Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Spirit of Grace Ministries
-- Feeding Jesus' sheep
-- Equipping His servants
-- Proclaiming His Gospel

 

The Charisma of Jesus

Sermon on the Mount

by Dennis Pollock

Sometimes it is called charisma; it is also known as attractiveness or magnetism. Whatever the label, the concept has to do with that mysterious, intangible quality which draws men and women. Many people consider charisma an innate quality – you either have it or you don't, and no amount of self-help courses or books written by popular psychologists or successful entrepreneurs are likely to make a noticeable difference in this area.

Regardless of the source or the possibility of attaining it, no one can doubt that charisma is an incredibly useful attribute. People with charisma are often the first ones hired and the last ones laid off. They make more friends, make more money, and see more opportunities than those with equal abilities, minus the charisma. If you want to start a club, put together a business team, develop a regular clientele, or succeed in a beauty salon or an auto repair business, you would do well to become knowledgeable in your field, hone your skills, work hard, and by all means be likeable! It shouldn’t take a PhD in business administration to recognize that attracting people works a whole lot better than repelling them.

So what relevance does this have for the church? The mission of the church is to essentially accomplish two tasks: to draw sinners to Jesus and to build up and instruct the believers. Our mission, therefore, has everything to do with people. It has nothing to do with pews, steeples, Christian literature, Sunday school curriculum, choir robes, weekly bulletins, bake sales, pot-luck dinners, stained glass windows, clever sayings on the church sign, or multimedia presentations, except as they relate, either directly or indirectly to people finding Christ or being built up in the faith. Church is all about people. If you have a church with no people, regardless of how beautiful the building, how splendid the carpet, and how magnificent the steeple, you have no church at all. In his epistle to the Romans, Paul sends his greetings to Priscilla and Aquila, "and to the church that is in their house" (Romans 16:5). He is not greeting the pews and the pulpit here; he is greeting the people who make up this small gathering of believers.

Consider the evangelist who spends thousands of dollars preparing for an evangelistic event. He leases a large stadium, has posters put up all over the city, and has his face plastered on billboards on all the major highways. He checks and rechecks to make sure that the lighting and the sound system are in perfect working order. Finally the time for the meeting arrives. He goes out to preach, but finds every seat is empty. Determined to be faithful to his calling he preaches his sermon anyway, to tens of thousands of empty seats. At the end he gives the invitation to receive Christ, but strangely none of the seats makes its way to the front. He has not engaged in evangelism. He has created the illusion of evangelism. Without people there is no evangelism, without people there is no church, without people ministry does not exist. The Beatles once had a hit song called Eleanor Rigby, which deals with lonely people. In the lyrics you find these words: "Father McKenzie writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear; no one comes near." If the church is to fulfill its divine mandate, if the church is to reach the lost and equip the believers, we must find a way to draw people, rather than repel them. We must have some version of divine charisma.

The Multitudes

Jesus had it in spades. As we read the gospels we find the phrase "the multitudes" used over and over again, to describe the countless thousands of people who gathered around Him wherever went. In the early chapters of Mark's gospel we find numerous references to the enormous crowds that were nearly omnipresent throughout His ministry:

  1. Jesus could no longer openly enter the city, but was outside in deserted places; and they came to Him from every direction. (Mark 1:45)
  2. It was heard that He was in the house. Immediately many gathered together, so that there was no longer room to receive them, not even near the door. (Mark 2:1,2)
  3. And a great multitude from Galilee followed Him, and from Judea and Jerusalem and Idumea and beyond the Jordan; and those from Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they heard how many things He was doing, came to Him. (Mark 3:7,8)
  4. Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. (Mark 3:20)


Arthur Wallace has labeled this phenomenon divine magnetism. This was more than the typical charisma created by pretty faces and pleasing personalities. This was the Son of God, addressing the deepest longings and ministering to the most desperate needs of men and women. This was the magnetism of the Holy Spirit working through an entirely yielded vessel, the Lord Jesus Christ. People came from everywhere, not to hear Him tell jokes, not to listen to Him sing songs, not because He was handsome or was giving out coupons for free merchandise, but because Jesus was the "the brightness of God's glory and the express image of His person." When they came into His presence they touched the life and light of their Creator. To meet Jesus was to experience God.

Jesus with children

Jesus' charisma was evidenced not only by the multitudes that thronged Him, but in individual situations as well. When God's time had come for Jesus to begin gathering disciples around Himself it was very simply done. Jesus went about Galilee finding men of God's choosing and telling them, "Follow Me." Careers were instantly forsaken, ways of life discarded, and plans abandoned for the privilege of following this mysterious thirty-year-old carpenter who spoke like no one had ever spoken before. Jesus once said, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him," and surely the Father's ability to draw people to Jesus was powerfully at work in his brief three years of ministry in Israel. At one point Jesus tried to escape the huge crowds by getting into a boat and cutting across the Sea of Galilee. But the crowds weren't about to go home, and the Bible tells us, "But the multitudes saw them departing, and many knew Him and ran there on foot from all the cities. They arrived before them and came together to Him" (Mark 6:33).

