Authority to Tread on Serpents

An old American comic strip called Pogo made famous an old saying from the War of 1812: “We have met the Enemy and he is us!” We seem to thrive on keeping track of enemies, real and imagined. And by doing so, we think we are staying “safe.”

I always find it a bit ironic when the claims to safety are the loudest among people. It usually betrays a real character flaw and a lack of maturity. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean being foolish with our lives. But I do wonder if the cries of “Safety” have devolved into a rhetorical device to avoid criticism or correction. “I don’t feel safe” has become the poster child of perpetual adolescence.

The truth is it is actually important on getting enemies and real threats right. In fact, the inability to properly discern real enemies and real threats are at the heart of our current societal crisis of meaning. This poverty of discernment has led to the false notion that humans are our enemies, politics is our enemy, and people who “vote” wrong are our enemies. The challenge for today is the actual confrontation with the real enemy.

Look at our Lesson today in Luke 10:16-21:

The Lord said to his disciples, “He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name! ” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven. ” In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.”

Jesus empowers His 70 disciples to go on an evangelical mission around Israel spreading the message of the Kingdom of God. When they return they are so very excited about how “even the demons are subject to us in your name.” Sounds like the men had great success.

But notice the reaction of Jesus, and learn a deep and powerful lesson for your own life.

After the 70 report their success, Jesus confirms their report by telling them “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” The Lord reminds the disciples that He was there when haughty Lucifer was cast down from his lofty place. And then the Lord tells them that He has given them “authority” (an important word. Keep it in mind) to put the enemy in his proper place: under their feet! Jesus assures them that the true enemy is no match for the “authority” He SHARES with them. Jesus shares His “authority” over the enemies of your life with you as you live in and for Him. This “authority” gives you the discernment to tell an enemy from a friend, and to tease out where the enemy is and not shoot at the wrong person!

But Jesus reveals the KEY to actually using this shared “authority” well and properly when He tells His disciples and us that we should not gloat over the ability to put down enemies. That haughty spirit is simply too much like the spirit that got Lucifer banished from the Divine Council in heaven! No, we must always exercise His authority from a place of humility and gratitude that we are GIVEN this blessing; we didn’t “earn” it! It is precisely this loving gratitude to God that protects me from misusing authority or power. This humble perspective is at the heart of my ability to discern the true enemy and not to see any human as my enemy. The truth is “we have met the enemy and he IS US!”

My true enemy lies in my own heart in those places where my soul is still asleep to repentance and humility. My true enemy is that choice, that motivation, that action that betrays my words of devotion to God. That is the enemy that needs to be dethroned from my life. And when the true enemy can get me distracted by conning me into seeing my religious or political opponents as enemies, or even members of my own household, he knows he can get me to misuse this given “authority” and undo my own spiritual growth. Blinded by fear or anger, I stumble into the slavery of wasted energy and missed opportunities.

Today, are you able to discern the real enemy of your life? Are you wasting precious time and energy fighting all these “external enemies” and being conned into ignoring or neglecting the true fight you need to have? It’s time to reorient your life towards that which is an actual danger to your soul and become Orthodox on Purpose!

P.S. Dear Lord, You rejoiced to see Your disciples defeat the enemies of the Kingdom of God, but You warned them not to get distracted by their victories. Too often I simply don’t take the time to discern where the real enemy is in my life and I find my peace destroyed by temporary things that shouldn’t be allowed to rob me of my insight. I name others “enemies” when they are struggling with internal “enemies” themselves. Please forgive me for this distraction and grant me the humility and patience to first rejoice in Your love and salvation that You have given me and then give me the grace to have that motivate my discernment of the true enemy of my life. Amen

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