Finding and Sharing a Good Place - Purity 779
Purity 779 7/9/2022 Purity 779 Podcast
Today’s photo of a lakeside campfire at sunset comes to us from friend who shared this scene on social media back on July 2nd to describe their “current situation”. And even though my friend didn’t disclose their location or any other thoughts on their current situation, we can assume from the setting and the fact that they shared it that their current situation was a good one. And knowing that my friend is pretty laid back and nonchalant, I am assuming that they wouldn’t mind that I share it to emphasis two points as we go into the weekend. The two points that I want to share are that:
1. life can be good, pretty general right?, and that
2. when we discover something that can make life good, we can’t be blamed for sharing it.
Some of the comments to my friend’s photo, shared with good natured sarcasm I hope, revealed jealousy, envy, or accused them of bragging about their current situation but I think my friend’s silent message was not just bragging about their current situation, although it could be!, but was simply sharing the fact that they were in a “good place” and it could even have been a mild encouragement and hope that their friends would find a good place too.
Like I said, I think I know my friend’s heart, a little bit, so I think their photo was shared with good intentions and so I am taking a leap of faith trusting they won’t unfriend me and demand that I remove their photo from the blog.
This old friend was one of my old work friends from the early days of my current career and our paths separated about 12 years ago, maybe sooner. We were both in our 20’s, had the same job, and spent some time with others from the office hanging out and drinking. We were work friends that have gone separate ways but they still hold a fondness in my heart because of the good times we shared but also because this friend, along with a few others from our “work friend group”, showed me great kindness by unexpectantly appearing at my infant son’s funeral to give their condolences.
Their showing up at my son’s funeral was a small but significant way in which they showed their care and friendship to me and while I would never hold someone’s not showing up at a funeral against them, we remember it when others show up when we are at our lowest.
I myself am not the best friend when it comes to that, going to funerals. I struggled with the specter of death in my earliest childhood. In my first experience with death, at my maternal grandmother’s funeral, while my brothers were openly weeping and were torn up emotionally, I tried to joke and cheer them up, I guess, in part because I was uncomfortable with that raw emotion of pain that comes from loss. So rather than surrender to the grief, I coped by trying to lighten up the situation. Maybe I was just being pragmatic…I had been sad for awhile and grandma was still dead… so let’s move along? I don’t know.
But after that first experience, I kept the throws of grief from invading my experience when someone died. I was rather matter a fact about death, and chose to focus on the living and lightening the mood, maybe by trying to show that life was still good? Again, that’s the way I coped with death I guess.
Of course, with the loss of my sone in 2002, that coping method got derailed as there was just no way to make light of that loss because it shook the foundations about how I thought life should go. And although I only knew him for a few months I deeply loved my son, Holden.
So, without any real faith in God, I was angry, depressed, drunk, and lost for a few years until I started searching for meaning, and eventually was pulled out of the darkness of a life full of error, when I heard the message that saved my soul.
Unfortunately, I am still not good with grief. After he death of my son, the trauma made me more matter a fact about the death of others. And if the person was advanced in years, forget about it. If my infant son could die, why not them?
That’s the way life goes. People die and life goes on. And it does, that is true, but I would like to emphasize that somewhat pragmatic, and perhaps cold response in the face of death, was before coming to Christ…
Now I know just how valuable our lives are to God. He sent Christ to die for us. And before we die He wants us to have peace with Him, through faith in Christ alone, so we can go to a “good place” for all eternity with Him.
And I also know now that grieving for others, and with others, is okay. As good as life is, there is a time to grieve, as the word of God tells us. We need time to process the trauma of the losses we suffer.
Jesus wept when Lazarus died. The guy with the most insight into the spiritual realities of life and death, wept. He grieved with Martha and Mary, Lazarus’ sisters. And as much as it pained Jesus to delay his arrival and to allow Lazarus to die, He suffered the pain, heart ache, and trauma of the loss of His friend because Lazarus’ death and resurrection would be used to give glory to God and to reveal that Jesus was the Messiah, The Son of God and God the Son
In John 11:25-26 (NKJV) ,
Jesus says to Martha, and to all of
25 …, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.
26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?"
If you’ve read this blog before or heard my podcast, you know that I believe this! And I want you to know that you can believe it too. Jesus is trustworthy and through Him we can be forgiven and receive a new everlasting life.
While I’m still not a “funeral guy”, although I did attend the wake of another co-worker’s brother a few years back because I considered them a good friend, I do share my condolences and pray for my friends who suffer losses and grieve because I know about the pain of loss and I know that God grieves right along with us, as He is always close to the broken hearted and seeks to heal us through Jesus.
So, I may have gotten off track a little but the two points I wanted to make was that life is good and that we should share the things we discover that make it good.
