For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and JOY in the Holy Ghost (Rom 14:17) As Christians our joy should be “full.” We should have “joy unspeakable”. So why are so many Christians living short of that promise? Many of us look for that joy sometime in the distant future when we leave this earth by either rapture or death. We think our lot in life is to suffer and live in misery waiting on the promise. Some believers substitute the true joy of the Lord with self-righteousness or false humility, getting a fake joy out of their performances. Even this doesn’t last; they soon can’t keep the performance up and fall into shame and guilt. Others give up completely and turn to the world and fulfill lusts that bring only temporary happiness and never joy. Hebrews 12:2 says that Jesus found joy in what was “set before him”, joy that allowed him to suffer on the cross. What was that joy? I believe it was the salvation of the world- saving of lost souls, the reconciling of all back to the Father. Only one thing could have kept him from receiving that joy, and that would have been giving in to his flesh. Satan tempted Jesus to do just that, a way contrary to God’s plan, but Jesus refused. We too have to crucify our flesh. We talk about how the Jews, the Centurions, Rome and even ourselves, killed Jesus. All are true. However, Jesus performed the TRUE Crucifixion (of his flesh) in the Garden… before a soldier ever touched a spike. He cried out to the Father in his hour of flesh sweating blood in his battle! In the end, HE crucified his flesh by saying, “not my will, Father, but yours.” Jesus received his joy! He chose to receive it! We do the crucifying, with God’s strength and help, and God gives us the joy! That joy is in conquering sin in our lives and leading others to Jesus. If Jesus’ joy was in the saving of souls, shouldn’t ours be too? Time is winding down. Can’t you feel how it is flying by! Are you crucifying your flesh, ridding your life of sin? Are you feeding your spirit with The Word? Are you building yourself up with your heavenly language? When the “shaking” begins, will you be able to stand? Are you “planting, watering and harvesting” souls? True revival is a heart hot on fire, in love, with God. But it is also the burning desire to see others come to the Father. Revival won’t happen without both. Where is your heart today?
Heb 12:1-27 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.”
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12
Our enemies are not made of flesh and blood. We all know that right? We’ve heard it preached, taught and we’ve read it ourselves in God’s word. People are not our enemies. But, honestly, that is hard to remember at times. We can be so easily irritated by that one person (or sometimes several different people). I have found myself, more times than I am comfortable admitting to, wanting to “lay hands on” someone because of their words or actions and it had nothing to do with prayer or imparting gifts! Or as my grandson likes to say “give them a five knuckle sandwich.” It’s easier to see the carrier, the messenger, than the real enemy. Our enemy is Satan. He comes to only kill, steal and destroy. He and his minions are spirit and can only operate through people. My pastor uses the term, “principalities that use personalities.” That person that antagonizes, manipulates, irritates, brings division and harm, is operating under the influence, and sometimes control, of an evil spirit and most of the time they aren’t even aware of that fact. There are those occasions that the only enemy is our own human nature, our own flesh, but we will leave that for another day.
There have been times that we have been hurt, or worse, had to watch a loved one be crushed under abusive behavior. We have all been affected by or witness to bullying, unfair treatment, discrimination and all of those other ugly behaviors, all products of the fallen world we live in. They stem from anger, bitterness, pride, selfishness and straight from the pit of hell. So how do we keep things in perspective? How do we not lash out in anger and revenge at those who have hurt, or continue to hurt us? How do we look past the flesh and blood person and see the evil lurking behind? First, we have to accept God’s love in our lives, His love for us and His love for others, including that person who has you wanting to behave in an ungodly way. We need to renew our minds, wash it out, with God’s word (Romans 12:2). When we love God’s law we aren’t easily offended (Psalm 119:165). When we stand on God’s word, write it on the tablets of our hearts and we allow God to fill us with His love we are slow to judge and quick to forgive. Love covers a multitude of sins, so it allows us to overlook some of the behavior (Proverbs 6:12). Another way that we can overlook the flesh is to remember at one time we were just like they were. There is a reason they are called “the lost”. We were unloving, backbiting, selfish children of our father, the devil.
Quite often the ones that hurt us the most are our own loved ones, family members, spouses, our Church family. Some are even professing Christians (I would say they may still have a lot of their carnal nature there, living by their senses). How do we handle that? First off remember that they are not the enemy! If someone has offended you, we are supposed to go to them. That can be harder than asking someone to forgive you, I know. Occasionally, you will find that they never intended to hurt and didn’t realize they even did. Sometimes they know they did, but refuse to admit fault or ask for forgiveness. If it’s a big deal, ask for leaders to help with the situation, if it is not a major thing, just shake the dust off of your feet and move on. Forgiveness isn’t an emotion, it’s a choice. You choose to forgive, whether they ever admit fault or not, and let your emotions catch up. When the behavior is continued, and the relationship is toxic, forgive, but don’t stay in relationship with that person. God never intended for abusive behavior to be part of a family. Sometimes we have to distance ourselves from people and their sin. Don’t be a part of sinful behavior. Forgiving isn’t saying what they did was acceptable or that you will allow the behavior to continue in your life. You are just letting the junk go out of your own heart and refusing to hold it against them. Forgive, but move on! Let go of the anger, hurt and pain and allow God to heal. Satan hates that. He loses the battle when you forgive.
