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Power for A New Beginning
Focusing On God's Power to Save

Jim Davis

Romans 1:1-17

A couple of years ago when I was rebuilding a 37 Oldsmobile I tried to run it on an empty gas tank. I had put five gallons of gas in the tank a couple of days before. The gas gauge didn't work, but I knew that I had put gas into the tank. I had only driven it around the block a few times after rebuilding the engine. I couldn't imagine that it had used up five gallons of gasoline. My wife and I got in it to go somewhere and it quit a block from our house. We pushed it back home. I couldn't figure out what was wrong. I knew it had gas. I knew it wouldn't take me far, but I was absolutely sure that it wasn't out of gas. I worked on everything and I finally noticed that no gas was coming through the carburetor. I was certain the tank had gas, but what the heck, I'll put gas in. Guess what, it started.

It doesn't matter how much gas you believe is in the tank, if the tank is empty, you are going nowhere. It cannot take you beyond its ability. Likewise the power to begin life anew can be no stronger than the object of one's faith. The object of our faith may be a doorknob or our own ingenuity or a million other things, or even an empty gas tank, but regardless of the object of our faith, our lives can never be lifted above the power of the object to which we have devoted ourselves.

If we have faith in inadequate source of power we will fail. Just before Jesus' ascension to heaven, he told his disciples to tarry in Jerusalem until they were clothed with power from on high. (Luke 24:49) I realize there was a special power to be received on Pentecost, but in a very real sense God continues to clothe his children with power. God wishes to clothe us with power from on high. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7 NIV)

The Origin of the Christian's Power

In matters of faith knowing the origin of the message is critical. If it is true "the righteous shall live by faith" (Romans 1:17), it is essential for the source of their faith to be substantial enough to empower and sustain their lives. It is obvious that our faith is not sustained by our ability to believe and achieve, but by the source of our belief. The actual power behind any message gives the message its power. Is the message from a fool or from God?

It is no accident that the first chapter in the Bible opens with a declaration of God's power and sovereignty as Moses declares God as a being before, beyond and above all things. Moses proclaimed God's power and wisdom as seen in creation as the source of Israel's faith for the wilderness journey. God has made his eternal power, glory and nature plain from creation; it can be clearly understood from what has been made. (1:19-20) If you knew nothing of God's power and glory, it would be impossible to understand the power of the gospel of Christ to salvage your life.

It is no coincidence that Paul opens the book of Romans declaring the gospel, as God's power to save. (1:16) He makes it clear from the first verse onward that he comes as a servant of God delivering God's powerful message of salvation. He wanted them to understand the gospel message was the fulfillment of God's promise through the prophets of the Old Testament concerning his Son, Jesus Christ. (1:2-3)

Paul went to great lengths to stress the message did not originate with him and the power of the message did not rest in him but rather in the power of God. "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." (2 Corinthians 4:7 NIV) The gospel is the power of God. (1:16)

The power of God is the fundamental issue of Christianity. The gospel centers in Jesus Christ who was born of human descent and " . . .who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son by his resurrection from the dead . . ." (1:4) The resurrection of Christ proclaims to us the power of the message of salvation.

1 Corinthians 15:1-5, 13-14
Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve . . . If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. (NIV)

Without Christ there is no Christian message with power to save. If there is no resurrection, our faith has no foundation and our faith becomes useless because the object of our faith becomes powerless to save. Paul discloses the sustaining power of God through the gospel. God is the source and sustaining power of the gospel message. Since there is nothing or no one more powerful than God, the gospel provides a very substantial foundation to begin a new life in Christ.

Practical Benefits of Living by God's Power

Living by faith in God's power liberates us from guilt and sin. Salvation has to do with deliverance from the power and dominion of sin.

Romans 3:9-12
What shall we conclude then? . . . "There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one." (NIV)

As Paul beheld his personal sin, he cried out "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 7:24-25) When Christ died on the cross he made atonement for our sin. Christ became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God through faith. (2 Corinthians 5:21) Sin loses its dominion over us when we through faith die with Christ. God's power rescues " . . . us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves . . ." (Colossians 1:13 NIV)

Romans 8:31-33
What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all-- how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. (NIV)

Living by faith in God's power gives us an adequate power source for living. Conversion is referred to as becoming God's new creation in Christ. Being recreated anew can only be done by God's power. We need divine power to become what God envisions each of us to be. The power needed to save our souls and begin life anew is comparable to the power needed to create the universe. The power needed is comparable to the power God used when he resurrected Jesus Christ from the dead.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (NIV)

Paul's power for living did not come from some secret personal strength. "For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God's power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God's power we will live with him to serve you." (2 Corinthians 13:4 NIV)

Living by faith in God's power makes obedience a joy. Paul preached the gospel to call all ". . . to the obedience that comes through faith." (1:5) Obedience comes through faith, but obedience is not the object of our faith. Obedience in and of itself has no power to save, only God has the power to save. One can easily shift the focus of one's faith from the power of God to the strength of one's own personal faith and the quality of obedience. It is our responsibility to place our faith in the power of God through an obedient faith in Christ.

