PULPIT TODAY SERMONS
Robert D. Pace
My message today is entitled: The Inherent Power of the Believer. And it refers to the innate authority God bestows upon those who accept Christ as Savior. It is imperative to know that God has invested you with divine, spiritual empowerment that provides you with victory for everyday living. It deputizes you to triumph over anything you face. Let’s read our text in Matthew 16.
The geography of Caesarea Philippi provides a fascinating backdrop regarding this passage of Scripture. Jesus had gathered His Apostles to a plateau that overlooked a region renowned for superstition and idolatry. The Syrians had erected temples of Baal throughout the area. Nearby, the Romans had constructed a magnificent white marble structure dedicated to the deity of Caesar. Not to be outdone, the Greeks considered a nearby cavern to be the birthplace of Pan, the mythological god of nature. Then, there was the mysterious origin of the Jordan River that bubbled forth from cave. The Jordan began as a trickle that a man could step over, but would later gush forth as a mighty torrent.
4Everything about this mystical backdrop made for theatre at its finest—Asian, Roman, and Greek religion all intermingling beneath this summit. And everything had been divinely staged. This is where Jesus asked His Apostles how people perceived Him. They reported how people thought He was one of Israel’s bygone Prophets that had been resurrected—perhaps John the Baptist, Elijah, or Jeremiah. But Jesus wanted to hear more. So with a penetrating gaze He asked: “What about you . . . who do you say that I am?” You can imagine how this question rattled their nerves. Their eyes flipped back and forth between the magnificent structures of paganism to a vilified prophet standing before them in sandals. Thankfully, Simon Peter rescued the day when he shouted the confession of the ages: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”! And with that, Jesus replied: “Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.”
(Transition) That brings us to point one: God gives believers inherent power to discern spiritual matters.
I. Power to Discern Spiritual Matters
There are those that say they can’t understand the Bible, it’s too difficult. But unlike unbelievers, whose minds have been blinded to spiritual truths, Christians can know God’s counsel.
Jesus said in Matthew 13:11, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them.” In other words, God wants us to understand what the Bible says. He’s more than willing to reveal it.
(Illustration) A kindergarten teacher observed her students during art class. When she looked over one child’s shoulder she inquired about the picture. “What are you drawing?” The girl replied, “I’m drawing God.” The teacher said, “Now wait a minute Joan. Nobody knows what God looks like.” Without a moment’s hesitation Joan looked up and said, “They will in a minute!”
Of course, nobody knows what God looks and no one has unraveled every mystery of Scripture; but Christians can have deep knowledge of the Scriptures. They were meant to be investigated and deciphered. The Holy Spirit has hidden deep wonders in His Word for Christians to investigate. 2 Timothy 2:15 says: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”
(Transition) Let’s examine this beginning in Ephesians 1.
A. Ephesians 1:17-21 (Read). There are three things in this passage that Paul says are important for believers to know:
Paul said: “I want you to have the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you can know Him better.”
He said: “I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.” [“Lord, what is Your will for me?”]
And then Paul said God wanted us to know “his incomparably great power for us who believe.”
(Transition) But there is another significant passage that confirms the believer’s power to understand spiritual matters. Turn to 1 Corinthians 2.
B. 1 Corinthians 2:7-13 (Read).
Did you notice what Paul said? Lack of knowledge does not belong to the Christian. Revelation does! God intended for Christians to search out the deep, depths of His Word. Psalm 42:7 speaks of “deep calling unto deep.” And Hebrews 6:1 commands us to: “leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity.”
(Application) Let’s not miss this opportunity of being practical here. There are some sensible and pragmatic ways to increase your spiritual understanding:
Use an updated version of the Bible.
Purchase a good commentary of the Scriptures.
Pray before you study. It’s amazing what God will reveal when you invite Him into your study.
Use online Bible tools. OliveTree.com and BlueletterBible.com are two helpful sites.
Get involved in a Bible study group.
And most importantly, stay full of the Holy Spirit. The Bible calls Him the “Illuminator,” and the “Spirit of Counsel.” The Holy Spirit stands ready to reveal and disclose God’s Word. That’s why you should invite Him to fill your life.
These are practical ways that you can increase your knowledge of Scripture.
(Transition) But the Believer not only has inherent power to understand spiritual matters, believers have inherent power to persevere and live for Christ during every circumstance.
II. Inherent Power to Live for Christ
Throughout Scripture God is revealed as the omnipotent Creator—the Divine Architect of the Universe. As our Creator, God’s engineering of Man would be incomplete had He fashioned us without the ability to withstand life’s difficulties. But He didn’t. He gave us the capacity to serve Him regardless of what happens.
(Illustration) I know we have some science engineers in this church, but I’m unsure that we have any structural engineers. While I do not possess an architectural degree, I do understand structural engineers design buildings with double-strength in their foundation. Their blueprints call for both cement and steel. While cement provides compression strength, steel provides flexible strength. Each element accomplishes what the other can’t do, but working together steel and cement provide a structure with double-strength.
God does the same for Christians: He provides the rock-solid support of His Word and the energetic, life-giving power of His Spirit. And we need both the Word and the Spirit to live at the highest level! You see, it’s not enough to simply understand the Word of God says:
“Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
Or that Romans 8:37 says: “in all these things we are more than conquerors.”
