I suppose Satan shall not love you…

opposition

Consider this fact:  Satan was created during the first week of creation.  He has been functioning in his role as the deceiver and accuser since the time of Adam and Eve.  He has a host of angels (commonly known as demons) who assist him in his efforts on Earth.  He is called in before God with all of the angels and heavenly principalities to give an account of their efforts on Earth:  he knows God, he knows God’s character and he knows the Bible.  Everything that we read in Scripture Satan not only knows from reading it, but he was present when the events happened and the words were written.

In short, he has much greater power than we do, he knows the Bible better than we do, he knows the prophecy of the End Times better than we do, and while his every action is governed by God, he is intentionally seeking to deceive and destroy believers as well as keeping others distracted from the Truth so as to not become believers.  He wants to make us ineffective as disciples and disciple makers and destroy as many as possible as he himself is headed to an eternity in Hell (Rev 20.10).

All of that being said, Satan is neither omnipotent nor omnipresent.  He does have demons who can keep account of things that are happening, but he himself cannot be everywhere at all times.  Therefore, the chances of us personally being attacked by him are slim.  The chances of us being attacked or influenced by demons, however, is not only high; it will happen.  Satan and his demons know the temptations, the desires and the tendencies of this world.  He knows that most Americans will not be affected by the supernatural but will be easily distracted by lusts and sin:  money, sex, reputation, success, entertainment, etc.  They also will learn our personal tendencies and be able to tempt us and draw us back into our sins of habit if we do not develop strategies for fighting these.

In the most clever of situations, the demonic forces will even utilize religion and the Bible to distract or tempt us.  When Satan encountered Jesus, he tempted Him utilizing Scripture.  Thankfully Jesus knew the Scripture better and was able to recognize the twisting and false interpretations of it – and respond with Truth (quoting other Scripture that exemplifies the heart of God!).  We will find this in false teachers throughout the world!  Thus Jesus warns us to beware of false teachers:

“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”

– Matt 7.15

We must also be aware that Satan and his demons will not like efforts that we as the church and we as individuals make to make disciples of the world.  John Newton, the famous hymn writer, had an often simple yet profound way to communicate the Gospel and encourage people.  A man named Henry Martyn who was desiring to be a missionary and had been met with opposition.  People told him that he had an “insipid and inanimate manner in the pulpit”.  Newton, however, refuted each of the criticisms which he had been dealt with hope.  Most poignantly, when Martyn brought up the opposition that he might meet along the way, Newton simply said,

“I suppose Satan shall not love you for what you are about to do.”

Many had sought to oppose Martyn, but he was confident in God and his calling, and after being encouraged by Newton, he moved to India where he translated the entire New Testament into Urdu, Persian and Judaeo-Persic, as well as the Psalms and other books.

If we are about the things of the Lord, Satan and his demons will oppose our efforts.  This should not deter us, however.  He opposed and tempted Jesus – utilizing the most deceitful of methods:  pitting Scripture against Jesus!  We must know His tactics and we must know God.  We must have discernment and ability to rightly read and interpret Scripture.  And most importantly, we must remain strong in the face of opposition – because He will oppose us.  He will not love us for serving God.

The Most Successful Scheme of the Devil.

wolf

The workings of the devil and the Spiritual world are an interesting topic nowadays.  Some Christian denominations err on the side of ignoring the Spiritual world, considering it only as far as Jesus saving our souls.  Our scientific worldview keeps us from acknowledging those things we cannot understand or perceive.  We live our lives as though the Holy Spirit and the demons do not exist.  Other Christian denominations overemphasize the Spiritual world, requiring people to speak in tongues as a mark of their salvation, looking for a demon under every leaf and attributing all temptations and difficulties in the world to demonic forces.  I was raised in the former but spent four years living on an island amongst tribal people who are heavily involved in witchcraft, and thus was exposed to a spiritual realm which I had never seen before, and while I still cringe when people call someone or something demonic, I am much more aware of daily Spiritual warfare.

“Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

– Eph 6.11-12

If we would claim to be Christians, we must acknowledge the Spiritual world.  Not only at the level of our souls and Jesus’ intervention for their salvation, but as to the existence of demons.  Jesus Himself not only believed in demons, but He talked to them, and exercised authority over them.  Scripture is also clear, however, that many times our temptations and trials are a direct result of our own sinful flesh – not the influence of an outside force.  We are wicked enough in our own sinful nature to preform many of the sins we do (James 1.13-16).

