Christianity 201

February 13, 2018

Being Prepared: The Armor of God

by Russell Young

Paul admonished the Ephesians to put on the full armor of God. (Eph 6:1017) Armor is not needed when the battle has been fought and the victory has been won. There is nothing left to fight or to resist. Armor is needed to offer protection so that injury or death can be escaped. It was needed for the person engaged in battle and was prepared before the event. The implication is that believers must do battle and that they need to be properly prepared for it. The armor that Paul depicted was not that needed to fight against another person, however. It was meant to enable the believer to stand strong against “the devil’s schemes when the day of evil comes.” For some that could be today. The confessor is not invincible and unless he or she is fitted for proper defence, destruction may result.

Paul referenced his vulnerability and that of the Corinthians when he sated, “If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.” (2 Cor 2:10─11 NIV) He did not want to be “outwitted.”

Peter also addressed the need to resist the devil. “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” (1 Pet 5:89 NIV) If Peter was admonishing believers of his day to be self-controlled and alert and to endure the suffering caused by Satan, his caution applies to believers today if they are to avoid being “devoured.”

Before his crucifixion, Jesus had to fight against the devil and his own desires because he knew the pain that was coming. (Lk 22:4246) If he had not gained victory over his flesh committing to its death, humankind would remain dead in their sins; Satan would have won. However, the Lord did not only suffer at his crucifixion, but also during the days of his life on earth. The writer of Hebrews has recorded, “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Heb 2:18 NIV) “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” (Heb 5:7 NIV) This “death” does not refer to his petition before his crucifixion, but the death that submission to sin would have brought him during his life on earth. He was human and sin would have resulted in death.

Some proclaim that the battle has been completed and that the victory has been won. Such teaching has lulled the church into a state of apathy, failing in personal and corporate discipline. Victory comes through faith (1 Jn 5:4) in our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor 15:57); however, faith is not just a possession but a practice. It is for this reason that armor must be worn. Practicing faith when being attacked demands a firm stand. Satan is deceptive, a liar and a murderer (Jn 8:44), and is yet able to bring about a confessor’s destruction. (Gal 6:8; Phil 3:19; 2 Thess 1:9)

Many have been deceived into laying down their armor. Paul wrote, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature reaps destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit reaps eternal life.” (Gal 6:78 NIV) The Lord cautioned his listeners not to be deceived by those who will come in his name, claiming to be him (Lk 21:8), and Paul cautioned about the hollow and deceptive philosophy that depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. (Col 2:8)

The Lord taught that only those who do the will of his Father would enter the kingdom of heaven (Mt 7:21), and Paul taught that all would face judgment for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. (2 Cor 5:10) From the time of Eve, the devil has endeavored to deceive the children of God and to bring about separation from their Lord.

The full armor of God needs to be put on in order to resist the devil’s evil schemes. The belt of “truth” girds the believer from deception, the breastplate of righteousness covers and protects his or her heart, the gospel of peace allows a person to flee from antagonistic situations, while the shield of faith–persuasion concerning God and his Word—allows the believer to deflect Satan’s lies and schemes shielding him or her from injury or death. As well, the hope of salvation (1 Thess 5:8) is the helmet that motivates for perseverance through the trials and persecutions that might otherwise weaken and lead the believer to his or her defeat and destruction. The sword of the Spirit is the word of God which can keep the believer strong in the face of deceptive teaching and evil temptations. While the full armor of God protects, strength depends on the enabling power of the Spirit and the believer Is reminded to be constant in prayer seeking the Lord’s help when it is needed.

The battle is still being fought and the believer needs to enter the fray fully equipped and ready to fight if he or she is to overcome and find a place in the New Jerusalem. (Rev 21:7)


Author Russell Young lives in Canada and is the author of Eternal Salvation: Really? available in print and eBook in the U.S. through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.  His column appears here on alternate Tuesdays.  To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link.


 


 

December 6, 2013

Temptation Always Follows a Predictable Pattern

Our blog discovery today was one very similar to what we do here at C201.  Thoughts about God provides two thoughts for the day; based on the links in the right margin, and the pieces I looked at, one is male-authored and the other is female-authored. This is a unique devotional premise, don’t you think?  (I wish I’d thought of it !!)

This one appeared first today, and is by Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church.

Change the Way You Think
We capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ.”
2 Corinthians 10:5 (NCV)

Here’s the secret to temptation: Don’t fight it. Just refocus. Whatever you resist persists.

Did you know that in the Bible, not once are you told to resist temptation? We are told to resist the Devil, and that’s a whole different issue. But the key to overcoming temptation is not to push back. It’s to change your focus.

