The Holy Spirit is Not the Electric Company

“I pray that the perception of your mind may be enlightened so you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the glorious riches of His inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power to us who believe, according to the working of His vast strength” (Ephesians 1:18-19).

This is part of Paul’s opening prayer for the church at Ephesus. He wanted these Christians to have their minds expanded and their eyes opened to their hope, their identity, and to power. Big power. Immeasurable power. For the Christian.

But here is where we run into an issue, because when we look around at ourselves, as Christians, it seems that many of us don’t operate in a powerful way. I’ve heard before an illustration used to try and explain this phenomenon, and it involves the electric company and a household appliance. It does like this:

You go into your home right now and you will find electrical outlets in every room. The house itself doesn’t provide the power; that’s from an external source. The electric company is responsible for generating and providing all that electricity; the outlets are merely the access points. It is our job, as the dwellers in the home, to access the power that has been made available to us.

I understand the point of the illustration. It’s meant to communicate that all the power of the universe is available to us as Christians; indeed, it’s the same power that raised Christ from the dead. But just because that power is available doesn’t mean that it’s appropriated; just because the power is accessible doesn’t mean that it’s accessed. So, Christian, don’t make the mistake of thinking you can gin up some power on your own. Instead, get plugged into the outlet so you can get power from the source.

It’s a fine point. But here’s where the illustration breaks down. The electric company is a neutral power provider. That company has no vested interest in what you plug into the outlet, or what you use that power for. They don’t care if it’s a refrigerator, a television, a Food Ninja, or a whatever. They only provide the power.

God is not some kind of ambiguous, neutral power provider. He does not give the Christian autonomy to decide how much power to use and self-determine what it’s used for. Instead, God is on the same mission He’s been on from the beginning – that is, a mission of rescue and redemption of people from every tribe, tongue, nation, and people. And this is what His power is for. It’s for the completing of His mission in and through us.

Be careful, then, Christian. Do not think of the power of God as simply available for your use to your own ends. Rather, understand the greatness of this power, and love the mission for which it has been given. Trust in the power of God and surrender to the mission of God.

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