John Bradshaw - Power
I want to thank you for joining me. Let's pray as we take the Bible, open the Bible, let God speak to our hearts. Let's pray.
Our Father in heaven, in the name of Jesus we come to You. Speak to our hearts. Thank You for giving us peace in a troubled world. Let Your Word be powerful in our experience now and always, we pray in Jesus' name, amen.
I can tell you exactly how long ago it was. It was December, the year was 2002. I remember that vividly because my wife was great with child, expecting our daughter who is now Shannon. Our son was two-and-a-half years old or very close to it, and we were living in the Tar Heel State, in the great state of North Carolina. In North Carolina, the weather in December can do just about anything. I have worn short sleeves a week before Christmas in North Carolina. But then again, it can be like it was in 2002. There was an ice storm and the temperatures were just frigid.
Now, if you've never lived through an ice storm, you need to know they can be a lot of fun, to start with. Freezing rain falls and then ice forms on everything. When the sun shines it's as pretty as a picture. But after a while, all that ice starts weighing things down. Trees will eventually crash to the ground. Power lines will fall. Transformers will pah! Do that. And then there's a power outage. And life without power when it is 22 degrees outside and will be for who knows how long can rapidly get interesting. Now, at that time we had neighbors across the road, they had gas heat in their home, gas hot water, they were fine. We did not. And so, therefore, we were not.
Now, we were fine for a while. House stayed warm for a time. As the temperature dropped, we put on more and more clothes, and we put more and more blankets on the bed and we lit candles for lights. Our little boy thought it was a great adventure and it was for a matter of some hours. But, man, it didn't take long and we wanted the power to be restored. I think we toughed it out for about three days. But you can only last so long without power in the winter before you freeze to death. So we accepted the offer of some kind friends and we went and spent the night in their home, because without power we were in real trouble. Now, as it happened, the power actually came back on less than an hour after we left our house for our friends' place, but we didn't know that until the next day.
You know, without power it doesn't matter how nice your dishwasher is. It doesn't matter how new your clothes dryer is. Does not matter how good your oven is, or how pretty your light fixtures are. Because without power ain't nothing going to happen. I wonder if you've ever been without power? Can't cook, can't heat your home, can't do much of anything. Now, when I was a child, we would have power cuts with some frequency. And I don't know if it was because I was especially gullible or simply because you get into a groove, you know, and I remember my father saying to me, and, by the way, the reason there were power cuts with frequency, it's not that we were living in the wilds, it's just that, that's the way it was, you know.
When I say, some frequency, I remember them to this day. My dad would say, "Well, John, why don't you get up and put the water on and boil us water for a cup of tea". I'd jump up and run over to get... ah, got me! Or Dad might say, "John, you know there's nothing to do. It'd be nice to listen to, listen to the radio. Why don't you turn the radio on"? I'd bound over to the... got me again. You know, while it's one thing to be without power in your house, it's a whole lot more serious when you are without power in your life. What happens when temptation comes and you are powerless to do anything to resist it? What happens when you are in a situation that calls for a certain moral or ethical decision to be made, but you don't seem to have the ability to make that decision? What happens when you need some backbone and you're like a, a jellyfish, an invertebrate all of a sudden? What happens in a person's life spiritually when there's no power? The question is, where and how do you get the power?
Interesting world we live in. A lot of talk about power, energy. Politicians talk a lot about where we're going to get our power from. The green energy industry is growing. It's common to see wind farms now. Great big windmills dotting the countryside, harnessing the power of nature, air, to generate power. In Europe, you'll see these things in the sea catching the energy of the wind, turning it into power. What else do we have? Coal-fired power plants. They're not so popular anymore because we are concerned now in general, as a society, about some of the, well, some of the pollution aspects of coal-fired power stations. I grew up on a river. And I mean, 565 feet from the riverbank.
Now that's it exact. And that river was dammed up here and here and here with hydroelectric power stations. And so, the force of the rushing water was used to generate power. What else do we use? There are geothermal power stations. There was one not far from where I was raised. And it used the, the heat from under the ground and the steam coming up out of the ground to generate power. And then there's nuclear power as you know. Oh, that's great stuff. Great stuff. It's pretty cheap. It's very efficient. But it does come with a little downside called nuclear waste. And Chernobyl and Fukushima and Three Mile Island have shown us that there are some hazards involved with nuclear power.
