Giantest Giant

I suspect that a lot of you are like me. Have you had (or how often have you had) that dream where danger in some form was pressing in on you…your house on fire, an intruder approaching your room, a looming car crash….and. you. are. paralyzed. Your window won’t open; your feet can’t grip the ground; your legs are immovably heavy. You are stuck and have to face sure doom.

This stuckness has sprouted roots into all of our hearts ever since the Garden. It was there that Adam and Eve, after cracking Creation itself, hear the footsteps of the Lord and crouch down in shame and fear. And they’ve passed this inheritance down to all generations like a bad heirloom that nobody wants.

To get a better understanding of this incapacitating fear, let’s look at a beautiful comparison/contrast in Numbers 13 & 14 where God’s people are on the verge of entering the Promised Land after being miraculously rescued from Egyptian slavery through the parting of the Sea:

Numbers 13
30 But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.” 31 Then the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are.” 32 So they brought to the people of Israel a bad report of the land that they had spied out, saying, “The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height. 33 And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.”

A collection of men were sent to scout out the land that the Lord has sworn to them. But there was a problem Most of the men came back with a terrifying report that the land was teeming with murderous overwhelming enemies that would surely wipe them out. And then there was Caleb and Joshua who were sure of their victory.

The difference between these two responses has nothing to do with how big or how real their opposition was. It was about how big and how real they saw their Lord, and how sure his promises were. And it still is.

We are currently living in a crisis that virtually nobody alive has ever experienced. Adding fuel to this fire is the instant availability of information, much of it powerful enough to save countless lives (i.e. the “flattening the curve“), some of it so false and/or inflammatory that it might actually cost some lives…for certain cost many of us a peace and strength that the Lord wants for us.

So what does the Gospel actually mean in this territory, where microscopic giants are wreaking havoc? Let me pull a few things out of this passage (and beyond) to give us direction and hope:

  • Use Wisdom: God’s people, holding onto God’s promises, also used the brains, hearts and information available to make the wisest moves forward, especially when it came to protecting the most vulnerable among them. Moses send scouts ahead not out of fear but out of wisdom. As we see at the end of the story, the faithlessness of God’s people caused them to wander in the wilderness, but the Lord still protected His children, the vulnerable ones, and would still guide them into the Promised Land behind the leadership of Joshua and Caleb.
  • Hold onto God’s Promises more than the empty threats of this world. Yes, COVID-19 is a very serious problem and has/will cause untold destruction. And God is even bigger, and has/will bring about untold glory and restoration. We see in Numbers 14:21 this promise among a fainting people: “But truly, as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD.”
  • We as a church aren’t going underground or crouching in fear, but mobilizing into smaller “scout groups” (like Moses sent out) so that we can be more relational, more effective, more personally and practically loving than we could be in a larger cluster. This pandemic is absolutely horrible. And yet an opportunity for us to be refined as followers of Jesus as we hold onto him rather than this world, and sacrificially serve others as a living testimony not to our own courage but to the One that has come to set us free.
  • As you read that, please wisely evaluate your current role and calling. Moses sent out “heads of the people of Israel” (Num 13:3). He did not send out those who were the more vulnerable and at risk. If you fall in this category, please allow the rest of the Body of Christ to go ahead on your behalf. Let the body serve the body, and serve the community. To God be the Glory.
  • Finally, in the end not only will God get the Glory (Num 14:21) but he will also bring his people into the Promised Land…in His perfect way and in His perfect time. We know that to be perfectly true because Jesus has already gone before us and defeated the greatest threatening giant: sin, fear and death. On the cross we see the death of death itself. Whereas as ALL fearfully looked on the horizon and saw the grim reaper justly swinging his sickle, Jesus stood his ground, was cut down by the sickle meant for us, and three days later rose again in full beauty and glory so that now the sickle, though it will one day take our flesh, will never touch the hearts and souls of those that know and trust in Jesus as the Giantest Giant of all.

Joshua 1:9
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

John 16:33
(Jesus said) “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

I encourage you to join me in sitting at the Lord’s feet, even if your knees are knocking together and you don’t want to, meditating and worshiping using the song embedded below: Yet Not I But Through Christ In Me

Evil Schemes

Mark 5:1-20 (excerpts below)
2 And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. 3 He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, 4 for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces.

