MICHAEL ANTHONY BLOG
We welcome your comments, knowing that your words could very well inspire others.
Life of Christ
Vision of Life
Book of Acts
subscribe to our mailing list and receive a free download of our featured product
“Do you like to win? If you try to fight a spiritual battle with physical weapons, you will lose – every single time. Be smart when you fight and you will win – every single time . . .”
We’ve all done it – engaged in spiritual warfare while not being very spiritual in the process. In Italian, we call that “stunad” (pronounced stew-nod). It means “stupid.” You don’t have to understand Italian to realize that fighting a spiritual battle in the power of the flesh is not only stupid but also an exercise in futility. You’ll lose all the time. But you don’t have to be a loser. Here are a few thoughts on how you can fight like a “spiritual powerhouse” – and win a spiritual battle every single time.
- BE ON THE ALERT FOR “SPIRITUAL AMNESIA.” All of us suffer from what I call “spiritual amnesia.” An event in life – life itself – knocks us so hard that we forget who we are, who God is, and how to operate as His child. The event rocks our world so hard that we literally forget, even if temporarily, how to function in ways that unleash the power of God. The way to be smart is to perpetually remember that if you are a true follower of Jesus Christ, you are engaged in an epic spiritual battle that must be fought with spiritual weapons. Paul tells us “For the weapons of your warfare are not of the flesh . . . ” (2 Corinthians 10:4). Be on guard against spiritual amnesia in yourself and those around you. Remember who you are, what God has called you to, and that it is not in any way, shape, or form, a physical battle. Remember that if you are really following God, you are by default engaged in spiritual warfare – it simply cannot be fought by natural means.
- UNDERSTAND THAT WHEN YOU FIGHT GOD’S BATTLES WITH GOD’S WEAPONS, YOU WON’T WIN SOME OF THE TIME. YOU’LL WIN ALL OF THE TIME. God is not a loser. The second half of 2 Corinthians 10:4 (cited in #1, above), says the weapons God has given us have “divine power to destroy strongholds.” The imagery that Paul provides, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is total, utter destruction against the enemy. When you fight with God’s weapons, what you are really doing is allowing God to fight for you – and when God fights, He never loses. 2 Corinthians 10:4 reminds the true follower of Jesus Christ that God doesn’t wound His enemies, He destroys them. Fight God’s battles with God’s weapons and you will win, because God is the Ultimate winner. When you do things God’s way, you win.
- BE CAREFUL YOU DON’T CONFUSE YOUR CONCEPT OF “WINNING” WITH GOD’S. I have seen this distract myself – and countless other people – repeatedly. I am constantly re-learning that my thoughts are not God’s thoughts, and my ways are not His ways (Isaiah 55:8). I remember kneeling in my dormitory room at Rutgers University, crying out to God, asking Him to give me something I wanted really badly. He didn’t do it – and I’m so glad! I’ve learned that man’s best often belittles God’s good. God’s plan for my life is infinitely better than I can dream or imagine – because it is based on His goodness. The goodness of God is so much better than what we can fathom, or create, that we must settle the issue in our minds and revisit it often. What we ask God for, even on our best days, is still short of what He has in store – not merely for us, but ultimately for Himself. And, isn’t this the real purpose of life, to advance the agenda and glory of God?
You must recognize that winning may not look the way you thought it would – but if you really fight God’s battles with God’s weapons, in God’s power, you have won, and will win. Not some of the time. All of the time. It’s been said that “he who laughs last laughs best.” God is a hearty laugher, because He always laughs last. Isaiah 54:17 says “no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed.” The original Hebrew, and the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew) mean that there is literally nothing capable of success against God’s people. This comes across in the English as well, but somehow we seem to miss it. It’s not over until God says it’s over, and God will ultimately be glorified, get the last laugh and win. Align yourself with God’s vision of victory and you’ll not allow yourself to be let down.God always wins. Always means always. If you are frustrated, it could be because you have unknowingly replaced God’s vision of victory with your own. Don’t get ahead of God. Walk with Him and you will win His battles in His power, His way.