I talked recently to a guy, family, as well, when I say family on my wife's side, I think it's fair that I point that out. He used to drive a taxi and he powered it for some time with used cooking oil. I don't know how he did that. That's what he told me he did. He told us. He said one good thing about running the taxi on used cooking oil was that the taxi smelled like fried food. And so it was common for a passenger to get into the taxi, ask to be taken home, sit there for a couple of minutes smelling that fried food smell, and then he'd ask the taxi driver, "Stop so I can buy some fast food". Taxi driver would get another five dollars or ten dollars out of the fare because of all of the extra time that it took. People have become creative with this. I don't know if you want to get so creative.
In Bridgeport, Vermont, a dairy farmer figured out he could extract methane gas from cow manure and use it to power a generator that powers 330 homes. I don't want to, I don't know what the passengers there think of the smell. The article didn't tell me about that. But in your life, what do you do for power in your life? What do you do for spiritual power? Because we need power. Romans 1 and verse 16 says this, this is Paul speaking: "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to all who believe". And my expectation is that you've heard this said many, many times, the Greek word used there and rendered as "power" in English is the word "dunamis," which is where Mr. Nobel, who invented dynamite, got the word for "dynamite," from that Greek word for "power": "dunamis".
So, when Paul said, "The gospel is the power of God unto salvation," now we're taking a little license with this if you like, but he is saying this, "This is the dynamite," Uh, you know, I'm, I'm connecting some dots here, "It's like dynamite power in the Word of God for salvation". Evidently there is power in the Word of God. What's that power for? It is power to save. It is power to remake. It is power to transform. Now, I want you to, I want to tell you about, faith in God. Something I think important about faith in God. Faith in God brings with it a power to transform life. There might not be power in the faith, but faith lays hold on the power of God.
I want to challenge you a little today. If you've ever done anything in life that was worth doing, you studied medicine, or you learned to fly a plane, or you learned to sew, or you learned to build, or you learned another language. You pushed yourself. You might have encountered frustrations, but you pushed yourself. You had times in class when you said, "I don't know anything about this. I don't know what to do". But you pushed on through that. Frequently, students are motivated to achieve excellence so they can be the best they can be and do the most amount of good and be the greatest influence for change possible.
Now as we meet together right now, I want to ask you to push yourself spiritually. I want to challenge you to be all that you can be spiritually. And you will find out I am not referring to salvation by works. Not at all. But when you make yourself available to Jesus Christ, when you begin to experience the power of God's Word in your life, when you yield to the presence of Christ, you are going to see God do things in your life that you might never have imagined possible. Let me pursue that idea just for a moment about pushing yourself. My wife and I, we stopped at Arches National Park in Utah once. There's a strange custom in Utah, it seems, at least among people who go to Arches National Park. And that custom is lying. If you've ever walked to the Delicate Arch, and that's that one shaped like this. It's a thing of beauty. It has a name, the Delicate Arch.
If you've ever walked to it, it's, it's a long, kind of gradual, flat but gradually inclining road. If you go to it when it's remotely hot, they tell you, "Take water, take water, you need to take water". It can seem like you're never going to get there. I don't know how long the walk takes. Really not very long, not very long. And as we walked, we encountered somebody coming down. "How much further"? They said, "Five minutes". "Ah, great. Five minutes, we, yeah, we can do that easy". Eight minutes later another couple come towards us. "Hey, we're, we're heading to the Delicate Arch. How long"? They said, "Oh, five minutes". "Okay, five minutes". Ten minutes later we come to another couple and we said, "Don't tell us, five minutes, right"? And they said, "Yeah, five minutes. How'd you know"?