Many who choose to be obedient end up trusting in their personal obedience rather than the power of God. It is easy to begin trusting in what we have done, rather than trusting in God's power to save. When we trust in ourselves, the object of our faith is changed from God to self. When we replace Christ, the object of our faith with self, our faith becomes powerless to save.

However, obedience in no way diminishes God's power unless it focuses on obedience as the object of one's faith. Jesus commands baptism, but it is not our action in baptism that saves. It's our faith in what God is doing at baptism that saves.

Mark 16:15-16
He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. (NIV)

We don't trust in the mere act of baptism to save, it is our faith in the operation of God, which takes place at baptism that saves. It is our faith in the power of God that raised Jesus from the dead that assures us of our salvation. We are raised to a new life with Christ through our faith in God's power who raised Christ from the dead. Through an obedient faith we access God's power to salvation.

Colossians 2:11-12
In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. (NIV)

We are raised to a new life in Christ through our faith in the power of God. One version says through our faith in the "operation of God." Initially this takes place at baptism for every child of God. There is no merit in the act, but there must be an obedient faith, which trust in the power of God.

Living by faith in God's power frees us from anxiety. We live by the philosophy "If it is to be, it is up to me." But Paul lived by the philosophy "If it is to be, it is up to God." What a change when the focus is taken off of "me" and placed upon "God." "If it is to be, it is up to me" emphasizes a faith in self, while "If it is to be, it is up to God" places the focus on God's power. The gospel reveals a righteousness that comes from God, which is imparted to those who believe. (1:17) It is not something we must earn; Christ has already earned it for us and gives it to us freely. The difference in the anxiety level is obvious.

The power to begin life anew is not dependent upon the strength of our faith or ability to obey, but rather on the power of God. God's power gives a depth to personal faith to which no mere human accomplishments can compare. This is encouraging because God's power enables and sustains us when our faith is weak. God saves us when we are powerless to save ourselves. (5:6) God can make the weak stand. (14:1-5) We discover God's power in our weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10) Human power is limited, but God's power is boundless. It is God's power that makes our faith valid.

What a relief from the anxiety of having to perform. Paul has tried to make it to Rome many times but he has been hindered. But he is trusting in the will and power of God to make it happen. (1:10, 13) Paul's desire was to go to Rome for the purpose of imparting some spiritual gift that the church might be strong and that he might be mutually comforted with the church at Rome. (1:11-12) Although this was probably a miraculous gift Paul wished to impart, it had a practical side; it was to strengthen the church. The gift would be imparted by Paul, but the power they received would come from God. The strength would be something they received; it is not something they already possess. This approach to the gospel allows one to obey through faith while depending upon the power of God to accomplish his will in our lives.

Living by faith in God's power enables us to live beyond our abilities. God's forgiveness through Jesus Christ allows us to live in Christ as though we never sinned. This enables us to live beyond our ability to live a sinless life. This is true for the whole of our lives in Christ. When Paul spoke of the Macedonians giving to the needy saints in Jerusalem, he spoke of them living beyond their ability.

2 Corinthians 8:3-5
For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's will. (NIV)

When the widow cast in all of her living, she knew that God would allow her to live beyond her ability.

Living by God's power enabled Paul to suffer hardships beyond his ability to endure.

2 Corinthians 1:8-11a
We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. (NIV)

What a comfort, I will never face a personal challenge God's power is not adequately equipped to handle. Our main objective in difficult times is to remain faithful so God can exert his power in our lives. From these verses we begin to understand how God's power manifested in the resurrection becomes the basis of our hope in Christ. It is the basis upon which we begin life anew. Trusting in this power enables God to remove the mountains for those with the weakest faith.

2 Thessalonians 1:11
With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. (NIV)

Conclusion:

Romans 1:16
I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. (NIV)

God's power is available to everyone who believes. No one is excluded. Paul was God's servant sent with a message to call the world to obedience through a personal faith in what God had done through Christ. (1:5) The power of the gospel unto salvation was and is available to everyone who chooses to obey the message through faith. Although the power to save resides in God, the key to that power is a personal faith that leads us to obedience.

 

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