- MAKE SURE YOU ARE FIGHTING GOD’S BATTLES, NOT YOURS. When you fight your own battles, you fight alone. If you are fighting a battle God didn’t call you to fight, why are you bothering? He has bigger fish to fry – and so do you. A lethal mistake you can make in life is to waste time fighting battles that God never called you to fight. You must be extremely and perpetually careful you don’t get sucked away from the main purpose of your life which is to love Him, advance His Kingdom, and fight His battles. Enough said. Move on.
- SLEEP ON IT. Memorize – and apply – potent passages of the Bible that teach you how to fight and win spiritual battles. This cannot be emphasized too much. You might be intimidated by the thought of memorizing a Bible verse or passage, but let me tell you a secret how to do this much easier. Sleep on it. Read a passage of the Bible at night, just before you go to bed. (Not in-between texting or watching television). Really read it. Meditate on it and it alone. Pay attention to the words on the page. (I recommend not using an electronic device for this, bc you will be tempted to use it for something else). Note where it is in your Bible. Feel it in your hands. Ask God to help you hide it in your heart. Do this several nights in a row and watch what happens. Your mind will work on it when you are sleeping. You will begin to feel energized – because God’s Word hits you, by design, at the core of your being. Here is a sampling of some key Bible verses you should commit to memory, as means of directing you and protecting you so that you succeed in spiritual warfare:
- 2 Corinthians 10:4,5 – The Nature of Your Weapons
- Ephesians 6:10-20 – The Spiritual Weapons You Have in Your Aresnal
- Ephesians 4:17-32 – How Unresolved Sin Makes You Weak and Gives Satan Opportunity
- 1 Peter 5:6-11 – Humility as a Primary, Potent Weapon Against Satan
The above verses are simply a start – but a potent start at that. If you really put them into action, your whole life will dramatically change.
Do you like to win? If you try to fight a spiritual battle with physical weapons, no matter what those physical weapons are (intellect, physical strength, money, prowess), you will lose – every single time. Be smart when you fight and you will win – every single time.
I’m with you in this. But more importantly, God is with you. I guarantee you that if you fight God’s battles in God’s ways, you will win every single time. You have God’s Word on it.
Let me know your thoughts. I’m all ears . . .
What you believe about God is the single most important thing about you. Everything you do – everything – is a reflection of what you truly believe about God . . .
I SAY THIS OFTEN because I know it’s the one thing that determines everything: What you believe about God is the single most important thing about you. It eclipses everything else by a landslide. Nothing else is as strategic, as powerful, as life-changing as what you believe about God. Everything you did this past week, everything you do today – indeed, everything you have ever done, are doing now and will ever do, is a reflection of what you truly believe about God. How can I say this with such confidence? Because I’ve proven it true by my own failures.
Beliefs birth behavior. Take a look at your behavior this past week, and perhaps over the past year, and consider the following:
- WERE YOU KIND TO PEOPLE? DID YOU HELP OTHERS SOAR? Each of us is a living billboard, a social media campaign in the flesh. The way we treat people tells the world what we believe about God. When we’re not nice to people it’s because we don’t believe (or forgot that we believe) people are created in the image of God, the pinnacle of His creation (Genesis 1:26-31).* This means that nothing God created is more majestic than a human being. But many times, we treat people as far, far less. And when we don’t mistreat them, we may think wrongly about them. We may cover up our thinking with a forced smile, but underneath a dragon may be lurking.Here’s something you either don’t realize or forgot: It’s not just you who was created in majesty, a masterpiece of God. Everyone you meet is created in His image, in majesty, a personal masterpiece of God.This is true even the people you aren’t particularly jazzed about. (And, this will help you become more jazzed about those same people.)
Philippians 2:3 says “in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” What does your treatment of people say about your humility? We should sit up and take note at 1 Peter 5:5 and James 4:6: “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” It’s not enough to say humility is important. Humility is imperative. Without it, we will experience the resistance of God. Do you know anyone who has resisted God and won?Resisting God is an exercise in futility – yet we do it all the time by treating ourselves as more significant than others.When we treat people as if they are just as significant as we are, we stop short of God’s best. We stop short of our best. And, we deprive others of God’s best.The truth is, all people are created in the image of God. Embracing this truth will revolutionize the way you treat people – because when you believe people are important to God, created in His image, every individual becomes important. What we need is an awakening to the truth that people are created in the image of God, the pinnacle of His creation. We can, and should, be nice to people. We can, and should, help others soar. Being nice to people is a practical way we can embrace the truth about how God designed us. Beliefs birth behavior.
