Christianity 201

November 24, 2018

Steps Aligning with the Spirit

Six months ago we introduced you to the site Biblical Woman. At the time we noted that you may find articles which are written specifically addressing ‘Ladies’ or ‘Sisters’ but we hope the guys reading see the benefit of this as I did. (I like to include visits to websites written specifically to women, rather than just having women writers.) The author today is Kelsey Baker. As always, click the title below to read at source.

Where are you walking, sister?

Sometimes my life feels like a vacation in the Garden of Eden! Because I work at and attend Southwestern Seminary, about 95% of my week is spent among believers. Although this “vacation” is just for a short season of my life, it has been amazing. Communing with God’s people is truly an unmatched blessing. We care for, pray for, comfort, encourage, and strengthen each other daily!

But sometimes the many benefits of communing together shelter us from the more solemn aspects of our Christian walk. The devastating effects of unchecked sin aren’t always as apparent within a healthy Christian community as in the unsaved world around us. Sure, we hear about it—Sally’s cousin who’s under church discipline or Martha’s mom who had an affair. But we don’t daily witness a close Christian friend or family member fall into a devastating sin.  Sometimes we feel as if it only happens to unbelievers, so we let our guard down.

Last week I was struggling with some sin in my heart. I knew it was wrong and prayed for forgiveness, but sadly I didn’t do much else to “flee the temptation”—I was fairly noncommittal and lax about my sin, not viewing it as a big deal. The next day I found out that a close friend had been caught in a truly devastating sin. On the outside, this friend appeared so in love with the Lord! How could such a “good” person commit such a serious sin??

Sisters, sin is crouching at the door…even in our little Gardens of Eden. Our adversary, the devil, is prowling like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Pet. 5:8). Those sinful thoughts I was dealing with last week are like seeds. If left, they WILL sprout. If watered, thorns, thistles, and briers WILL grow.  If left unguarded, the tendrils WILL twist and turn throughout my heart, choking out my conscience, quenching the Holy Spirit, growing into a more and more serious sin. The effects can be truly devastating to our communities, our relationships, and our walk with the Lord. To kill sin, we have to destroy the seed before it grows—the thought as soon as it forms. People don’t just wake up one day and decide to have an affair or embezzle money. Sin begins as a thought, assuming the identity of “common” or “not a big deal” in order to thrive under the radar.  Left unchecked, these thoughts produce actions.

Almost every book and chapter of our holy Bible places an amazing emphasis on killing sin and living in righteousness. We often skim over these parts. We know we aren’t saved by works: There’s nothing we can do, will do, or have done that has any impact on our standing or merit before God. And yet…sin is an utmost grievance to our sinless God. Fighting sin should be a daily battle for the sake of our Lord, and His Word speaks to the many facets of how we are to go about this work. Let me bring to your mind just three:

1. Paul reminds the church in Corinth that in their war against the flesh, they must “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). Every. Thought. Captive. We cannot let sinful thoughts slide by. We cannot allow sinful thoughts to grow “common” or cease from bothering us. Two great extra-biblical sources to help our fight against sin are J. C. Ryle’s Holiness and John Owen’s The Mortification of Sin. Both books are old, yet timeless.

2. In addition to actively taking thoughts captive, or actively working to kill sin, I am also reminded that we must walk in the Spirit, or actively pursue our relationship with Christ. In Galatians, Paul implores the church to “walk in the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16-17). This aspect of “putting on” the Spirit will not succeed unless we also “put off” sin by taking every thought captive.

3. Our fight with sin does not end here, for confession is of paramount importance. Scripture is permeated with imperatives to confess our sins, to God first (1 John 1:9), and then to those we have sinned against (James 5:16, Matt. 5:23-24). “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy” (Prov. 29:18).

So, where are you walking, sister? Are your steps in alignment with the Spirit, taking every thought captive for Christ, full of prayer and confession? Or are you walking step by step deeper into sin?

None of us is immune—sin is not selective or discriminatory. So let us strive, for the sake of the God whom we love, to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in knowledge of God” (Col. 1:10).

 

July 20, 2018

The Father of Fake News

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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In exploring the idea of “the father of lies,” I came across Awakened to Grace, a website which we’re featuring here for the first time. The author of today’s piece is Joy Bollinger.

The Father of Lies

Keep the door bolted against lying.      

My formative years were shaped around the philosophy that lying had its place, especially if a little “white lie” was told to avoid hurting someone. However, lying is part of our old fallen nature that existed before we surrendered our hearts and lives to Jesus Christ.

We see that old sinful nature exposed in very young children with a similar scenario played out in many homes. A child stands covered in chocolate—the perfect billboard for Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. You ask them if they ate the chocolate bar that you had hidden in the pantry. Their guilty, chocolate covered-face betrays them as they answer, “No.” If lying weren’t so serious, it would be funny.

