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THE PROPER USE OF POWER

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
AND
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

28 JUNE 1992

Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Psalm 44:1-8
Matthew 5:43-48
Luke 9:51-56
Romans 5:8
Galatians 5:1, 13-15

We have heard it said that some people are powerful.

But there are many things that could make them powerful.

They could have great physical strength.

They could have great wealth, and be able to use it to influence others.

They could be in a position of high authority.

Or a person could be filled with unconditional love.

But, no; we wouldn't consider such a person powerful, would we?

Wouldn't most people consider such a person to be weak?

But if we consider such a person weak, then we must also consider God our Father weak; for it was His unconditional love that sent us Jesus.

Then, we must also consider Jesus to be weak, for He showed us how to apply such unconditional love.

And since the Holy Spirit communicates this unconditional love to us, He, too, must be weak.

But I submit to you today, that the only really strong and powerful people are those who are filled to overflowing with this unconditional love - a love that extends to every other human being, to every other animal, even to the whole of God's creation.

Why?

Because it takes far more strength and conviction of character to exhibit love, than it does to show how physically powerful we are, or how much worldly influence we can exert over someone else.

We know that God is not weak, and He is love.

He is truly powerful!

And the only way we can have a truly lasting and meaningful and powerful influence in the world is when we are founded in and upon God's love.

Listen to what Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:43-48:

43. "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.'

44. "But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you

45. in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

And yes, Jesus even willingly died for every person, while we were yet sinners. (Romans 5:8)

8. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Jesus made no distinction in dying. That was His unconditional love.

But each of us has the free will to accept that love or reject it.

And we also have the free will to pass it on – just as Jesus did – to everyone, regardless of who they are or what they may have done – or to not pass it on.

46. "For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax-gatherers do the same?

47. "And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the Gentiles [unbelievers] do the same?

48. "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

I suppose there are a lot of us who say that we try to be perfect; but the Lord doesn't say to just try.

He says that we are to be perfect.

And to be perfect requires a great deal of strength and power, for we have much to overcome.

To do this, we must learn the proper use of power.

Everything that is based on love is real power.

Everything else is really weakness, and will eventually be defeated.

The psalmist who wrote Psalm 44 was obviously facing an enemy; but listen to the way he expresses his trust in God for his deliverance, and the fact that he cannot save himself by his own sword.

But he begins with the remembrance that God was the help of Israel in the past, so that the people will not give up hope and will return to Him with a whole heart, in order that the Lord might heal the land. Note verses 1-3.

1. O God, we have heard with our ears,
Our fathers have told us,
The works that Thou didst in their days,
In the days of old.

2. Thou with Thine own hand didst drive out the nations;
Then Thou didst plant them;
Thou didst afflict the peoples,
Then Thou didst spread them abroad.

3. For by their own sword they did not possess the land;
And their own arm did not save them;
But Thy right hand, and Thine arm, and the light of Thy presence,
For Thou didst favor them.

Do you see the uniformity of God's love and power?

The Israelites, who are now themselves facing an enemy, were the ones who had an enemy driven out before them in days past.

God is now afflicting the Israelites, so that they will return to Him and repent.

And remember, He gave the native people of the land over 400 years to repent before He drove them out and gave it to the Israelites.

Thus the psalmist continues at verse 4:

4. Thou art my King, O God;
Command victories for Jacob.

5. Through Thee we will push back our adversaries;
Through Thy name we will trample down those who rise up against us.

6. For I will not trust in my bow,
Nor will my sword save me.

7. But Thou hast saved us from our adversaries,
And Thou hast put to shame those who hate us.

8. In God we have boasted all day long,
And we will give thanks to Thy name forever.

The psalmist recognizes the truth about the ways of God, but he doesn't have the same compassion as God does.

God only stops trying to save a sinner when that person has rejected each and every attempt of God to bring them to repentance.

And only God can determine when this time comes.

Shortly before the end of Jesus’ ministry, an event occurred that illustrates this very point. Please turn with me to Luke 9:51-56.

51. And it came about, when the days were approaching for His ascension, that He resolutely set His face to go to Jerusalem;

52. and He sent messengers on ahead of Him. And they went, and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make arrangements for Him.

53. And they did not receive Him, because He was journeying with His face toward Jerusalem.

54. And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, "Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?"

55. But He turned and rebuked them, and said, "You do not know what kind of spirit you are of;

56. for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them." And they went on to another village.

When we commit our lives to the Lord Jesus, we are no longer to have the spirit of the world; we are to be conformed to the Holy Spirit.

Thus, all Christians should be of the Holy Spirit, and should utilize His power of love to restore the whole of creation, and not to destroy any part of it.

I believe this is the main reason that God has held back, and not given us more power than we have; for we are not yet loving or compassionate enough to utilize this power of God's in the proper manner.

We no longer have to be slaves to this world with all its killing and cruelty.

We have the power to be strong, and to stand firm against such things and spread God's unlimited love and compassion to all others, whether human or non-human, as He Himself does.

Don't worry about the sins of others.

You do what you know is right.

Leave the rest to God.

Paul tells us in Galatians 5:1,

1. It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.

We have been given the power of love to overcome the sin of the world.

Why again subject ourselves to these things that destroy us?

Paul continues at verse 13 –

13. For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

14. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

15. But if you bite and devour one another, take care lest you be consumed by one another.

Isn't this the problem we have in the world today?

Aren’t we consuming one another because we have abused the power of love?

Don't you think it's time to learn to properly use the power of God, and really love one another?

Then start doing it right here and now, and with everything you do every day; and you will again see the true power of God being manifested.

Love the Lord!

Love God's creation!

Love yourself!

Love each other!

And love those who don't understand true and unconditional love.

Amen.

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