Truth was shared around the world in a way that the world could grasp. Some people might have difficulty getting past reports of drunkenness, destructive behaviors, drug use or swearing. Those are not condoned. There will always be those who do not understand boundaries. Just because those incidents happened does not mean that the whole event was bad. It serves as a reminder that what God does in us feels uncomfortable sometimes but we need to leave offence at the door and look past the unfamiliar and even weaknesses in others to what He wants to show us. God works through unusual, ridiculous-looking or foolish things to confound the wise. It may become an automatic write-off to Christians because of those things, yet each of the men on that team were written off in one way or another. Christ was also esteemed not. Don’t discount the message being conveyed. An ungodly spirit writes us off and tries to kill the life of God inside of us.
During the Pope’s 2015 visit, the city of Philadelphia responded by putting out 3,000 restroom facilities to accommodate the large crowd. There were only a little over 850 units put out during the Eagles parade. It’s no coincidence that a religious system requires more clean up! A religious spirit condemns and makes people feel terrible about themselves where the system is valued over the people. Many people have been wounded in the name of religion. Not pointing a finger at any one sect; this happens across the board. A religious spirit never allows someone to reach their full potential, but suppresses in some way. Scripture says we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against spiritual wickedness. Any denomination or church setting can fall prey to that and too often, personal relationships have suffered because of it which fosters disunity, backbiting, jealousy, dissention, selfish ambition and strife. Distractions keep us too busy fighting over pettiness or differences RATHER than coming together to the One who can actually help us! Disillusionment happens within the church as well as discouragement if we only focus on problems or feel we can’t do everything perfectly.
However, God isn’t looking for a perfect vessel. Our heartaches, wilderness periods or even the damage inflicted by a thoughtless, unkind and untrue presumption of His character ignorantly forced upon us is not what He ever intended for us. He is not content to leave His church body WOUNDED. He wants people to know the hurts we have carried from those things are not His will nor was a system supposed to replace a loving trust between Him and a uniquely valued human. Just as love has been demonstrated between the Eagles players with each other and the fans, He wants that kind of trust, love and enjoyment to be established between Himself and each individual. Pennsylvania is known as the keystone state. The key to having that kind of relationship is Jesus. God’s Son is the Mediator to reconcile all people to Him. Jesus was WOUNDED for our transgressions; He was bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement for our peace was upon Him and with His stripes we find healing! He suffered, bled and died on a cross for us. He bore all our hurts and even the punishment for all of our own wrongdoing. While we were yet sinners Christ died for us. He was then raised to NEW LIFE by the power of God working in Him. He was a willing vessel on our behalf.
Furthermore, God affirms and accepts other willing vessels – the ones who’ll say YES and go when it’s inconvenient, the ones who’ll get up at 4am to heed the call, the ones who’ll campout overnight in the cold, the ones who’ll stand for hours to usher in the presence. Thousands upon thousands of people created an unprecedented sound during the parade that reverberated throughout the city of Philadelphia. From the birthplace of independence, it was the sound of FREEDOM. Freedom from the past, freedom from critics, freedom from caring what people think of us, freedom from division. A Liberty Bell is ringing again! If ever we needed to listen to its sound, it is now.
It is a deeply personal message. We have all felt the pain of loss. We’ve all felt the pain of rejection. It hurts to lose, to be discounted, ignored, overlooked, and unsupported. That point was driven home to us. Jesus was also despised and rejected by men. But GOD is extending something DIFFERENT to us! There’s refreshing, there’s new life, new beginning, new healing and new promise for the future where we can flourish as we’re meant to flourish. We will know where our recognition and promotion come from - God, The Father, who wants to restore relationship, not only WITH us but TO us through Jesus. Because He overcame we will overcome loss and the pain associated with it.
The message is forged into our souls: Hungry dogs want it more. Let us BE HUNGRY for UNITY, restoration, brotherly love and affection. We couldn’t have had a better example of brotherly love between the two quarterbacks, Carson Wentz and Nick Foles. Let us support and encourage each other’s gifts and esteem them as better than ourselves. Let us stop having a narrow view and really listen to one another’s viewpoints and consider everything in an issue. It takes more than 1 to overcome challenges. We find encouragement in the book of Genesis, when Joseph was finally restored to his brothers after they sold him into slavery many years prior. Now in a position of authority, Joseph gave them new raiment to wear - a picture of grace extended and grace received. There is GRACE and FAVOR for restoration of relationships and we must purposefully commit to extend grace to each other. Just as the players changed to wear champion gear, and the brothers that had wronged Joseph changed what they were wearing, so will we WEAR a new identity. Just as they were united for a common cause, so will we unite and lay aside our differences to come under the leadership of the Head of the Church body, Christ Jesus.
