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Flee and Pursue

Flee and Pursue

We’re continuing through Luke’s Gospel. In my last post, we saw Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane just before His trial. Now, He’s about to be arrested. You may want to read Luke 22:47-53 before continuing with the rest of this article.

The Lord knew that His captors were approaching. He woke up His disciples and went to meet the officials. It’s interesting to see how the disciples reacted.

When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.

Luke 22:49-50 NIV

We know from the other Gospels that this verse is referring to Peter. A fisherman wielding a sword. I’m surprised that he didn’t hurt himself! The best he could do was to cut the ear off of an unarmed servant.

When the other disciples saw the futility of resisting, they all ran away. One of them, when he was grabbed, left without any clothing (Mark 14:51-52). It was the normal, human, fight or flight reaction.

The Lord knew where He was headed. He was looking forward to the victory He was going to accomplish on the cross. So, instead, I want to talk about what was happening with the disciples.

What they did was the normal reaction that’s built into all of us. When we see trouble coming, our entire being begins to prepare to either fight or run away. God placed that in our DNA in order for us to protect ourselves in emergency situations.

The problem is that there’s a spiritual side that many of us fail to grasp. In the spiritual battles that we face, there are times that we need to apply the lessons of “fight or flight”.

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

Ephesians 6:13 NIV

I think Scripture is clear that the first choice is to stand your ground. We need to prepare ourselves spiritually, so that we don’t fall back into our old ways. If you’re strong in the Lord, and understand your place in Christ, then stand and fight that spiritual battle.

If you remember from my last post, Jesus gave this warning to the disciples. Two times He told them to pray in order that they wouldn’t fall to temptation. The time to prepare is before the spiritual struggle.

But, what about those who aren’t in that position? They’ve tried to fight the enemy and merely “cut off a servant’s ear”. They haven’t put on their holy armor.

Many believers find themselves in spiritual battles with no hope of victory. They’ve resigned themselves to falling backwards for the rest of their lives. There is another choice.

Look at what Paul advised a young pastor who he was mentoring.

Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

2 Timothy 2:22 NIV

Some of the worst problems we face are when the old man tries to reassert itself. The sins that we thought were long gone are suddenly calling to us again.

This is especially true of addictive sins. Sexual, drug, and alcohol addictions are a few areas that never seem to let up on their assaults. What do you do if your spiritual strength is not enough to overcome? Should you just give in? Absolutely not!

There is a time to flee. Get out of the situation that’s causing the temptation. You must leave the environment that weakens your defenses. There’s nothing shameful about a strategic retreat. It gives you the ability to strengthen your position for the next battle.

However, that’s not the end of the story. There’s a place you need to run into. Along with “fleeing”, we need to pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace. There must be both fleeing and pursuing if we want a life of victory over evil in our lives.

Question: When have you needed to flee from an overpowering situation?

© 2023 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2023 in Power of God, Prayer, Spiritual Warfare

 

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Facing Trials

Facing Trials

How bold are you when you see trouble coming in your future? Are you willing to stand your ground and face it head-on? Or, like so many, do you simply ignore it and hope that it goes away?

As we look at the life of Christ in the Gospel of Luke, we’re talking about His time with the disciples at the Last Supper. The Lord has already shared the bread and the cup with them. Now He gives them a shocking announcement.

But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table. The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed, but woe to that man who betrays him.” They began to question among themselves which of them it might be who would do this.

Luke 22:21-23 NIV

Luke shows us the disciples’ reaction to the revelation that one of their own would betray Christ. The word, betray, in this verse means to surrender over. Somebody was going to turn the Lord in to the authorities.

The effect was that they were distressed by this knowledge. It hurt them. In one sense, most of them felt that they would never do such a thing. On the other hand, Jesus had never been wrong in any of His predictions. The reality of the situation was overwhelming.

The men with Jesus must have felt a great grief come over them. But in spite of this emotional upheaval, it’s not the disciples that I want to concentrate on. It’s the attitude of Christ that we need to examine.

Mark’s Gospel gives us a little more detail of how Jesus explained it to His disciples.

“It is one of the Twelve,” he replied, “one who dips bread into the bowl with me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”

Mark 14:20-21 NIV

The Lord reveals that it is indeed one of His twelve closest friends who will do this deed. It would be someone who is in fellowship, eating at the same table. In that culture, sharing a meal was one of the most intimate things that friends did.

Jesus makes it clear that this would not turn out well for the betrayer. There will come a time when he wishes he had never been born. His guilt will eventually destroy his life.

But it’s the statement Christ makes about Himself that really gets my attention. He said that He would go just as it was written about Him.

That word, go, in the Greek, means to lead oneself. He was stating that He was more than willing to walk the road that was laid out for Him in the Scripture.

Jesus knew what was ahead. The cross was not taking Him by surprise. He saw it and was progressing toward it with boldness and conviction. That had always been the goal of Christ’s ministry on earth, and nothing would prevent Him from accomplishing it.

We need to walk in that same conviction when it comes to following the will of God for our lives. Too often we let the problems, challenges, and distraction of life sidetrack us from the straight and narrow path.