- WERE YOU HURRIED, IN A RUSH MOST OF THE TIME? If so, it was because you didn’t believe you are worth more to God than you can imagine. Jesus says “Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:25-26). Yes, we’re all busy, and have lots to do most of the time. But if our live are characterized by hurriedness, rush – the inability to enjoy life, it’s a very good sign that we really don’t believe God values us, and has our lives taken care of.When we really believe this, no matter how much is on our plate, we can handle it with peace and assurance – because God has our back. He also has the front, sides, top and bottom of the person who knows Christ as Savior. Stop hurrying and running around like a wild banshee. Trust God. Yes, work hard and be responsible – but stop worrying. Remember that beliefs birth behavior.
- DID YOU ENJOY, TOLERATE OR IGNORE OR BELITTLE YOUR SIN?This is a big one. We all sin – often. How often? I’m convinced that I sin so much I don’t even realize it. And so do you. There are things I realize are sin today that I did not realize were sin yesterday. I must therefore conclude that there are most likely things I am doing and thinking today that I will one day realize are sinful, displeasing to God and a hindrance to me and others. But this is no excuse to throw my hands up and quit. It motivates me to depend upon God, not myself, and to seek Him with a growing fervency. Sin is the undercurrent of life outside of Eden. Sometimes it’s blatant, but in many cases it’s cunningly subtle. In either case, it’s always dangerous, dastardly, deadly. Sin is our default modus operandi. Believing otherwise has catastrophic consequences. This is why perpetual repentance is imperative . . .This is why perpetual repentance is imperative. I’m thankful for the truths of 1 John 1:8-10: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he (God) is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleans us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” One of the signs of truly being a child of God is that you acknowledge your sin, confess it – and forsake it. How often? Continually. This is to be the perpetual practice of someone who truly knows Christ as Lord and Savior. When we confess and forsake our sin, the weight of sin is removed supernaturally. This is an amazing miracle God does in the life of a believer – continually. When we confess and forsake our sin, moment by moment, throughout the day, we experience God’s freedom. We are cleansed from the baggage of guilt, shame and resistance to God that sin creates.
Sin hinders everything, not some things.But if you are sinning and you don’t really care about it, if you are enjoying your sin, it’s a clear sign that you don’t believe your sin is holding you back from being all you can be in God – and from the quality of life you would otherwise experience. Sin often seems enjoyable. That’s why we allow it, even pursue it. I’ve been deceived by sin on numerous occasions, and thought I was getting ahead. In reality, I was losing ground. Even subtle sin might seem beneficial for a season. We might think no one notices. But God notices. We might think we’re getting ahead – but we’re falling behind. Any time we willfully walk in sin, no matter how small – whether conscious or unconscious, there is hell to pay.Thankfully, the grace of God overwhelms our sin even when we are unaware, or we would have no hope whatsoever. But God’s grace is not a free ticket to be careless with sin. We must take sin seriously, realizing that it hinders the will of God, and all the blessings that come with Him, every single time. When we caress sin, when we tolerate, ignore or justify it, it’s because we don’t believe the truth about God, ourselves, and the life that overflows from the truth. It’s because we have been deceived into thinking life apart from God and His ways is more enjoyable than life with Him. Beliefs birth behavior.
- DID YOU PURSUE THINGS THAT REALLY DON’T MATTER, ETERNALLY SPEAKING. The pursuit of temporary pleasure reveals disbelief about our eternal existence. All people will live forever, one place or another. Revelation 20:11-15 makes this clear. Take some time to read it carefully, and to ask yourself if the things you’ve been living for are really worth the effort. They may be. But perhaps not. The day is coming when each of us will be judged by God. You may not believe this, but that will not change God’s mind.Consider 1 Corinthians 3:10-15. Here, Paul says “each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation (of Christ) survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss . . .” There is some work that is not worth doing.And there is some work that is definitely worth doing differently.If we’re engaged in things that really don’t matter, or doing things in ways that should be done differently, today is a good day to reverse the trend. You will live forever. It’s only a matter of where. Beliefs birth behavior. Live accordingly.
