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Archive for The Christian Life

Authority (The real story on Biblical submission)

by Jktdohn Howell, Jr.

This is Lesson e in the study “Kids These Days: Biblical Help for Families.” This  13-week study is aimed at connecting powerful truths that the Bible gives us about the family with the pressing, painful needs within our families.

There is a short verse near the end of Paul’s first letter to believers at Corinth that provides important insight into the plan and workings of God. The verse: “Let all things be done decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:40). Though this verse specifically refers to the operations of the local church, these instructions are consistent on how He runs His universe. This truth is revealed in the Old Testament in a variety of ways. “Decently and in order” is how God organized Israel’s march through the wilderness, and how He laid out His instructions for the tabernacle, and later the temple. The Bible student, as he studies further, learns that God always advances His plans “decently and in order.” This instruction should also guide us as we interact with the government and in the way we interact with our employer or our employees (1 Peter 2:11-18; Eph. 6:5-9).

For any entity to operate smoothly, there must be someone in charge, someone who is given the authority to lead. There should be no surprise that God has engineered the family to operate under this same principle. For the family to operate with decency and order, there must be singular leadership, with others in the family submitting to that leadership.

The Power Passages: Ephesians 5:22-25; Romans 13:1

Due to ignorance (or worse), the organized church and even Bible-influenced cultures have been through dark periods in which the idea of the wife submitting to the husband was misunderstood and often abused. The result was the women were pushed into second-class status, or seen as inferior to men. This philosophy still flourishes in some cultures, disintegrating even to abuse of women. Looking at cultures across the globe, and observing from history, a true understanding of what the Bible teaches about the role and significance of women can always be associated with a better life for females. Cultures that are opposed to biblical Christianity, especially cultures influenced by Islam, suppress the basic rights of women. It is sadly ironic that in the West, Christianity has been tagged as anti-feminine when in fact Christianity teaches that women and girls are to be cherished, honored and protected. Men and women are equal in worth and value before our heavenly Father. Men and women, do, however, have different tasks and functions to carry out.

This chapter features three takeaways that will help us in our homes as we relate to our spouses and children.

  1. A submissive attitude toward authority produces a healthy society

The year 2016 has been characterized by alarming breakdowns of authority in the U.S. I watched television coverage from Memphis (which is 50 miles north of where I live) recently in which protesters had taken control of a major interstate and in effect shut down interstate traffic across the Mississippi River. Due to controversy over the application of police authority, we have seen violence between protesters and police break out in many large cities. Given a spark, most if not all major cities in our country seem to be at risk of becoming dangerous and out of control. One of the main factors is that rather than submitting to authority, many in our country are resistant and hostile to authority. Another factor contributing to this dangerous trend is the occasional failure of those in authority to exert authority wisely for the welfare of citizens and the preservation of law and order.

So what about those abuses of authority? That is a fair question. There are times when we have seen evidence of authority being handled poorly and unfairly. There are even (rare) situations when authority figures behave in a rogue and dangerous manner. Are there times when citizens should stand up and push back? These are very timely and practical questions for the Christian.

The apostle Paul dealt with similar issues as he planted churches and nurtured pastors to tend to these churches. In fact, life in imperial Rome in Paul’s time was rougher than life in our nation (even at present), especially for believers in Jesus Christ.  We can complain about whomever may be the president and can experience frustration about those in authority over us, but the hand that had been dealt to those in Paul’s day (the emperor Nero was one of the most jaded and evil men to lead the mighty Roman empire) was far worse. So how did the apostle handle this? What were his instructions to these early Christians? Did he tell them to fight back? To organize a rebellion? To resist?

Not at all! Here are Paul’s clear instructions on the matter (specifically to believers living in the city of Rome):

“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation” (Rom. 13:1-2).

The remainder of the chapter fleshes out these instructions, explaining that the government is a “minister of God” (v. 4) and thus deserving of our payment of taxes and customs (v. 7). The Greek word translated “be subject” in Romans 13:1 is seen again in Titus 3:1, where Paul instructs Titus regarding his flock: “Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates…” Peter is on the exact same page with Paul, as evidenced by 1 Peter 2:13: “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme.”

