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The evil of this world is on display.
It is not hard to see that there are forces that oppose God and his guidance for the world. We see these forces active in the world and our lives on a daily basis. The Bible identifies three evil agents as the world, the flesh and the devil. The “world” is actually the world’s system and it is the way the world is organized to resist God’s principles.
The “flesh” is the way people live their lives apart from God. The Alcoholic Anonymous phrase my friends have taught me, “my own best thinking,” is a perfect representation of the flesh.
The devil and demons are absolutely evil beings that seek to steal, kill and destroy our lives (John 10.10).
All three of these evil forces are at work in the plans of the religious authorities to kill Jesus.
John 11.45-48 – Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what he had done.
47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the council, and said, “What are we to do? This man is performing many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation.”
Psalm 2 gives an insight into the inside condition of these men who wanted Jesus dead. This also is the attitude of everyone who lives according to the values of the world, the flesh and the devil.
“The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the Lord and his anointed, saying,
‘Let us burst their bonds asunder,
and cast their cords from us.'” (Psalm 2.2-3)
The pride that drives the evil of this world sees submission to God’s will as bondage. The evil world’s system is made up of people who have joined together to rebel against God and to seek freedom from his direction. The world, the flesh and the devil are controlled by an arrogance that will not submit to our loving God.
Jesus shows us how to live free from the world, the flesh and the devil.
This is Jesus’ offer to us. Jesus came to give us the kind of life that can never be found in pride and rebellion against his rule.
Jesus says, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11.28-30).
(1) Instead of casting off the yoke of God’s direction, Jesus invites us to share his yoke. He will do the heavy lifting in our lives. All he wants is our cooperation.
(2) Unlike the religious leaders, who were full of the pride of the devil and their flesh, Jesus is gentle and humble in heart. It is the height of arrogance to not be willing to take direction from the Greatest Being of All, Jesus. Let’s pursue humility and a willingness to submit our own best thinking to the direction of Jesus.
Jesus’ invitation to us is to learn from him and to enter into his abundant life. We can begin each day with this prayer, “Jesus, I submit to your direction for my life. Please teach me and I will follow you.”
Evil – the world, the flesh and the devil – will not win.
Even in their most evil act, the religious authorities, were used to prophesy about Jesus’ effect on the world.
John 11.49-54 – But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all! 50 You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.”
51 He did not say this on his own, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus was about to die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the dispersed children of God. 53 So from that day on they planned to put him to death.
54 Jesus therefore no longer walked about openly among the Jews, but went from there to a town called Ephraim in the region near the wilderness; and he remained there with the disciples.
Tomorrow is Good Friday, when we will remember Jesus’ death on the cross. From nine in the morning until three in the afternoon, Jesus was suspended on a cross outside the city gates of Jerusalem. Jesus suffered physically and spiritually.
His physical suffering was the worst possible way to execute a criminal. However, his spiritual suffering was even greater. Isaiah 53 describes what Jesus suffered for us as no other person has ever experienced.
“But he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have all turned to our own way,
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53.5-6)
On Sunday, we will celebrate his resurrection from the dead. Jesus did exactly what the high priest prophesied, even though the priest was full of evil motives. Jesus died for all of humankind – and was raised from the dead – so we could live in an abundant relationship with him.
How do we resist the temptation of the world, the flesh and the devil?
I think the best thing we can do to not fall into the trap of evil is to be fully in love with Jesus. Jesus’ words in Matthew 11 are a perfect way to live in a loving, friendship-relationship with Jesus. Once again, see Matthew 11.28-30.
(1) Jesus says, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens . . .” Let’s do just that. Let’s make a practice of coming to him daily to pursue a relationship with him.
(2) Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me . . .” Jesus loves us with an everlasting love. As we live in a loving, friendship-relationship with him, we will want to know all about him. People who live a Jesus-kind-of-life will frequently go to Jesus to learn how to live the best life possible.
(3) Jesus says, “I am gentle and humble in heart . . .” Pride pushes God away. Humility draws God closer to us. According to James, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4.6). If we want to know Jesus and enter into a loving relationship with him, we will seek humility by submitting to his loving guidance in every way.
Dear Jesus, we praise you for your death and resurrection. Today, we come to you. We willingly come to learn from you and to follow your directions. We seek deeper levels of humility. Our greatest desire is to know you and to love you.