Do Christians want power?

Do Christians want power?  What kind of question is that?  Look around.  Of course Christians want power.  Check out the Republican Party.  Witness the strange almost worship-like adoration of Donald Trump by so many Evangelical Christians.  They want power.  So why does Scot McKnight say Christians don’t want power?  And why is he right?  How, in the face of all we see, can McKnight possibly be correct when he says Christians don’t want power?

Christians don't want powerActually, both statements are correct – Christians do want power.  But also don’t want power.  It’s not really a question of whether or not Christians want power.  It’s a question of what do we mean by power.

Like I said, just look around, and we see many Christians, too many, absolutely do want political power.  And we do things we really shouldn’t be doing, as Christians, in order to get it.

Power that Christians want

For instance, do you remember what Jesus said about His Kingdom?  Hint – it’s from when He appeared before Pontius Pilate.  During His trial.

Jn 18:36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

not of this world.  I think we’d do well to remember that.  Instead we forget.  Or ignore.  Oh – we should remember the exchange between Pilate and Jesus immediately after that as well.

Jn 18:37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

There’s part of the problem.  Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.  We cannot remember what we do not listen to.  Or ignore.  And so Christians want that political power.  And chase after it.  With the risk of ending up on the other side of truth.

We also forget, or ignore, something from the Ten Commandments.

Ex 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before me.”

And therefore we end up putting the god of political power before God.  And we “worship” the political leaders who we think give us that power.  In the process, we also put them before God.  But that’s Old Testament stuff, right?  It doesn’t apply to us in New Testament times, right?  Wrong.  And wrong.

Remember, Jesus also spoke about the greatest commandment(s).

The Greatest Commandment – Matthew

22:34-40 pp — Mk 12:28-31

Mt 22:34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Mt 22:37 Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Oops.

By the way, we have an example to learn from as well.  It comes after Jesus fed the 5,000 people with five small barley loaves and two small fish.  After they had all eaten, there were twelve baskets full of pieces of the five loaves.  After witnessing the miracle, it seems the people had something else in mind for Jesus to do.  Something He didn’t want and wasn’t going to do.

Jn 6:14 After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.

Clearly, Jesus wanted nothing to do with this earthly political / military power thing.  But Christians do want that power.

You may or may not remember what happened after that.  The next day, after the people tracked Him down, Jesus launched into His speech about the need for us to eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood.

Many Disciples Desert Jesus

Jn 6:60 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”

Jn 6:61 Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. 64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65 He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.”

Jn 6:66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

Jn 6:67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.

Jn 6:68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”

Do you see where I’m going here?

How does God feel about Christians wanting political power?

Let’s find out, by asking some questions.  Let’s remember yet one more thing first though.  In 1Co 2:16, Paul tells us the Holy Spirit is the “mind of Christ“.  So when we read Holy Spirit below, that equates to Jesus in the passages about feeding the 5,000.

  • When we seek political power, is the Holy Spirit trying to “get away” from us?  In effect is the Holy Spirit telling us we’re walking away from Him – and then is He making us seek Him out again?  In that process, is the Holy Spirit trying to show us that we’ve put some political god above God?

  • If we do seek after God again, is the Holy Spirit going to give us some sort of reminder, along the lines of eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood?  Something to shake us up and let us know that we must put God back where He belongs – assuming we truly are followers of Jesus?

  • And when that happens, will we walk away?  Will we pursue the god of political power?  Or will we realize that what Peter said is true?  We acknowledge, Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.

  • And will we then return to a life that says we really do believe that?

In Peter’s case, he didn’t have the Holy Spirit.  We do.

But don’t feel too bad.  At least, as long as we don’t join the majority that deserted Jesus.  After all, Paul did have the Holy Spirit when he said the following.

Struggling With Sin

Ro 7:14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

Paul, of course, closes that thought with:

Ro 7:24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

As should we.

But then, it seems that a whole lot of Christians are not.  I can only pray that’s not the case.  And yet, even the Bible tells us that these things will happen.  People will turn away.

Power that Christians don’t want

We’ve seen that Christians want power.  Political power.  A kind of power that, as far as I can see, the Bible never says we should go after.  In fact, earthly political power has nothing to do with God’s Kingdom.

Christians don't want powerSo what’s the power that Christians don’t want?  And, by the way, a power that the Bible tells us we really should want?  And that we can and should have?  That image to the right says it all.  We, Christians, don’t want transcending power.  I believe that for the vast majority of us – it’s absolutely true.

Most Christians don’t want God’s transcending power.  But why not?  Before we get into exactly what’s meant by God’s transcending power, let’s first point out that we’re talking something of God’s power.  God’s power that we can actually have.  To think people don’t want any kind of God’s power is just plain odd.  Ever since Adam and Eve, people have wanted to be like God, if not replace God.  So what’s going on here?

What is transcending power?

What does the Bible say about this transcending power?  Would you believe – nothing?  Well, at least not with those words.  However, we can get some idea of what transcending anything is about by the one time the word does appear.

Phil 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

I have to say, God’s peace being able to keep me from being anxious about anything is truly amazing.  I also have to say, I’ve actually felt it.  And it is amazing.  For more on that, please see God – is it time for me to go home?.

Even though the words transcending power aren’t in the Bible, the concept most certainly is.  Here’s just one example.  In fact, an example where Jesus tells us that we can have it.  Yes, Jesus actually tells His followers that they can have it, and therefore today’s Christians should want that power.

