Moving on from powerless Christianity

I’ve been looking at the first two chapters of Ephesians to see what the good news that brings great joy means to us. Ephesians is indeed the high-water mark of Paul’s teaching and rather difficult to understand at first blush. However, we risk living sub-par and powerless Christian lives if we don’t take the time to truly comprehend what’s being said here.

Here’s the passage we will look at today. It’s a continuation of Paul’s prayer for us. I will attempt to unpack the amazing things God is saying about us here.

19 I pray that you will continually experience the immeasurable greatness of God’s power made available to you through faith. Then your lives will be an advertisement of this immense power as it works through you! (Eph.1:19 TPT *)

If you remember, last time we looked at the mystery of us in Christ. Now, Paul shifts his prayer by asking that we would experience the immeasurable greatness of God’s power that’s available to us.

First, why is it “immeasurable greatness? This is not just hyperbole. We have absolutely no mental grid to wrap our mind around it. Just consider that all things in both the spiritual realm and natural realm are held together in Christ…that is, all things visible or invisible live and move and have their being in Him (Col.1:16-17; Acts 17:23).

There is no such thing as “outside” of Christ.

Second, we need to understand that the eternal Christ cannot just be the first or greatest being among beings. He must necessarily be infinite, self-existing outside of time and space and matter itself, which means, outside of our ability to measure.  David Bentley Hart describes this most eloquently:

“The most venerable metaphysical claims about God do not simply shift priority from one kind of thing (say, a teacup or the universe) to another thing that just happens to be much bigger and come much earlier (some discrete, very large gentleman who preexists teacups and universes alike). These claims start, rather, from the fairly elementary observation that nothing contingent, composite, finite, temporal, complex, and mutable can account for its own existence, and that even an infinite series of such things can never be the source or ground of its own being, but must depend on some source of actuality beyond itself. Thus, abstracting from the universal conditions of contingency, one very well may (and perhaps must) conclude that all things are sustained in being by an absolute plenitude of actuality, whose very essence is being as such: not a “supreme being,” not another thing within or alongside the universe, but the infinite act of being itself, the one eternal and transcendent source of all existence and knowledge, in which all finite being participates.” (from article here *)

This is just a very sophisticated way of describing “immeasurable greatness.” While it’s beyond our ability to measure or obverse by natural means (because it transcends nature), we can show its necessity through logical deduction and see it in Scripture.

I want you to contemplate the following for a moment…this “immeasurable greatness” lives in you and me. This is why the gospel brings such great joy!

Of course, Paul declares this very thing later (Eph.1:22-23; 2:6), and Jesus Himself said we would know this after we received the Holy Spirit:

20 At that day you will know that am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. (John 14:20 NKJV)

Do you know this yet? We are in Christ and He is in us! And it’s because of this relationship that this potential power is available to us, which we access by faith (remember, nothing is unlocked in the Kingdom of God without faith).

One more point here in the last part of verse 19…

Then your lives will be an advertisement of this immense power as it works through you! (Eph.1:19b TPT *)

What Paul seems to be saying here is when we begin to see ourselves the way God sees us, and begin to access this immeasurable greatness and ultimate power available to us through faith, Christ is able to express Himself through us.

God’s intent is that the world will experience Jesus through you and me.

Now, let me say here that this is not power the way the world wields it.  Quite the opposite. In the world, power means control and submission through fear and manipulation, or worse, brutality. Christ’s kingdom compels through other-centered, self-giving love (2 Cor.5:14-15). This is a much greater power. So great that it defeated death itself!

This resident divine power comes to us by surrendering to infinite Love, abiding in that love, and giving that same love away to others (John 15:9-12). Brute force changes nothing at all in the scheme of things. In the end, only other-centered, self-giving love has the power to transform the human soul, and without this love we have nothing (1 Cor.13:1-3).

I hope you’re seeing how pathetically short religion falls in comparison to what we’ve already been given in Christ. When we begin to see ourselves the way God sees us, and begin to access this immeasurable greatness and ultimate power available to us by faith, we begin to put Christ’s manifest goodness (glory) on display for all to see.

Beloved, we are powerless and ineffective only to the degree that we remain ignorant of our identity and purpose in Christ. It’s time we moved on from powerless Christianity.

* All emphasis added.
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About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 38 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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12 Responses to Moving on from powerless Christianity

  1. Oh yeah! Now that’s what I’m talking about! Love the wording used here, “Then your lives will be an advertisement of this immense power as it works through you!” Like a bill board or a neon sign! I sometimes say people in Christ actually sparkle. The Light is on!