9 And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”
He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.”

The narrative of Good vs. Evil permeates virtually every story we know and love. There is always a protagonist and an antagonist; a good guy and a bad guy; light vs. dark.

  • Skywalker vs. Vader
  • Avengers vs. Thanos
  • Axis vs. Allies
  • John McClane vs Hans Gruber
  • Kevin McCallister vs. Wet Bandits

The reason this battle is so pervasive in our stories is because it is written in our very DNA. From our inception we have been designed for perfect love, but we’ve listened to and followed the lies and deception of the evil-one. What is so terribly embarrassing is that his schemes are not creative in the least. From the beginning he keeps whispering twisted lies that God isn’t who He says he is and we aren’t who he says we are. These same lies keep coming in different forms, enticing us to live for ourselves, be our own rulers, kings….gods…usually coming back over and over to sex, money and power. But when you think about it, why would he change his schemes since they are clearly working just fine.

As we look through the most vivid demon-story in Scripture we can see several tactics our enemy uses, followed up with the one true remedy and victory. Here are a couple of these tactics:

  1. Divide and Conquer. The man with an “unclean spirit” (“demonized”) was overtaken by the enemy and separated from community, from himself, from hope. This is a first-stage tactic: isolation, loneliness and hopelessness.
  2. DeHumanize. We are made men and women of value, precious in God’s sight. But this tomb-dwelling man was so hopeless he became less “himself” — he felt that his God-Image was so broken that he wailed and cut himself. In our sin we are literally becoming “less ourselves” by living contrary to our identity of love.

In reality, we see two different truths about our enemy:

  1. They are more powerful than we think. These demons teamed up and dominated this tomb-man. They played him like a puppet. For a moment, don’t get lost in the “possession” language. The truth is that these horrible and personal forces either have an evil controlling behavior, or they have (more often) an evil influential behavior. Every one of us hear and respond more than we know to these whispers, telling us to serve ourselves, turn our backs on truth and our Savior, use others to elevate ourselves.
  2. They are less powerful than we think. Re-read the incredible narrative of Jesus’ encounter with these beasts. There was no battle whatsoever. When the demons even saw Jesus, they fell face-down and pleaded for mercy. Jesus didn’t have to lift a finger…he merely spoke. He simply commanded the demons to go, and they went. Though we can easily be afraid of evil, the honest truth is that, though we ought to respect it, Jesus has full and utter control over them, and he has come to “give abundant life” (John 10:10). He has come to set us free from the power of sin and darkness. Even at Jesus end, when Peter wanted to free Jesus from arrest, Jesus said that he had twelve times the ability to be free…

Matt 26:52-54
Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53 Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?”

But…he chose to go to the cross instead because, in so doing, he put death to death. He finally and fully crushed the head of The Serpent so that, though his tail whips back and forth causing damage, his defeat is sealed and Christ’s victory is fully won.

But for now we live in a world filled with trials and temptations, with our enemy whispering lies and death into our ears. To get a clearer vision of these lies, of Satan’s schemes, as well as the Truth we need to hold onto as we face the lies, Thomas Brooks wrote a book in 1652 called “Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices” where he lists out dozens and dozens of our enemy’s schemes, each followed with a handful of different Gospel Truths to combat and protect our hearts and lives from what the enemy is trying to do: to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10).

You can read the entire book online for free HERE

Or read a short summary (for free) HERE

Here are a few of these scheme/remedy combinations:

Scheme: “Others sin worse than me”

Remedy: The Truth that we need to have our eyes humbly and repentantly on ourselves, not on others. We don’t know others’ hearts and are called personally to take God’s love, life and truth seriously. Life and morality are not a competition but a life of Jesus-given victory, life-long repentance and dependence.

Scheme: “God will forgive me”

Remedy: The Truth that sin decays and destroys. Yes, God will forgive you, but sin has consequences and causes damage to others and you.

Scheme: “You are worthless; focus on your failures”

Remedy: The Truth that you are made in God’s image. For all who are in Christ the Lord proclaims over us what he proclaimed over Jesus as His baptism: This is my son, whom I love, in him I am well pleased” (Matt 3:17)

There are dozens and dozens of these lies/remedies. I would encourage you to give them a glance and ask the Spirit to guide you into a place of God’s joyful presence

For 2 of my sermons on this topic, click HERE and HERE.