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Prescription For Personal Power

“What are you drawing?” a mother asked her little boy as he sat intently working on his paper and crayons.

“A picture of God,” he answered.

“But, Son, how can you draw a picture of God? Nobody knows what He looks like.”

“They will,” the little fellow said, “when I get finished!”

It's true, isn't it? We splash our colors and spread our crayons on the canvas of life. And almost imperceptibly, a picture of God emerges when we get finished - not only a portrait of us, but also a picture of God. The question is: What is His picture going to look like when we get finished?

Let's face it. There are moments when we feel all but finished. Worn down and washed up, how many times have we felt like throwing in the towel along with our paper and crayons? “If life has to keep ending up like this, you can count me out! I'm finished!”

Take our day in, day out struggle with sin. How many times has it nearly finished us off? We win a few, lose a few, win a few, lose a few. The crayon-scrawled picture of our hearts after days, weeks, months, and even years of that kind of living isn't a portrait we're proud to hang anywhere, especially since it's always our hearts that seem to get hung in the struggle.

But does that struggle have to be the picture we live with? Must we resign ourselves to a perennial win-sin-win-sin syndrome that colors our pictures with the gloom of defeat rather than with the glow of victory? Or is there a picture of God that could set us free?

Let's contemplate just such a portrait, an incredible picture of God that emerges from a rather obscure sentence Jesus once spoke. You have probably hurried over these words of His before, not realizing that they offer the very key that can open a brand-new door to divine power and daily victory.

It happened one dusty day in Palestine. A young Teacher and Healer from Galilee had been crisscrossing the hillsides and villages of the land, leaving His sandal prints beside tired worn hearts. The gloom of defeat had seemed to erase the last crayon-colored horizon of hope from people's lives. Gone were the bright greens, the flaming reds, the royal blues. Now the national colors seemed lost in the gray shadow of failure and defeat. A foreign power held them captive. Dreams of victory were continually doused by the crush of defeat. There seemed to be no way out; they were finished.

But not Jesus. Wherever He went, the compassionate touch of His hand and the quiet words from His heart spread fresh colors - a new picture of God. To young and aged alike He held out a promise: If they would embrace this picture of God, it would be the beginning of a new, color-splashed way of living He called “the abundant life.”

This particular day a delegation of religious leaders confronted the young teacher with a burning question: “When will the kingdom of God come?” They were tired of waiting, tired of hoping, tired of praying, tired of losing more than winning. Their hungry eyes were on the horizon of the future: “Someday God is going to do something powerful and spectacular, and we'd like to know when.”

Jesus' reply must have caught them by surprise. But what He said has left for us all - them and us - an unforgettable portrait of God. He said, “The kingdom of God does not come visibly, nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is within you.”

Can you imagine that? “The kingdom of God is within you.” In your mind and your body there is the kingdom of God. Oh, it's true that God reigns from His eternal throne in a literal heaven just as the Bible teaches. Jesus Himself promised to return to this planet one day to take His friends and followers to that celestial kingdom. But could it be that, like the Pharisees who came to Jesus, we have become so preoccupied with being delivered from this life that we have missed the divine offer of deliverance in this life? Can we find in this portrait of God that Jesus drew the golden key to unlock the door to divine power and daily victory?

Somehow kingdom and power seem to belong together. I grew up in Japan, a land of legendary kingdoms and warlords. I remember as a boy gazing in awe at the gray rocky battlements and mossy stone walls that still surround ancient pagoda-like fortresses. It doesn't take much for a child's imagination to run rampant at a moment like that. Suddenly it was as if those towering fortresses sprang to life. I could almost see the flashing steel of samurai swords and hear their clashing echoes across the valley. I could almost see the colors swathed warlords as they charged on glistening black steeds in defense of their kingdom. Whether it's an aged castle in Japan or an ancient fortress in Europe, when we think of kingdom, it isn't difficult to sense the force of power.

