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Saturday, May 13, 2017

Protect your Soul from Forces that Could Destroy It

Protect your Soul from Forces that Could Destroy It
Jesus gave us this warning: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul:  But rather be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28) and (Luke 12:4-5) What does this warning mean?   How can our souls be destroyed?  And who should we fear might try to destroy them? 
We are all naturally concerned about our physical safety?  We know that our world is not always a safe place.  And that there are people and situations out there that can harm our health and our bodies. Enemies, thieves, murderers, stalkers, con-men, terrorists, arsonists and more.  But Jesus is telling us not to be afraid of the folks who can harm us physically or even kill us, but instead to be afraid of those who can harm us spiritually.  Or those who can destroy our soul.  And our body too.
Jesus is giving us the eternal perspective.  He sees the whole picture and we don’t.  When we die and our earthly mortal body is destroyed here on earth, it will be resurrected into an immortal body in heaven. But Jesus tells us instead of being afraid of those who can kill our mortal bodies, we are to fear those who can destroy our soul and body in hell.  The temporal death of our body is a small thing compared to the eternal death of our soul. Along with the body. 
In this world, we are faced with two different kinds of enemies. First there are the unseen spiritual enemies that can destroy the soul.  And second, there are the obvious enemies – the people or groups who may treat us badly and reject and harass us, and even kill us.  These are the enemies Jesus is telling us not to worry about.  Jesus sees the big picture and He promises that through Him we will someday be victorious over our all of our problems and enemies in heaven.  
 Jesus promises: “For everyone born of God overcomes the world.  This is the victory that has overcome the world, even your faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world.  Only he/she who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”  (1 John 5:4-5)   Scripture tells us that Jesus will be victorious over everything. (John 15:33) And we will share in His victory.  So Jesus is telling us that our most painful troubles will be taken care of when we are with Him in glory.  There’s light at the end of the tunnel!    
But the other darker spiritual enemies, have the power to kill the soul as well.  And Jesus tells us to be afraid of this enemy. An enemy or enemies who are battling for your soul even now.  And they are using the more obvious enemies (those people who persecute you) as their cover.  There is a spiritual battle going on in this world and we are in it whether we like it or not.
The Baker Deep End Blog speaks about this enemy who can destroy the soul with these words: “The demonic powers that are greedy for the soul of God’s people are using their very desire for justice and vengeance as the bait on the hook.  The people of light are never more at risk than when they are lured into fighting the darkness with more darkness.”   In other words, when someone is mean to you and hurts you, you are not to pay them back with that same spirit of meanness and hurtfulness.  Jesus commands us: “Do not resist an evil person.  If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other cheek, also.”  (Matthew 5:39)  In other words, taking revenge against your enemy  is off the table for followers of Christ. 
We Christians have been given our marching orders. God has given us commandments telling us how to live our lives.  We are to march to a different drummer than the people in the secular world!  And we will always be out of step with the secular world on many issues. Jesus commands us to “Bear one another’s burdens, and forgive whatever grievances you have with one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”  (Colossians 3:13) 
 And when Jesus was asked how many times we should forgive another person, He answered, “Forgive seventy times seven”.  (Matthew 18:22)  I don’t think Jesus wanted us to do the math!  I think He meant that we should always just keep on forgiving! 
We are commanded to honor our fathers and our mothers.  (Exodus 20:12)  And not to bear false witness against one another (Exodus 20:16)  Not to commit adultery. (Exodus 20:14) And not to covet or lust after what our neighbor has.  His wife, house, car, etc. (Exodus 20: 17) We are commanded to love God first and not put anything before our love for Him. (Exodus 20:3)  To remember the Sabbath and not work on it but enjoy it and rest in the Lord. (Exodus 20:8) We are to follow Jesus and serve one another in love.  Refuse to play the world’s games of one up-man’s ship. Walk gently and humbly through our days. God promises that “The meek will inherit the earth.”  (Matthew 5:5 and Psalm 37:11)  
Jesus says: “If you love Me keep My commandments!” (John 14:15) If we want to obey God’s commands in Scripture then the Holy Spirit will help us and make the way joyful. We are to be a peculiar people.  So peculiar that we don’t completely fit into our secular world. 
The secular world doesn’t go by our rules.  They can’t understand our spirit of humility because their spirit and values are different.  The secular world values the spirit of pride.  Power and competition.  The spirits of lust and greed.  Fame and fortune.  The freedom to do things our way, not God’s way.  We value our individuality and our money. And Scripture says that we cannot worship God and money at the same time.  (Matthew 6:24)
A few days ago, we watched some World War Two movies showing the Gestapo and German S.S. soldiers angrily rounding up villages of poor Jewish people at gun point. We watched in horror as the proud German soldiers strutted around screaming out orders and kicking and beating the terrified people while forcing them to dig their own graves.  The film continues rolling as these soldiers march around swearing and pulling crying children from their mother’s and then shooting all these vulnerable men, women and children.  And then they rush to bring in another group of cowering families and continue their bloody massacres. Did these soldiers sear their consciences when they bought into Hitler’s mentality?  Did they harm their souls when they committed these brutal crimes?
This genocide occurred because Hitler taught the German people that they were superior to all the other races.  That the Jewish people and other non- Arian races of people were inferior to them – that the world would be a better place by getting rid of the Jews and other people of so called inferior races. These soldiers chose to believe the lie that God was with them because they were superior.  And because they were superior they had the right to kill those inferior people and steal their lands and homes and riches! Millions of men, women and little children were massacred throughout Europe by Hitler’s soldiers.  And many of these soldiers who killed so many of these helpless people had these words written on their belt buckles: “Gott mit Uns” which means “God with Us”.  Was God really with them?  Not the God of the Bible.
I don’t know all that Jesus meant when He left us the warning that we should fear those who can destroy our souls.  But I wonder if it could possibly be that the ways of pride and brutality, unforgiveness and hard heartedness, lust and greed, - these vices may sicken our souls and ruin us and keep us from staying human?  Could these things be poison to our very soul?  Do we choose to go along with the pride and prejudice of our secular world or do we choose to follow Jesus on that joyful but narrow path of humility and love and forgiveness?  Which will it be? 

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