Children are told to tell the truth, but then, with all good and loving intentions, a parent might create elaborate, false stories or false explanations to answer their child’s inquisitiveness. They might make false promises or ironically, as my parents did, tell an outright lie to insure compliance, “If you lie, your nose will grow like Pinocchio’s.” Of course, my parents were not Christians at that time, so they did not know the Word’s position on lying; therefore, they couldn’t pass that truth to us.

Students lie to their teachers. Employees lie to their bosses. Patients conceal the truth from their doctors. Spouses lie to spouses. Friends lie to friends. Parents lie to children. Children lie to parents. People lie about their age and weight. People conceal and lie about their past. People lie to themselves. The list of lies is endless.

The Lord tells us that there are seven things that are an abomination to Him: haughtiness, lyingmurdering, plotting evil, eagerness to do wrong, a false witness, and sowing discord among the brethren (Proverbs 6:16-19). The harsh reality is that “all liars will have their part in the lake, which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8 NKJV).

Why is hell punishment for lying to those who do not repent? Jesus said this about those who lie, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44 NIV). 

What is a lie? The dictionary defines a lie as an untruth, falsehood, white lie, perjury, fabrication, falsification, deception, betrayal, made-up story, tale, half-truth, pretense, crookedness, exaggeration, fiction, evasiveness, and concealment. The verb form is to misinform, mislead, stretch the truth; hedge, evade, trick, conceal, or cheat. Even a “white” lie is a deception that invalidates a person’s integrity. According to those definitions, at one time or another, we have all lied; therefore, we must repent.

The Word tells us, Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its Creator (Colossians 3:9-10). We are created in the image of God, who does not lie. If we have a relationship with all Truth (Jesus Christ), how can we justify lying in any form?

When I became a Christian, God revealed the importance of truthfulness. Truthfulness was relevant to me, because I had experienced pain and disappointment from those who had called themselves Christians, yet they had lied, broken promises, betrayed confidences, stolen from me, and had harbored hidden sin. What they had really stolen was my ability to trust God. After all, if I couldn’t trust God’s representatives, how could I trust Him? As a fledgling Christian, those betrayals and lies by fellow Christians were heartbreaking and painful. Today, it is not any less painful to be at the receiving end of a betrayal or lie.

We know the spiritual aspect of why we lie, but why do humans give into the temptation to lie? Dr. Robert S. Feldman, a Fellow of the American Psychological Association and the Association for Psychological Science, examined lying and deception for over 25 years and said, “People lie because they can get away with it; because it works for them. It’s a way to get along with other people. It’s a way to control [their] world, and it’s a way that [they] can use to make people do what [they] want them to do.” He went on to say that men usually lie to make themselves look better and to build themselves up, and women tend to lie to make others and themselves, feel good.

We are daily inundated with false statements made by various people, ads, politicians, and the news media, that manipulate and distort the truth to promote their deceptive agendas. The enemy is relentless in using people and anything of this world to entice and draw us to his deceptions. Even false christs and false prophets will arise (currently present in many churches) and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect (Matthew 24:24).

Adam and Eve had every good gift from God, yet Satan was able to cleverly craft a lie, which they believed and then disobeyed God. We too are vulnerable to Satan’s clever and enticing deceptions. Therefore, we must be prayerful and vigilant to discern and distinguish the truth from the lie. We must be sober-minded and watchful, for our adversary, the devil, prowls like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (I Peter 5:8).

The reality is that as human beings, we have all fallen for a lie. But we have also, lied and embellished the truth. Romans 3:23-24 tell us that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Praise God that He is quick to forgive us of our sins when we repent (Matthew 3:8).

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think (meditate) about such things” (Philippians 4:8).

PRAYER: Lord, I come to You with a repentant heart. I realize that any form of lying is sin. Please forgive me for any and all lies, exaggerations, evasiveness, concealments, half-truths, deceptions, and betrayals, whether intentional or unintentional. Help me each day to be aware of all untruth that might be poised on my tongue or any behaviors or thoughts that are not in keeping with Your will. I want to live a truthful and authentic life before You and others. In Jesus name, amen.

God is not human, that He should lie, not a human being, that He should change His mind. Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfill? (Numbers 23:19)

June 26, 2017

The Devil is a Liar

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
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We’re back for yet another visit to Blogos. The featured writer this time is Anthony Barbato. Click the title to read at source and then check out some of the other articles.

