Power vs. Form

PART I, POWER IN THE BELIEVER.

If Christianity is supported and maintained on the bases of God’s authority, consequently that authority will result in the manifestation of His power. God’s power is therefore one of the true evidences of His presence and is a means which He leads in establishing His kingdom. If Satan is successful, he will work within the Christian community to cause it to draw from the source of natural ability rather than spiritual ability. But how could Satan develop such a plan that would cause Christians to be willing to minister without power? Very simple …. cost. Personal cost and personal inconvenience. Who wants to pray all night? Wouldn’t it be better to just use our natural talents and exalt talent over power? Who wants to fellowship and give up our entertainment time? Wouldn’t it be better to develop programs where less people can minister to more people? Who wants to strive to enter the narrow gate? Wouldn’t it be better to hire a dynamic, charismatic and exhilarating man to thrill us on Sunday and who can make us “feel” saved? Who wants to wait for the anointing? Wouldn’t it be better to have professional musicians elevate our emotions? The absence of power is rooted in human endeavor and effort. Man perverts when he subverts God’s intentions and objectives.

“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a FORM of godliness (Rituals & dead theology), but denying the power thereof: from such turn away (the harlot in the book of Revelations).” 2 Tim 3:1-5, KJV

Paul is talking about Christians who possess a religious appearance, yet lack the operation and service of the power of God. Today, our salvation is more akin to an emotional fire insurance that gives us the needed sense of security. We have experiences void of content, godly character and power. Paul is pitting “form” against “power.” By creating a dependent “form” we automatically deny the “power.” Power emanating from Godly character brings glory to Jesus and advances His kingdom. Whenever we witness God’s unwillingness to grant us His power, we develop programs to substitute for it. It is on the basis that we are unwilling to let go of our substitutes that we deny His power. As long as we have our working plans in place to give us hope, we do not miss, nor strive for, the value of His power. If we are to have power, it is going to cost us everything we presently cherish.

Whenever someone is considering going “full time” into the ministry, what is the first consideration? “What collage should they go to?” We see ministry as a “knowing” trade and not a character and power manifestation. Is going to seminary an accurate assessment of the scriptural pattern? Based on our responses today, we would naturally think that prerequisite must have been clearly outlined and established in scriptures, where in reality the opposite is true. How could something so overpowering and popular with us, be absent in scripture? In scripture, service is based on testing and shaking and trusting and walking to develop character a kin to His. Godly character followed with an attestation of His power.

God was unwilling to send anyone out without the power. Simply: “If you don’t have power, you cannot represent His kingdom. …” “for Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory.”

“And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” Mark 16:17-18, NKJV

I can hear it now…. “Wait, wait, Andy, that part of the gospel of Mark does not appear in the older text.” Maybe that argument wouldn’t stand if that statement were an isolated text. But just for the moment, let’s think about the implication of that particular verse, then let us examine and see how well it stands with the intention of the preaching of the gospel.

Mark 16 makes a statement, a statement connecting a believer and God’s power as being synonymous. A believer is someone who has a supernatural relationship with Almighty God, and that relationship is being manifested by His power in and through the believer. It’s only natural to be supernatural if you believe in God. Wouldn’t it therefore be a natural conclusion, if one had a relationship with a supernatural God, they themselves would also manifest His supernatural power?

If we would logically consider the son of a mighty king, we would just as naturally assume the son having special powers and privileges, and living in a castle and not a slum. If a son stated he was the son of a king yet lived in a slum, we would think him ……Nuts! It doesn’t connect, compute, and make sense. A son will always live with his father and manifest the nature and benefit of his father.

Why do we think of God’s power as some foreign manifestation from a realm separate from the normal Christian experience? It is because we are not desperate, not hungry, we have not been willing to lay it ALL down.

JESUS’ IMPERATIVE.

Following Jesus’ resurrection, Jesus made this statement: “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but STAY in the city (How long?) UNTIL you have been clothed with POWER from on high.” Luke 24:46-49, NIV

Does that fit in with Mark 16? Of course!

