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Chasing the Serpents into the Sea


What is the difference between a disciple and an apostle? A disciple is a student under a schoolmaster, and an apostle is a student that has graduated and is sent out (chosen) by the teacher to share wisdom through the knowledge they gained, to do works by faith, and to establish churches (Ecclesia) along the way.  But this doesn’t mean a building, it means the body, building up a body of believers. In Scripture there is a transition mentioned from disciple to apostle in Luke 22:14 – “When the hour had come, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him.”  The Last Supper was a significant turning point in both Scripture and history, because this was the last time Jesus shared a meal with His disciples before his death.


Disciples are called to be more than followers of Christ. They are to share the Gospel, teach the Word, and express great humility as servants of the Lord. The disciple is obedient to the teacher and aspires to live a life of sanctification and to emulate the teacher. In Matthew 16:24-28 Jesus instructs His disciples – “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.’ ”


Denying ourselves means dying to ourselves, our selfish ego, our carnal desires, and submitting to the Lord. This is a full surrender to Yahweh. Taking up our cross also can mean we will take on whatever suffering we must bear in His name, such as persecution. Matthew 10:21-23 Jesus reveals what His disciples must endure – “‘Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.’” Taking up our cross is not an easy feat but we don’t have to carry this burden alone. We are told in Galatians 6:2 – “‘Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” As our brothers and sisters in Christ travel this narrow path, we should all be helping each other along the way. This can be done through edification and holding each other accountable.


 1 Thessalonians 5:11-13 commands – “Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing. And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves.”  Comforting one another is not the same as just giving hugs or being a shoulder to cry on. Being a comforter is also equipping one another with the weapons and armor needed to fight a battle. This armor is the “Armor of God” described in Ephesians 6:10-20 – “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle with flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done it all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.”


Throughout history we learn of many people with the title of “Saint”. Some of the most notable are St. Francis of Assisi, St. Joan of Arc, St. Augustine, St. Nicolas, and even St. Patrick. There are so many to name, and their works reflected their name. In Ephesians 2:19-22, the apostle Paul  reveals a believer’s true citizenship – “Now therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” Jesus Christ is our cornerstone, and The Holy Spirit is the capstone that holds us together and covers us. We are sinners made saints, now joint-heirs with a desire for the things of the Lord.


Many of these saints that are renowned for heroic acts are apostolic and have done the works Jesus called believers to do. Saint Francis of Assisi was considered the patron saint of animals (he preached and sung hymns to the birds) and ecology. He also succeeded in preaching the Gospel to Muslims in Egypt. The Sultan al-Kamil was even said to have converted to Christianity in secret.


St. Joan of Arc was the patron saint of France, although she was burned at the stake at the age of nineteen for claims of heresy. She was martyred by the Roman Catholic Church and was a valiant defender in the French army. She claimed to have visions from the Lord, and the gift of the discernment of spirits. She used these gifts to form strategies for war against the English, and was strengthened in battle, always present on the frontlines. These are just a few characteristics of a saint.


At the start of his conversion to Christianity, St. Augustine of Hippo became a preacher sharing up to ten thousand of sermons. His main goal was always to encourage salvation for those listening to the lesson, and he was relentless in his pursuit to convert others through the teaching of soteriology with a central focus on human will.


In addition, we have St. Nicolas, the well-known bishop that attended the Council of Nicaea and slapped another bishop named Arius for arguing that Jesus was not equal to God. He stood by his beliefs and was faithful to the council defending the theology of Christianity. He is also the kind and cheerful giver that inspired the modern Santa Claus.


Saint Patrick was a more well-known saint. He was an apostle as well. Although he was deemed the Patron Saint of Ireland he was born in Roman Britain, he was kidnapped by Irish Pirates at the age of sixteen and forced to serve as a shepherd for six years. This led to him converting even though his father was Calpurnius, a deacon in the early Christian church. He didn’t always believe in the Christian faith, but his experience as a shepherd resulted in the “scales” being lifted off his eyes. Even with this newfound sight and renewed faith, it wasn’t long before the French captured him, and he learned the concept of Monasticism there. This idea embraces “monkhood” and a worldview of abstinence, surrendering instead to the endeavor of spiritual maturity which can be the way God defines perfection. Patricius had a prophetic dream concerning apostleship and bringing Christianity to the mostly pagan country of Ireland.


Indeed, he did, chasing serpents into the sea. These “snakes” St. Patrick was said to have cast out of Ireland was a descriptive metaphor for the pagan/druid community. A Gnostic cult known as the Naasenes were said to be included in the snake reference. This theory holds weight because the serpent described in the book of Genesis that deceived Eve in the garden was idolized for worship. They believed that through worship of the serpent they would gain the knowledge of God. This would be considered divination, as well as idolatry. If it wasn’t of God, it needed to be cast into the sea! Saint Patrick was deemed a zealot while he dealt fairly and justly with the non-believers, but as much as he was loved, he was also hated. “Power Evangelism” was his weapon of choice as he waged war against pagan customs. He worked miracles to reach the people of Ireland, performing baptisms, and raising the dead (thirty-three men to be exact, mentioned in his hagiography).


Through testimony he shared God’s goodness, and through these actions of charity and resurrection power the hearts of the Irish heathens were changed. In John 9:3 Jesus explains to His disciples why a man was born blind – “Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.’ “It was for the Glory of God to be revealed that this man was born blind, to open not only the spiritual eyes of the blind man but also for the unbelieving to believe. Sometimes it takes the “Shock and Awe” approach to open the eyes of the blind.


