A Palace Strong and Full of Light

A palace strong and full of light. I love this power-packed combination. I pray that my writing of this will be fruitful for you and me. I had written about each topic before, A House Divided Against Itself and All Light {Lessons from the Mount Part 2}. Why am I writing this again? Because I passed through Luke 11 just recently, this time with my KJV journaling Bible, and aside from the fact that I am slowed down by pondering deeper and writing down the Holy Spirit’s message, the passage spoke to me afresh at a different angle this time. The Scriptures does that to us, doesn’t it?

"STONEHOUSE", my original watercolor painting on 9" x 12" wc paper. (Inspiration: photo from IG).

“STONEHOUSE”, my original watercolor painting on 9″ x 12″ wc paper. (Inspiration: photo from IG).

In the many years of my illness, every time I open my Bible, I am always on the lookout for how God’s Word will speak to me in the light of my sickness and suffering. I strain to dig deep and scratch about the words, verses, and passages, like a hen scraping the earth for bits of food, to look for doors through which I can pass to the other side. The side of healing. And thanks be to God, for I believe that, through the years, I have been fruitful in that regard. Although I have not yet received complete healing, I have had enough strength, hope, peace, and joy to go through it all. For that length of time.

When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are in peace.22 But when a stronger than he comes upon him and overcomes him, he takes from him all his armor in which he trusted, and divides his spoils. (Luke 11:21-22)

I received another epiphany as I read this recently. We are strong and fully armed when we are at peace with God and constantly filled with the Holy Spirit. For when we are full of the Spirit of God, we walk after Him and not after the flesh. And when we walk after Him, we don the whole armor of God and are protected by it from the fiery darts of the devil. We cannot put on the whole armor of God when we don’t walk in step with the Holy Spirit no matter how hard we try. For it is the Holy Spirit that teaches, guides, and empowers us to do those things that God would have us do:

fasten the belt of truth

put on the breastplate of righteousness

shod our feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace

take up the shield of faith

put on the helmet of salvation

take the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God

pray at all times in the Spirit

(from Ephesians 6)

We can only behave wisely in a perfect way and walk within our house with a perfect heart as David himself had greatly desired (Ps. 101:2) when we follow closely after the Spirit. It would be next to impossible to live in love from a pure heart without the Spirit of God continuously sanctifying us.

The passage above further says that when we guard our own palaces, that is, our bodies, the temple of the living God, our goods are in peace. More than our material possessions, these goods mean our joy, peace, family, important relationships, work, businesses, even dreams. And of course, our health.

I have always believed that because of my sins and the bad decisions I had made before I received salvation, my health and strength were stolen by the devil, and with them, my joy and peace. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy… (part of John 10:10). But now that I am in the Lord Jesus Christ, why am I still ailing?

That, for me, is the question of the century :) .

But the peace, joy, marriage, and family that had been stolen were all restored. These goods I now have in abundance. And other good and perfect gifts I have, which I received from my Savior. So, there’s truly been a different kind of healing for me.

When I was yet of the world, there had not been a strong man guarding my palace to talk about. The devil was a lot stronger than me, that’s why he came and spoiled all my goods, even to the point of death. But even that the Lord has utilized for good. It turned out to my salvation and my clinging to Him tightly to this hour.

But even when we are already of the Lord, there are times we can still be weak against the attacker. That is, when we put our guard down. Weaknesses come in. Fears and unprofitable feelings like discouragement, self-pity, depression, resentments, anger, unforgiveness, joylessness, hopelessness grip us and seem to triumph over us. And yes, even our health becomes poor.

Why? Because we have made the attacker stronger than us. We have become weak against him because we have been divided against ourselves. How so? When we have been beholding the world instead of the Lord Jesus Christ. And when we behold the world most of the time, our mindset and affections are influenced by it. And when we are influenced by the world and not by the Word, the Holy Spirit grieves. And when He does, all manner of problems attack us on every side.

