Saturday, 8 July 2017

Wrestling Satan ~ Ganeida.

As you read through your bible it can be hard to discern some things.  We are told to refrain from some things.  We are told to do other things. We are warned about yet other things then told to do impossible things.  Living the Christ life is, in fact, very simple, but it is not simple until we grasp one simple fact: we can do nothing in our own strength.

Everyone say In Christ. This is the key to everything.  One of our favourite verses is based on 1 John 4:4.  I know you all know it so say it with me:  He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world!

What I want to show you today is how that is true & why you can truly say that the Christ in you is greater than anything satan throws at you.

We are going to start by looking at just 3 verses from Ephesians 6.  I am not going to study the armour because we have looked at that in depth elsewhere.  I do want you to understand the warfare satan is engaged in against you so you understand how important it is to understand Christ in you.

 A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armour so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

The KJV renders fighting as wrestling & that is perhaps the translation most of us know best: For we wrestle not against flesh and blood… However it is translated most of us are going to miss what this verse is saying because we don’t know our history & we don’t understand the Greek.

In English our idea of wresting is the fake stuff we see on t.v or perhaps the sumo wrestling of Japan but whatever idea is in our minds we view it as a sport with rules, a scoring system, a contest of strength & cunning with the winner determined by a points system. That is NOT how the Greeks viewed it.

The word translated wrestle or fight or struggle is palēRemember I don’t need you to remember the Greek.  I need you to remember the meaning. Every Greek reader would have immediately understood this as a reference to the palaestra. This was where elite athletes trained in the sports of wrestling, boxing & pankration, a combination of wrestling & boxing. In each of these sports there were almost no rules, no time limits, no space limits & the fight continued until one was defeated due to submission, knockout or death. Death was not uncommon & was not considered murder. They were called the *heavy* sports because the men who took part were big, brawny men trained to never show weakness & who were capable of snapping an opponent’s fingers, breaking their back, grabbing & twisting genitals ~ doing whatever it took to win.  Enduring whatever it took to win.

This is our enemy.  He does not fight fair.  He does not play by any rules.  He is brutal, vindictive, vicious & he will not give up until one of you is dead, submitted or knocked out. Our goal is to keep him submitted or knocked out.

Now that might seem a little overwhelming ~ especially if, like me, you are a rather small woman & adverse to brutal warfare but Paul has already told us how we win in verse 10: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Endynamoō means to be empowered, to be invigorated. We do this *in the Lord*. Remember John 15:5 Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.

When we are *in the Lord* the armour Paul describes already covers us. If I have understood the Greek grammar histēmi [stand] is a completed action so that we are able to resist [anthistēmi]. We cannot stand unless we are *in the Lord.*

The next thing I want to address is our understanding of who Christ is. We have a problem because our art & our English bibles have given us a picture of Christ that is weak, timid, even effeminate ~ just think all those Catholic icons where they depict Jesus with long hair & an almost girlish face. This is not the picture we should have.

The picture we should have is the one from the Garden of Gesthemene. Again the Greek will give us greater understanding.

Jesus has gone to pray & afterwards Judas arrives with, according to Matthew, Mark & Luke, a crowd.  John invariably gives us more detail & he says it was a speira. A speira was a Roman cohort of between 300 & 600 soldiers. I guess you could call it a crowd.

Jesus steps forward & asks who they are looking for. They are looking for Jesus of Nazareth.  Now when Jesus answers we get in English:  I am he ~ because that makes grammatical sense but the Greek reads: egō eimi ~ I AM. And John 18:6 tells us that the crowd drew back & fell to the ground.

Just stop & imagine the scene for a moment. Jesus has been praying ~ in agony, to the point his sweat was bloody. He has agonised before the Father over what is to come & then, there He is, in the midst of it.  It is happening all around Him. We know that an angel was sent to strengthen Him, that He had the Spirit without measure & He utters that great cry of God: I AM.

Never ever let someone tell you Jesus never claimed to be God.  He did.  Unmistakably. And He was understood to make it. Three times in John’s passage He utters: egō eimi.

