As They Saw Fit

In those days Israel had no king;everyone did as they saw fit.

Judges 17:6

This verse in scripture is so powerful for being so short. And it resonates with the situation we find ourselves in today. When there is no recognized authority and truth, everyone just does as they see fit without regard to the word of the Lord. At this time in Israel’s history, people would just melt silver, cast an idol, hire a priest and set up a shrine to their own gods. This is exactly what a man named Micah did in Judges 17.

This is also something we see people do in our own culture when they claim to live according to what they call “my truth.” They might as well say, “my gods.”

In order to avoid this kind of post-modern polytheistic relativism, we must surrender our lives to Jesus. Surrender always requires obedience. But recognizing Jesus as King of Kings is only the beginning of obedience. There are at least three phases of obedience, each one progressively getting closer to what God intended for us.

1. Obedience out of sin avoidance: This kind of obedience is about trying to do what is right and avoid doing what is wrong. It is a sin-conscious approach to living for the Lord. The focus is on our actions and trying to do the right ones. This approach tends to focus on the cross but doesn’t go much beyond it. This is the lowest and weakest form of obedience to the Lord.

2. Obedience out of identity: This kind of obedience is a step up from the last kind. It is about knowing who we are in Christ. It is about recognizing that we are new creations in Christ. This approach to living for the Lord doesn’t just avoid sin because it is wrong. Instead, the person doesn’t choose sin because they know that is not who they are. It is not focused on action but on identity. It is an obedience that comes from the heart. This approach tends to embrace the cross but then also move into a focus on the resurrection. The fact that we have been made new by Jesus is the primary concern. Rather than trying to avoid sin, it is about being who you really are in Christ.

3. Obedience out of love: This is the most complete kind of obedience. This kind of obedience embraces the death and resurrection of Jesus and continues by focusing on our identification with Jesus in His ascension. We are now seated with Christ in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6). It is an obedience born out of an intimate relationship with Jesus. It not only focuses on who we are as new creations in Christ but also on the interactive communication between us and Jesus.

Obedience is seen not just as sin avoidance or living out of your true identity but as actively joining God in what you see Him doing. It is actively listening to the Holy Spirit and doing what He says to do. It comes from a love for God and an experience of His love for us. Obedience then becomes a way to honor that relationship. It becomes a joy, not a burden. This is what Jesus was talking about in John 14:15 when He said, “If you love me, keep my commands.” Obedience that is born out of love is the highest form of obedience and what God always intended for us.

What kind of obedience are you living in?

Left Foot. Right Foot. Feet. Feet. Feet.

Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior…

After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body.

Ephesians 5:23, 29-30

speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 

Ephesians 4:15

the body is not made up of one part but of many. Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

1 Corinthians 12:14-15, 27

Over and over again, the apostle Paul reminds the early church that Christ is the head of the church and they are the Body of Christ. We are His body, His hands, His feet. He is the head. With that in mind, read what Paul says in this next passage:

…he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

Ephesians 1:20-23

Jesus was crucified, buried, raised from the dead, and then ascended to the right hand of the Father. There Jesus is far above every other demonic power and political power. Again we are reminded that Jesus is the head over everything for the church and that we are His body.

We are also told that everything was placed under the feet of Jesus. But the question we must ask ourselves is, “What or who is the feet of Jesus?”

We just learned from a number of other passages that we, the Church, are the Body of Christ. We are the hands and feet of Jesus. WE ARE THE FEET OF JESUS! And that has profound implications. It means God placed everything under us, the Church. And we are under Christ, our head.

God placed all things under His feet. God placed all things under (the Church). This is what Jesus was saying to his own disciples:

He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy

Luke 10:18-19

To trample something means that it is under your feet. It means you have authority over it. Jesus has given us authority over the things He has authority over!

God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus

Ephesians 2:6

When Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father, He brought with Him everyone who would be found “in Christ.” And as His Body, His feet, everything has been placed under us. It is our job to exercise the authority we’ve been given. It’s our job to defeat the enemy with the authority Jesus has given us. In fact, Jesus is waiting on us to do just that!

But when this priest (Jesus) had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. 