So when Jesus describes the kingdom of God as being within us, He must be offering us something much more than just a colorful figure of speech. Talk is cheap in any language. But “the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.” When Jesus declares that the kingdom of God is within us, He is describing a picture of incredible, infinite power!

Here is a portrait of the God of all power who chooses to establish His kingdom within us. Haven't we ended the Lord's Prayer with the affirmation, “Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever”? And isn't power exactly what our hearts desperately need? When you think of all the shackled emotions and the habits that hold us captive, when you remember the vice like grip that the win-sin syndrome holds on our hearts, nothing less than infinite power will do!

But the critical question our hearts desperately need to have answered is: How can I experience that kind of infinite power in my life? How can I be set free from this perennial win-some lose-some cycle that keeps falling short of victory?

First of all, we must understand and utilize an eternal law that operates in all human life. Solomon phrased it this way: As a man “thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Paul expressed the same law in different words, “We all… beholding … are changed.” Both writers are describing the same law of life: You are what you think; what you behold you become.

William Parker, a Christian psychologist, powerfully illustrates this eternal law in his book Prayer Can Change Your Life. He tells of an experiment in which a young male under hypnosis was given a piece of chalk and instructed to “smoke” it. (While warning against the use of hypnosis, Parker in this case uses it as an illustration.) Believing he was smoking a cigarette, the young man puffed on the chalk. A few moments later the researcher, feigning shock and warning, exclaimed, “Look out! It's burning your fingers.” The subject immediately dropped the chalk and began to complain that his finger hurt. The researcher then suggested to the man that he had burned his finger. Amazingly, a blister formed where the young man had been holding the chalk. He had had no blister before. The subject's mind sent a signal to his body, and the body became what the mind suggested. As a person thinks, so he is; by beholding, we become changed. The law has always proven true.

In fact, current research at the National Institute of Health is suggesting that “ailing people can get well faster by thinking positively.” Candace Pert, a neuroscientist at the Institute says, “The more I look, the more I'm convinced that emotions are running the show.”

But should we be surprised? The Bible long ago declared that what we think, we are; for we become what we behold. If that is proving true for healing in the physical realm, will it not prove true for healing in the spiritual realm?

Could it be that here is a critically significant key to victorious Christian living? When we long and pray for victory over our perennial syndrome of failure, what, in fact, is the focus of our thoughts? Are we not concentrating on our sins? Maybe it's an evil temper, perhaps it's impurity, or it may be pride or dishonesty. But whatever your besetting sin, have you been making it the focus of your thoughts? “0 Lord, you know I have this awful sin in my life. Why just this afternoon I fell again. And yesterday, You remember, I had the same problem. I know it's going to be there tomorrow when I awaken. So, Lord, take this sin away.” How often have we prayed such prayers!

Certainly we can ask God to deliver us from our besetting sins. After all, the Lord's Prayer itself petitions God, “Deliver us from evil.” However, we must remember that what we think about, we are changed into; what we behold, we become. It's an unvarying law that cannot be broken. And so, all these years as we've been praying for victory over that defeating sin, it has entrenched itself over more deeply into both our subconscious and our conscious living and thinking. Is it any wonder? We've been staring our sin squarely in the face so long that we have become what we have been beholding!

But the same law that has been our bane can become our boon! Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is within you.” And Paul has told us “that the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.” So doesn't it follow that if we will focus our thinking and our praying - not on our sin - but on the God who has placed His kingdom of infinite power within us, we will experience the very power that we seek?

But just contemplating the words God and power can hardly be enough. Jesus once declared, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” So why don't we go to that place where He died to set us free? Climb a rock pile called Golgotha and gaze on that wooden cross jammed into the stony summit of execution. That Friday 2,000 years ago has much to do with this offer of freedom today. So go ahead and look long and hard at that crimson-stained Roman spike.

As Christians we rejoice at the cross, for there we see the bloody, outstretched arms of God, nailed wide open in an eternal embrace, assuring us of pardon for even our darkest sins. But there is more to the death of Jesus! Not only does His cross proclaim pardon, it also promises power! The cross provides forgiveness for sinning, but it also becomes a force for living.

