It’s interesting how something inherently powerless can be imparted with power. Consider the badge or shield of a Police Officer. It could be made of anything but what comes to mind are the metal badges made from various alloys. The badge itself is powerless but represents the power and authority of a town, county, state, or country. Or consider a simple piece of paper. Powerless and meaningless unless used to record a deed, a law, a will, or made into money. The paper value of a one-dollar bill and a one-hundred-dollar bill is the same, the only difference is the number of zeros printed on it. That same idea also applies to those who follow Jesus.
Early in the book of Acts Jesus proclaims, “but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8, NASB95) This is followed by the events of Pentecost as described in Acts chapter two. What I think is more telling are the events of Acts chapter three.
Briefly, Peter and John were going to the Temple in Jerusalem to worship. Along the way, they encountered a lame beggar. After the encounter, the now healed beggar entered the Temple courtyard walking and leaping and praising God. It was a powerful miracle that was witnessed by many. What is important for us today is Peter’s response to the people’s amazement. “Men of Israel, why are you amazed at this, or why do you gaze at us, as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk?… it is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know; and the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect health in the presence of you all.” (Acts 3:13,16 NASB95) Even though Peter and John had walked with Jesus, had witnessed so many miracles, were named as apostles, and had received power on the day of Pentecost it wasn’t any of these experiences that empowered the healing of the lame beggar. It was the name of Jesus they carried and spoke.
Folks following Jesus fall into two traps. On the one hand, they rightly see themselves as powerless but never recognize the power of the Holy Spirit living in them or the power of the name of Jesus written on their hearts. Yes, in and of ourselves we are powerless, but we have access to the very same power that created the universe and raised Christ from the dead. (Ephesians 1:18-23) On the other hand are those who have performed miraculous acts of power forget that the power is from God and not their faith, prayer technique, or anointing. It is a very heady and adrenalin pumping moment when God uses you in some powerful way. So much so that we can begin to take the praise to ourselves which was Satan’s sin.
We must hold these truths in tension. God’s power does work through us, that doesn’t make us special or called or anointed, it makes us usable – like a hunk of metal formed into a badge or a piece of paper that only has value because of what is written on it. Peter held those truths in tension leading not only to a healed beggar but to 5000 souls choosing to follow Jesus that day (Acts 4:4). I wonder what would happen if we too held those truths in tension? Both recognizing our humbling inability and Christ’s imparted ability through the power of His name and the presence of the Holy Spirit. Never for our glory but for the glory of God. Never to lift our name but to lift up the name of Jesus. I wonder….