We could have turned around and gone back. We could have done that easy. And, and, please, it's not the most arduous, the most grueling walk in the world. It's not. I don't mean to intimate that it is. But when you're walking to a destination, you know, you might say, "It's time to go back. We've done enough. We are, we, we've had it. We're hot, we're tired, we're thirsty". But you push on, right? When we walked up that final incline and around the little bend and PAH! There was the Delicate Arch. Our, our, our time back, walking? Forgotten. Forgotten completely. It was worth it. Now, I would like to float past you the idea that pressing forward and stretching yourself spiritually is not an unbiblical idea. Spiritual growth will not come easy to you. Resisting temptation takes something. Dealing with disappointment takes something. It just does.
I will tell you one of the most remarkable things that I've ever seen in my life, and that was the process of childbirth, when my wife gave birth to our first child. I mean, second, too, but first time around it's like this is all new. I don't need to explain to you how difficult childbirth can be. Uh, and my wife was very blessed. On, you know, on, on the continuum, it wasn't the, the worst childbirth experience by any stretch of the imagination. But, oh, my word, it was, you know, you, how do I say this delicately? It's tough giving, giving birth to a child. The most phenomenal thing I think I might have ever seen in my entire life was that moment the child was born, my son, our son was born, and then placed up on my wife's chest. The anguish and the pain and the difficulty forgotten.
Now, I understand that God has worked some of that out, the way He's constructed the human body and worked out various chemical processes. But forgotten! You know, I don't know how, how few children would ever have been born if mother's saying, "You know what, no, let, no, let, no, let's not go through with this," was really an option. If you get a third of the way through the delivery and say, "You know what"? Maybe, maybe the human race would have died out by now, I don't know. But a mother giving birth hangs in there, you know, hangs in there, hangs in there. Hangs in there. And it can be a particularly difficult experience. But, man, the way this can be forgotten because now you have, the baby.
Now you have the prize. Now you have the result of all of that hard work. Spiritually speaking, there is a time, and we will talk about the hows of this, where it's important to push yourself, stretch yourself, say, "You know, I have this bad temper, but I want to get that thing worked out. I have this predilection to use language I shouldn't use, but I don't want to speak that way anymore". Your, your, your frustration level rises, it's appropriate to say to God, "We got to work this out so that I am no longer that person". Lots of people quit and the reasons they quit is because they never figure out how to experience the power of God's Word.
Let me tell you something. When you realize the gospel is the power of God unto salvation, the Bible will come alive in your experience. God will be real to you. You will never question whether you're forgiven. You'll never stop to waste your time and, and, and everyone's time, asking yourself if God loves you. You won't have to wonder how or if you can have the assurance of salvation. When the power of God floods your life, you're going to experience victory, where you might once have been experiencing abject defeat. And so right now, let's establish where the power is. Jesus said, you find it in the Word of God in Matthew chapter 28 and verse 18, "All power in heaven and earth is given to me".
So in order to experience the power of God, what we're really wanting to experience is the presence of God. The presence of Jesus Christ. The presence of God in a person's life is what brings transformation. Now, what I have perceived is that a lot of believers today aren't very sure how this works. Another thing I perceive is that a lot of unbelievers or non-believers aren't attracted to the Christian experience because they, too, don't understand what Christianity is. They think Christianity is about being stuffy and starchy and being good and having no fun, and going to church instead of going to the bar, for some of them, going to the church and the bar. Eh, they feel like it's, it's just this stiff thing that doesn't have any relevance to a person's life. Look, I want to share with you how this works.
Now, I was raised by a very good man, a very good woman, for that matter, but my dad was a good man, he was a Roman Catholic. And whether it was his fault or the fault of the nuns or the fault of the priests or whether it was simply my fault, I don't know. But I was raised to believe that if you're good enough, you get to go to heaven. It doesn't take long for that to become a hopeless sort of spiritual existence. Try and fail. Try and fail. Try and fail. And what most people do, what many people do, is that they just keep on trying. And they keep on trying and they keep on failing. Some people say, "Well, it means what, when, when Jesus said, 'If you love me, keep my commandments,' I've been trying to do that for so long and I've been failing for so long, maybe He doesn't really mean what He says".