The list could go on and on. This truth remains, and is worthy of a lifetime of study: What you believe about God is the single most important thing about you. Our behavior reflects what we truly believe about God.
Change on the outside reflects belief on the inside. Change on the inside creates change on the outside. Change your thinking and you’ll change your life. Everything about it. Beliefs birth behavior. Every single time.
The single greatest thing you can do to change your behavior is to change your beliefs about God. Why not start by changing and reinforcing what you should believe, by learning God’s Word, the Bible? It contains the truth about God, about you, about life. The truth will set you free (John 8:32). And, if you’ve strayed, today is a great day to begin anew. Luke 15:11-32 is a great place to start.
Where are you in your journey? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
*Sometimes, the kindest thing you can do for someone is help them understand their faults they may not see. Done lovingly, this is one of the nicest things you can do for someone. It’s not loving to allow someone who has a bugger hanging from their nose to go through the day incurring embarrassment they would otherwise avoid – if only you loved them enough to say something. Being kind means being lovingly honest, even if it may cause temporary pain or embarrassment in the process. To be nice to someone is to be committed to their long-term benefit, in light of God’s very best for them.
You’re right, you can’t help yourself. Neither can I. Enter Jesus Christ . . .
THE CULTURE WE LIVE IN HAS US CONDITIONED FOR REPLAY. Miss a sitcom? No worries, you can catch it on the internet. If it’s a popular series, stream it on the rebound and you’re on your way. But life isn’t like that. There are some things in life that if you miss them they are gone. Forever. There is no replay. No second chance.
In Luke 10:12, Jesus makes this striking statement: “I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.” (ESV). More bearable than Sodom? Are you kidding me? God annihilated the people of Sodom – and everything on the ground as well. He obliterated Sodom. (To learn why God destroyed Sodom, listen to the February 23, 2014 podcast, Miss This, Miss Everything). By the time God was done with Sodom, there was nothing left of it but a memory.
First, it’s important to note that Jesus considered the Old Testament account of Sodom to be literal (see Genesis 19). Jesus agrees that Sodom was a real place, with a real problem, and that it faced the real judgment of God. Some folks don’t think Jesus judged anyone, but those folks are not reading the Bible. This passage, as well as numerous other passages, make it clear that Jesus absolutely did judge people. In Luke 10:1-12, the whole passage is about God going out of His way to rescue people while all along He knew that some of those people would reject Him. The point of Luke 10:1-12 is that Jesus destroyed Sodom for their sexual perversity – yet there is a sin that will just as certainly seal the fate of anyone who commits it, every single time. That sin is rejecting Jesus as the Savior.
Yes, some people do not believe that the sin of Sodom was sexual perversion. But in order to reach this conclusion, one has to be completely selective in what the Bible specifically teaches on the subject. There is not much need for interpretation, because the biblical authors spell it out in black and white. You have to ignore entire sections of the Bible, repeatedly, and ignore the fact that multiple biblical authors continually interpreted the sin of Sodom to be sexual perversion, not merely a lack of kindness. When one reads Genesis 13:13, Genesis 19:1-26, Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13, Romans 1:18-36, 2 Peter 2:4-10 and Jude 6-8, it is the understatement of the century to suggest the sin of Sodom’s people was merely greed and a lack of kindness toward its visitors! If you really want to know what the Bible says on the topic, take some time to read the passages for yourself. They need no commentary from me – or anyone else, for that matter. They speak for themselves with a clarity that God ensured, having covered them from multiple angles, with multiple authors, over multiple generations.
It’s striking to note that Sodom is the example Jesus uses when discussing what God will do to those who reject Him. These are not the words of a weak leader, or of a man suffering from an identity crisis. They are not the words of a man trying to come to terms with His own life mission. They are the words of Jesus, who understood He was, and is, God’s Messiah for our problem of sin.
