Friday, July 28, 2023

Spiritual Warfare, Woe #2

This is the second of seven woes Jesus aims at the Pharisees.  These lessons are as potent today as they were then:

“Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath.’ You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath.’  You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred?  Therefore, anyone who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. And anyone who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. And anyone who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it." (Matthew 23:16-22) 

It seems that the Pharisees are making a distinction between the things of God and the things of man, and that the things of man win out. Jesus takes to task the teaching that swearing by the Temple and its altar means nothing.  What gives the oath value is the human element present.  

How odd, given that the Temple was God's dwelling place on earth.  It was large, beautiful and the center of Jewish religious life and yet an oath with it as the sacred element, means nothing.  OK, Mr. Pharisee, what makes an oath with the Temple binding, important and well worth the making?  

The gold!

The gold?  What?

The gold is what man brings into the Temple as an offering or lays it on the altar. Gold is brought out of the earth by people.  People fashion it into currency (for human transactions) or for decoration (on human buildings). Gold has value to human being because of its rarity and beauty.  

The most telling thing about how the Pharisees ascribe value is because gold is essential to run the Temple and sustain their religious monopoly, its value outshines even its location, i.e., the Temple or the altar.  

Human beings have determined value based on its functionality and its role in aggrandizing people's power and status.

Kingdom of God values?


The value of the gold is not because we say it's valuable. Its placement on the altar, within the Temple sanctifies it, makes it valuable and acceptable to God.  It has no inherent value; where it is makes it what it is, because of God's anointing presence.

Makes sense, doesn't it?  The Pharisees equate their rules and regulations are holy because they say they are holy, and whether they admit it or not, what they preach gives them power and status.

Just because we make something big, expensive, awe-inspiring and valuable, doesn't make it so in God's eyes, because the Kingdom of God is not about accommodating man's standards.  It's about a revolution in thinking about what is truly important, through the lens of Jesus, His teachings and His sacrifice on the cross. 

Paul indicates that even Christians get into the "Hey!  I follow that guy!" as a way to validate their position, in the same way the Pharisees wanted the gold to validate an oath.  He says that this need comes from our sinful nature: 

"You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your sinful nature? Aren’t you living like people of the world? When one of you says, 'I am a follower of Paul,' and another says, 'I follow Apollos,' aren’t you acting just like people of the world?

After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work. For we are both God’s workers. And you are God’s field. You are God’s building." (1 Cor. 3:3-9)

It's about following God, not whose church we attend or who we think is so important that everyone needs to get on board. We gain prideful traction by associating ourselves with what we have determined is valuable, and then turn it into something spiritual and lofty. 

It's the double whammy of pride:  I determine something is valuable and then I elevate it to something spiritual. 

Then Paul says: 

"Because of God’s grace to me, I have laid the foundation like an expert builder. Now others are building on it. But whoever is building on this foundation must be very careful. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ." (1 Cor. 3:10-11)

Jesus is not valuable because we say He is; He is because of His death, burial and resurrection.  We cannot add or subtract to His value.  Period.  

But we do act like the Pharisees at times with our values substituting those of the Kingdom of God's.  But Paul makes it clear that what we value will be tested as to its eternal value.  Did what we said, did and proclaimed move the Kingdom of God forward, or did it elevate us? 

"Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames." (1 Cor. 3:12-14)

We build upon the foundation of Christ.  What materials do we use?  Ones that the world values?  Or what God values?  God sanctifies what He wants us to use.  God's judgement of fire will be merciful, for even if what we used was not of His choosing, the person's salvation will allow an escape.

But what a disappointment will be had by the one watching all those materials go up in flames and by those who thought those materials were satisfactory in God's eyes. 

As Jesus will soon prophesy, even God's house, the Temple, will be brought down. The Roman army will do so 70 AD and enslave those that they don't outright kill.  The Colosseum, the very temple of this world's values, will be built by those slaves.  The Pharisees, who quibbled about what made a legitimate oath will not longer have the Temple, its altar and its gold.  All will taken away by a people who saw value in plunder, murder, mayhem and vengeance. 

The Kingdom of God still went forward in spite of that, but a tragic price was paid by His people. 