And a lot of people simply say, "I read the Bible with new eyes, God doesn't mean what He says". That's calamitous. But then you get the honest ones, and the honest ones come to the logical conclusion that it simply doesn't work. Trying and failing, trying and failing, trying to be good, trying to be good, trying to be good, trying really hard to be good, if they're honest they say, "Just doesn't work". And so the honest ones bail out and they go on without God. They know they ought to be something, they know they ought to be living a certain way, but they're not getting there. They are not making the grade. And they realize that they simply are not good enough. Too many of us have that experience. Too many of God's people have that experience. Too many people in the world, not in the church, have that experience where they think, "I'm a failure, it's never going to work out".
Too many people lose hope because they make mistakes. Ruin a situation. Fail again and again, and then they lose hope and often even give up on life. What did Paul say in Romans 1 in verse 16? "I'm not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God unto salvation". Okay. You know what we need to do? We need to identify what the gospel is. So, let's turn in our Bibles to 1 Corinthians and chapter 15. 1 Corinthians, chapter 15 and, just in case you're wondering why you pick up a Bible and then read from an iPad, uh, you know, I hope you wouldn't ask such embarrassing questions. It's just easier for me to see the iPad, that's all. It's easy. You can't do this on a book, but you can on a screen.
So, let's do this. The gospel, 1 Corinthians chapter 15, verse 1: "Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received and wherein you stand". Here it is. "I preach to you the gospel". Verse 2: "By which also ye are saved, if you keep in memory what I preached to you, unless you have believed in vain". All right. Here's the gospel. It's by this that you are saved. Verse 3: "For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received", here it is, "how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures". Now, I got to pick carefully my spots for stopping and starting here. What's the gospel? He starts with this, "Christ died for our sins". I wonder if we had a private conversation and I said, "You tell me, tell me what your faith is all about. Where does it start? Take me right to the beginning".
I wonder if you would say, "Christ died for my sins". Jesus died for my sins. In other words, my sins have been died for. I have a Savior. Not, "I hope I have a Savior," not "maybe I have a Savior," not "if I'm good enough I have a Savior," I have a Savior, His name is Jesus, He died for my sins. My sins have been taken care of by the death of Jesus. All right. What else is the gospel about? It says, "Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures". And so, the death of Jesus was forecast, it was predicted. They looked ahead, the patriarchs of old, and they said, "Messiah will come and Messiah will die". So, Jesus, this great Jesus, came right on time. Maybe I even jumped ahead. Christ died for our sins. Who is that? "Christ" means "Messiah".
Ah, but who is that? The sent of God who was the Messiah. The Messiah was Jesus. The divine Son of Almighty God, the perfect One, who left heaven, came to earth. There was no sin in Him. He took our sin so that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. This Jesus died for us. Man, what does it tell you about a holy God? You, you just start scratching the surface of this and you discover that you are loved. You're not an afterthought. You haven't been forgotten. God's eye is on you. Heaven will do everything it has to do to make sure that you are saved and that you're not lost. "Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures. And that He was buried". He was dead! Verily died. You know what, I love that. I love it how we call people "scholars".
Now I'm not knocking all scholars now, not by any chance. But somebody says, "You know, the Bible says that Jesus was buried. But I don't think so". And that person's a scholar. No, you might call that person a fool, if you want. Now I'm not saying that, that doesn't have to be a fool, he could be mistaken. He could be confused. He could be out to lunch. He could be ignoring the truth, ignoring the facts. How can you have a Bible saying that Jesus was buried and a scholar come along and say, "Well, no, He didn't really die, and He wasn't really"? Well, thank God we don't have to dig down too far into that. He was buried. He was dead. He verily gave His life for my sin. And then, "He rose again the third day according to the scriptures". Jesus triumphed over the grave. He triumphed over sin. And then it says He was seen after that by Cephas and then of the twelve and so on and on and on and on and on.
The gospel, this is the story that ought to set us alight. It is the power of God unto salvation. Jesus came into this world, the perfect for the imperfect. The sinless for the sinful. God for, humanity. The Creator for the creation. Jesus left heaven above, came down somehow through this grand, impossible miracle of the incarnation. Jesus was born as a baby and then He grew to be a man who bore our sins. Took them to the cross. He died, rose again, so that now He can give to us His righteousness. What a story! "It is the power of God unto salvation". Ladies and gentlemen, let me tell you, the gospel cannot just be a theory. It cannot. It cannot just be a story. You've got to live it. You've got to experience it. You got to possess it. And it's got to possess you. What a story! God offers you life. No, you don't deserve it and, no, I don't, but God offers you life. Christ died for our sins. Imagine that. Could be the worst person in the world. Jesus died for that person's sins. That person can go free through faith in Jesus Christ.
