Author: Sherwood Eliot Wirt
Publishers:Coverdale House Publishers Ltd, London.
The book, Jesus Power, written by Dr Sherwood Eliot Wirt, a well known Christian author and former editor of Decision Magazine, deals with the issue of spiritual power. In the forward to the book, Dr Billy Graham says that he had been thrilled to visit churches that ``glowed with a warmth that he found hard to explain. The pulpits rang with the sound of the Gospel, and pews were filled with worshippers. He had also seen churches in which the light had faded and the warmth had died away. The congregations seemed to be living on a heritage of the past, while the world was passing them by.
According to him, it is the presence and power of the Holy Spirit of God that makes the difference. Dr Wirt, who holds a doctorate degree from Edinburgh University and ministers at the United Presbyterian Church, in his book makes an examination of supernatural power both in the Bible and in contemporary Christian living. He finds that the so-called Christian people in places of influence have forgotten completely about the Holy Spirit. Such spiritual amnesia cuts off the church power supply and forces abandonment of the evangelistic task.
Introducing the subject, the author says: ``The great question which in all ages has disturbed mankind, and brought on them the greatest part of those mischiefs which have ruined cities, depopulated countries, and disordered the peace of the world, has been not whether there be power in the world, nor whence it came, but who should have it.
It is pride and vanity that cause men to lunge out on this mad chariot race for personal
power. Augustine in particular insisted that pride is the beginning of all sin. "And what is pride," he asks, "but a perverse appetite for the high places." The serpent tempted Eve in Genesis by promising knowledge and power: "Your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.
The knowledge that Adam sought was the key to power. Power is not evil in itself. But man wants to rule, to be in charge. Pride requires power; pride feeds on power; therefore pride sets out to take power. This obsession with power leads to injustices. Man's pride and will to power disturb the harmony of creation. Reinhold Niebuhr says that the religious dimension of sin is man's rebellion against God, his effort to usurp the place of God. The moral and social dimension of sin is injustice.
Man's power struggle is a game in which all are engaged. Sometimes man's bid for power is bold and naked; sometimes it is concealed in an altruistic and harmless package. "What can be more pitiable than a man who fasts, prays, and shows mercy with an eye not only to the glory that comes from above but to the glory that comes from men.
The author's description of this pursuit of power is indeed gripping. ``The perennial human scramble to be a Patton, a Caesar, a Catherine the Great is easily misunderstood. It is true competition brings out the best. But invariably and inevitably, the human struggle is mixed with sin.
As against this pattern, the Kingdom of God lays a different rule. Jesus told his followers: ``Those who rule over the nations wield lordship over them, and the big names exercise authority over them; but it shall not be so among you.((Mark 1); 42,43) He explains that his divine plan is to enable people to live by learning to love each other. Jesus promises a power that is different from that of the world.
A man's heart must be humbled and broken before he become eligible for Jesus power; before he can ascend the Calvary road. He must lay down his private scepter and become an empty vessel .To go to the cross is to become a candidate for resurrection power.
The author considers the Holy Spirit to be the key to the Church's life because he is the key to power. The Holy Spirit is the active, administrative agent of the glorified Son. His mission is to glorify Christ.
Having described the role of the Spirit, he turns to the power failure in the church, "having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof." The churches are becoming empty in the West.
The Bible is described as the word of God. They possess a supernatural character because they are inspired by God. When the Spirit of Power has enlightened the mind of the reader, the Word of Power becomes real. Jesus is the key to love and he is the key to power.
Sherwood Wirt also quotes prophet Joel: ``I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions..
The Christian with Jesus power can not lose. He may look like a loser, he may appear to act like a loser, but in God's book, he is a winner, undefeated and untied. Jesus is always ready to release his power into men, and thousands of Christians can testify that a supernatural enabling and strengthening was given them at conversion.
How to test whether you have this power in you? The author wants us to use the litmus test, the one devised by George Whitefield in the eighteenth century:
``Has God wrought in you not only a deep sense of the outward acts of sin, but a humbling sense of the inward corruptions of your heart? Has He led you beyond the streams, by the powerful operations of his Spirit, to the fountainhead? Has God wrought in you a spirit of zeal and love? Has he wrought in you a love for his name, a zeal for his cause? Has he wrought in your heart a deadness to the world so that you can live above it from morning till night? Has he wrought in you a love for his people—not people of your persuasion only ; has he wrought in you a love for your enemies? What do you say?
The book gives a correct understanding of power, the kind of power the earth provides you with and the kind of power from above with which you can live a victorious Christian life here. The human power of this world is quite tantalizing, but its effects are not all pleasant; it destroys lives and brings misery. We can avoid much of the pitfalls of imitating the rat race, if we grasp the philosophy of the Man who came into our midst to ``serve and not to be served.
The author deserves praise for the clarity he brings into the question of power. Every Christian worth his salt needs to understand the distinction between earthly power and the Christian Way, the only attractive way to live.
Author: Sherwood Eliot Wirt