I am deeply worried that our consumerist approach about church, giving it value only if we get something out of it, instead of asking ourselves how can we further the Kingdom of God, will be tested someday, and will be terribly lacking. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Spiritual Warfare: Woe # 1

Wow.  This is a Jesus you don't expect as you read the Gospels.  Talking to outcasts and sinners, going about doing good, teaching about His Father, demonstrating life in the Kingdom of God:  These are the iconic moments that define Jesus for us.

But this Jesus, the One who faces the Pharisees, is like an Old West sheriff standing on a dusty road, facing the outlaws and pulling His gun the fastest, and down they go. 

Jesus excoriated the religious leaders of His day for one simple reason:  They knew better.  They had the Scriptures, they knew the Law and they participated in the holy goings-on in the Temple.  They were in God's house in a way that the unwashed masses could never be. 

Hypocrisy seems to be the one sin that Jesus could not and would not tolerate.  He was well aware of Greek theater and the masks the actors wore to portray a certain character to an audience.  The city of Sepphoris is only 3.7 miles from Galilee.  If Joseph travelled through the region, taking on jobs, and Jesus went with him, he probably went there and saw its theater.   

To make a point, He recounts what actors did when they came into town: "So when you give to the needy, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. Truly I tell you, they already have their full reward..." (Matt. 6:1)

The word for actor is hypocrites, and even if Jesus is speaking metaphorically, the people would have still thought about the actors who announced their arrival in town with a flourish.  The word also means, "stage-player."  The Pharisees had a huge stage they walked across every day.  They were the keepers of the Law and its attendant morality.  They dressed the part and everyone knew when they were "on."

So did Jesus, and He took them to task.  Woe #1: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to." (Matt. 23:13-14)

People follow those who command respect because of their personality or position.  The Pharisees had position, and no matter who they were personally or how they acted, they still expected respect from everyone.

Therein lies the problem. The position provided a perfect smokescreen for their behavior--they could do what they wanted in private and no one would question them, because their position was so lofty that no one dared.

But Jesus did, because a position is no guarantee of personal integrity. Jesus Himself didn't use His position to oppress us, but modeled a servant who led with humility and grace: 

"Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross. 
Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor 
and gave him the name above all other names,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father." (Phil. 2:3-11)

The Pharisees were the complete opposite of Jesus.  The Kingdom of God reversed the world's values by having the last be first, the humble exalted and those who lose their lives finding them.  So, to have people who know what God expects and then parade around with an attitude of moral superiority while living in shadows of sin, was disgusting to Jesus.  And because they were the role models showing what living a holy life looked like, did the people think that somehow their lifestyle was acceptable to God? 

The Pharisees were not only steeped in sin, but they advocated, because of their position, that the people emulate them, and sadly, join them in the pit.  They had made heaven so unattainable with rule after rule, that those sought God through the Pharisees' religious system, were unable to do so. The Pharisees worked hard to make that person as blind to the truth of who God is and what He expects as they were.

How does this tie into spiritual warfare?  If the people find out their leaders in the church have been living a double life, advocating a faith that even they fail to follow, then those people may walk away from Christianity altogether: 

I am not going back to church. My pastor hid his drinking problem and when it came out on social media, I was blown away.  I looked up to him.  I don't know what living a Christian life looks like, so I watched him.  He encouraged me and I thought he really loved Jesus.  But, now, I ask myself:  Was he ever genuine?  Was it an act all along?  Or did he start out fine, then starting sinning and was so afraid to show weakness that he tried to cover it up?  Why didn't he just confess it and try to get help?

Christians are all hypocrites.  They go on and on about being a good Christian and then do the very same things they condemn us for.  They say that divorce is wrong, but do it themselves.  They say gay marriage is wrong, but they don't honor their own marriages by having affairs and viewing porn.  They say we should have love and compassion for others, until those "others" happen to be in another political party and then boy do the gloves come off.  They say money is the root of all evil, but they own jets, mansions and live way better than their followers do. 

We follow Christ, not men, but the way we conduct ourselves can have far reaching consequences to those who are watching and listening to us. 

