FIVE REASONS CHURCHES HAVE NO POWER
"Then He called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases. He sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. So they departed and went through the towns, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere." (Luke 9:1,2) "If two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven." (Matthew 18:19)
Years ago, while preaching at Christ Chapel, Florence, Alabama, I was sitting in my hotel room one cloudless, beautiful afternoon, looking down on the Tennessee River. The sky was a bright blue and the atmosphere calm. Without any explanation, the Holy Spirit interrupted my solitude and said, "Take authority over the weather." I was puzzled about the message--still admiring the tranquility around me--but obeyed and in the Name of Jesus took authority over the "Prince of the power of the air." I forbade his touching that area of Alabama with a violent storm. (Psalm 149:5-9, Matthew 12:29, Luke 10:17-20.) There was no emotion in my voice–but I did speak with authority. To most Christians such an action is absurd–even ridiculous. I agree. To the natural-person it sounds that way. But Jesus taught it. He did not ask us to understand but to obey. Nothing obvious happened and a short time later a driver arrived who took me to the church.
Christ Chapel was still meeting in its gymnasium and each night the building was filled to capacity. The Holy Spirit’s wonderful presence over-lay the meetings; people were healed, baptized in the Spirit, and "signs and wonders" accompanied every service. Many nights the entire floor-area around the building was filled with people fallen under the power of God. Before the worship that evening, Doc Shell, the pastor, hurriedly spoke to the congregation, "I don't want to alarm anyone but the safest place in this building is through those large, double doors." He pointed toward the main entrance and a corridor leading into the school's interior. He explained, "You have all heard the warning from the Weather Bureau that a severe storm-front is coming toward us ..."
When he said that, I understood the Holy Spirit's message to me earlier that afternoon. Going quickly to the microphone, I told the congregation about my instruction to "take authority over the weather," and explained: "We are going to obey Jesus, 'speak to the mountain'--in this case, the storm--and forbid its harming us." Briefly, I explained the difference in praying to Jesus about a problem and taking authority over the problem in His name. He taught both principles. Everyone stood, together we rebuked the storm, telling it specifically not to touch our homes, our property, or our lives. That was all we did. The service continued without any interruption. There was no disturbance that night from lightening, thunder, or violent wind.
The next evening, when Pastor Shell greeted the congregation, he held up a cassette tape, and said, "This is a copy of the U.S. Weather Bureau's official radio-report about the storm that went through Alabama last night." By that time, everyone knew of the devastation that had swept across the state and into Georgia. Many areas had been severely damaged. Our area had been completely spared. The pastor continued, "The Weather Bureau explained that the front divided just before it reached Florence, half went to the north, half to the south, missed the city, and came back together on the other side." We had been protected in a doughnut-shaped hole. We had been surrounded by violent winds but untouched by them. While we thanked the Lord we had been spared, we felt deep grief for those who were not.
Many Christians are appalled that others believe they have power to speak to storms, crisis, other disasters, and make a difference. Their attitude is understandable. Speaking to storms is a sign of mental deficiency. But--it is precisely what Jesus taught. He was not wasting words when He rebuked the disciples after the storm on Galilee by saying, "Where is your faith?!" They could have spoken to the wind as He did. (Mark 4:39.) He had already given them "power to tread on serpents and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy." (Luke 10:19.) Please understand this: Jesus would not have stopped the storm if the Father had sent it. The storm was demonic–not godly. Jesus came to "set the captives free"–not to kill them with bad weather and earthly disasters. Christians today need to re-learn that truth.
Hear me carefully on this point: If God has given us responsibility to do something–and the power to do it–He will not do it for us. Our complaint, "But my church does not believe in that power" only brings more resistance from Him. If you gave your child a large amount of money and the next day he comes begging for help to buy food you would be appalled! You would say "Use the money I gave you!" So it is with God. Many of our personal problems remain unresolved by prayer because we are asking God to do things for which He has empowered us. We have to adjust to His method; He will not adjust to our’s. Are you speaking to the storms in your life? If not, you had better start! Christian maturity is best seen in Christian obedience. Matthew 21:21. The old saying applies here: "If you can’t take the heat–get out of the kitchen."
The reason for our disobedience is this: We are more afraid of being embarrassed by failure than we are of being protected by truth. We are afraid to put faith to the test. This fear rises from pride. Someone says, "What if I speak to the storm and fail?" You probably will. The early disciples failed. None of us enter the empowered life without effort. While we have authority as solitary beings, it is also true that the church has greater dominion in its corporate-unity. The devil knows this and protects himself by keeping the church divided and riddled with unbelief.
When Jesus conferred power upon the disciples, He called them "together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases." (Luke 9:1.) He did not bestow this power individually; He called them together. The next scene we have however, is the disciples' failure. They were unable to cast a demon out of a child. The same chapter of Luke identifies five reasons why they failed. These are the same factors we encounter today. Our failure is identical to the early disciples. Hear them carefully:
1. Lack of Faith: "Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here." Matthew 17:17.
2. Fear Of Showing Their Ignorance: "But while everyone marveled at all the things which Jesus did, He said to His disciples, Let these words sink down into your ears, for the Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men. But they did not understand this saying, and it was hidden from them so that they did not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask Him about this saying." Luke 9:43,44:
3. Pride: "Then a dispute arose among them as to which of them would be greatest. And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a little child and set him by Him, and said to them, Whoever receives this little child in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me. For he who is least among you all will be great." Luke 9:46.