Hebrews 10:12-13

Again, we see that a footstool is something that sits under feet. We are the feet of Jesus, His Body. He could make the enemy His footstool with the snap of His fingers, so what is He waiting on?

He’s waiting on us!

We’re the ones charged with the task of making the enemy a footstool for Jesus. We are His feet that have been given the authority to trample those things in the spirit realm that stand against the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Are we living out of this truth? Are we living like all things have been placed under us, Church? Or, are we living like we are buried under all things?

Do you know the authority you’ve been given? If so, how are you exercising that authority?

More in Death than in Life

Samson said to the servant who held his hand, “Put me where I can feel the pillars that support the temple, so that I may lean against them.” Now the temple was crowded with men and women; all the rulers of the Philistines were there, and on the roof were about three thousand men and women watching Samson perform. Then Samson prayed to the Lord,“Sovereign Lord, remember me. Please, God, strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.” Then Samson reached toward the two central pillars on which the temple stood. Bracing himself against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other, Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived.

Judges 16:26-30

Deliliah cut Samson’s hair thus nullifying his Nazarite vow. When this happened, the Spirit of the Lord left Samson and, with Him, all of Samson’s supernatural strength. The Philistines captured Samson, gouged out his eyes, and made a mockery of him among the Philistine elite.

Physical obedience impacts spiritual realities. So does disobedience. When Samson’s hair was cut (physical reality) it impacted what was happening in the spirit realm. The Spirit of the Lord no longer rested upon Samson in power.

Samson’s death was a foreshadow of the death of Christ. Samson destroyed many more of the enemy’s minions in his death than he did in his life. The same is true of Jesus. Jesus healed and cast demons out of thousands of people. He dominated the enemy in his life on earth. Yet, His death on the cross and resurrection from the grave gave us access to His power and authority. More minions of the enemy have been destroyed because of Jesus’s death than were destroyed in His life. It happens through you and me.

Once again we see physical obedience impacting spiritual realities. Jesus’s ultimate physical obedience of going to the cross forever changed the spirit realm. In rising from the grave, conquering sin and death, Jesus now has all authority. And He chose to delegate His authority to those of us who have the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us.

With every act of obedience on our part, the power and authority of the Kingdom of God is released in the spirit realm. With every act of disobedience, the lies and deception of the enemy gain ground. Living the Christian life has never been about vain attempts to “be a good Christian boy or girl.” Walking in step with the Holy Spirit out of obedience to the Lord has always been about the Kingdom of God coming to earth. It’s always been about the battle happening in the spirit realm. It’s about “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Your obedient actions matter more than you know!

The Amazing Father

After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light… 

…a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.

Matthew 17:1-2, 5-8

When Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James and John and they saw Him talking with Moses and Elijah, they were amazed–full of awe and wonder. But when the Father spoke from heaven, they were terrified. Yet, notice that Jesus, the One who knows His Father the best, says, “Don’t be afraid.”

Because of our dysfunctional relationships with our own dads, we can feel more comfortable interacting with Jesus, even Jesus in a glorified body, than the Father. I have a great relationship with my dad, but I can still remember a time in my life when I did not want to sit and listen in prayer for the Father to speak to me. I was afraid that the Father would only speak words of criticism, judgment and disappointment. For some reason, that same fear wasn’t there with Jesus. Maybe because He is always portrayed as full of mercy, grace and compassion.

Yet, if we’ve seen Jesus, we’ve seen the Father. If we know what Jesus is like, we know what the Father is like. The apostle Paul wrote to the church in Colossi, “The Son is the image of the invisible God…“(Colossians 1:15). Jesus had to remind His own disciples of this truth.

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.

John 14:8-10

Jesus is just like the Father. If we feel comfortable praying to and interacting with Jesus but not the Father, then we don’t know who the Father really is. The grace, love and compassion of Jesus comes from the heart of the Father.

We need to be reminded that the Father is not like our earthly dad. He’s not removed and distant. He’s not angry or hot-tempered. He’s not disapproving and hard. He’s not an addict. He’s not passive and weak. He’s not irresponsible or flighty. And even for those of us who had amazing dads, the Father is even better than that!

