There are many cries a parent hears from a child, “I’m hungry,” “I don’t want that,” “He hit me,” “I don’t want to watch that,” “Where are we going?” “I don’t want to go there,” or “I need some batteries.” Let me highlight the child’s cry for batteries. We don’t necessarily have to remember our childhood to remember the disappointment from grabbing something we wanted to use, only to find it didn’t work because it didn’t have power. Obviously to our children, the emotional low is magnified when their specific toy or gadget doesn’t work.
Just this past weekend, Caleb grabbed a remote control car that we had bought for his birthday last year, only to find that it needed some “juice.” However, at some point over the last year he had lost the battery pack that charged the battery. Of course, I was internally flustered (knowing that these things happen) because I knew this was an expensive car bought from a specialized store in Downtown Disney. Therefore, running to the Walmart was not an option. Needless to say, Joannie was able to call a place, where, graciously, the person said they would mail us another battery pack. And I know that when we get the battery pack, charge the car, and Caleb gets it and starts playing with it, there will be a satisfactory delight. Why? There is much delight in seeing what we have purchased for our own pleasure working properly towards its created purpose.
Not that people are God’s toys, but we are his prized creation, created for his own glory, pleasure, and purpose. For us to effectively work (and not be discarded), he needed to save us—thus sending us Jesus to die in our place. In addition, in order for us to effectively work towards our created design reflecting God’s glory, we needed to be filled with power, a different kind of power than we already possessed. Truth is, man was endowed with power (dominion) at the very beginning. God gave man power (dominion) to rule and oversee his created order. However, man took that power, corrupted it, by choosing to disobey God’s rule. Since then, man has corrupted the innate power they possess to work towards their own personal purpose.
Now going back to this understanding of man working effectively towards their created and intended purpose of glorifying and pleasing God, we must understand that we need a new power, a redeemed power. This is where the Holy Spirit comes in. Not only does the Holy Spirit convict the world of sin (John 16:8), drawing people into a saving relationship with God; the Holy Spirit empowers God’s people for Kingdom living and mission. In other words, he empowers us to work towards our created purpose. He is the new battery to empower us to effectively work right, thus pleasing the Father. Jesus tells his disciples prior to his ascension, that for them to bear witness to him they needed power (Acts 1:8). To get this power, they needed to go and wait for the Holy Spirit to “come upon” them.
The Holy Spirit is the power, the means, by which God’s people effectively bear witness to Jesus and his redeemed kingdom. However, if not careful, there can be a tendency (especially in North America) to use other man-made power sources. It is no secret; we live in a Disney, special effects, digital, technological, consumeristic, and entertainment-crazed culture. Thus, for many (churches) there is a monolithic focus on the weekend worship experience, so much so, churches spends large sums of money to create a comfortable, convenient, special effect, and culturally relevant worship experience. Please do not misunderstand what I am trying to communicate. I am not antagonistic of any of these. In fact, in churches that I have led, we have incorporated many of these elements. However, my point is that there is a tendency to come and rely on these elements for effective witness. Yet, this is not the impetus of Jesus’ intention for the empowering witness of the Holy Spirit in the life of his disciples. His effective witness surrounded proclamation and demonstration. This included power to be bold and clear in verbalizing the gospel of King Jesus; in addition, it included power to live in both holiness and deed (love of neighbor), demonstrating the future restored kingdom of Jesus.
The apostle Paul writes in his first letter to the Corinthians, “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Cor 2:1-5). In other words, Paul attests, that rather than using the cultural vehicle of oratory and public speaking to engage people and seek transformation, he choose to rely on the Spirit and the power of God.
Therefore, these cultural and contextual elements must not (in practice) become the battery pack that believers plug themselves into in order to be effective witnesses. While these elements are supplemental, they are not necessary. However, the Spirit of God is a necessity in our corporate worship gatherings for conviction and transformation. Furthermore, he is essential in our everyday life—in every sphere of our lives—in order for us to work effectively towards our created purpose, in which God our Father is pleased. If the Spirit of God is essential for us to work effectively as we live towards our created purpose, in which God finds delight, how do we live by the empowering of the Spirit?
1) Surrender Control. This is another way of believing the Good News of Jesus. Jesus came to save us from ourselves, our sin. The Gospel calls us to repentance, an about-face from our old nature, our old life, and an embracing of God’s new nature, his new life. Thus, if we want to be filled with the Spirit, empowered to live towards God’s created purpose, we must surrender daily—relinquishing our control and yielding to the Spirit’s control. See Luke 9:23; Ephesians 5:18-21.
2) Be Faithful. Surrendering control leads to faithfulness. As the Spirit controls us, we are faithful to Jesus—embodying his kingdom—thus effectively bearing witness. A lack of faithfulness leads to the Holy Spirit being grieved See Eph 4:30.
3) Live in Community. I don’t mean go out and by a large compound where everyone can live together. Rather, I mean that we should do life with other believers, covenanting and communing together over meals, bible studies, service, prayer, and corporate worship. We must understand that God saves us personally, but not in isolation. When God saves us and transforms us, he ushers us into covenant fellowship with his people. Therefore, if we desire to see the Spirit empower us for effective witness, we must be connected to the church—the vehicle by which God has chosen to work, as well as the vehicle that is empowered by the Spirit to effectively work.
4) Pray fervently. As the disciples were in the upper room waiting on the Spirit to call, they were fervently praying. Paul exhorts the Ephesians, in the context of putting on the whole armor of God, to “[pray] at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. Prayer is the means by which we tap into the unbelievable power of God, for prayer is our communication device that connects us to the Spirit. As John Piper militaristically notes, prayer is our “spiritual walkie-talkie” that is directly connected to our commander. As we communicate to our commander, we ask for wisdom, direction, discernment and power to effectively bear witness in every area of our life.
While we may not be toys that need new batteries, we are “[God’s] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Thus in order to faithfully live out these good works in which we were created to do, we must be empowered by the Spirit of God. When we are, are Father has great delight!