|A dark computer screen is not conducive to bright writing.|
There I was, minding my own business, finishing an article I’d been working on. Suddenly, my computer screen went blank. The light in my office went dark, and the air conditioner stopped running, so I knew there was a problem. Our electricity had been disrupted. Few things make me feel more powerless than when the power is out.
In days of yore, when journalists like me executed our wordsmith tasks on prehistoric machines called manual typewriters, I could have continued working – as long as there was enough light to see what was on the paper. But thanks to the advances of technology, when a desktop computer is disconnected from the power source, work comes to an abrupt halt.
Thankfully, I didn’t lose much of my work. Years ago I had learned a vital lesson: I’d written about two pages of copy but failed to hit the “Save” button when, to my dismay, the power went off without warning, casting my well-crafted words and paragraphs into cyberspace oblivion. What I had written, I can’t recall. Perhaps it was the start of the next Great American Novel. Who knows? But when my computer came back on, the words were long gone and couldn’t be recaptured, having flown to the communications cosmos. Since that day I always try to remember that Jesus saves – and so should I.
We now have notebook/laptop computers, tablets, and even smartphones that can meet our writing needs, but I’m a traditionalist. There’s something about a real-sized keyboard and sitting at a real desk I find not only comforting, but also productive, even inspiring. So I’m sadly and hopelessly dependent on the power company to keep me going. When the power stops working, I do too.
|When the power's on, there's no|
limit to what a computer can do.
But what if I’d just kept typing away, my fingers flying across the keys creating sequences of words and sentences and paragraphs on my wireless keyboard (battery-powered, of course) despite the darkened computer screen? Would it have made sense to continue working with my computer’s hard drive in “park”?
Of course not. But that’s how we approach much of our lives, especially spiritual pursuits. The power’s off, but we press ahead convinced we’re doing something meaningful and good in our own strength.
The apostle Paul referred to this in a letter to his young protégé, Timothy, when he described religious people as, “without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them” (2 Timothy 3:3-5).
As we read this indictment it’s easy to think, “Yeah, I don’t want to be like those people!” But what if “those people” happen to be us? Many of us have learned well how to go through the motions, using the right words and following the expected rituals and practices in church settings, but when people observe us outside that setting, do they see any semblance of the life and power of Jesus Christ manifested in our lives?
That, I’m convinced, is the distinctive between religion – mankind’s best effort to reach God (including in some cases, institutional Christianity) – and a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ. Repeatedly He told His followers about the futility of attempting to do God-stuff in what the Bible calls “the flesh.”
He said things like, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Then Jesus added, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you” (John 15:7). Essentially He’s saying He is the power source – but too often we “unplug” and try doing things for Him rather than letting Him do His work through us.
One of Jesus’ parting statements to His followers was, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you” (Acts 1:8). Christ left the earth physically, but in His stead sent His Spirit, the power source for us to live the life God calls us to live.
This is what Paul meant when he wrote to believers in Rome: “For when we were controlled by the sinful nature (the flesh), the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work…. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code” (Romans 7:5-6).
As I mentor men, I emphasize this truth – something I learned years ago but still remind myself every day. When we try to do good things in the flesh, by our own power, we often encounter failure. Much like pounding on a computer keyboard when the electrical power is off. We can try hard, giving it maximum effort, but things won’t turn out the way we’d like.
But when we appropriate the power of Christ, desiring to do what He wants in His way and through His strength, the outcome not only will be better but also will require a lot less effort.
So if you’ve been diligently endeavoring to do good, moral, God-honoring things, but find yourself worn out, even discouraged, there’s probably a good reason. Perhaps you’re not drawing from the Source of power.