SERMON FOR THE WEEK: What is power? A response and an open invitation
Because opportunities to attend services may be limited for several weeks, the newspaper has invited local clergy to submit sermons for publication here.
Burns Cornerstone Bible Church/ Cassoday Community Church
As I was working on my sermon for Easter Sunday, I found myself watching a New York street interview on YouTube that was conducted in March 2011 that asked this very question. Some of the condensed responses from that interview were as follows:
Power is the ability to make decisions and force people to follow your decisions.
Power is control over others.
Power is lots of money, a good economy and lots of allies.
Power is having something others want and the military strength to protect that thing.
Power is a perception based upon circumstances that can only be defined by those circumstances.
Power is the ability to take away someone’s freedom and rights.
Power is the achievement of a status that allows someone to do something the average person cannot do.
Power is the ability to exert influence over others.
Power is the ability to get someone to do some things you want without using force.
As I listened to the definitions that were being offered, a portion of Jesus’ parable concerning the unmerciful servant (Matthew 18:23-27) came to mind. Based upon the first part of that parable, if a talent is the equivalent of 20 years wages, then the ability to forgive 200,000 years of wages (10,000 talents/bags of gold X 20 years) is not only an extremely generous and merciful act, but it would also agree with some of the definitions given from the street interview.
As significant as this is, or would be to any of us today, what if the debt that was forgiven wasn’t limited to an earthly issue alone, as some might interpret both the question and the parable, but rather, had life and death implications? Here is what I mean …
Consistently throughout the Bible, we read that obedience to God results in life whereas disobedience to God, or sin, results in death.
For example, in Deuteronomy 30:15-20, Moses addresses the Israelites, prior to his death and their possession of the Promised Land, and reminds them of this covenant agreement between them and God.
The unfortunate and very sad reality is that generation after generation up to and including our present generation, all of humanity — including all those who claim to or have claimed to love God — have chosen disobedience and sin over obedience to God. Because this is true, the following cause/effect passages are also true:
“As it is written: There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one. Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit. The poison of vipers is on their lips. Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know. There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:10-18, NIV)
“For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23a, NIV)
It is at this point that the definitions from the street interview about what power is fall short of adequately describing and defining what true power is due to the limitations involved in the definitions that were given.
To understand what true power is, we must look beyond mere human conceptions and to encounter power that is not based upon force, not based upon control, and not limit our understanding of what true power is based merely upon human concepts such as money, economics or allies. Additionally, we must understand that true power is never the possession of something that others want and the ability to keep that very thing out of the hands of other people.
Furthermore, true power is not a perception but rather it is a truth; power is not based upon the ability to deprive others, and power can never be limited to a status or position obtained by any human in life.
True power is the ability to give to others what they cannot obtain for themselves, nor can they get from anyone/anywhere else, without regards to cost, merit or status, while also not exercising any influence or control on an individual’s willingness to accept or receive that which is offered.
In the simplest of terms, true power is the gift of pardon that provides an individual who chooses to accept it with the ability to, “cross over from death to life,” (John 5:24) but remains an invitation only.
This, beloved in Christ, is how true power has been made known to the world:
Power is, from the Old Testament book of Jeremiah (31:34), God’s offer to “forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more.”
Power is, from the New Testament book of 2 Corinthians (5:19), God’s invitation to the whole world to be reconciled “to him in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.”
Power is, from the New Testament book of Ephesians (2:8-9), “the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Power is, in the words of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as recorded in John’s Gospel (10:18) understanding this statement that was made: “No one takes it (that is Jesus’ life) from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.”
And in making the decision to lay down his own life, power is Jesus hanging on the cross — bloody, beaten and suffering — as he, from the Old Testament book of Isaiah (53:4-5), “took up our pain and bore our suffering,” and he “was pierced for our transgressions and was crushed for our iniquities,” and finally that, “the punishment that brought our peace was on him and by his wounds, we are healed.”
And finally, power is, in the truest sense of the word, Jesus raised from the dead with the fullness of the gift and God’s invitation on public display for all to see and respond to in keeping with what we read in the New Testament book of 1 Corinthians (15:21-22): “since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.”
In the New Testament book of Revelation (3:20) we read the fullness of this invitation that is given to world by God through Christ: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”
My prayer today would be that each of us, believer and unbeliever alike, would hear the knocking of our Lord and Savior today and make a choice to receive not only that which God longs to give to us, but that which only God can provide for us.
The choice, ultimately, is yours and yours alone. For those however who will or have made the choice to accept and receive it, your life has become a living testimony that forever answers the question, “What is power?”
For yours, God, is the Kingdom, and the power and the glory, forever. Amen.
Have a great day in Jesus!
Last modified April 23, 2020