That’s why the Apostle Peter admonishes us to:

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. (1 Pet. 5:8)

I think that is the root of our problems: when we look back to the world instead of ahead of us where our Shepherd leads. In the world there is endless lusts, covetousness, envying, materialism, superfluity. The Lord Jesus warned:

“No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62)

A united palace is a strong palace. A united body is a strong body.

If we focus our eyes on only one thing – JESUS – our eyes are good and we will be full of light. What wonder!

“The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness. 35 Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness. 36 If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, the whole body will be full of light, as when the bright shining of a lamp gives you light.” (Luke 11:34-36)

When we behold what is bad – the world (the whole world lies in wickedness ~ 1 John 5:19) – our body also is full of darkness!

When our bodies are full of light, where will darkness dwell? All traces of darkness will flee! We are strong  – mind, heart, body, and soul – and shining brightly!

“Be dressed for service and keep your lamps burning.” (Luke 12:35 ESV)

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Pride and Reputation

What’s really holding us back into the fullness of Christlikeness? Why do we slide back in our faith journey time and time again? There could be a lot of things that stunt our spiritual growth, in growing in the grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3:18). Number one could be the world’s influence. It could influence our beliefs, mindsets, and affections and create conflicts in our being, that is,  if we are not fully surrendered to God. This influence spawns pride and all the other things attached to it. An air of self-importance and a desire to be regarded highly, for example. Pride comes in many disguises, and yes, it could deceive the not-so-vigilant Christian. That’s why it’s important that we should be humble enough to subject our hearts and motives to close examination and keep our hearts open to God for counsel and correction.

pride

But that’s not always the case. Sometimes, we succumb to our intense emotions and let them trump our desire and disposition to obey Christ. When that happens, we have let the world’s beliefs and teachings to overcome our belief in and grasp of the truth of God’s Word.

The world’s beliefs and teachings run contrary to the Lord Jesus’ teachings. And yet, if we are not that diligent in following Christ and walking after the Spirit (we may be lax in praising, praying, reading the Bible, and fasting), we may consciously or unconsciously adapt the world’s beliefs and mindsets, letting them affect our dispositions, behaviors, and attitudes.

For instance, the world, through various self-help books, adamantly teaches about self-esteem. (And we have that natural tendency to think highly of ourselves, and that, if we are not totally surrendered to the Holy Spirit, it just might take a life of its own, rise up to invade our hearts and overpower us). But the Bible teaches us to esteem others better than ourselves and to forbear, with hearts ready to forgive.

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. (Phil. 2:3)

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. (Col. 3:12-13)

In another place, Apostle Paul teaches thus:

For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. (Rom. 12:3, emphasis mine)

We grow in the grace and knowledge of our Savior Jesus Christ through the Word of God. The Bible, especially the Gospels and the pastoral letters, teaches us everything we need to learn to know and obey Christ and grow into His fullness. But if we have not embraced the Word and let it permeate our being, or if we let ourselves starve of it, spending more time online, endlessly browsing our social media news feeds and watching worthless videos instead of reading the Bible and meditating on it, we will remain ignorant of the words of life and untrained in dealing with life graciously and competently.

To live in God’s Word is to live in true power.

But if we starve ourselves of it, we will always slide back. We will be a heavy burden to others instead of steadily growing, bearing much fruits, and leading others to Christ by the very life we lead.

The Word of God is truly a lamp unto [our] feet, and a light unto [our] path (Ps. 119:105). The wise in Christ utilize it to help them traverse this difficult thing called life and emerge victoriously. Being victorious doesn’t always mean we get what we pray for. It often means that we mature spiritually through the trials, learning as we should, and God accomplishing what He has purposed for us: conforming more and more to the image of His Son (see Rom. 8:29). For example, it is hard to readily forgive if we do not cling to the Word for wisdom and guidance. And yet, even if we know the Word, we still need to pray agonizingly with humble hearts and tears, for it to move mightily against the devil’s strongholds: pride, anger, selfishness, etc.