Through His creation of this world and man, God has given us the power to create good circumstances and to experience love for our partners, family, and friends. As we share life together, even if it is just for a season or two, we are bonded together by our common experiences and interests. We grow closer together in love and can really know that life is good. And it pains us when we lose those we have walked through life with, but the pain of loss doesn’t take away the goodness we have known in the past or the fact that life can still be good even in the midst of our struggles. So point one: Life is a gift from God, and it is good!
And as for point two, as we enjoy this weekend, it is my prayer that my friends find themselves in a good place and find ways to experience the goodness of life. While we all can have different ideas of what makes a good life, we can still respect each other’s opinions on what we could do to experience life’s goodness. So if you like the ocean, the forest, the mountains, or the cities, go to wherever and do whatever that reminds you that life is good.
I encourage you to share those with us. They inspire us to do similar things and they bring us joy when we see our friends are in a “good place”.
But before I go, as indicated above, I would encourage everyone who reads or listens to this message to find the “good place” and to experience the goodness of life that the Lord has for you through faith in Jesus Christ.
A relationship with God through faith in Christ will bring us to a “good place” beyond this life but will also give us the ability to experience the goodness of God in the world of the living. So start your walk by trusting in Jesus as your Lord and Savior, or just keep walking in talking with God, if you already know Him.
It is in going back to God, continually, that we can repeatedly find that we are in a good place and that the experience of the goodness of life can be something we know every step of our walk from here to eternity.
Have a great weekend and God bless you all!
Today’s Bible verse comes to us from “The NLT Bible Promise Book for Men”.
This morning’s meditation verse is:
Ephesians 2:6-7 (NLT2)
6 For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.
7 So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.
Today’s Bible verses speak about the spiritual realities of our position with Christ in the heavenly realms through our union with Christ and that we are evidence for God’s incredible kindness and grace.
Our walk of faith has us in Ephesians 2 again! I was moved to share Ephesians 2:8-10 on Thursday and our resource had us share Ephesians 2:4-5 the same day. And now we are “filling in the blanks” as our resource has us sharing the verses that bridge the gap between those sets of verses. So I take this “coincidence” as an indication that God wants us to know about His grace and our secure position with Him.
Today’s verses assure us that somehow, spiritually, we are seated with Christ in the heavenly realms!
One of the items on the Who I am in Christ list that I use as part of my regular spiritual practice is “I am a citizen of heaven” drawn from Philippians 3:20. Ephesian 2:6 makes the list too “I am seated with Christ in the heavenly realms”.
These statements point to the fact that part of our identity is that we are ALREADY in heaven, in a sense. We are connected to Christ and while we are not physically there yet, God wanted us to know through the Apostle Paul’s letters that somehow in a way we can’t fully understand, we are already there! We are already in heaven!!
While that can make us wonder “how can this be”, we should rejoice!
And not only is our “good place” and future and present reality an absolute certainty, God will also use all of us – all of our stories – all of our lives – as evidence for His amazing grace and kindness.
His grace was so amazing that He saved me, He saved you, and He saved so many others that are nothing like you or me.
No two life journeys are the same but when we make peace with God every detail of our lives will be part of a story that highlights the love of God that was displayed through the things He has brought us through and that He has provided us with.
We get to play a part in God’s grand narrative and our lives in Christ give Him glory!
So rejoice over your present and future place in heaven and go out there and see what’s next in a life that will bear witness to the kindness and grace of God.
As always, I invite all to go to mt4christ.org where I always share insights from prominent Christian theologians and counselors to assist my brothers and sisters in Christ with their walk.
Today we continue sharing from Clinton E. Arnold’s “Powers of Darkness”
As always, I share this information for educational purposes and encourage all to purchase Clinton Arnold’s books for your own private study and to support his work. This resource is available on many websites for less than $20.00.
They Are Part of Satan’s Kingdom
Paul’s teaching on the powers called for a significant change in outlook for many of his gentile converts. In popular belief, and especially in magic, they were accustomed to thinking there were “good” and “evil” spirits. In magic it was important to know the names of good and helpful spirits who could be called upon to help and provide protection from evil spirits.
In line with the Old Testament, contemporary Judaism and the teaching of Jesus, Paul taught that there was one primary figurehead of evil, Satan, who commanded a host of “spiritual forces of wickedness.” Paul would not have accepted the various distinctions between good and evil spirits made by his gentile converts in their pre-Christian experience. All the spirits called on and revered in magic, astrology and the pagan cults were evil and “demonic.”
