In Matthew Chapter 10 Jesus is preparing His disciples to go out and spread the message of Jesus Christ to the Jewish cities. He gives them specific instructions, as well as warning them what to expect, and briefing them on the reaction they will receive because of Him. He declares to them “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”
Symbolism, object lessons, and metaphors for life and character prevail throughout nature. In the animal kingdom, we find aspects of ourselves. Jesus used these examples to declare the kingdom of heaven, and to clarify the state of the world. The world is full of predators. Many religious leaders would oppose the disciples and the message of Jesus Christ. The disciples were sent out in to this environment. Jesus tells them, “be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”
As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are not to close our eyes to the evil in this world. God has not called us to naiveté, but to wisdom. And yet even as we see the ugliness in the world, we are not to take part. In the midst of darkness, we are to shine as light, to be as innocent as doves. We are not to overcome evil with evil, but to overcome evil with good. It is only through the power of the Holy Spirit that we are able to shine with purity in the midst of a dark world. It is only through relationship with God through His son Jesus Christ that we are able to maintain innocence and remain spotless while clearly seeing the wiles and schemes of the enemy. It is this dichotomy of wisdom and innocence that witnesses to the goodness of Jesus Christ. It is only in Him that we are able to both clearly see and remain innocent. Today, may you be granted wisdom that comes from God, and may your innocence before men bring others a view of Jesus Christ.
2 Cor. 5:17
Relationships are often a journey. Our relationship with God is no different. The beginning of a new relationship with Jesus is often filled with excitement and faith. The love of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit is new and precious. As God becomes our primary relationship, our life is shaken up, re-arranged, and shifted. Changes in our outer life occur for two reasons. The first is an outward change that an expression of the transformation that has occurred in our hearts. The fact that we are a new creation in Christ is manifested in our lives. The other change is made in effort. We change our lifestyle to align it to the Biblical Christian example. Like changing habits or clothing styles for a girl or boyfriend, these changes are dependent upon relationship. In time, as a level of comfort and familiarity comes into the relationship, these changes often regress. Instead of hanging the towel on the rack, it is left on the bathroom floor. The effort required to change our natural behavior can only be sustained in a state of pursuit and passion.
Both forms of change are beneficial, and we should always passionately pursue the Lord and His precious Holy Spirit. Ultimately, the only change that lasts is the change that comes from transformation. Unless the changes we start in effort truly become who we are, they stay in effort and in our own human strength. When strength fails, who we are in Christ remains. In the desert, alone, amidst hunger and physical weakness, Jesus resisted the devil to the end. Circumstances could not change His identity. Our identity in Christ is one of perfection. We have not been given a Spirit of fear, or weakness, but of power, of love, and of a sound mind. As we accept the identity of Christ, all areas of our life change to manifest this new identity. It is a lasting change that is not maintained by effort, but rests in the identity of Jesus. May your life reflect the transformational power and identity of Jesus more each day!
1 Kings 19:11-12
1 Kings records a struggle between Elijah the Prophet, a servant of The Lord, and King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, servants of the false god Baal. Shortly after Elijah wins a major victory over the prophets of Baal and sees the people of Israel actually turn against them and slaughter them, Queen Jezebel swears death to Elijah. Elijah flees for his life. It’s in the midst of the wilderness, where God is supernaturally providing for Elijah, that God and Elijah have it out. Elijah is despairing and depressed over his circumstances. In the passage above, God shows Elijah that The Lord isn’t in earthquakes, fires, or wind, but a still, small voice. Often we believe God is speaking to us through our circumstances, but here, God is telling Elijah the opposite. Elijah is so focused on the roar of Jezebel and the situation that he is in, that God shows him this awesome demonstration.
We can often have trouble hearing the “still, small voice” of God in the midst of our circumstances. Not only this, but the cries of our flesh for food, sleep, sex, etc. can sound like a five-alarm fire, almost drowning out any other voice. We must tune out the white noise that our flesh and our circumstances can produce in our walk with Jesus. A time of Spiritual tuning can make a world of difference in our communication with God, turning our prayer time into a true dialog. How often do we leave a message on God’s machine, instead of waiting to hear him answer us?
God’s voice is often in the quiet, but He speaks time and time again. During our times of fasting and prayer, listen for God’s voice. If we seek Him with all our heart, that still, small voice will speak to you, and the voice of God will change our lives in ways more awesome and spectacular than we could ever imagine!
Matthew 26:38, 39, 42
Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane is the greatest portrait of inner conflict. The Son of God, The Lamb who was slain before the foundation of the world, was in the midst of His greatest trial. Jesus was fully aware of the suffering He must endure for the salvation of humanity. Suffering that would culminate in death by crucifixion. It was the fulfilment of His ministry on the earth. In order to be the sacrifice of for all the world, Jesus was rendered fully human. He had to be tempted in all ways like we are. In the garden, Jesus’ resolve to suffer and die for the world, and to have the sins of the world be put upon Him was tested. Twice, Jesus goes to pray, and asks God the Father to let this “cup” pass from Him. Ultimately, He ends each prayer surrendering His own will, to have the horror he will face pass from him, to the will of the Lord. Possibly more than any other passage, this shows Jesus as the ultimate example. Facing suffering, torture, and death He was able knowingly count the cost, and submit His will to the will of the Father. The Christ follower must endure this same trial. Paul writes that we must be transformed by having our mind renewed. This will allow us to know the will of God. Once the will of God is known, we must resolve this knowledge with our own desires. Jesus, the Son of God, who was given the Spirit of God without measure, still had to battle with His own will to avoid suffering. This battle did not end in a negotiation or compromise. It ended in complete submission to God the Father. Our relationship with God is no different. At times, possibly even in complete understanding, our will does not align with the will of the Father, and our submission to God is tested and tried. Our love is ultimately shown through our obedience. Jesus said if you love me, obey my commandments. To follow Jesus is to die to self, to submit our will to the will of the Lord, and to be a servant and vessel of the Holy Spirit. Today, may you submit to His glorious will, and at the end of the age may the King of Kings and Lord of Lords commend you with “well done, thy good and faithful servant.”