Now, Hebrews 4 in verse 12 says that "the Word of God is quick," that's living, "and powerful, and sharper than a two-edged sword". Look, there is power, power in the Word of God. There is power. Let's talk about power. I'm going to tell you why there is power in the Word of God. Let's go in our Bibles to Genesis chapter 1. And we start at verse 1: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth". Now, I don't want to pick a fight with you, but if you are not a creationist, if you are an evolutionist, then I have no idea how you can ever expect to experience power because the power in God's Word that remakes us is that same creative power that was resident in God when right back in the beginning in verse 3, God said, "Let there be light". The first command given in Scripture.
"Let there be light". It, let, let's, let's turn this a little bit. If there is darkness in your life, God has already spoken and said, "Let there be light". If there's weakness in your life, God has already spoken and said, "Let there be light". If there's confusion in your life, God has already spoken and said, "Let there be light". God originated creation. And so when you are sinful and weak and erring and stumbling and not good enough, and all of those things are true about you, you can remember it was God's idea to initiate the creation of this world. It was God's idea to initiate the plan of salvation. God stepped in and what did He step in for? He stepped in to save you. He stepped in to make a difference. He stepped in to introduce the power of heaven into a person's life. People say, "Oh, I am weak". Yes, you're weak. What do you expect?
And there's no spiritual gym where you can go and do, do curls and, and bench presses and all the rest of it, and become spiritually strong. It doesn't work like that. You are weak. What do we need when we are weak? We need power. Whose power? God's power. Where do we get it? We get it in Jesus. How do we receive it? Through receiving His Word by faith, because what did God say to Paul? Paul despaired. He prayed three times. God said, "Cease and desist". And then He said to Paul, "My strength is made perfect in weakness". When God speaks, boom! There is power. "God said, 'Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and so forth,' and it was". We're going to love that phrase together. "And it was". Gotta love it. The Bible says that God said, "Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night and it was so".
Wow! God speaks and something happens. Are you getting the picture? There is power in the Word of God. You need the Word of God in you and then there is power. And, by the way, don't be thinking, "I can have the Word of God in me and this is going to go sliding right on by. I will remain unchanged". You must not. You just must not. I read where somebody wrote that the gospel "contemplates our complete recovery from the power of Satan". Hmm? You ought to think about that with me. The gospel contemplates our complete recovery from the power of Satan. That's what God will do. God said, what else did God say? "Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature". And you know what happened. It happened just as God said. "'Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind.' And God saw that it was good".
This is what happened. When God spoke, something happened. I want to show you another account of this. We go to Matthew. Matthew and chapter 8. Eighth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. Ooh, what a story. This is a beautiful story. It starts with Jesus encountering a leper who said, "Lord, if you're willing, You can make me clean". And Jesus said, "I'm willing. Be clean". Boom! He was healed of his terminal illness right away. But "when Jesus was entering Capernaum," Matthew 8 in verse 5, "there came unto Him a centurion, beseeching Him and saying, 'Lord, my servant lies at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented.'" And Jesus being Jesus said, "I'll come. I'll come. I'll come and heal him". Ah. But the man said, "'Lord, I'm not worthy that You should come under my roof.'"
Notice what he said. "'But speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. For I'm a man under authority, and have soldiers working for me.If I say, "Go," he goes, to another one, "Come here," he comes; if I say to this fellow, "Do this," he does it.'" "Look, I know how this works. I understand chain of command. I give orders. They are carried out. All you've got to do, Lord, is give the order and it'll be carried out". "And Jesus heard this, and He marveled". What do you got to do to make Jesus marvel? He marveled. "And He said to them that followed, 'Verily, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.'"
