Perspectives on Spiritual, Intellectual and Pastoral Issues: Host – Lowell Qualls

The week leading up to the first Easter, Jesus knew He was headed for a week of war.  His war would be physical, emotional, and spiritual.  He knew that the battleground for this fight would be His mind.  Jesus knew what was ahead.  And phase one of the battle for His mind began on “Palm Sunday,” the day Jesus was celebrated by the crowd.

Matthew 20:17-19

17 As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, He took the twelve disciples aside privately and told them what was going to happen to Him. 18 “Listen,” He said, “we’re going up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be betrayed to the leading priests and the teachers of religious law.  They will sentence Him to die. 19 Then they will hand Him over to the Romans to be mocked, flogged with a whip, and crucified.  But on the third day He will be raised from the dead.”

I’m going to put the goal of my blog treatise out front, in plain view.  It is this:  I hope to convince you that if the Holy Spirit of God has our mind, our will and emotions will follow God’s leading.  If God has our minds we will live our lives God’s way, with all the perks!

Satan knows that if he has our minds he can ruin us!  Confuse us.  Cause us to doubt God.  If the enemy gets your mind then every part of your being is open to his control … your mind and your will and your emotions!   You’ll say “yes” to every dark and sinful idea that he brings to your mind.  And as he gets you say yes over and over again, you are taking steps toward addiction and spiritual slavery and ultimately spiritual death.

The bottom line is … OUR mind is the prize.

On that first Palm Sunday Jesus was  popular!  His reputation had preceded Him.   People in the crowds that day were testifying, “This prophet JESUS raised a man from the dead, a man that lives just over the Mount of Olives, in Bethany!!”

Some others were saying, “Oh, well, you think that’s impressive?  This Man fed two huge crowds of people… thousands of people each time … the first time with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish, and the other time with 7 loaves of bread and a few small fish!  What do you think of that!”

Matthew 21:8-11 tells us, 

Most of the crowd spread their garments on the road ahead of Him, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Jesus was in the center of the procession, and the people all around Him were shouting, 

“Praise God for the Son of David!
Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Praise God in highest heaven!”

 10 The entire city of Jerusalem was in an uproar as He entered. “Who is this?” they asked.  11 And the crowds replied, “It’s Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

While during that first Palm Sunday Jesus had the approval of multitudes of people, just 5 days later these same people that were singing “Hosanna” would be shouting, “Crucify Him!  Give us Barabbas!  But crucify Jesus!”

Do you see the battle taking shape?  What Jesus was receiving from the crowds on Sunday was “the approval of man.”   Is that something you long for?  Ache for?  Would die for?

It is important we understand that our desire for approval and fear of disapproval, and why both is so strong.  We all long for approval and significance.  That’s why the fear man is so strong.

When God created Man He designed Adam to be motivated by these emotionally powerful forces – approval & disapproval – because they uniquely reveal what we love.

Because we are created beings our identity, our value, our meaning comes from the One who created us – God.  He has the rightful authority to define who we are, what we are worth, what we should do, and how we should do it.  He is called “the Lord,” not “a lord.”

That is why Jesus said the greatest commandment is to LOVE the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all our soul, all our strength and ALL OUR MIND.  All the other commandments will be obeyed if we love God totally.

God designed us to obey the one we love … or the one we fear.

So if we elevate Man to the highest place in our life, we will obey what we believe Man wants us to do, and how Man wants us to think.  Fear of Man is giving God’s rightful position in our lives to people, and that, my friends, is called idolatry.

The Bible says, in Proverbs 29:25, 25 Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the Lord means safety.

How do we battle and win over the fear of Man?   I wish it was simple, but it is not.  We must love God more, and place Him at the highest place in our hearts.   We must long for His approval!   His “thumbs up” should mean the world to us.

And while your battling the Fear of Man get ready to experience betrayal.  Betrayal will mess with your mind!

Just days after the crowds were praising Jesus, Judas would betray Him.  Judas, one of The Twelve Disciples, had his feet washed by Jesus.  Judas had seen the miracles.  He was there when the blind saw and the lame walked.  He watched as the demons came out of people.  He even saw the dead raised on THREE occasions.

And still he betrayed Jesus.

We won’t go into the whys and wherefores of Judas’ betrayal.  We just need to remember,  all of Christ’s DISCIPLES except John ran and hid for the three days of Jesus’ torture and death.  John and many of the woman, including Christ’s mother, went with Jesus to The Cross.

I don’t think the Holy Spirit is saying, “Prepare to be betrayed.  Don’t  trust anyone … even your inner circle!”  NO.

I believe the Holy Spirit is saying to us, “Prepare for YOUR OWN betrayal of Jesus.”

Part of spiritual warfare is understanding the nature of human beings.  Jesus knew He would be betrayed … but His betrayers were shocked by their own weakness!   Peter almost didn’t recover.  He was so surprised and embarrassed by his actions!  His betrayal of Jesus almost broke him.

I digress, but think about this:  Judas betrayed the Lord and felt he was UNFORGIVABLE.  My friend, if you fail the Lord don’t ever believe He won’t forgive you.  He knows that you aren’t perfect, and still He loves you so much. Unconditionally!  Ask the other disciples of Jesus.

Peter and the other brothers and sisters of Jesus stayed close enough to experience His resurrection, and the JOY of having a second chance!!

Give yourself some grace as God pours out His forgiveness on your heart when you blow it.  But also, let’s give some GRACE TO OUR FRIENDS!  No pointing fingers!  No “holier than thou!”  None of that stuff should ever surface.  We must understand, followers of Jesus (and that includes you and me) are just one mind-game away from breaking faith with our Lord.  If you want God’s grace, share in God’s grace!  We are not to judge our brothers and sisters.  We are to love and encourage anyone who sins.

