“Now it happened that as he was praying alone, the disciples were with him. And he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” And they answered, “John the Baptist. But others say, Elijah, and others, that one of the prophets of old has risen.” Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered, “The Christ of God.” And he strictly charged and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” Luke 9:18-24 ESV.
Talking about powerlessness scares and intimidates us. Powerlessness touches on subjects we don’t like. Things like a loss of control, inadequacy, and weakness.
Powerlessness seems and sounds like defeat. But we can find power in powerlessness. But it’s a different sort of power. Empowerment that comes from powerlessness…we have wait for it.
“Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”” Luke 24:44-49 ESV
Jesus promises power from heaven, a power from on high. This is a different kind of power from our conventional power. Because conventional power, as the need to be in control, and have control over others, belongs to the part of the world Jesus came to save us from.
This kind of power infiltrates and invades our politics, education, self image, relationships, work life, sexuality, our money. We can become intoxicated and addicted by this kind of power. It’s the kind of power that can begin to corrupt us. It’s the kind of power than can corrupt absolutely.
Some of us, we don’t want to control others. We don’t want that kind of power. But here’s a question for you. Who has power over your life? Who tells you what to do?
We (wrongly) define power as the power to do what we want. Here’s a thought – what are you free not to do? We may not try to control others…but we don’t want anyone else telling us what to do. But we want to exercise power over our own lives. Because “I am the boss of me.”
We are addicted to the idol of power and control – but we don’t know it. But it’s this kind of power that is challenged by the gospel.
Jesus in His death on the cross directly challenged this type of power, because Jesus died on the cross having completely given up control. He died in complete powerlessness. Think about Jesus’ passion –
He was betrayed and did not argue.
He was arrested and did not resist.
He was slapped, mocked, and ridiculed, and He did not respond.
He was tried twice, in religious and political courts, and offerered no defense.
He was stripped of his dignity, even stripped of his clothes, and He did not run and hide.
He was nailed to a cross without power, and did not retaliate.
Isaiah described this centuries earlier –
“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.” Isaiah 53:7-9 ESV.
The gospel challenges our kind of power. Good news – Jesus takes away the power of sin through his own powerlessness. He was completely powerless at the cross.
On the cross he was powerless. In the tomb, he was powerless. Resurrection power was coming, but Jesus had to wait. In doing so, Jesus gave us the example to follow. By his death on the cross, we get the unmistakable meaning of this – “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”
Do you want God to save you? Do want God to rescue you? Do you want God to make right what has gone wrong in your life? If you do, Jesus says you can no longer be in control. If you want to be a part of God’s salvation work and His salvation community and save your life, then you must be willing to turn over control of your life.
All real spiritual transformation begins when we move into a posture of powerlessness. It’s not a matter of willpower, its about willingness to open up to the spirit power. The power from on high Jesus is talking about. Are we willing to become powerless to open up to the spirit power? As long as we cling to power over own lives, we are cut off from god’s spirit to transform us.
In other words, we have to hit some kind of bottom. But when we hit this bottom, and admit our own powerlessness….we can be empowered.
1). We can be empowered to be healed of our past. We all have a past, we all have our stuff. We can be healed of that, but our healing begins with knowing our own powerlessness.
That’s why the first step and first principle of Celebrate Recovery, and any 12 step program, is powerlessness.
First principle – “Realize I AM NOT GOD!! I admit that I am powerless to control my tendency to do the wrong thing, and that my life is unmanageable”
Two eternal, immutable truths from this – 1). God exists. 2). I am not God!!
Recovery is not just a place to find sobriety. Recovery is for anyone who will acknowledge they are powerless over their tendency to do the wrong thing. We are all addicted at least to our desire to do things our own way.
The road to recovery is not about trying to fix things ourselves. We want to fix things ourselves, fix others ourselves. We need to realize we are not the savior, Jesus is the savior. We have to acknowledge that we can’t fix it on our own.
2). We are empowered to become like Jesus. We call this our spiritual transformation. Not just because we are transformed in our spirit, but because it is a work of the Holy Spirit within us. The Holy Spirit is deliberately working within us to make us look more like Jesus. Romans 8:28 tells us that And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. One of our favorite verses in the Bible. But…what is that purpose? Romans 8:29 follows with For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. This is the work of the spirit – to make us more like Jesus. If we are fighting to remain in power in our own lives, we are fighting with the Holy Spirit. But when we become powerless….now the Holy Spirit is free to work. Free to apply pressure to our lives to make us more Christlike. So we can be fully human, and live out god’s mission for our lives to reflect god’s glory to all creation. Powerlessness is the way of becoming fully human.
3). We are empowered to become our true selves. As long as we are sick with sin, we will never become our true selves. We will remain our old self, our false self, our sick and half dead self. “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,” Colossians 2:13 ESV But in Christ, we become fully alive. Like Jesus, we have to experience death and powerlessness. If we want to experience resurrection power and become fully alive…then we too have to go to the cross and experience powerlessness. We have to go into the tomb and wait. Becoming our true selves and becoming fully alive in Christ, is not an overnight project. It’s a lifelong process. Like Jesus, we must be willing to wait. God created us a certain way, and he wants us to be our true selves. We once were our false selves, dominated by sickness and sin. Our true self is who we are in Christ. That’s why Jesus tells us For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. You will find your life again. Consider the Message paraphrase – “…Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you…” Luke 9:23-27 MSG. Jesus doesn’t want to lose the real you, he wants to, by the Holy Spirit, form your true self, within your own heart and character. And it starts with powerlessness. Powerlessness is the way of becoming fully alive. If you want to be healed, if you want to be fully human, fully alive, if you want to find your true identity, you don’t find it by grasping to your own power. You find it by being open and broken, by being powerless…