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The summer of 2021 captured the world’s attention as many looked toward Tokyo to watch the Olympics. These competitions are not only a time of national pride but also a reward for years of hard work put in before the cameras are turned on. Stories of unbelievable odds have been documented over the years by individuals who overcame seemingly impossible odds to win gold.
Yet, as amazing as these stories and countless others like them are, nothing rivals the reality of the life of converted Christians. In their previous unregenerated state, they were blind in their minds (Matt. 15:14), deaf in their hearing (John 8:47), foolish in their hearts (Rom. 1:21), rebellious in their desires (v. 32), dead in their sins (Eph. 2:1), and satanic in their spiritual lineage (John 8:44). Yet, later as Christians, they are declared righteous (Phil. 3:9), given a new nature (Eph. 4:24), declared a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17), loved by God (John 14:21), set free (Gal. 5:13), and named as children of God (John 1:12) and coheirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17). How is this possible? How can a person go from death to life, from Satan-serving to Savior-worshiping? These are not just difficult odds. They are impossible. Yet the words of Jesus ring true: “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26).
It is this very understanding that Paul is talking about in 1 Corinthians 4:20: “For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.” Paul is having to address the lies that have come in after he left the Corinthians, specifically about true ministry versus false ministry. Big talkers had come into town and led the people of the newly formed Corinthian church astray. But instead of telling people to put their money where their mouth is, he calls for a true power audit. Now, mind you, Paul is not commending himself and his own power. Quite the opposite. Paul identifies as a servant (1 Cor. 4:1) and a fool (v. 10). Rather, Paul points his Apostolic finger and directs their attention to where the true power is found: in the gospel. He said to another church that it was “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16).
So, all the “wise” teachers of the first century or the “influencers” of the twenty-first century, spare us your carefully curated images and memorable one-liners that get posted on Twitter but can’t be found in our Bibles. Let’s talk true power. Let’s talk about the power of changed lives. Rebels who became worshipers. Runaways who became children. The dead who were brought back to life. That’s true power. Everything else is just words. Yours, not God’s.