Lay hold of two important commands or imperatives coming from Jesus: “stay” and “until.” Much carnal activity would cease if we laid that kind of importance on achieving His power. Jesus did not emphasize the importance of setting up a bible school or missionary college…. He said, don’t go until you get the power to go. Repentance and the forgiveness of sins is to be preached, but it must be accompanied with the “power from on high.”

“And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working WITH them, (How?) and confirming the word (preached) with SIGNS following. Amen.” Mark 16:20, KJV

And I say Amen too. Is that not the point that Luke 24 and Mark 16 were making? “Don’t go without power.” But if today, in our preaching, we lack the power, we must preach via another means….form. So what is form? Did you ever lay down a sidewalk or a foundation; you lay down a form first. The form represents in shape what will ultimately replace it in substance. Form is something that appears to be representative of truth, but in fact, does not possess the inherent qualities and substance. Form often depends on talent and natural ability to accomplish its end and is therefore a substitute for power. Think of the many musicians today who are divorcing, living in sin or just not walking with God. Think of the music they play and ask this question, “Would Jesus do what they are doing?” Would He be playing like they are playing? They have a “form” of being a Christian, but in reality, do not possess the nature of God-likeness. We are in an enmeshed, entangled, entertainment craze; everything the world develops in the music field, we follow. But all this madness is the natural consequence of the church following the Devil…. the spirit of anti-Christ… instead of Christ.

“Then Peter said, ‘Silver and gold I DO NOT HAVE, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” Acts 3:6, NKJV

What was Peter saying? He was saying the opposite of every ministry I see today. The cry for silver and gold to keep the ministry going. What? We can’t see it? It’s insane. The first church didn’t have silver and gold and could heal the sick. We can’t heal the sick and we are crying out for silver and gold. I know, your church has a bucket in the back and does not cry out for silver and gold. Yea, sure! Let the silver and gold flow stop and see what happens. Jesus said we would either serve God or money. The love of money is at the root of ALL evil. Today, money is at the root of every successful ministry. More money, more ministry. How different it was in the early church.

“And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and MANY wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now ALL who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing DAILY with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the congregation daily those who were being saved.”

Acts 2:42-47

When people ask you what church you go to, tell them, “I am the church, and my brothers and sisters are the church, the church is us. We don’t go to it, we are it.” When you have to go to it, you have to name it and pay for it.

“For WHERE two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:20

Today, we gather together in the name of the Baptist church, Christian Fellowship Church, Covenant Church, Faith Church, Full Gospel Church, Assemblies of God Church…. We just don’t get it. Today we have thousands gathering in large buildings and we can’t even cast out the smallest demon. We boast concerning the name of the building, brag about how great “our” church is, the teaching, the worship, but little is said about our competition, division and pride. We say nothing of the thousands of people who are not growing; the deceived that believe they are saved and are going to hell.

The form is working well and is sustained by the silver and the gold of the misguided.

Because we are unable to discern the Lord’s body, many are sick and sleep among us. Instead of power, we are experiencing sickness, bondage, sin and defeat. In 38 years as a Christian, people are worse than ever, sicker than ever and more emotionally defeated than ever. But we still don’t get the picture. Character, holiness, oneness, God’s presence and power are missing, yet we are comfortable enough to stay where we are and ignore the truth. We are rich with material possession and comfortable with our allotted time for church and bible study…. we have need of nothing. We will not shake ourselves and move toward the radical, the biblical, and the spiritual. Jesus is crying out to us today like He did when He cried out for Israel. We have become dull of hearing.

Our form is working well.