Satan, Father of Lies

For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.
  – John 8:44

Honestly, there’s not enough time in the world to tell you all the ways Satan lies to us. Just as there’s no limit to God’s goodness, there’s no limit to Satan’s deceit. And no wonder, as he’s the “father of lies.” Christ tells us in John 8:44, “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

One thing Satan continually does though, is cast doubt upon God’s word. Let’s take a look at his exchange with Eve in the garden.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.'” The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:1-5

After this Eve eats the fruit and gives some to Adam to eat as well. You see, first Satan calls into question God’s word. And then, even when it’s affirmed, he twists its meaning. This is essentially Satan’s primary desire. Since the Lord is the only source of truth (Ecclesiastes 12:11), it’s of course where Satan is focused. He doesn’t care which lie you believe, just that you don’t believe the truth. People who are part of a false religion are just as doomed as the atheist (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; 2 Peter 3:16; Revelation 20:15).

Satan doesn’t care which lie you believe; people in false religions are just as doomed as atheists. tweet

Aside from that, here’s a quick list of the most attacked beliefs of God’s truth as revealed in Scripture:

1. The Depravity of Man — This is the clear Biblical teaching that, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Men are fallen creatures (Romans 3:10-18), wretched beings (Romans 7:24), and in need of a new birth (John 3:1-21). Because of our sin we face eternal separation from God, and nothing apart from belief in Christ through the drawing of the Father can save us (John 6:44; Acts 4:12). In short, men are sinners, incapable of saving ourselves from God’s judgement without the intercession of the Son by God’s immeasurable grace (Genesis 8:21; 1 Kings 8:46; 2 Chronicles 6:36; Ezra 9:6; Job 9:2, 15:14; Psalm 14:1; 51:5; 53:1; 58:3; 143:2; Proverbs 20:9; Ecclesiastes 7:20; 9:3; Isaiah 64:6; Jeremiah 3:17; 17:9; 22:21; 32:30; Micah 7:2; Mark 10:18; Luke 18:19; Romans 3:10-18, 23; 7:18; 1 John 1:8).

2. The Deity of Christ — The deity of Christ is the belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God the Father, the image of the invisible, co-eternal, and equal to Him as the Word become flesh (Deuteronomy 18:18; Isaiah 9:6-7; 16:5; Jeremiah 23:5-6; Daniel 7:13-14; Micah 5:2; Mark 14:61-64; John 1:1-14; 5:18-23; 8:58-59; 14:7-9; 10:30-33; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Philippians 2:5-6; Colossians 1:15-19; 2:9; 1 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 1:8).

3. The Sacrificial work of Christ — This is the belief that Christ died for our sins, taking our place in judgement and fulfilling God’s plan to reconcile us to Him (Isaiah 53:4-5; Romans 3:25; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13; 1 Peter 1:18-19; 1 John 2:2; 3:5; 4:14; Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9:14).

4. Christ’s Resurrection — The belief that Christ was raised on the third day “according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:4), showing His victory over death (Matthew 12:39-40; Mark 16:6; Luke 24:6-7; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:16-17; Romans 1:4-5; 4:25).

5. Salvation by grace through faith alone — The belief that we are saved only by the grace of God, through our faith in the sacrificial work of His son, Jesus Christ (John 3:16; Acts 15:11; Romans 3:24-28; 5:6-9; 9:16; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:4-9; Philippians 3:9; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:3-7).

Again, I can’t tell you all the ways Satan lies. What I can tell you is he will disguise himself as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14), and twist God’s truth in a way that appeals to our own sinful nature (Genesis 3:5). The good news is, as Christians we are not ignorant of the Devil’s schemes (2 Corinthians 2:11). And because of the sufficiency of Scripture (2 Samuel 22:31; Psalm 12:6; 18:30; 119:89; Proverbs 30:5; Isaiah 40:8; 55:10-11; Matthew 5:18; 24:35; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Hebrews 4:12; 2 Peter 1:20-21), we can test everything against God’s word (Acts 17:11). Also, we can trust the Spirit to lead and protect us (John 15:26; Ephesians 1:13-14). In closing, we are not to fear the Devil, but we are to be mindful and aware of him (1 Peter 5:8). The Lord is perfectly able to lead and protect us as His children (Colossian 1:21-23; Jude 1:24-25). I’ll leave you with a passage I think sums it up perfectly:

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. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. 1 John 4:1-4


December 8, 2016

The Fall: The Christmas Story Continues . . .

by Clarke Dixon

Last week we saw how the story of Christmas really has its beginnings way back at Creation. God’s desire from the outset was to be with us, and Christmas is a big part of that happening. As we look to cover the Christmas story from beginning to end, we do not even get out of Genesis chapter 3, or out of the Garden of Eden for that matter, before we see something else critical to the Christmas story. The Fall is part of what Christmas is about. Let us focus in on God’s promise to the serpent:

The Lord God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
cursed are you among all animals
and among all wild creatures;
upon your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will strike your head,
and you will strike his heel.” Genesis 3:14-15 emphasis mine

Here we have a promise of struggle. This not really about humans and snakes, this is about humanity’s struggle with evil. Snakes provide a good metaphor for this struggle. A strike to a snake’s head could be fatal. But so too, could a snake’s strike to a human’s heel. We are not sure at the time the promise is given who will be victorious, and who will end up dead.

