|Theme: Back to School, Back to God?
Browsing through the paper, I came across this advert. After the long summer break it will soon be time to go "Back to School".
Now what would happen if you turned up late on the first day of the new Term ? How would Mr. Goodwin react? Or perhaps you left something at home? Important to be prepared.
"What do you need ?"
ˇ School Uniform : Shirt, tie, shorts - all labeled
ˇ New shoes
ˇ Book bag
ˇ Packed lunch, drink and perhaps a mid morning snack
ˇ PE kit
It is not simply a question of waking up at 7.30 and heading off to school. Well not in the de Bell household at least.
Now in the same way that it is important for us to prepare for school, or key meetings, so we need to be prepared spiritually. In our reading Paul warned the Christians in Ephesus that they were involved in a spiritual battle.
Paul used the picture of a soldier, someone who his readers could relate to, to explain the different weapons that Christians have in their armoury.
ˇ God was and remains the ultimate source of their strength
ˇ important to put on the whole armour of God if they were to be fully protected
ˇ some for defence - like the belt of truth, shield - justified by faith in Jesus, helmet - Confidence in God's saving power
ˇ others for attack - the word of God as a sword with which to counter the attacks of the Devil
Gladiators would have trained, so that they became masters of each weapon in turn - learnt how to protect themselves as well as attack without exposing themselves to a counter attack - any weakness in their trade craft could be exploited by an opponent, potentially with fatal consequences.
Before they go into battle all soldiers check their equipment, often several times to ensure that they have everything they need, and it is working properly. Otherwise they could be let down.
Which leads me to a challenge. How prepared are we, both corporately and individually, for the spiritual battle in which we are involved ?
If someone was to check our Christian armour, how would it stack up . 5 / 6 marks out of 10 ?
It is difficult to ignore a human war but the signs of spiritual warfare are less obvious. Perhaps we don't even recognise that we are engaged in a spiritual battle.
In the Screwtape Letters, CS Lewis records an imaginary conversation between a devil, and his young apprentice in which he advises that one of their greatest allies is the public image of devils as predominantly comic figures - something in red tights which is simply unbelievable.
If we have this picture of Satan then it is hardly surprising if we are complacent about heeding Paul's advice. After all why do we need to prepare ourselves to fend off something that is clearly absurd? Yet Paul warns that we need to be vigilant for the wiles of the devil.
I encourage you to read the Old Testament. You will see countless examples of people turning their back on God, failing to recognise their dependence on him, with disastrous consequences.
Perhaps the most famous is Samson, who had awesome strength while trusting in God, but was weak and defenceless when God's spirit left him. It was only when he came "Back to God" that he was once more a channel for God's power.
The story of Samson is a warning. There is a risk when things are going well that we can forget that we depend on God for everything. It is too easy to become lulled into a false of security, and ineffective in our witness. Rather than developing in our faith, and becoming more Christ like, we become more self confident and self-centred.
Life comes from God's grace and the Spirit. Human power is of no use at all re: the Soviet navy, one of the most powerful navies that has ever been assembled, yet it was unable to save 118 men on the Kursk submarine.
So at the end of the holiday period, as we prepare to go "Back to School", and perhaps back to work, lets consider whether there is a need to go "Back to God", to repent of everything that separates us from God, and cuts us off from the Spirit's power.
Simon de Bell