So, the Bible is clear on this matter. Believers are to submit to the rulers of this present evil age, even those leaders whom we might believe to be wackos (again, history tells the story that Nero was clearly a deranged leader). The only exception I have found in the Scriptures is when the earthly ruler issues forth an order or directive that is clearly opposed to the directives of our heavenly Father. For example, when the Jewish leaders ordered the disciples to refrain from teaching the doctrine of Jesus Christ, “[t]hen Peter and the other disciples answered and said, ‘We ought to obey God rather than men’” (Acts 5:28-29). There are other occasions as well, as when Daniel deliberately violated the Persian emperor’s ban on any worship other than worship directed to himself (the emperor’s pride and hubris had led to his desire to be worshipped as a god). Daniel disobeyed authority “and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime” (Daniel 6:10). However, it should be noted that these exceptions are rare and occur when a ruler is blatantly blasphemous, putting the believer’s testimony on the line. If believers (or members of society at large) went around willy nilly choosing not to submit, anarchy would be the result.

Our society is sick right now, because this principle of submitting to authority has been neglected. This principle may not seem to directly connect to the operation of the home and our marriages, but, in fact, this broad Scriptural mandate to submit to authority also forms the foundation for a healthy home. Sadly, this principle is being neglected in the home as well.

  1. The most effective way to exert authority is through love

When I worked as a school headmaster, I enjoyed some parts of the job and struggled with other responsibilities of the job. Being responsible for discipline in a school isn’t a glorious job, but it does provide a great platform from which to touch lives. When a student is “in trouble,” he will give you his undivided attention when he is put on the “hot seat,” which creates a great teaching moment and the opportunity for the young person to really learn something. But when a student is in serious trouble, the lessons can get very serious. Perhaps the toughest moments came when students committed a major infraction as defined by the school handbook, bringing forth the possibility of expulsion. It was emotionally wrenching to everyone involved to have to remove a student from the school that I operated, but sometimes this had to be done to protect an atmosphere of authority and order and to protect the welfare of the remaining students. But it was very difficult.

Over the time I worked in a school, I learned how to relate to students better, and how to do a better job as a disciplinarian. I learned a powerful “secret” along the way. It is this: the best way to lead students, the best way to deal with discipline, the best way to get children to pull with you toward good objectives, is to love them! That’s right, the best, most powerful way to exert authority is through love. I learned that when children and teens know that they are truly loved, and that their welfare is truly important to the authority figure, the majority will get in line and follow a leader who loves them. This became my number one strategy in dealing with school discipline, and it created a very good environment in the schoolhouse. Full disclosure: it was my experience that about 90 percent of students responded to being loved by almost always behaving within the boundaries (with some even blossoming into leaders). What about the other 10 percent? Sadly, they had to be conquered by force, and be shown tough love. Again, sometimes they even had to be removed from the school. Typically, the students who behaved in this way had a completely unsettled home life and had experienced intense disruption in their families. But, even in those cases, later in life many of these individuals would filter back through my life and acknowledge that they had done wrong and would later appreciate the school’s past attempts to love them and reach them. Bottom line: love is a powerful force for leadership and the exertion of authority.

Because “agape” is of God, and so very powerful, we should not be surprised that this principle is exactly what the Word of God prescribes for the home. It is the very simple-but-powerful flow of love that holds a home together. This is the core of our Ephesians 5 study. God loves His Son. God loves man that He created with a love so powerful that our sin and rebellion could not thwart His purposes. God sent His beloved Son to die for our sins, and to pay our sin-debt of death. When I accepted that gift—the gift of His Son’s death for me—God gave me the righteousness of Jesus Christ…again, it’s a gift! As a man who now possesses a new nature in Christ, I am to respond to Christ’s love by walking with Him in faith and obedience. As a husband, I am to lead my wife and my family in the spirit of this love. Not as a tyrant. Not as a power-hungry, insecure man. But I am stand up in my home as a leader who walks in love by the power of the Holy Spirit of God. That is where it all begins. For families, this verse continues to emerge as the key: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it” (Eph.5:25).

In this context, and only in this context, can we then understand and apply Ephesians 5:22: “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.” This is to be done by the wife voluntarily (“submit yourselves”), not under duress or threat.  This has nothing to do with her interactions with other men, but is “unto your own husbands.” This rules out these male-dominated cultures in which men try to hang onto power and push all women into a subordinate status. And holding this entire teaching from Ephesians 5 and 6 together is that this concept and lifestyle is to be carried out “as unto the Lord,” such that the husband and wife both know their ultimate accountability is to the Lord Jesus Christ. We will see this same principle in Ephesians 6, where children are instructed to “obey your parents in the Lord” (v. 1), and fathers are to bring up their children in the “nurture…of the Lord” (v. 4). If the husband is not abiding in the Lord Jesus Christ for his source of love, the formula breaks down. If the wife is not abiding in the Lord Jesus Christ to supply her source of submission, the formula breaks down. Based on this, I would not counsel a woman to submit to a husband who is blatantly or rebelliously outside the Lord’s will and is not the lover-leader described here in Ephesians 5.