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world (system), the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world-the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has (natural vs. spiritual) and does-comes (source) not from the Father but from the world.” 1 John 2:15-16,

“We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control (or power) of the evil one (Satan).” 1 John 5:19-20, NIV

Healing and deliverance is more the exception than the rule. We medicate the demon rather than extricating him. The Christian today is not waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God as much as a new medical breakthrough. Whenever we fail to exercise the power as we ought, we become hypocrites to our witness and God’s glory. Our Christian pacifiers are pampered in personal programs. We have spent years in going in circles and have not moved an inch forward. We have refused to stay and wait and pray until we have the power. We would rather be a powerless “audience” than seeking His power for His glory. We, as Christians, should have the mark of our Father: character and power. His name should be exalted in our midst. Instead, the world sees us as irrelevant, void of power. We have much talk of truth and power, and we have become the victims of every foul spirit.

We cannot hold those who are truly seeking the real and we look to worldly things to entertain our children. We are numb lethargics. Comfortability has nested in our religiosity and slumber has overtaken the dead. I like the way one man put it, “If you missed church this Sunday, you would be no more missed than a bucket of water going over the Niagara falls.” You are as important as a mannequin in a show room…. You are a form filling a seat.

The early church did not change their faith to match the world; they changed the world to match their faith. Since the closing of the first century there has been a progressive falling away from the true faith that empowered the saints. Today Christendom differs little from the other world religions. Our Christianity has been so radically diminish in power and effectiveness, what can we offer our suffering world? Buddhism, Hinduism, Atheism, Communism and Confucianism have their charismatic and respected leaders, they have their holy authors and holy books and they are more devoted to their dead belief than we to a living God. What is it that we can offer? Nothing except the presence and power of God. What is not manifested in power is a dead religion succumbed to form.

The early Church did not have youth programs, single’s meetings, Sunday-school, concerts, coffee houses, microphones, crusades and TV or silver and gold, yet the power of the resurrection was operating in them.

The Spirit led them like the cloud at day and the fire at night. They possessed a spontaneity of the Spirit that lead them to shake the world for His glory.

“We must have a new reformation. There must come a violent break with the irresponsible, amusement-mad paganized pseudo-religion which passes today for the faith of Christ and which is being spread all over the world by unspiritual men employing unscriptural methods to achieve their ends.” Tozer

We pray more out of form (ritual) than out of purpose. We “go” to church to satisfy our sense of obligation rather than to function and “be” the very church illustrated in His word.. Our money is going to a temporal building, rather than to the support of God’s people…. His temple. Our conscience is clear as long as we know the “church” has provided a program to help those in need. We boast of our dribble-sized ministry. People are only numbers that are often forgotten.

Our form has substituted programs for power and personal commitment.

“And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written (Why?) that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ (the true witness), the Son of God, and that believing you may have life (power) in His name.” John 20:30-31, NKJV

Was not the evidence of the signs and miracles the basis for the preaching of the gospel and to stimulate faith? Jesus would be no different than Mohammad, Buddha and Confucius, if He did not do the works of the Father. We have an obligation to seek and serve the Lord and manifest His power for His glory in the spreading of the gospel.

Let me pose this question: If the church met in homes and we were all close to one another, loved each other, supported each other and the sick were healed and the demons cast out, wouldn’t we think that would make an impact on the whole of Christianity and on the unbelievers? Tell me why we continue to support a ritualistic religion that is denigrating the testimony of God and impoverishing the spirituality of the church… the body of Christ. Let us who truly “profess” to believe the bible, wake up and follow Him and not men and their agendas.

“And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, (Why?) that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” 1 Cor 2:4-5, NKJV

Our salvation today is based on persuasive words shrouded on promises of carnal blessings and unscriptural slogans: “God’s love is unconditional. He will give you peace. He will make you prosperous. He will save you from hell. Come up here and say this prayer.”

Though much of that appears true, it is only incorporated into a form and not based on power, repentance and self-denial.

“For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ has not accomplished through me, in word and deed (both, why?), to make the Gentiles obedient—(How?) in mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, (why?) so that from Jerusalem and round about to Illyricum I have FULLY preached the gospel of Christ.” Rom 15:18-19, NKJV

To “fully” preach the gospel must be in “word and deed,” accompanied with “signs and wonders.”

