It's amazing how the Holy Spirit works! Almost every day this week, I've been led to send an early morning-during-my-devotions-message to three men who wield considerable power in my country. And one of them featured a discussion on the forces of evil in this world. Then, this morning, during a very challenging sermon delivered to a mass worship service, of all the Anglican churches in the parish of St. Andrew by Bishop Howard Gregory, who is currently the head of the Anglican church in Jamaica, mention was made of the fact that as Christians, " we fight not against flesh and blood but against powers and principalities". And so as a nation we are now confronted by the reality of gambling on horse racing on a Sunday. A child being murdered and his body hidden in a suitcase, with the parents very strong suspects in this horror story. And the gruesome case of an alleged rapist being chopped to death and then having his body burnt. Absolutely barbaric behaviour on the one hand and a further erosion of the time honored and proven values, on the other hand, which once served our nation well but now being discarded in a vulgar and shameless pursuit of " fast money". All because of evil.
The lesson from the Lord began with a strong word of warning from the book of Deuteronomy, the OT reading for my church this week:
" The nations you will dispossess listen to those who practice sorcery or divination. But as for you, the Lord has not permitted you to do so. The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you. You must listen to him". Deut 18:14-15 NIV
This is a famous passage which is also quoted in the New Testament as a prophetic word about the coming of Jesus Christ many hundreds of years later. The key thing here is that from then God is warning His people to listen to Jesus. From way back then! And of equal importance...do not listen to the children of the devil.
So what was Jesus saying this week that should cause us to listen carefully. It started in the gospel appointed for this Sunday in which Jesus is engaged in a conversation with evil spirits which had invaded a man in the synagogue, and whom our Blessed Redeemer cast out from the tormented man. Mark 1:21-28
Next up was a " conversation" that Paul had with an evil man and which word I sent off that morning with the following comments:
The proconsul, an intelligent man, sent for Barnabas and Saul, because he wanted to hear the word of God. But Elymas the sorcerer ( for that is what his name means) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith. Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said, " You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of trickery and deceit . Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord? Now the hand of the Lord is against you." Acts 13:7-11 NIV
Comment: Oh yes, he has a name. The Spirit of this child of the devil lives on. And every time you are discouraged from accepting the word of God, every time you decide not to go to church, every time you disobey the word which was spoken to you by your mother or father of friend ( as directed by the Holy Spirit) the spirit of Elymas is " perverting the right ways of the Lord". But thank God for Jesus, every time we pray for you, in love and with faith, as directed by the Holy Spirit, " the hand of the Lord is against the discouraging spirit". So we continue in faith and wait on you to turn back, or turn to, the Lord, and then " there will be rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who has repented". Alleluiah. In Christ Jesus. LWJ
The next message and reminder was quite frightening even now, and much more when I first read it. As the reality of the root of evil which is present in all of us was very disturbing:
" The Lord saw how great man's wickedness on earth had become, and that every thought of his heart was only evil all the time. The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. So the Lord said , " i will wipe mankind, whom I had created, from the face of the earth......". Genesis 6: 5-8 NIV
This of course led to the flood and the building of the Ark, and the profound comment that: " But Noah found favor with God"". But if one read further, right after the flood, wickedness entered the heart of the younger of Noah son's, Ham, who " exposed" his father's nakedness, but the other two, Shem from whom the Blessed father Abraham came, and Japheth " protected" the dignity of their father. Interestingly Ham became the father of the Canaanites - about whom the OT is filled with stories of evil.
All of this probably culminated in the next message to these three men whom the Lord had directed me to engage:
Just finished walking. And during the walking the Lord reminded me that the message I sent you this morning is a prime example of why the Bible declares that:" we fight not against flesh or blood".So our personal disobedience and discouragements and so too the entire nation's will have to be prayed against, not just rallied against, by the church filled with the Holy Spirit and using the word of God, and indeed the full armour of God. And as I write I recall the prayer that undergirds all of my ministry:Lord renew thy church beginning with me,Lord renew thy church that the church may renew the nation(s).
And this of course takes us back to the Bishop's sermon this morning. But before I left for church, the following message was sent:
His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. Ephesians 3:10-12 NIV
THE NICENE CREED
We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father........
We believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord , the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified......
This is the basis of our faith and the reason why I write to you - as directed by the Holy Spirit.May the Lord's Peace be with you this day and for evermore.
I am not sure where this conversation as directed by the Holy Spirit, and and about which I was reminded this morning in church, is going to end up. But the key thing here is that it is the church which is being called on to be obedient to it's mandate to " be salt and light " in a country filled with evil, and having doubts, and being cynical of how the church has not challenged sufficiently the evil that abounds around us. This was the burden of the Bishop's message; that we who should speak with the same " authority" that Jesus spoke to the Jews in the synagogue and to the evil spirits in that tormented that man, by our life and witness, are
" failing on the job".
We who should be living a "crucified life" as taught by the supreme example of our Saviour are allowing evil to flourish. And in my view having read the story about Elymas, or Bar-Jesus, the reason why we are failing is that we are " railing" against evil, and not praying it out of our hearts and homes and communities, by the authority of the crucified, risen and ascended Christ.
Any day the church really begins to be obedient and surrender completely to Christ, and not be lukewarm in our faith, then we will no longer have to rant and rail against the evil forces that control our country through some aspects of: the media, the body politic, big business, the entertainment industry and the criminal network.
But rather, filled with the Holy Spirit like Paul, we will speak like Jesus to those who would "pervert the right ways of the Lord". And they will have to be quiet and in the words of the young people in typical Jamaican slang " tek weh themselves". Be gone.
As the whole purpose of the Bible is to each us to be " holy" as Jesus is holy, through humility and living a crucified life with Christ. And then having suffered with Him, we shall reign with Him and be able to cast out demons from our nation, and not having to argue with them on radio or on television or in the print media.
I pray that day will come soon when we will really and truly listen to Jesus.
No wonder then the song on my heart this week was:
When we walk with the Lord
in the light of His Word,
What a glory he sheds on our way!
While we do His good will,
He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey
Trust and obey!
For there is no other way
To be happy in Jesus,
But to trust and obey.
Not a shadow can rise,
Not a cloud in the skies,
But His smile quickly drives it away;
Not a doubt nor a fear,
Not a sigh nor a tear,
Can abide while we trust and obey!
Trust and obey.....
Not a burden we bear,
Not a sorrow we share,
But our toil He doth quickly repay:
Not a grief nor a loss,
Not a frown nor a cross,
But is blessed if we trust and obey!
But we never can prove
The delights of His love
Until all on the altar we lay:
For the favour he shows,
And the joy He bestows,
Are for those who will trust and obey.
Then in fellowship sweet
We will sit at His feet,
Or we'll walk at His side in the way:
What He says we will do,
Where He sends we will go;
Never fear, only trust and obey!