Monday, 10 April 2017

What are you filled with?

This week - Holy Week - I am reading through the last chapters of Luke which tell the story of Jesus' Passion. Today is Luke 22:1-23 and my thoughts settled on verse 3 today where Luke tells us:

"Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve." 

It is not wrong to feel pity for Judas. As the saying goes "there for the grace of God go I" and so who knows what we would have done caught up in the same circumstances? However Satan does not enter or gain access to our thought processes and manipulate our wills unless he is given an opportunity, which is why the advice of the Bible is always to watch and pray, using the prayer Jesus gave us in the Lord's prayer which, as you remember, says "lead us not into temptation but deliver from evil" (the actual wording is more correctly translated "from the evil one"). Judas, despite his very close proximity to Jesus, let his defenses drop and Satan "entered" and gained access to him and the rest, as they say, is history.

But here is the question. Laying aside the more extreme understandings of our text to one side (did Satan possess him etc), what are we allowing to fill us? What are we filled with? That which is good or that which is evil? That which will lead us upon ever darkening paths, or that which will lead us towards the light?

In the letter to the Ephesians Paul admonishes his readers not to become drunk with wine but be filled with the Spirit (see Ephesians 5:18). The context is Paul warning the Ephesians to be on their guard against "the fruitless deeds of darkness" (5:11) and to "wake up" (5:14) and take every care about that they live their lives "not as unwise but as wise" (5:15) "making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil" (5:16). He tells them to avoid being filled with wine, "which leads to debauchery" (5:18) but instead to be filled with something (or someone) which will lead them in the right direction. The presence of God Himself in the person of the Holy Spirit.

The point here, in both texts, is that we can be 'filled' with that which is good and beneficial or we can be filled with something that is the opposite. What are you and I filled with? Who is it at the centre of our life and existence? If it is the Lord, who is the Spirit, then we will move and walk in the light. Anything else and we run the risk of being like Judas. We will betray the Lord and be filled with a darkness that eventually leads to death and destruction. Judas gave in the devil and this led to the crucifixion of Jesus.

I admit everything is not as black and white as I have painted it. People cannot be divided into good and bad as easily as that and most, if not all, are a mixture of both. But the point I am making is that we nevertheless have to be careful about what we dedicate ourselves to, and what path we follow in light. There are, ultimately, says Jesus, only two paths. One is narrow and challenging but leads to life. The other is broad and easy and leads to ultimate destruction. Our choices are important. What 'fills' us is important.

We don't have to look far to see contemporary examples of this today with the atrocities of Isis across the globe and the recent suicide bomb attack in Egypt in a Coptic Church. How many today have opened their hearts to darkness and bring destruction on others?

Today is the funeral of the policeman PC Keith Palmer who was killed in such a violent and senseless way by Khalid Masood. Masood, like Judas, appears to have given up his life to the darkness and let it rule him. The result was devastation and the loss of innocent lives. So be on your guard. What fills you will control you. Be filled with the Spirit, the same Spirit Paul tells the Galatians, which will produce nothing but good fruit in those who yield their lives up to God (Galatians 5:22-23). Such people will see love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control grow in their lives.

What - or who - are you filled with? Be filled with the Spirit.

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