There is enough power in that utterance to lay out 300 to 600 men.  Flat on their backs.  Prostrate. Can you see it? It must have been chaos.  Dark.  They would have dropped some of their swords; the torches; struggled to stand under the power of the Holy Spirit in that place. In that moment Peter seizes his opportunity, grabs a sword & goes for the High Priest’s servant with the intent to kill him.  That is what the Greek implies.  He wasn’t after a stray ear.  He was intent on removing a whole head! They had had days & weeks of the religious elite laying traps for them all over Jerusalem & Peter lost his cool.

The only one with their self possession intact is Jesus & He steps forward & says: Permit me…this thing… which is not what your English bible says but is, in essence, what Jesus is saying because He lays hands on Malchus & heals him.  It is, a pretty violent laying on of hands.  There is so much power exploding in that garden that no~one there could have done what they came to do except for one thing: No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded. [John 10:18]

You want to know how much power was in that Garden?  And do you know how I know?
Mark 14:51. And there followed him a certain young man, having a linen cloth cast about his naked body; and the young men laid hold on him:

It’s all in the details.

What young man?  Seriously.  Who goes out on a Passover night basically draped in a sheet? Under a full moon? No~one.  Let’s be real here.  The garden was at least ½ an hours brisk walk outside the city, uphill, surrounded by graveyards. No~one, but no~one, was just going to wander by & certainly not in an undressed state. It’s not like there were houses close by.  It’s not like he could have spotted what was happening & wandered out to see what was going on. The very reason Jesus chose the place was for its seclusion.  Logistically the geography prohibits it.

But when we study the Greek we discover something very interesting. The young man was sindōn periballō.  Literally he had a linen cloth thrown about his nakedness. Sindōn was the expensive linen cloth rich people used to bury their dead. We know the Jews buried their dead naked; we know there were graveyards nearby. When Jesus uttered egō eimi, He released resurrection power & at least one newly dead young man rose from the grave…an oddity…so obviously out of place they tried to seize him but he escaped, leaving his cloth behind & escaping completely naked. Wow.

Jesus drives His point home in Matthew’s gospel:
Are you not aware that I can call on My Father, and He will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? [Matthew 26: 53] That’s 72,000 plus angels! Jesus army trumped Rome’s!

Jesus was not some helpless namby~pamby meekly going to His death because He was too weak & powerless to fight.  If He hadn’t submitted they could never have taken Him ~ & we could never have been redeemed.

So when satan has you in the arena & he’s using everything in his power to take you out, to break you, rob you, destroy you, kill you how do you deal with him?

You remember that He who is in you in greater than he who is in the world!

If you belong to Christ then He has sealed you with His Holy Spirit & that Spirit  is the exact same Spirit that is in Christ & all Christ’s power & authority resides in you along with His Spirit.

Now we have been supplied with everything we need for victory.  All the armour Paul talks about in Ephesians 6 is available to us but we must be in Christ.  We are in Christ when we practice Shema~ to hear & obey. Now people try & tie this neatly up in knots because most people like rules: Do this, don’t do that.  But that is not how it works.  We are to *walk by the Spirit*. [Galatians 5:16]

The bottom line is that it is all about relationship.  It is about knowing & loving Jesus so much we can’t bear to wrong Him in any way.  We can’t bear to disappoint Him or disobey Him & as we come to know Him more & more, better & better Jesus promises If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. [Revelation 3:20] Interestingly the following verse He speaks about the victorious.

Now I can instruct you, but only you can take the time to get to really know Jesus.  That takes time ~ your time.  It takes commitment.  It takes patience as you learn & make mistakes & offend the Spirit & repent & try again.  I can’t do any of that for you.  Each of us has to develop our own relationship with Jesus but remember this:  Trials & tribulations WILL come.  The enemy of our souls WILL attack. Only then will you be found standing in that *evil day* declaring:  He who is in me is greater than He who is in the world ~ because you will know that it is true!