Is God a hater? Yes, he is. He hates sin. But does God hate people? Absolutely not. The cross is God’s definitive statement on the matter. If God hated people, He wouldn’t have pursued us and died for us on the cross. The justice of God, where He dealt with your sins and mine, was demonstrated on the cross of Christ. On His body. The mercy of God, where He decided, because of the cross, to not hold our sins against us, was displayed on the cross. In a very powerful way, we could say that the justice and mercy of God “kissed” at the cross. God’s hatred for sin, and his love for us, were demonstrated simultaneously through the death of Jesus on the cross.
Am I a hater? I am. I hate sin, beginning with my own. And you should, too, if you claim to follow Christ. The sin of Sodom was not that they simply were involved in sexual perversion. Their sin was that they approved of their perversion and refused to repent. It’s their lack of repentance that ultimately, eternally condemns a person. God doesn’t take one sin as more wicked than another – except the sin of refusing to repent. This is the sin He will not overlook. He never did and He never will. This was the ultimate sin of Sodom, the one that forced God’s hand and led to their destruction, the judgment of God. The same sin is what forces the hand of God today. A hardened heart toward God, a heart that will not repent, is the sin that condemns a person. There is no sin too big for God – except the sin of refusing to repent. Had Sodom repented, God would have relented. But they didn’t, and so Sodom is no more. God will deal with the perpetual liar, slanderer, gossip, thief, swindler, cheat, the same way. Refuse to accept God’s cure for lying, slandering, gossiping, stealing, cheating, and you too will go the way of Sodom.
The cure for a lifestyle of repentance is Jesus Christ. He’s not the cure for ensuring you’ll never sin again. But really getting serious about following Jesus, and asking Him to change your life will reduce your propensity to sin dramatically. Jesus is the cure to get life heading in the right direction – and this is what repentance of lifestyle is. It’s a new direction in a new way of living. Yes, you will stumble. But you will get back up, by the grace of God, and continue the journey in your new direction. This is what God offers us through faith in Jesus Christ. You’re right, you can’t help yourself. Enter Jesus Christ.
The same is true of you and me. We are not to make excuses for our sin. Doing so belittles the cross. It belittles Jesus’ mission. We need to take our sin seriously – because Jesus took it seriously. When you’ve repented of your sin, and when repentance becomes your lifestyle as a follower 0f Christ (it must), then you earn the fearful right to help others do the same. It’s not something to hold over the heads of others. It’s something we must approach with fear and trembling. We need to walk in a lifestyle of repentance from sin and a God-honoring approach to life. And then, we have an obligation and a clear calling from God (as did the 72 in Luke 10:1-12), to help others pursue the same.
A lack of repentance is hatred toward God. Think about it. Is it possible to love someone while ignoring what is most important to them? Again I say, think about this.
As Christ followers, we are to follow in His footsteps. We are to hate sin, beginning with our own. And, we are to love people – deeply. But loving people doesn’t mean we are to accept their sin. Did God accept the sin of Sodom? Of course not. Is it possible to separate sin from a person? Only when that sin is dealt with through saving faith in Jesus Christ. Only God can deal with the sin He hates while loving the person guilty of that sin. Only God can remove sin from a person – and this is what must happen if a relationship with God is to begin. Until sin is dealt with by Christ Himself, as a result of faith in Him and His payment for sin, it is impossible to separate the guilt of sin from the person who is guilty.
Miss Jesus and you miss the Big One. It makes little difference what else you may accomplish in life, but if you reject Jesus, you’ve missed everything that matters. What matters most in life is that you know your sins are forgiven, and that you have a real relationship with God. This is made possible through the death of Jesus Christ. As Sodom couldn’t escape the punishment of God, nobody who knows about Jesus, who hears the good news of God dealing with sin through the death of His son and rejects Him, can escape. If you really hate sin, and you really love God, then accepting Jesus is the obvious choice.
Listen to (and share) the companion podcast from Feb. 23, 2014, Miss This, Miss Everything, with the free Godfactor App (iTunes or Google App store).
SOME PEOPLE HAVE HOLY UNDERWEAR. LITERALLY.
