Untapped Spiritual Power

Untapped Spiritual Power

Author, David Murrow, in his book, Why Men Hate Going to Church, observed that Jesus demonstrated the pattern of a man on a mission. He writes.

"Jesus had a vision. He called it the kingdom of God. It was huge. It involved nothing less than a re-creation of the world, one person at a time. And we are His partners in this task. This vision was the focus of his entire life. Everything about his life was tied up in this vision. This vision is what kept him focused on his mission. It was the reason he lived and died" (Why Men Hate Going to Church).

As followers of Jesus, we have joined his mission—to restore rightness to every square inch of planet earth, or as Jesus put it, to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Spreading the kingdom of righteousness begins with the loyalties of my own heart; I am called TO CHRIST to enjoy a love relationship with him. Spreading the kingdom then moves outwardly to encompass my heart attitudes; I am then called TO BECOME LIKE CHRIST. The reign of King Jesus over my heart attitudes expels wrong attitudes. Paul explains this part of the Christ-follower's mission when he said to the church at Ephesus, “You’ve been taught to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.  

Great men, in the eyes of Jesus, are those who fight the sinful attitudes of their hearts, self-centeredness, pride, resentment, lust, selfishness, impurity, rivalry, idolatry, greed, envy, selfish anger, laziness, lack of love for others. They surrender in humility to God’s reclamation project of re-making them into the toughness of character that Jesus showed. They channel their masculine aggression towards overpowering the dark attitudes of their fallen hearts. This episode explores what the Apostle, Peter, taught about how to unleash the power God has provided to overcome the selfish attitudes and wrong desires of our hearts.

To overcome the wrong attitudes and desires that arise from our sinful nature, we need spiritual power. In fact, we need the mightiest power there is since the greatest power in the world is the power to overcome evil. Today, we begin a new November series, Becoming Men Who Exhibit the Toughness of Jesus on the Inside, based upon 2 Peter 1:3-8. Let’s explore what Peter said about accessing that power.

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Let’s dig into this amazing passage that tells us how to access the unlimited power God has provided us for winning this battle over our heart attitudes. Verse 3.

A. His divine power. Jesus located sin in the human heart. The message of Christianity is that only Christ, God himself come in the flesh, could defeat evil, and dethrone it from its control over the human heart. The summary message of Paul’s great theological tome, Romans is that righteousness is from God (1:16-17, 3:21-22). Righteousness from God not only saves us from the penalty of sin (justification) and saves us ultimately from the presence of sin (glorification), righteousness from God also saves us right now from the power of sin (sanctification). This word, power, is DUNAMIS, from which we get dynamite.

Trusting Christ’s power to overcome wrong attitudes is described by another Apostle, Paul. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Gal 2:20). The relentless battle against our sinful attitudes requires a constant supply of spiritual might that is found only in Christ’s resurrection defeat of evil and its consequences. Just as faith is trusting God to impute Christ’s righteousness to us so that we are justified, faith is trusting God to impart Christ’s moral power to have right attitudes, i.e.be sanctified.

B. Has granted to us all things. The grammatical structure of the Greek sentence begins with the word all things, putting the emphasis on the sufficiency of this power source. Years ago, the manufacturers of the infamous Rolls Royce refused to identify the exact horsepower of the engine. They simply listed it as adequate. The power over sin granted to us is adequate to get the job done.

The word translated granted is DOREOMAI, which literally means “freely given as a present” This word is not the common word for give but puts the emphasis on free gift, gratis, without payment. The verb tense, “has granted,” implies that the past act of granting continues its effect to the present day and is thus to continue. Jesus paid a high price for us to have this power to overcome sinful attitudes. Peter had written in his first letter, You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot (1 Pet 1:18-19).  Having paid such a high price, our master wants us to unleash this untapped spiritual power.

