Some Assembly Required
Go and assemble the elders of Israel, and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying: I have given heed to you and to what has been done to you in Egypt. I declare that I will bring you up out of the misery of Egypt, to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.’ They will listen to your voice; and you and the elders of Israel shall go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us; let us now go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, so that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God.’ I know, however, that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand. So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all my wonders that I will perform in it; after that he will let you go. I will bring this people into such favor with the Egyptians that, when you go, you will not go empty-handed; each woman shall ask her neighbor and any woman living in the neighbor’s house for jewelry of silver and of gold, and clothing, and you shall put them on your sons and on your daughters; and so you shall plunder the Egyptians.”
For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work, but only until the one who now restrains it is removed. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will destroy with the breath of his mouth, annihilating him by the manifestation of his coming. The coming of the lawless one is apparent in the working of Satan, who uses all power, signs, lying wonders, and every kind of wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion, leading them to believe what is false, so that all who have not believed the truth but took pleasure in unrighteousness will be condemned.
Where two or three are gathered together… there the devil rears his ugly head.
We know God can be everywhere all at once. I’m not sure that the devil has that same ability, but he sure seems to get around. Leaders have the responsibility of keeping the devil out of their own lives, as well as the lives of those they lead. How can we do that, when we have such a difficult time pinning down the devil that causes chaos for us personally? What hope do we have to help others when we struggle to keep the devil out of our own homes?
I think scripture shows us that one of the best weapons we have is in the power of assembly. Our founding fathers, wisely kept this as one of our basic human rights and it has spread throughout the world as a cherished ability for all. How does assembly help us defeat the devil? It helps us in two ways.
- Assembly counters the devil’s own tactics of divide and conquer. When you look at the statistics and hear the stories of those who truly suffer from spiritual oppression, mental illness, addiction, and suicide – all of the many weapons of destruction the devil wields against us – a pattern of isolation emerges. Those who routinely suffer defeat are most often left alone, without the support of a loving, spiritual community of any sort. Even in the extreme cases of abuse at the hands of other people, those family or relational groups causing abuse and trapping their victims, tend to be isolated themselves from the greater population of people, hiding their victims away from the light of day for fear of exposure. The devil does his deeds in the dark because he knows that exposure to the light of day and the light of truth give his victims hope and power to break free. If isolation is the devil’s trap than association and assembly are the key to freedom.
- Secondly, as Paul remarks above, the lawless one, the perpetrators of evil, and the devil itself are revealed for who they are when we gather together. Sometimes this comes through intentional accountability – checking in with each other and sharpening each other as iron sharpens iron. Other times, it occurs without our own direction, as when evil spirits revealed themselves when Jesus preached in the synagogue. When truth is revealed and the light is shined, the devil cannot hide. Even if there is no preaching, there is opportunity to share and compare truth in assembly together, and as we begin to reflect on our common story together, forming healthy, loving relationships with one another, that darkness tends to be revealed as well.
The challenge we often have is not in the ability to get together itself, but the motivation to do so. This is compounded when we have had experiences with others where that darkness in our own lives was revealed. In those instances we can either claim that darkness for ourselves (which is what the devil tells us we should do) and run and hide, or we can give it up in surrender and let it go.
James 5:16 says
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”
Confession releases us from that power of bondage, and while we can certainly confess to God in private, the real healing power of it is when we confess it before our brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus paid the price for our forgiveness Himself, and He shares that power of distribution of that grace with us. If you have truly confessed your sin to God and it has no power over you, you should be able to share the truth of that sin and the forgiveness you have with others. That is when the devil has truly lost.
As leaders, our best defense against the devil is a good offense, and the best play we have begins with assembling the people together. There, where two or three are gathered together, the devil will rear his ugly head… and there he will be confronted by the presence of Jesus Christ, the Risen Son of God living among us.
Where do you find spiritual strength and encouragement in the company of others?
‘Who is God calling you to call into fellowship?