Jesus was a servant, the Suffering Servant, who became a leader.  Too much of modern church is preoccupied with leaders who we want to act like servants.  But as soon as you invest too much power, influence and personal benefit in a person with a sin nature, (as we all have) the potential for abuse is ever-present and the consequences of that person's failures can drive people away from Jesus, leaving them more and more vulnerable to Satan's attacks and influence. 

We shouldn't allow our pastors and church leaders to have too much influence or power over us.  We shouldn't let them think for us.  

I have been there.  I was in a church when a new pastor showed up.  He knew the Bible extremely well, and had an excitement about him.  He encouraged me, for I was already the worship leader, and I grew much better in my capacity under his praise.

But over time, I realized he had to be the most spiritual person in the room, and woe to anyone who questioned him.  He liked being the center of attention, and didn't like the heavy lifting of pastoral visits or running the church.  He just wanted to show up and preach or lead a Bible study.  He didn't visit the sick and manipulated those who were by insisting their healing would happen if they had enough faith.  He insinuated the reason they were still sick was their failure.  He boasted that he never got sick. 

He had been abused as a child, but claimed that God had healed him of all the damage.  Yet, he manipulated us as a group.  He claimed our church hadn't grown because we weren't speaking in tongues.  He never accepted any responsibility for anything that went wrong but he reveled in the authority he had.  

We found out he had lied about his financial dealings and owed people money.  He started selling off our music equipment when the church finally closed its doors, but that equipment was not his to sell.  All of the money the church had saved up over the years disappeared.  The final blow was when he "borrowed" money from a single mom who was living in a trailer.  He left the state and has never paid her back.  I don't know if he ever intended to.

My point?  I followed him rather than Jesus for several years.  The damage he did still lingers; it took me personally a long time to recover from the damage he inflicted on my trust.  I sadly went to a church with another dysfunctional pastor, because I was so needy after this one, and was deeply hurt again. 

Jesus is making it clear that leaders are deeply responsible to the people they serve.  Leaders are not to make finding Him so difficult with lots of rules and regulations or by hypocritical behavior.  Why?  They make God unrecognizable to those who would seek Him.  They can drive them away with a portrait of God that misrepresents Him. 

Jesus came to reclaim and proclaim the true nature of who God is and what He expects.     
Jesus came to set the captives free, even those standing in a church.  Even those standing in the pulpit. 


Monday, July 10, 2023

Spiritual Warfare, Romans 2, Part VI

Here the last part of Romans 2, and it presents the key point that Paul is trying to make:

A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God. (Romans 2:28-29) [emphasis mine]

So, there it is:  We are justified by Christ because we have accepted His gracious offer of salvation provided by His death on the cross.  We are praised by God by making the right choice.  We stand in front of God, clothed in His Son's righteousness.  The Father loves the Son and now so do we. 


Really?  But what all those sinners out there?  Let's redirect our attention to the Pharisees, the keepers of the nation of Israel's morality, and see how Jesus regarded them.

They would argue if you don't point out sin, then you are giving tacit approval to it.  People need to know they are sinners so they can reach out to God.  A drowning man may not know just how much trouble he's in until you show up as the Coast Guard, with your horn blaring. If he refuses to grab the lifesaver you are throwing him, that's his choice, but your job is to show up and inform him of his precarious situation. 


Well, to the Pharisees the best way to inform sinners is by creating a list of laws they must follow if they want to separate themselves from those who don't. Behind every law is a sinner whose breaking of it warrants enshrining it. The Ten Commandments is a case in point.  People lusted after idols, wouldn't worship the One true God, broke the Sabbath, didn't honor their parents, committed adultery, lusted after their neighbor's possessions, were willing to murder and steal, didn't honor the Sabbath, used God's name without reverence, and in general, made a righteous and civil society impossible.

OK.  With that list, we need to remind people of the necessity of following the Law:  We need to honor God with our behavior. 

Makes sense. 

So, what do we do with the Law?  Teach it, model it, remind our children of its Author and His wonderful provision: 

"Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates." (Deut. 6:4-9)

Beautiful.  They are not just behaviors that you assiduously do; they are in your heart, so you want to do them, because you want to please God, not just look pious to others.  God is first in your thoughts:  How may I please Him today?  