No one predicted the Eagles would come as far as they did. God is saying LOOK AGAIN at the things we thought we had figured out. This extends to every area. Be aware of this regarding debates and arguments that we constantly find ourselves drawn into, particularly on social media. We seem to forget our identity as ONE body every time. We forget the authority we have in Christ which we are commissioned to release! This has happened over and over again like a broken record in the last several years, but that is changing! Natural things precede the spiritual. 1 Corinthians 15 explains the spiritual is not first, but that which is natural. God uses natural things to grab our attention. There is a difference between the first Adam, who fell from grace and introduced sin and suffering into the world and the Last Adam, Who redeemed us from the curse that sin and death brought. There is a difference between the first Philadelphia event in 2015 focused on one man and the second event in 2018 focused on a TEAM WORKING TOGETHER.
This brings up the point that we have been pastor-centric in the church. There’s a need to embrace the apostolic or 5-fold model mentioned in Ephesians 4, where ALL the offices are in use for the edification of the body of Christ. FIRST apostles, then prophets, evangelists, teachers and pastors. There is an order to the way the church works and we’ve relied too long on a model that burns out both pastors and their congregations. That’s not an excuse to stop participating in church or for disrespecting the office of pastor in any way. There needs to be a shift in church structure. We must allow the full expression of God to come forth. It will not happen so long as we cling to an old structure where we are content to let the pastor do all the work. Connect with the apostolic prototypes and begin to shift into the NEW. Our worship also needs to go beyond what we’re accustomed. There was such JOYFUL expression in the city of Philadelphia during the parade; we need joyful exuberance in our churches regardless of the type of service! A religious spirit opposes joy and expression. Expression can sometimes be messy, we can’t always tie a perfect ribbon around it. But we have to allow our hunger for God to move over rigid stagnation. Be willing to overcome fear and distrust of the gifts of The Spirit. If we suppress Holy Spirit, we suppress all that church is meant to be including full connection and understanding. We need to allow Holy Spirit to work in us. He comes to live in us when we are born again but that doesn’t mean we are yielded to Him in our lives or our worship. God is moving His body to the place where we are able to worship Him in freedom and truth.
Spiritual gifts are mentioned in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 such as prophesy, exhortation, words of knowledge, miracles, healings, tongues and interpretation of tongues. The spiritual fruit that goes hand in hand is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control found in Galatians 5. Love is what energizes the gifts. Without love they are clanging cymbals, noisy gongs and mean nothing - 1 Corinthians 13:1-2. If the fruit doesn’t match up with the gifts then something is out of order. Don’t throw out the gifts completely! Let God fix what’s out of order. The seven spirits of God mentioned in Proverbs 8 administers the gifts – wisdom, understanding, council, power, the spirit of The Lord, knowledge, and reverence. Philadelphia is associated with knowledge, which is actually sacrificial love. Knowledge identifies with and is compassionate toward suffering. When ONE member in the body suffers, we ALL suffer. We share in the pierced side of Christ, we share in the pierced sides of others. The woman was taken from the man’s side to co labor with Him. We all are co laboring together for the sake of the hope of the Gospel. In direct opposition to knowledge is a false witness uttering lies, certainly about our own identity and about the identity of others - Proverbs 6:19.
We need to stand up to opposition and say in the strongest terms possible, we will not be stopped! We won’t allow the devil’s opinions of us to hold us captive. The old traps and arguments he sets for us will no longer trip us up. We won’t participate in anything that fosters a spirit of disunity. Love covers the multitude of sins. Let the impact from events in the city of brotherly love encourage the church to greater expressions of love with each other no matter our differences, no matter our denomination. We won’t identify with what we thought of ourselves in the past, we will go forward into our future with boldness and confidence. God will not be stopped by a religious spirit or anything that’s trying to hold us in bondage and keep us from finding freedom. That’s a reason to come together and rejoice! Just as these players won a championship for us, Jesus won something much more valuable and eternal for us. The Lombardi trophy will eventually tarnish but the gift of salvation and freedom in finding and going forward in our true identity is eternal.