“When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, so they said to one another ‘Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.’ This was to fulfill the Scripture which says,
‘They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.‘*
– John 19:23,24
A TUNIC was the first century equivalent of underwear. It was the long, robe-like garment worn between the skin and the outer garment, providing protection, comfort and functionality. Some have postulated that Jesus was wealthy, and use John 19:23 as their evidence. You see, Jesus was not wearing the common man’s underwear. The soldiers, in the midst of dividing Jesus’ clothes among them, were caught by surprise when they got down to His underwear. As the verse says, “But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.” This kind of tunic was considered valuable because of the way it was made. It was the kind of garment not often worn by poor or middle-class individuals. Some have therefore concluded that Jesus’s choice of underwear revealed his wealthy status. They then make the leap to suggest that His followers have a right to claim, pursue and embrace the same kind of material wealth. The thinking goes like this: “Jesus was rich, and and I’m a child of the King. Therefore, I should be rich, too.”
This kind of “theology” espoused by people who embrace the “prosperity gospel”, is askew for numerous reasons too lengthy to explain here, but certainly worthy of mention. The above conclusion royally misses the point of John recording the moment of surprise. If you’re not careful, you too might miss the lesson that applies to us even now, in the twenty-first century. Using John 19:23 as evidence of Jesus’ material wealth royally misses the point of the passage – and the point of Jesus’ intentionality. It demonstrates an extremely sloppy and poor treatment of the biblical text, and reveals the human tendency to pervert and twist the truth for personal gain, even if done unintentionally. (Indeed, one need not be intentional to be incorrect). Human intellect, apart from divine enlightenment, constantly misses the higher intentions of God.
So what was John’s reason for writing about Jesus’ underwear? And, what in the world was Jesus doing wearing a rich man’s brand of underwear in the first place? The point is clearly described in the very next verse (John 19:24):
This was to fulfill the Scripture which says . . .
Jesus’ underwear was set apart for a divine purpose, not merely earthly comfort. It was literally worn to point people to God. Jesus’ underwear was, in the most literal sense of the word, holy.
Still, some might persist about the passage affirming Jesus’ wealth, and the right of every disciple to follow in his footsteps. They could point to the fact that Jesus had a treasurer handling his money (Judas, the back-stabber). John 12:6 says that Judas had “charge of the moneybag”. They suggest that Jesus’ having such a full-time keeper of the moneybag, further supports the premise that Jesus was wealthy. But this conclusion is ignorant of historical fact. It was entirely common, not unusual, for a prominent rabbi to have someone handle his financial affairs. In fact, given the traveling nature of Jesus’ ministry, it would have been understood that someone, even multiple people, would be underwriting the expenses of his ministry. (The same can be said of current ministers who serve God well. Their ministries and lives are often entirely supported through the financial resources of others).
The fact is that we don’t know whether Jesus was rich, poor or somewhere in the middle during his 30 plus years of life on earth. That He was supported financially, through mere mortals, is a no-brainer. Of course He was. He had to be to accomplish what He did. We know from Scripture that Jesus had access to all the world’s riches as the Creator of the world (John 1:2,3). And, we also know from Philippians 2:6,7 that he “made himself nothing”. In other words, Jesus gave up His majesty and everything that went with it – and entrusted His well-being into His Father’s hands. His Father, therefore, ensured that even mere mortals took care of His Son’s needs. If we are to conclude anything about Jesus and money that is a timeless take-away for His followers, it’s this: Jesus knew how to put money to use not for mere personal comfort, but for the glory of His Father. The godly person knows how to convert money into deliberate, strategic vessels that point people to God. To use God’s blessings for merely material matters is to stop short of our God-given calling and potential. Money has a higher purpose than personal comfort. The mature Christ-follower uses money – and all their resources – for something that far outlasts personal comfort and material well-being: the glory of God and advancement of His Kingdom.
So, how did Jesus get his seamless tunic? For all we know, someone could have given it to Him as a gift. How many of us have received gifts from people who are about us? All the more appreciated would a nice pair of underwear be for someone who had an itinerant ministry in the kind of hot and harsh terrain Jesus frequented. For all we know, it could have been Jesus’ only such pair of underwear, reserved for the special occasion of His crucifixion at the hands of ruthless Romans. It wouldn’t be the first time we see the Master Communicator using the perfect prop at the perfect time to deliver the perfect message. We don’t really know how Jesus got it – but we know Jesus was masterfully strategic in its use.