There are many voices out there telling us how to lead, how to parent, and how to do just about anything better. The Bible teaches that of all of these principles and philosophies, “the greatest of these is love [agape]” (1 Cor. 13:13). The catch is that this love is only available from the Lord!

In conclusion, submission to authority in the home produces a healthy home. Even better, submission to authority “in the Lord” produces a godly home.

  1. Submission and equality are different concepts

So it’s no secret that controlling men have pulled the phrase “wives submit” out of the context of entire message of Ephesians 5 and 6 and used this phrase to run roughshod over their wives. But, when looking at the Bible’s teaching on authority and submission, it is very important to see that submission to authority is driven by the various roles that play out in our lives. Never in the Word of God do you find the person who is instructed to submit being asked to submit because he or she is unequal or less of a person. In the matter of submission, equality is not the issue.

Consider a scenario in law enforcement, for example. If I am cruising down the state highway—and maybe cruising just a little faster than the law allows—and I look in my rear view mirror and see bright, flashing blue lights, what happens next. Do I stop my car, get out of my car, and say to the trooper: “Hey man, what’s the deal? Why are you stopping me? You are a man. I’m a man. You’re not any better than me. We are equals. So, I’ll tell you what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna get back in my car and drive off, and you’re gonna deal with it.” How would you expect that to work out for me? It would be a true statement for me to protest that, as equals, he shouldn’t have jurisdiction over me. Should he?

Here is probably what plays out next. After he handcuffs me and gets me into the back of his car, the trooper will likely explain the following: “Look pal. You are right. We are equals, and I’m not any better than you. But, on this road, I have a job to do, and the state gives me jurisdiction to run things. When you accepted your driver’s license, that’s the system that came with it. So now you are charged with resisting arrest in addition to speeding.” The state would side with the trooper, and I would be in double trouble. This is as it should be. This gives society a better shot at operating “decently and in order.” If this so-called rule of law breaks down (and it is certainly fraying in many cities), we are in big, big trouble as a nation.

The truth is that use of authority has nothing to do with equality. Authority is instead necessary for the roles that we play as we move through life (and I would argue that these principles will move with us into eternity based on the consistency of God’s character). In an orderly society—and in an orderly home—the party who submits does so voluntarily, for the sake of organization and function. The party who submits is not submitting because he or she is inferior. Those who teach or infer this are guilty of perverting the biblical truths about submission and authority.

Thus, when a wife submits to the husband as the lover-leader of the family unit, she does so voluntarily, in keeping with a role in the family to play, and not because she is less of a Christian or less of a person than the man to whom she submits. And if the man is smart, he will champion her thoughts, desires and opinions as he attempts to lead the home. My two sons have now reached ages 22 and 18. My daughter is 15. Already the boys are physically stronger than their dad, and in many areas they are mentally stronger than I. Therefore, they, too, submit to dad and mom based on principle, not inequality. In many ways, my wife and my children are superior to me, yet they, in a spirit of love, submit to me as the lover leader. There will be more to discover on this when we move into Ephesians 6.

  1. The Lord Jesus Christ was submissive to the will of the Father

If you feel a little uncomfortable with all of this talk about submission, it may be the case that you have fallen victim to the subtle lies of a prideful heart. Pride can be blatant; it can also be sneaky. Because of the sin nature that we inherited from Adam, our minds and in fact our entire beings struggle with the idea of submitting to another person or authority figure. That is pride, and we are reeking with it in the natural man. This pride infected mankind through Satan himself. When Eve yielded her mind and her will to Satan’s alternate plan, and when Adam shirked his responsibility to be the lover-leader and also joined the rebellion, the poison of pride entered the human race, with devastating results playing out in our lives and playing out on our planet at this very hour.  This pride can be cloaked in many disguises, so be alert.