C. That pertain to life. Jesus said that he came that we might have life and have it abundantly. The power, which is in view here, is the power for restoration to the life God intended. The wage of sinful heart attitudes is always death. Paul urges believers to never doubt that truth though they may not see the destructive consequences of sinful attitudes.  Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life (Gal 6:7). The biblical concept of eternal life is not just existence that begins after we die and continues forever. It is the quality of life that begins in this world when it is partially restored by the power of Christ to what it was created to be, before the fall, which and continues into eternity. This high-quality, abundant life is described by David in Psalm 63:

Because your steadfast love is better than life my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy (vs 3-7).

So, this divine power enables a soul-satisfying life.

D. (Granted all things that) pertain to godliness. The Greek word, EUSEBIA, comes from EU well, and SEBOMAI to be reverent. Vine says it is a way of life “which, characterized by a Godward attitude, does that which is well-pleasing to him.” This word describes the character of one who has overcome the attitudes of the sinful nature. He is one used to the tough inner combat of going to war daily against his sinful attitudes and actions. In Galatians 5 Paul illustrates the outflow of our sinful nature, putting such expressions of sin into four categories:

1) Sexual sins.

--sexual immorality: sex with anyone not your opposite sex marriage partner

--impurity: awakening sexual desire towards anyone not your mate

--sensuality: getting sexual pleasure without personal connection to a real spouse.

2) Wrong worship sins.

--idolatry: letting anything take the place of God in our affections or dependency

--sorcery: opening our soul to the powers of darkness

3). Relational sins.

--enmity: a hostile or antagonistic attitude towards another

--strife: fighting, conflict, contention, discord.

--jealousy: painful awareness of a rival’s benefit & desire to possess it instead.

--fits of anger: an attitude of hostility towards one who has hurt us or treated us unjustly.

--rivalry: an unloving attitude towards a competitor that prefers his defeat, instead of what is best for him.

--dissentions: disagreement in opinion leading to quarrelsome discord.

--divisions: placing greater value on being right than on love and harmony.

--envy: competitive displeasure at what benefits a rival and desire to remove it.

4). Recreational sins.

--drunkenness: being under the control of alcohol or drug to get high.

--orgies: participating in activities where sex is public.

--things like these: partying in a way that includes or celebrates wrong behavior.

E. Through the knowledge of him. Notice the all-important word through. It indicates that Peter is about to tell us how this divine power available from Christ is accessed. The answer is through knowledge of God. There are two primary words in Greek for knowledge. One, OIDA, refers to objective facts that are seen or perceived. The second is GINOSKO, which refers more to subjective knowing. In the NT the use of this word frequently indicates a relationship between the person knowing and the thing or person known. It is the category of knowing mentioned in Genesis, when Genesis 4 say’s “Adam knew Eve and she conceived.”

The Greek word Peter uses for knowledge, EPIGINOSKO has this kind of subjective knowledge as its root. Adding EPI then makes it more intensive—to personally know very well. So, we access the power to defeat wrong attitudes by walking intimately with Jesus, knowing him and the Father very well. Here are two passages of Scripture that reinforce this principle that spiritual power to overcome sinful desires and attitudes comes through knowing the Lord, personally, very well.

  1. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit (2 Cor 3:17-18). Paul does not reveal why gazing upon the glory of Jesus transforms us. Maybe it is because the more we get to know him the more we will love him. Maybe it is because gazing upon Jesus makes us see his holiness, the plumbline that sharpens the clarity of our sin. Maybe it is because gazing upon him inflames our passion to please him more. Maybe gazing upon Jesus convinces us that he wants us to lean on him for his strength. Maybe gazing upon his brilliant glory strengthens our confidence that obedience to him is the path of life. All we are told is that gazing upon the glory of the Lord transforms us.
  2. Paul’s observation seems similar to Jesus great teaching in John 15:4-5: Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. The fruit of godly character comes through that intimate, abiding connection. So, let’s take a moment to consider some obstacles to walking intimately with Jesus.