Ladies and gentlemen, there is power in the Word of God. He just speaks and something happens. There's power in Jesus. Doesn't this suggest to you that we need to do something about the way we're organizing our lives right now? Because if we're not spending time in the Word, if we're not reading it and feeding on it, if we're not absorbing it, if we're not listening to the voice of Christ, of course there's going to be no power in our life. Of course we're going to be, we, we'll remain unchanged. It's going to be as though we never heard the name of Jesus. You're going to be that one who goes to church and on his way home screams at his or her spouse and screams at the kids and yells at the neighbor and honks at the person in traffic.
And people are going to say, "Wherever he goes, wherever she goes to church, it's not for us". But when you receive Christ and His Word into your life, that'll bring a power into your life. And so far, I've made this sound, I fear, very self-centered. You can be powerful. You can do. You can be. I don't think there's anything too wrong with that, if we frame that correctly. But what about this? What has God called us to in this world? He's called us to reflect to the world the character of Jesus. How do you do that without Jesus in your life? Where's the power for that? Same place, in Christ, in the Word of God. When we receive from God all of that, it's then that we will manifest the character of Jesus. It's then that the character of Jesus will be seen in our lives.
While we're in Matthew chapter 20, Matthew. Let's go to Matthew chapter 21. There's a perplexing story here. Uh, it's perplexing until you figure it out. This will be the last thought I share with you. Matthew 21, verse 12, it says: "And Jesus went into the temple of God and cast out all them that sold and brought into the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of them that sold doves". He kicked them out. "And He said to them, 'It is written.'" That's a good verse. "He said to them, 'It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer, but you've made it a of thieves.' Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple and He healed them".
You ever wondered about that? You should have. You ever wondered how Jesus could get away with going into the temple, turning over the moneychangers' tables? "Out of here! Out"! It's, it's like He owned the place. Kicked them out. There's folks in there making money. They were merchandising. Jesus booted them out. And wonder of wonders, for some oddball reason... they scattered like cockroaches when you turn on the light. Why'd they do that? No, it's not because Jesus was a great big, muscle-bound man. Oh, but you're gonna say, "Oh, well, He fashioned a something or other into a little whip and they ran away from the man with the whip". No. Honest question. Honest question. I don't mean to be sacrilegious or disrespectful. Why didn't somebody just walk up to Jesus and punch Him right in the nose and knock Him down and drag Him out? Who did He think He was in the eyes of others that He could get away with that?
There's a reason why nobody did that. It certainly wasn't in accordance with God's plan, but there were other times they were going to throw Him off a cliff, and so on. I gained this insight by, by reading a, reading this in a book. And the author made the statement, and I've got to believe it's true. The author said that the people in that temple fled from the condemnation of His presence. What do you think about that? Did they run from an angry man? No. There are, are other angry men in there. Did they run from a big man? No, there were bigger men. Did they run from a strong man? No, undoubtedly there were stronger men, humanly, physically speaking.
Why did they run? They fled from the condemnation of His presence. The temple. There were sinners in there. Jesus entered in and the sinners left. What are you? The Bible says that your body is the.. that's right, the temple, the temple of the Holy Spirit. If sin gets in there, what's the answer? If you get Jesus in there, that sin is going to flee from the condemnation of His presence. It, it's like bringing Jesus to sinners is like putting a north in a, the, the two wrong poles together on a magnet. And you know I said that, because I forgot which and which. They just, one drives the other away. Jesus in your life will drive sin away.
Now that's not to say you ace it like that. "Oh, Jesus came into my life last night, I haven't had a bad thought ever since". No. Because even when Jesus comes into your life you've got a lot of learning to do and an awful lot of growing to do. But when Jesus comes into your life, the sin in your life must flee from the condemnation of His presence. Hey, let's stop, shall we, trying to be good enough for heaven. We can't be. There's only one good enough for heaven and that's Jesus. When He comes into your life He brings His goodness. He brings His righteousness. He brings His presence. He brings His power and you begin to experience a brand new life, a brand new experience, a brand new day, and a whole new future. We want to experience the power of God. Let's pray together now.
Our Father and our God, in Jesus' name we look to You. We are grateful. Father God, we cannot go a moment without Your power, which means we can't go a moment without Your presence. The toaster does not work unless it's plugged in. Lord, plug us in to Your heart through Your Word. We thank You, we love You, we ask Your blessing, in Jesus' name. Amen.