And before any of us start pushing back or rebelling in the roles that require us to be submissive, we must consider that heartbeat of Jesus Christ’s earthly life was submission to the will of His Father. The Bible teaches that the Lord Jesus voluntarily and lovingly emptied Himself of all rights and all honors that were rightfully his as the Creator, and in humility He submitted—day after day, situation after situation, to the Father. Jesus Christ reveals that the proper relation to the Father is to have no will, no rights, and no claims of our own and instead to let His will fill us for His purposes. Philippians 2 teaches this truth very clearly and powerfully. Also consider these statements from Jesus Christ:

“I can of mine own self do nothing; as I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me” (John 5:30, emphasis added).

“For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me…and this is the will of Him that sent Me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise Him up at the last day” (John 6:38, 40, emphasis added).

If we still have reservations about this business of putting the interests of others ahead of our own, or if we are chafing at the very idea of yielding to a spouse, supervisor, or police officer, then we are absolutely missing the divine program of God and are in bondage to pride. We are guilty of attempting to throw the biblical message of decency and order out of the window, and saying instead, “Let’s do this my way!” When we resist authority, we are rebelling against God Himself (again, the only exception is when the authority figure is attempting to force the believer to act in a way that contradicts the Word of God).

The freedom from this bondage of pride comes from the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. His humility and submission is available by faith for the believer, supernaturally, at each point of need in our life and in our daily walk. The walk of humility is pleasing to our Lord. The walk of humility and submission opens the door to God’s power to flow into our lives and service. As we submit when and where we are required, God deems this to be submission to Him. As we obey those in authority over us, we are to obey not as “men pleasers” but at the heart level “as to the Lord, and not unto men; knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ” (Col. 3:23b-24).

In the next lesson, we will see how this truth is to flow specifically into the home and into the lives of our children. It is critical that our children see the truths taught in this week’s lesson, or they will have some painful battles ahead of them.

Battle stories from the front lines: “Junior” making important decisions while the authority figures shirk their duties; fathers crashing into crisis situations and attempting to use authority without first engaging in consistent love to his family; parental undermining of authority in the presence of their children

 

Scenarios

  1. “So it all begins with the husband…that’s what I figured. I’m gonna tell him loudly and clearly to get his act together and fix this family!!
  1. “My wife never tells me she loves me. Doesn’t she know I need to hear that too? What do I need to do to get this across to her!?”

 

Your turn

  1. The late pastor and evangelical leader Dr. Adrian Rogers challenged parents to be “firm, fair and fun.” How are you doing as a parent in each of these categories?
  1. Do you know your spouse’s “love language”? (And how to specifically touch his or her heart with the most impactful type of love?)

 

Homesick for Heaven

February 14, 2012

When my wife was thirteen, she traveled to South Carolina to spend a month with her aunt and uncle. Visits in the past had been for a short stay and were filled with days at the beach and having fun with her cousins. Before this month was out, however, she was smitten with a bad case of homesickness, even to the point of being physically ill.

Paul had a case of homesickness also. God had taught him to live this life with eternity in mind. More and more Paul allowed the Spirit of God to train him to see with his mind’s eye that which this fallen world cannot see. At one point God graciously snatched him away and gave him a short glimpse of the heavenly home that was prepared for him. The memory of this heavenly vision became Paul’s motivation to stay the course of his ministry to a fallen world. It gave him a deep longing to be with Christ. He realized that this world was not his home; he was just passing through. In fact, he was one heartbeat away from his real home, and these thoughts made his earthly troubles seem so very temporary and bearable.

Paul realized that his physical body was perishing. It was growing older, weaker, and just plain worn out. In fact, he referred to his body as an earthly tent that was soon to be destroyed. God had a brand new model – a new body – designed for him. I’m sure he was tempted to daydream, longing for his new body.

Paul had become a part of a new civilization through his encounter with Jesus Christ.

God is the ultimate genius. He is in the process of using Adam’s corrupt physical seed to produce a civilization “after his kind.” It is a world of sinful people with bodies that are locked in time and space – and, like grass, all are destined to die and perish. Human glory – all that sheds light upon man: pride, wisdom, beauty, talent, wealth, achievements – is temporary and its fame is fleeting.  It appears briefly like a vapor, and it is quickly gone and will be forgotten.

Jesus Christ, the last Adam, is using the spiritual, incorruptible seed of His amazing gospel to generate a heavenly people “after His kind.” Like Him, these bodies are destined to live forever. Jesus said, “That which is born of flesh is flesh and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit” (John 3:7).

