Standing Part 1

In Ephesians 6 Paul provides some wise spiritual warfare instructions.

10  Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11  Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12  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. 13  Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Ephesians 6:10-13 (NKJV)

In essence Paul tells us that we are in a spiritual battle and identifies our opponent. Now while ‘spiritual battle’ sounds nice what does it look like? If we go to a sporting contestant, whether a hockey game or a tennis match we can see opponents ‘battling’ to win. We can see the contest. Seeing spiritual warfare is a different matter. Part of knowing how to fight is learning to discern what is happening in the battle.

I remember almost 30 years ago being very discouraged about something that was happening in the church I was leading. I was sharing my discouragement with my wife on the way home after the service. She spoke some very encouraging words to me. She said, “You always give up.” Her words stung but at the same time they highlighted an unhealthy pattern in my life. I didn’t parse the word and ask what she meant by always or whether that was ‘always’ true. I saw the pattern and in response something inside me rose up with a determination to push through. I made a decision to stand in a spiritual battle. 

So, let me play this out a bit further so we can see the spiritual warfare. Jesus had called me to do something and when there was opposition I felt like quitting. The discouragement didn’t come from some genetic flaw in me, it came from a pattern of thinking, which I was responsible to change. Satan may have inspired others to oppose me and may have put ideas in their minds in terms of what to say or do because he is a master strategist. I don’t remember what the exact issue was, just my wife’s comment and my internal response. Satan knew what to inspire others to say or do that would be effective against me because it had worked in the past.

This is a simple example but whether we are battling patterns of discouragement, anger, feelings of rejection, identity issues or financial or health struggles we can see spiritual warfare being played out. Once we begin to see the patterns in our own lives we can begin to develop a strategy to win the battle. Make no mistake we are in a battle with an enemy who seeks our destruction. This is the first awareness we need to develop – seeing the battle.

In future posts I will begin to look at strategy to win.

How Jesus Sees

7  But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 (NKJV)

The context of this verse is Samuel going to Jesse’s house to anoint one of his sons as king to replace failed Saul. If we have been believers for any length of time we are likely familiar with the story of how Samuel saw the stature and looks of David’s older brothers but did not see that their hearts were not right.

Jesus looks at our hearts in releasing us in our anointing and callings. In anointing David He knew David would sin with Bathsheba and could see his other failings when He called him. He also knew that David was and would continue to be a passionate worshipper and would deeply repent of his sin. In the same manner, He knows our past, present and future failings. He is not looking for perfection to anoint our calling or none of us would ever be released, He is looking for hearts quick to respond to conviction.

Our responsibility is to pursue a godly and upright life and to turn to Him when we fail (1 Jn. 1:9). After all look at what the scriptures say.

13  And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 4:13 (NKJV)

Any time there has been a failure in my walk with Him I have not heard Him say, ‘Randy, I am shocked you would do/say/think that. I never knew that was in you.’ Our lives are an open book before Him and in spite of any failings we carry Jesus desire is to bless our lives.

9  For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. In this you have done foolishly; therefore from now on you shall have wars.” 2 Chronicles 16:9 (NKJV)

The context of this verse is King Asa trusting in others for victory rather than Yahweh after Asa had already had a revival of true worship because he had listened to the prophet Yahweh sent.

If we think of the parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15 it should not have been a surprise to Jesus hearers. We rightly make much of how it reveals our Father’s loving heart. Yet in God’s dealing with Israel, and then Israel and Judah as divided kingdoms in the period of the kings, the story of the prodigal is repeated over and over. Even Manasseh, one of the most wicked kings in Judah’s history (2 Kings 21:1-18, 2 Chron. 33:1-20), who is described as more wicked than the Amorites (2 Kings 21:11), was blessed by Yahweh and tuned the nation when he repented.   

We serve the King of kings who loves us, desires to bless us and wants to have us as friends. We can take comfort in this as we pursue His heart and walk out our callings because Jesus is shepherding our lives (Ps. 23).

A desire to bless, honour and release is how Jesus sees.

See Your Calling

26  For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.27  But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28  and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29  that no flesh should glory in His presence. 30  But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God–and righteousness and sanctification and redemption– 31  that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.”1 Corinthians 1:26-31 (NKJV)

There are a few things in seeing our calling. Most important is recognizing that it is about His kingdom, not us. The next is the expression, ‘The Lord doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.’ This runs counter to our culture. I used to work in HR and we were taught to hire the most qualified candidate for the position. That was the practice, though my own focus was always ‘hire to character, train to content and if you get both great.’ I would rather hire someone I need to train but can trust than someone with great skill whose character I am not comfortable with.

In the same way Jesus looks at our hearts first. He also puts us in places where we need to trust Him. Think about Paul the highly educated Pharisee. He was a perfect fit to take the gospel to the Jews. Where was His primary calling – to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15).

One aspect of seeing our calling is going where Jesus sends us. The second is that a calling implies a future commissioning. We may know where we are called but Jesus commissions us once He sees our hearts are ready. When we are ready others recognize His work in our lives. Our commissioning may be a formal ceremony, a sense of release in our spirit or an informal acknowledgment from others who recognize the anointing we carry but it will happen if we are found faithful (1 Cor. 4:2).

The Call of Corporate Koinonia (Communion) Part 2

I closed my last post with Jesus prayer in John 17:20-23 for unity in the church. Key to our understanding is seeing that we were included in Jesus prayer.

20  “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word;” John 17:20 (NKJV)

Think about this, we can all trace our physical ancestry back to 8 people, Noah, his three sons and their wives or if we want to be more succinct, back to two people in a garden, Adam and Eve. While Ancestry DNA or 23andMe may not be able to make the link, it is somewhere there. In the same way, we can all trace our spiritual ancestry back to the first century. Somewhere in a little Roman province called Palestine (Israel) our spiritual ancestors heard the gospel, were born again and the word spread to others. Eventually it came to us.

This idea of linkage and connection is a key theme in the NT. In fact the NT knows no idea of Christians in isolation. From the Day of Pentecost onward the focus was on community, a reflection of Jesus prayer. Paul said the body grows through relationships – joints are relationships between parts.

16  from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. Ephesians 4:16 (NKJV)

Paul calls us to find our common unity in the Holy Spirit through walking in love for one another. Not the insipid ‘tolerance’ of today but a love that actually seeks what is best for others and calls them to His high standard. 

1  I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2  with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, 3  endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4  There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; Ephesians 4:1-4 (NKJV)

Peter said as His body (there is a unity term, the body of Christ) we are being built into a spiritual house (not houses) and that we are a holy nation (singular).

4  Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 5  you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:4-5 (NKJV)

9  But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10  who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. 1 Peter 2:9-10 (NKJV)

Jesus said that He would build His church (His called out ones), not on a man as some teach, but on the revelation of who Jesus is.  

16  Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17  Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18  And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:16-18 (NKJV)

I believe that before Jesus returns He is going to see His John 17 prayer answered in fullness – a church moving and flowing throughout the earth in submission to the Holy Spirit as He leads and guides and builds us into the spiritual house we are called to become. I do not know how He will do this, I simply believe that He will, that in the midst of deep darkness His light will shine brightly (Is. 60:1-2). I desire to do my part to join my heart with His to see this realized in the earth. After all it is up to Him and here is what He promised.

13  Behold, is it not of the LORD of hosts That the peoples labor to feed the fire, And nations weary themselves in vain? 14  For the earth will be filled With the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, As the waters cover the sea. Habakkuk 2:13-14 (NKJV)

This is our calling! So,

23  Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24  And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25  not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:23-25 (NKJV)