The odds don’t look to be in our favour, especially given the fact that evil won the first battle when we had our best advantage. We had home field advantage in the Garden of Eden. We had everything, including the amazing presence of God Himself. But we had to have that one fruit. Things do not go our way throughout the pages of the Old Testament either. The history of God’s people, Israel, is a history of trying and failing, getting up and falling, again and again. And consider world history. Though there are bright moments, evil seems all too often to have the upper hand. Given the capacity of humanity to end all life through nuclear warfare, the odds have never been more in the favour of evil winning the war. Who will win in the end, the offspring of Eden, or the offspring of the serpent? It seems like a war humanity has not been winning and cannot win. However, Christmas points us to a clear winner!

Christmas points us to a clear winner when the angel speaks to Joseph.

She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21

Mary will bear a son. Jesus is therefore is a candidate for being the “offspring,” or “seed” of Eve. But how can this one man conquer evil when no other man before has? How can this man do what has been impossible for every person before him right back to Adam and Eve, namely, lead a sinless life? And never mind leading his own sinless life, how will he also deal with the sins of others? Though being born of Mary and therefore the offspring of Eve, Jesus is so much more. The next verses make this clear:

All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,”
which means, “God is with us.” Matthew 1:22-23

While this seems to be a war humanity cannot win, this particular seed of Eve has an advantage! He is God with us.

Christmas points to a clear winner when the angel speaks to Mary.

The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. Luke 1:30-31

Born of Mary, and so the offspring of Eve. But again, so much more:

He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. . . . The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. Luke 1:32-35

The war will be won with this man, a man of holy divinity, on our side!

While we are thinking of Mary, we should note here how the promise of Genesis 3:15 pertains to the offspring of Eve, and not Adam. Note also, how Jesus is born of Mary, but not to Joseph. Here is a hint, though just a hint, way back in Genesis, of the virgin birth of Jesus.

In addition to Christmas there are two other events that point to a clear winner. 

Christmas leads to Easter. The death and resurrection of Jesus points to victory. Paul confirms this for us in Romans 8 when he speaks of evil not being able to knock God’s person down. Satan is the accuser, the one most likely to condemn, pointing the fingers  and declaring “unworthy sinners! You will never be victorious over evil for you are evil.” Hear what Paul has to say:

What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Romans 8:31-39

While Satan may be the accuser, God is the judge. God has already demonstrated His love for us through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus, by giving His life for us, has already declared that He is on our side. Paul goes on about the potential of evil to knock us over and down:

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all day long;
we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Romans 8:35-37

In the face of much evil, we are more than conquerors, not because we are able of ourselves to get the upper hand over evil, but “though him who loved us.” No expression of evil in the world can gain the victory and separate us from the love of God:

38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38

Advent is a time of expectant waiting. The second advent of our Lord points us to the clear winner:

Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. 2 He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, 3 and threw him into the pit, and locked and sealed it over him, so that he would deceive the nations no more, . . . .  And the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. Revelation 20:1-3, 10

The last book of the Bible, Revelation, recalls the struggle promised in the first book of the Bible, Genesis. The serpent’s head is crushed. Evil is utterly defeated.

Looking out at our world we may wonder if humanity can ever win the struggle against evil. Christmas points us to a clear winner. Easter points his to a war already won. The coming Day of the Lord, the second advent of Christ points to every battle finished.

At Christmas we celebrate the incarnation of God as the answer to the prophetic question asked in Genesis 3:15; “will humans ever win this struggle against evil?” Evil struck the heel of Eve’s offspring when the forces of evil conspired together to put Jesus to death. But in dying and in being raised to life, Jesus has crushed the serpent. We have a clear winner. Christmas points the way to victory. We have the opportunity to become “more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

All Bible references are from the NRSV


Read this post at its source and then look around the rest of Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon

December 23, 2015

When Christmas Goes Off the Rails

•••by Clarke Dixon

Christmas always seems so picture perfect in the cards we give and receive, yet Christmas can go off the rails so quickly becoming more like Christmess. What are we to do when it seems the devil has his horrid hands in our lives during this most wonderful time of the year? Perhaps your Christmas is not shaping up to be the picture perfect scene worthy of a Christmas card.

