Re-emerging to Work with Gratitude - Purity 822
Purity 822 08/29/2022 Purity 822 Podcast
Today’s photo of a view of the beach at Rapid Bay from the inside of a cave comes to us from Dave Baun Photography (https://www.facebook.com/DaveBaunPhotography) who reports that this location is one of his favorite places to drive to in South Australia and even know there is quite a bit of cave rock obstructing our view, we can see enough to understand why.
Well it’s Monday again and as we emerge from the safe confines of the weekend to reemerge to the bright lights of the world of the working, I am encouraging everyone to face the day with an attitude of gratitude because even though my staycation is over, in reflecting on my “life of work” this morning, I realize how blessed I have been to be able to work over the years to provide for myself and my family to bring me to where I am today.
So even though I suppose I could be facing the day with a sour puss because my time off has expired, simply reflecting upon the twists and turns of all the different jobs I have had has me counting my blessings today instead.
As much as I recognize the truth that God is sovereign and is in control, I also recognize that because He gives us free will much of our lives are the result of our choices and that obviously includes where we find ourselves on our life’s career path.
While our eternal destiny depends on our covenant relationship with God, through faith in Jesus Christ, I believe our professional lives are a combination of our efforts and God’s providence.
We can choose to quit. We can choose to never apply. We can choose to be a diligent worker or we can choose to be less than that and reap the benefits or consequences of our performance. So there is lots we bring to our career path.
However, for us to believe that we are somehow “self-made” men or women is to display the heights of ignorance, pride, or self-deception.
God made us. God choose when we would be born and where we would begin our lives. God gave us our “able bodies” that allow us to work. God gave us our brains to think and store intelligence. God also gave us our temperament – those inborn talents and personality or attitudinal predispositions that make us uniquely who we are. And God may have made also all in His image but He didn’t make us equal or the same in all these different areas, all of which play a huge part in what type of career we have now.
Also because I know that God shapes the history of the world according to His overall purposes, His will be done, I have to believe that there are also no “lucky breaks”. Remember God put you where you were and made you who you are, so you getting the job you have today may not be a miracle but we would be foolish to think that God’s providence didn’t play some part in where you are today.
However, because of our free will to act foolishly and “miss the mark”, we can’t assume that where we are today is God’s perfect will for us either. We may have been tempted or deceived by some aspect of our career path that led us to do what we do now. We may have been tested and we may have not chosen wisely.
1 Timothy 6:9-10 (NLT2)
9 But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction.
10 For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.
Pursuing riches is just one way we could have possibly wandered from God’s plan for us and may have resulted in “many sorrows”.
In my path, I resisted working for the phone company. In my youth, I didn’t want to follow in my mother’s footsteps and I applied for all kinds of positions without any success.
I had a heart to help people and became a residential counselor for the psychiatrically disabled. I did that for two years and that is where I met my ex, and no she didn’t live there – shots fired. But I loved my ex and wanted a family and the low income I made as a counselor would have meant a life of financial struggles and so remembering my middle class existence I decided to “go corporate” and the last 25 years of work for “the phone company” was a result of my desire to have a family.
And of course, as many know, that had mixed results. After 19 years, my marriage ended in divorce but my kids stayed with me. They are twenty somethings and struggling with the decision of what to do with their professionally and we live together in a little house down by the River.
My life was tumultuous at times through those 25 years at my job, that was full of changes itself, but I have no regrets. My job provided the means to house my family, raise my kids, and have quite a number of wonderful years even though it didn’t work out like I hoped when I started way back when.
I don’t regret my career because it was instrumental in bring to where I am today and while I would never think of it as God’s perfect will for me, when I go to work today I will give it my best effort to do a good job.
Our choices are sometimes regrettable but the good news is that God gave us free will and if we find ourselves in a place we don’t want to be we can change it. So if you are dragging into Monday hating your life, pray and allow God to direct your next steps. He may call you to endure or He may encourage to boldly go where you never thought to go.
When we are in Christ, we are never without hope or without the help of the Lord. So we follow His path and where ever we go we do our best to represent Him by doing the best we can and by helping and supporting the other people we encounter along the way.
So let’s go to work. Let’s do the best job we can do today to represent the God who made us and to share His love. And let’s keep walking and talking with Him to follow where He would have us go.
Today’s Bible verse comes to us from “The NLT Bible Promise Book for Men”.