Christ in Us

Some might consider all of this irrelevant to their own lives. Their thought would be, "Sure Jesus drew the crowds, but I am not Jesus. I don't heal the sick. I don't speak with His eloquence. I do well to keep my own family around me, without trying to attract anyone else."

No, we are not Jesus, but Jesus does live in all of us who have put our faith in Him. And the point of the Christian life is "Christ in us." Our job is not to try to merely do as Jesus did. It is to abide in Him and trust Him, so that He begins to express His nature, His gifts, His love, and yes, His divine charisma through us. It works a bit differently with us, however. Jesus was magnetic in every area. He drew people through His miracles, through His teaching, through His personality, through His love, through every aspect of who He was and what He did.

We get only a part of the package. When we are born again through faith in Jesus, His nature is given to us, but we find that not all of His gifts and not all of His charisma will be manifested through us. We get the limited version. One man may be tremendously charismatic as a home Bible study leader, but put him behind a pulpit and he is hopelessly out of his league. At a home meeting his gift draws people; put him behind a pulpit and people are scattered rather than gathered. A woman may have a tremendous gift in singing, but her efforts in organizing events are so pathetic that empty chairs will always be the norm. An evangelist may be outstanding when preaching in a stadium, but ineffective and not especially attractive in talking to people one on one about Jesus. A writer may express himself beautifully on paper, but when he tries to engage in public speaking, yawns and boredom rule.

Occasionally we see famous actors being interviewed, who can hardly express themselves. You've seen them in the movies, and they are articulate and can speak powerfully and fluently. But in real life they stammer and stutter, and say things that really don't make much sense. It becomes apparent that when you take the script away, all their charisma dissolves. In some ways we are all like that. We human beings come in packages of strengths and weaknesses. Put us in the right situations and we will shine. Put us in places where we don't fit, and we reveal just how human we really are.

In the area of charisma, we owe it to Christ and to the people to whom He has assigned us to minister, to discover the areas where Jesus wants to manifest His attractiveness through us, and draw people unto Himself. At times we can be deceived. If you fancy yourself a Bible teacher, but no one ever seems to show up to hear you teach, you may be deluding yourself. If you see yourself as a writer, and have sent out manuscripts to scores of publishers over many years, and have yet to see one article or book published, it may be that writing is not the area of your life in which Jesus desires to shine. Admittedly, there are times when perseverance and determination pay off big time. But life is short and if you find an area in which people are attracted and blessed, while in another area nobody seems the least bit interested, you might want to major on the former rather than the latter.

Holy Spirit Magnetism

MagnetThe charisma and magnetism of Jesus Christ is always made manifest through the Holy Spirit. The Christian life was never intended to be a natural life. We are to be a supernatural people, filled with the Spirit of God. The measure in which Jesus is manifested in our lives is in exact proportion to the measure in which we are filled with the Holy Spirit. John Wesley used to preach throughout the length and breadth of England. It seemed that wherever he went, people gathered by the thousands to hear him. Someone once asked him how he could attract such crowds. He replied, "Get yourself on fire, and people will gather around to watch you burn."

In this business of divine charisma it is the anointing of the Holy Spirit that we need, that we absolutely must have if we are to exercise a ministry which draws people initially to us and ultimately to Christ. God can and does use natural gifts. Billy Graham was good looking, had a melodic, attractive voice, a pleasant personality, and a sense of humor. God used all of these qualities. But these gifts were magnified many times by the anointing of the Holy Spirit that rested upon him when he preached. It was more than Billy's voice that drew crowds by the thousands to give their lives to Jesus – it was the voice of God. Billy stated that during the invitations he would give, the Holy Spirit would often be so strongly upon him that he felt physically weak. He felt that of the gifts Christ had placed in his life, the gift to invite people to Jesus at the end of his sermons was the strongest and most useful of all.

Pastors and church leaders have always recognized the need to attract people. Sadly in many cases they go about it precisely the wrong way. Too often we have tried gimmicks, silly little prizes, or high-powered motivational speeches mixed with a little guilt to try to fill our churches. God does use means to accomplish His ends, but we must always remember that apart from the magnetism of the Spirit and the charisma of Christ, all our efforts will be ultimately futile, even if they seem to work temporarily.

Where Jesus is honored and lifted up in the power of the Spirit, the people will always come. Men's hearts are as dry and parched as they ever were, and the life-giving waters that Jesus provides are as refreshing as ever. He has said, "If I am lifted up from the earth I will draw all people to Myself" (John 12:32).

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