During his life, St. Patrick helped establish three hundred churches across Ireland. This gave way to mass conversions to Christianity (especially successful with sons of kings being taught/guided), an increase in fellowship, the ordination of new priests, and leading women into nunhood. Although he once doubted his capacity to accomplish these things, his obedience to the Lord gave him confidence to grow. God once told the young prophet Jeremiah in Jeremiah 1:7-8 – “But the Lord said to me: ‘Do not say ‘I am a youth’, for you shall go to all whom I send you, and whatever  I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of their faces, For I am with you to deliver you, ‘Says the Lord.” Patricius was strengthened and believed in Christ in him to walk as a disciple first, and later was called to be an apostle.  This widespread success is worthy of commemoration, and we celebrate all that was accomplished on March seventeenth every year with a holiday known as “St. Patrick’s Day”.


This celebration entails a feast and drinking, sometimes to excess. We are advised to wear green (at the threat of being pinched) because it was an act of solidarity for the Irish Rebellion in 1798. We also tend to obsess over the shamrock in the US this time of year. Although this occasion has been hijacked by a sinful nation, elements such as the shamrock is believed to be a symbol of the Godhead (Trinity) used by St. Patrick to teach this concept as described in 1 John 5:7-8 – “For there are three that bear witness in heaven: The Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three are one.”  Although, there is no definitive evidence for the shamrock meaning, it is a very reasonable explanation nonetheless. The Irish already held the number three in high regard because of Celtic beliefs. They placed value on numbers like in Hebrew Numerology although their views were contrary to Christianity. The number three represented the three realms (land, sea, and sky) or the concept of their gods, un-gods, and ancestors. This was also symbolic of the three points of time: past, present, and future. Aside from “sacred geometry,” three points form a triangle representing unity.


St. Patrick encouraged unity between the Protestants and the Catholics! He stressed the importance of immigration and placed emphasis on slavery and refugees. This was a result of his own experience with being a victim of human trafficking. Although he was captured and forced into servitude, he was transformed through his trials. Patricius was a man of God that relied heavily on prayer for guidance and unity. When confronting the Druids at Tara, its is believed that St. Patrick recited the “Faeth Fiadha” (deer’s cry) – “I bind to myself today, The strong virtue of the Incarnation of Christ with His baptism, The virtue of His Crucifixion with His burial, The virtue of His Resurrection with His Ascension, The virtue of His coming on the Judgment Day. I bind to myself today, The virtue of the love of the seraphim, In the obedience of angels, In the hope of the resurrection unto reward, In prayers of Patriarchs, In predictions of Prophets, In preaching of Apostles, In faith of Confessors, In purity of holy Virgins, In deeds of righteous men. I bind to myself today, The power of Heaven, The light of the sun, The brightness of the moon, The splendor of fire, the flashing of lightning, The swiftness of wind, The depth of the sea, The stability of the earth, The compactness of rocks. I bind to myself today. God’s power to guide me, God’s might to uphold me, God’s wisdom to teach me, God’s eye to watch over me, God’s ear to hear me, God’s word to give me speech, God’s hand to guide me, God’s way to lie before me, God’s shield to shelter me, God’s host to secure me, Against the snares of demons, Against the seductions of vices, Against the lusts of nature, Against everyone who meditates injury to me, Whether far or near, Whether few or many. I invoke today all these virtues, Against every hostile, merciless power, Which may assail my body and my soul, Against the incantations of false prophets, Against the black laws of heathenism, Against the false laws of heresy, Against the deceits of idolatry, Against every knowledge that binds the soul of man and woman. Christ protect me today, Against poison, Against burning, Against drowning, Against death-wound, That I may receive abundant reward. Christ be with me, Christ be before me, Christ behind me, Christ be with me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me. Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ at my right, Christ at my left, Christ be in the fort, Christ be in the chariot, Christ be in the ship, Christ in quiet, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me. I bind to myself today, The strong  virtue of the invocation of the Trinity. I believe in the Trinity in the Unity, The Creator of the Universe. Amen.”


There is a legend behind this inspiration for this prayer that claims St. Patrick and his eight friends were transformed temporarily into deer to evade capture from the king’s guardsmen. There is no physical evidence to verify this event happened, but it is still possible with God using him to work miracles, and the group was elusive. He was successful in his missions, so there was divine intervention at work as he set out to convert people, teach/preach the Word of God, and show God’s love and power through many works that supported his teachings.


He traveled across the country, building churches, schools, monasteries, and converting  citizens into chiefs/bards. Because of these miracles and wonders, we should remember to celebrate this day not as a day to drink until we are drunk, but to thirst for the living water, and hunger for the children’s bread. We should make a joyful noise and rejoice in the “voice of God” and acknowledge it as the ONLY source of Truth. During this early example of evangelism Biblical principles were taught, proved, and realized through miraculous acts.


At first St. Patrick did not gain favor on the mainland, so he retreated to the smaller surrounding islands and gathered followers that could witness along to the population which resulted in a more receptive audience. He had a boldness and confidence in Christ that led to him reaching the heathen and digging up the roots of unbelief and disobedience. The secret to his success was no secret! He listened to the voice of truth instead of relying on the traditions of men. This truth is made evident in Colossians 2:6-10 – “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.”


March is a month of prayer! This holiday isn’t a frat party, it is a time of feasting and moves of God. It is a time for Romans 12:10-13 to be put into action (and beyond throughout the year) – “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.”




Happy St. Patrick’s Day!