It is God who empowers! All things were made by Him and without Him nothing was created that was created. God sustains all He created and it is by Him that all things hold together. The “laws of physics” which all material things obey are nothing other than the free and sovereign will of their creator. So that when the Psalmist says the heavens declare the glory of God he was speaking more truth than he could unpack. By the sustaining will of God mountains and seas, red dwarfs and colossal quasars have their place alongside galaxies and expanding space.
Paul said that God has given us life and breath and everything else (Acts 17). He permitted rebellious nations to go their own way but did not leave them without witness of Himself but did good, giving rain and sunshine and food and filling their hearts with joy (Acts 14). All this we might call “naked power”—He wills it in keeping with His purpose and it comes to be and it is sustained by that same divine power.
(I’m purposely stressing His “free and sovereign will.”)
By this same creative power He freely chose to create something unlike the mindless mountains and stars and seas something that He chose and something that He gifted with self-consciousness and choice. In freely and sovereignly choosing to do that He was freely and sovereignly determining how He would relate to the humans He created. He wouldn’t relate to Humanity as He would relate to mountains or monsters of the deep because He willed to have humans as His active companions and to enjoy fullness of life with Him as the creator and sustainer. His free and sovereign choice of the nature of humans determined by free and sovereign choice how He would communicate with the humans and how He would reveal Himself to them that they might know Him, serve Him and enjoy Him.
As the Holy Scriptures tell it, humanity exercised its freedom to choose and introduced Sin into the world (Romans 5 & Genesis 3) and so alienation from God and fullness of life became a reality. God freely and sovereignly chose not to obliterate humankind but purposed to fulfill his creation intention to bring a human family to immortal glory with its Head and Lord as Jesus of Nazareth (Ephesians 1:10; Colossians 1:16). To complete that creation purpose God freely and sovereignly purposed to reconcile a sinful human family to Himself. This purpose He graciously pursued down the centuries, working with creatures whose will and desire to please Him was weakened by their sins and they became blind in their sinful ignorance and dark in their minds.
Yet the sovereign God pursued them, revealing Himself in various ways suited to the nature of the human creature He had created. It wasn’t trees and rocks and rivers He was dealing with but humans whose hearts He wanted in a free choice. He could have forced them to serve Him but that was the kind of response that Pharaoh looked for and not the kind of relationship He freely and lovingly sought. The ultimate expression of His free heart’s desire for reconciliation with the human family was when He became Incarnate in the one we know as Jesus of Nazareth. In that particular human God’s desire to be at one with a sinful human was spelled out as it could not be spelled out in any other way. The Word who was with God and was God became (a) human and was came in the likeness of sinful humanity (Romans 8:3) and in Him, in keeping with all the ways God revealed Himself before, humans came to know the God they rejected and the “world” they had chosen and the soul-hunter who made them his prey and himself the prince of that “world”.
Reconciliation is what God freely, lovingly and graciously sought and that was more than “pardon” and more than “forgiveness” for it was friendship, companionship, glad and happy obedience that God sought and that could not be gained by mere pardon. Nor could it be gained simply by some grand act of self-giving on His part when in and as Jesus Christ he lived and died to bring forgiveness. A heartless human with a divine pardon in her pocket might have been pardoned but she would not have been reconciled. Reconciliation would require a change of heart so that the sinner’s heart would be realigned with the heart of the God she chose to make an enemy of. Without an reorientation of life that flowed from a realignment of heart toward God there could be no reconciliation and it is that that God freely and lovingly and sovereignly wants—that’s His heart’s desire and He finds no pleasure in the death of the impenitent wicked (Ezekiel 18).
Faith and repentance are distinct words and speak of distinct aspects of a rich experience we may call “conversion”. We can speak of them as distinct in order to understand them better but they cannot be isolated or severed in an actual conversion experience. There is no reconciling faith without repentance and repentance cannot exist without such faith. As with all big rich words there is no exhaustive definition. We can describe them and illustrate to some degree but in order to speak of them in the area of reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ we have to gain a sense of who it is and through whom it is that we are reconciled and takes us beyond exhaustive understanding.
It is the goodness of God that leads sinners to repentance (Romans 2) and repentance that results in life is a gift from God (Acts 11 & 2 Timothy 2). The same God is the one who opens the sinner’s heart and brings them to faith in the Lord Jesus (Acts 16 & Philippians 1:29; Acts 18:27; Romans 10:17).
Faith in the incarnate Lord overcomes the world (1 John 5:3-4) because in faith (the ­ commitment of faith) the believer receives as true and commits to Jesus and what He means and stands for as the self-revelation of the God who reconciles sinners. His faith is not in his faith but in the Incarnate God, the One who has come in the flesh (as a human).
This is something of what happens (but only something) in saving faith: the person and work of Jesus is embraced and in that repentant faith the evil usurper Satan, the god of the corrupted “world” is rejected and Jesus the true Lord and King is embraced and allegiance is offered. This is the foundational act of the sinner who is reconciled to God in Jesus Christ (compare John 6:27-29). The faith that overcomes the world is the sinner’s personal embracing of “the faith” (that is Jesus and what is savingly true of Him). It combines subjective faith and objective faith.
Such a faith not only results in life with God it is a definitive triumph over “the world”. That is not a triumph over this sin or that sin, it is victory, triumph over the entire “world” that is cosmic evil, organized corruption that is anti-God, anti-life and anti-human. The victory of faith is not because of its quantity or strength but because of its reality and who it is in whom it is placed—Jesus Christ. God in Christ did not deal simply with this sin or that, or with a huge quantity of specific sins—He dealt with Sin in principle. He dealt with that which makes a sin sinful. He neutralized Sin so that it isn’t a barrier between the sinner and the God who seeks at-one-ment. Anyone’s sins are neutralized, any number of sins is neutralized because Sin has been neutralized, made impotent. The Sinned-against-One will not allow Sin or sins to keep His alienated children from fullness of life with Him. Anyone can be reconciled with God in and through Christ—no one need stay away thinking that his/her sins are an immovable wall. The wall itself has been torn down! Point to a person whose sins were not dealt with by the reconciling God?
This faith we’re talking about does more than bring forgiveness, it conquers the world! It brings to those who want it a share in the triumph of Jesus Christ (John 16:33).
God empowers us to defeat the world! Defeat THE WORLD! And He does it by bringing us to faith in the Incarnate One. Is that power or what?
Faith and hope are distinct words that speak of distinct aspects of the conversion experience. They can be completely severed in a lexicon but not in an actual conversion experience. Hope empowers and maintains energy (1 Corinthians 15:58 and context, Hebrews 11:1; Romans 5:1-5; 1 Peter 1:3-4).
None of this means anything if there is no God and no gospel of which He is the source. But if there is such a God, deeper than we know, richer than we know, kinder than we know, more loving, more faithful, more generous then the truth about Him changes everything! The truth about Him! Yes, the truth about God is the revelation of God’s self! And how does that come to us?
God doesn’t do magic. If we want magic we go to the movies. God makes Himself present to us and in us by his self-revelation in Jesus Christ and that comes to us through the proclamation and teaching of the Word of God given to us by the Holy Spirit. “The words that I speak unto you are spirit and life,” said Jesus (John 6:63). “Sanctify them through thy truth, Thy word is truth,” Jesus said to His Father (John 17:17). “God chose you to salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief of the truth, to which He called you by our gospel,” Paul said (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 with 1 Thessalonians 2:13). “You were born again not by corruptible seed but by incorruptible, through the word of God…desire the pure milk of the word that you may grow thereby,” Peter said (1 Peter 1:23; 2:2). “Now I commend you to God and the word of His grace which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all them that are sanctified.” Paul said that in Acts 20:32. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…(Colossians 3:16). “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17) “I am not ashamed of he gospel of Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation…for in it is revealed the righteousness of God.” (Romans 1:16) “The message of the cross is foolishness to those that are perishing but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…the power of God…” (1 Corinthians 1:18, 21-25). “The word of the Lord is alive and powerful…” (Hebrews 4:12). “Every scripture inspired of God is profitable…that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against thee.) Psalm 119:11.
We pay lip service to the word of God and look for some mystic spatial indwelling of the Trinity inside our bodies to do nobody knows what to assure us that we’re going to win through against sins. (“Muslims don’t have Mohammed inside them but we have Jesus/Holy Spirit inside our bodies and that’s why we can overcome sin.” I think that is sad.)
To sever the Spirit-inspired word of God from the Spirit of God is nonsense. Prophets wrote the word only because the Holy Spirit moved them (2 Peter 1) and the word of God is the “sword of the Spirit” (not our sword, His sword (Ephesians 6).
The Spirit of God brings the word of God He inspired to people in countless ways and He uses it to transform our hearts and minds, to sanctify us initially and progressively. By making God present in our lives by the truth about God He guides us and produces His fruit in us. What Christians have that no other religion offers is the truth about the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ revealed by the Holy Spirit of God and exhibited in the Incarnate Lord Jesus. If that gospel doesn’t generate faith, inspire, thrill, enrich, stabilize, energize, console, comfort and encourage and equip us for every good work I don’t think there is any hope for us. But obviously that isn’t enough for some; it seems we must have Jesus and the Holy Spirit spatially and literally residing inside each person’s body.