We don’t need to be terrified of the Father. He is slow to anger and abounding in love. He is full of power and yet full of peace. He is majestic and mighty and yet full of kindness. We are free to approach the throne of grace with confidence (Hebrews 4:16) knowing He will be present for us in our time of need.

What’s keeping you from spending time with the Father?

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights…

James 1:17

Swept Clean or Free?

“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.”

Matthew 12:43-45

Sometimes I find myself in conversations about ministering to those who are demonized. When I talk about the fact that I’ve cast demons out of a bunch of people, the initial reaction is usually disbelief. After they realize that I am serious and that I have story after story that I can share with them about this reality, disbelief changes to curiosity. While casting out demons fits with everything we see in the Gospels, the book of Acts and the rest of the New Testament, it can be difficult for our minds to comprehend because of western rationalism and materialism.

Occasionally, the question is asked, “Have you ever cast a demon out of a believer? Someone who is a follower of Jesus?” My answer is always, “I’ve only cast demons out of believers. I would be hesitant to cast a demon out of someone who isn’t a follower of Jesus unless they become one soon afterward.” This is usually fairly shocking to the person who asked the question.

In most people’s mind, the image they have of a demonized person is of someone like the Gerasene demoniac who was fully possessed, chained hand and foot, and living in caves. Or the image they have is like something they’ve seen in a horror movie. But what they don’t understand is that there is a continuum of demonization that moves from simple attachment, to internal occupation, to stronghold, to oppression. And if they don’t have the Holy Spirit, it can become possession.

The danger of casting demons out of a person without the Holy Spirit is what we learn from Jesus in the Matthew 12 passage above. When talking about the demonic, Jesus compares our life to a house. One might be able to cast the demon out of one of the rooms of that person’s house, but if Someone stronger doesn’t move into that room, the demon will just come back with his friends. The condition of the person will be worse than before. Just putting the house in order and sweeping it clean (what we see many people do in counseling) isn’t enough. Our lives will simply become a more orderly place for more demons to occupy and oppress.

One time a pagan woman came to Jesus to ask Him to cast a demon out of her daughter. Initially, Jesus denies her request because she is a Gentile. Jesus goes on to describe the ministry of deliverance–casting out demons–as “the children’s bread“(Matthew 15:26; Mark 7:27). In other words, the ministry of casting out demons was always meant as a gift for the people of God.

Casting out demons is a cleansing tool meant to be used mostly in the discipleship process of becoming more like Jesus in holiness and purity. Occasionally, it can also be used in evangelism when combined with the message of salvation. But deliverance ministry was always meant to be for the people of God.

Christians should feel no more ashamed of needing deliverance than a sick person should feel ashamed of going to the doctor. In the earliest traditions of the Church, in the first few hundred years, a person received deliverance prayer immediately after they were baptized. The normal process was: 1) surrender one’s life to Jesus, 2) get baptized in water, 3) invite the Holy Spirit to baptize and fill the new believer, and 4)cast out any demons that are there. Most of the church has lost these last two steps. Based on the ineffectiveness and brokenness of the Church today, I believe we need to recapture #3 and #4 as a normal process for the new believer.

Is there an area of your life you struggle to gain victory? A chronic sin? An addiction or compulsion? Self destructive thoughts or behaviors? A temptation that feels impossible to resist? If so, there’s a good change you need deliverance ministry. God’s gift to His people is deliverance ministry. Never be ashamed to take Jesus up on His offer of true freedom!

Learn from Jesus

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

Unlike the Pharisees, Jesus’s yoke of teaching was not a heavy burden. To take on Jesus’s yoke–his way of living in the Kingdom–is not about laboring to perform for God. His yoke is easy and his burden is light. We get to come to Jesus, off-load our shame, guilt and sin, and receive from Him peace, joy, comfort and love. It’s an incredible exchange that we have available to us every day because of the price Jesus paid on the cross.

Many of us have read this passage a number of times and found encouragement and comfort from it. Life in Christ was never meant to be wearisome. If the burden of following Jesus starts to get too heavy, it means we are carrying too much. It means it’s time to take a trip to the cross where we can lay our burdens at Jesus’s feet and allow Him to carry them for us. When we spend time with Jesus we can find rest for the deepest part of our being–our souls.

