The Big Lie About Power
If we get the Big Idea of Power Season, it protects us from the Big Lie, which is,
"Religion is about trying to become a better person and make a better world. All religions are the same in this sense. Everybody has good intentions and is trying to do the best they can.”
This lie has some truth to it. People who take God seriously should be better than people who don’t. It is a reasonable expectation. However, if religion is about how hard we try to be better people, we are stuck with three nasty tendencies:
We get arrogant about whatever we manage to get right;
We get judgmental and condescending toward those who don’t do as well as we did;
We go on a permanent guilt trip, knowing we always fall a little short of our own goal to be “better.”
If that is what “religion” does to people, isn’t it better not to be “religious”? Or at least if you are going to be religious, don’t take your religion too seriously. The more involved you get, the more arrogant, judgmental, and guilty you get, and who needs that? So billions of people either do not practice a religion or they practice one very mildly.
All that is perfectly sensible if the Big Lie is the truth. But what if the Big Lie is a big lie?
What if the truth is that religion is about empowerment from Jesus through his Spirit? That kind of power would prevent us from ever getting arrogant, judgmental, or guilty, because the focus is not on how hard we tried or how well we succeeded. The focus is on Jesus’s intentions, his strategy, and his power. All we “try to do” is to let the power of Jesus do whatever he wants it to do to us, in us, and through us.
That is why life in the power of Jesus is more like discovery than conquest. We never know what we will find out or how the power will work this time. We just keep our eyes open and stay available for any role Jesus wants us to play in his campaign.
Every time he assigns us a role, he gives us all the power needed to do it. He never gives us an assignment and tells us, “Go do the best you can.” As we carry out our assignments, we discover our “new self,” our empowered self. We learn by experience to see ourselves in Christ.
How you can tell if you are falling for the Big Lie
Very simple. If you don't keep throwing your life open for the power of Jesus to go to work in you, you are under the influence of the Big Lie. You think you already have what it takes to be a decent person, perhaps with just a little bit of Jesus thrown into your life along with lots of other things.
You are holding on to the power to run your own life, trusting yourself to do the best you can to look out for your own interests. You try to acquire and hold enough power to have a reasonably fulfilled life.
This is an absolutely standard way for humans to go through life. If you fall for the Big Lie, you will have lots of company, but you will miss out on the power you really want, the power to live a fulfilling life and contribute to a better world.
That power was strategically sent from heaven to earth at a particular time and place for a specific purpose within God's strategy for a better world--Jerusalem, Pentecost Day, about 33 AD. That was not just one more instance or option for getting spiritual power. It was part of the strategy to unite the world around the one person God appointed, the Messiah, Jesus.
On Pentecost Day God created a global multi-ethnic family of God through a core group of 120 people. The Holy Spirit arrived with the sound of a roaring wind and put words in people's mouths, enabling them to praise God in foreign languages they had never learned.
Other religions and philosophies don't have a Pentecost Day when the power of God showed up to fulfill an ancient promise in an instant, and then to keep fulfilling it as years go by. If we find our spiritual power here, there, and everywhere, we do not take Jesus seriously and we do not really unite.
God's strategy is designed to unite humanity not by fine talk about glorious ideals but by functional spiritual presence and power, the person Jesus mysteriously living in us by his Holy Spirit. We are literally "living under the influence", intoxicated by the Spirit who was "poured out" on the followers of Jesus on Pentecost Day.
The Holy Spirit is the prime connection between humans and the power of Jesus. The Spirit rocks our world with spiritual power. As we quit relying on our own power to be mostly good, we discover what God's power for good is. We participate in his campaign for a better world, a transformed world!