Micah answers that question: "He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." (6:8)

Jesus summarized all the teachings, laws and commands of the prophets to the Pharisees, who wanted to catch Jesus in a theological error, thereby discrediting Him:

"Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 'Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?'

Jesus replied: '"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: '"Love your neighbor as yourself." All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matt. 22:34-40)

Our love for God is the only motivation for obeying the Law.  We obey not out of fear, self-righteousness or pride.  We do not seek to condemn others by parading our obedience and casting a judgmental glance their way.  

Loving God is what He desires from us.  We are like the Moon:  We can only reflects the Sun's light.  We cannot produce any light of our own.  The more we give ourselves to Him, the more light we reflect.  Our love for Him should light up the night sky, and drive away the darkness.

So, how did Jesus treat the moral policemen of His day?  Not very well.  I am sure they were aghast at His condemnation, for they saw themselves as the enforcers, models and judges of those who sinned and needed to be called out on it. 

Hypocrisy is the devil's playground and the Pharisees were out in the yard, bright and early every day.  In Matthew, Chapter 23, Jesus goes full bore against them, knowing that in their hearts, their love for God had been replaced with hypocrisy (and would lead to wanting to murder Him).  

"Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 'The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.'" (23:1-4) 

Strike One:  The Pharisees occupy a place of authority, so the people look up to them for teaching, wisdom and guidance.  But they themselves don't follow their own teachings and they heap requirement after requirement for the people to follow, all the while distaining the people's failures. No wonder:  The burdens are just that--people are not energized by their love for God, but by believing that following a list of Thou-Shall-Not's will please God.  Wrong.  We cannot, in our own power or even wanting to be good, sustain a righteous life.  

God wants our love and out of that love comes an ever-increasing awareness and displeasure of sin.  He empowers us to lead the very life He wants us to lead; Paul cries out for us all: "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin." (Rom. 7:24-5) 

Next:  “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others. But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted." (23:5-12)

Strike Two:  It's all about the show and with a big show comes adulation and "Oh, Rabbi, you're the best!  Come dine with me and please sit in the place of honor!"  First the focus is on the leaders, for teaching from Moses' seat gives them the authority to direct the people. But the focus moves to being about the leaders personally: They love being honored everywhere they go, and bask under the title of Rabbi.  

Jesus deftly moves the focus back to where it should be:  On God, Who is our Teacher and the Messiah, Who will guide, empower and model a life based on a uncompromised love.  

Strike Three and You're Out!  The Pharisees are not humble people.  They know what they know and that is good enough to continue being leaders in their community.

But Jesus has another definition of leadership:  Humility.  Humility comes out of our love for God. We recognize our lowly estate and reach out our hand to the One Who loves us so, knowing that what He asks us to do, He will empower us to do.   

Those in power, who love taking the place of God and try to be other people's Holy Spirit, will be brought low in the Kingdom of God.  Those who know their need and want to love God with all their heart, mind and soul and yet still struggle, will be raised up, for a humble child brings God delight. 

Next time, we will focus on the seven woes Jesus levies at the Pharisees.  The lesson here is how to minimize Satan's incursions into our lives and live in such a manner that people are attracted, not repelled, by us. 

Saturday, July 1, 2023

Spiritual Warfare, Romans 2, Part V

Paul is now turning up the heat and focusing on his fellow Jews who have, in the history of the world, one of the most sophisticated and humane laws to govern any society.  They have a covenant with the One True God, and have seen His miraculous saving powers over the centuries.  But...

"Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and boast in God; if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of little children, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? As it is written: 'God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.'” (Romans 2:17-24)

May I respectfully modify this?  

"Now you, if you call yourself a true patriotic American; if you rely on the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and your Christian heritage; if you know God's precepts and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the Word of God; if you are convinced that you are a guide for other nations seeking democracy, a light for refugees and the oppressed; an instructor to those who don't know how to run a country well; a teacher of children, with a strong education system that teaches moral character along with knowledge and truth—you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor porn, do you sit in front of your computer and look?  You who boast in America being the best country on Earth, do you dishonor God by breaking His Word? As it is written: 'God’s name is blasphemed among the other nations because of you.'”

