March 14th, 2017

We had a tremendous time as 45 of us trekked from MN to KY to go see the Ark Encounter. It was well worth the effort, but both before and after the trip there was a price to pay in time, energy and effort. Twenty-eight hours of driving in three days takes a toll and I am not as spry as I used to be. We got back Saturday at 7:00 p.m. On Sunday afternoon into Monday there was an 8-inch snow storm. As I am writing this, it is only about 1 degree F. Crazy weather in March is not unusual.

Life can be like March weather in MN. It can be 60 one day and zero the next, we can have a spiritual high and sense the beauty and wonder of God and feel his presence, and the next day can seem to be cold, dark and sullen. One thing to remember is our Lord is a constant. He never changes yesterday, today, and forever. Our spiritual climate for the most part is of our own making. God allows circumstances into our lives to test and mature us so we can be conformed more into the image of Christ. Spiritual muscle without some kind of resistance does not grow. The entropy of the depraved nature has its own drag we face every morning.  This is why it is imperative we get up with Christ to start the day and seek to have running fellowship with Him throughout the day. A day without Jesus is like a day without Son-Shine, and yet with the Son close at hand, hell or high water cannot overcome the Christian filled with the Spirit of God and clothed in His armor.

Satan loves to be the focal point of our attention. Therefore, it is important to remember a few things. The seed of the Woman (Jesus Christ) has crushed the serpent’s head. Satan bruised Jesus’ heel on the cross, but on the third day the enemy was unilaterally defeated by overwhelming power and virtue. The snake’s head has been stomped on and he though dangerous is in his death throes an already defeated enemy. Ephesians 6 tells the Christian warrior to get dressed. The shield of faith is sufficient to quench all of the enemy’s darts. He only has the same three he threw at Eve – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Though all three can be tipped with a variety of poisons i.e. anger, lust, bitterness, pride etc., the same shield works against them all. Now how do we gird the shield of faith? Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. While I am not ignorant of the Devil and his devices, he is not to be my focus or my worry. “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)

Some of you might remember the comedian Flip Wilson. He used to do a sketch and play a woman named Geraldine. She was a saucy sort and she would be asked why she was sooooo naughty? She always replied: “The Devil made me do it!” Unfortunately, there are many Christians who want to use this defeated angel as a scapegoat for their own inconsistencies and sin as an excuse for living defeated lives. They give to him godlike powers such as omnipresence. Most of us will never have a personal encounter with the real deal because unlike the Holy Spirit he cannot be there tormenting everyone at the same time. This is not to say in his hierarchy there are not lesser tormentors in the spiritual realm that may be paying us some attention.  Regardless of the battle in the unseen realm, my focus has to be on Christ and the path He has called me to walk in. Simple obedience in Christ and focus on Christ will thwart the enemy’s designs. Romans 16:19-20 “For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf; but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.  And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.”

The Devil would have us focus on self and him rather than Christ and on the needs of others. In defeating him and his wiles, the Scriptures provide the Lord’s design for an outward focus via our family, our role as a men and women, as Christians, husbands, fathers, wives, children, as an employee, and yea a disciple of Christ. Read and apply Ephesians 4-6.

So how does one take focus off self and Satan, place focus on Christ and discerningly get in tune with the needs of others? I certainly would never for a moment lay aside my convictions based upon the Lord and his truth for another. Listening to others with discernment requires a foundation of truth through which to filter whatever comes my way. Having said this, it does not mean I cannot understand where another person is coming from even if I do not agree with them. Having truth does not require one to be arrogant or uncaring. Jesus is the epitome of empathy and truth mingled together. He forgave the adulteress woman on the one hand, and yet on grace’s heels told her to go and sin no more. True empathy for fallen creatures can only come by taking a long look at the cross and being honest with the terrible reason why Jesus had to die. I should be able to relate and listen to sinners because I am one. I am cut from the same fallen cloth. As a saved sinner, I should be able to listen and understand where lost people are coming from because I came from the same place, and yet now I have a new perspective on what I am hearing and how I should respond. Moreover, because I am a forgiven sinner I now have a supernatural gift when wrongfully touched by other sinners, saved or unsaved. I can choose to forgive. Why? Because I have been the recipient of forgiveness. Truth is never an obstacle to listening or understanding. Only our pride is. Ephesians 4-6 provides a key practice throughout the passage which is namely submission both to the Lord and others. Submission is based upon putting the needs of others before our own. To be able to meet the needs of family, work and others around us requires an investment in listening to be able to understand how I can best fulfill my role and be a help to them. If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” Philippians 2:1-8.

Lastly, repentance is a God-given change of attitude, towards the Lord, towards ourselves and our sin, towards others, and towards the purpose of living. It is 180 degree turn around from self and sin to the Lord and others. In the Marine Corps, it would be likened to the command “about face.” It is real, experiential and measurable. It is the difference in life before salvation and after salvation. I like to ask people who claim Christ as to how their life changed after they trusted Christ as their Savior. Not everyone’s change is as great as some others, but one thing is common to all who have embraced the truth of the gospel with a repentant heart, there is a change. Faith without repentance is like a car with no wheels. It may claim to be a mode of transportation, but it is not going anywhere.

Love because of Christ,

Pastor John