Paul again says in Rom 1:16, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it (the gospel) is the power of God for the salvation (To whom?) of everyone who believes.” NIV

We talk of the power of God in the changed life, but how much change do we really possess when we are void to manifest that power in “fully” preaching the gospel. I believe in the power of a changed life, but if the life is not continually changing, it is a static life based on form and not substance. The gospel is based on God’s love through His power to heal the sick and deliver the captive.

We speak of Jesus healing the sick and casting out demons, but we look more like the seven sons of Sceva mentioned in Acts 19:4 than those early disciples. We have been stripped and naked by the works of the devil. We just are not desperate enough for Jesus; we have doctors, cars and possessions. We prefer our form rather than the sacrifice that is needed to enter into the presence of God.

” For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1 Cor 1:18, NKJV

So where is the beef? Where is the power? The changed-life theory will not work. We have more divorces today…in church! More sin today… in church! We have less love, less fellowship, less caring for one another and less unity… in church. We have more sicknesses, more bondage, more fighting and division. We are plagued with more lethargy and less of the gifts and manifestation of the Spirit. We have relegated our Christian experience to a dynamic meeting with persuasive speakers. This only demonstrates the power of deception and the power of the “form.” We are committed to a security without love and power. Good men, men of prominence, charisma, sincere people, crowds, works, but not truth, captivate us. The truth of God’s word stares us in the face and we quickly turn like the rich young ruler, to the comfort of our religion.

The basis on which Paul represents the gospel is God power. “But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord wills, and I will know, not the word of those who are puffed up (knowledge), but the power. For the kingdom of God is NOT in word but in POWER.” 1 Cor 4:19-21, NKJV

Paul clearly knew he was serving God and that God would back him up with His power. He knew the rhetoric of man was rooted in pride and knowledge, and ultimately rooted in Satan himself.

“For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake.’ 1 Thess 1:5, NKJV

Consider Jesus calling: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:18-19, NIV

“So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.'” John 20:20, NKJV

How did the Father send Jesus? In a demonstration of power. It is the power of God that expresses His love and authority.

Now consider the great commission or maybe the great omission: “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, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matt 28:19-20, NIV

Couple this verse concerning the end of the age in Matt 24:14, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” NIV

Two comments: “this gospel,” and “as a testimony.” “This gospel” represents the gospel that Jesus preached. A gospel in word and power, demonstrating a testimony of a powerful God and not a dead ritual.

“The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind,

To set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.” Luke 4:18-19

NKJV

Should we expect less? Shouldn’t we have personalized our gospel in a responsibility to disciple the new believers and to those hurting? Instead we have depended on various forms: programs, teaching meetings, seminaries, etc. We have lost a whole generation of searching, seeking people. People have come to the church in desperation, some seeking deliverance, others seeking an authentic spiritual experience, only to be left with sitting in a pew and paying their tithes to support the staff and building. “As a testimony,” means one who can prove by evidence the reality of Jesus and His gospel of power to heal through His love.

Listen to Paul’s prayer to the Thessalonians church: “Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness (How?) and the work of faith with power, (Why?) that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in Him, (How?) according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Thess 1:11-12, NKJV

Jesus Christ is not glorified in a bunch of dead saints who sit in a building once a week or who smugly have their morning devotion and prayer. We say “Lord,” but He is not Lord, therefore there is no power in our word.

You say to me, “Doesn’t the bible say in Matt 7:22-24, we can have power and not be saved.”

“Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” NIV

First, let’s recognize that they fully understood the principle of “power” being part of the testimony of the real saint, and this Jesus did not deny. Their error was in not fully understanding that power must be accompanied with character. Secondly, this also goes on to illustrate that Godly character, personal holiness, is a mark of a true saint. Much of what we see in our “form” today is a misuse of grace to accommodate sin in the “Christian” rather than a grace to free the person from sin and sickness, and thus glorifying Jesus and His testimony before a sick world. The lack of power in our gospel only demonstrates our lack of character, or the lack of our being conformed to the image of Christ. Our testimony is to give testimony to His power. Why should the world believe that Jesus did miracles if we don’t do miracles?