Satan has been around since the beginning of time.  He has had thousands of years to perfect His schemes, and He understands cultures, personalities and how to best work within and against them.  He might be more active on the supernatural level in cultures where people are driven by fear and open to believing in miracles, while he might be more active on the academic level in cultures like ours.  But all-in-all, the greatest victory he will have is to convince people that their souls are safe when indeed they are not.

Paul wrote a lamentation and instructional letter to the Church he planted at Galatia.  The Galatians were not Jews, they were Gentiles.  He preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ to them and they believed.  After he left, however, Judaizers came in and attempted to convince the Gentiles that they had to be circumcised and obey the Jewish Law on top of their faith in order to be saved, and the Gentiles fell for it.  In addressing their spiritual situation, Paul makes an astounding statement:

“However at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods.  But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again?  You observe days and months and seasons and years.  I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain.”

– Gal 4.8-11

It is no surprise that Paul would argue that the Galatians, before they heard of Jesus and salvation through Him, were slaves to demons – those spiritual beings who are not gods.  They were real beings, by which the Galatians were enslaved, but they were not real gods.  They were not God.  What is shocking, however, is that Paul would claim that they were returning to slavery to such gods.  The Galatians were not returning to witchcraft or idol worship.  The Galatians were being tempted by Jews to follow the Law of the Old Covenant.  And Paul says that that is demonic, and could possibly prove their faith to be worthless and his efforts in vain.

This is the greatest threat to the Church.  There are countless people who not only attend Church, but are the most faithful servants within the Church because they believe that their deeds, their obedience and their piety will save them.  They obey the Ten Commandments, they get up and read the Bible in the mornings, they teach Sunday School, share the Gospel with everyone and shovel the parking lot when it snows.  They look really good on the outside.  But their deeds and actions are not based out of love and desire to please God, their actions are based out of self-righteousness and desire to earn their salvation and put God in their debt.

The reason this is so important is that such a one can look identical to the one who knows and loves God.  When we come to God for salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, God takes away our old, wicked hearts and gives us new hearts that love Him, are inclined to Him, and long to serve Him because we love Him (John 14).  He give us the gift of the Holy Spirit who convicts us of sin and empowers us to die to sin (John 16.8).  He changes us from the inside.  But when someone who simply desires to be rescued from Hell reads the Bible, he thinks that if he obeys the Bible then he will be saved by nature of being a good person in His own strength.

Both people obey the Bible.  Both people serve the Church.  However, one is saved and one is not.  And Paul states undeniably that the one who is unsaved is actually enslaved to demons:  spiritual forces who are not gods.  Satan knows the Bible, he knows the commands of Jesus, and he tricks and deceives many into believing that they are spiritually secure by enslaving them to Jesus’ commands without knowing Jesus, without loving Him.

So let us stop and examine our hearts today.  On what foundation are you basing your life and eternity?  Jesus has promised that those who have been saved will be sanctified and changed – made more into His image.  Are you being changed?  Do you obey Jesus?  If not, then you need to meet Him.  If you do obey Jesus, what is your motivation?  What is your drive?  Do you find pleasure in the work?  Or is it a chore that you enact in order to be a good person and hopefully be saved ultimately?  Is the Holy Spirit dwelling within you, enabling you to change and convicting you of sin?  Or do you read the Bible and force yourself to comply, against your Spirit?  If obedience is not a pleasure, then you need to meet Jesus.  Do not let the enemy give you false assurance of your salvation.  Do not live life in your own strength, only to be disappointed at judgment day.  Examine your heart.  Guard your heart.  And love Jesus lavishly.  Eternity depends on it.

Satan disguises himself as an angel of light, as a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  He will entice us by what we desire most, he will not look like a threat.  He will look beautiful, tempting and alluring.  If you want to beat your enemy, you must know his tactics.  No one goes into battle without a battle plan.  Let’s draw ours up today.

Do demons really flee at the name of Jesus?

spiritual warfare

Spiritual warfare is a matter which Christians discuss rarely and understand poorly.  We tend to over-spiritualize or under-spiritualize many of our circumstances.  Some people think that the devil is under every rock and behind every situation, calling people and their natural, sinful tendencies demonic, while others bury their heads in the sand and are completely unaware of the Spiritual realm and beings that Scripture affirms are present.  Paul exhorts us to preparedness thusly:

“Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.  Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.”