    I read this article in CT about Macrina, the sister of the guys who helped write the Nicene creed, and how she influenced the part about, “all things visible and invisible.” It kind of speaks to idea of the mind, reason, and our ability to perceive and deduce what is often invisible to our eyes.

    https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/february-web-only/macrina-church-mother-comforted-grieving-science.html

    • Mel Wild says:

      That’s a great article, IB. I’ve read all the Cappadocian fathers but didn’t know that about their big sister! Macrina is my hero now! But this also shows that these ancient people, while not having our technology, seemed to be able to reason and think more profoundly about these things than we do. I think we’ve gotten much dumber in this regard since we’ve flattened out the world with our myopic scientistic (as opposed to actual science) worldview of things. 🙂 The result is that people are disenchanted and look for all kinds of distractions in “stuff” because they’re bored having had the mystery and wonder stripped from them. Nietzsche was right, we’re just left with some form of hopeless nihilism. Pretty sad, really.

      • Citizen Tom says:

        @Mel

        Dumber? Not really? Generally what survives from the past is what we think most valuable. Books can be copied, Once copied multiple people can strive to preserve them, passing them down through the generations.

        That said, do we have a problem today? We do attempt to educate our youth, but we have put politicians in charge. Instead of educating children, too many politicians are more interested in selling the right to indoctrinate children to the highest bidders. In addition, instead of hiring the best teachers, politicians sell teaching and administrative jobs to labor unions. The results speak for themselves.

        Parents are responsible for the instruction of their children. That is Biblical. Yet many of us have reneged on our responsibility and given up responsibility for the instruction our children for the sake of a “free” education. As a result, too many of our children are not as wise as they should be.

        • Mel Wild says:

          Hi Tom. I like what you’re saying here. It is unfortunate that in practically every field of study today, we’re not getting the best education, only what’s the most marketable and politically correct. And I agree, it’s really the parents responsibility to teach their children to think critically. In other words, teach them how to think, not what to think. Beyond that, it’s the child’s responsibility to be a life-long learner.

          What I mean by “dumber” is flatter, two-dimensional, and superficial. We only believe what we can prove, we limit everything to our natural senses, while living ignorant or in denial of the transcendental reality around us. We don’t seem to have the ability to live in a world that’s bigger than our own imagination or ability to reason. We seem to only read with wooden literalism and for data or doctrine, rather than what it’s saying to our soul. We’ve lost the ability to appreciate wonder, to understand nuance, the sublime, the beautiful, and profoundly other-than. This shows up when we compare modern writing to ancient writings.

          This all means we’ll barely ever understand anything beyond “the echo of our own soul,” as T.F. Torrance said, let alone understand the words of Scripture which, as Jesus said, are spirit and life.

        • Citizen Tom says:

          @Mel

          Consider the nature of our education. Consider your own description.

          It is unfortunate that in practically every field of study today, we’re not getting the best education, only what’s the most marketable and politically correct.

          Wisdom is what earns the most money or brings the most pleasure. The spiritual isn’t worth thinking about because there is no profit in it.

        • Mel Wild says:

          Wisdom? Right. So…professing to be wise they became fools…. 🙂

  2. hawk2017 says:

    Amen.:)

  3. You wrote…”Beloved, we are powerless and ineffective only to the degree that we remain ignorant of our identity and purpose in Christ. It’s time we moved on from powerless Christianity.”

    So true! i like how you write to the fact that to be religious is a pathetic attempt to live a true Christ-In life.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks Patrick. I do usually differentiate between “Religion” and Christianity when I’m talking about our life in Christ. When I’m talking about believing in God or not believing in God, I use the term more generically.

      As Robert Capon once said, “Christianity is the announcement of the end of religion.” Religion is us inviting God into our lives; true Christianity is God inviting us into His life. 🙂

  4. nickcady says:

    Hi Mel, I agree with what you say here that real Christianity should be powerful and effective, but I wonder how you differentiate between powerful Christianity and anemic Christianity. What would you say are the markers of each? How can one recognize them and differentiate between the two of them?
    Is it just based on subjective feeling (“I feel like this is powerful and effective”)? Because in that case, what for one person feels anemic, could be effective for another.
    Just curious if you could define your terms for me. Thanks.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks for your questions, Nick. I think the difference starts with our model or paradigm. Is our “Christianity” transactional or incarnational? In other words, is it all about what Christ did for us but we still see distance and separation between us and God? Or, is Christ actually dwelling in us and we are seated in heavenly places with God, as it says? Because if we think God is just the “Big man upstairs,” our Christianity will be anemic. It will be no more than self-help with some inspirational verses thrown in when we need to encourage ourselves, hoping we go to heaven when we die. But if Christ who holds the cosmos together actually lives in us, then our life is not only found in Him, it’s also where His great transformative power works in us.

      Powerful Christianity is living from heaven to earth. It’s when we begin to love like God loves because we have encountered and continue to abide in His love for us. It really begins to change how we love. His grace becomes the power to live a godly life, as Paul told Titus. We do this from rest instead of trying harder. It’s the difference between being religious, trying to be a better person by following principles, and being in Christ and having Him empower and transform us from the inside-out. So, there’s a very real and practical difference. One leads to burn out, the other leads to greater passion and joy. The evidence is in the fruit (Gal.5:22-23).

      • nickcady says:

        That all sounds good. I find that people often talk about “power” or “powerless” Christianity without defining what it is. I like your summary. Thanks.

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