Empowering the Church: Obedience
This is part three of empowering the church, a key principle for the church as a whole and individual Christians in particular.
Key Principle #1: EMPOWERED part 3
The Power of Being Commanded By God
We are empowered by God not only because when we wait on God, but also when we follow His commandments. Look at Acts 1:2, “He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles. Again in verse four, “Jesus commanded them...”
If there is anything the church and we Christians hate more than waiting, it is being told what to do. Most of the conflicts within churches are from conflicts over power and who is going to “run the church.” Excuse me, but Christ is the head of the church, not the pastor, elder board, deacon board, or budget committee. And certainly not the majority rule of a church conference. I happen to be a Baptist (a Southern one at that) and oftentimes of late it has become a litmus test on church allegiance to affirm the Baptist Faith and Message, whether it be the 1963 version or the 2000 version, as if every jot and every tittle was inerrant and was fallen out from between Revelation and the maps as the 67th book of the Bible. I cannot affirm either version as being infallible because both contain the non-Biblical word, “democratic.” Now I’m an American through and through and was in Baptist church nine months before I was born. As one person said it, “You can call me Southern Baptist born and Southern Baptist bred, and when I die, you can call me Southern Baptist dead.” But I defy anyone to tell me where the word democracy is used in the Bible. A democratic vote kept the children of Israel wandering in the desert for 40 years. And after that, a majority wanted to go back to Egypt. A majority of the disciples thought Judas was trustworthy enough to keep the money bag and when he left to betray the Christ, all but Jesus thought to themselves, “Good ole Judas, he must be going off to give some money to the poor.”
Who runs the church? Jesus. But when the church doesn’t submit to His commandments, who runs off the pastors? The church. Who runs off people who disagree with him? The pastors. Who runs off the new believers? The crotchedy old ones. Who runs off the faithful old saints? The young impudent ones. And who runs headlong into hell because the church refuses to submit to the commandments of Christ? The lost.
When anyone in the church is empowered more and Christ, the head, is empowered less, the church itself becomes powerless. But when Christ and His commandments are affirmed and submitted to, that’s when power comes to church and its members. There once was a man who proudly proclaimed, “There ain’t anybody but Jesus going to tell me what to do!” and I applaud him for saying that, but it struck me, how do I know what Jesus is telling me what to do? Whatever it is, it sure better not contradict the clear and apparent commandments contained in God’s Word.
When I was mentioned friendship and the John 15 passage at the beginning of the chapter, I almost didn’t want to include what John 15:14 says. But it is totally relevant on the issue of power in our lives as individuals and as the church. Look back again at the whole passage.
12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. 13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. 14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. 15 Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.
John 15:14 almost makes it sound conditional on whether Jesus will be our Friend. But that wonderful passage of John 15 is not on conditional friendship or conditional love, but rather it’s on abiding and obeying the commandments of Christ as a result of His love. He spoke about showing love to others and the joyful benefits of remaining in the love of Christ. Why is the church often powerless? It is because we fail to follow God’s commandments even though John clearly says that His commandments are not burdensome (1 John 5:3).
Jesus is the one who takes the initiative in calling us friends. He laid down His life for us and by His grace alone are we saved in response to that salvation. We aren’t forced into obeying His commandments like a slave or a servant, but out of love we respond to His initiative.
When we fail to obey or when we fail to wait, we in a sense disown our friendship with Jesus Christ and we lose our power. What is also true is when we fail to act in response to His grace and love, we also lose our access to His power. The disciples weren’t impatient; from all appearances they waited in faith, in prayer, and in anticipatory expectation of a great and mighty move of God. They waited in obedience to His greatest commandment to love one another by being of one accord.
They were not disappointed.