The Fruit of the Spirit working in our lives demonstrates the inward development and outward manifestation of the character and nature of God in the life of the true believer. If we fail to become like Him, we will truly not be with Him in heaven. It matters little how much we know or how much we believed we are saved, if believing doesn’t produce a testimony of His love. If our experience is not fully biblical… it matters none.

Let me end this portion with a quote from a few brothers off the Internet. First from Michael Clark and his article “Exodus and the house church” (http://www.awildernessvoice.com /Exodus.htm)

“In the early days of the Church in the first century there was explosive growth. Under the leadership and guidance of the Holy Spirit and humble, broken men and women, the Church grew and multiplied until its impact upon the Roman empire was felt right into the very houses of its emperors and leaders. Of these humble believers who poured out their blood as if it was an honor in the service of their savior it was once said, “these are they who turn the world upside down.” (Acts 17:6). For three hundred years these humble saints met together as families in their humble homes.

I was born into the kingdom during a move of the Holy Spirit that was sweeping the nation of America in the early ’70s. This phenomenon was known as the Jesus Revolution and it seemed to spring up almost over night everywhere, finally spreading to Europe and parts of Asia. It was an exciting time to be a Christian as we saw “signs follow those who believed.” It was like reliving the book of Acts itself. Thousands of young people came to Christ, demons were cast out, and people were healed of serious drug addictions and diseases as we laid hands on them and prayed.

Almost over night, ‘Christian houses’ started popping up and they all seemed to be given Bible names. In Spokane we had the house of Abraham (where single brothers lived), the house of Sarah (for the single girls), the house of David (where our band lived), and the house of Manna (where we gathered for meals and Bible study).

We found these believers’ houses and Christian coffee houses everywhere we went across the country and in Europe by 1974. It was “just Jesus,” doing it all, not any organization or by any pamphlet, but the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Everywhere the Church was meeting and eating together in homes. And the meetings were alive and dynamic with everyone able to contribute and be part of the family. Imagine our excitement as we discovered while feeding on the Bible that this was how the early church got started and met, too! (see Acts chapters 1-6).

In the following years Christian home meetings started becoming more and more popular. Institutional Churches wanting to share in this dynamic life that we were experiencing, started opening up their own ‘coffee houses,’ sponsoring house church meetings, and sending their people out on the streets to ‘witness.’

The only trouble was that often their ‘coffee houses’ were in the church basement, their home meetings were a mini-Sunday service dominated by the pastor, and their people on the streets were there without the youthful zeal that we knew as we shared our newfound love for Jesus with the lost. What the Holy Spirit sovereignly did among America’s once drug sick youth culture could not be cloned by dead traditional Churches. As time went on, many of the ‘Jesus People’ either joined these institutions – or created ones of their own – and soon the light went out. By 1976 the Jesus Movement had almost lost all signs of life. The new wine of the Holy Spirit had turned into vinegar in the old wine skins. As Don McClain sang in his popular song ‘Buy, Buy American Pie’ it seemed that we had seen ‘the day the music died.'”

Ken Brown admits that “True spiritual reality cannot be found in traditional religion with its rules and rituals, dead formalism, man-made authority structure, public worship, group prayer, false prophecy, miracles and lying wonders, doctrinal statements, self-help classes, recovery groups, children’s programs or anything else it might have to offer…… And do you think traditional, institutional, denominational religion is where you go to find God and don’t understand that religion in its many forms is never what God intended and is, in fact, specifically designed by the world, the flesh and the Devil to lead you away from God? ”   -Andy Zoppelt

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About escapefromchurchianity

Lover of JESUS...hater of 'RELIGION'
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