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Resistance Training

Our Senior year in high school, we chose “Charlie’s Aunt” for our class play, and I assumed the role of Sir Francis Chesney. Between two of my scenes lay a sizable gap, so each night during this interlude another production member and I would slip away from practice to access the weight room. Over the six weeks or so before our debut, I increased my bench press maximum by 45 pounds. Resistance training didn’t make me a better actor, but it made me stronger.

As people in Christ, we are called to resist—to exert ourselves against the weight of oppression. His enemy is our enemy, so we struggle not against physical or ideological combatants, rather “against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms,”1 those that rise up in rebellion against God. Our battle is real, but how do we detect attacks from a silent foe we cannot see? We discern his voice of falsehood in opposition to truth—his attempts to deceive us into disbelieving God’s word or disregarding it entirely. He tempts us to think of God as less than He is, and he entices us to sate our “evil desire,”2 which leads to sin and death. All of this he does through lies.

How then do we fight this invisible battle? We stand—we are called to stand. “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,”3 Paul writes. We plant ourselves squarely on who the Bible says God is and who God says we are in Christ Jesus. Discerning truth, we “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”4 We “offer [ourselves] to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and [we] offer every part of [ourselves] to him as an instrument of righteousness.”5 We remain “alert and of sober mind [as our] enemy the devil prowls about … looking for someone to devour.”6 We “resist him, standing firm in the faith,”7 knowing this promise from James: “Resist the devil … and he will flee from you.”8 Then “the God of all grace … will himself restore [us] and make [us] strong, firm and steadfast.”9 We will emerge from the trial of temptation, changed—strengthened and made confident in victory—for we stand in Christ, and Jesus always wins.

“Away from me, Satan!” (Matthew 4:10)

Father, temptations lure us, and we are easily deceived. Send us your Spirit to remind us what is true and to strengthen us against him who is false. Thank you that, against deception and temptation, we need only to stand in Christ. Amen.

1 Ephesians 6:12
2 James 1:14
3 Ephesians 6:13
4 2 Corinthians 10:5
5 Romans 6:13
6 1 Peter 5:8
7 1 Peter 5:9
8 James 4:7
9 1 Peter 5:10

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What We Were Is Not Who We Are

If there is a greater personal transformation in fiction than that of Ebenezer Scrooge, it doesn’t readily come to mind. For over 150 years, Charles Dickens’ miserly protagonist has served as a metaphor for callousness and greed, but his story is really one of conviction and change—his spiritual awakening, the realization of wrong, a plea for mercy, and a newly-birthed compassion for others. His testimony is that of one made new, changed from the inside out. “And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.”1 So, why do we still tether the old money-lender to his former “Humbug” existence? Why also do we do the same in real-life, defining, for instance, both the Samaritan woman and Mary Magdalene by who they were before they encountered Jesus? Did Jesus leave them that way? Of course not, nor will the man from Gergesa—the one “sitting there, dressed and in his right mind”2—ever be a demoniac again.

Writing to believers in Ephesus, Paul recalled their life without Christ, when they, like all of us, “followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient … gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts.”3 What kind of lot were we who now make up the church? Paul’s list of sins reads like a rap sheet: “sexually immoral … idolaters … thieves … the greedy … slanderers,” he reminded his Corinthian readers, adding, “And that is what some of you were.”4 Did you catch it, his hidden proclamation of freedom? “Were”—as in past tense, the one-time identity of a bygone life. For Jesus has not left us defined by sin, nor should we. “But you were washed,” Paul continued, “you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”5

Made new in Christ,6 we are “called to live in freedom … [and to] use [our] freedom to serve one another in love.”7 Behind us lay our shackles of shame, for though we still sin, our sin is not who we are any more, nor will it ever be again. God knows this, our enemy knows this, and we must know it, too, so that we run and thrive in newness of life. For we have been united with the sinless Christ—He lives in us, and we in Him—and Jesus always wins.

“You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light …” (Ephesians 5:8).

Father, send us your Spirit that we would better know the truth and riches of who we are in Christ, and that, enlightened, we would live daily in the power of Christ in us, always for His glory. Amen.

1 Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol, Enriched Classic (New York: Pocket Books, 2007), 104.
2 Mark 5:15
3 Ephesians 2:2, 3
4 1 Corinthians 6:9-11
5 1 Corinthians 6:11
6 2 Corinthians 5:17
7 Galatians 5:13 NLT

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We’ve Already Won

I believe it was in the fifth grade when a close friend turned against me, and with him several others. As I walked home one day not long after, they launched at me a steady barrage of snowballs, relentlessly reloading from northern Michigan’s endless supply of winter white. It so happened, though, that at the point of ambush was someone shoveling his driveway. He wore a varsity jacket, so likely a high school junior or senior, and being in the line of fire, he joined me. So, together we battled a small detachment of pre-adolescents—I lobbing lazy, high-arching “air cover” and the big guy firing frozen spheres—arrow-straight, at high-speed, and with great precision. It was enough: the enemy scattered, and I walked safely home. “We” had won.

We don’t know how the man from Gergesa obtained an “impure spirit” or how he’d become possessed by a “legion” of demons; we only know that he suffered greatly under the oppressive powers of darkness. Constantly tormented in body, mind and soul, he had become a frighteningly “fierce”1 man of unsubduable strength2 and “always crying out and cutting himself with stones.”3 But authority understands authority, and when the demons in him saw Jesus arriving, they in self-interest drove their helpless host into His presence: the man “ran and fell on his knees in front of him.”4 Then at the top of the man’s voice, they collectively shouted at Jesus, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!”5 (Ironic, isn’t it—bullies begging for mercy in the face of defeat?) At Jesus’ command, the demons scattered and the man was safe—“he” had won.

Our “walk home” is filled with battles, for we “struggle … against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil.”6 Yet as painful and difficult as these times are, in Jesus, we have already won. The Father “has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.”7 No matter how tortured our past or how hopeless things appear, we have won. No matter who is against us or how great their number, we have won. Though our foe would attack us or our friends flee our side, we have won. Then in the confidence of Christ and in His power, we face our enemies; be they addictions, frustrations, rejections or regrets, we can face them, knowing this: we are in Christ, and Jesus always wins.

“The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)

Father, thank you for this assurance: Jesus has defeated our enemy, and in Christ, I have, too. You are God, and I am safe. Help me always to remember this and to rest in you. Amen.

1 Matthew 8:28 ESV
2 Mark 5:4 3
Mark 5:5 ESV
4 Mark 5:6
5 Mark 5:7
6 Ephesians 6:12
7 Colossians 1:13