Thursday, March 22, 2012

Authority to Trample

Another excerpt from my notes on the Feast of Trumpets:

Christ ruined satan when He died on the cross.  Trumpets shouts that Christ has been crowned, and the prince of this world has been driven out (John 12:31). The war is over.  All things are under His feet (Eph. 1:22).  The devil has no hold in Him (John 14:30).  When Jesus approaches, He causes even a legion of demons to tremble and beg for mercy (Mark 5:6-10).  The coronation of Trumpets means that, in Christ, we have “authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy” (Luke 10:19).  The word “trample” doesn’t imply a struggle for the upper hand.  It means rolling like tanks over our enemy.  It means we can drive out spirits with a word (Matt. 8:16). 
This doesn’t mean satan can’t operate and carry out attacks.  After Germany surrendered in 1945, Allied forces moving through Europe encountered pockets of German soldiers who hadn’t heard the war was over.  Battles ensued, just as they had before VE Day, and casualties resulted from these encounters.  In the same way, the devil still attacks and inflicts spiritual casualties, even though the war is over.  We need to be alert and ready to resist enemy forces (1 Peter 5:8-9).  But as we resist, it is crucial to maintain perspective.  Satan is a defeated foe, not a foe we have to defeat.  If, in our minds, the cross was anything less than VE Day (“Victory over the Enemy”), then no amount of prayer, fasting, rebuking the devil, or spiritual warfare will make a difference.  It isn't our moral purity, dedication to prayer, or anything else about us that defeats the enemy.  It is the blood of the Lamb and the word of the cross (Rev. 12:11).  If we don’t meet the enemy on the ground of the cross, we may be giving him grounds to continually provoke us because we have given him no reason to retreat (Matt. 4:11; James 4:7).  Either we trust that Christ finished the enemy or we trust in the things we do to finish what Christ could not.   
            Some final considerations: Jesus had to give satan permission to enter Judas (John 13:26, 27).  God allowed a messenger of satan to torment Paul (2 Cor. 12:7-9).  Satan needed permission from God each time he struck Job (Job 1:12, 2:6).  We often think of satan as a rebel God is unable to control.  While rebellion is certainly one of satan’s core motives, he has no power to act outside the limits God sets for him.  When the enemy attacks we can rest in the knowledge that what satan intends for harm, God intends for good (Gen. 50:20).  Romans 8:28 says, “But we know that for those loving God, for those called according to His purpose, everything is working together for good.”  Nothing satan can do falls outside of the word “everything” in Romans 8:28.  Even his worst, most depraved activities can further God’s purposes.  Consider the cross: God didn’t stop the murder of His own Son.  He allowed the devil to do what he wanted.  Our enemy was so blinded by his desire to destroy Jesus he didn’t even realize the death of Christ would destroy him (1 John 3:8; 1 Cor. 2:8).  The cross shows how absolute God’s authority is.  We tend to think God is in control only if He stops suffering and injustice.  But God doesn’t have to control everything to be in control.  His power is most perfect in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).  Trumpets preaches that Christ crucified is “the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:24).   

Monday, March 19, 2012

Overcoming King

This is an excerpt from my notes on the Feast of Trumpets:

