18 November 2013

The snare is broken.

Scripture:  Blessed be the Lord, Who has not given us as prey to their teeth. Our soul has escaped as a bird from the snare of the fowlers; The snare is broken, and we have escaped. Our help is in the name of the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. (Psalms 124:6-8 NKJV)

For I am jealous for you with the jealousy of God himself. I promised you as a pure bride to one husband—Christ. But I fear that somehow your pure and undivided devotion to Christ will be corrupted, just as Eve was deceived by the cunning ways of the serpent. You happily put up with whatever anyone tells you, even if they preach a different Jesus than the one we preach, or a different kind of Spirit than the one you received, or a different kind of gospel than the one you believed. (2 Corinthians 11:2-4 NLT)

But I don’t consider myself inferior in any way to these “super apostles” who teach such things. I may be unskilled as a speaker, but I’m not lacking in knowledge. We have made this clear to you in every possible way. (2 Corinthians 11:5-6 NLT)

After all, you think you are so wise, but you enjoy putting up with fools! You put up with it when someone enslaves you, takes everything you have, takes advantage of you, takes control of everything, and slaps you in the face. I’m ashamed to say that we’ve been too “weak” to do that! But whatever they dare to boast about—I’m talking like a fool again—I dare to boast about it, too. (2 Corinthians 11:19-21 NLT)

Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? I know I sound like a madman, but I have served him far more! I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again." (2 Corinthians 11:22-23 NLT)

Observation: Apostle was a Roman word that Christ took for His own.  It's a military term, denoting the person tasked with overseeing the Romanization of a conquered place.  It was a person who knew Rome and Romans, and who was to see that the shift from whatever culture and tradition those people had to Rome's was as complete as possible. Religion was to be destroyed and replaced with the Roman gods and mythology. Roman law ruled above and beyond local law, superseding and overruling it; and so on. That's what the task of a Christian apostle is: to teach and lead and see that Jesus is the name held up for salvation . . . that Christians in an area are taught Him, and Him alone.  As Paul said, "For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified." A Roman military apostle who implemented his own idea of culture, law and mythology would bring down the wrath of Ceasar upon himself, because he wasn't transforming the culture into a new little Rome--he was making a kingdom after his own mind, ideas and understanding.  The same holds true for Christian apostles. It's teaching Jesus and seeing His word flower in clarity and power, or it's the vain and empty work of the devil, well-intentioned and pleasant as it may be.  Pleasant good intentions cannot save. Christ has a cheerful, joyful, tender and yet awesomely powerful nature. To be in Him is not pleasant. It is the ultimate safety--but just about anything but comfortable.  He's always prodding and drawing His followers out into territory unknown to them. Scaring the snot out of them, insisting they release every thing but Him.

Every. Thing.

All.

Nothing held back.

And when we let go of it all, there's room for Him.

Finally.

Application: Is it any wonder that Rome eventually swallowed the early church whole, becoming the Holy Roman Empire?  When it became clear that the Christians weren't going away, the best method of neutralizing the threat was to subvert and co-opt.  This is what Paul's talking about . . . those who profess to know Christ, to preach what seems to be His word, and yet whose lives show none (or very few indeed) of the signs of conversion, the powerful gifts of the Holy Spirit that come after the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost.  It was that baptism that was recognized as the entrance into the very early church--an admission by God, Himself. When we're brought back into His presence through that fiery baptism, then we truly are no longer "strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the Saints, and of the household of God".  When we pass through that fire, the glory and love of Jesus Christ that cleanses our soul and covers us with His righteousness, we become members of the household of God . . . spiritually begotten, literal sons and daughters of Jesus.  His house is a house of order--and we gain admittance through that baptism, and no other way.  "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God," (John 3:5 KJV, emphasis mine). Many churches are really good at the "born of water part" . . . that's easy for men to do.  But being born of the Spirit is strictly God's deal. You can't fake that.  Those who have been born of the Spirit can spot an impostor a mile off--and yet those who have been born of the Spirit love and bear with those who have not yet. Becoming a new creature in Christ means you love with His love, and ridicule and shun no one.

Prayer: Father, show me clearly the difference between the philosophies of men (and devils!), and You. Teach me Your Truth . . . even Jesus Christ. Show me Your wisdom, fill my mouth with the words You want me to say, and I will say them.  Pull down the strongholds of the adversary, the enemy, the trickster, who is merrily leading so many along the broad, pleasant, well-intentioned way. Lord, make of me a polished shaft in Your hand, that I may, again and again, be a precise and useful tool in the only work of true significance: bringing Your children back to You.  Jesus, redeem us from the fall. Show us how to walk, how to live, open our minds and release us from spiritual bondage. Fill my voice with the joy and inexpressible message of Jesus, let Your light shine from my countenance, touching everyone I am blessed to see. And loving Father, show me my stewardship. Show me what and where and how You would have me work. Teach me how to accept it fully, to walk in Your authority in it, and to be a game-changer. Keep training me, keep teaching me, because I'm loving this, Lord. This life is truly living . . . this freedom is what I was made for--and I revel and rejoice in it! Thank you!!!!! In the name of Him whose life and victory I will dance and sing and shout hallelujah to the very skies, Jesus Christ. So be it!!!!!

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I welcome questions and concerns--they are most often what spur us closer to the truth. I only ask that we all give everyone the most generous benefit of the doubt, assigning the best motives possible. A soft answer truly does turn away wrath, and an atmosphere of Jesus's love is the best for learning, no matter which side of a discussion you're on.

Thanks so much, and God bless you!