Christmas is found in the book of Revelation and it has something to teach us about Christmas in the midst of a mess:

1 A great portent appeared in heaven:a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. 2 She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pangs, in the agony of giving birth. 3 Then another portent appeared in heaven:a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. 4 His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. Then the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, so that he might devour her child as soon as it was born. 5 And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron. But her child was snatched away and taken to God and to his throne; 6 and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, so that there she can be nourished for one thousand two hundred sixty days (Revelation 12:1-6 emphasis mine)

Granted it is only one verse, but there it is, the birth of Jesus, Christmas in Revelation. Did you notice anything about this Christmas? Looking at the verses before and after, this first Christmas is a messy one, with the evil one lurking and looking to destroy.

It will help us to consider what is happening in these verses and we can begin by considering the identity of the woman about to give birth. Notice that within a few verses we have a) a woman, b) agony in childbirth, and c) a serpent. Do you remember the last time we found these three things together in scripture? Yes, in Genesis 3 at the Fall. The Serpent tempts Eve and comes under a curse including this prophecy:

15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel (Genesis 3:15)

Eve succumbs to the temptation and also is cursed:

16 To the woman he said, “I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, . . .” (Genesis 3:16)

What we have in Genesis 12:1-4 is the history of the world from Eve great with potential to Mary great with child. In fact in chapter 12 of Revelation we have a snapshot of the history of the world from Eve to the situation today with a break to consider the victory of Jesus in verses 7-12. But how would this history lesson help the original readers of the book of Revelation who were facing great persecution in their day? And how can this history lesson help us today? It helped them, and helps us now, by taking us out from our troubles to see the big picture. And in looking at the big picture there are certain things we can learn:

First, the devil and his schemes are real, so expect a mess. According to Revelation 12 we should expect evil to be alive and well and we should expect to suffer the effects:

But woe to the earth and the sea, for the devil has come down to you with great wrath, . . . . Then the dragon was angry with the woman, and went off to make war on the rest of her children, those who keep the commandments of God and hold the testimony of Jesus. (Revelation 12:12,17)

Are you surrounded by mess and misery this Christmas? Do not be surprised, this is normal in a Fallen world.

Second, the devil’s nasty work is temporary. Thanks to the baby mentioned in verse 5, the evil one’s days are numbered. He has a “best before date,” or in this case a “worst before date”:

But woe to the earth and the sea, for the devil has come down to you with great wrath, because he knows that his time is short. (Revelation 12:12 emphasis mine)

Are you surrounded by mess and misery this Christmas? This too shall pass.

Third, the devil’s schemes cannot ruin the purposes and plans of God. In Revelation 12 we see an allusion to Herod’s plan to destroy the infant Jesus. We know that did not happen and the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus all happened according to plan. Additionally, many verses in chapter 12 point to God’s protection of His people:

. . . and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, so that there she can be nourished (Revelation 12:6) . . .the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle, so that she could fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to her place where she is nourished (Revelation 12:14) . . . the earth came to the help of the woman (Revelation 12:16). . .

Are you surrounded by mess and misery this Christmas? God has a plan. We ought not assume His plan does not include our own death at some point. God’s plans go way bigger than that.

Fourth, the devil is already defeated. The devil is a deceiver, but he is also known in the Bible as an accuser. Indeed this is what the very term Satan means. Satan is spoken of in the Old Testament as standing in the court of God, ready to accuse. We might think of the first chapter of Job where Satan accuses Job of loving God only because life was good. Satan is portrayed as the one who can stand before God and say “look at this guy, or look at that woman, they are deserving of destruction.” And Satan could stand before God and say of you and I, “look what they did, look how undeserving they are.” And we give him plenty to talk about don’t we? Except he cannot do that, for he is not there. He has been thrown down:

7 And war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels fought back, 8 but they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 9 The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.
10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, proclaiming,

“Now have come the salvation and the power
and the kingdom of our God
and the authority of his Messiah,
for the accuser of our comrades has been thrown down,
who accuses them day and night before our God. (Revelation 12:7-10)

Far from winning a hearing in the presence of God, Satan has been conquered. While the passage speaks of the angel Michael leading the fight, it is really speaking about Jesus and trust in Him:

11 But they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they did not cling to life even in the face of death. (Revelation 12:11)

Keeping all this in mind let us think of the Apostle Paul’s words:

31 What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? 33 Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all day long;
we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-39)

Are you surrounded by mess and misery this Christmas? There is good news of great joy, for God has made possible a rescue from the greatest misery possible, eternal separation from God. In Jesus we have eternal life ahead with no dragons.