Paul described these new bodies as having a new glory, shedding light upon the creative genius of God. They will be made of a new kind of flesh that can never be destroyed. Paul said that as we (Christians) have born the image of the man of dust, Adam, we will also bear the image of the heavenly man, the Lord Jesus Christ.

It has been my joy to spend some quality time with aging believers who have spent much of their lives studying the Word of God. I sense that as their bodies begin to wear out, their longing for heaven becomes more and more pressing. They begin to sever the chords that tie them to the glitz and glitter of this life and attach their thoughts to the promise of another world. As the songwriter says, the things of this earth grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace. At some point known only to God, many of these precious saints cross over an invisible line – a mental threshold – having more of a desire to be with their Lord than to be here. God makes them homesick for heaven.  And what a home-going that will be.

The Ultimate Gift

December 12, 2011

One of my favorite Christmas movies is “The Ultimate Gift,” featuring Drew Fuller, Ali Hillis and James Garner. In an attempt to build character into his grandson, the deceased grandfather, played by Garner, wills to his grandson a series of gifts leading up to the ultimate gift.

Christmas is the obvious occasion to celebrate God’s giving to us some very precious gifts. I think of the gift of God’s amazing virgin born Son at Bethlehem of Judea. What gift could top that? I also am eternally grateful of God’s gift of forever life accomplished through the finished work of His remarkable Son.

This holiday season I want us to think about another gift, one that we might refer to as, well. . . “the ultimate gift.” Ultimate gift? How could there possibly be a gift greater than the Son of God and His offer of eternal life? The gift I have in mind involves a truth found in Christ’s high priestly prayer found in John 17. Note His words:

“And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was” (John 17:5).

What was our Lord’s restored glory all about? The answer can be found in a short passage in Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church. His subject is God’s plan for an orderly resurrection.

“But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. For “He has put all things under His feet.” But when He says “all things are put under Him,” it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.”  (1 Corinthians 15:20-28)

Christ’s resurrection, according to Paul, became the firstfruits of believers who had died. His resurrection was a prototype – a symbolic foretaste – of a gigantic resurrection to come, the resurrection of believers. Paul continued to explain that in Adam all die but all who are placed into Jesus Christ shall rise again. Being in Christ is God’s guarantee that physical death will not be the end. This resurrection is to be accomplished in an orderly manner – Christ first, and then all those who belong to Him at His coming. It is at the conclusion of this final resurrection that the Lord Jesus Christ will give the ultimate gift.

The preparation for this amazing gift began somewhere in eternity past when the first person of the Trinity (God the Father) determined that all things be put under the feet of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ – excluding of course, Himself (1 Corinthians 15:26). The plan is marked out with Christ’s words, “I have come to do your will, O God” (Hebrews 10:9).  This plan is that God the Son would create all things in time and space, including this universe, this small seemingly insignificant planet, and man. It was His voice that declared in the beginning, “Let there be light.”  It was Jesus Christ who formed Adam from the dust of the ground and breathed life into him.  It was the Christ who commanded that man and woman not sin, but He was also the one who clothed them with the skins of animals after their disobedience, foreshadowing His extended grace.

At God’s appointed time His grace came to us through a tiny embryo attached by the Spirit of God to the womb of a young virgin. Thus was born in Bethlehem a sinless Savior who is Jesus Christ the Lord. Then came the death of Jesus as a criminal on a Roman cross, His burial in a poor man’s tomb, and His glorious resurrection from the dead. The Father’s plan continued with Christ’s ascension into heaven and His being seated at His Father’s right hand.  His mission continues by His receiving all whom the Father has given Him as gifts to fulfill His own purpose of love and grace (John 6:37-39).

Jesus Christ will ultimately reclaim and restore this fallen earth. This repossession will include receiving His bride (His body), rescuing His people Israel from the clutches of the evil one, and reigning over a kingdom on this earth for a designated time. During this kingdom reign, Jesus Christ will put down all opposition to His Father’s plan. These adversaries include all rule, all authority, and all power – both human and angelic.  And lastly, He will destroy the greatest enemy of all – death (Revelation 21: 4). Jesus Christ will then be crowned King of King and Lord of Lords. Then, as the last Adam, He will populate a new heaven and new earth with a civilization created by God to live forever.

When at last the Son’s reign is complete and God’s will is finished, then a final gift will be given.  Note carefully Paul’s words, “then comes the end when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father” (1 Corinthians 15:26). The pronouns in this passage shout to us. For “He (God the Father) has put all things under His (God the Son) feet.” But when He (God the Father) says, “all things are put under Him (God the Son),” it is evident that He (the Father) who put all things under Him (the Son) is the only exception.  God the Father is the only Being not under the Son’s reign. Now when all things are made subject to Him (God the Father), then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.

