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Casting Off Darkness

Image courtesy of Joey Sparks

By Benjamin H. Liles

          Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. ~ Ephesians 5:6-7, 11, New King James

           There are times I feel like I don't do my best in upholding this simple command: "We love because God loved us first" (1 John 4:19). Love is the most simple and basic command. It is also a huge choice to do so. When we choose to love God, first and foremost, we can't go wrong in the slightest. It means we'll look for right ways to honor, revere, worship, and even praise and thank Him. Jesus told us there's a second command that's pretty much the same as loving God: "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Matthew 22:39; Mark 12:31).

          So how does this work alongside Ephesians 5:6-7, and 11? If we allow ourselves to be tricked, or even deceived, that all things are permissible and this includes acts of sin such as lying, adultery, sexual relations outside of marriage, acts of sex between the same sexes, God says is deplorable (see 1 Corinthians 6:9-10). They aren't my words, although I am to uphold and live my life as God desires me to live, but His word surpasses anything I say and do. It's why Paul is clear that "the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience." 

          Paul tells us, and he is one of the foremost authorities on God's grace and living a victorious Christian life, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this world's darkness, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Ephesians 6:12, Berean Study). The Expanded Bible puts it this way, "[For] Our ·fight [conflict; struggle] is not against ·people on earth [L flesh and blood] but against the rulers and authorities and the ·powers [or cosmic powers/rulers] of this ·world’s darkness [L darkness], against the spiritual powers of evil in the heavenly ·world [realm; places]."

          If our fight isn't toward any flesh and blood person, but seeing one another set free by the power of Jesus' shed blood, which cleanses us from all unrighteousness, then who are we truly fighting against? I won't venture forth into speaking on things of which I do not know for certain. But I do know this: when we're told that we need to "allow God's Spirit to renew your minds" (see Romans 12:2, Ephesians 4:23), we're saying we want Him telling us and guiding us into all truth.  

          Let's make no mistake here. We have a very real enemy. God's word shows and tells us we can conquer this enemy just as much as Jesus'shed blood and righteousness cleanses us from filth. Throughout God's word we read constantly, "Be holy as I am holy" (Leviticus 20:26, 1 Peter 1:16). It means that no matter what blinded, misguided people tell us, we are to remain steadfast and firm in our faith with God. We are the light of the world. We are here, as His Church, to expel the darkness and show it for what it is.

          Peter calls it this darkness "a roaring lion, seeking for those to devour" (see 1 Peter 5:8). The writer of Mark wrote, "Satan comes and takes away the word which has been sown in them" (Mark 4:15, New American Standard). This enemy comes to "steal and kill and destroy, but [Jesus comes] to give life—life in all its fullness" (John 10:10, Expanded). We are called to be soldiers. We are defectors from this world's system and its ways. Those of us who are now on God's side have seen where the enemy lurks: the hearts and minds of those he bends to his pruposes and will. This enemy is real. His threats of annihilation and theft come with a heavy cost. As part of Jesus' Church we do not have the luxury to sit back on our backsides taking a passive role.

          This enemy of the saints is loose and is coming in a person and personal way. Who knows, this man could be on the world scene, biding his time to usurp other world powers and bringing them under his dominion. And yes, I am refering to the antichrist here. Him and his agents are in this world, whether we see them or not. But the first and foremost thing is that we cast off those things that set themselves up in our hearts and minds. The battlefield is for these places always. It is why we take "every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete" (2 Corinthians 10:5, 6, New American Standard).

          It is why Paul tells us, "you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. Stand, therefore,
        with truth like a belt around your waist,
        righteousness like armor on your chest,
          and your feet sandaled with readiness
        for the gospel of peace.
        In every situation take the shield of faith,
        and with it you will be able to extinguish
        all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
         Take the helmet of salvation,
       and the sword of the Spirit,
       which is God’s word" (Ephesians 6:13-17, Holman Christian Standard).

          Therefore, we can do what God calls us to by loving Him always, loving others enough to show them the grace God extends--which breaks the enemy's hold, and showing those finally set free to live in the light and love of God's truth, grace, and mercy. It is by these things, while done in faith, that we storm into the enemy's camp taking back that which matters to God, people and their souls. This is not something we idly do daily. It is a way of life. It is a way to keep ourselves pure and in Him constantly.

          Father God, I admit I am very weak when it comes to storming compounds where your prisoners are kept. I don't always stand firm, or even for that matter plowing forward with what You give me to take back what's Yours. I need Your help. I can't do this on my own. I need You and Your ways constantly, daily. Today, I renew my commitment to doing things as You do. Your will is my will. This battle and war aren't mine, they belong to You. The victory that You give me, even that is Yours. My reward is Jesus and Him alone. Those You allow me to set free? They are Yours. The riches I have in You? I forfeit those so You may be known. All I want, Lord, is You. All else is vanity to me. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.