March 22, 2023
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE READING:
“For our struggle is not against FLESH AND BLOOD, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6.12)
TODAY’S REFLECTION ON GOD’S WORD:
The “enemy” is among us like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Jesus taught His disciples that there was but one way in which to enter the blessing of the Lord’s favor forever. He was not speaking in terms of “life after death” exclusively. He was talking about the life of discipleship on earth as it is in Heaven. You do realize, don’t you, that even when Heaven is reached and we abide in the presence of God without fear, we still won’t know it all. Omniscience is the providence of the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit.) We will still be disciples in Heaven walking by faith and not by sight. There will be no “I’ve made it now so there is nothing left to be and to do.” The blessing is that we will make right decisions and do so with the sense of worship and praise. When Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well, “The day will come when worship (the how and where) will not be on that mountain or this mountain but always in spirit and in truth,” He was laying the foundation for an understanding of living within the Kingdom of God. Whether it is the Kingdom of God on earth or in heaven worship will be known by its spirit and truth. The evidence of the presence of spirit and truth will be the fruit that it bears. I believe Jesus was pointing out that the understanding of worship as the “world” defined it was influenced by “flesh and blood.” Jesus had already had this kind of discussion with the Pharisees and the leaders of the Temple who claimed “We have Abraham as our father.” They were saying that their authority (and the validation of that authority) was a “flesh and blood” reality. It had passed on to them as a birthright and legacy. Of course, if they truly understood what they said they believed, then they would have recognized the correction Jesus offered as unnecessary. Abraham did not fashion himself as an authority or a ruler to “lord it over the people.” He was obedient to the call of God in and over his life. His obedience, and those lessons learned from his disobedience, was the establishment of restoring peace and spiritual tranquility to the world. God was choosing to dwell among the people. Who better to make His will known than “one of the people.” But, it was not his “flesh and blood” which set him apart from all others. It was his willing spirit to trust and believe in God, the One True God. It wasn’t about laws, rules, regulations, amendments and “rights.” It was about “faith, hope, love and a servant’s heart.” If you had to choose where the “leadership of Israel” would land it would be on the first list. If you had to choose for yourself where you wanted to be found, I would pray it would be on the second list.
So, when Paul writes to the community of faith in Jesus is the Christ which was in Ephesus, the words of the “Faithful and True” speaks clearly. Our battle is not with “flesh and blood.” Oh, it is about people and especially those wolves in sheep’s clothing but not about lineage, heritage and birthrights. It is about the spiritual presence of those in whom good reigns and those in whom evil rules. “Our God reigns!” (Isaiah 52.7) The enemy seeks to rule so that he may “steal, kill and destroy.” (John 10.10) The reliance on rules to control the will and the work of the people only becomes more and more restrictive and less and less effective. Morality cannot be legislated. But the heart of the people who trust in God for the leadership of their lives will produce the works and fruit of righteousness. We look at the Ten Commandments from the wrong direction. We have too long seen them as “rules of restriction” instead of the “fruit of righteousness.” Those who trust in God’s word and focus on serving Him and pleasing Him will not do what the “laws” sought to prevent. It was a way of forcing the understanding of who was in and who was out. They would worship one God without graven images or unholy language. They would honor the sabbath and their parents (conversely the parents would honor the sabbath and their children). They would not be dependent on lying, cheating, stealing, murdering or coveting to support their lives and sense of wholeness. But, when the heart of a person changes to the harshness of rules, it has forsaken the spirit of goodness and mercy from which and by which it was created. Is it no wonder why abortion is promoted as an acceptable behavior and solution to bad decisions on the role of intimacy in one’s relationship with another? The forsaking of the identity of a “spiritual birth legacy” which comes from God then casts a “flesh and blood” identity of self-rule. If I don’t have a true spirit in my mind then my bodily actions do not matter. That is the “wolf in sheep’s clothing” we are warned about. Or as Peter would have said, “Satan crouches at the door like a lion ready to devour.” Yes, mighty ones of God who believe in Jesus as the Christ, our battle is not against “flesh and blood” as if we can fight the wrongs in the world by correcting the physical presence and activity of people. Our battle is against the evil and dark spirits which choose to inhabit unprotected hearts, minds and souls and their communities. It is becoming more and more apparent that the flocks of God’s people are being replaced by the packs of the Enemy’s wolves. It is time for the good shepherds of faith, hope and love to take up their rods and staffs and slings and worship the Lord God and defend the faith(ful) against those who are so willing to prey on the guilty and the innocent for their own benefit.
A PRAYER FOR TODAY:
Keep our minds clear, our hearts pure, our souls steadfast and our spirit strong as we commit ourselves to worship in spirit and in truth in all we say and do in this world as we would in the next. AMEN.