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The Marks of Spiritual Power

Greetings All,     

     Today's 'thought' brings some needed clarity to a reality that is often misunderstood in Christian circles -- the presence, power, and evidence of a true work of the Holy Spirit and His power.

     This selection comes to you from Richard Foster in an article entitled "The Marks of Spiritual Power."

It is found in a book by Randall Harris called: "The Contemporaries Meet The Classics on the Holy Spirit."

As one who has personally seen spiritual power exercised by others with great love and humility, but also misused and mislabeled, Foster offers some helpful reminders. Enjoy.

The Marks of Spiritual Power

     "The power of the flesh relies upon such things as proper pedigree, positions of status, and connections among those in the power structure (Phil. 3:2-6). But Paul, you see, had given up on the flesh. He said that he counted those things as 'dung' for his sights were set on a greater power -- 'that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death...' (Phil. 3:10-11).
     Now, when we see people desperately striving for the 'dung' of human power we can be sure that they know precious little of the 'power of His resurrection." 
     What then, are the marks of this power that proceeds from God?

     1.) Love is the first mark of spiritual power (Rom. 5:5). Love demands that power be used for the good of others. Notice Jesus' use of power -- the healing of the blind, the sick, the maimed, the dumb, the leper, and many others... Notice in each case the concern for the good of others, the motivation of love... Power for the purpose of advancing reputations or inflating egos is not power motivated by love.
     When God used Paul and Barnabas to heal a cripple at Lystra, the astonished people tried to turn them into Greek gods, but they tore their clothes and shouted out, 'We also are men, just like you' (Acts 14:15). Many of us might not find the idea of deity status so reprehensible.  Think of the power over people we would have, and, after all, we would use the power to such good ends!  But power that is used to advance reputations destroys the user, because with it we aspire to be gods.

     2.) The second mark of spiritual power is humility. Humility is power under control. Nothing is more dangerous than power in the service of arrogance. Power under the discipline of humility is teachable (Acts 10:1-35, Acts 18:24-26, Galatians 2:11-21). Believe me, this is no small matter. Many have been destroyed in their walk with God simply because their power was not controlled by humility...
     Power destroys when it is not coupled with the spirit of humility.  To really know the power of God is to be keenly aware that we have done nothing more than receive a gift. Gratitude, not pride, is our only appropriate response. The power is not ours, though we are given the freedom to use it. When we truly walk with God, our only desire is to use power in the service of Christ and His kingdom.

     3.) This leads to the third mark of spiritual power -- self-limitation. The power that creates, refrains from doing some things -- even good things -- out of respect for the individual. Have you ever noticed the number of times that Jesus refused to use power?
     He refused to dazzle people by jumping off the pinnacle of the temple (Matt. 4:5). He rejected the temptation to make more 'wonder bread' to validate His ministry (John 6:26). He refused to do many wonderful works in His own hometown because of the unbelief of the people (Luke 4:16-27). He said no to the Pharisees' demand that He give them a sign to prove He was the Messiah (Matt. 12:38).  At His arrest, Jesus reminded Peter that He could have summoned a whole army of angels to his rescue, but He did not (Matt. 26:53).  Paul said, 'Lay hands suddenly on no man' (I Tim. 5:22 KJV)... Those who live and move in God know that there is a time to withhold the hand of power just as there is a time to use it.

     4.) Joy is the fourth mark of spiritual power. This is no grim-faced, dour effort. Far from it! To see the kingdom of Christ break into the midst of darkness and depression is a wonderful thing.  As M. Scott Peck writes, 'The experience of spiritual power is basically a joyful one.' ... 
     I hope you understand that I am referring to something more profound than the bubbly 'joy' of the superficial. The rich inner joy of spiritual power knows sorrow and is acquainted with grief.  Joy and grief often have a symbiotic relationship.

     5.) Vulnerability is the fifth mark of spiritual power. The power that comes from above is not filled with bravado and bombast. It lacks the symbols of human authority; indeed, its symbols are a manger and a cross. It is power that is not recognized as power. It is a self-chosen position of meekness that to human eyes looks powerless... The power from above leads from weakness, and is perfected in weakness (II Cor. 12:9-10).

     6.) The sixth mark of spiritual power is submission. Jesus knew what it meant to submit to the ways of God: 'The Son can do nothing of His own accord, but only what He sees the Father doing; for whatever He does, that the Son does likewise' (John 5:19). As we learn to experience on a personal level this same kind of intimate cooperation with the Father, we will enter more deeply into the meaning of true power... We submit to Scripture to learn more perfectly the ways of God with human beings. We submit to the Holy Spirit to learn the meaning of obedience. We submit to the life of faith in order to understand the difference between human power and divine power. 'Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ,' said Paul (Eph. 5:21)... When we submit to others, we have access to their wisdom, their counsel, their rebuke, their encouragement... Human power is power over someone, divine power has no such need to control..."
     God's Spirit always works in conformity with God's character. Therefore, when it claims to be exercised, yet is done to sinful ends (self-exaltation, control, manipulation, etc.) we should be cautious and question if it is truly being exercised at all -- or if it is power of a different kind.
     Let us pray that the power of God may fall upon His people.  And with it let us pray that these six marks (or fruits) of divine power, which are so contrary to fleshly, human power, might also attend it.
In the bonds of Christian Charity, Pastor Jeff