In Sheep’s Clothing

This happens to me a lot: I read a post or article online and think “wow! That’s great advice!” only to have the Spirit whisper to me “Can you really see Jesus saying or doing that?” In those moments, I realize with startling clarity how deceptive and crafty prince of darkness really is.

Sometimes the enemy manifests his clever falsehoods as justification for greed and materialism. This can be everything from “God wants you to be happy” to “You worked hard and deserve it.”  And then it will pop up as a plea to “be who you were born to be” or “follow your heart.” Other times it’s relationship advice that pushes you to cut ties with those who hurt you, or get back at them for the pain they caused. But, though I fully admit that those stories of splendor, individuality, self-preservation, or revenge feel satisfying, is God living in me, or my own flesh, the one gratified.

You see, when I crack open my Bible, I don’t see a God who seeks comfort and wealth, but one who chose torture and death. I don’t see a Savior who acted as He pleased, but one who submitted Himself to the will of God. There is no evidence suggesting that the Lord abandons us when we betray Him again and again. The words of Jesus never include instructions to hold grudges. It’s all too easy to see myself as a good person when my standard of morality originates with internet memes. So where does my standard of morality originate? As a Christian, I believe firmly that God is the one who chooses what is good and just and moral, and He reveals it to us in scripture.

And I fall woefully short of His standard. For my immorality, I have earned condemnation. But despite my sin, God, in His mercy, has sent one to live the moral life I could not and pay my debt for me; to take the punishment I earned, despite not earning it Himself. I could not have earned it, so He gave it freely to me. God’s justice and mercy met inconceivably at the cross, where sin was punished and sinners are saved.

If you sense that you too might be falling for the lies of the world, seeking after wealth, comfort, vengeance, or control, only to be left feeling empty or alone, the solution is easy: Confess to God that you know you sin and cannot save yourself. Ask Him to forgive you and rule over your life. Take joy in the knowledge that as you learn more about Him, He will make you more and more like Christ.

But, even in defeat, Satan seeks to steal, kill and destroy, and one of his best tactics is to dress lies up to look and feel like truth. The most dangerous enemy is one pretending to be a friend.

Daily, then, I must ask God to steel my spirit and sharpen my mind to see through deception and fill me with wisdom and righteousness. I don’t want behavior and philosophy that the world praises, but that God has declared righteous and preserved for me in His word. And the best way to do that? Be a student of His word. Unless you know the truth, you’ll never be able to spot the lies, after all.

Psalm 119:9

How can a young man keep his way pure?
    By guarding it according to your word.”

 

Weary and Heavy Laden?

I can hardly believe that we are already a week into May! The entire month of April felt like a series of stress tests to see what would finally break my spirit. The difficult transition to a new meeting space, overlaid with the busy Easter season, contract writing, wedding planning, Men’s Development Program, and other irons in the fire left me feeling raw and ragged. Why didn’t anyone tell me ministry was this hard?!

You know… other than the New Testament authors, who make it quite clear that ministry will require more from you than you think. Luckily, scripture also makes it clear that ministry will provide you with more than it takes from you, even if it doesn’t feel that way all the time.

Jesus taught fairly extensively about trusting God’s provision and finding rest in Him alone. Rather than take time going into nitty gritty details about everything that’s been going on, I thought it might be good to remind you of words spoken by the Lord of Lords Himself, Jesus Christ.

Matthew 6:31-34

31 “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

Later, in Matthew 11:27-30 it’s recorded that Jesus said:

27 “All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

And again the idea of Jesus’ sufficiency is taught in John 4:13-14

13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

and John 6:35

35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”

And in Revelation 21:6-7, God assures us:

And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.”

And that’s not even to mention all the references to rest, contentment, and trust from the writings of the Apostles!

“do not be anxious for anything” Is a command from Paul.

“Humble yourselves… casting all your anxieties on Him, for He cares for you” are words of Peter.

“Consider it all joy… when you encounter various trials, knowing the testing of your faith produces endurance” wrote James.

And so, at the end of this difficult season, and the beginning of a season that is sure to be difficult in it’s own way as well, I choose to remain confident in the goodness of God, and ready to walk with Him through any tribulation.