– Eph 6.11-13

We must beware of and resist the schemes of the devil.  Our struggle, as the Church, is against spiritual forces that would seek to silence our witness and thwart our efforts to glorify and represent the Kingdom of God.  Paul goes on to teach us the various tools that we should employ in resisting the devil:

“Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feed with the preparation of the Gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints…”

– Eph 6.14-18

In short, Paul assumes that we will have interactions and battles with the devil, in the Spiritual realm.  And the tools to fight the Devil are:

1)  Truth  (Knowing God, His heart and His ways)
2)  Righteousness (killing our sin and obeying God)
3)  The Gospel  (Knowing our sinful state, how Jesus took our place:  grace)
4)  Faith  (Trusting God, believing in what we have not seen)
5)  Salvation  (Having been born again, remembering that transformation that happened and trusting it)
6)  Sword of the Spirit (The written word of God!  Know and claim His promises, trust Him)
7)  Prayer  (Turn to God for direction and instruction in these battles, listen to His leadership)

These tools are clear and vitally important.  We can use them against the enemy, we can use them in putting to death our sinful flesh and tendencies, and we can use them for basic discernment between two good options.  But there is a strange teaching prevalent in our churches today that says,

“The demons will flee at the name of Jesus.”

This is a drastic perversion and misunderstanding of a very powerful verse:

“Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”

– James 4.7

James teaches us that when we resist the devil, He will flee from us.  But resistance is not simply saying “Jesus”.  Paul taught us what resistance is, and that is those seven facets outlined above.  If all we had to do was say “Jesus”, then we would not need truth, righteousness, the Gospel, faith, salvation, the Bible and prayer to fight against Him.

Consider these interactions with demons – who were not even as powerful as the Devil Himself:

It happened that as we were going to the place of prayer, a slave-girl having a spirit of divination met us, who was bringing her masters much profit by fortune-telling.  Following after Paul and us, she kept crying out, saying, “These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation.”  She continued doing this for many days. But Paul was greatly annoyed, and turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!” And it came out at that very moment.

– Acts 16.16-18

But also some of the Jewish exorcists, who went from place to place, attempted to name over those who had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, “I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches.”  Seven sons of one Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this.  And the evil spirit answered and said to them, “I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?”  And the man, in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.

– Acts 19.13-16

The demons also said the name of Jesus themselves (Mark 1.24, 5.47, Acts 19.15).

And there were demons that the disciples were incapable of casting out, even though they could cast out other ones:

I told Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it.”…When He came into the house, His disciples began questioning Him privately, “Why could we not drive it out?”  And He said to them, “This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer.”

– Mark 9.18b, 28-29

Not only that, but the reality that should transform our entire perspective on this conversation is that God uses Satan in a specific role:  the accuser (Rev 12.10).  Satan actually works in the Heavenly Court as the prosecutor.

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him.  The LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, Satan! Indeed, the LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?”

– Zech 3.1-2

Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the LORD.  The LORD said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.”  The LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man fearing God and turning away from evil. And he still holds fast his integrity, although you incited Me against him to ruin him without cause.”  Satan answered the LORD and said, “Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life.  However, put forth Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh; he will curse You to Your face.”  So the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your power, only spare his life.”  Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.

– Job 2.1-7

When God called in the heavenly court, all the “sons of God”, Satan was included.  Satan stood before God and spoke boldly to Him.  Not one human being who stood in the presence of God or in the presence of an angel ever spoke boldly – they all fell on their faces and trembled.  And not only that, but Jesus informed Peter that Satan had demanded permission to sift Peter and show his real commitment to Jesus, the results we saw in Peter’s denial of Christ:

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

– Luke 22.31-32

It is indeed true that there is power in the name of Jesus, when it is declared at the end of the age, every single knee will bow:  heavenly, humanly, and all demons and wicked beings will acknowledge Him as God:

For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

– Eph 2.9-11

But the power is not in the saying aloud of His name.  The word, name, title “Jesus” is not a magical tool that we can just whip out and send the demons into a tail spin.  The power of the name of Jesus is in He who bears the name.  Jesus alone has the power to save, to conquer demons, to defeat the enemy and help us to die to our sins.  The power is in the man.  And He will enable us to resist the devil, and when we resist the devil, when we stand firm in the faith, when we persevere with the tools that Scripture gives us, the devil will flee from us.  But there will be times that the enemy mocks us, that he mocks Jesus, and there will be times that we do not have the ability to cast out a demon, because we have not prayed and fasted over it.  Satan stands in the Heavenly courts, and while he knows and acknowledges Jesus as Lord and king – asking for permission to to tempt us – he is not thwarted by a whisper.

