If you are a Christian, have you ever wondered if the Holy Spirit was working in your life? I wish I could pull out the church’s Holy Spirit power meter, strap it to your head, and measure how much of the Spirit’s power is at work in you. But I can’t. Such a thing doesn’t exist. There’s a far different, and I think better, way to know the power of God in our lives.
As I mentioned in the conclusion of the previous post in our five-part series on Colossians 1:9-14, God knows humans. God knows our weakness. And Paul, the writer of the letter to the Christians in Colosse, knew it too. So while he wants those Christians to make no mistake about what is expected of them as followers of Jesus. It is a high bar! “Die to yourself, and follow me,” Jesus said.
Does that sound like an impossible standard? Or just too difficult? Well, it is too difficult for any person to achieve of their own power and will. Paul is quite aware of this conundrum: God wants us to be followers of Jesus, but we don’t have the strength within us to be followers of Jesus. So Paul knows that the Christians need encouragement that this is not all on them.
Look at verse 11, “Being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience.”
How about that? God wants to power us up with his might. He doesn’t want us to get the mistaken idea that he expects us to follow him all by ourselves.
But how does he power us with his might?
Perhaps we need to remember some things we studied in last year’s blog series through the book of Acts. In Acts 1:8, for example, just before he ascends to heaven, Jesus tells his disciples that they will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon them. Then in Acts 2, we read that Jesus’ promise came true, when the Holy Spirit descended upon them and filled them. Amazingly in Acts 4 it happened again!
As Paul writes in another letter, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, Christians are the temple of God’s Spirit. God has not left us alone to fend for ourselves. Instead he desires to live with us, to fill us, and he wants us to experience and benefit from his power.
We Christians can struggle, though, with accessing God’s power. Does it just come upon us at God’s whim? As if we have nothing to do with it, and randomly he chooses some people to get power, while skipping over others? Or does God want everyone to experience this strengthening by his power? If so, doesn’t it seem that many Christians never or rarely experience his power?
If you’re wondering this, you’re not alone. Throughout the history of the church there have been many who have also wondered about this. Clearly, God can choose to bless people with a blast of his power if wants to, whether they want it or not. But that would be the extremely rare exception to the rule. The rule, it seems to me, is that God chooses to work inside the confines of human free will. So how do we use our free will to choose his power, and how does God convey his power without overriding free will?
The first step is to want to be empowered by him. This is a desire within us to seek him.
Next we choose to ask him for his power. In so doing, we admit that we do not have the power in and of ourselves to be what he wants us to be.
I read a statement like Paul’s in verse 10, which we studied in the previous post, the statement in which Paul talks about bearing fruit, and I have to admit that I have no power within me to do this. What Paul writes there is in line with what Jesus taught in John 15:1-8, the analogy of the vine and the branches:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 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.
5 “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. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
So if we want to know the power of God in our lives, if we want to be strengthened by his power, we need to remain in him, because he is the source of power. This is crucial to understanding what it means to be filled with the Spirit. How, then, do we remain in him, so that we experience his power?
We have to do something about it. We fix our hearts and minds on emptying our lives of sin and making space for hearing him, then choosing to live the kind of life that we see Jesus living. What I am referring to are spiritual practices or habits, ones that Jesus himself practiced. This will involve opening up time in our lives, both individually and corporately with other Christians, to spend time with God. We also place ourselves in situations of service to God where we need him to come through for us. This will likely involve sacrificial love for others.
When we practice these kinds of habits, God empowers us, and we can recognize that it was through reliance on him, on his strength and wisdom, that both our lives and the lives of others experience transformation.
There is definitely a mystery to this. Remember that there isn’t a Holy Spirit Power Meter that we can use to see how much of God’s power is at work in us. Instead by faith, we practice the habits of Jesus, asking God to empower us to serve him and live like Jesus. And God does it!