the same way again.
He viewed the Church as more than a museum for institutional religion. He saw it as Christ’s holy bride, the temple of the Holy Spirit, and the steward of hope to lost people and communities in need. He saw an empowered Church that was fully under the influence of the Holy Spirit. (See Ephesians 1:18,19; 3:20,21.)
Paul also told the Ephesian Christians that Christ had been raised from the dead, and that they had been seated with Him “in the heavenly places far above all principality and power and might and dominion. … And He put all things under His feet” (Ephesians 1:20-22, NKJV).
Paul’s vision for Christ’s followers had them in a new position: Seated at the right hand of God, tapping into resurrection strength, revealing deeply hidden mysteries and treasures, and living far above life’s traps and tribulations.
Yet, many believers today contradict Paul’s description. They are not living above their circumstances. They’re too busy rushing to work, tending to kids, shopping for groceries, yelling at traffic and paying their bills. The last time they talked about “exceeding great power” they were referring to the Dallas Cowboys’ new stadium, with its retractable roof and massive digital replay board.
What are we missing? The kind of dramatic salvation that Paul experienced on the road to Damascus led to a life of power, under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Yet for many Christians today, salvation is limited to the forgiveness of sins and a guarantee of heaven. Conversion is merely a form of “fire insurance” so they don’t have to go to hell. They’ve embraced heaven’s streets of gold without receiving Christ’s promise of power on earth.
What happened to Sunday mornings?
On Sundays, rather than the typical nod-and-yawn church service, believers need to be left speechless by the wonders and miracles of God. We need our breath taken away as we behold His glory. Perhaps we need fewer explanations and more demonstrations of His power. This would transform our outlook on life and bring hope to people and places that are crumbling before our eyes.
Jesus wants to flabbergast the Earth with manifestations of His grace. Throughout His ministry, He seized opportunities to demonstrate His love and power. In Luke 5, Jesus captured Peter’s attention by instructing him to lower his nets in deep water at midday. No doubt Peter rolled his eyes, saying to himself, Jesus, You make a great religious leader, but leave the fishing to me.
Peter complied with Jesus’ request, and Jesus made His point by overflowing Peter’s nets to the extent they were breaking. There were so may fish that the boat almost capsized! Peter witnessed a demonstration of Christ’s power and, instantly, his perspective and priorities changed.
In the middle of the fishing frenzy, Peter turned to Jesus and said, “Leave! Depart!” Why would Peter decline the help of the world’s greatest fisherman when, at this rate, he could have opened a string of Long John Silver’s franchises? Peter feared experiencing too much of God’s power. He knew if Jesus could see fish below the water’s surface, He could see the sin in his heart.
Peter rightly assumed there was more power where this miracle came from. Jesus had taken his breath away. The Man he had designated as a good teacher and religious leader was much more than that; He was indeed the Son of God. It was Peter’s moment of realization that his image of Jesus was too small, and he was afraid of what this could mean.
Some believers — and for that matter, entire congregations — are afraid to invite God to manifest His power in their lives and cities. They want just enough of God to be personally secure, but not enough to transform a desperate world. In other words, they prefer a Sunday morning yawn to the discomfort that comes when God convicts them of sin and takes their breath away.
Jesus saw the fear in Peter’s eyes. He said to him, in essence, “I see you to the core. I see your sin. But I won’t leave you. I’ve come to show you how to live with the Father’s presence and power.”
The same Jesus who filled Peter’s nets also knows the intricacies of business, health, education, politics, relationships and church, and how to bring hope to broken cities and desperate people. Jesus is just looking for people through whom He can work. He is searching for people who live under His full influence.
A church qualifies to offer hope when it is willing to fish in the daytime, in deep water. The world doesn’t need another church that is content to rely on its own strength and resources. It needs believers who are unafraid to invite the power of God to work through them with demonstrations that break the boundaries and pierce the preconceptions of people who have lost all hope.
As we take this risk and begin to experience His hope, we will be driven to our knees and find hope for a better life. That is the only chance for the sin-sick community where you live.
From No More Cotton Candy by Jim Hennesy (Springfield, Mo.: Onward Books, 2011). Excerpted with permission.
JIM HENNESY is senior pastor of Trinity Church (Assemblies of God) in Cedar Hill, Texas.
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