May 9th, 2019
If you watch nature documentaries at all, it is almost certain you’ve observed a large cat seeking to separate an impala from the rest of the herd so they can more easily take it down.
It is a tactical maneuver the cheetah has learned through experience. One solid impact from the hooves of the impala could disable and at worst end the life of the cheetah.
Because of this, the cat will observe a herd and determine where the greatest vulnerability is, then attack at that point to isolate what it perceives is the weakest and easiest to separate from the pack.
Once the target is isolated from the rest of the herd, the cheetah has a much easier time wearing down its prey, pursuing it, clawing at it to weaken it and slow its attempt to escape, then finally grabbing it by the neck to bring it down at which point the outcome is almost inevitable.
If I would offer a moral to this, it would be that “Isolation Kills”.
Be sober-minded, be alert. Your adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. Resist him, firm in the faith, knowing that the same kind of sufferings are being experienced by your fellow believers throughout the world.
1 Peter 5:8-9 (CSB)
The devil, our enemy uses a similar tactic to defeat us. While he cannot eliminate us because we have been given life eternal, his aim is something far easier than destruction. Peter’s text uses the image of a big cat that is seeking its prey just as we opened with today.
He knows if he can get us in a state of isolation that while he will be able to potentially take us out of effective service for our Lord and Master.
There are two ways that our isolation can be accomplished.
Isolation from God
The foremost is to cause damage to the relationship we have with our Lord.
When we gave our lives to Jesus one of the miraculous things that took place as a result was Jesus placing his Spirit in us. A permanent residence in us for the Holy Spirit. This wasn’t to provide housing for the Holy Spirit. For millennia, the Holy Spirit got along just fine without occupying the bodies of believers. The Spirit’s presence in us is for our benefit.
Life – The Spirit gives us life!
And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, then he who raised Christ from the dead will also bring your mortal bodies to life through his Spirit who lives in you.
Romans 8:11 (CSB)
This life in us is what prevents Satan’s ultimate victory over us. He can bring us down, but he can’t take us our, because the same spirit that raised Christ Jesus from the dead, brings life to US!
Guide, interpreter, conveyor – The Spirit does so many things that benefit us.
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth. For he will not speak on his own, but he will speak whatever he hears. He will also declare to you what is to come. He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you. Everything the Father has is mine. This is why I told you that he takes from what is mine and will declare it to you.
John 16:13-15 (CSB)
First, we see that the Holy Spirit functions as our Truth Guide. Without the Spirit we wouldn’t be able to comprehend the scripture which only he can disclose to us.
We have talked before about reading passages we have read many times and suddenly from the text comes this clarity of understanding that wasn’t there a second earlier. That is the Spirit at work in us.
Because the Spirit functions as our Guide, the enemy will do what he can to convince us to not cooperate with the Spirit and question what he directs us to. If he can dull our response to the direction of the Holy Spirit, he effectively drives a wedge between us and God.
Next is the interpreter function. Just what does, “he will not speak on his own, but he will speak whatever he hears.” mean? It tells us two things, really.
The Holy Spirit tells us what God is saying to us. Most will be familiar with the passage that tells us that God’s thoughts are far from our thoughts. God’s wisdom and knowledge is far beyond our understanding, but with the Spirit living in us as this interpreter he explains to us the essence of what God has to tell us.
The other side of this interpretive function is our communication with God. It’s wonderful to hear someone express their heart through prayer to the Lord, but let’s be honest with ourselves, even if we’ve learned to express our heart in corporate prayer settings, find times when we have burdens we can’t verbalize in our prayers.
The Spirit is there to listen to our heart and express that to our Lord and not just to get the concept of what our yearning is, but to express it as a sweet song from our heart to God’s.
Finally, the other major thing that the Spirit does, because of being present in us, is this conveyor role.
I’ve not heard anyone use this exact term but for me it describes the similar function to what the Spirit does with our communication between God and us and applies it to the benefits God doles out to us.
“He will also declare to you what is to come. He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you. Everything the Father has is mine. This is why I told you that he takes from what is mine and will declare it to you.”
So, in effect, Jesus seems to tell us that the Holy Spirit conveys these things to us. These declarations serve to glorify Jesus because of the difference that Christ makes in the life of a believer. The riches of the Father are conveyed to Jesus and from Jesus they are conveyed to us.
Anything that the devil can do to disrupt this activity helps to isolate us. The enemy has no power over the Holy Spirit, so the attack is at our weak point, our flesh to separate us from God by shutting down these essential elements of communication.
Isolation from the pack
The other focus of the enemy is to cut us away from the pack just as the big cat does its prey.
And let us watch out for one another to provoke love and good works, not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching.
Hebrews 10:24-25 (CSB)
It’s interesting to note here that this attack of the devil begins in a similar manner to the last warning we reviewed in first Peter. There it opens with, “Be sober-minded, be alert.” Here Paul starts this with, “And let us watch out”.
The impala has a greater level of security when they remain with the herd. It is only when the cheetah manages to get one isolated.
I once stated the words, “I can worship God anywhere. I don’t need the organized church to fellowship with God.”
I was wrong! At this point in my life I was running away from God with all my ability. It wasn‘t till later when I realized that I needed both God and his people to fully thrive in his grace.
While it is true, we can worship God anywhere and we indeed should, doing this apart from the assembly of believers is to allow ourselves to be cut from the pack. We don’t need a local church body to fellowship with God, but if we take action to remove ourselves from that body, we only damage to ourselves because we are further isolated and vulnerable.
If we are by ourselves how can we possibly, “provoke love and good works” in others? We cannot! The gathering together of the body of Christ is the means to strengthen every member.
There is a collective strength that comes from us binding together that is undeniable. Let’s look at what God said about the people of Babble…
The Lord said, “If they have begun to do this as one people all having the same language, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let’s go down there and confuse their language so that they will not understand one another’s speech.”
Genesis 11:6-7 (CSB)
Even the lost get a collective strength that God acknowledges in his word. God saw that this assembly of humanity could and would seek to fly in the face of his grace and mercy. They were all about inflating themselves and challenging the creator.
To mitigate this, God chose to baffle them by swapping out their speech with a variety of different languages and dialects. This resulted in breaking the masses into their own language groups and spreading them out from Babble.
Now consider, if God did this to prevent them from merging their power in unity how much do we limit our effectiveness by isolating ourselves from the local body of believers? How to the church’s in our communities limit their potential by not partnering with like-minded organizations?
Just think of the potential we as the Body of Christ Jesus leave on the table because we choose to be separated into little groups that don’t talk to each other, do not share burdens, and do not provoke each other to good works?
The opportunity is staggering! And “Isolation Kills”, so we shouldn’t neglect the assembly of ourselves together.
In the Grace of Jesus!