We must realize that the spiritual struggle can only be won with the Lord’s strength operating through us. Time spent in His presence will assure us the victory. So, we won’t need to fret over the challenges we see coming down the road toward us. Stand strong in the Lord!

Question: How has time in the Lord’s presence helped you to overcome the obstacles of life?

© 2022 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2022 in Faith, Ministry, Power of God, Spiritual Walk

 

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Equipped by Prayer in the Spirit

In my last post, we saw that we receive the Helmet of Salvation and the Sword of the Spirit as we pray in the spirit.  In today’s post, I want to show that this is not just a singular occurrence in Scripture.

We are in a spiritual struggle against unseen forces.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Ephesians 6:12

Contrary to how some people act, our fight is not against people.  As followers of Christ, we’re not struggling against political parties, social issues, or those we see as “sinners”.  The real enemy is the spiritual kingdom that enslaves those in the world system.

We’re in this battle whether we want it or not.  So, we’re told that we need to be spiritually prepared for the struggle.  We’re given the explanation of the armor and Paul concludes in verse 18 by giving us the means by which we arm ourselves – prayer in the spirit.

However, this isn’t the only section of Scripture that talks about our warfare.

Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.
Jude 3

Jude was one of the early leaders of the church.  He was a half-brother of Jesus who became a believer after the resurrection.

In this short letter, he explains that he simply wanted to write a brief word of encouragement.  He wanted to bless and uplift those who would receive it.

Instead, once he sat down to write, the Holy Spirit grabbed his attention and caused him to speak of the spiritual battle.  Jude felt the urgency to warn them to diligently contend for the faith.

In Ephesians, Paul was contending against demonic forces.  Jude is contending against false teachings.  But in both cases, they equipped themselves for battle the same way.

Look at Jude’s concluding remarks.

But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.
Jude 20

It’s important to note here that the word, “and”, does not appear in the original Greek text.  It should actually be translated, build yourselves up in your most holy faith praying in the Holy Spirit.

We face battles every day.  There are many directions that the attack may come from.  It could be our flesh, the world system, or the demonic kingdom.

In all cases, we prepare for this struggle in the same way.  Both Paul and Jude talked about their battles.  They were two different people in two different struggles.  Yet they both concluded that it was prayer in the spirit that would prepare them for victory.

I don’t know how anybody could read this and say that the gift of tongues is not for today.  We can’t win the victory without it.

They try to justify it by saying that they can pray in the spirit in English – or whatever their native language is.

For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful.
1 Corinthians 14:14

Paul makes it clear that praying in tongues is praying in the spirit.  If you’re using your mind to come up with the words, you’re not praying in the spirit.

Prepare for the battles you’re about to face.  Spend some quality time praying in the spirit.

Question: How much time are you spending in prayer for 2020?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Prayer Under Pressure

How do you pray when you’re facing a severe trial?  Is it any different than when everything seems to be going your way?  If you’re like most people, those two prayers are vastly different.

In my last post, I talked about the fact that Jesus only took His three closest disciples with Him into the garden of prayer.  It was only hours before His trial, and He wanted them to watch how He prayed.  The Lord wanted them to see a prayer under deep emotional distress.

We know that Jesus felt the same pressure that we do while being tested.  The difference is that He knew how to walk in victory over these trials.  It was His goal to train His disciples to walk the same way.

He started by explaining what He was going through.

He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled.  “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them.  “Stay here and keep watch.”
Mark 14:33-34

Jesus was deeply distressed because he was about to face something that he never experienced before.  He has existed since eternity past, but the Lord had never been touched by sin or death.  Now it was all going to come upon Him.

He told His disciples that His soul felt like it was totally surrounded by grief because of what He was about to face.  He knew that His humanity had to be dealt with.

Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him.  “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you.  Take this cup from me.  Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
Mark 14:35-36

This passage causes many people to question whether or not Jesus wanted to go to the cross.  It sounds like, just before the end, the Lord was trying to get out of it.  That’s not what’s happening here.

We know from Jesus’ conversations with His disciples that He was focused on what He needed to do on the cross.

Remember what Jesus said when James and John asked to sit on His right and left hand in the kingdom.

“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them.  “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?”
Matthew 20:22a

There was no question in the Lord’s mind that He was going to drink the cup of death for us.  And there are many more places in the Gospels where He confirmed this thought.  Then why did He pray for the Father to remove this cup?

Simply put; this prayer was a teaching time for the disciples.  There were many times that Jesus prayed for the benefit of those who were listening.  This happened when He raised Lazarus from the dead.

So they took away the stone.  Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.  I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
John 11:41-42

What Jesus prayed in that garden was for the disciples’ benefit.  He wanted them to know how to pray when they felt overwhelmed.

Sometimes the pressure on us is so great that we lose sight of where God is bringing us to.  In those times it is very appropriate to ask God to bring an end to our trial.  But, we must always remember to finish the prayer by confirming our desire for God’s will to be done and not ours.

Question: When was a time that you had to pray while under great pressure?

© 2018 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2018 in Encouragement, Prayer, Spiritual Walk

 

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