Whatever gets your attention gets you. The battle for sin always starts in the mind. That’s why the Bible says in Psalm 119:6, “Thinking about your commands will keep me from doing some foolish thing” (CEV). Why? Because if you’re thinking about God’s truth, you’re not thinking about the dumb stuff you could be doing.

Have you ever looked over a cliff and felt like you were being drawn to jump off? Not like a temptation, but like there was this force that was pulling you. It’s because whatever you focus on pulls you.

It’s true in every single area of life — good or bad. If you focus on godly things, it’s going to pull you that direction. If you focus on the stuff that’s at the movies and in magazines, it’s going to pull you that direction. Whatever you focus on gets your attention. Whatever gets your attention is going to get you.

The key is to just change your mind.

Temptation always follows a predictable pattern: attention, arousal, and action. Your mind gets hooked, your mind kicks in, and then you act on it.

So you don’t fight a temptation; you just turn your mind to something else. “We capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5 NCV).

The thing is, we’re not very good at capturing every thought and turning it to Christ, because it takes lots of practice. You can’t always control your circumstances, and you can’t even always control the way you feel. But you can control what you think about. That’s always your choice. And if you change the way you think, it changes the way you feel, and that will change the way you act.

Talk It Over
– What do you spend your time thinking about? Where does your mind wander when you’re not focused on something specific?
– How can you train yourself so that it is more natural for you to focus on God’s Word and truths instead of the things of this world?

You can comment on this devotional online at:
http://thoughts-about-god.com/blog/2013/12/06/rw_change-the-way-you-think/

Their women’s voice for the day was Claire Colvin:

God Will Not Waste Your Life
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.” 1 Peter 1:3-4

What strikes me about this verse is the phrase “a living hope.” It’s not a future hope; it’s a hope that is with us right now. We were utterly lost, condemned to die, and through Jesus we’re reborn to hope and life eternal.

I lose sight of that sometimes. In the midst of an ordinary day I forget that I have this incredible hope. When I feel weak, forgotten, worn out or left behind it’s often because I’ve taken my eyes off of the hope that Jesus bought for me on the cross.

I love the chorus in Chris Tomlin’s version of “Amazing Grace.”

My chains are gone,
I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me.
And like a flood His mercy rains
Unending love, Amazing grace.”

What a picture of hope! This is a big part of the “life to the full” that Jesus talks about in John 10:10. It’s not a life we just hope might somehow count for something. It’s life as a forgiven child of God, fashioned for a purpose. It’s the assurance that God will not waste your life. How will you live in this hope today?

Thank you God for giving me a living hope. Whatever has happened in the past, whatever might lie ahead in the future, Your hope will be there to redeem and renew. You are the reason for the joy that I have. You are my peace and my portion and my shield forever. Help me to cling to Your hope and not to my own understanding. In Your name I pray, amen.

Take Action: Take a close look at the thoughts that are running through your head today. Are they thoughts of hope or worry? comfort or sadness? Take these thoughts to God. Thank Him for ransoming you and ask Him to focus your mind on the living hope that is yours today.

You can comment on this devotional online at:
http://thoughts-about-god.com/blog/2013/12/06/cc_god-will-not-waste-your-life/

April 26, 2012

Be Careful Little Feet Where You Go

Today we introduce you to award winning writer Amy Sorrells, and I especially want to urge my female readers to click through on this one and then look around the rest of Amy’s website in the hope that some of you will become regular readers.  This appeared at her blog under the title Choosing the Better Gate.

If you’ve read The Secret Garden, you remember well the day Mary Lennox finds the garden gate. Covered in overgrown vines thick as the apprehension we feel as she turns the key for the first time, the door opens to a wonderland which eventually blossoms with joy and healing.

Not every secret gate opens to such blessings.

While mosey-ing along in writer-reasearch-mode this past weekend, I browsed various web sites and books about a couple of controversial, faith-related subjects. When I stuck close to well-respected, proven Christian authors and websites, I felt peace and confidence. But as soon as I veered onto web pages touching on pagan and non-scripture-based views, I felt darkness and doom like a cloud covering my soul.

Quick! Click away from that page! I thought.

Sometimes I did.

Other times, the lure to investigate other viewpoints kept me in those dark places much longer than I should’ve been.

And afterwards, I felt slimed.

In hindsight, I thought I was “Christian enough” not to be impacted by the evil. I thought my shield of faith and all the other armor was enough to ward off any residual ick.

For the most part, I’m okay.

But the experience opened my eyes to just how thin the tightrope is between good and evil in the world. Sometimes, as in the case of my purposeful research, it’s pretty obvious when a door is opened into places we shouldn’t peek into.

Other times, we find ourselves in dark places without realizing we’ve been lingering in them for a good, long while.