When the Christmas train goes off the rails, when it seems Satan has his evil hands all over your life, look at the big picture and remember that the final destination is Christ and His arms of love. Need a hug this Christmas? You are already in His embrace.

All scripture references are taken from the NRSV

 

February 26, 2013

Where Accusation and Conviction Meet

NLT Ps. 51:3 For I recognize my rebellion;
it haunts me day and night.

KJV Ps. 51:3 For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.

ESV Revelation 12:10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.

NIV I Thess. 1:4 For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake.

NIV I Tim. 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…

Sometimes you just know when you’ve messed up.  You need neither the devil’s accusation nor the Holy Spirit’s conviction. It’s black and white. You missed the mark. You weren’t even aiming for the target. You recognize that the border between the righteousness and holiness that people in your church think you live out, and the propensity to sin of weaker brothers is a border only micro-millimeters thick.

How did I think that? What made me say that? Why did I look at her/him the way I did? Why did I charge that customer for two hours’ labor when I did the job in one? Why did I click on that website? Where did that anger come from when they mentioned that person’s name? Why did I say I’d be there when I have no intention of attending?

Yikes! I’m no different than anyone else! Here I thought — and everybody else thought — that I was super spiritual, when in fact I’m … human.

That’s the moment to confess.

This is often referred to as “keeping short accounts with God.”  The blog Amazing Grace Bible Studies explains:

…let’s consider the phrase as it is used in accounting acumen. To keep your accounts payable on a “short basis” simply means to keep them “paid up”, or rather, not to let them become extended. An example of this would be to pay off your credit card balance every month.

In the spiritual sense, when looking at the theology that prescribes this practice, it always refers to confession of sin(s) (the equivalent of a liability or debt in accounting terms), and requesting to be forgiven of sins on a daily basis.1 When you hear believers say that they are “prayed up” this invariably means that they’ve got all their sins “confessed up.”

Rick Warren adds,

“Clean hands” simply means a clear conscious. Does that mean we’re perfect? No. None of us is perfect. But we can keep short accounts with God. 1 John 1:9 (TLB) says, “But if we confess our sins to him, he can be depended on to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong.” So when we sin, we just say, “God, I was wrong. I confess it.” There is no power without a clear conscience.

Classic writer A. B. Simpson wrote:

  It is a good thing to keep short accounts with God. I was very much struck some years ago with an interpretation of the verse: So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God (Romans 14:12). The thought it conveys is that of accounting to God daily. For us judgment is passed as we lay down on our pillows each night. This is surely the true way to live. It is the secret of great peace. It will be a delightful comfort when life is closing or at the Master’s coming, to know that our account is settled and our judgment over. For us, then, there is only the waiting to hear the glad Well done, good and faithful servant; . . . enter thou into the joy of thy Lord (Matthew 25:21).

But sometimes we feel a sense of a nagging in our heads and hearts either because (a) we haven’t confessed yet, or (b) we have but something about our sin is such that our brain won’t let go of it — or at least that would be a superficial explanation to what is going on.

But what’s really going one?  In either case above, it has to be either:

  • the conviction of the Holy Spirit (or you might read the I Thess. passage above as ‘the conviction of the gospel’ or in I Tim., the rebuke of God’s Word); or,
  • the accusation of Satan who is described (in the Rev. passage above) as the accuser of the brethren (and, as some translations add, the sistren.) (Yes, I know that’s not a word.)

Conviction or accusation?

So when you find yourself in the situation of unconfessed sin, or of sin you feel you did indeed confess, then is what you are experiencing conviction or accusation?

Does it really matter?

No, I mean that question. We looked at a tough passage a few days ago where David took the census, and the two Old Testaments account differed in terms of whether the idea for David to do this came from Satan or from God.  Theologians still aren’t sure; the jury is still out on how to interpret this passage.

Conviction of sin

So here’s what I think. And remember this is just one guy’s opinion.

I believe that, to use a train analogy, sometimes conviction and accusation arrive on parallel tracks. Both will lead you in the same direction. One is very negative: “So I guess we’re not so spiritual after all, are we?” But the other comes from a heart of love, “Let’s get that confessed, so that we can spend the rest of the day walking in grace and forgiveness.”

One will beat you over the head. Actually, you don’t need to be a Christ-follower to have that experience. All humans have some degree of guilt-reflex.

But the other will free you, provided you act on that conviction, confess and move on.

PW

July 12, 2012

May 30, 2012

The Mechanics of Spiritual Attacks

This appeared today at Ray Ortlund’s blog under the title You Have Authority in Christ.

“Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.”  Luke 10:19

In Dynamics of Spiritual Life, Richard Lovelace proposes that one of the “primary elements of continuous renewal” in a church is “authority in spiritual conflict,” pages 133-144.  We are not on the defensive.  We have authority from Christ himself.  The blows we do receive from Satan “come from a retreating enemy,” as Lovelace says, because of the decisive victory of Jesus on our behalf.

Lovelace draws from Scripture five fall-back strategies of Satan:

1.  Temptation

“The enemy strategy here is either to disfigure a Christian’s witness through public scandal, to gain some evidence through which his or her conscience can be accused and discouraged, or to weaken faith in the possibility of sanctification in some contested area.”

2.  Deception

“Negatively, demonic agents induce a strong conscious aversion to biblical truth, an inability to comprehend it and a distaste for what little can be understood. . . . Positively, the forces of darkness inspire and empower anti-christian religious counterfeits . . . . The deceiving work of Satan can even be done in and through Christian believers, as Christ’s famous rebuke of Peter shows.”

3.  Accusation

“Demonic agents italicize the defects of Christians and the churches in the minds of unbelievers and cause true Christianity to be branded with the image of its own worst exemplars . . . . They are also particularly active in dividing Christians from one another into parties . . . . Finally, satanic forces attack Christians directly in their own minds with disturbingly accurate accounts of their faults, seeking to discourage those who are most eager and able to work for the kingdom.”

4.  Possession

“The Gospels plainly describe a condition in which human victims come almost helplessly under control of alien personalities.”

5.  Physical attack

“From data in the Gospels it appears that demonic agents can occasionally cause illness, at least psychological and neurological ailments like dumbness and epilepsy.”

More should be said about all this, and Lovelace does say more.  But he wisely affirms, “The battles we fight against [demonic powers] should not be occasions of anxiety.  They force us back to reliance on Christ’s redemptive work and enhance our dignity and authority as redeemed saints who have the power to judge angels.”

While searching for an image to accompany this article, I came across an article in the blog of Randolf Brown where he introduces a 6th tactic: Distraction.  He also had posted the following chart.

August 26, 2010

Consider Your Ways

Anyone who can’t find Christian devotional content on the internet just isn’t looking hard enough.  Today we introduce Fresh Manna by Tim Burt, an associate pastor in Minnesota who has been writing devotions online since 2007.   You can also read today’s devotional here.


“Now therefore thus says the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways.” (Haggai 1:5)

I woke up this morning thinking about people that enter into sudden crisis and how it affects their spiritual walk. The man that suddenly has his wife utter those words that grip his heart, “I’m leaving you – I just can’t do this anymore.” The person who has just had his boss tell him or her “I am so sorry but the company has to lay off fifty people and I have to let you go.” The person that is sitting with their doctor to find out what those unusual symptoms have been about and he says, “I am sorry to tell you this but you have cancer.” The person who gets the phone call about their loved one just having a serious accident. All these horrible crisis occurrences can grip the heart and attempt to send one’s mind into a tailspin. And they are seldom over in a moment. Difficult times and seasons like this often lead to pain, confusion, condemnation, blame, and eventually backsliding from God. I believe that today, God is trying to warn some of those reading about needed changes that will help them avoid crisis and to others – a call to come back to Him from their wandering away.

When sincere Christians experience these kinds of painful, heart-gripping events, most at some point begin to process through a spiritual inventory. “What did I do to bring this on?” Even though they may have done absolutely nothing, the devil uses these occasions to take advantage of pointing out our sinful weaknesses and beats us over our head with condemnation. That is his wicked nature that will never change. He is an accuser and is called the accuser of the brethren. Rev. 12:10 “…the accuser of God’s children, who accuses them before our God day and night…” Some think the accusations they hear are from God and that He is mad at them. They don’t have the discernment to know it’s the voice of Satan. Consequently, some run from God at these times of crisis. Others get mad at God. They think God has let them down.

When people are guilty of sin and won’t own up to it and it has led to pain or crisis, they often blame God, but since they can’t see Him, they blame those that represent God. They blame their Pastor, or religion, or someone who preaches the gospel on television that they can take cheap shots at, or maybe even their Christian friends. Suddenly every Christian looks like a hypocrite because of their imperfection and Satan amplifies that. Blaming someone else feels better than looking inside through self-examination and repenting for sin.

If disobedience has led to or contributed to the crisis they are facing, the Lord’s goal is always an assurance of His love and willingness to forgive where there is repentance of sin. His goal is always reconciliation – the restoring of relationship and right behavior with Him and help and deliverance from the crisis. Examine Jesus’ walk and you will see this is true. Its’ always about Him bringing correction and instruction on how to get it right. It’s all about leading people into change – supernatural change. It’s never about beating someone up and leaving them in the dust. The devil will do that. People do that to each other, but that is not God’s character.