Jesus the Way to the Father

Jn 14:5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jn 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

Jn 14:8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

Jn 14:9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. 12 I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”

Buried in that passage about Jesus being the way to the Father – about Jesus and the Father being one, is what we’re looking for.

I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these …

That’s – well, that’s amazing.  Anyone who has faith – real faith – in Jesus can do even greater things than what we read in the Bible.  Let’s keep going to find out more about that.

because I am going to the Father

OK – Jesus is going back to the Father.  Returning to Heaven.  What we call ascending to Heaven.  Although Christians tend to pretty much ignore the event, it really is a big deal.  For more on why Jesus ascension is so important, please see The problem of the forgotten holiday – Ascension Day.

Anyway, because Jesus is leaving planet earth – physically leaving – He’s going to give those who truly have faith in Him the ability to do even greater things than what He’s already done.

Wow.  That sounds like power Christians should want to have.  Question – how do we get that power?

Jesus promises Holy Spirit

Jn 14:15 “If you love me, you will obey what I command. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.”

Jn 14:22 Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”

Jn 14:23 Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

Jn 14:25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Jn 14:28 “You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. 30 I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me, 31 but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.
“Come now; let us leave.”

How do Christians get the power Jesus spoke of?  Through the Holy Spirit.  Unfortunately, a whole lot of Christians are taught to be afraid of the Holy Spirit.  Sorry to say, that includes me.  You know – “those people” are weird.  “Those people” aren’t Biblical.  “That kind of thing” doesn’t happen anymore.  Those are the first three “excuses” that come to mind.  I’m sure there are more.

Speaking of not being Biblical though, the concept of being afraid of the Holy Spirit is, in itself, un-Biblical.  Now that’s truly weird.  About five years ago, I read Francis Chan’s book, “The Forgotten God, reversing our tragic neglect of the Holy Spirit“.  Back then, I thought I got it.  You know – understood the importance of not neglecting the Holy Spirit.  And I did.  But I realize now it was only scratching the surface of understanding.

I got the peace part.  And I kinda got the will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you part.  The thing is, there’s this whole action part that pretty much missing.  And that’s tragic.

The missing part?  It’s what that kind of power can do to something Jesus told us to do.

The Great Commission

Mt 28:16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said,All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Let’s face it – the greatest thing a Christian can do is fulfill the Great Commission.  “Make” more disciples.  Yes, saving individual people is important.  However, the command is more than that.  Much more.  The command is about a powerful and lasting movement that will not only save people but make dramatic changes around the world.

Notice, I put “make” in quotes.  Our English Bibles tell us to “make disciples”.  But you know what?  There is no Greek word that corresponds to “make”.  A literal translation would be “disciple everyone”.  And here’s what “disciple” meant.

3100 μαθητεύω [matheteuo /math·ayt·yoo·o/] v. From 3101; TDNT 4:461; TDNTA 552; GK 3411; Four occurrences; AV translates as “teach” twice, “instruct” once, and “be disciple” once. 1 to be a disciple of one. 1A to follow his precepts and instructions. 2 to make a disciple. 2A to teach, instruct.  [1]Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

It’s not that complicated.  Not hard to understand.  Teach everyone the things Jesus Himself taught while He walked the earth.  Baptize those people who have faith and want to follow Jesus.  Teach them to obey everything Jesus commanded.  And let’s not forget, Jesus summed up the whole Old Testament Law and the prophets in two short commands.

The Greatest Commandment – Matthew

22:34-40 pp — Mk 12:28-31

Mt 22:34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Mt 22:37 Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Now, let’s get honest here.  Isn’t the Great Commission something that naturally follows from what Jesus said – Love your neighbor as yourself?  If our neighbor is everyone, as Jesus said – and if we love our neighbor (everyone) – isn’t it natural that we’d share Jesus’ teaching with our neighbor (everyone)?

And – as Jesus tells us – He is with us always.  Not physically.  But in the person of the Holy Spirit.

Do Christians want power?

Do Christians want political power?  Yes.  As was pointed out – just look around.  It’s obvious.  However, it’s not at all obvious why political power is so greatly coveted by Christians.  It’s not anything Jesus commanded.  It is something Jesus shunned.

Do Christian want power from God that transcends anything else in this world?  Do Christians want the power to help accomplish the Great Commission?  Look around.  It certainly appears the answer to that question is a resounding, No!

Look at survey after survey, and it’s obvious that too many Christians don’t even know what Jesus taught.  How then can they even begin to teach someone else?  And yet, if we truly used the power of the Holy Spirit – we would know what Jesus taught, and He would give us the power to teach others.

Further, Jesus tells us all we need to do is have faith – and ask.  But too many of us don’t.  Many of us would rather be doing other things, and don’t want to be interrupted by the Holy Spirit.  Some of us are actually afraid of having that kind of power.  And some are just into Jesus, as we saw, for the show – the free food and the miracles.  In any case, when it starts to get too real, we run away.

It’s very sad, really.  We have the opportunity to receive transcending power from the Creator of everything.  From the One who we claim to believe will deliver us to eternal life.  And yet, we appear to be all too satisfied with underwhelming power from ourselves.  We should want better.  I do.  Do you?


Image by ivke32 from Pixabay

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