This morning’s meditation verse is:
Philippians 2:13 (NLT2)
13 For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.
Today’s verse encourages us that God is working in us to want to do and to give us the power to accomplish what please Him.
Hey, God is with us. If you put your faith in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit indwells you! The Holy Spirit will convict us and encourage us to stop doing the things that displease God and will encourage us to do the things that please Him.
In discerning the spirits, we need to know that the Holy Spirit is not a condemning voice. Those would be the spiritual forces of darkness.
Romans 8:1 (NKJV)
1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
So the Holy Spirit in us would encourage us to change from our worldly ways to follow God’s ways but He wouldn’t beat us up about it. God wants us to freely choose to be with Him and He likewise wants us to choose for ourselves His path for living.
God does not have a nagging or condemning voice. He invites us to trust Him and live according to His ways with love. We might consider it a “tough love” at times because of the mess we have made that we have to climb out of but while God will lead you into a path that doesn’t compromise on holiness and righteousness, He will never beat you into submission. God knows what’s best for us and He will encourage us to take a path that may include some suffering but it will be for our overall good.
The good news is that, like today’s verse tells us, He not only gives us the desire and the encouragement to do what pleases Him, He also gives us the power to accomplish it.
That power isn’t usually some miraculous sign or wonder, God’s power in us comes from trusting in Him and asking for His strength and guidance. His intuitions will lead us to good things we wouldn’t have thought of. His strength will cause us to endure and overcome things we never thought were possible.
So don’t doubt it. God is working in you. He is giving you the desire and provides the power to do what please Him.
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.
15 The Powers and Society
In the Pauline letters the emphasis is on the threat the powers pose to the individual Christian and to the church. This threat comes in a large measure from the temptation of the flesh. It also comes from a larger organized front, which Paul characterized as “the world.” We will now look closely at the nature of “the world” as Paul envisioned it and determine how the powers influence the world and work in conjunction with it to lead humanity astray.
Recent Interpretations of the Powers
Since World War 2, there has been a growing trend among scholars in the West to interpret Paul’s references to principalities and powers almost exclusively as the structures of our existence. The powers of darkness are “demythologized” and described in terms of religious structures (especially tradition), political and economic structures (as, for example, imperialism, nationalism, dictatorship, socialism and capitalism), the set of values held by a given social grouping (accepted morality, public opinion and interest, ideas of social status, concept of justice and so on) and intellectual structures (ologies and isms). All of these structures and values exert a controlling influence on society. They are also capable of becoming evil (“demonic”) and may stand in the need of redemption. Many of those who interpret the powers along these lines emphasize political structures. Responding to the powers thus becomes a mandate for political activism. In commenting on Ephesians 3:10, for instance, one writer remarks, “Announcing Christ’s lordship to the powers is to tell governments that they are not sovereign … to witness in a biblical way to the principalities and powers is to engage in dangerous, subversive political activity.”
For many of these interpreters a major factor that leads them to a “structural” interpretation is the modern Western world view, which denies the reality of the actual existence of evil spirits. In chapter thirteen, I attempted to show that there is ample reason for revising the modern world view to affirming the actual existence of evil spirits and angels. If this premise is accepted, there is no need to demythologize the powers in order to interpret their meaning for us. Our task needs to be focused on determining how the powers influence “the world” in its variety of expressions; that is, through political structures, values, traditions and so on.
Evangelical scholars identifying the powers with structures often express their concern to grapple with the question of structural evil as part of a quest to develop a biblical basis for social ethics. This is a commendable goal and one that evangelicals have neglected. I would suggest, however, that it is erroneous to equate the powers with the structures. As I will argue, we ought to distinguish between the powers of darkness and the structures of our existence. The two categories are ontologically distinct. One is personal, the other is nonpersonal; one possesses intelligence and the ability to will, the other does not. Truer to Paul’s letters is to say that the powers exert their influence over the structures of our existence than to make the powers coextensive with the structures.
Not all evangelicals writing on this topic equate the powers with structures. In his book on social ethics Robert Webber contends that the powers are spiritual beings at work in the world, that they are nonmythological, and that they have an ontological point of reference in time, space and history. In the course of his discussion of the powers, however, their ontological distinction from the structures of existence becomes blurred. At the end of his analysis he states that there really is no firm distinction, but rather a dual reference at each occurrence: “The word powers is used in two different ways: it may refer to the spiritual powers of evil or to the powers which we have called ‘the structures of existence.’ ”
For Webber the powers even have a positive side: “We know that the powers are God’s creation which serve as agents to provide order, guidance, and meaning.” In this latter comment he is clearly referring to the structures of our existence, not evil spirits. But the problem with this view is that he confuses the terminology and inaccurately identifies Paul’s “principalities and powers” terminology with the concept of structures. This problem is not just with words; it is also a conceptual problem. An evil spirit is not nationalism; a demon is not a tradition; the principalities and powers are not structures. I would contend that there may be a relationship, however, between an evil spirit and nationalism, in that an evil spirit may incite excessive patriotism.
