Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Journey to Jesus: Kneeler Stage, The Battle

Find this drawing here.
(If you're just joining this series, it begins here.)

Now that we've talked about kairos moments and the way that God is initiating kingdom work in our lives each and every day, we talk about the reality that each moment is not just a moment of choosing between God and self, but is, ultimately a moment of choosing where we stand in the continual battle that wages since before our story began. We are choosing to be aligned with Christ or with Satan (for more on this, see this post).

Spiritual warfare. There seem to be two dramatic extremes when it comes to the topic. We either avoid discussing spiritual warfare at all costs, or it becomes what dominates the way we relate to the world. Things are either "just coincidence" without any connect to the spiritual realm, or they were caused by angelic / demonic activity.

I grew up in the first extreme. In my understanding, everything was spiritually innocuous. Christ had ascended into heaven and we all awaited his return... until then, not much was happening in the spiritual realm. When I moved to California and met some evangelicals, I was introduced to Frank Perretti's books. When I read This Present Darkness, I was completely freaked out. No one had ever come anywhere close to suggesting to me that there might actually be demonic and angelic involvement in the life of humans.

As we Journey to Jesus together, I feel it's important for kids to understand that the spiritual realm is real. They need to know that our battle is not against flesh and blood. However, they also need to know that the decisive battle has already been won and we have been given everything we need to continue to stand until its conclusion.

And so we talk about Ephesians 6 and Roman armor. There are some good technical descriptions of the purposes of each piece of uniform here, but I'm sure there are probably even better ones available in a good commentary on Ephesians. This feels so incredibly practical to the kids. They can imagine each piece of armor and what purpose it served. They can draw connections from the physical to the spiritual. This concrete to abstract connection is right where their brains live when they are 9-12 years old.

What is harder for them to grasp is the tension between the military language and the non-violent way of following Jesus in the way of the cross. Here, I try to draw out some of the things we learn about the battle in the book of Revelation, which I gained from Michael Gorman. The Lamb (Jesus Christ) wages war very differently from the Beast (Satan).
Find this drawing here.

·      The Lamb conquers by enduring suffering and death
·      The Beast conquers by inflicting suffering and death
·      The Lamb endures suffering and death in order to free others from suffering and death.
·      The Beast oppresses others with suffering and death in order to perpetuate / multiply suffering and death

When we use the tactics of evil to try to resist / overcome evil, we become beastly. When we follow the faithful endurance of the Lamb, we become more like Christ and share in His victory over evil, sin, death and experience freedom from evil, sin, death. We are already sealed by the Lamb… His Holy Spirit is a guarantee that nothing can separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus.

And so we do not fight the way a person would fight a battle on a battlefield. Instead, we stand in the victory that is already decided, in the power and the authority and the presence of Jesus Christ, by His Spirit, who stands in us and through us. I don't think the kids even come close to really understanding this. But, then again, how many of us as adults can really understand it? 

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