No Greater Goal

Jesus spoke with authority, and that upsets those who place a lot of faith in their own authority. The Pharisees, Sadducees, religious teachers, political leaders, Zealots, and Essenes disagreed with Jesus differently, but they shared an unwillingness to give up their own authority. I have the same problem. That was not an easy lesson this week, but it was a very freeing one. We all have issues with authority at some level, and that causes us to miss the life God intends for us to live. Mark 1:21-28 says,

“They went into Capernaum; and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and began to teach. They were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, saying, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!” And Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him!”  Throwing him into convulsions, the unclean spirit cried out with a loud voice and came out of him. They were all amazed, so that they debated among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.” Immediately the news about Him spread everywhere into all the surrounding district of Galilee.” NASB

It’s easy to talk about God’s love and power as long as I don’t apply the lessons to my own heart. The unclean spirit in the demoniac knew exactly who Jesus was and what He was capable of doing. Shouldn’t I have the same knowledge of His power? I struggle with my issues, but I wouldn’t have to if I would relinquish my authority and believe in His. Why is that so hard to do? It may be because I’m comfortable with my issues. They are mine and define who I am. Letting God define me means I have to change who I am, and I’m not sure I’ll be comfortable with the new me.

God’s timing and ways always amaze me, but this week’s lessons have been so very powerful that I don’t know if I will ever stop shaking my head in amazement. In addition to Mark 1:21-28, I’ve been studying  David’s anointing in 1 Samuel 16:1-13. I would never put those scriptures together on my own, but God connected them in a powerful way. Tony W. Cartledge says in the Smyth & Helwys commentary on 1 Samuel,

‘The surprising truth about the spirit of God is that we do not do something to get it. We do not have to become more attractive or even more worthy. Our openness is enough. Our not knowing is enough. Our willingness is enough. The Bible makes it clear that God delights in surprising the world by doing great things through small people. We may never be anointed with royal oil, as was David, but we can be anointed by the spirit of God. We can look forward to a future that is filled with unknown opportunities for life and service and joy. We can become the persons God wants us to be; there is no greater goal in this life.”

I was struck by his last statement. No greater goal in this life!! Giving up my authority and letting God have authority isn’t easy or we would all be doing it. The demoniac and David had something important in common; they trusted God. They both learned that God saw them in a way they could not imagine on their own. They trusted His authority, and it made an amazing difference in their lives. God will do the same for all of us.

I’m not sure what I had in mind when I thought of unclean spirits, but I think it was the stuff of horror movies that didn’t apply to me. When I realized evil spirits are my need to control, my anger, my insecurity, my lack of trust, my bitterness, etc…I was taken aback. Jesus has authority over all my issues if I will acknowledge and trust His authority and let go of mine. There is a degree of comfort in the known evil. When I let go of my issues, God will redefine me. God’s definitions of the demoniac and David were not the same as the ones they or the people in their lives had. The transformations God has in mind will always be a shock. Perhaps that’s why I hesitate to let go of those old habits and issues.

Whatever the reasons for my hesitating and complicating when it comes to my issues and authority, they pale when compared to Christ’s authority and His precious love. Together, they make for an amazing transformation. I feel the peace, love, joy, gratitude, and grace God has in mind when I surrender my authority and embrace His. Seeing those pesky issues as demons helps me call on Christ to help rid my heart of them. The Wizard of Oz theme continued into this week; God used images of those flying monkeys to make me smile and realize that I can’t handle my issues on my own. Christ already knew that; He was simply waiting for me to ask for help. It is something I must do daily if I am to live the life He desires. There is a place over the rainbow, and it doesn’t have to stay in a lullaby. I can enjoy its peace here and now. The happy ending is knowing God’s transformation will allow me to be who he wants me to be. There truly is no greater goal than that.

From The Wizard of Oz
From The Wizard of Oz

Limiting God

More than anything, Mark 6:1-13 reminds me of the importance of listening and obeying with a humility that can only occur as I allow the Holy Spirit to change my mind. I also learn not to worry if I don’t get the response I expect when telling others about Jesus and His love.

“It’s Just Jesus” is a beautiful message that touched my heart and helped me come to understand that truth. How tragic when we limit what God would do.

I have always struggled with stillness, listening, and desperately needing a response. I’m thankful God speaks to me in a way I can understand. The past three years have been the most difficult and most beautiful years of my life. God has stretched my heart in ways I could never have imagined ten years ago. He has released this captive and given me sight. It all boils down to Christ’s authority. As John says in the message, “Their humble obedience confirmed the power of God with which He authorized them.” That came off the page and struck my heart. When I don’t have the humble obedience of Christ, I am really saying it’s just Jesus. That keeps me from moving on. The message for me is about moving on. Moving on doesn’t mean leaving behind or forgetting or running away; that’s been my struggle. “Thus, the disciples continued their mission, preaching repentance, a change of mind. The message does not change, but is about change.” That is what God has been trying to get across. Metanoia is something I’ve tried to achieve on my own, but it is the work of the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 12:9 is so very true for Paul and for me “power is perfected in weakness.” Knowing who Jesus is requires that I know who I am and who I am not.

I wept when I heard the message and realized that I limit the blessings God has in mind for me. I must believe Christ is who He says He is and be who He created me to be. It breaks my heart to think how often I don’t do either. My faith is hurt by my unbelief. I love God with all my heart and soul and mind and strength, but each time I doubt that He knows what He is doing or resist the changes He attempts to make in my heart and my mind, I limit His blessings. I keep trying to be strong and to do things on my own, and that weakens my faith and puts me right where the folks in Christ’s hometown were.

Christ gets too familiar to me, and I forget the power that raised Him from the grave is within me. That and the fact that He places others in the path to share the work and the journey give power to my faith. His power, His authority, His love, His life are available to me, and I shudder to think of Mark 6:5 and pray that I never do anything that will cause Him to “do no miracle” in my life. God forbid that I get in His way or that my lack of faith keeps me from hearing Him. He does “turn society upside down.”He certainly does that to me every time I remember who He is. I heard a powerful sermon once about upside down being just the right position to be in when it comes to God:)