Wow! Having finished all that His Father sent Him to do, God the Son will present to God the Father the gift of the Father’s completed will. That will be the ultimate gift!  It is at this point that the Son will be restored to the glory that He had with the Father before time began (John 17:5). What a glimpse of God’s magnificent grace!

Foolish, Weak and Zeroes

September 28, 2011

“God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty, and the base things and the things which are despised God has chosen.” (1 Corinthians 1:27-28a)

My wife and I began our spiritual journey together by heading to Winona Lake, Indiana, to attend Grace Theological Seminary. While there, God used me to lead a small youth group Bible study.  A very quiet young guy became a regular. This fellow would also come to my home to visit from time to time and while there he would say very little. One day he announced to us that God was calling him into missions. I have to admit – I was shocked! I had the overwhelming inclination to respond, “You, in missions? No way!” Through a series of events, God propelled this young man into becoming a life long missionary to an indigenous tribe in Panama. God has used him to translate the Bible into the tribal language of this people, thus giving them access to the word of God for the first time. Amazing! It was his testimony – along with many to follow – that taught me that my ideas about those whom God chooses to use in His service are perilously flawed.

One would think that the living God would choose to use people who have superior intelligence. After all, it seems reasonable that smart people get things done, right? Highly educated, intellectual people make the better Bible scholars, the better preachers, the better missionaries, the better all-round servants of God, right? And one would think that God would choose the strong, macho-type to carry His message of the gospel. After all, physically powerful people have more staying power and are better able to weather bad situations, right? And one would think that God would be pleased to use those of noble birth, those with the right family tree.  After all, these folks have the most political influence, and they usually have the clout to get things done, right? Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!

The way God thinks is just the opposite from the way this fallen world thinks. In this world’s view, strength is strength, weakness is weakness, and intelligence is intelligence. At the top of this world’s list of desired qualities are physical attractiveness, intelligence, physical strength, wealth, and talent. In God’s realm, the seemingly strongest things are the weakest, and the seemingly wisest things are the most foolish. In His plan, the physically strong are often defeated by the weak. Those whom the world considers foolish are used for His glory far more often than the wise. The world’s nobodies are the very ones whom God chooses to use as His some-bodies.

A simple, uncomplicated, uneducated, untalented, believer who trusts Jesus Christ as Savior and who faithfully and humbly follows Him throughout his life is far wiser than the brilliant scholar who seems to take delight in mocking the Bible. The believer, through simple childlike faith, has a personal relationship with the living God and knows what it means to be forgiven and to experience real love. He knows the actual meaning of life and has a vibrant hope for life beyond the grave.

God has placed eyes within the soul, giving the Christian the astounding ability to gaze into the magnificence of His word and the capacity to catch glimpses of His infinite wisdom. The unbelieving scholar, on the other hand, knows nothing beyond his own human thinking and his own physical experience. He sees nothing beyond this life and lives without knowing real love and hope for eternity.

Early in my Christian life I was taught that if I could just lead a great athlete or a popular entertainer to Christ, they could have a tremendous positive impact for Christ. Our Lord did not think like this when He chose His disciples. Few of them would measure up to any of this world’s standards for greatness. In fact, according to God, the greatest man who ever lived, apart from Jesus Christ, was John the Baptist. Think of it!

This man was completely out of step with the main stream. He had no money, no official education, no powerful political position, no social status, and certainly no impressive appearance. To put it bluntly, John was weird! He was apparently not much of a looker. He came out of the wilderness wearing a prophet’s cloak, had long hair, and ate a strange diet of locusts and honey. He was a preacher! Yet Jesus said that no one born of woman was any greater than John the Baptist. That twists our human thinking, doesn’t it! In fact, Jesus prayed a prayer of praise to His Father thanking Him that He actually hid spiritual truths from the wise and intelligent and in contrast, He revealed them unto babies.

What I have come to understand through all my years of ministry is that human weakness and frailty are the very traits that God often chooses to use to express His glory. God delights in confounding this world’s attitudes. His amazing power comes to His children when their physical strength is spent. His wisdom is revealed through them when their human intelligence fails.  He opens doors for them for ministry when all doors seem to be shut. He appears to relish in frustrating those who are arrogant and proud by subjecting them to His ministry through the weak and humble.