            Just before dying on the cross, Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).  “Trouble” alludes to life in a fallen world.  With everything from genocide to economic strain to sexual confusion plaguing us, “trouble” seems an almost comic understatement.  Yet Jesus tells us to have peace in Him because He has overcome.  When a crying toddler has us on the ropes, Jesus has overcome that.  When we have one drink too many, Jesus has overcome that.  When disease takes someone we love, Jesus has overcome that.  However we want to fill in the blank—with divorce, school shootings, mass starvation, or depression—Jesus has overcome.
The question is, How did Jesus overcome?  We know that Adam didn’t follow God’s command in the garden.  In effect, Adam said to God, “Not what you want but what I want.”  Since then, every individual has pursued what they want instead of what God wants.  Adam’s choice was the proverbial pebble thrown in the pond.  The ripples from that choice have surged into the tidal waves of problems that threaten to sweep us away on a daily basis.  Jesus, however, made a different choice.  He said to God, “Not what I want but what you want” (Matt. 26:39).  The world was first overcome in the heart of Christ when He chose to do what the Father wanted and to die on the cross. 
Christ’s choice is having its own ripple effect.  1 John 5:5 says, “Who is it that overcomes the world?  Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”  When we believe in Jesus, we receive a new heart, the heart of Christ, which wants what the Father wants (Ezek. 36:26, 27).  As we live by that heart, we start to overcome the effects of the fall in our own lives. 
By extension, the church is a gathering of those with new hearts.  To be sure, we still deal with each other’s failings and sins.  But we also get a glimpse of life in a community where the fall is no longer a reality.  The church is a window to an existence that is coming and yet is already at work within us—where there is no more death, mourning, crying, or pain, where the old order has passed away and all things are new (Rev. 21:4, 5).
We bring the culture of overcoming to our interactions with people in this world.  To those whose only reality is living with the conditions of the fall, we can offer compassion and respite from “trouble.” 
The ripples of the cross continue beyond the church and human society.  One day, the universe will be liberated from every last trace of the fall (Rom. 8:21).  The manifestation of this won’t occur until Christ returns.  But the fact of it began at the cross.  For every kind of sin, problem, sickness, and disorder of nature, we can find a corresponding cure in Christ’s death and resurrection.  It would take a whole other book to explore this in any detail.  But Trumpets announces, with fanfare, that Jesus has overcome and continues to overcome through us: “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne” (Rev. 3:21).

Friday, March 09, 2012

The Sound of Wailing

“The sound of wailing is heard from Zion: How ruined we are!  How great is our shame!” (Jer. 9:19)

           Throughout scripture, wailing is common when the Lord comes in judgment and leaves no hope of escape or recovery.  There was wailing when all the first-born were slain in Egypt, and in John’s vision of the fall of Babylon (Ex. 12:30; Rev. 18:19). Wailing is the blindness of the unspiritual mind expressed—full of protest, agony, and searching.  For when our treasure is stored up on earth, and our heart is there also, we cannot see past suffering or loss (Matt. 6:19-21).  It is incomprehensible.  For sinners and Christians whose minds are set on the flesh, death is the final truth.
            When Jesus came to visit a man whose daughter had just died, he asked, “Why all this commotion and wailing?  The child is not dead but asleep” (Mark 5:39).  Jesus knew that He, and not death, was the final truth.  Nevertheless, scripture says the people laughed at Him.  Those grieving blindly always have a moment to pause and call Jesus a fool.  But Jesus put out the mourners and wailers (Mark 5:40).  Only three disciples and the girl’s parents—those who believed—saw resurrection in the midst of tragedy.  “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them…There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Rev. 21:3, 4).  Through the resurrection of Christ, God made man His dwelling; what was mortal has been swallowed up by life (2 Cor. 5:4).  Those who believe, whom He draws to be eye-witnesses of Himself, see beyond death.  In Jesus they find One who is worth the loss of all things (Phil. 3:7, 8).

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

What Spirit Are We Of?

This is an excerpt from a booklet I'm working on about the Feasts of Israel:

          Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matt. 28:18).  He sends us out in all authority so that people will learn of Him and conform to Him (Matt. 28:19, 20).  As we go it is important to remember that our authority is given by the Passover Lamb.  When some Samaritans didn’t want Jesus coming through their village, James and John asked if they should call down fire on them.  Jesus rebuked them and said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of” (Luke 9:54-56).  Jesus wasn’t interested in forcing anyone to accept Him.  Scripture says His face was set like flint toward Jerusalem, where He was to be crucified (Luke 9:51). 
          We disciples face opposition as we go out into the world.  There is many a “village” that doesn’t want us around.  We know Jesus.  We know His value.  We know that every person has a deep need for the Lord.  When others don’t recognize or receive Him, it is easy to feel anxious for them or even offended.  But when we are tempted to confront, to threaten hellfire, to argue and to push until they accept Jesus, we need to remember our Master headed to the cross to die for them.  Laying down our lives for others should be more important than trying to convince people of our viewpoint (1 John 3:16).  If we allow the Spirit of Passover to move us, He will command devotion and obedience because His self-giving nature is truly worthy of these things.