Satan, or the devil, is “the god of this age” (2 Cor 4:4). While God is ultimately sovereign since he is the creator of everything that exists, Satan has been allowed to exercise a great amount of evil activity on the earth. John recorded Jesus calling attention to the devil’s present authority by describing him as “the prince [archōn] of this world” (Jn 14:30; 16:11). While Satan’s authority is not absolute, neither is it trifling. He wields all kinds of destructive influence over all levels of life and exerts his greatest hostility against God’s redemptive purpose in and through the Lord Jesus Christ
According to Paul, Satan holds unbelieving humanity in his captivity. He “has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Cor 4:4). Even at the end of his apostolic career Paul’s convictions had not changed. He regarded those opposing the ministry of the gospel as having fallen into a trap of the devil “who has taken them captive to do his will” (2 Tim 2:26). Elsewhere he described Satan’s activity as holding unbelievers in “slavery.” Prior to the work of God’s redemption the Galatians “were in slavery under the basic principles [stoicheia] of the world” (Gal 4:3). At this point Paul brought into view Satan’s powerful assistants who carry out the same malignant purposes as their leader. In Ephesians Paul described the captivity in terms of unbelievers being “dead” in their transgressions and sins. This was when they followed “the ruler of the kingdom of the air” (Eph 2:1–2).
Through blinding, holding captive, enslaving and keeping people in the sphere of death, the work of Satan and his powers runs counter at every point to the loving, reconciling and life-giving purpose of God in Christ. Satan has a multiplicity of schemes to defraud and take advantage of people even after they become Christians (2 Cor 2:11; Eph 6:11). Although his character is dark and evil, he often presents himself in a very positive light to further his deceitful work (2 Cor 11:14).
They Are Involved in the World Religions
The gentile converts to Christianity faced a very important issue: What kind of perspective were they now to have on their former gods and goddesses? How were the worshipers of Dionysus, for instance, to view their god now that they were Christians? Was he truly a god, but of a somewhat lesser stature than the one God? Or, was he merely a stone image who represented no real divine being?
Paul specifically addressed this issue in his first letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 8 and 10). Two questions faced the Corinthian church, which elicited the apostle Paul’s response. They were concerned with (1) whether they could eat a meal in the temple of one of the local gods, and (2) whether it was permissible to eat meat that had previously been sacrificed to a god or goddess.
There was a difference of opinion among the Corinthian believers on both of these issues. It appears some of the more confident Christians, knowing that an idol has no real existence (8:4), had no scruples with going into an idol temple and eating a meal (8:10). The result of such action, however, was the spiritual demise of other Christians. Seeing their more assured fellow believers exercise this freedom gave the “weaker” Christians the courage to do the same and eat food offered to a god (probably in one of the temples). A crisis of conscience plagued the weaker Christians, with some returning to idolatry. It is very likely that this situation was not merely a potential problem Paul was trying to forestall, but that a few from the Corinthian church had actually returned to their pagan worship.
Since Paul was understandably very concerned about this situation, which was “destroying” (8:11) some of these precious believers, he set forth a lengthy argument advocating that the Corinthians should completely cut their ties with the pagan temples, and that the stronger believers should be willing to waive their right to eat idol food out of sensitivity to the conscience of weaker Christians.
One of the central features of Paul’s argument is that there is a demonic character to non-Christian religions. He agreed with the informed Corinthians in principle that an idol has no real, independent existence (8:4). For the Christian, he concurred, there is no God but the one true God; the pagan deities—Apollo, Isis, Sarapis and the rest—are so-called gods. Nevertheless, Paul went on to affirm some kind of real existence for these gods, noting, “indeed there are many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords’ ” (8:5). In one sense he did believe in the existence of other “gods” and “lords,” but in a qualitatively different way than those who worshiped these beings. Paul will later contend that the images represent demons (10:20–21) and not true divinities; they are not to be thought of on the same level as the one God. In another sense, however, they are real gods and lords in that they are subjectively believed to be such by those who worship them; they are “real” to their worshipers. Also, for the “weak” Christians at Corinth, these gods were still quite real in their “conscience” or in their “awareness.” Their “intellectual conviction that there was only one God had not been fully assimilated emotionally.”12 The convictions of their hearts had not caught up with their cognitive understanding. We cannot underestimate how difficult it must have been for people accustomed to believing in the reality of many gods suddenly to transform those years of deeply entrenched religious conviction into a monotheistic framework. The fact that these pagan gods really are “nothing,” however, does not make them any less dangerous.
Paul later contended that there is a close connection between idolatry and demonic activity. He argued, “Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons” (10:19–20). In Paul’s mind there are indeed supernatural beings associated with pagan idolatry—the powers of darkness! In the span of two verses Paul used the word demon four times. He saw demons as the actual recipients of the sacrificed meat (10:20). By eating and drinking in the pagan temples, the Corinthians were drinking “the cup of demons” and eating at “the table of demons” (10:21). In essence they were having “fellowship” (koinōnia) with demons, a fellowship that should be reserved for their relationship to Christ alone (1:9). Communion with the Lord Jesus at his table should completely replace participation at the table of demons. For Paul, then, there was an intensely demonic character to pagan religions in general.