Why is this true? It is really not complicated. God hates pride. Pride was the reason for the fall of Satan and the reason for the fall of the human race. Human pride remains the mainspring behind all rebellion against God. Our craving for praise, beauty, wisdom, power and material possessions are energized by our pride. In a stark contrast, Jesus said that those who will be the greatest in His kingdom are to possess a simple, childlike faith.

Childlike trust in God’s ability is the main ingredient for success in the Christian life. Not one of us who know Jesus Christ can stand before God and claim that we had even a small part in our salvation. Not one of us will be able to claim one small smidgen of glory for ourselves in anything that has been accomplished for God through us. All of the glory and all of the praise will go to Him alone. God will have it no other way.  As the vapor of life continues to drift into eternity, God continues to faithfully use those whom the world thinks are foolish, weak, and zeroes.

The Struggle

August 22, 2011

“Therefore, if any one be in Christ he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)

I have always been fascinated with God’s biological wonder of “metamorphosis.” The little caterpillar crawls out onto a small branch, ties itself to a stem and spins itself within a cocoon. Over a period of time, God transforms that worm into a beautiful butterfly. I recently read an article by an electronic design expert on the navigational expertise of the Monarch butterfly. While reading, I was once again caught up in the genius of the Great Architect’s design. The navigational circuits used to guide men to the moon are phenomenal.  However, they are nothing compared to the navigation technology found in the tiny brain of the Monarch butterfly. Some Monarchs leave their cocoon and fly over 3000 miles from Nova Scotia, Canada, to Mexico. Their destination is not only the same general area from which their parents came but often to the same tree. Amazing! These creatures can be blown hundreds of miles off course, only to recover and still find their path.

Before the butterfly is ready to leave the cocoon, however, a struggle must occur. The new creature must battle to free itself from its former home. This struggle plays a major role in the butterfly’s ability to fly. Because of this effort, its wings become strong enough to carry the butterfly to its destination. It has to build up its never-before-used strength in order to navigate to its new world. After the struggle, the butterfly pulls itself free from its former home and takes flight. It leaves its small stem far behind and soars to new heights and a new place.  What a fascinating miracle!

This is a beautiful illustration of what happens to a sinner who is immersed into a permanent union with Jesus Christ. At the very moment that faith is placed in Christ – unlike the butterfly – the believer becomes a new creation in Christ instantly. Old things are passed away and all things become new.  The old life – attached to Adam the first – passes away. The new life of the last Adam takes root. The old temporary life of the first Adam is replaced by the eternal life of the Son of God.  The old relationship as children of Satan is exchanged for the Son’s relationship as children of the living God. An old citizenship that connected us to this fallen world becomes the Son’s citizenship that binds us to His new world.  The old body that is growing old and destined to perish and die will someday be replaced with a new body like His glorious body. The old fate of eternal separation from God in hell is replaced with the knowledge that we are destined to soar in the clouds meeting Jesus Christ in the air and are to share in His future glory. Wow! What amazing truth!

Our new identity involves a struggle.  Like the butterfly, the struggle does not work against us, but it strengthens our spiritual muscles. The struggle begins with an ongoing battle with our sinful nature that is connected to our limited physical bodies – our cocoon. This temporary weight with its constant pressure on us to sin against God becomes an ongoing reminder from whence we have come.  The struggle intensifies with the continuous attacks upon us coming from the master of illusion, the devil.  He lives in order to ensnare God’s butterflies in his nets of worldly pleasure. He masterfully uses the lure of his world system to continuously bombard us with the desire to drink from the poisonous nectar of its beautiful flowers.

God has not left us defenseless in the spiritual battles in our lives. He has given us the gift of His Holy Spirit to live within us and give us the spiritual muscle to overcome in the daily struggle with our flesh.  God has given us the gift of His Word, His manual to help guide us through the maze of Satan’s minefield infested world system. And, finally, He has given us the power of prevailing prayer to negate the power of the evil one’s vicious attacks.  Our key to victory in this life is to keep our eyes on the prize of our heavenly goal and off the pain of the earthly entanglements.

Like the majestic Monarch butterfly, one day we will become free from our cocoon and we will fly. Our destination is programmed to be the third heaven, far above this created universe, right into the very presence of God.  Our future heavenly home is sure and steadfast. The same creator who guides the butterfly to its final destination will guide us to ours. What an amazing glimpse into God’s invisible domain.