Cast Your Net on the Right Side of the Boat

For two thousand years Christianity has lingered in a period without miracles. Miracles were not just a part of Christ’s ministry, when he walked on earth. They were also a part of the normal life of the Early Church. What happened?

To answer the question we need to understand that everything in the bible is telling the same story. What happened to the patriarchs, or when Moses led the Children of Israel to the Promised Land, or when Israel split in two, or when the Jews went into exile all bears upon the same plan. What those people went through and did the Church has done, and will do, too.

We also need to understand that what Jesus endured and how he interacted with those around Him also prophesied concerning what the Church would later endure. After that He was baptized by John, which correlates with the Church’s baptism in the Holy Spirit, Jesus was driven by that same Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil for forty days. What happened to Him there is what has been happening to the Church for the last two thousand years, we have been tempted by the Devil with the intention of teaching us how to establish an intimate relationship with God, to bring our characters in line with the character of God.

It was out of the intimate relationship with God that Jesus had that he was able to say to a person that he encountered, who called Him a ‘good teacher’, “Why do you call me good, there is only one who is good.” What was going on when He said that to the person? Obviously, that person had seen Jesus perform all kinds of good works, miracles, and sayings, or they wouldn’t have referred to Jesus the way that they had. It wasn’t solely because He was jealous to always glorify God that Jesus said what He said. There is more to it than that. He was pointing to the thing that mystified the Scribes and Pharisees concerning Him, that is how could an uneducated man from the most backwater of towns go on to say the things He said?

Don’t ever forget that whatever else Jesus is that He is also a man. He didn’t do anything you can’t also do, in the power of the Spirit, but to do so we have to go about doing it the same way He did. The first thing He did was to address His character. He set aside everything that came from his flesh in order to involve the Holy Spirit in the basic creation, even re-creation, of Himself, at the deepest levels. At the end of this what He came to was summarized in three temptations, which he overcame. These temptations were: to turn stones into bread, to leap from the Temple unharmed, and to rule all the nations of the earth.

As I said, everything in the bible tells the same story. One of the elements of that story is the role of stones to refer to something. From time immemorial people have used stones to execute those they have judged as wrongdoers.  They stoned people to death. When you consider that the thing, a separate knowledge of good and evil from God, we got from the Garden was what caused us to die understanding what stones are begins to mean something much more than some esoteric act or some refusal to eat when Jesus was set on fasting. What He was doing was refusing to use His human judgment in order to feed Himself. He knew that such a thing came with unintended consequences (death) beyond the mere satiation of His immediate hunger, therefore He said to the Devil, “Thou shalt not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

It’s a little easier to see how leaping from the  Temple unharmed is selfish. On the surface it’s kind of a ‘look what I can do’ moment. It also reflects, however, on how, in the Garden, they thought that they could abandon God and yet be ‘wise like Him’. Jesus saw right into the heart of the temptation and simply replied, “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” He knew what such a failure would tempt God to do. It’s easy to imagine God as smacking down the competition, but at its heart this is about how there is no wisdom without love, which is what man has truly fallen from when he enters the realm of self-aggrandizement at the expense of the fully connected state he was created to live in.

Lastly, and most obviously evil of all, the Devil offered Jesus the reign over all the kingdoms of the earth if He would fall down and worship him. Quickly, it would seem, Jesus replied, “Depart from me, Satan, for you shall worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shall you serve.” This is even more impressive a lesson if you look around a corner, the one that hides who Satan might be. I know this is perhaps too hard for some to accept, but if the serpent is a metaphor for our own bodies, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden likewise a metaphor for our indulging ourselves, then Jesus’ response is telling indeed. Taken that way what Satan was really asking Jesus to do was to abandon his own spirit. As He told us later, God is spirit and those who seek to worship him must do so in spirit and truth.

As I’ve hinted already, the point I am making is about love. It is love that is selfless whereas the wrong response to any of these temptations is observably selfish.  Likewise it is a state of love, Godlike love, which the Holy Spirit is about inspiring in man. This brings up a very important question: What is more important the words of Jesus or his death? Which mattered more, his ministry or his sacrifice? Truthfully, those aren’t questions I can answer for you. A house without a door isn’t much of a house, no matter how nice it might be inside. By the same token, making too much of the door and promoting it out of all proportion to the rest of the house might not make much sense either.

It has been Christ’s sacrifice which has won the world. The crucifix, mostly with Him on it, has become the symbol of Christianity to most people. The religion has been a call to faith, not a call to action, interior or otherwise. In many ways your answer to these questions determines what you think about your transformation as a Christian, as you gain fulness within the kingdom. For the former that transformation will come, ‘in an instant, in the twinkling of an eye’. For the latter it will come as you struggle to become like God, by His Spirit at work within you. When you are more fully clothed you will merely get the rest of what you couldn’t gain here.

I would like to offer an example from scripture to help you with these questions. In the days of Elisha, the successor to Elijah, there was a certain Syrian named Naaman, commander of the Syrian army, in fact. Naaman had leprosy. Leprosy was a bad deal. Through a series of circumstances Naaman came to Elisha to get healed. He stood at the door of Elisha’s house. “And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, ‘Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean.’ But Naaman became furious, and went away and said, ‘Indeed, I said to myself, “He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place, and heal the leprosy.” Are not the Abanah and the Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel. Could I not wash in them and be clean?’ So he turned and went away in a rage. And his servants came near and spoke to him, and said, ‘My father, if the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, “Wash, and be clean”?’ So he went down and dipped seven times in the Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.”

So, go out to the Jordan, on the border of the land of God, not the rivers of your own fallen nature. There wash in the repetitive work that the Holy Spirit has for you, encountering the same temptations as Jesus did in the power He gives you to understand and overcome them. Struggle to find out what love is. Struggle to implement it within your own life. Follow the words of Jesus. Or, wait for the Spirit to come and wave His hand over you and heal you of everything that battles the Christlike nature you are capable of exhibiting. The choice is yours.

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