Obstacles That Keep us from Walking Intimately with Jesus

  • Failure to get the gospel from our head to our heart, believing Satan’s lie that our sins are too gross and frequent for a holy God to want closeness with us.
  • A closet housing a few sins we don’t want to give up; so, we don’t know the freedom of being all in—everything on the altar. Maybe in that closet is tithing, or letting a trusted person know about a porn problem.
  • Distrusting God. When I was a kid, I was afraid that if I every totally gave Jesus the throne of my life he would make me be a missionary. 
  • Busyness. No relationship can be built apart from taking charge of our calendars. Lack of personal discipline in time management kills relationships.
  • Settling for second best. Time can’t actually be saved; every second gets spent. The question is whether we are directing it or letting our most priceless possession be squandered on good things but not the best things.
  • Being secularized. God’s design is for us to enjoy his material world with all its joys and pleasures—and then let that delight drive us back to him. We enjoy the pleasures of this world but forget to let them lead us back to the creator. David’s linking of the two enriched his walk with God. He sang,

On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds, and I will declare your greatness. They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness and shall sing aloud of your righteousness. The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made. All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord, and all your saints shall bless you! (Psalm 145:5-9).

F. Who called us. Following Jesus is not like going online and clicking yes to an evite. It is our personal response to the personal voice of Jesus calling our name. Strength for battling my sinful attitudes comes from realizing that it is part of Jesus' call. Os Guiness writes, “Answering the call of our Creator is “the ultimate why” for living, the highest source of purpose in human existence…Calling is the truth that God calls us to Himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do, and everything we have is invested with a special devotion, dynamism, and direction lived out as a response to His summons and service” (The Call).

G. To his own glory. Perhaps the most astonishing statement in these early verses of 2 Peter 1 is Peter’s observation that the call to Christ-like character is the call to share God’s own glory. Remember, Peter, unlike any other living person at that time but John, had seen Jesus transfigured causing him to say a few verses later in 2 Peter, “We were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” John would later write, “We beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” God’s glory, DOXA, seems to be inextricably bound to the blazing light of righteousness that exposes the darkness of evil. In Matthew 17:2 we read, And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. The Apostle John reveals his revelation of Jesus, one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire…from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength (Rev 1:13ff). Sanctification, i.e. battling wrong attitudes and choosing the inner heart perspective of Jesus, is to recover some of the very glory that Adam and Eve were given as those called to IMAGE GOD. Peter restates this truth in verse 4 by saying that Christ’s divined power enables us to be partakers of the divine nature. Peter refers not to God’s supernatural attributes but to his moral perfections, which the next phrase makes clear.

H. To his own excellence. The Greek word is ARETE, which means moral excellence, virtue. The ESV text notes say, “The word ARETE was used by Greek writers to describe the sum of all desirable character qualities.” Remember, the wording of this call: It is not just a call from God to moral excellence—it is the call to share HIS OWN MORAL EXCELLENCE. God has granted to US the divine power to be like God. Think of it! The irony is that Satan appealed to the desire of mankind via Adam and Eve to be like God in power, autonomy, status, which belong to the sovereign God alone. But all along, humans were intended to be like God in moral perfection. That calling is what Jesus came to restore

Peter reminds us that our master has granted to us a reservoir of spiritual power to fulfill our calling to overcome our sinful attitudes and partake of Jesus’ glory and moral excellence. But we are the ones who must step into that battle and unleash that power. WE must respond to Jesus’ call to become like him. To do so is the path to the greatest possible fulfillment in life. Os Guinness asks, Do you want to accept a challenge that will be the integrating dynamic of your whole life?  One that will engage your loftiest thoughts, your most dedicated exertions, your deepest emotions, all your abilities and resources, to the last step you take and the last breath you breathe. Listen to Jesus of Nazareth; answer his call (Ibid).

For Further Prayerful Thought:

  1. If God has freely granted us the power to overcome sinful attitudes, why do we surrender to them so much?
  2. How does Paul’s explanation of sanctification in 2 Cor 3:17 make sense? And we all, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.
  3. What obstacles keep you from intimacy with Jesus?
  4. How can we do a better job of remembering that fighting our wrong attitudes so that our inner character looks like that of Jesus, is a personal call from him?