It made me realize, as a writer sharing words, how important it is for me to check what I’m inputting into my mind. I don’t want anything coming through my pen which could leave even the slightest smudge of information that could mislead anyone through a gate of trouble and darkness.

Needless to say, I ran back through the gate and into the arms of Philippians 4:8, which is my prayer today as I write and live:

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies. (Phil. 4:8-9 The Message)

Sometimes it’s good to be re-awakened to things in the world which need God’s light and truth, so we can be torch-bearers for others who might be stuck there.

Sometimes, it’s just plain scary to learn about them, and it’s better to run the other way.

How about you? Do you ever find yourself knee-deep in dark places without realizing you’ve gone there? How do you protect yourself from such moments, and/or what do you do if you find yourself lingering there?

Amy Sorrells

March 10, 2011

Temptation Eyes

Actually this is just about temptation, but I wanted to see how many out there are old enough to remember the title of the old Grassroots song.

We’re going to begin this however at a different place than usual; starting at a motivational (i.e. not a faith blog) web page that I doubt many of you would ever get to.  Erin Williams has a life-coaching blog where the following three paragraphs appeared on Monday under the title, Deliver OURSELVES From Temptation.

In a recent interview, a high-profile celebrity who has been happily married for over two decades was asked, “So…how do you do it? Your personal life has survived the scrutiny that so many other stars has not…what is the secret to having a lasting marriage in Hollywood?” The icon stated simply, “I consciously avoid situations that might create cause for concern for me or my family. I deliver MYSELF from temptation”. Although this statement is referencing one person’s strategy to protect himself from potentially engaging in infidelity, let us consider how this practice might affect our own personal battle with good ol’ temptation.

Let’s face it. Chances are, we will be faced with temptation our whole lives in one form or another. Just as we are trying to quit drinking, we are invited to the best blow out party of the year…just as we start a new diet, grandma makes her famous enchiladas…just as we commit to a relationship, the hot co-worker wants to put in some overtime with us. Staying on track when we have chosen a path is hard enough, however, being constantly bombarded by hazards that add to our potential for failure makes it an energy-consuming workout just to stay the course. While we cannot completely eliminate temptation from our environment, we CAN manage our exposure to it.

The point is that we need not only be concerned with creating quality of life, but also with protecting it. When we set goals or make commitments we are creating the structure of how we want to live. We then must do what is necessary to execute and maintain that vision. Finding ways to eliminate temptation to stray is time and effort well invested. If we have set a family budget, for example, and know that we can’t go to Target without being tempted to buy things we don’t need…why not make our life easier and save ourselves the inner struggle by getting our supplies somewhere else? If we have committed to a healthier lifestyle, why not remove the foods or substances from our space so we are not having to stare at what is not on our options list? If we are married, why not opt-out of situations that might find us struggling with desirous thoughts for another? Finding ways to avoid temptation might take a little creativity but we can be sure of this…it takes a lot less energy and effort than getting back up on the wagon after we have toppled over. Make it easier on yourself to honor your commitments by managing your exposure to temptation.

~Erin Williams

Ernie Curtin is an Episcopal (Anglican) priest in Newton, Pennsylvania.  The following is but a small portion of a much longer article I encourage you to read, which appeared today at his blog Transformation Meditations as a reading for Lent.

…In Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness we see the pattern of temptation the devil brings.

First, the devil attempts to convince us to meet a legitimate human need by wrongful means. So, the devil recognizes Jesus’ hunger and tempts him to use his divine power to turn stones into bread. This is the corruption of miracle into magic through an appeal to power.

Jesus meets this temptation by quoting scripture. So, the devil switches tactics and quotes scripture. He misquotes it, to be sure. But, the fact that the devil quotes scripture at all can be very confusing to people, especially religious people.

Jesus fights fire with fire and uses scripture to correct the misuse of scripture. That is why it is important not just to read the Bible but to study the Bible and to memorize the Bible. The devil will use false teachers to misquote the Bible in order to confuse the faithful and scandalize unbelievers. Jesus sets the pattern for us to counteract this temptation by his careful and insightful use of scripture.

The third temptation is the same appeal Lucifer made to the angels. It is the appeal he made to our first parents Adam and Eve. It is the distortion of worship.

That is why the first commandment God revealed to Moses deals with worship. The devil always seeks to redefine worship and to confuse the meaning and purpose of worship. In a very simple and crude manner he appeals to the human will to power. He encourages us to approach worship with the question: what’s in it for me?

The devil only needs a tiny foothold in our conscious awareness of the call to worship. He only needs to intrude a small deceit to produce ever expanding levels of frustration.

~Ernie Curtin