For Paul this position was not at all novel. It represented the established position of Judaism. Moses’ song of praise to God, reflecting on the idolatrous behavior of the Jews while they were in the wilderness, proclaims, “They made him jealous with their foreign gods and angered him with their detestable idols. They sacrificed to demons, which are not God” (Deut 32:16–17). This attitude toward idols is reflected elsewhere in the Old Testament and in the Judaism of the New Testament period. Jewish belief closer to the time of Paul is well illustrated in a second-century B.C. Jewish document, which, at this point, comments on the idolatry of the sons of Noah:
And they made for themselves molten images, and everyone worshiped the icon which they made for themselves as a molten image. And they began making graven images and polluted likeness. And cruel spirits assisted them and led them astray so that they might commit sin and pollution. And the prince [of these demons], Mastema, acted forcefully to do all of this. And he sent other spirits to those who were set under his hand to practice all error and sin and all transgression, to destroy, to cause to perish and to pour out blood upon the earth. (Jubilees 11:4–5)
Another Jewish document, dating just prior to the time of Christ, connects idolatry to witchcraft and the demonic: “I have much grief, my children, because of the lewdness and witchcrafts and idolatries that you will practice against the kingdom, following mediums, soothsayers and demons of deceit” (Testament of Judah 23:1). The Testament of Naphtali speaks of the Gentiles exchanging the worship of the Lord for idolatry, which is also connected with the demonic: “The Gentiles changed their order, having gone astray and having forsaken the Lord and they followed after stones and sticks, having followed after spirits of deceit” (Testament of Naphtali 3:1).
In a similar way when Paul wrote to the Romans, he indicted the Gentiles for exchanging the worship of God for a lie. In his eyes they “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles” (Rom 1:23). What he said to the Corinthians in no way contradicts his statement to the Romans. Paul went beyond describing pagan gods as lifeless images to affirm that Satan and his powers of darkness have used these non-Christian religions to hold humanity in bondage.
It is perfectly clear why Paul urged the Corinthians to “flee from idolatry” (10:14). By maintaining any kind of involvement with the pagan temples, the Corinthians were exposing themselves to powerful demonic activity and compromising their allegiance to the one true God. Some were being “destroyed” by this involvement (8:11). Those with “knowledge” among the Corinthians failed to take into account the extremely dangerous influence of the hostile powers of darkness that were so closely linked to the non-Christian religions. Their baptism and observance of the Lord’s table did not guarantee immunity from the treacherous activity of the demonic powers. Likewise, neither were the people of Israel immune to the deadly effects of idolatry, in spite of the fact that they too had been symbolically “baptized” and had consumed “spiritual food” and “spiritual drink” (10:1–12).
Paul did make a distinction between eating in pagan temples (which he regarded as participating in idolatry) and eating in a private home food that had once been sacrificed to a god (10:23–33). For the latter case, sensitivity to weaker Christians should guide the stronger Christian; idolatry was no longer the issue. Paul, on the one hand, advised them to “eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience” (10:25). Yet, on the other hand, he urged restraint to the person who, by eating the meat in the presence of another (weaker) Christian at the home of a nonbeliever, may offend the conscience of that weaker Christian (10:27–29).
There is much to learn from Paul’s handling of this situation at Corinth that is vitally relevant for the church today, especially as we minister to people from a background of various forms of pagan worship. Gordon Fee provides a very fitting description of its relevance:
Those who have been involved in the rescue of drug addicts and prostitutes, e.g., or of people involved in various expressions of voodoo and spirit worship, have an existential understanding of this text that others can scarcely appreciate. Many such people must be forever removed from their former associations, including returning to their former haunts for evangelism, because the grip of their former life is so tenacious. Paul took the power of the demonic seriously; hence his concern that a former idolater, by returning to his or her idolatries, will be destroyed—that is, he or she will return to former ways and be captured by them all the more, and thus eventually suffer eternal loss.
One of the main principles that guided Paul’s reaction to the Corinthian situation was the conviction that demons animate idolatry. For Paul idolatry consisted of worshiping any handmade image. It involved worshiping and serving anything other than the one true God. Participating in idolatry included everything attached to the service and worship of the gods. For the Corinthians this involved eating in the pagan temple.
By extension the operative principle for us today is that all the various non-Christian religions represent a special manifestation of the work of the powers of darkness to deceive people and turn their attention away from the one true God.
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Encouragement for the Path of Christian Discipleship
 Clinton E. Arnold, Powers of Darkness: Principalities & Powers in Paul’s Letters (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic: An Imprint of InterVarsity Press, 1992), 92–98.