Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Energised to do God's Will

Energy is an interesting subject. Global Warming has made us all more conscious of the need to conserve it and to be careful not to waste it. Energy is the fuel that enables all things to function, whether mechanical, electrical, chemical or biological. Without it, nothing happens. Even objects at rest are moving at the molecular level. Energy is endemic to everything.

The Bible makes it clear that God is the author of life and that His life gives energising power to those who receive it. We read in Eph 1.19-20, "And what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places."

The word 'working' that I have highlighted comes from the Greek 'energeo' where we get the modern words energy and energised. It means to be operative, to put forth power. I like that thought. God's mighty power was put forth and energised the dead body of Jesus. God raised Him up to be the first of a New Creation. He received a glorified body, no longer subject to death or corruption. Such was the energising power of God on that Easter morning.

Paul continues to use this word throughout Ephesians (and other places). But he also highlights another energising power of a different kind. Eph 2.1-2, "And you who were dead in trespasses and sins in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience." Satan too is energising people, but in a different way. He appeals to what scripture calls the 'flesh', Gal 5.16-21. In other words he taps into the propensity in every human being to be drawn towards evil. His energising power is ultimately destructive and deceptive, 2Thess 2.9.

This propensity is so endemic to human nature that even when we want to do the right thing we end up doing the wrong thing. Paul speaks of his own frustration with this state of affairs in Rom 7.14-25. And he highlights to real problem, "For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal (fleshly) sold under sin", Rom 7.14. Unregenerate human nature has no energising power strong enough to bring about inner transformation. Despite the changes that can be achieved through psychology and will power it is not possible to bring about moral transformation. A spiritual solution is needed for a spiritual problem.

In this passage Paul admits that the law is good and that what he desires to do is good. However, the problem comes at the stage of execution. He finds himself doing the exact opposite of what he knows to be the right thing. Good intentions are not enough. Listen to Rom 7.18, "......for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find." Notice that he has the ability to set his desire in the right direction, but no power to execute and perform what he truly wants. In these twelve verses Paul uses the word 'I', 'me' and 'my' some thirty five times. His emphasis helps us see where the problem lies!

This is the power of sin that all are enslaved to. None are exempt. And satan is quick to take advantage of our dilemma, adding condemnation to each failure. Our only hope is to be found in Christ; for the same power that raised Jesus from the dead and energised Him now works in us, energising us. The next chapter in Romans contains more references to the Holy Spirit than any other chapter in the New Testament. For the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Promise - the guarantee that we too will share in the New Creation with similar bodies to Jesus. In the mean time we must battle the flesh by being filled with the Spirit, Gal 5.16.

To live in the flesh, even as a believer, is to be armed with no more than good intentions. "To will is present...." It's not enough. There must be an energising power released in us that carries us through, so that intention is turned into action. This energising presence of the Spirit is often called Grace. It is God's empowering presence. Listen to Paul again from Eph 3.7, "Of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working (energising) of His power." Notice it is an 'effective working'. It leads to action. It leads to transformation. It leads to change.

This empowering was not limited to the apostles as special messengers. It is for all believers; Eph 4.16 "From whom the whole body, joined and nit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love." There it is again. The phrase 'effective working'; only this time it is as every part operates according to their grace gifting. That means you and me.

This is fantastic. It is monumental. It is life changing. When you operate according to the grace gift you have received from the Lord there is an energising power at work in you to 'perform'. Again hear Paul, 1Cor15.10, "But by the grace of God I am what I am, And His grace towards me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me." Did you hear that? Paul says he did more than all the other apostles. He wrote two thirds of the New Testament. He's boasting. But then he tempers his words. It wasn't really him. It wasn't self effort or determination that was the key factor. It was God's grace that had called him to such a task and had empowered him to act. And he knew it,".......yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me".

Hear him again as he writes to the Philippian church, Phil 2.12-13, "Therefore my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure." God is working in them. It's the same Greek word. He is energising them. He is there both to 'will and to do'. Here is what I take this to mean.

When I receive revelation and it challenges me to take hold of a promise of God so that I can bring about change in my life it is not enough for me to set my heart and mind to want to change. That is the beginning. At some point I must yield to the Spirit and ask for God's grace to enable me to act on what I know. Notice that God is energising us both to will (to want to do it) and to do (to actually perform and accomplish what we know to be right).

Our part is to work out our salvation, with 'fear and trembling'. I understand Paul is helping us to see that we are to live in the light of eternity. There will be a day when we stand before Jesus and give an account for our life. Each time Paul uses the phrase 'fear and trembling' in the New Testament he does so to convey the sense of reverence that should accompany our attitude towards those we are accountable to, (see Eph 6.5; 2Cor 7.15).

Notice that we are to work out our salvation. Some see this as working out what God has worked in. But that is not the real force of the Greek. It is more like the process we use when doing maths. What is three plus three? Work it out. In other words bring it to the right conclusion. This is Paul's meaning. Salvation holds the promise of transformation, change, renewal, healing and deliverance. By the power of the Spirit energising us we can bring it to that conclusion. God's empowering presence is there both 'to will and to do for His good pleasure".

We all make choices, daily. None of those choices is made in a vacuum. Energising forces are at work to influence us one way or another. Our natural tendency is to be drawn towards sin. Only through a daily surrender to the grace of God can we be empowered to live free. This is what Jesus died to give us. Paul says we must stand fast in that liberty that Jesus has secured for us, Gal 5.1. The Galatian believers were being told by some Judaisers that legalism would help them become mature and spiritual. Paul would have none of it. Maturity and spirituality like salvation were all products of grace - working in us, energising us.

And this is his point. Gal 5.6 "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love". Again it's the same word in the Greek, 'faith energised by love'. The call to faith is a call to connect with God's promises. The call to love is a call to let love be the motivation that screens all choices and actions and empowers us to live beyond ourselves, demonstrating we are salt and light in this world.

Paul hints at this too in his prayer for the Ephesians, Eph 3.20, "Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us...." There is that word again. God takes our requests and our desires and goes beyond them, exceedingly, abundantly; not by working at a distance but by energising us to see them realised.

In order for us to embrace the will of the Father we have to open our hearts to be energised by Him, by His Spirit, by His love, by His resurrection power. And it's not difficult. We are drawn to what we are gifted to do. We are energised by what we are called to. It is how we are hard wired. and it's where the grace of God will flow so that we can live lives that glorify Him.

I pray that you too will experience God's energising power in all you do, taking you beyond your natural limits into the arena of what is possible with Grace.