4. Sectarianism: "Now John answered and said, Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow with us. But Jesus said to him, Do not forbid him, for he who is not against us is on our side." Luke 9:49.
5. Unforgiveness And Desire For Revenge: "Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, and sent messengers before His face. And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him. But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem. And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did? But He turned and rebuked them, and said, You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. The Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives but to save them. And they went to another village." Luke 9:51.
Until these same issues are resolved in us, we will continue in our failure. The greatest hazard pastors face is not opposition from others. It is opposition within themselves: Unbelief, pride, carnal ambition, sectarianism, and religious performance, rob them of power. These are the spiritual assassins against whom we battle. If we want to speak to a mountain and spiritually move it, cast out a demon, heal the sick, we need to examine ourselves with the list of these five failures. Then, we must obey God and watch the Holy Spirit’s power fall. He is eager for us to experience a genuine New Testament ministry. That includes speaking to storms.
Soon after my baptism-in-the-Spirit in 1977 and my return to Florida, one of my former church members called me from Atlanta. This woman had been a severe alcoholic for more than eighteen years. In ten short minutes of ministry she was totally delivered and never drank again. The demon of addiction was cast out and she was free. "Deliverance" became an identifying-mark of my new ministry. Everywhere I went–South America, Central Asia, England, Africa--even without trying–people were set free and found themselves blasted by the power of God. It is not us; it is the Holy Spirit.
These people frequently display the same pattern of Mark 9:20, "falling to the ground and wallow foaming." Ugly? Yes. Demons are that way. Others roar. "For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed." Acts 8:7. We see that happen when long-term alcoholics are delivered in that same fashion. Unfortunately, we also fulfill the following pattern as well:
"Now it happened on the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, that a great multitude met Him.
Suddenly a man from the multitude cried out, saying, Teacher, I implore You, look on my son, for he is my only child. And behold, a spirit seizes him, and he suddenly cries out; it convulses him so that he foams at the mouth; and it departs from him with great difficulty, bruising him. So I implored Your disciples to cast it out, but they could not. Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here. And as he was still coming, the demon threw him down and convulsed him. Then Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the child, and gave him back to his father. And they were all amazed at the majesty of God." (Matthew 17:14-21; Mark 9:14-29)
WHEN THE KINGDOM COMES–POWER COMES WITH IT
When Pontius Pilate--representing Roman authority and the “Kingdoms of this world”--said to Jesus, “Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?" Jesus answered, "You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above.” John 19:10-11. Pilate saw the extent of his own power in an exaggerated way; Jesus saw it for its’ true limitation and failure. Surprisingly, Jesus extended His heavenly power to the disciples when He said, “Behold, I give you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.” Luke 10:19. This offer of supernatural power is one which Jesus has never withdrawn. The modern Church, however, weighted under centuries of doctrinal dispute and despair, can no longer accept Jesus’ words as true. Amazingly, pagan Rome believed in its power and purpose more than the modern church believes in the promises of God. The New Testament explains the Church’s “Kingdom authority”:
“The God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly.” Romans 16:20.
“And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power ... For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power.” 1 Corinthians 2:4, 4:20.
“For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit ...” 1 Thessalonians 1:5.
“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” Ephesians 6:11.
The ancient Jewish Wars were neither theoretical nor philosophical; they were literal, bloody confrontations between avowed enemies. By contrast, the invisible-warfare to which New Testament believers are called is wholly spiritual. The Apostle Paul revealed our dependence on Old Testament truth when he said, "For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope." Romans 15:4.
Identical to the Church’s Five-Fold Ministry, Israel’s spiritual structure rested on a Five-Fold priestly foundation: Aaron and his 4 sons. Exodus 28:1. Leviticus. 8. Beginning with Abraham, the following Scriptures illustrate Israel’s five-fold opposition of which I speak:
1. Abraham fought 5 Kings in the Valley of Siddim. Genesis 14:19.
2. Moses' warred with the 5 Kings of Midian. Numbers 31:8.
3. Israel battled the 5 Kings of the Amalakites. Exodus 17:9.
4. Joshua killed the 5 Kings of the Amorites. Joshua 10:16-26.
5. Israel was vexed by the 5 Lords of the Philistines. Joshua 13:3.
6. Israel was constantly attacked by the 5 capital cities of Philistia: I Samuel 6.
7. David chose 5 stones for his battle with Goliath and his 4 brothers. I Samuel 17:40.
8. Prophetically: Joseph had 5 of his brothers stand before Pharaoh, King of Egypt. Genesis 47:2.
Jesus forever settled the question regarding the Seat of Power with His declaration to the early Church that "All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations ... teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you." Matthew 28:19,20. The sincere Bible student gladly acknowledges that Jesus not only occupies the Throne of Kingdom Authority but also intended all nations to be taught "all things" which He had given the first disciples. Doctrinally speaking, there is no such thing as an Apostolic Church and a post-Apostolic Church with different Scripture, rules, enemy, and power. The Holy Spirit has never been withdrawn. No scripture teaches that. Regardless of the age or nation there is simply the “Church,” the “gospel,” and the “power.”
My recommendation is that you carefully check yourself for obstructions that prevent your experiencing the power of God. When you discover them, repent, and go forward expecting the glory and power of the Kingdom to be upon you. It is God’s will that you walk in the fullness of everything He has provided. Do it!