Some many years ago, in the mid to late 90’s, I was pastoring a crusty old church tucked away in the mountains of Southwest Virginia. The area is rugged, the economy is challenged, and the people are unique and interesting. In the public arena, you will find most folks friendly, warm and apt to smile while they call you “Sugar”, “Sweetie”, and “Darling”, even to perfect strangers. I remember going to the local Piggly Wiggly [Supermarket Chain] and the lady checking out my groceries called me “Sugar”. I went home and confessed to my wife that a woman had been flirting with me and I didn’t know what to do about it. After a few weeks in town I realized the local custom and understood that I wasn’t that special after all.
In the church arena, things were and are much more challenging and difficult to understand. There was an often repeated phrase of “…the real power of God…” that spoke of their desire to get back to something they believed was missing. Lost somewhere in the 40’s and 50’s was a fervor and intensity of spiritual experience that had since become legendary. Much time and talk was given to searching for the missing formula to accomplish the return of power and presence, and unfortunately, determining the hindrances that prevented the legend from being realized again. These hindrances most often were found in people, who were then put at arm’s length and corporately shunned until they found themselves somewhere else to go. My family and I were so charged and found guilty. After 2 years of struggle and mistakes, theirs and my own, we found somewhere else to be, embarking on our own search for the legend of Yah’s Real Power and Presence.
When insulted our normal response is to return words in kind. When we are accused, we tend to defend ourselves by finding fault in the accuser. Y’shuah’s teaching about “…turn the other cheek…” must have some sort of mystical application because it can’t work in real life or so we reason. There is a better way, a more righteous way to deal with accusers and slanderous defamation of our character. Rabbi Shaul of Tarsus wrote in 2 Corinthians 10:4 “For the weapons we fight with are not fleshly but mighty in Elohim for overthrowing strongholds, overthrowing reasonings, and every high matter that exalts itself against the knowledge of Elohim, taking captive every thought to make it obedient to the Messiah…” [The Scriptures, 2009] Note that the goal is to fight spiritually against the flesh and its carnal tendencies, bringing it to obedience to Messiah. When rebellion of flesh has been transformed into obedience to Y’shuah, we win and not until then.
It is the weapons of humility, brokenness, and obedience that conquer religion, that overcome accusations, and destroy the strongholds of wrong thinking. It was the assumption among my former congregation that if they could achieve unity, then power could be more than legend. But the form of unity sought was more accurately named uniformity. They pushed aside anyone or anything not thought to be like themselves. In all honesty, these dear people didn’t realize that they were only doing what had been taught to them by people they loved and respected. They fondly remembered an era of time filled with excitement and fervor, but forgot the reality of hard lines drawn and the many people that were shunned out of not conforming to someone’s ideal example. That kind of thinking is but a stronghold of religion and the very thing that prevented their finding what they were yearning for. Until the minds and hearts are changed, the power and presence of Yah will remain but a legend.
Rav Shaul says that there is a better way. We must change our minds and renew our understanding from justifying ourselves by accusing others to walking in humility and seeking ways of obedience. Familiar strongholds teach us to reason and explain away our failures while pointing long fingers at those whose sins are less than our own. But our most effective weapon is to be totally obedience to Y’shuah and His Commands; the Torah. Revelation 14:12 “Here is the endurance of the set-apart ones, here are those guarding the commands of Elohim and the belief of Y’shuah” [The Scriptures, 2009]
In Mattithyahu/Matthew 5:25, Y’shuah taught us to be well minded with or to agree with our opponent promptly. We know that our accusing opponent in hasatan, who stands before the Father slandering and accusing us of not be righteous and faithful to His Word. When he accuses you of not praying enough, agree with him and ask the Father to teach you to pray more and more effectively. When he says that you haven’t forgiven or that you don’t love others, quickly agree and seek to release those who have wounded you and love them instead. When his accusations only urge us to grow in Messiah’s likeness, he will cease…for a season. Kefa/Simon Peter instructed us in 1 Kefa 5:6 “Humble yourselves, then, under the mighty hand of Elohim, so that He exalts you in due time.” [The Scriptures, 2009] The way up is down, in humble servanthood, preferring others over yourself. In the right moment, at the time of our maturity, we will find a place higher to stand before Him.
Finally, I’ve learned over the years to not fight battles not worth winning and to never engage in a war that can’t be won. I knew that I could not win that former congregation over to a new way of understanding and I certainly wasn’t going to die on that mountain trying. But this warfare, this struggle against the prevailing religious mindsets and strongholds of our day, is one that can indeed be effective and one that we can be victorious in. Our overcoming is found in not resisting religious carnality with carnality, returning in kind what we are assaulted with. Rather, it is in humility, choosing to find a place to quietly serve without fanfare, and walking in obedience to Messiah that grants us a crown. Y’shuah prayed, “Father, if it be Your counsel, remove this cup from Me. Yet not My desire, but let Yours be done.” Luke 22:42 [The Scriptures, 2009]. Rav Shaul spoke of his fight saying, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race I have guarded the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7 [The Scriptures, 2009] Keep fighting the war worth winning.