Week 4: March 26

Gospel Fluency in My Mind

by Mark Shuey

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There is a certain theme in many great stories that have captured the human imagination for as long as stories have been told. Good versus evil, This theme has captivated mankind for nearly all of time. It stretches from ancient Greek mythology to the present. We see it in Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Lion King and Harry Potter yet we never grow tired of this compelling good versus evil plot line. You know why? Because it's true, it’s a part of our real lives. Whether we are aware of it or not, we are living in a daily battle of good versus evil. It is a battle we did not choose, but a battle we were born into and cannot avoid. A battle where the stakes are as high as life itself.

The war of good and evil is a real war, it is a war for our souls. It is a war based on lies that are designed to kill our souls and to extinguish our closeness to God. The enemy comes by way of a 3-pronged source. So, who is this opponent? Who is this Darth Vader that seeks to wreak havoc on our souls? Just as the source of goodness is a body of three the Father, Son, Holy Spirit, so too is the source of evil a three pronged entity. The Bible tells us that evil comes in three forms. The devil, the flesh and the world. The formidable enemy known as the devil is the one who Jesus calls “the father of lies” He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. - John 8:44

Deceptive ideas designed to destroy one’s soul begin with the devil. Below are some examples of soul killing lies from the devil that often bang around in our head and heart until we begin to live them out in the everyday of life. Jesus said that when he lies he speak his native language.

“When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” - John 8:44

A language that we can hear and understand. Recognize any of these? I do.

“I’m not good enough”

“I am unlovable”

“Do whatever it takes to be happy”

“God doesn’t care about me”

The problem is we don’t simply hear these lies, we live the lies. You can see how living these lies will greatly affect your soul and your life. It's why Jesus calls the devil a murderer. He kills the joy and peace which Christ promises. The flesh is how the disordered desires, that were created by the lies we believe, play out in our lives. The flesh is where we take the lies to heart and prioritize the ideas from the Devil. Create our own truths to satisfy our self-seeking needs and internalize the lies of our external enemy.

The third prong of evil is the world. And we are not talking about the world as the big blue and green ball that we are currently riding on through space at 62,000 miles an hour. The Bible refers to the world as the place where the Devil rules and reigns. Unfortunately, we are living in enemy territory where the Devil opposes God. This is where the Devil's lies and ideas are normalized. No question, we face a daunting opponent, but God knows the battle and has joined the fight with His truth and protection.

Jesus knew what we would face when dealing with the world. Shortly before His crucifixion, Jesus gave us a beautiful prayer to read and live by for all

of time. In this prayer, He asked God to protect us from the lies of the world.

“My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by [a] the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” - John 17:15-18

Tomorrow we will look at how we can join God and live both in His truth and protection, and in the world at the same time.

Today reflect on what are the lies from the enemy that you might be living?

Day 2

If you’re like me, you try everything in your power to avoid conflict. However, as we have been learning, there is some conflict which is simply unavoidable. We live in a broken world and are engaged in a spiritual battle, where lies are directed at the core of our being. These lies are targeted at our self- focused nature and are designed to darken our souls and shrink our lives to a small and sad replica of what Jesus has envisioned for us. Yesterday we looked at the powerful forces that oppose us in our spiritual battle, today we will look at the powerful force that will give us victory. Before Jesus left His disciples, He made this promise. Although he would no longer be a physical presence, he promised to always be with those who believed in him.

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.” - John 14:16-19

The Spirit of truth. The Holy Spirit, the astonishing life giving force of God that has been sent to dwell within you and me. This is our path to victory. We live with this tension that while the enemy may rule the world, he does not rule us. For us not to fall under the rule of the enemy in this world, we must rely on the Holy Spirit and never attempt to alleviate the tension through compromise. We must remember that our everyday lives, our culture, our communities, our workplaces are part of the world, and it’s ruler is the enemy. That's why arrogance, greed, and materialism often characterize these places and bring admiration and status, recognition and promotion. The tension arises because we choose to follow Jesus Christ the One who stands for humility, generosity, integrity and love. The lie is that we can and should ease this tension through compromise. We tell ourselves lies to justify our decision, How many times have we thought things like:

“It’s ok…everybody does it”

“Hey, you gotta do what you gotta do”

“I'm just looking out for number 1”

You get the idea. We accept lies in order to escape the tension of living the life Christ wants us to live in the midst of the war zone of the world. But we must remember, we’re different. We live with the Holy Spirit inside of us. We are the temple for the spirit of Christ and we are sent to live in this world but we must not be of this world.

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” - 1 Peter 2:9

Gospel fluency is far more than just knowing the story and celebrating God in this world. Make no mistake, it is that, but gospel fluency is also the ability to be able to live within the conflict and tension of the world.

Gospel fluency means that we are always aware of the indwelling Holy Spirit, which proclaims us as “God’s special possession.” We live gospel fluency, day by day, moment by moment reliance on the Holy Spirit to maintain alignment with Jesus Christ, who is the way and the truth and the life. Gospel fluency is turning the tables on the enemy by standing up to this broken world so that it may see the full weight of who we are, a beloved family member of God’s ‘royal priesthood”

Today reflect upon the magnitude of living life as that of God’s special possession and as a part of a “royal priesthood.”