One thing that is important to notice is that Jesus doesn’t say, “Take my yoke upon you and learn about me…” No, He said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me…” Jesus is alive! Jesus rose from the dead and now sits at the right hand of the Father. When we read scripture, we don’t just learn about Jesus. We learn from Jesus.

Learning about Jesus is an important first step, but learning about Him is confined to what Jesus did in the past. Learning from Jesus is about imitating Him with our life today. Learning from Jesus is allowing the Holy Spirit to speak to us now. It is about hearing from Jesus about our lives today. We will never find rest for our souls if we are only learning about Jesus. Rest for our souls comes when we learn from Jesus.

When we allow Jesus to teach us and guide us today, in the present moment, when we learn from Jesus, we’ll find that He will lead us beside quiet waters as the Good Shepherd (John 10:11).

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

Psalm 23

Overcoming Unbelief

When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”

Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”

Matthew 11:2-6

Remember that John the Baptist was one of the first people to announce that Jesus was the Messiah (Matthew 3; John 3:22-36). John was the one who baptized Jesus in water, saw the Holy Spirit descend upon Him, and heard the voice of the Father speak words of love and identity over Jesus (Matthew 3:13-17). John the Baptist is the one who saw Jesus and declared, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!“(John 1:29).

But we also know that John the Baptist was persecuted by Herod the tetrarch because John spoke out against Herod’s unlawful marriage to Herodias–his brother Philip’s wife (Matthew 14:3-12). John was stuck in prison and probably expecting his impending death. John was having a moment where he was struggling to believe in the calling on his own life and the truth about who Jesus was. Even after all that John the Baptist had seen and heard from the Lord, his difficult circumstances were causing him to wonder if Jesus really was the one they were all waiting for. Doubt can creep in like that!

Has anyone ever been there?

Notice Jesus’s response. He doesn’t launch into a theological argument proving that He is the Messiah. Instead, Jesus lists the miracles that He had been doing on a daily basis. The best evidence of Jesus being the Messiah, the Savior of the world, was the miracles. They not only fulfilled prophecy about His life but demonstrated the tangible reality of the Kingdom of God on earth.

So why did Jesus conclude with, “Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me?”

I believe Jesus knew that John, and many others, had different expectations of how things would turn out. John didn’t expect, as the Elijah-figure preparing the way for the Lord, that he would spend his final days in prison. He didn’t expect his life to end by execution. And many others didn’t expect the Messiah to go to the cross.

We are witnessing here the same juxtaposition that we experience in our own lives. Jesus is opening the eyes of the blind, causing the lame to walk, cleansing those with leprosy, opening the ears of the deaf, raising the dead, and proclaiming good news to the poor. And yet He’s not miraculously getting John out of prison. He’s not miraculously sending angels to bust John out of prison, saving him from execution (which we know He can and will do at times according to Acts 12 & 16).

This is the tension of the Kingdom of God growing side-by-side with the kingdom of darkness (Matthew 13:30). This tension can cause many to “stumble on account of (Jesus)“. As followers of Jesus we have to live in this tension while living in this broken world. The Kingdom of God is breaking out all over the world but so is the kingdom of darkness. We have to keep our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. We have to keep our eyes focused on what He IS doing and not get sucked into focusing on what we think He should be doing.

I also think this passage in Matthew 11 points to the necessity of signs, wonders, miracles, healings, deliverance, and prophecy. The operation of the miraculous gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12) not only strengthens the church, but it also combats unbelief. It helps people know that the Kingdom of God is a tangible reality on the earth and not just a theory, not just a belief, not just a religious principle.

When our faith wavers, sometimes we need to see the power of God on display right in front of us. We need to know that Jesus is still opening the eyes of the blind, causing the lame to walk, cleansing those with leprosy, opening the ears of the deaf, raising the dead, and proclaiming good news to the poor today!

So many Christians today who do not believe in the miraculous gifts and do not operate in the miraculous gifts are falling away from their faith. In a cultural sea of unbelief and doubt, tangible and experiential evidence of God’s supernatural power is irreplaceable.

Have you seen God do the impossible recently?