What does it mean for a Christian to be “empowered?”
The first thing a person must do is receive Jesus. John 1:12 says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right (power) to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:
Jesus is the Savior of the world, but He is not our Savior until we receive Him. Jesus has all power, but none of that power is available to us until we receive Him into our hearts. When we receive Him into our hearts, He gives us power to become one of His children. When I hear people say, “We are all God’s children,” that is not so until a person receives Jesus. And when we receive Jesus, we release Him to be all God intended Him to be in our lives.
So, the next question is: How do we receive? We submit our wills when we receive. It’s like when someone gives you a gift and you gladly receive it, only this gift is from God and we only submit our will to Him, but some reject that perfect gift.
God has basically said, “I want to give you a perfect gift, and His name is Jesus.” But some resist at first by saying, “No, I’m doing fine,” and continue to live their lives on their own. However, some get to a place in their lives where they realize it’s too hard and nothing seems to be going right and say, “Yes, I will accept this gift.” That is submitting in order to receive.
Some are better at giving than receiving. Why is that? Because if you are the one giving, you’re still in control. When the person is the one giving, they choose what they are going to give, when they are going to give it, how they are going to give, and where and to whom they are going to give it to. But when we receive, we’re not in control any more of any of that.
After we have received Jesus we are given the Holy Spirit. This is another gift from God. Look at Acts 1:8 which says, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Boldness to witness comes from receiving the power of the Holy Spirit. We submit to Jesus and receive, but we also have to submit to the Holy Spirit.
Acts 8:14 – Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, (Verse 15) who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. (Verse 16) For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
(They had heard the gospel, been saved, and water baptized.) (Verse 17) then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
Here is another example of people having received Jesus but not yet the Holy Spirit. Acts 19:1 – And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples (Verse 2) he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.”
This statement is even true today in some churches. People have no idea who the Holy Spirit is. He has not been taught, maybe because of the “excesses” in some gatherings. Satan is the one that doesn’t want people to know about receiving the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit is the One that will empower the believer. If these disciples in Scripture needed to receive the Holy Spirit, then we do too.
In order to move in any of the gifts of the Spirit, a person has to submit to the Holy Spirit. Then the gifts will flow as your spirit gives will. These gifts are not going to just pop out when you are unaware, as in the gift of speaking in tongues and you don’t have control over your tongue, because we do.
Another thing we have to do to be empowered is to receive “spiritual authority.” There is no power but what comes from God. A person doesn’t have influence or authority unless they come under authority.
Acts 13:2 – As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul (Paul) for the work to which I have called them.” (Paul had been a member in the church in Antioch for 13 years.) (Verse 3) Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away. (Verse 4) So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus.
The leaders of this church, after fasting and praying, the Holy Spirit speaking to them, it was the Holy Spirit that “sent them out.” If you haven’t been sent out by the leaders of the church which are n authority over you , then you haven’t been sent out by the Holy Spirit. This is very clear. We don’t just start new projects on our own. We have to come under spiritual authority.
Romans 13:1 says, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authority that exist are appointed by God. (Verse 2) Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.
This is why a person does not just start a prayer meeting in their home without being sent, or getting permission from the leaders of the church. The authority is there to protect. When a person comes out from under that authority, they could hurt someone with error in teachings.
The leadership of the church is there to protect and serve and God is the One who set it up. When someone steps outside of that authority, that’s when “church discipline” comes in.
This next verse shows what can happen when people try to take authority who are not under any authority to do so. Acts 19:13 – Then some itinerant Jewish exorcist took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “We adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.” (Verse 14) Also there were seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, who did so. (Verse 15) And the evil spirit answered and said, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are you?” (Verse 16) Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of the house naked and wounded.
That is comical to imagine. No one had sent these men out. They had just decided on their own to go out and cast out devils. I have a hard time believing that if a person won’t submit to the Holy Spirit or church authority, that they really never submitted to Christ. Salvation is about submission. If someone won’t submit to spiritual authority, they will never have the power to be an influential witness.
When a Christian is committed and they submit their will, they will be able to rebuke the devil in any area of their life and live that abundant life that Christ died for us to have.