Do not believe in the voodoo-ish teaching that saying the name of Jesus is adequate resisting of the devil.  Satan can say Jesus’ name.  The demons can say Jesus’ name.  And saying “Jesus” aloud does not cause him to flee from your presence.  Jesus’ presence and authority causes him to flee form our presence.  So let us bulk up our Spiritual strength, developing the full armor of God, so that we can resist Him and prove ourselves believers.

Would the devil…

yellow brick road

Have you ever used this logic,

“It has to be from God.  The devil wouldn’t inspire me to (fill in the blank).”

I’m not going to lie, I have comforted myself with this argument.  I heard it this morning, “Satan would not lead you to give money to a ministry that is seeing people saved”.  While I was in college, I heard people wrestling with the assurance of their salvation, and the same basic logic was used,

“The very fact that you are concerned about this is your proof.  The devil wouldn’t cause you concern about your salvation.”

Really?  Are we so wise to the schemes of the enemy, who has existed since the beginning of creation, that we can use this simple logic in our every day decision making?  What is most concerning about this type of logic is the fact that we would claim to be believers, and yet we know the Lord so poorly that we do not recognize His voice or calling, we cannot discern the simple difference of God or the devil speaking into our hearts.

Now, that being said, Satan is a master of deceit (John 8.44).  And one of his most clever disguises is an angel of light:

“No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.”

 – 2 Cor 11.14

And one of his greatest guiles is distracting us with good things.  If we can set our own agendas trying to get God’s work done without Him, then we are left floundering and fruitless.  If God is ready to do a mighty work and bring many to salvation in community X, then Satan will try to distract us to exert all of our energies in community Y.

We know that sometimes Satan is blatantly seeking our destruction.  Remember Peter?  The loud-mouthed apostle?  Jesus informed Peter that Satan was standing before God asking permission to reveal Peter’s true character:

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat…”

 – Luke 22.31

But we also know that at the end of the age, Satan will send out false prophets who will preform miracles and wonders like what Jesus did, and lead many astray – even some of those who call themselves Christians.

“For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.”

 – Matt 24.24

Imagine the discernment it will take to know, if someone is healing the sick in the name of Christ, if he is a false prophet?  Jesus tells us that even some of these people will not know that they are false prophets:

“Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’”

 – Matt 7.22-23

Jesus says that many will fall into this category!  Not just an odd ball here and there.  So let us consider the argument of financial giving.  A support-run ministry publicly argued this morning, “Satan would not lead you to give money to a ministry that is seeing people saved”.  Would he not?  We are commanded to give the first ten percent of everything that we make to God via the Church.  I can hear the moans and groans of my generation already, just at that simple statement.  And while that is another topic for another day, let us consider simply the fact that Jesus said the tithe should be done, along with keeping the full heart and intention of the Law:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.”

 – Matt 23.23

Apart from that is the simple fact that the church cannot function apart from our giving, and if we receive the benefit of the ministry of the Church, we must give to help keep it running:

The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.  For the Scripture says, “YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”

 – 1 Tim 5.17-18

In short, the elders’ job is to keep watch over our souls and to teach us – and we need to financially support them to be able to do just that.

“So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel.”

 – 1 Cor 9.14

My generation likes to take the position that we have autonomy to decide where we give that ten percent.  We think we will pray about it and receive some individual instruction from God that our money should go to this ministry or that project, but we forget that the money belongs to God and that He tells us we cannot allocate it.  The extra money hat we give above that first ten percent can be allocated, but the first has to be given freely.

So, the plea of a ministry might come in for money, and our hearts might be broken or drawn to support it.  If God is getting ready to use your church in a mighty way to reach your community or the world, Satan most certainly WILL tempt you to divert your giving, your time, your energy to that ministry that plays Christian music on the radio or runs the local soup kitchen.  Satan will use the good to distract us from the great.