Another powerful truth about spiritual warfare is THE IMPORTANCE OF PRAYER!

EVEN JESUS needed His Garden of Gethsemane!  His best preparation for what He was facing and would be facing would take place on His knees.

Your time of prayer … your Garden of Gethsemane … is your opportunity to address GOD!  Commune with Him.  Drink in His living water.  Feast on His Word.  Bend the knee in worship.  We must take advantage of our opportunities to speak to Him and to hear from Him if we ever hope to be victorious in the battle for our mind.

I believe if we take some time on our knees we will, like Jesus, come away from our prayer time saying, “NOT MY WILL BUT YOURS!”

Here’s a good question.  Are you walking in self-confidence or God-confidence?  (Are you living a successful and God-honoring life in your own strength or His?)

I’ll tell you what also comes out of our times of spiritual warfare prayer.  Look back at the Garden of Gethsamane.   Observe:  while others are cutting the ears off of the people around them you will be prepared to heal even your enemies.

After we pray and clear our minds our goals will change. After we spend time in God’s presence we won’t judge sinners but we will do everything we can to help them become His friends.  We’ll lay down our swords and pick up the servant’s bowl and towel.  We’ll wash feet instead of having to clean things up after a blood-bath.

The last thing I’ll share about spiritual warfare and the battle for our minds is this:  YOUR CROSS WILL REVEAL YOUR TRUE HEART.

Not too many days ago I celebrated “Good Friday.”   Does it ever strike you as ODD that Christians celebrate the death of our Savior?  It does me.  We Christ followers glory in the Cross of Jesus.  We sing about the Cross of Jesus.  We love the Cross of Jesus.  We wear reminders around our necks and get tattoos of a gross instrument of capital punishment.

We love the Cross because there is a strange beauty that is revealed while Jesus is dying.  If it is true, that whatever is in our hearts comes out through our mouths, and I do, then listen to what Jesus said from His heart.  What He said while He was dying proves my last point.

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”  (Luke 23:34)

No anger!  No cursing!  He preached forgiveness, and then He demonstrated forgiveness.

If you have anything against anyone, from your cross, forgive. Is it in your heart to do so?

“Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

Again, this is about forgiveness.  This time directed to one who asked for mercy.  Our challenge many times is to not hold forgiveness as a weapon.  Don’t withhold forgiveness to teach someone a lesson, or to punish someone.  Release forgiveness.  Is it in your heart to do so?

“Jesus said to His mother: “Woman, this is your son.” Then He said to the disciple: “This is your mother.”  (John 19:26-27)

There are at least four people at the foot of the Cross.  There are three Marys mentioned, and John.  There is (1) Mary, the mother of Jesus, (2) Mary, His mother’s sister, and (3) Mary Magdalene.  And there is John, the one disciple that didn’t fade into the crowd and go into hiding.

While you may be suffering your cross there are others around you that are suffering, too.  Is it in your heart to love others even when you are longing for love?   Is it in your heart to care for others in spite of your personal pain?  Or is it always about you?

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34)

After three hours of suffering Jesus cried out in anguish!   Friends, we have this record of Christ crying out to God, “Have YOU deserted Me, too?”

One of the beautiful things about our loving God is that He never leaves us, but sometimes it feels like He does, doesn’t it?   Don’t be surprised if, while you are struggling on your cross, you get discouraged and you feel alone.  Is it still in your heart to cry out to God?   Is it in your heart to be honest with yourself and with God?

BE HONEST WITH GOD!  It’s important.  Don’t hide behind what you think is faith.  And don’t have faith in your faith.  Sometimes … many times … faith is crying out to the God you can’t see or touch, and believing that He is still listening … because He is!

This is truly spiritual warfare!

“I thirst.”  (John 19:28)

I don’t want to be whimsical and try to make a point by stretching what happened on the Cross of Christ when He said, “I thirst.”  But I can’t help thinking about an incident that happened earlier in the ministry of Jesus.  He had an encounter with a woman at a well, and He said to her, “Can I have a drink?”  (“I thirst.”)  They ended up having a conversation about well water and something else.  Jesus said, “Whoever drinks this well water will thirst again.  But whoever drinks the water I give will have eternal life!”

Was this moment on the Cross our Lord’s cry for eternal life?  Is it in your heart to thirst for the love of God?

Are you thirsty for the salvation of your family?  Your friends?  Your schoolmates? Your workmates?

Going back to the Cross, the Lord’s body is now giving out.  He has a tremendous thirst.  Next the Word of God tells us:

When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished;” and He bowed His head and handed over His spirit.   (John 19:30)

Luke’s Gospel says, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit.”  (Luke 23:46)

I believe a part of spiritual warfare is this simple thought.   When you’ve done all you can do, can you trust Him with the end of the story?

When you are battling against the enemy of your soul, and your strength is giving out, is it in your heart to say, “I can trust You with the outcome!  Let it be what You want, O God.  I confess that You are strong when I am weak.   I want You to do the work.  You are God.”

It takes tremendous faith to let go of whatever you’ve been trying to fix.  It takes a lot of faith to intentionally surrender the outcome of your fight to God.  That kind of surrender is all about trust and hope.

Now, you should never surrender to Satan.   Don’t ever give up by surrendering to the enemy!

Let me be clear:  you should surrender yourself and all of your desires, totally, to the will of God.  Is it in your heart to trust God?  Are you ready to confess, “You are the way, You are the truth, and You are the life, Jesus!”  Paul said it this way:  “For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

Think (meditate) on this from Romans 12:2 … “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.  Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

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