Crisis often drives healthy self examination. It is always the right time to examine your life. It is also always the right time to purge ungodly thoughts, attitudes, unforgiveness, immoral behavior, and anything that we would mark unpleasing to God. Crisis might drive us to our knees. But it would be better to hit our knees before crisis came. It would be better to delight ourselves in the fear of God and move as far away from ungodly attitudes and behavior out of our love for God as possible. If we did, we’d have greater confidence that God would protect us and help and deliver us when crisis rears its ugly head instead of being buried in the devil’s condemnation.

He will supernaturally strengthen us to make needed changes and that often helps us avoid the crisis’s that could derail us. That is why He calls out to us and says: “Now therefore thus says the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways.” (Haggai 1:5)

In His Love,
Pastor Tim Burt

August 16, 2010

Satan’s Sifting

Ever felt sifted by Satan?   My oldest son wrote today to ask for some clarification on Luke 22:31.  I decided to see what other bloggers have written on this.    Here are two answers.

The first is from Pastor Paul Taylor:

Satan wanted to find some fault in Peter to separate him from Jesus; to disqualify him from service. Jesus said that he has prayed for Peter, not to stop the sifting, but that Peter’s faith won’t fail in the middle of the sifting! Peter is the wheat and his self-confidence is the chaff.

Didn’t Jesus pray that Peter’s faith wouldn’t fail? But it looks like Peter’s faith DID FAIL in the middle of the testing. So what failed? Peter’s promise to Jesus that he would never fall away under extreme pressure, Peter’s faith in himself and his ability to do the good he intended to do, to prove his worth or value to Jesus by his words and actions; that FAILED! That is what Satan’s sifting exposed; Peter was trusting in his good intentions, to prove his love for Jesus.

So it will fail in us as well. Satan wanted to show Peter was worthless and unfaithful. Jesus wanted to redirect Peter’s faith onto God so it would not fail in crisis.

Where have you been putting your faith? Is your faith unconsciously in yourself, in your ability to do everything right as a Christian? Are you discouraged or depressed when your best intentions fail? Have you made promises to God that not only did you fail to keep, but you sinned and failed miserably? Have you allowed this to bring shame and guilt into your relationship with Jesus so you pulled away from him? Some become so discouraged by their failure that they fall headlong into sin-they give up and quit trying to live as a Christian. Tune in to today’s sermon and find the same courage and strength to follow Jesus once again.

The second one was just posted a few days ago by Jen Slattery:

Our church, and a few of my fb friends, are reading through the New Testament in six months, and today’s reading was the passage covering the crucifixion.  I think we tend to glaze over this story. We’ve heard it so many times, it no longer affects us. And yet, if we were to stop and ponder what Jesus Christ’s death was like, for Him and those who loved Him dearly, it’d break our hearts. And maybe that’s why we don’t always grasp it as often as perhaps we should–the understanding of that kind of love, and our total unworthiness of it, breaks us. One of my favorite songs is From the Inside Out by Hillsong. The opening verse is my life story set to music:

“A thousand times I’ve failed, yet Your mercy remains. Should I stumble again, still I’m caught in Your grace. Everylasting. Your light shines when all else fades. Never-ending. Your glory goes beyond all praise.”

I’ve failed God more times than I can count. I’ve thrown fits, I’ve rebelled, I’ve been so consumed with self my prayers sounded like a toddler wish-list, and yet through it all, God has remained. And the minute I turn around, I find myself surrounded in His arms. He is only a repentance away.

In the passage we read today, Peter, one of Jesus’ close disciples and dear friends, denies Him. Not once, but three times. Peter, the same man who only a few paragraphs earlier tells Jesus that he is ready and willing to die for Him. And yet, when the time comes and Jesus is facing His death, everyone scatters. They are faithless, and yet, Jesus remains faithful. Peter’s denial does not dissuade God’s love. (Luke 22:54-22:62) Nor was Jesus surprised by Peter’s unfaithfulness.

In Luke 22:31 Jesus tells Peter what he is about to do and lets him know that He wants to use him anyway.

Luke 22:31 “Simon, Simon (his name was Simon Peter), Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith will not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers….I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know Me.”

Jesus prayed that Simon Peter’s faith would not fail. That he would not allow his sin to remain a permanent barrier between them. That Simon Peter would turn back, repent, with a focus on the future. I’ve heard it said that Godly repentance draws you closer to God, guilt draws you farther from Him. Christianity isn’t about beating yourself up for all your failures. And it isn’t about following a bunch of rules in an effort to be good enough. It’s about opening your heart up to the one who loves you more than the human mind can comprehend and allowing Him to remove all the baggage that gets in they way of you experiencing His love.