Or consider the person in crisis who is examining his faith and is terrified about his eternity.  Perhaps it is the Holy Spirit convicting him that he is one of those false prophets and is drawing him to repentance?  But we placate him by saying that the simple conviction and fear is enough assurance.  This most certainly is not true, otherwise there would be no other religion in the world.  Satan offers many false assurances and hopes to keep people from God.  Some people are content to believe the lie that there is no God and no eternity, but most are not.  All major world religions are built on the wrong presupposition that we have to appease God and earn eternal bliss – except Christianity.  This is Satan’s varied deception:  work hard enough and your eternity will be all right.

We must take every instruction and conviction seriously.  Is someone asking for money?  Even if their efforts are of God, they might not be for your to support.  Seek God first.  Make sure you are obedient to support your local congregation, because that is the instruction of Scripture, and then ask God if and where He desires to use more of your finances.  Is someone wrestling with his faith?  Dig deeper!  Find out if God is convicting him of sin, if God is moving in him to draw him to salvation!  This might be a pivotal point of change and conversion that we might gloss over in fear of overstepping our lines, or out of uncertainty for what we should say.

Satan is not an angel of light, but he disguises himself and his wiles as such so as to lead us astray.  If he were to burst into the room looking like the grim reaper, we would run the other way.  But he will have much success diverting our attention from the difficult thing to which God is calling us to the easier, attractive thing to which He is not calling us.

Get to know the will of God and learn His voice and calling in your life. Obey the Scriptures and seek the heart of God for the extras.  And most importantly, do not try to use simple logic to define God’s calling and moving in your life, but dig deeper and submit to Him in prayer.

The Devil Memorizes Scripture

devil

It is always a difficult tension to know how much attention to give to the Devil.  Jesus is our Lord and we know that He has already defeated the Devil and Death and we want to spend our energies and time getting to know Jesus, letting His Word transform us and make us more holy, and not spend all of our time studying a defeated enemy.  At the same time, Satan is still the “god of this world” (2 Cor 4.4), the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph 2.2), and he is in his death throes, taking down as many people as he can with him.  On our own, Satan is infinitely more powerful than we are.  But we know that “greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4.4) and if we are in Christ we have overcome Him.

However.  We must not be ignorant to Him, His schemes and His abilities.  When we are young, we imagine the devil dressed up in a red suit with horns, a spiky tail and a trident.  He is mean, scheming, and his plans are obvious.  As we mature, fortunately, we begin to learn and realize that his ways are not always clear.  We learn that sin is fun and enjoyable for a season – otherwise no one would partake in it!  And we learn that Satan is clever to disguise himself in attractive ways.

Perhaps his most cunning deception, however, is a false assurance of salvation.  If he can convince people that morality leads to Heaven, if he can trick people into saying a “sinners prayer” but never repenting, then he has achieved the greatest trickery.  Few people would follow him in his ugliness to Hell, but many people are deceived by his lies and promises that ultimately lead to Hell.  And the way he can craft such a scheme is to know the Scriptures, to know the truth, and to twist them just enough to still sound promising but to be lies.

We see him try this very tactic with Jesus when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness in Matthew 4.

“and [Satan] to [Jesus], “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written,
‘He will command His angels concerning you’;
and
‘On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone..’”

– Matt 4.6

Notice that Satan knew exactly who Jesus was.  He knew the Scriptural promises made to and about Him.  And He attempted to draw Jesus into sin by asking Him to prove Himself and to test God’s provision.  But Jesus, being God and knowing Scripture with belief, answered Satan with Scripture that led Him to obedience and to honor God.

Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written, ‘YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.’”

– Matt 4.7

So what is the difference?  How do we know if people or Satan is using Scripture incorrectly?  How do we know if we are being obedient, if we are on the path to salvation, or if we are being deceived?  We have to have the Spirit living in us.  We have to be in the process of being transformed into His likeness.  His Word must abide in us.  Satan can memorize Scripture, but the Scripture does not abide in Him.

“I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.”

– 1 John 2.14

If the Word of God is abiding in us, we have overcome the evil one.  We can discern the Spirits.  We understand when we are being tempted to use Scripture and God for our own sordid gain, and we understand when we are living lives that honor and glorify God.

“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”

– John 15.7

If we abide in Jesus and the Scripture abides in us, whatever we ask of Jesus will be done for us.  But He qualifies it in the previous chapter (14.13) that whatever is asked in His name will be done in order to glorify the Father.  If His word abides in us, we will ask and desire things that glorify the Father and when we ask them they will be fulfilled.  But memorizing the Scripture alone is not abiding.  The Pharisees had Scripture memorized and Jesus said that His words found no place in them (John 8.37).