All this leads us the real reason why Jesus was found wearing the expensive undergarment on the occasion of His death.Jesus was a strategist, entirely devoted to the glory of His Father.Everything He did, everything He owned, right down to His underwear, pointed people to His Father, the Scriptures, and the fulfillment of His earthly mission as the literal Lamb of God who would give His life for the forgiveness of your sins and mine. Jesus knew that the seamless tunic would surprise and interest the Roman soldiers. So much so that they would not destroy its value by tearing it up and dividing it. Instead, they would cast lots for it – and in so doing, fulfill the prophecy of Psalm 22:18. The seamless tunic was God’s “bait”, used to lure the Roman soldiers to act in a way that would fulfill the Scriptures and again present Jesus as the Promised Messiah, God’s Anointed, the Christ.
If there is a take-away for the modern Christ-follower, it certainly isn’t about one’s personal right to material wealth. It certainly isn’t about one’s claim, as a child of the King, to personal prosperity. Jesus’ use of his tunic helps us understand that there is no such thing as a meaningless possession when it comes to advancing God’s Kingdom.
If, as Luke 6:40 says, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher”, then the take-away is stunning – hidden at first from the eyes of us mortals who are too often bent on foolish, trivial pursuits. If everything about Jesus, right down to His underwear, was deliberately done to point people to His Father, and to point people to Himself as the Messiah, then shouldn’t we who claim to follow Him, do the same? Shouldn’t everything we own, and everything we do, have this single purpose as the driving force behind our life and resources?
POINTS TO PONDER:
1. Jesus’ use of underwear was a display of creative, strategic brilliance.If you are a Christ-follower, are you following your Master’s lead? Do you seek ways to strategically use every part of your life, and all your resources to fulfill God’s divine purpose, as Jesus did?
2. Is there any area of your life that you thought was of no use to God, that you didn’t realize could be used to point people to Jesus as Master, Savior, Messiah?
What does your underwear say about God? If you’re like me, there’s a good chance it could say a lot more. I’m doing all I can to adjust my life, accordingly. I hope you’ve been inspired toward the same.
What do you think? I’d love to hear your comments . . .
Go even deeper. Listen to the January 26, 2014 podcast, FOUR THINGS YOU SHOULD NEVER ASSUME with the free Godfactor App, available through iTunes (search for “Godfactor”) and the Google Store. You’ll find the podcast in the Flight Lounge. It’s message #42 in the series called A Doctor’s Narrative From the Gospel of Luke. You can also listen at GraceYork.com
“On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. And behold, a man from the crowd cried out, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child. And behold, a spirit seizes him, and he suddenly cries out. . .” – Luke 9:37-39
If you are serious about soaring higher with God, there are FOUR THINGS you should never assume – and we learn what they are through the story of a young man who was harassed all his life. The story, and the lessons, are found in Luke 9:37-43 . . .
1: NEVER ASSUME A PHYSICAL PROBLEM IS JUST A PHYSICAL PROBLEM. In fact, the physical world sometimes merely reflects the underlying reality found in the spirit world. The young man seemed to have a condition that mimicked epilepsy or at least insanity influenced by the cycles of the moon. But his real problem was not physical at all. Behind his physical symptoms was a serious spiritual problem. This can be true not only in the area of illness, but also relationships, money or any other problem we face in life. Don’t assume the problem you are facing is merely physical. It could really be spiritual, with symptoms overflowing into your physical world.
2. NEVER ASSUME THAT IF YOU PURSUE GOD, AND FOLLOW HIM CLOSELY, YOU’RE IN FOR SMOOTH SAILING. A fallacy (heresy?) being spread in Christian circles is that if a person really follows God, all will go well for them. Nothing could be further from the truth. If your number one ambition is to live a comfortable life of convenience, you’re in for a let down in your walk with God. While God protects His followers, a real disciple of Jesus Christ is in for a life of adventurous opposition. If your ambition is to follow God, you will, by definition be opposed. Jesus was opposed by men and demons. If you follow Jesus, why would you think you’d be exempt from what the Master Himself faced habitually?