4 thoughts on “THE EMPOWERING GOD

  1. mike

    This was helpful. You made points that I was familiar with or thought I was but when you them put together it gave me a clarification and assurance that is wasn’t there before. Thank you, thank you. M


  2. David D

    It occurs to me we use this kind of language with reference to our deceased loved ones. My mom has been gone for 11 years but she still lives on in me. Her words, her example, her love…. She’s obviously not physically present yet her mind (her spirit we might say) is a very real part of my everyday life. I still talk to her on occasion for goodness sake. She’s “is not” (yes – I think present tense is perhaps correct) her words and actions but they define her to some degree and they teach and shape me, and even empower me in some areas though she is physically not present. Hmmm…. Thanks for your thoughts Jim. I think a little light bulb may have just clicked on in my somewhat dim, but slowly getting brighter, brain. 🙂


  3. Jim McGuiggan Post author

    If a now dead Paul can still influence us by the truth he spoke and what he did; if a now dead Luke can empower us by the true stories he told us why can’t your mother influence you by the truth of God she shared and embodied. We live and grow on truth that we hear from people who live in other parts of the world. Space or time has nothing much to do with it, has it? Is it true? Is it God’s truth? Spoken, written or embodied? If yes, it’s just as powerful as when it came from an eye-witness or apostle.


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