“You do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent.

– John 5.38

We must believe.  We must be transformed by the Word.  The Word gives life.

“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.”

– John 6.63

So let us be alert and aware.  Satan’s tactics are slimy and deceptive.  He knows the Scripture better than you or I ever will – because He has been around throughout the entirety of history and the writing of it!  He knew all of the major players.  He saw each book as it was written.  He knows it inside and out.  And He will try to use it to lead us astray.

“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”

– Matt 7.15

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

– 1 John 4.1

Let us be diligent students of the Word, let us test every teaching against the rest of Scripture, let us pray, let us petition God for wisdom and seek Him.  He is faithful to make clear to us His heart and ways if we only ask and abide in Him.

Guilty. Punished. Redeemed.

courtroom

“Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”

– Heb 7.25

Have you ever had to go to court?  I have not.  However, I just received my first call for jury duty after only six months of residency in Colorado.  And in reflecting on my upcoming civic obligation, I have been meditating on my standing before God.

The court system is modeled after a Heavenly example.  Most societies have a method of examining citizens and people within their country, determining guilt and innocence and declaring punishment against law-breaking.  And the picture of judgment is prevalent throughout the entirety of Scripture.  In the Old Testament, under the Law, God is on His throne and the priests functioned as intercessors for the people.  They would come to God and make blood sacrifices to atone for their own sins and then offer sacrifices for the people, because God established the law that “without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins” (Heb 9.22).  And they had to pay for their sins before they could intercede for the people.

When Jesus came, He lived a sinless life and died the death that you and I deserve.  His blood became the final and perfect sacrifice needed to atone for the sins of the world.  Therefore, no one ever has to make blood sacrifices now, they need only accept the free gift of redemption through the blood of Jesus Christ.  And Jesus, as God, raised from the dead after paying the penalty of death, and now lives to make intercession for us.  He is the perfect priest because He does not have to make sacrifices for His own sin, and he paid the perfect price to finalize the sacrificial system.

The picture is this:  God is on His throne.  Satan, the accuser – or prosecutor, is in the Heavenly court making accusations against us (Rev 12.10).  Jesus, our intercessor – or defense, stands always to say, “Yes, he did that, but the sentence has been served”.  Jesus’ death on the cross does not make it as if you never sinned.  Jesus’ death on the cross also does not make you not guilty.  Jesus’ death on the cross counts your sins as punished.

And God is the judge.  We do not need to be saved from Satan, he only is fighting against us in the Heavenly court.  God’s wrath for sin is the terror from which we need saving.  God’s sentence of “guilty” is damnation to Hell.

While we are still living on the Earth, we will all fall into sin.  No one can maintain a sinless state.  Scripture promises that we are set free from the bondage of sin, meaning that we are able to glorify God – we are able to choose to not sin – once we have been forgiven and saved (Rom 6.22).  But we will sin.  We do sin.  And when we sin, we have a perfect advocate with the Father (1 John 2.1).

The only genuine and true response to this forgiveness is love and out of that love flows obedience.  If we love Jesus and are thankful for the price He paid to redeem us, we will seek to not insult His honor.  For every sin that we do is another lashing of the whip, another beating of the club, another nail in his hand.  If we go on sinning, we again crucify Him and put Him to open shame (Heb 6.6).  We cheapen His grace to wicked freedom.  If that is your response to grace, then you have not received grace for “by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments” (1 John 2.3).  And, “for this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5.2).

And ultimately, in the end, Jesus is the one who will carry out the final sentence against all those who have not come to Him for forgiveness.

Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”

– Rev 6.15-17

So Jesus paid the sentence we deserve.  If we draw near to Him (Heb 7.25), and receive His forgiveness then we are atoned.  We are welcomed.  He stands before the judge every time you fall and says, “I paid for that”.  And when He comes in His wrath to exact justice against sin at the end, we will be found justified, we will ride with Him into battle against sin, evil and darkness.  Not because we are righteous, but because His righteousness covers us and we have become His righteousness (2 Cor 5.21).

There is no better defense.  The prosecutor knows all the facts.  He has all the evidence.  He will prove you guilty.  Do you want to hide yourself in Him who is willing to pay your punishment?  And if so, when you understand the weight of penalty that has been covered, you cannot help but love.  And obey.  To honor Him and glorify Him, always!