I am not saying this is all easy! From time to time, we will all face the enemy with the face of a friend, or at least a human face. But look past that face of flesh and see the evil lurking behind. Rebuke the devil; arrest his plans in your life and the life of the person he is using. Our enemy is not a person with a different opinion, skin color, doctrine, faith or beliefs. Our enemy isn’t the rapist, murderer, adulterer or even that grouchy neighbor next door. Pray for those who seem to be your enemy, the person who is being used by Satan. Pray for those who despitefully use you. Be kind to those who have the enemy working in them. This heaps coals on the head of our true enemy. Love the un-loveable. Forgive those who have hurt you. Our enemy is spirit and must be fought with spiritual weapons. We use God’s word. How does he feel about that person, the situation, your reaction? Use the blood of Jesus. Plead the blood over your life and the life of that person who has hurt you. Testify of God’s goodness. What He is doing, has done, how He feels about you, and how much He loves you. Praise God, it stills the enemy and the avenger (makes him shut up and stop his attack.) Be slow to judge and quick to forgive. Satan hates that as well.
You’ll see it all gets easier. You’ll find yourself hurt and offended less. Your patience with people will be greater and your love stronger. Relationships will be restored. Families and Churches will have less division. We will be more careful of how we treat others. Life’s too short to hold grudges and allow bitterness to take over our lives. When we do that, Satan wins the battle and gains ground. None of us want that. The person you once saw as your worst enemy might just end up being a brother or sister in Christ. God want that. He doesn’t like their behavior any more than you do…but He LOVES them. He wants them found and accepted into the beloved.
“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that your may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. There for take up the whole armor of God that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with the truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness. And having shod you feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.” Ephesians 6:10-18
I watched a good movie, just 26 minutes about the Tabernacle. Seeing the tabernacle was cool, but a scripture jumped out at me and I had to look it up and read the whole story. It really got me thinking. Here’s the story in a nut shell. Moses brought the people out of Egypt like God commanded him and along the way they grumbled and complained. It got so bad that at one point a guy named Korah and 250 of the “leaders”, prominent men, started thinking they could do better than Moses and Aaron. They said, “”You have gone too far! The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the LORD is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the LORD’s assembly?” Moses set up a way that would prove to them that God chooses who He wills. There was going to be a test! The 250 men were to bring incense to burn before the Lord. Then God tells Moses and Aaron to separate themselves from the people because He was going to just destroy them all! Moses pleads for the people and God tells them to, ‘Move away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram.’ Then God caused the earth to open up and swallow those men and their families. Then God sends fire and consumes the 250 leaders who had rose up against Moses and Aaron. I think that would have been the end of the complaining, but not these stiff-necked, hard-hearted people. They continued to grumble against Moses and Aaron (God’s chosen vessels!). So a plague comes, immediately and Aaron goes between the plague and the people and only 14,700 perish. I think that would have been the end of the complaining, but not these stiff-necked, hard-hearted people. They continued to grumble against Moses and Aaron (God’s chosen vessels!).
So Moses sets up another test. They were to bring the staff of the head of each tribe, writing their names on the staff. Numbers 17:6-11 shows what happened next, “So Moses spoke to the Israelites, and their leaders gave him twelve staffs, one for the leader of each of their ancestral tribes, and Aaron’s staff was among them. Moses placed the staffs before the LORD in the Tent of the Testimony. The next day Moses entered the Tent of the Testimony and saw that Aaron’s staff, which represented the house of Levi, had not only sprouted but had budded, blossomed and produced almonds. Then Moses brought out all the staffs from the LORD’s presence to all the Israelites. They looked at them, and each man took his own staff. The LORD said to Moses, “Put back Aaron’s staff in front of the Testimony, to be kept as a sign to the rebellious. This will put an end to their grumbling against me, so that they will not die.” Moses did just as the LORD commanded him.” Not only did it bud, but flowered and PRODUCED FRUIT! Was God saying that Aaron was perfect? NO! Aaron was a human with all of our messed up ways, but Aaron was CHOSEN of God to lead the people. I found it interesting that the ones who “rose up against” Moses and Aaron were all LEADERS! How many times have we seen people in leadership begin to think that they know better than the Pastor?
Now I come to the part of the movie that got me thinking. They show all the contents of the Ark of the Covenant. Each item put there as a reminder of something. The jar of Manna was there to remember God’s willingness to provide for His people. The stone tablets, a reminder of God’s covenant with His people and Aaron’s staff “to be kept as a sign to the rebellious. This will put an end to their grumbling against me, so that they will not die.” Only three things were placed in the Ark. All VERY important, enough so that God wanted them preserved and handed down for generations. They are still in the Ark! This tells me how important it is that we honor and respect those that God has placed over us as our “Mother’s and Father’s in the Lord.” We don’t judge them as more than human, expect them to be perfect and without flaw! We honor the call, the anointing, the Gift! When we grumble and complain about them, God gets mad! He wanted to destroy everyone, not just the men who rose up against Moses and Aaron! Don’t allow yourself to think that someone else could do a better job, or God forbid that YOU could do a better job! God chooses who He wills! If someone else wants you to jump on their wagon of “discontent” refuse. Don’t even give place to the devil. Yes, he is the one, who sets our flesh on edge against our leaders. Tell him to shut-up, and crucify your flesh. Ask God where you are called to, who you are called under, and stay, support and respect His decision. Period!