John 14:4-5, Acts 1:8, 1 Corinthians 3:6, Romans 15:13
By: Ryan Lokkesmoe, Lead Pastor of Real Hope Community Church
At many times and in various ways, Scripture teaches us that
God loves us.
God is present with us.
God is the one who transforms lives.
Although many of us would affirm these truths, we often find ourselves thinking and behaving as if the opposite were true. Our thoughts and actions demonstrate that to some degree we actually believe
God’s love for us is not guaranteed.
God’s presence with us is not certain.
God will transform lives if we work hard enough for him.
This sad disconnect appears in our personal lives and in the organizations we help to lead. We wonder if God is happy with us or disappointed (even though God loved us before we loved him and that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus). We ask God for more of his presence (even though his Spirit dwells within us). We try to be the best we can be – omnicompetent and original – so that people will be impressed and their lives will change (even though transformation is God’s business).
This isolating outlook leads us to go it alone: relying on our own strength instead of trusting God, and failing to join hands with our brothers and sisters in Christ who labor alongside of us.
We must remember what Jesus said in John 14:4-5:
Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
How much can we do without Jesus? The risen Christ added in Acts 1:8:
You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
Sometimes we read verses like this and think that the Holy Spirit will make us powerful – like he’s an extra gust of wind in our sails when we need it. But that’s not exactly right. The Greek word for power in this verse (dynamis) is a part of a family of ancient words that meant something closer to ability or capability. Jesus was saying that the Holy Spirit will give you thecapability of fulfilling his mission. In other words, without the Holy Spirit working in and through us, we are unable to be his witnesses in the world. The Holy Spirit is not a turbo charge for our hard work; apart from him, we can do nothing.
The Apostle Paul picked up on this idea when disunity reared its head in first-century Corinth and factions of people were pledging allegiance to different leaders. In 1 Corinthians 3:6 he said,
I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.
Paul worked really hard and he was really smart. But he never got confused about who got the credit for spiritual transformation: God did.
We must embrace Paul’s outlook. We cannot transform lives in our own strength. We cannot work hard for revival and ask God to boost our efforts. Instead, we have to
Trust that he loves us beyond description.
Trust that he is perfectly present with us.
Trust that he will do his transformative work in and through us.
But, as with all aspects of our spiritual lives, we must rely on God for this. We have to ask God to cultivate a durable trust in our hearts – the sort of trust we see displayed so often in the Psalms, one that can weather the storms of life and the ups and downs of our emotions.
God gets all the credit for any interior revival we personally experience and any exterior revival we see blossoming in our city. We must trust each other, and trust God to do the work that only he can do. As Paul prayed in Romans 15:13:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power
of the Holy Spirit..
Lord Jesus, we confess that sometimes we do not trust that you love us. We do not believe deep down that you are with us. We place our focus on working hard for you instead of relying on you. Holy Spirit, please renew our minds in these areas. Transform our hearts. Help us to have a deep, abiding sense of your love for us and presence with us. We ask that this would be true of us as individuals, and that it would be true of the congregations we serve. We pray that it would be true of our city, Lord. Help revive our relationship with you so that we can be the loving ambassadors of your Kingdom that we are called to be. Help us to trust you, and show us how to seek unity and trust each other. We make ourselves available to you, Holy Spirit, for your transforming work in our hearts and in this city. Amen.