Illusions and Reality
From almost the beginning, the connection between God and man, between the spiritual and the natural, has been marred with counterfeit illusions. With Moses came a standard, a plumb line for the community of God’s people to maintain the connection with spiritual reality. Yet, seductive religious illusions continued to infiltrate, challenge and contaminate the standard and the standard-bearers.
Then during a time when cultures were colliding, bringing new issues on the metrics of spiritual realities, the Messiah came. Scripture says that Jesus came to set the captives free. He came first to the lost sheep of the House of Israel. Salvation, this connection with spiritual reality and God, came from the Jews.
Jesus came to instruct those who would bear His brand marks, followers He described as servants, friends and sons, how to employ righteous power in a corrupt world of illusions. He modeled and instructed disciples on spiritual metrics: the prophetic, along with the power and authority of God. He closed the gap, while extending to all who would believe, the link between God and man, based on the plumb line designed to maintain the connection with spiritual reality.
Jesus raised the bar from the foundations laid by the law and the prophets. In His own words, not one jot nor tittle would depart from the Torah. He also stated that whoever broke the least of the commandants from the Books of Moses would be least in God’s Kingdom.
Undermining the Prophetic, Power and Authority
In setting the captives free, Jesus simultaneously held accountable the religious elite from His own people. Among them were those whose deceitful distortions of God and Scripture created religious illusions for the people, that closed the gates to the domain of the Kingdom of God.
Jesus’ message of the Kingdom of God reshaped the distorted thinking that impeded the household of God’s people from hearing God. What He set in motion was the process and thinking, for those who would pay the cost, to release the power and authority needed to build the Kingdom of God.
Still, the snares remained. The prophet Jeremiah had revealed deceit to be a key stumbling block to people knowing and hearing from God (Jer 9). Deceit is a filter to reality. Spiritually, it is a catalyst to religious illusions. Deceit and the religious illusions it creates impair the ability to hear from God and blemishes otherwise valid prophetic impartations.
The Snare of Deceit
The filter of deceit masks and replaces God’s thoughts, those of the Spirit of Truth, with that of man’s. Deceit blurs and distorts Truth. It undermines, and for those seduced by its illusions, impedes the power of God.
Jesus modeled the prophetic and the employment of God’s power. Yet, distorting the words of God and His authority has long been the enemy’s intent. From the beginning the tactic of deceit has been at the core of these distortions and illusions.
The prime target of this deceit has been those from within, from the elite of the religious leaders. The illusions perpetrated from ones such as this mar spiritual realties. This explains Jesus’ hard-line response to those He labeled as hypocrites. The deceit from those holding the religious and governing mantles in Jesus’ day was what trickled down from the top and distorted the perception that everyday people had of God.
Deceit pollutes. It is why Revelations notes that the ones practicing lies are destined for the lake of fire with the father of lies and his cohorts.
The Path and the Challenge
The Apostle Paul wrote that his highest aim in life was in knowing the Lord. This quest parallels that of the psalmist: “Teach me Your ways O Lord and I will walk in Your Truth. Unite my heart to fear Your name.” It was Paul’s highest priority and what he reached for with every fiber of his being.
Light and darkness do not coexist. Neither do deceit and Truth. The biblical word for sin means to miss the mark. It is missing God and His Truth. There is a difference between stumbling in sin and becoming a practicing sinner. The practice of sin creates an illusion of reality that justifies itself. There is redemption for the one who stumbles. Yet the fate for those practicing deceit, becoming promulgators of illusions of spiritual realties, is among the worst for those making a practice of missing the mark.
This is why Jesus said that the entrance to the Kingdom was by means of a narrow gate and the way was difficult. Persevering in this path takes a continual reach for God and His Truth and an undivided heart. The Kingdom of God operates on a totally different premise than the standards of the world. The path of God’s Kingdom represents a narrow corridor between life and death, between reality and illusion. Without the Lord’s metrics, it represents an impossible journey.
So, if the prime target of deceit is the religious elite, then the trickle-down strategy of illusions serves to give unique focus to the community of faith and then the character of individuals in that community. Its fruit undermines loyalty and divides relationships. This is where deceit manifests: within the context of relationships within the community and the character of its individuals. Within the character of an individual is the potential for the opposite pole to deceit: honesty, reality and truth. It is why the psalmist places such importance, first on speaking truth in our own hearts (Psalm 15).
On the relational community level the opposite pole to deceit is trust. Without trust there can be no relationship. Without trust there is no unity. Without trust and unity community fails. The practice of backbiting, gossip and slander are serious chinks in the protective armor served by community. They are the seedbeds that spread distrust and deceit. Deceit also undermines honor and authority, both vital currencies for the community of God’s people walking the Kingdom pathway. Without honor and authority, the self-absorbed and critical manifest and infect the community’s thinking. Maintaining the reality of God and the Lord’s metrics within community begins and ends with trust-based thinking.