And it will. Unfailingly.

So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. (Is. 55:11)

If we surrender to God’s Word powered by our unceasing prayers, it will deliver us and set us free from whatever is holding us captive, may it be anger, unforgiveness, lovelessness, coldness, indifference, etc.

But if we harden our hearts against it, if we wouldn’t listen to the Holy Spirit’s prodding and let our pride grow bigger than our stature, we have not really learned Christ. Our pride would blind us from the truth of God’s Word and we would be like a tree stump – short, stagnant, barely living.

Do you find it hard to let go of your desire to be treated with high repute to the point of hurting your relationships and being hard-hearted towards God’s Word? We can never discount the power of the Word in our lives. But if we do not know it, how can we apply it? If we do not study it, how can we abide in it?

This is what the Word can do:

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Heb. 4:12)

The Word will help us discern the intents and thoughts of our hearts when we subject ourselves to it. We can’t hide anything from it. If we know the truth, yet go on following our will and emotions, we live in hypocrisy.

Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin. (James 4:17)

We all want to receive this blessing from God:

The Lord make His face shine upon [us],
And be gracious to [us];
The Lord lift up His countenance upon [us],
And give [us] peace. (Num. 6:25-26)

How do we make that happen? The answer is in Isaiah 66:2:

“…But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, And who trembles at My word.” (Is. 66:2, emphasis mine)

When we make the Word our dwelling place, we are constantly guided and hard-heartedness will find no place in our lives.

I love the constant guidance of God through His abiding Holy Spirit and His Word. His voice may not be audible, but I can strongly sense His counsel, ever-guiding, ever-speaking to my heart. And when I feel like He is silent, I pray and draw closer to Him. Always, my prayers are accompanied with this silent whisper, “Draw me closer to You, oh, Lord.”

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A House Divided Against Itself

Sometimes I feel like “a house divided against itself” for all the things that I let into my heart and mind, vying for my attention. I know that there are things that can veer me away and dilute my fervent fellowship with God, but in my weak moments, I just let them. What I’m fussing about may not be as important to others, but if you have experienced a life of intimate walk with the Lord Jesus Christ, you know when your love is ebbing and your “first works” are gradually set aside. Until they are completely forgotten.

The Lord warned that a house divided against itself will not stand (see Matthew 12:25). It will not have peace. It will not know how to hold joy. Its faith will be fickle and weak. Its love will not endure. This is the “house” that takes in both the world and Jesus; the mind that insists to be spiritual, but is at times carnal. The mind divided against itself, oscillating like a pendulum between carnal and spiritual, will not stand. The Bible says,

For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. (Rom. 8:6)

In the Gospels, the Lord Jesus talks of a strong man whose house can be plundered by another by binding him first. Reading this recently, it spoke to me that, sometimes, I am that “strong man”. I let another, that is, the enemy, bind me so he can plunder me. Have you realized that? Although in this passage, the Lord was talking about the stronghold of Satan being plundered by another stronger force – that is, Jesus – the situation can very well be reversed if in the first place, we are divided against ourselves. Satan can come, bind us, and plunder our goods. But this is not what the Lord wants to happen to us. He said He has overcome the world. And because He has, we can, too. He has given us the power “over all the power of the enemy” (see Luke 10:19). Only that we easily give it away in a moment of weakness. It’s like handing Satan the key to our “house”.

Often, we claim that our “house’, that is, ourselves, are built upon the Rock, the Lord Jesus Christ. But the Lord said that it is only when we hear and do His teachings that we are considered wise to have built ourselves on Him.

Hear then do. Not hearers only, but doers also.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. (James 1:21-24)

But at the end of the day, or in that moment when we know the plunderer tries to bind us, Jesus calls us to Himself. He wants to offer us rest from the battle. He wants to whisper that only in and through His strength, we can overcome. This is the song of my heart:

…When my heart is overwhelmed;
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. (Ps. 61:2)

The Rock that is higher than our weaknesses, failures, mistakes, and bad choices.

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