I said in a resent sermon that just because something is found in the Bible does not make it a reality. I went on to explain that while the sailors on the ship on which Jonah was fleeing was being assailed by the gods of the sea, that does not mean there are sea gods. I spoke of that because in Ephesians 2:2 Paul says at one time they “followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.” Just because Paul refers to such a spirit does not mean that is a reality, a real entity. It means some of the Ephesian converts where still hanging on to their old beliefs in the gods of Rome and Greece. While commentaries will often refer to this as part of Satan’s world, Paul does not call this Satanic, or refer to the “disobedient” as servants of Satan. It probably had to do with the ancient belief that the stars and other heavenly bodies controlled life on earth, which, in the broad sense of the word could be called Satan’s world..
We need remember that Paul, in First Corinthians, talked about the “many gods”, but then went on to say they were not real. He called them, “so called gods.” There is only one God, not many. There is only one ruler of all creation, not many. The plurality of gods was an ancient way to explain life and why the unpredictable and unexplainable things happened.
When Paul was in Athens he saw what he called their “objects of worship.” (Acts 17:23) These were the gods and goddesses they worshiped and believed controlled their lives. They were very real to them. They even named them. Paul knows that. He tells them he can see that they are “very religious.” (Vs.22) It is telling that the KJV says, “superstitious.” The root words are the same in this case. So the question is, were these gods real? The answer is “yes” to the Greeks, but “no” in reality. Did they shape their lives? Yes. But was Mars, Neptune and the others real? No.
However, quite often the old beliefs (superstitions) came back to haunt and rule those who had converted to Christianity. They were much like the Jews who kept finding themselves drawn to the gods of Egypt and their neighbors. Israel rarely if ever, turned completely away from God. They just thought it was safer if they covered all the bases by adding all the gods they could. This was especially true when their pagan neighbors had better crops and bigger sons than did they. “If it worked for the pagans, it should really work for God’s people.”
We don’t live in the same world as did those of the Bible. However, there are millions upon millions of people on the earth who still believe in the “fates” or whatever. Superstition still has a strong hold on people, even Christians. Many of the Haitian people believe God caused the earthquake that has devastated their country. Probably an equal amount of Christians believe the same thing. When the Christian wakes up in the morning and believes they are surrounded by all kinds of evil spirits, turned loose on them by God, (after all, if God created everything, then these spirits are God’s creation) they have fallen victim to superstition.
Simply put, there are only two worlds, the physical and the spiritual, the seen and the unseen. It’s more complicated than that, but that will do for now. Any force that is unseen is spiritual. It’s either good spiritual or bad spiritual. That’s why the Bible speaks of an “evil spirit” and “unclean spirits.” They represent those things that can’t be explained physically, even though the results can be seen physically through the person’s actions. Anything of the mind (heart in the Bible) is spiritual. So Jesus will say it’s what comes out of a man that will condemn him, not the food that goes in.
Paul, in Eph. 6:12 (In the letter written for those who were sliding back into their pagan beliefs) says, “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.” When he said that he did not mean these things had some kind of personality or form. He meant the battle was for the minds of people who were caught up in a false view of life. Did they believe the heavens were filled with all kinds of entities? Yes. Did Paul? I don’t think so, but he did know the enslaving grip these beliefs had on the people. The whole armor of God Paul says to use is all about combating teachings, superstitions and ideas. The belt of truth. No greater weapon against ignorance can be found. The breastplate of righteousness. The integrity of someone who lives right can’t be overcome. The footwear of the gospel of peace. Peace, no greater power for changing lives. The shield of faith. The conviction of the unseen that is seen in the results of faith. The helmet of salvation. The confidence of one’s understanding of God’s grace toward all. The sword of the Spirit i.e., the word of God. To speak with the authority of one who knows and serves God. It should be noted, that when Paul speaks of “the flaming arrows of the evil one”, it does not mean the “evil one” has personality or form, any more than it means there will be actual flaming arrows shot at the Christian.