That's why Paul could exclaim, “We preach Christ crucified … the power of God.” That's why Peter could unequivocally declare, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” The power of God is in the cross of Christ!

So how can your heart tap into that eternal power? What if you went to that place where you can behold the supreme demonstration of God's power of love? What would happen if every single morning you spent a quiet moment focusing on Calvary and your victorious, crucified, risen Lord? What if instead of focusing on your evil temper, you focused on Jesus' quiet and calm spirit there on the cross? What if your heart heard Him praying there under such intense and cruel provocation, “Father, forgive them”? Doesn't the eternal law of life say that you will become what you think? Wouldn't the power of God's kingdom within as revealed there at the cross be able to transform you into what you have been beholding? Isn’t the God of Calvary able to change you into His own image?

We have known that law of change all our lives. But could it be that we have been ignoring the very principle that God longs to use to set us free from our sin-broken, self-defeating way of thinking and living? If it is an unvarying law that we become what we behold, then why not focus our minds on a picture of divine power, a picture that reveals the full potential the human life can reach when it is joined in partnership with the powerful presence of God? Could there be a more positive portrait of God than the picture we see every time we contemplate the life of Jesus?

So here's a prescription for gaining transforming power in your life. As you awaken each morning, set aside 15 to 30 minutes of quiet time when you can be alone with God. Choose one of the Gospels to focus your thinking on the life of Christ. Since each Gospel describes Jesus' pilgrimage to the cross, you will discover that wherever you turn in the Gospels you will sense the powerful shadow of Calvary. But you must not hurry through your reading. Instead, select a single incident from Jesus' life to be your focus for those contemplative moments.

As you think of His life - visualize it - you will discover the very character qualities that can defeat the sins over which you seek victory. Focus your heart on those qualities of Jesus' life. For example, if you are seeking victory over impurity and lust, then watch Jesus carefully to capture those moments in which His character shines forth in all its transparent purity. It may be that moment when He stoops beside the prostitute who has been thrown at His feet. Her scarlet-stained life is evident just by looking at her. But don't focus on your sin that you see reflected in her. Instead gaze into Jesus' face. See the purity that glows in His eyes. Hear His strong words as He lifts her face to meet His: “Neither do I condemn you… Go now and leave your life of sin.” But don't hurry away. If you wish to be changed, you need time to behold. Linger in that quiet place.

Since the kingdom of God is within you, you know that He is there with you, in you, at that moment. Hold the image of His purity in your mind. Thank Him for not condemning you either and for offering you His infinite power to become pure like Him. Before you leave your quiet place, picture the cross of Jesus lifted up your mind's eye. Remember, it is not only a place of abundant pardon, but it is also a promise of abundant power! Take a moment to thank God for the power you will experience through the day ahead, power to live Jesus' life of purity in your heart.

And then, as the day wears on, bring back that picture of God revealed in Jesus. Let your mind visualize again what you contemplated in the morning. Temptations will still be pounding at the gates of your heart, but you can whisper, “The kingdom of God is within me, and it is not a matter of talk but of power. Thank You, Lord, for the power I am experiencing now.” Remember, you are not to focus on your sins but rather on the infinite King within who “is able to keep you from •falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy.”

Once again at night before you fall asleep, let your last prayer of the day be one of thanksgiving to God for the power He is already manifesting in your life.

“The kingdom of God is within you.” It is neither magic nor mystery. But it is a matter of power, the very power we need to live on the cutting edge of victory. The cross of our Lord is eternal proof that this divine power is available to every heart that beholds Him there. “Behold, the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” That's good news, isn't it? He died to take away our sins - our pattern of repeated failure. No wonder our hearts are daily summoned to behold Him at the cross. For by beholding, we are changed. It's a fact; it's power.

And isn't it a fact that your life is ready for that power now?

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