Reality- and Illusion-Based Thinking
Jesus observed that Nathanael was an Israelite in whom there was no guile or deceit, a generational iniquity that has had a history as a plague to God’s chosen. Likewise, Scripture indicates that in this colliding of cultures of His day, that Jesus marveled at the Centurion’s faith. Jesus stated that He had never before seen such faith, not even in all of Israel! What Jesus observed was based on the Centurion’s thinking, his mind-set and his response to God, to truth and to authority.
The Centurion was a leader, a warrior experienced in facing the realities of life and death. He understood power and he understood authority. Like Nathanael, he was a man without guile. There was no pretense to his approach to Jesus, as he recognized and extended honor to the Messiah of Israel. He was a leader within a unique subculture in which those of pretense and phoniness would not survive the realities required of their profession. To be of his rank strongly suggests that he was not only combat tested, but seasoned in the reality of being a leader who had to make such life and death decisions.
Such experiences require what is called presence of mind. Presence of mind is being able to think on your feet, so to speak, under fire in extreme levels of pressure to maintain the focus of the mission, while simultaneously looking out for the welfare of those who depend on you. This is community and community leadership functioning at its ultimate. This is the type of thinking that understands risk and the relational loyalty captured by the epic TV mini-series “Band of Brothers.” This is tough-minded, reality-thinking that neither has room for nor wants to entertain trivia, distractions or illusions.
What I believe Jesus saw in this Centurion, based on the Centurion’s response to Jesus, was that his thinking sought to serve, while being alert to and decisive in assessing and responding to the natural and spiritual realities around him. Based on what He recognized in the Centurion, Jesus esteemed his faith above what He had observed among the Jews around Him, who were His first priority. The Centurion’s discernment and response to spiritual realities had resisted the illusions and penetrated the veil to gain the admiration of Messiah.
After Jesus’ resurrection, the thinking and faith of another Centurion, Cornelius, prompted God’s Holy Spirit to challenge the thinking of Peter, who had been groomed by Jesus in the spiritual realities, in order to close the gap to the reality of God for Cornelius and his household.
Seasoned military commanders, warriors, experienced in the realities they face under fire and the discipline needed to bring their people through battle are more inclined to spiritually see what is real despite the smokescreens. Amazingly and paradoxically, these Centurions were Romans who were a part of the persecutors of the Jews of Jesus’ era.
Yet, history reveals that the Roman conversions to Judaism in that day were substantial. As such, the stage was set for the restoration of the tabernacle of David as described in Acts 15. This references when David brought the community of God’s people together in unity. It is the model for what Scripture refers to as the restoration of the Kingdom. It is one of those biblical paradoxes that the mind-set of those leading the way into this grasp of spiritual reality, from outside the House of Israel, were high-level military commanders.
Yet on the other hand, the defiled, myopic thinking of King Saul, was driven by the illusions and idols in his mind and his need for the approval of men. It was his weak-minded thinking that led to his downfall and loss of what could have been a destiny among the heroes of faith. Saul’s undisciplined thinking was based not on the realities outlined by God, but the wandering imaginations that he allowed to be entertained in his mind.
Illusions and Reality
The spiritual controls the natural. The seedbed for the faith of Abraham to the faith of the Centurions is the imagination and the will. It is the realm that actuates the faith that determines the personal, relational and big-picture prospects in a person’s life. Jesus gave a glimmer into this dynamic in His warning that those recklessly entertaining anger in their minds could be guilty of murder. Faith takes that which is not in the natural and releases the process that brings it into being.
A vital dimension to discerning the realities of both the natural and spiritual realms of the Centurions just noted was their mind-set and response to the spiritual realities around them. Military thinking is by its very nature strategic, alert to the realities that are beyond what can be seen. It includes the machinations and tactics of an enemy, intent on masking realities with illusions in their deceptions to lure their adversaries into compromising situations and defeat.
Jesus projected that, even among those with long track records in navigating the narrow corridors of the Kingdom, they should not become naive, lax and sloppy in their response to the spiritual realities and too comfortable in their thinking. It bears on why Jesus warned about the climax of days, coming fast upon us, when the very elect would be subject to the deceit designed to undermine and bring unexpected defeat.
The Reach for Reality
With the reach for reality will come clarity for the pathway. Jesus said that with men, these things are impossible. But with God, all things are possible. What He was expressing was that without God, human effort for this pathway will fail.
As one begins to recognize and face the realities, then clarity for life — identity, purpose, destiny — will begin coming into focus. The process involves the filters and influences we allow into our thinking. The discipline entails the choices that comprise the priorities of our mind-sets. The thinking of the Centurion warriors grasped this and refused to waver in their quest for this reality.