In my lifetime, I have watched America turn her back on her Christian heritage.  The Ten Commandments, which "offended" people, were removed from parks and public places.

I have watched how divorce, once a rather infrequent occurrence, become so commonplace that we no longer discuss it in church. It used to be quite an issue.  I knew a pastor whose who was being considered, but because he was divorced, there was some question if he should be hired.  This was in the nineties.  It was only because he had been married to a non-believer that he was able to secure the position.  In the eighties, My sister-in-law labored over marrying her second husband, for she had been married before. 

How many pastors stand in the pulpit each week, teaching about family, God and the need for honoring spouses and yet they themselves are on their second marriage?  How many pastors stood against gay marriage, having failed in their own?  How many churches decried gay marriage, when a large number of the congregation was divorced?  How many worried about the children of gay couples yet had alienated children of their own?

Have their experiences made them more empathetic to others' struggles, or more condemning, to hide their own shame?

How many Christians battle with alcoholism, drug abuse, porn, embezzlement, lying, abuse (of all kinds) of family members or others, and yet when there is some kind of moral offense going on in the society, they are the first to gather at a protest with angry looks and insulting placards?

I have watched the church lose its moral power over the decades.  I never expected my parents to act as Christians should, because once I became born-again, I could see that they had not made a personal profession, so I didn't expect them to act in a certain way. But the little church up the street that I attended as a new Christian were filled with people who were imperfect, to be sure, but they modeled that the Christian life could be led, even if it meant personal sacrifice.  They worried about their witness to others; I, too, was concerned about anything that would compromise my witness. 

Not everyone there was kind, but enough of the people, my pastor included, showed me that living the Christian life was possible, because they were trying hard to do so. This had a profound impact on me as a young Christian. 

"As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live," is a powerful quote by Pope John Paul II.  So, given what has happened to the American family, it is no surprise what is now happening in our churches, schools and the country itself. Having lost our moral center, we are chasing every fad, every idea, every whim of a few and applying to the whole, creating division, darkness and deception as a result.

Paul isn't saying, and nor am I, that we have to be perfect--that is not going to happen, but I love how Paul handles a church filled with imperfect sinners who have come to Christ.  The context here is lawsuits amongst believers (another sign that members were judging each other, failing to reconcile and seeing a lawsuit as the only way to settle differences).  He reminds them (and us) what is really wrong and how to fix it: 

"The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers and sisters. Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." (1 Cor. 6:7-11) [emphasis mine]

Bingo:  The church is filled with former sinners (aren't we all?) and yet the church is acting no different from the way they used to act.  Uh-oh.  But if the Body of Christ is filled with sinners who have been washed (baptized in water and by the Word), justified (declared "not guilty" by the cross of Christ) and sanctified (set aside for holy use, to move the Kingdom of God forward) then the church should look and act differently than the world around it.

In other words, our witness (to the saving work of Jesus in our loves) is important, and we need the Spirit of God's strength and fruits in our lives to make that even possible.

Am I saying if you are divorced, have a porn problem, or any other struggle with sin, you should hang your head in church, or worse, not go until you are victorious?  No, of course not.  If that were the case, the church would decline significantly in numbers and the few left might feel so self-righteous that they would be useless. 

"And that is what some of you were":  Whatever our story, (and we all have one) we become walking testimonies to His saving work in us--even when we blow it.  Even when our sin is severe (look at Paul, who had "murderer" on his resume) we are still His works of art:

"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Eph. 2:1-10)

The word "handiworks" is the word in Greek for "poem."   We are God's magnum opus, and He gets the glory when we, who were lost, act in love and self-control (both gifts of the Spirit, so we don't try to do this in our own power) and show the world that being in Christ means a new creation, a new work of God, on a planet that is broken, lost and confused.

We speak out about sin in controlled and sagacious words, carefully monitoring our own walk, and emphasizing His saving grace, and allowing the Holy Spirit to work in the lives of those around us.

He is faithful:  To us and to the world.

I can't be someone else's Holy Spirit.  

But I can be a walking testimony to how He saves, cleanses and sets a person free. 


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