3. NEVER ASSUME YOU CAN DO GOD’S WORK WITHOUT FAITH. You don’t need faith in yourself. You need faith in God. Have you begun to serve God only to find yourself ironically operating without faith – or far less faith than you should have? And what do you do if you find yourself in the shoes of the young man’s son – with his head below water, drowning in a sea of pain and uncertainty? You do what he did – cry out to God. His prayer was “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). The biggest irony of all is a man or woman trying to do “God’s work” without faith. Forget it. It can’t be done. The same is true of a church or ministry. You must have faith if you intend to do God’s work, God’s way.
4. NEVER ASSUME YOU CAN DO GOD’S WORK WITHOUT PRAYER. How much prayer? Probably more than you realize. Any lasting, significant work of God, by God and for God (where people are partnering with Him) requires the people involved to be people of prayer. Not babbling prayer. Lip service means and does nothing. It must be prayer characterized by faith. It’s easy to begin working for God, and to start that work with dependence upon Him, in prayer. But with the passage of time and the business of life, we can begin to stray from Him. We don’t necessarily see the connection, but to stray in prayer is to stray from God. How do I know this to be true? From my own life. I’m the lead pastor of a large and growing church. I have a family. There is never a lack of things to be done, people to see, scraped elbows to bandage up or marital romance to rekindle. I fumble as a matter of expertise. And all I do is supposed to be for the glory of God, in His power? I’ll tell you what, I struggle with that! I really, really do. It’s hard to balance a life of faith living down here, outside of Eden – but it’s possible. And this is what God calls us to do. It’s who God calls us to be. It’s something we can shoot for while we rest in the knowledge that it’s a journey and a process. Who knows, maybe in reading this you’ll even offer up a prayer or two for me. God knows I could use it!
It’s never too late to fire up your faith and take your next steps with God. Don’t be discouraged. Today is a great day to take your next steps. Tomorrow is overrated, and yesterday is old news. You have this moment, and in this moment you can make the wise, right, eternally significant decision to move forward. This has practical implications right here, right now. In the physical and spiritual realms.
TAKE A MOMENT TO LISTEN to yesterday’s message, entitled “4 THINGS YOU SHOULD NEVER ASSUME” with the Godfactor App, on iTunes (search for “Godfactor”) or through GraceYork.com. It’s Message #42 in the series entitled A Doctor’s Narrative Through the Gospel of Luke. You may have even been there for the message, in person, but that doesn’t mean you really heard it. Considering what’s at stake in your life, it’s probably worth another listen or two, and worth sharing with a friend of yours who may need a boost in their walk with God.
There are many things that Christians are being known for these days. Ironically, crucifixion is not one of them. A Christian who is not living a crucified life is not a living sacrifice, but a walking contradiction . . .
The trend today is to be fashionable, modern, relevant, cutting-edge. Attractive. But what does God find attractive? Have we recreated God in our own image? For Jesus, nothing was (and is) more cutting edge for a disciple than living a crucified life. Crucifixion was an appalling concept to the crowd in Jesus’ day – and it’s at odds with much of what is being preached, written about and replicated among many Christ-followers today. (I include myself when I talk about the struggle to embrace a crucified life). If we really want to be like Jesus, then crucifixion is the most happening, current, relevant and cutting edge pursuit possible. Sure, we can separate crucifixion from following Christ – we do it all the time, mostly without even realizing it. But that’s not Jesus’ doing. It’s ours. And, it’s tragic. Not only are we missing out, but so is God.
Rather than blog at length today, I thought I would point you to yesterday’s message delivered at www.GraceYork.com. You can find it on the Godfactor App, in the “Catapult” area of our “Flight Lounge”, in the “Current Series”. It’s message #40 in my series through the entire Gospel of Luke, entitled Dabbler or Disciple: Crucifixion and the Christ-Follower. (Also available at www.Godfactor.com and on iTunes). The message still has me thinking about my own cross, my own following after Jesus, and how very far – and deep – I have to go. Still, I must go there. If I don’t, I’m no follower of Jesus Christ.
Would love to hear your comments as you sojourn with me. And, I covet your prayers, that God would help me live a crucified life . . .