The Gospel vs empowerment?

Posted: June 19, 2012 by J in Theology

The way we tell it, human power is in conflict with God’s power.

The first difficulty this ‘self-rule vs God’s rule‘ structure runs into, is in the Christian life, where one of the fruits of the Spirit which we are to exhibit is ‘self-control’ (enkrateia: lit. ‘self-rule’). Paul and Peter both exhort us to this. We evangelicals somehow don’t talk much about self-control in the Christian life. And it’s not hard to see why: the idea jars a little with our way of framing the gospel, where God rescues us from self-rule. Are we rescued from it, or commanded to it? Complex explanations are needed, and in the end the shape of our faith still minimises this fruit.

Another difficulty is the continued and apparently innocent pleasure that even the most  saintly believers take in the daily exercise of power. Mending the gate, fixing the car or the accounts, organising the kid’s room: it feels good and we sense that it really is good.   I want my kids to be skilled and confident in riding their bikes. It seems that in many cases it’s good to be powerful and to feel confident in that power. It’s hard to believe that this is the human trait that ruined the world, back at the start.

Then there are those Scriptures that are a bit uncomfortable for us:

Be strong and powerful; for you shall put this people in possession of the land‘ (Josh 1)

‘Keep alert, stand upright in the faith, act like a man, and be masterful.’ (1 Cor. 16:13   literal translation)

‘I write to you, young people
because you are strong
and the word of God abides in you,
and you conquer the evil one.’     (1 John 2)

We don’t talk to our leaders or our young men like that! We emphasise obedience and submission to the will of God, instead. And it’s the ‘instead’ that we need to come back to.

Tomorrow: The Gospel of lost power

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