The primary practical danger in limiting our interpretation of the powers to the structures is that it is reductionistic. It unreasonably restricts how we understand the work of the devil in Paul’s day and in our day. Specifically it overlooks the direct and immediate work of an evil spirit in the life of an individual—either through overt demonization (“giving a place to the devil”) or the devil’s classic work of directly tempting people to sin.
Evangelicals (especially Pentecostals and Charismatics) have traditionally had a much easier time reckoning with the work of Satan on an individual level as opposed to a societal level. In light of this problem the many recent works dealing with the topic of the relationship between the powers and the structures of our existence is a necessary corrective to an individualistic outlook.
In my analysis of various writers on this topic, I have found two Pauline texts that surface as crucial to the debate but which are frequently misunderstood. They are Ephesians 2:2 and 3:10. I offer two necessary correctives to some of the current discussion about the relationship between the powers to the structures of our existence.
1. The references to “air” and “spirit” are not references to “spiritual climate.” When Paul spoke of “the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient” (Eph 2:2), a number of interpreters have assumed he was speaking of something like “the climate of opinion.” Some would go so far as to suggest that Paul was referring to culture or world view. This view does not have a long history in the interpretation of this passage. The origin of this idea can be traced back to an essay written by Heinrich Schlier in 1930, later translated into English and published as a small book. Schlier explained that the “air” and “the spirit” of this passage is “the general spiritual climate which influences mankind.” He said it exercises a control, a domination that usually begins “in the general spirit of the world, or in the spirit of a particular period, attitude, nation or locality.… Men inhale it and thus pass it on into their institutions and various conditions.… It is so intense and powerful that no individual can escape it.”
This view has had an undue amount of influence on the course of subsequent treatments on the theme of principalities and powers. The single greatest difficulty with this view is that it would have been unintelligible to a first-century reader. I have argued in detail in another context that Paul is using spirit here in the sense of a personal being. Likewise, Paul intended air to be understood in a literal sense; both Jews and Gentiles commonly regarded the air as a dwelling place for evil spirits. The following lines from various Greek magical papyri illustrate this perspective:
For no aerial spirit which is joined with a mighty assistant will go into Hades.
Protect me from every demon in the air.
I conjure you by the one who is in charge of the air.
A first-century A.D. Jewish document aligns itself with this concept: “For the person who fears God and loves his neighbor cannot be plagued by the aerial spirit of Beliar since he is sheltered by the fear of God” (Testament of Benjamin 3:4).
In Ephesians 2:2, the reference to spirit is simply a reference to a personal evil force, and the reference to air is representative of the common belief that demons inhabit the air. One simply cannot press the reference to air in this context to find a precise metaphysical description of the dwelling place of an evil spirit.
2. The church is not called to proclaim a message to the powers. In Ephesians 3:10, some have seen a divine mandate for the church to preach to the powers. In this passage Paul explained that God’s “intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.” This passage is not a warrant for raising a prophetic voice against the corrupted structures of our existence. In the context of Ephesians and of Pauline theology as a whole, the passage is merely asserting that the very existence of the church testifies to God’s wisdom. This passage confirms that God has foiled the wisdom of the demonic powers, who thought they could end God’s redemptive plans by inciting the political and religious leaders to put Jesus to death (1 Cor 2:6–8). God raised Jesus from the dead, and he became the head of a worldwide body of believers who would spread the good news of his offer of salvation everywhere. As 1 Corinthians 4:9 asserts (as well as numerous Jewish documents), the angels carefully observe the affairs of humanity. The evil angels, the principalities and powers, now see Jesus actively redeeming the lost through the church.
The only message the church is called to proclaim is the gospel, and that gospel to people all around the world who have not heard its good news of liberation and deliverance from captivity in Satan’s kingdom. Both the existence of the church and the continued evangelistic growth of the church demonstrate to the powers that they are in fact powerless to impede the redemptive work of 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), 194–198.