Or that 1 John 5:4 says: “everyone born of God overcomes the world.”
Yes, we need the steadfast, bedrock assurance of God’s Word that discloses these promises, but we also need the anointing of the Holy Spirit to arise within us and proclaim these promises in faith and power. And that’s what the Word and the Spirit working together in a Believer’s life accomplishes. It’s double-strength for Christians!
Jesus Renames Simon
(Bible Example) Do you remember when Jesus first met Simon? Christ’s first course of action involved renaming Peter. The name Simon meant, “a swaying reed.” But his new Hebrew name, Peter, meant, “a piece of a larger rock.” This name change indicated a new power and strength for living. You say, “But what about Peter’s fomenting craze the night preceding Christ’s crucifixion?” He cursed, lied, and denied the Lord. In fact, all the apostles fled and forsook Jesus the night of His trial. However, in keeping with His omniscience, Jesus knew Peter’s liabilities the moment He called Peter from his fishing boat. Jesus knew Simon Peter was mortally flawed from the beginning. But Jesus also knew Peter was someone the Spirit could transform into a man of steadfast faithfulness unto death:
Peter failed Christ at the crucifixion, but he was first to preach after the resurrection to those that crucified Jesus.
Peter failed Christ at the crucifixion, but he was the one refusing to shrink from the threats of the Sanhedrin Court when threatened with imprisonment.
Peter failed Christ at the crucifixion, but he never again cowered from Christ. In fact, history tells us that in Peter’s last days he was arrested and crucified head-down.
Peter wasn’t perfect, but with the Spirit working within him he never gave up or turned back. He drew on his inherent power to overcome.
(Illustration) I read the story of a violent thunderstorm that ripped through a city late one evening. A mother was tucking her boy into bed and about to turn off the light when he said with a shaky voice, “Mom would you sleep with me tonight?” Who could blame him? Flashes of lightning, peels of thunder, and the wind nearly peeling off the roof! The mother smiled, reassured him with a hug, and said, “I can’t stay with you baby, I have to sleep with daddy.” The boy replied, “The big sissy.”
Saints of God, Christians aren’t wimps! When we become Christians God gives us power to live victoriously at all times. He promises “never to leave nor forsake us” and that means we can triumph through all tests and temptations.
(Transition) Then there is a third inherent power in every Believer. Christians not only have power to know, and power to stand steadfast, they have power to bind and loose.
III. Power to “Bind and Loose”
Matthew 16:19 says: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” This passage of binding and loosing has undergone relentless scrutiny throughout the centuries, so the topic can’t be exhausted in one sermon. But I do want to address one aspect of what it means to “bind and loose.”
Keys symbolize authority. They determine what is granted entry and what is forbidden entry. As it relates to the keys of the kingdom it means, as the Holy Spirit authorizes us, we have power to restrict and release in life. This applies to whatever pertains to our welfare in life.
Before continuing let me inject a word of caution. Scripture never teaches that Christians can manipulate God’s principles to achieve their purposes without regard to God’s predeterminations. We can’t go around binding and loosing” at our autonomous discretion. When we claim Matthew 16:19 to “bind and loose” we are authorized to do so as the Holy Spirit directs! God is “the author and finisher of our faith.” He is the One that sovereignly distributes the spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12). And only the Holy Spirit can lead and empower you to take authority over certain issues.
(Illustration) A young man was saved and began preaching in China. As he preached on the streets of Zhoukou he was cursed and beaten by a bystander. He quickly prayed for God’s help. In an instant, the Holy Spirit quickened the man to take authority over the situation. He looked at his attacker and said: “In Jesus’ name, I bind you”! The attacker immediately fell to the ground and was unable to move. His relatives tried to rescue him but to no avail. The young evangelist said: “He is bound. If I don’t pray for him, the only way you can move him is to hoist him into a truck.” The crowd asked for his release, so the preacher said: “In Jesus’ name, get up.” The man jumped to his feet and with many villagers witnessing a miracle of God firsthand. It eventuated in many sinners converting to Christ. (Mega Shift, James Rutz, Empowerment Press, 2005, pages 16-17.)
(Illustration) Sometime back a woman that suffered from gout told me how God miraculously healed her. After hearing a message that challenged her faith she went home and was unable to sleep. Finally, she got out of bed, went into the kitchen, grabbed the cooking oil, anointed herself, and commanded the gout to leave her foot. The Lord honored her faith and instantly healed her! While she could have ignored the prompting of the Holy Spirit to anoint herself and miss her miracle; she didn’t! As the Lord quickened her faith, she coupled it with works, and took her authority to bind the sickness and loose the miracle.
What are Christians authorized to “bind and loose”? We are empowered to “bind and loose” whatever Jesus, our Example, “bound and loosed.”
- He cast out devils. (Matt. 8:28-32 and Mark 1:27)
He exercised authority to heal. (Matt. 4:23)
He took authority over nature. (Matt. 8:26)
He took authority over financial lack. (Matt. 14:15-20)
He overcame the power of sin that threatened the destruction of others. (1 Pet. 2:22, Rom. 6:18))
And as the Holy Spirit directs believers have the same power to “bind and loose.”
God has invested you with inherent power to live victoriously. Don’t ignore it. Claim what God has pledged.