Is the warfare spiritual? Yes. It is a battle against every ungodly idea and belief that manifests itself in the enslavement and harm to the individual. Poverty is a spiritual battle. Mental illness is a spiritual battle. Prejudice is a spiritual battle. Greed is a spiritual battle. We even have an idol to greed. It’s Wall Street. That does not mean the stock market is evil, just that we associate greed and avarice with that name. Ignorance is a spiritual battle. And yet, like Paul, we need to understand how deeply ingrained ignorance can be. It can even be the “truth” of that time. The world was never flat. But the “truth” for centuries was that it was. Ancient people were not stupid, but they, like us, were ignorant of a yet undiscovered truth. That’s why truth is the first weapon against ignorance.
We need to spend less time trying to imagine a battle in heaven going on among some kind of spiritual beings, and get on with the real battles here on earth that need our attention to be won.
CONCERNS: Melanie Beaver’s faculty advisor and favorite teacher, Dr. Melanie Almeder, is being treated for cancer. Helen Niklas, Laena Bolin’s mother, is unable to be out and about right now. Remember Isabel, the daughter of friends of the Bolins who has leukemia. Ron Matney was able to be at church last Sunday. Martha Albert’s grand nephew has grown enough to be home. Tamala Beach finished her radiation treatments. The Phlegar’s friend in Texas, Julie, is making slow recovery from a stroke. Polly Altice has made some progress. Her son, James still deals with cancer. Also Evelyn Hammer. Chris Phlegar has returned to a war zone. Continue to remember Jo Wagner’s mother, Jewell Racer, Teri Burks, Trixi Long, Barbara McCauley, Lureline Ferguson, Wilma and Jenni Cullum, Roger Fisher’s nephew, (cancer) Tim Elder, those in Haiti who are recovering slowly from the earthquake, Health Talents Int, Bread For A Hungry World and all those who are working to relieve suffering around the world.
OUR DAILY BREAD: FEB. 22-27
Monday: Matthew !8:10-20
Tuesday: Romans 14:1-18
Wednesday: II Thess. 3:1-16
Thursday: Genesis 45:4-28
Friday: Mark 10:17-31
Saturday: Psalm 105:1-45
OUR DAILY BREAD: MAR. 1-6
Monday: John 17:1-26
Tuesday: Revelation 19:1-16
Wednesday: Luke 16:19-13
Thursday: Matthew 9:1-13
Friday: I Corinthians 10:1-13
Saturday: Psalm 106:1-48
We are very close to opening our new Internet web site. James Downing has been working on it for us and has sent a Trial page so we can make changes and recommendations. One of the things that will be posted every two weeks is the bulletin. However, that does not mean the bulletin will no longer be e-mailed to those who want it sent.
The site will also allow us to display relevant pictures and events, as well as the various ministries in which we are involved. In other words, it will be a place those looking for a church will be able to see who we are before coming. Any ideas you have about what should go on it are welcome.
The Shivers have let us know that former member, Jerry Sumney, has been selected as Alumnus of the year in the field of Bible. More news of that will probably arrive via The Christian Chronicle. Jerry is still at Lexington Theological Seminary.
This Sunday, February 21, is Super Sunday. Even though there will still be piles of snow, it will be warm an toasty inside with lots of good food and fellowship. Plan to be there.
This is Winterfest weekend in Gatlinburg. Several of our young folks will be attending. Pray for their trip and safe journey. They plan to be home on Sunday in time to eat with us.
EBENEZER BAPTIST CHURCH
Ebenezer Baptist Church, at 7049 Thirlane Rd. Is having a panel discussion concerning Race, Religion & Roanoke. The date and time is Wednesday, Feb. 24 at 6:00 PM. Certainly a needed thing, too bad it is on Wednesday. However, if someone goes they can report back to us.
WHEN IT WARMS UP
A women’s retreat is planned for April 23-24. The theme will be Sweet Life Cafe’. It will be here at the building. More details later, but you can talk to Erma Williams, Susan Jordan and Laena Bolin about it.
Also in April, on the 17th, there will be a city-wide VBS training seminar here at the annex. You can see Erma about that.