Day 3

The struggle is real. This week we have acknowledged that we are all involved in a daily battle between the forces of the devil, the flesh, and the world. This struggle is designed, by the devil, to place tension in our lives as we strive to live out the values of God’s Kingdom. By way of numbers the fight may appear lopsided as the three pronged force of evil goes up against just you or me. However, we have a mighty force of the Holy Spirit, our great gift from God, to level the playing field. We have a powerful and wise guide to walk with us through every aspect of our lives. A reliance on the indwelling Spirit will give us the strength, courage, fortitude, wisdom, and self-control to live the abundant life and to combat evil in this world as Christ has promised.

“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” - John 14:26

Christ is with us in this daily battle that we are immersed in that often we don’t even know we are living in the struggle. Being unaware or complacent in this battle for our souls and minds makes the fight evermore hazardous, because we are ignoring or minimizing a dangerous reality. And we need Christ. Paul wrote one of the most powerful letters in history, to the church of Ephesus. Ephesus was the leading city in the richest region of the Roman empire. The spiritual climate of Ephesus was dominated by cults that practiced magic and sorcery. Many gods were worshiped in this prosperous city and people were searching for their own truths. Personal riches, self-focused ambition and worship of many different gods and beliefs dominated the city. Not unlike the culture we find ourselves living in today, is it?

Paul realized that the people of Ephesus were in dire need of gospel fluency, so he gave to Ephesus and to the world his magnificent letter; Ephesians. I encourage you to read this short but powerful letter in its entirety. Many readers over the centuries have been moved to wonder and worship by the words in Ephesians. The great English poet and theologian, Samuel Taylor Coleridge called the letter of Ephesians ``The divinest composition of man.” Today we will look at the last part of the last chapter in which Paul describes the God given tools that we have when living in the power of the Holy Spirit.

“11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore 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. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word God.”

- Ephesians 6:11-17

Reading through these words, you’ll quickly notice that Paul also has spiritual warfare on his mind and crafts a list of militaristic steps the Ephesians (and you and I) must take to do battle “against the devils’ schemes”, Paul calls it putting on the full armor of God. We are to stand, not run or compromise. We stand on the truth of God and His faithful promise of an abundant life, knowing that God's righteousness is His design for the full and fruitful life He wants us to live. Helmets have a critical role in warfare. They protect our heads. We must use the gifts of the Holy Spirit to do the same, to protect our minds. Until this point all the armor Paul has listed has been for defensive purposes.

We now go on the offense. We are now called to wield the mighty word of God as a sword. The sword of the Spirit is the Word of God, because God is fully present to us when we meet Him on the holy ground of Scripture. The Bible is different from any other book. Scripture inspires something greater for the reader, something wholly other than this world. God has breathed His life and presence into His Word giving Scripture is a power and a divine fire in our lives.

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” - Hebrews 4:12

When we read Scripture and allow the ancient words, they penetrate our soul. We are not merely reading sacred words, we are living out a sacred invitation. I believe that author and priest Christopher Webb beautifully captures the magnitude with this quote:

“The Bible is the thin place through which the presence of God breaks into this world and bursts with unpredictable consequences into our lives.”

The Bible is essential to gospel fluency because it is truly alive and active, protecting us from the world and conforming us to the image of Christ for the sake of others. Today let’s pick up that mighty sword of Scripture and not merely read the word, rather let's commit to live the Word and take a stand for Christ, armed for battle with the belt of truth and the shield of faith.

Day 4

Jesus spoke to his disciples and urged them to remain connected to Him;

“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” - John 15:4

He is telling us about gospel fluency. We must allow the gospel to take root in our hearts and minds and impact every facet of our lives. We are to remain connected to Christ. Two of the ways we can do this is to develop a daily habit of prayer and reading of Scripture.

It is vital that we make both of these a priority, to both read the Bible and spend time with prayer. As we have learned throughout our study of gospel fluency, these two elements, Scripture and prayer, are most vital in our spiritual development and creating within us the mind and heart of Christ. Throughout history countless hearts have been captivated, lives changed, and societies built on the transforming influence of prayer and Scripture. Today we will travel with fellow pilgrims from the past who have written heart stirring prayers, which came from hearts and minds that were fluent in the gospel. We will also look at a pair of verses of Scripture. And as you read these sacred words of prayer and Scripture, slow down, read carefully, meditate on the words and sentences and open your heart afresh to the living Word of God and perhaps

ask yourself these questions:

What is God saying to me with these words?

How am I be changed or called by these words?

How am I comforted, strengthened, or inspired by these words?

“Dear Jesus, help me spread your fragrance everywhere I go. Flood my soul with your Spirit and love. Penetrate my whole being so utterly that all of my life may be a radiance of Yours Shine through me and be in me so that every soul I come in contact with may feel your presence in my soul. Let them look up and see no longer me but only Jesus. Stay with me and then I will begin to shine as you shine, so to shine as to be a light to others. Amen.”

(A prayer from priest and theologian John Henry Newman. Mother Teresa is said to have prayed this prayer on a daily basis.)

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” - John 15:1-8

“The arms of God be around my shoulders,

the touch of the Holy Spirit upon my head,

the sign of Christ’s cross upon my forehead,

the sound of the Holy Spirit in my ears,

the fragrance of the Holy Spirit in my nostrils,

the vision of heaven’s company in my eyes,

the conversation of heaven’s company on my lips,

the work of God’s church in my hands,

the service of God and the neighbor in my feet,

a home for God in my heart,

and to God, the father of all, my entire being.


- The prayer of Saint Fursey (597-650 AD), Irish monk

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. “ - Romans 12:1-2