One of the saddest of the illusions plaguing believers is reducing this reality to that of being a moral compass, which of course it entails, but is so very much more. It is what takes us beyond the gates into the realm of spiritual intensities and subtleties, requiring constant alertness to the risks and deceptions, but with that into what Scripture describes as the riches of His glory. What we grasp is in the reach. From generation to generation, those willing to face the risks and pay the cost have had the opportunity and responsibility to witness this reality.
Solomon is esteemed for his wisdom. In turning over the reins of the kingdom to Solomon, David counseled his son on both this reality and the means to reach for it. He admonished Solomon to know the Lord and to serve him with a blameless heart and willing mind. Then David gave Solomon a glimpse into this interaction he had known with the Lord saying: “For the Lord searches our hearts and minds and understands the wanderings of our thoughts.”
David also revealed something very significant in his own proactive interactions with the Lord in this transfer of the Kingdom: “All this”, said David, “the Lord made me to understand in writing, by His hand being upon me, all the works of these plans.” These are the elements in the discipline by which David sought and came to know God’s heart and then to serve Him. They provided the blueprint for the kingdom that brought Israel into the time of peace and awe of all around them, that the ensuing generation experienced. What they captured further enlightens us into why David was described as a man after God’s heart.
As much as any of the heroes of faith, David had discovered the wonders of the mind of the Lord and how to engage with Him. His life incorporated a hunger for and reach for the reality of God. David was not disappointed. What he entrusted to his son Solomon represented the fruit of a lifetime in his quest to know Him, along with his interactions with God. As it is written: “Seek the Lord and His strength. Seek His presence continually. Remember the works He has done, His wonders and the judgments He has pronounced.”
Then the prophet Isaiah gives us another glimmer of the magnitude and majesty of the thoughts of God: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than Your thoughts.” Isaiah touched the reality and the domain that is God. Hebraic thinking provided the path into this reality.
The Passage into Reality
Yet, while Hebraic thinking far supersedes worldly thinking, so Jesus, who raised the bar in giving access to the Kingdom realm, also observed that the thinking of the spiritually-hungry Centurion reflected a similar discipline and heart to what was evidenced in David’s priority and quest for knowing and serving the Lord.
The core of Jesus’ Kingdom message punctuated, fostered and enhanced the passage into this reality. The reality of God resides when the balance is driven not by human effort and ambition but the release of the power of God through thinking that is perfectly aligned with that of the Holy Spirit.
Having castigated the religious elite for their short-sighted thinking and promotion of religious illusions, Jesus thanked the Father for choosing to reveal what was spiritually significant to babes, whose grasp of this reality would distance themselves in their knowing and serving of God by that which was represented by the self-absorbed, critical religious phonies.
At issue, as it was in the beginning, is the connection between God and man, between the spiritual and the natural, the quest of which has a long track record of being scarred with counterfeit religious illusions. As it was in the days of Jesus, so today the target for the enemy’s most subtle strategies of deceit are the prophetic and the employment of the power of God. Jesus made it clear that there would be counterfeits, but never suggested that His followers pull in their horns in employing what brought awe to believers and non-believers alike during the days of the first-century Church.
The challenge to overcome the illusions, to release and sustain consistent reality, begins at the gates, at the gates of the Kingdom, with our thinking. The challenge, in truly knowing and serving Him, shouts that the journey doesn’t stop at gates. It continues through the narrow corridors connecting the spiritual and the natural involving issues of life and death. The unfolding journey is defined by the mysteries of God that comprise the wonders of His process of restoration.
As it has been written, the mystery of what is now manifesting in the saints had been hidden throughout the generations and past ages. What is now manifesting is the riches of the glory of Messiah abiding within the spirits of those who would believe, pay the cost and not falter in their thinking. The task is to reach for and be ambassadors of these metrics of the reality of God.
Morris Ruddick has been a forerunner and spokesman for the higher dimensions of business leadership since the mid-90s. As founder of Global Initiatives Foundation and designer of the God’s Economy Entrepreneurial Equippers Program, Mr. Ruddick imparts hope and equips economic community builders to be blessed to be a blessing where God’s light is dim in diverse regions around the globe.
He is author of “The Joseph-Daniel Calling;” “Gods Economy, Israel and the Nations;” “The Heart of a King;” “Something More;” “Righteous Power in a Corrupt World;” “Leadership by Anointing;” and “Mantle of Fire,” which address the mobilization of business and governmental leaders with destinies to impact their communities. They are available in print and e-versions from www.Amazon.com, www.apple.com/ibooks and www.BarnesandNoble.com.
Global Initiatives Foundation (www.strategic-initiatives.org) is a tax-exempt 501 (c) 3 non-profit whose efforts are enabled by the generosity of a remnant of faithful friends and contributors whose vision aligns with God’s heart to mobilize economic community builders imparting influence and the blessings of God. Checks on US banks should be made out to Global Initiatives and mailed to PO Box 370291, Denver CO 80237 or by credit card at http://strategicintercession.org/support/
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2018 Copyright Morris Ruddick — email@example.com
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