But when Peter saw this, he replied to the people, "Men of Israel, why are you amazed at this, or why do you gaze at us, as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk? - Acts 3:12 NASB
There is a principal buried in the story of Peter and John healing the lame man, that speaks to much of Christian culture today. It’s one of the great misunderstandings in Christian thought.
…as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk…
Much of the Christian world today misunderstands this principle as applied to one discipline or another. As we speak, I’m trying to allow the Word to renew my mind and transform me in regard to a couple of these fallacies.
The confusion comes from Christians thinking that they can EARN the favor of the Lord by things they do. I’m not talking about obedience. Our obedience to the Lord in all things it the outward demonstration of our Love for Him.
Let me poke at three of these today.
Let’s start with healing. Peter and John make it very clear that the healing of this lame man at Jerusalem’s Gate Beautiful had nothing to do with their own power or piety. They do tell how He was healed:
And on the basis of faith in His name, it is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know; and the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect health in the presence of you all. - Acts 3:16 NASB
Faith in the name of Jesus—faith given by Jesus brought this man gave perfect health.
Huge portions of the body of Christ attribute any healing miracles to the whims and sovereignty of a God who may or may not respond. Others put the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of God’s man of faith and power.
This is not some demonstration of apostolic power. It’s not because these were special holy men. It’s not even because they said just the right words, or followed just the right formula. It was simply the result of faith in the Name of Jesus.
They did not EARN this ability. That’s the thing that is rumbling around in my spirit this morning. How much of our modern church thought revolves around us earning something from God.
We do it with our giving. The New Covenant church was generous, holding everything they had loosely, considering it not their own but the Lord’s, to do with as He saw fit. People like Barnabas would sell property and use the proceeds to help those in need in the household of faith.
Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement), and who owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet. - Acts 4:36-37 NASB
Today, we are taught that the tithe earns us the right to some financial blessing. (I have to confess, it’s really hard to even write these words for me, as I have taught this for decades.) Tithing is an Old Testament principal, and it is sound, and still impacts your interactions with money in a positive way. I’m not saying you should stop tithing. What I am saying is that you can’t earn God’s blessing by giving.
We give out of the abundance of our appreciation for what the Lord has done for us. We give in obedience, when He puts in on our hearts to give. God blesses giving and generosity. Giving generously is a healthy lifestyle for a christian.
But in the Old Covenant the tithe belonged to the Lord. It was His and the rest was yours.
In the New Covenant the tithe still belongs to the Lord, along with everything else. You belong to the Lord, along with all you are and all you have. No longer is any of it yours. So when you give some of it away, you're not giving your stuff away, you're giving the Lord’s stuff away. So who’s the generous one now? Who gets the credit when you give to the poor? Is it your power or piety that brings prosperity?
No—its faith in the name of Jesus—faith given by Jesus—that bring everything you need into your life.
Ok - this one really hurts my feelings. But even the idea that we some how earn the presence of the Lord in our worship services by the choice of songs we sing falls back into this works mentality of the Old Covenant.
Bro. Steve Bremner, missionary to Peru and blogger/podcaster had a conversation with Dr. Stephen Crosby about Dr. Crosby’s book, Praise, Worship and the Presence of God. The book debunks the idea that we can draw or drive off the presence of the Holy Spirit by the quantity or quality of our worship.
Again I hear Peter and John saying—do you think it is our power or piety that made this happen?
Oh, worship can set a mood; Worship can create an endorphin rush and generate feelings. But are feelings and sensations that come as a result of effective use of music the same thing as the manifest presence of God?
John 14 teaches us that God take us residence in those who love Him.
Jesus answered and said to him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him." - John 14:23 NASB
Our praise and worship are a reaction to His presence in our lives. They’re an overflow of the fullness we have in Him.
I wonder if our lack of seeking Him in the secret place has added to our need for the feelings we get in corporate worship. Remember we’re talking relationship here.
Think about the intimacy shared between man and wife.
If I go with my wife to a public event, I don’t have to conjure a manifestation of her presence while we are in public. And frankly, though we enjoy one another’s company in public, our time together in private far overshadows the intimacy we can achieve in public.
As we abandon the secret place, we find ourselves longing to sense the presence of the Lover of our soul, and seek Him in the crowds. Not unlike the Song of Songs, when the maiden was alone in the locked chamber, she missed His touch, and went seeking Him in the streets.
I’ve gone longer than I intended, but I hope you hear my heart on this. All these things are good and part of the christian walk. The problem comes when we think we can earn God’s healing power, prosperity through tithing, or His presence through worship, is falling back to our pre-Christ ways. It’s a through back to religion where we earn our place with God.
God is a giver, and His gifts are free.
Have I stepped on your toes today?
Can you see areas in your walk with Christ where you are trying to earn His favor by your own power or piety?
Check out Steve's podcast here: Stevebremner.com