July 28, 2022
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“And what does the Lord require of you? He requires you to act justly. He requires you to love mercy. He requires you to walk humbly with Him. [These are not mere suggestions!].” (Micah 6.8)
“Finally, be strong in the Lord; His mighty power is with us. Put on the full armor of God. In doing so you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood. Rather, it is against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God. When the day of evil comes, you will be able to stand your ground; and after you have done everything, you will be able to stand.” (Ephesians 6.10-13)
Hopefully, I have made it abundantly clear that I see being “dressed for spiritual success” as both an internal and external “address” and not an either/or. Many of the heresies of the early Church mimic those of the practices of most religions (including Judaism) in that the sense of dualism known in the history of most world cultures becomes polarized. In other words, the “look” of one side assumes the reality of the other or the lack of necessity of the other. For example, the Greeks believed that they could be morally destitute in their outward behavior and it would have no effect or affect on their thinking or internal being. In my day we would say it was “All show and no go.” In the Old Testament, God calls His people and their leaders out saying “I detest your sacrifices and practices because they are not offered with sincere intent.” What God required was the reforming of the heart, mind and soul of His people which would then be manifested outwardly in ways that would glorify and honor Him before all the world. I would love to see that commercial put out into the public eye: not as the world says to you but as I say, says the Lord. Micah’s reflection on God’s word is the capturing of the inward/outward or internal/external manifestations of what I am asking us to consider. Hear God’s word to Micah again in the pattern of external/internal: act/justly; love/mercy and walk/humbly. Do you feel the rhythm of being “dressed for spiritual success.” When the Holy Spirit of God as requested by Jesus the Christ was manifested on Pentecost Sunday it came as a wind that blew around them and into them as well as a fire that danced on their flesh. It was the purifying fire and ruach, the breath of God: external/internal. They were anointed with the fire of the Holy Spirit as the external. They were inspired/infused with the blessing of the Holy Spirit as the internal. It was not one or the other but both which made them holy, sacred, sanctified and whole. They were made one as they were to be one with God in Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit. So we must “dress for spiritual success” as we “address our spiritual success.” We are not merely “successful” because we are spiritual, we are made holy by the Spirit of God and that leads us to success in the terms of the Kingdom of God who addresses us as His people, the sheep of His pasture and the works of His hands.
Further, so that I may reflect more on this premise in Paul’s “put on the full armor of God,” I have to capture, as we considered in yesterday’s reflection, not only that Roman military element which he was capable of presenting but, more importantly, the Jewish priesthood element which he was more than capable of presenting. To do this, I would present three scriptures:
First: God said to the people at Sinai, “You shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Exodus 19.6)
Second: Isaiah declares the vision of God saying, “You shall be called the priests of the Lord, they shall speak to you as the ministers of our God.” (Isaiah 61.6)
Third: Peter writes, “You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession that you may proclaim the excellences of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2.5ff)
There is little doubt as to the “appearance” which God has determined we should be known by. Further, it is clear and not merely safe to assume, that every mighty one of God, a follower of the Way of Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, God’s only begotten Son, is in fact made a part of that priesthood internally and externally. There should be little doubt by our words, actions and appearances that we are of the kingdom of God and not the kingdom of humanity. We are called to serve God first and serve one another celebrating the purpose of honoring and glorifying God first. This means that we, as members of this royal priesthood of all believers, should conduct (external actions and reflections) ourselves according to the conduct (internal truth and spiritual vitality) of our faith, hope and love of God in and through Jesus Christ. We are like no other people. We are not intended to be like everyone else. You may well remember my reflection on this point when I alluded to the failure of the Israelites contention they needed a “king like the nations which surrounded them” to lead them, guide them and protect them. They no longer wanted a “judge,” at that moment it was Samuel, to “lord it over them.” God smoothed Samuel’s hurt by alerting him to the truth of their words saying “It is not you they are forsaking but Me.” Wow, what a testimony and accountability statement. Yet, what did God do but give them a king who was just like all other kings around them. Instead of being the centerpiece of all God’s creation, He leveled the playing field so they could compete equally in the battle that waxed and waned in victory and defeat. I am not sure why we think a similar pattern of leadership will work in this nation and in this world but we certainly seem headed in the direction! Fortunately, God had His plan A to still implement. He knew full well that it would take a king who was prophet, priest and judge to lead His people in the Promised Land. David was God’s next step to “address spiritual success.” Saul was merely the object lesson, and a tough lesson it was, for the people to understand what it meant for them to be God’s people: the sheep of His pasture (who need a good shepherd) and the works of His hands (who need a strong transformer.) And believe me, we are all made capable of such leadership because of the blessing of and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit of God. It is the Holy Spirit which not only validates the call to be members of the royal priesthood (set apart from all others) but teaches us and strengthens us in fulfilling that call (to build up the body of Christ until it reaches the full measure for which it was made.) I am suggesting that “full measure” is when we grow into the head of the body which is Jesus Christ. It may seem an impossible task like some shoes we think we are unable to fill because they are too big, too filled with responsibility, etc., but it is not when we are clothed with righteousness as we put on the full armor of God as priest, soldier and joint heir in the Kingdom of God on earth as we are in Heaven.
OUR CALL TO PRAYER:
How good a Father You are! You have given us good gifts: faith, hope and love. You have given us good realities: mercy, grace and forgiveness. You have given us good purposes: fruitfulness, testifying and serving one another. You have given us good promises: eternal life, abundant living and Your abiding presence. We know it is now ours to put into action as we walk by faith more than we walk by sight. We commit ourselves to being all You have intended for us to be. It is what we shall live for in Jesus’ name. AMEN.