Years ago, an older farmer made a rare trip into his closest town to update how he cut down the trees on his property for firewood. The sales assistant showed him the latest range of chainsaws and then asked the bushy-bearded farmer, “How many trees do you cut down now?”
“Ohhh, I usually cut down about eight trees a day with ‘ol Faithful” he said.
“Well Sir, with this chainsaw you’ll be able to cut down at least twice that number!”
The old farmer handed over his hand-written cheque to the clerk and took home his new-fangled chainsaw. But less than a week later he stormed back into the small-engine shop and angrily slammed the chainsaw down on the counter and declared to the stunned sales assistant – “You told this thang would cut me sixteen trees a days!”
“Yes,” said the clerk, “it should have done that easily.”
“Well, the best I could do was just ten a day! I want my money back!”
The sales assistant picked up the chainsaw from the counter and looking at it, muttered, “That’s odd.” Walking around from behind the counter with the chainsaw, he then pulled the zip-cord to start the chainsaw to see if he could hear what the problem was. As the chainsaw’s engine started, the startled farmer exclaimed, “What on earth is that noise?” It appears that even though the farmer owned a chainsaw, he had no idea of how to use it or what its potential actually was!
I think there are many Christians whose Christianity is just like the farmer and his new chainsaw. Even though they now possess something with enormous potential, they actually don’t know how to utilise any of it. Not enough believers know about their spiritual zip-cord which can fire-up their walk with Christ and their effectiveness for Christ.
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
The farmer who walked into the chainsaw shop had only ever used his old axe to make firewood. And just like many people who have only taken the first step in following Christ and not learned to abandon their old way of living for the new life which Christ freely offers, the farmer actually possessed a new, far more effective and powerful tool which he neglected by using it just as he had with his old axe. Wielding a chainsaw like an axe might even look effective, but it is going to wear the wielder out in no time at all. It’s the same with trying to live the Christian life without the power of Christ. It can look effective, but after a while it wears the wielder out. This is why endurance is one of the hallmarks of a genuine believer.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Matthew 11:28 (NET)
But let’s cut the old farmer some slack and give him some credit. After years of wielding an axe he was worn-out. In a similar way, all true believers should be thrilled when a weary pilgrim wanders into church on Sunday in search of the rumoured ‘life-power’ which they’ve heard God gives freely. Their decision to go to church is a great first step in finding the peace, strength, and wisdom for living life. Many people are worn out simply trying to keep up with the pressures of life. We need to invite them, welcome them, receive them into our dining rooms, and show them what living with and for Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit really looks like.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Second Corinthians 5:17
Yet, a person can arrive in church on a Sunday for the first time and see people extolling their spiritual ‘chainsaws’. They can hear the stories of just how difficult life was when all they had was an axe, and how wonderful life has become since they received the free gift of a spiritual ‘chainsaw’. These worn-out souls who hear such stories can leave church that day with a new hope – hope that there is a better way to do life. Yet, they themselves are yet to exchange their old blunt axe for a powerful eternally self-sharpening spiritual chainsaw.
Sadly, some take the second step of inviting Christ to be their Saviour, Lord, Forgiver, and receive their spiritual chainsaw – yet are never shown how to use it. This is why Christian growth can never be measured in mere ‘years of service’, because there many many believers who still have not learned how to start their spiritual chainsaws. Perhaps they have never been shown. Perhaps they’ve brought their unhelpful and incompatible old ways and old thought-patterns into their walk with Christ. Either way, walking with Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit must be learned.
What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me — practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it
Second Timothy 3:14
Simply asking Christ to be your Saviour without learning how to live in the power of the Spirit maybe just like the farmer who updated his axe to chainsaw without ever learning how his new chainsaw worked!
THE DECISION TO GET STARTED
Like all great adventures, the believer’s Spirit-empowered, Spirit-led, Spirit-filled journey with Christ begins with a decision – an act of the believer’s will. This decision is always informed by the Holy Spirit’s quickening of God’s Word. The believer reads Christ’s words in the Gospel of John and begins to hunger for the presence of the Promised Holy Spirit (“the Helper”) in their life.
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.
This hunger leads to prayer. Not tame prayers. Not shopping-list prayers. Not where did I leave my keys prayers. Heart-rending, soul-shaping, life-altering, prayers. These kinds of prayers begin to pull the spiritual zip-cord of the believer’s new life in the Spirit which leads to a new way of thinking, a new attitude, and a new set of relationships.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
The believer’s new spiritual life, like any quality chainsaw, requires the right kind of fuel and material. Chainsaws don’t like dirt. The Spirit-led life doesn’t like the ‘dirt’ of secret sin. Dirt blunts chainsaws and renders them near-useless. Secret-sin blunts the spiritual-life of the believer and renders their witness and effectiveness ‘near-useless’.
Decision > Desire > Prayer >
THE SPIRIT EMPOWERED LIFE
Reading through Christ’s words in John chapters 14 and 16, we see that the Spirit-empowered life looks like
+ deepening intimacy with God
+ spiritual revelations
+ reminders of God’s Word
+ extraordinary spiritual gifts
+ courage to endure opposition
+ leadership effectiveness that results in people being protected and cared for
+ and a passionate, persistent prayer life.
If you have surrendered your guilt-stained and sin-battered life to the Saviour, you have exchanged your old life for a new one. You have available to you the power of the Holy Spirit, “the same power which raised Christ from the dead”, to now help you to life effectively and bear much fruit for Christ. If you are tired and worn out on trying to be ‘religious’ in your own strength, and you want to know Christ more intimately, then it’s time to make a decision to pull your spiritual zip-cord and live the Spirit-empowered life! It starts with a decision that does not bend to feelings or whims. It awakens a desire for more of God in our life. It leads to prayer which brings us to the cleansing of repentance through the washing of the water of God’s Word. It plants us in the community of the local church where become a pillar to strengthen the faith of our fellow struggling brothers and sisters. It sends us into a hurting, needy, broken and damaged world full of worn-out people who are dead-tired of doing life with an axe.