God’s reign, or kingdom, operated in power throughout the Bible. Jesus’ first coming brought the kingdom in an immediate, personal encounter. At Pentecost the Holy Spirit began to widely manifest God’s presence and power among his people. At Jesus’ second coming, the Kingdom and God’s purposes will be completed.
Right now we live between two points in salvation history, the two comings. We are in what theologian George Ladd called “the presence of the future.” God’s kingdom is “already” (inaugurated) but “not yet” (consummated). In this in-between time God has promised the church his continuing presence, spiritual gifts, and the manifestation of his power.
The term used most commonly throughout Scripture for the manifestations miraculous is “signs and wonders”—signs of his work among us and wonders of his supernatural power. History testifies that in some times and places God’s people have done better at operating in the supernatural than at others.
To function well in kingdom terms, we seek and follow the Holy Spirit’s leading rather than function on our own. We operate less by programs and more by God’s leading. We let go of our own control of the church, though we still need organization. We do ministry based on our spiritual gifts rather than by committee and assignment, because in a church body each person’s gifts complement the others’. We take risks and actually hold God to his Word. It’s called “faith,” and is often spelled R-I-S-K.
The Scriptures and the Power of God
It was trick-question day in Jerusalem, and Jesus fended off the Pharisees, nailing them with, “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” Then the Sadducees took a shot at him with the conundrum of a woman married to seven successive guys—whose wife would she be at the resurrection? Jesus replied in Matthew 22:29 with a universal truth that shut them down and astonished the crowd: “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.”
He applied that statement to the issue they raised. And it remains for us to apply the same statement to countless specific issues in our own lives.
We will fall into error when we don’t know or learn what the Bible says—or when we ignore or forget what the Bible says—or when we don’t take the Bible seriously. We will fall into error when we don’t believe the power of God—or when we forget answered prayer in the past and don’t expect answers now—or when we hesitate because God didn’t answer our prayer the way we hoped. Knowing and believing God’s Word and power are the basic foundation for doing things his way.
A Simple Path
Without going through a lot of training in all this, what’s a person to do? Let’s keep it simple with an approach that has served well for people around the world: faith and humility. Prioritize those two in tandem, and watch God work in your life and touch others.
We can have great faith and be naïvely triumphal—then beat others over the head with spiritual pride and insensitivity. We can have faith without love, and be as Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13:1–2, “a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal,” which makes us “nothing.” We can have faith in faith until it overshadows our faith in God. On the other hand, our faith can get so tangled up with doubt that it gets lost in rationalizations about why we shouldn’t really believe all that stuff in the Bible. But even if our minds doubt, our hearts can still believe (see Mark 11:23). Jesus said throughout the gospels that he acted according to our faith. Not our need or our crying, but our expectation that he will do what he said he would do.
We can have great humility and be so self-deprecating that we never step out and act on God’s behalf. Godly humility is the kind Moses had, where in Numbers 12:3 he is described as “more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.” That may sound crazy when said of a national leader, but his godly humility consisted of seeking and trusting God and not taking situations into his own hands, as well as not getting puffed up by what God did through him. Godly humility submits and says, “Yes, Lord.”
The truest foundation for faith and humility is love—the culminating virtue of life, as expressed throughout Scripture. Love motivates us to act and keeps our motivation pure.
Isaiah’s prophecy noted the high place of God’s esteem for those who join humility with faith in his word: “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word” (66:2).
This approach is simple. But it’s not easy. Truly following God in the footsteps of Jesus is never easy. But it’s the most fulfilling and eternal path a person can follow.
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