Did you feel it this morning? I mean, when you opened your eyes, did you feel wonder-working power coursing through your veins?
Easter is over, but did you know resurrection power today? Did you?
You’re not alone.
Power Piled Up
Having the eyes of your hearts enlightened that you may know…what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his mighty strength that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places. Ephesians 1:18a, 19-20
That’s just part of the prayer. But did you notice how Paul heaped up power words to describe what’s available for those who believe?
He could have stopped at just one term, but he piled up all of these:
power – dunamis – strength, power, ability, from which we get “dynamite” ,
working – energeia – working, compulsion from within; from which we get “energy”
mighty – kratos – force, strength; might; in our word autocrat
power/strenth – ischus – physical force, ability, force, strength, might
So much power. Immeasurably great power. And it’s all for believers; for us- for me, for you.
But what does it do?
It works so many ways, but here’s what it did in me, today.
You see, I’ve been nursing a certain hurt for a while. But the current strengthened me to look the one who hurt me in the eye and smile. It helped me fix my thoughts on good things when self-pity and wounded pride flared up. This requires resurrection power.
“The more we are united by faith with God in Christ,” Paul Bayne says,“the more does His virtue or power work upon us, both in conforming us to Himself.” Bayne describes this power in four vivid ways:
(1) What a power is that which so changes men, and makes lambs of lions, chaste and sober of filthy and intemperate, humble of proud — a thing harder than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.
(2) To continue and promote the work of sanctification in us, who are carnal, sold under sin, is a thing no less strange than to keep and make fire burn higher and higher in water.
(3) The quickening of us with heavenly desires and holy affections is no small power; neither is it less wonderful than to see iron and lead flying upward…
Such is resurrection power.
Why We Need Resurrection Power
Martyn Lloyd-Jones describes two huge reasons why we must know this resurrection power– a negative reason and a positive reason.
Negatively, because of the powers set against us. The Christian in this world is one waging a constant warfare– the world, the flesh and the devil are dead-set against us. (See 1 John 2.)
Here Lloyd-Jones explains the urgency in our war against the flesh, specifically against the force of habit.
[C]onsider the force of habits. How many a man has been stumbled by this. He comes into the Christian life and he’s heard, All things are become new. Then he begins to find there are certain habits within him and he finds it rather difficult to break them. The old man is not annihilated. He’s still there and he’s got to be dealt with.
You and I have to mortify the body. Don’t imagine for a moment that evil habits will be taken right out of your life…There is nothing but the power of God that can keep a man going against the force of habit.
To face the force of habit requires we know this power. But that’s not all.
Then Lloyd-Jones describes the positive need we have for resurrection power.
You and I are called to keep the commandments of God. Christ calls us to keep his commandments. There are the 10 Commandments and the moral law of God- that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. We are called to follow Christ: Be perfect as your Father is perfect. We’re to live like this sort of life now…
We’re absolutely helpless. We wouldn’t stand for a second. We couldn’t live it for a moment but for this exceeding great power of God that is in us.
The power, I say, is in us. The Apostle is not praying that they will receive this power, but that they will realize that it is in them…It’s an utter fallacy to think that God makes a man new and then leaves him. No, he wouldn’t have stood a moment unless this power is in him. It’s our realization of this power in us that varies…
So why don’t we realize resurrection power? Why don’t we know it?
I mean know it. I mean experientially know it- like you know how a hot shower feels or how dark chocolate tastes, how coffee smells and your dog’s fur feels.
The biggest reason we don’t know this kind of power is that our spiritual eyes are dull.
That’s what Paul says at the beginning of the Ephesians 1 prayer that the “eyes of your hearts would be enlightened.” Because Paul knew that our heart-eyes had to be enlightened to really know resurrection power.
Notice that Paul didn’t pray that God would give us this mighty power, but rather that the eyes of our hearts would be enlightened to know this power. Which means we should probably pray this way. That God will help us understand the resurrection power we have.
Unless God gives us “a spirit of wisdom and of revelation the knowledge of him,” we won’t really know it. And Scripture is plain, God is at work in us today (Ephesians 3:20, Philippians 2:13, Hebrews 13:20-21).
But we won’t know that unless our heart-eyes are opened to see what’s already ours.
Power Already Ours
Steven Cole related a story about the late, wealthy newspaper publisher, William Randolph Hearst. Hearst had spent a fortune collecting art treasures from around the world.
Then one day he found a description of some items that he desperately wanted to own. So he sent his agent abroad to search for them. After months on the trail, his agent reported that he’d finally found the treasures. And guess what? They were already in Hearst’s warehouse. He had been searching for treasures that he already owned!
If you are a Christian God’s mighty power is already yours.
But maybe like Mr. Hearst, you’re not aware of what you possess and you don’t possess your possessions. Maybe you don’t experience God’s mighty power to resist sin and live a holy life.
Cole asks if some of us are looking at our lives and asking,
Is there a power that can subdue my tongue? Is there a power that can subdue my anger? What power can subdue my bitterness? Is there a power that can subdue my lust? Is there something that can conquer the sin I don’t ever seem to get a hold of?
Well, Paul is right there waiting for us when we ask questions like those. He’s already prayed that God would open the eyes of our heart to know the surpassing greatness of His power toward us to believe.
Then, with a prayer, it shows up.
How His Power Shows Up
In Romans 6 Paul explains how being united with Christ means we died to sin and we live to God. How resurrection power means we die to sin and and live to God.
For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Then, in Philippians 3, Paul explains how even his own suffering and physical loss is gain,
[T]hat I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead… Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.
Paul had been a believer more than two decades when he wrote that to the Philippians. Which means that that pressing on to know God’s resurrection power isn’t one and done. To know resurrection power is our lifelong quest.
I love how John Piper explains this life-and-death, resurrection power paradox:
Sin is defeated at the cross; yet sin remains to be fought. Satan was defeated at the cross; yet Satan remains to be fought. And for this fight, may God answer Paul’s prayer in our lives! May we know the power of God toward us who believe— resurrection power now—to live and die for the glory of Christ.
Resurrection Power Now
Yesterday I asked a few friends how they experience resurrection power now.
One friend said she feels the power when she forgives a someone who keeps disappointing. Another said he knows it when he is patient with a child who keeps provoking. And the third said she experiences it when she keeps praying- without losing heart- for a loved-one who keeps straying. The last friend said she felt this power when she stops the vicious cycle of anxious thoughts to cast her cares on God.
How about you? How do you feel resurrection power?
I feel it when I repent and press on when I sin, rather than waste time in guilt and shame. And I know resurrection power when I’m strengthened to wait patiently and serve others with joy. Like when I greet ones who hurt me with friendly eyes and a smile.
And none of these is one bit natural for me. The actions are fire raging in water, iron flying upward. Dying to sin, living for the glory of Christ.
All are proof of God’s wonder-working resurrection power.
There Is A Power
Maybe yesterday you ate too much at Easter brunch. Or lost your cool, again, with a rude child last night. And maybe today you’re asking, Is there a power that can help subdue my sin or break this force of habit?
Martyn Lloyd-Jones answers a resounding yes. Even in these we can trust that God’s resurrection power is at work. We can trust that he who began a good work will be faithful to bring it to completion.
Oh, beloved people! Is there anything more important to know than this? We are in the hands of God and he’s working in us. He’s given us this power to believe and He’s right now working in us- fashioning us, molding us into perfection.
We can’t avoid it and we can’t escape it. We are in His hands and he will go on with it -Blessed be his name! My comfort and assurance this morning is to know that God is working in me and He will never cease to work in me until I stand before him in glory.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think,
according to the power at work within us,
to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.