First, a clarification: In last weeks post I stated, “Jesus encourages us to speak directly to Him.” And, that is true; however, there is another intimately involved in our conversations — and that’s the Holy Spirit. Jesus referred to Him by several different titles. Two that I particularly like are “counselor” and “advocate”.
When I’m so confused I don’t even know what to pray for, I know my “advocate” is doing His thing. He takes my confused words and logic, parses it, boils it down, and communicates my needs to Jesus. Some times when I’m wrestling with an issue and seeking help by reading scripture, I will read a passage I’ve previously read many times; and, …BAM, just like someone flipped a switch, I see that scripture in an entirely new light. One that speaks to me exactly what I need to resolve my issue. Accident? Coincidence? No, that’s my counselor, the Holy Spirit, interpreting scripture for me; and, leading me to the meaning I had previously missed.
And that brings me to the subject I originally wanted to talk about in this post. What I call… Seeing With Kingdom Eyes.
There is an interesting example of seeing with Kingdom Eyes in 2Kings6:8-23. Israel and Aram are at war. Elisha, the prophet of God, continuously warns the King of Israel of the the plans of the King of Aram. Finally the King of Aram has had enough. He sends an army to capture Elisha. The army surrounds the town where Elisha and his servant are staying. Elisha’s servant goes outside the next morning and sees the army, with horses and chariots, surrounding them. He panics, and goes back inside to warn Elisha. Elisha tells his servant not to worry, “…for there are more with us than there are with them”. He then prays, asking the Lord to, “…open his (servant’s) eyes so he may see”.
I’m not going to tell you what he saw or how it turned out. You can read it for yourself… and you want to, because it has a very cool ending. I will tell you that God opened the eyes of Elisha’s servant; and allowed him to see into the spiritual dimension. And, that is one form of what I call, “Kingdom Eyes”. But, it is not the form I want to talk about, today.
I don’t know who said it first, but he was correct when he said, “I do not know who first discovered water; but, you can be certain it wasn’t a fish.” Simple – and, profound. As humans, we are not, normally, aware of the air around us – but, it’s there. And, there is something else around us that shapes us, influences what we value, what we do with our time – and money; what we say and what we laugh at; what we wear, and yes, even what we think. Yet, a great number of us seldom think about it, let alone consider it’s power to mold us to it’s whim. Sounds a bit scarey, doesn’t it? Well, it should.
I’m talking about our culture. Have you ever thought about how much of your life is controlled by other people? People who tell you what’s cool, what’s acceptable, what you should do, what you deserve, and what you, “…owe to yourself”? And that’s just the media and marketing. What about the writers of the sitcoms and dramas we watch on TV and the big screen? How have these people changed our culture over the last 20 years? (Now I’m thinking about family values and morality). Even our music has undergone a huge transformation. J.S. Bach dedicated every piece of music he wrote, “…to the glory of God”. OK, it was over 250 years ago. So what? What percentage of today’s music could bear the same dedication.
Culture is the byproduct of many forces and institutions. But here is what it boils down to. Culture comes from people. The ideas that flow from the minds of writers (media, marketing and entertainment), artists, politicians, educators, and many others, all impact our culture. Obviously, not all these people view life from the same perspective. They have different world views, beliefs and different motivations. Thus, we end up with a myriad of ideas and beliefs being thrown at us – all promising popularity, power, wealth, possessions, beauty, sex appeal, happiness and true love in the form of uncommitted sex.
And, these lies are supposed to fulfill our desires for contentment, satisfaction, intimacy, joy and peace. The sad thing is they do – for a time. But eventually we begin to feel discontent, used and empty. Why? Because what our culture provides is temporary, and a lie. Our needs were designed by God. Only God can truly satisfy them. But, unless (or until) we realize this, we simply go back to the culture, with the belief, “It will be different this time”.
So what’s driving this dysfunctional system? That’s a key question; and, the answer goes far deeper than most people care to look. Would it surprise you to know that Paul spoke to this very issue nearly 2,000 years ago? “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” (Ro12:2 NLT). So, Paul was telling people, ‘Don’t blindly follow culture and societal norms. Let God change your thinking!’
And, why was Paul concerned? Two reasons. First, Scripture tells us that Satan is “…the god of this age… (2Co4:4).” Somehow (one more thing I don’t understand) Satan still has authority on earth; and, (a very BIG AND) Satan’s agenda is to lead everyone he possibly can, away from God. Which is the second reason Paul was concerned.
Satan hates God. God loves us. So, Satan, who can’t directly attack God, attacks us… God’s creation. Satan uses culture to lead us away from God, and into destruction. The apostle John put it this way, “Stop loving this evil world and all that it offers you, for when you love the world, you show that you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only the lust for physical pleasure, the lust for everything we see, and pride in out possessions. These are not from the Father. These are from this evil world. And this world is fading away, along with everything it craves. But if you do the will of God, you will live forever.” (1Jn2:15-17 NLT)
Paul knew that if we just float along with the ideas from our culture without even being aware of what’s happening and where it’s taking us, it will lead us away from God – and to destruction.
So, what are we to do? After all, we do live on earth. We do live in a society with a constantly changing culture. How do we ‘navigate’ this culture? Well first, you don’t have to move to a mountain-top, and live in a cave. There are some very good things within our culture. Things that align to God’s heart. They are good, true, and beautiful. They are things God provides, and he wants us to enjoy them to the max. These are things such as love, joy, intimacy within our marriages, peace, justice… the things that deeply fulfill us. There are movies that inspire, and challenge us to live moral upright lives, there is art that reflects God’s values. There are also good foods, good friends, sights, and sounds. The world is full of things God has created or inspired that we can explore and enjoy. Not every aspect of our culture conflicts with God.
But, quite a bit of it does. How do we know the difference?
Remember Paul said we need to ‘…let God change the way we think’? Well, we do that by knowing Jesus. Jesus said, “If you had known who I am, then you would have known who my Father is. From now on you know him and have seen him!” (Jn14:7 NLT)” We begin our renewal process when we accept Christ as the Son of God, and our Redeemer; and then establish a personal relationship with Him. We build on that relationship by reading the Bible, having frequent talks with Him, and opening ourselves to the counsel of the Holy Spirit. “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. (Jn16:13 NLT) It just doesn’t get much plainer than that.
Now a couple of personal thoughts/observations. As new Christians, we have a lot to learn. And, as mature Christians, we can still learn a lot. This relationship we have with Christ, truly is a process. We will make mistakes. Then when we ask for forgiveness and experience the consequences of sin, we learn. Sometimes quickly, sometimes not so quickly. And, we don’t get to “perfect” while on earth.
Anyway, in the hundreds (thousands) of choices we make every day – most without much (if any) thought, we need to develop an ability to “sense” when we are in God’s plan and when we are getting outside of His will for us. That “sense” is, in reality, our sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. He is trying to show us God’s truth, and convicting us when we are off track. However, we have to cooperate. I ask for Kingdom Eyes so that I can “see” or discern that which is of God’s Kingdom, and that which is not. Then I ask for the courage to make the right choice and stand my ground for Jesus. You might try it. It helps me.