This means war.

So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

– Rom 8.12-13

We are in a war.  A Spiritual war.  You have probably spent time meditating on the Spiritual armor that we are to wear as Paul lists it in Ephesians 6.10-18.  You have probably heard the analogy of prayer as our Spiritual walkie-talkie, allowing us direct access to our Commander-in-Chief.  But have you ever thought about the enemy?  Against whom exactly are we fighting?

The Bible tells us that the war of dominion has been won (Rom 8.1-2).  Satan has been defeated.  His destiny is settled: an eternity in the Lake of Fire and Brimstone (Rev 20.10).  Jesus holds the keys to death and Hell (Rev 1.17-18) and no one will go there unless Jesus sends him there.  And of all that the Father has given Jesus, none will be or can be lost (John 6.37-39).

Paul tells us, rather, that our greatest enemy is sin.  It is sin that earn us an eternity in Hell, not Satan.  And Paul gets very explicative in Romans 8 in telling us about our responsibility as believers.  We are under obligation to the Spirit to put to death the deeds of the body.  Under obligation!  John Owen made a very famous statement by which we all would benefit if we purposefully lived:  “Be killing sin or it will be killing you”.

Ed Welch, an author and counselor, made this statement:

“There is a mean streak to authentic self-control. . . Self-control is not for the timid. When we want to grow in it, not only do we nurture an exuberance for Jesus Christ, we also demand of ourselves a hatred for sin. . . . The only possible attitude toward out-of-control desire is a declaration of all-out war. . . . There is something about war that sharpens the senses . . . You hear a twig snap or the rustling of leaves and you are in attack mode. Someone coughs and you are ready to pull the trigger. Even after days of little of no sleep, war keeps us vigilant.”

Let’s reflect on a minute about the severity with which Jesus speaks to sin and how we are to respond to it:

“If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire.  If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell.”

– Matt 18.8-9

Clearly Jesus knows that an eye is not the cause of our sin, but the heart causing or allowing the eye to look at things which it should not.  And the hand is not evil in-and-of itself, it is the sinful heart that would use the hand to steal or kill.  But Jesus is so concerned with our sanctification – “For this is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thess 4.3) – that He would prefer us to cut off a member of our body and be saved than to continue in sin and be damned.  Paul tells us that we should no longer present the members of our bodies as instruments of sin, but instruments of righteousness (Rom 6.13).  If I were to physically cut off my hand, it would be unable to be of use to God.  But if I have a tendency or temptation to steal, I need to be so severe against that sin that I would fight that sin with the fervency equatable to cutting it off!

I wrote yesterday about flirting with the line; setting up boundaries for ourselves so that we can walk as close to sin as possible without actually sinning.  And I argued that that mentality is sinful.  I do believe that setting up boundaries and safeguards is a good practice.  But not to appease our consciences for living however we want, rather to help us live lives that are focused on and poured out for holiness and the glory of God.

So how do we fight these sins?  With the Sword of the Spirit: the Word of God.  We cannot honor God without clinging to His will and His Word, and we are only granted that wisdom through the Scriptures.  Are you timid?  Pray back Romans 8.15 to God until the timidity is gone.  Do you struggle with lust?  Meditate on the fact that God will always provide a way of escape, ask him for strength, and find the escape/safeguard (1 Cor 10.13).  Do you tell white lies?  Remember that liars will find their place in Hell (Rev 21.8) and ask God for boldness to honor Him with your words (Eph 3.11-12).  Fighter verses are the truths and promises of God that we find in Scripture that help us overcome struggles, temptations and sins.  Find them.  Pray them.  Memorize them.  Because it is the Word of God that is “living and active and and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” (Heb 4.12-13).

The Word is our sword by which we fight battles.  And it will not return void (Is 55.11).

There is, also, a level of Spiritual warfare against the principalities and dark places that is to be fought, as Eph 6 states.  The tension is valid that even though the war has been won, there are still battles to be fought in these final days (the Already-Not Yet).  But Satan has no power over our eternity.  He cannot take us from Christ.  And he cannot force us into sin.  Thus our primary war is with our flesh and with our sinful passions.  Let us examine ourselves.  Let us ask God to reveal sins of which we are unaware.  Let us put to death the deeds of the body and present ourselves as instruments of righteousness to honor God and to further His kingdom here on Earth!