Thursday, November 1, 2018

False Teachers: Success Ain't Blessed

"Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets." (Luke 6:26)

That's a rather sobering statement from Jesus. Don't we want others to see our light and bless our Father in heaven? "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." (Matt. 5:16)  

But the key word here is "everyone."  The world has its standards for success and the Kingdom of God has its; so, if the world thinks you are all that and a bag of chips, the question must be asked:  What did you compromise?  Did you tone down the idea of hell?  gay marriage?  God's wrath?  (just to name a few).

Did you act as if Jesus were not the only way?  That the Bible is good here and there, but has some really outdated ideas?  That the church needs to be more modern in how it approaches the culture?

It's easy to forget the holiness of God in our rush to be relevant.  

It's easy to forget He is the Lord of the Universe and our Savior who laid down His life for us in our rush to make Him a cosmic Buddy.  

That's the point that perhaps Jesus is making.  If everyone likes you, you have offered a different version of who God is--one who appeals to our human nature and who doesn't challenge us to our very core.  One who doesn't call out our sin, who minimizes it and makes us feel good about ourselves.  

But the Word of God says differently: we are sinners, in need of a Savior. The Word of God is just that--if it were the Word of Man, it would be no problem getting everyone on board. 

But Jesus knew how quickly the tide of public opinion could turn when Truth collided with hardened hearts: "Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man." (John 2:23-25) 

Signs and wonders caught and held the attention of the crowd.  But Jesus knew that a deep, heart-felt commitment was essential in following Him; the signs confirmed the message but they were not the message.  In fact, Jesus taught the end times would be especially perilous, for "false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect." (Matt. 24:24)  

Jesus was talking about counterfeits.  Satan can counterfeit the work of God, and he does it all the time.  There is power in pagan practice; if there were not, the followers over the centuries of various gods, goddesses and cults would have not believed so strongly. 

People want to see what they believe in; thus, a false teacher, with Satan's power, will "show" the people what they came for: to be shocked and awed by the display of power.   

In fact, the demand for signs and a show of power caused Jesus to refer to this as "adultery": 

"Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, 'Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.'

"He answered, 'A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah."  (Matt. 12:38-39)

Do you see it?  If we are looking for anything or anyone other than God Himself, we are committing spiritual adultery.  That is why false teachers are so seductive.  They promise no effort--we just come, sit down and watch the spectacle.  We are amazed.  We hunger to see more and more.  Our heart lusts for a display each and every time, and like a husband who looks at other women and commits adultery in his heart, we are not faithful to God.  We are faithful to our craving for excitement.

False teachers know how even God-fearing Christians can be taken in.  Jesus reminds us in Matthew 24:24 that false teachers will have power (but not from God) and the ability to deceive even those who follow Him.  A false teacher leads the unsuspecting down a road to a spiritual affair, with all the counterfeits of spirituality that Satan can muster:

Satan can quote Scripture.

Satan is powerful and knows just how to wow us.

Satan knows our weakness for the easy road, and if he provides it, we willingly go down it. 

Satan knows how much we love the Lord, and if he can convince us that we can serve Jesus and the world, with no damage to the relationship, he will.

So, if even we can be duped, is there no hope?  Is the Body of Christ just a collection of unsuspecting sheep who are scheduled to be guests at the wolves' next banquet?

"And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not."(Malachi 3:18)  Getting duped by a false teacher is not the unforgiveable sin.  But, once we see the incongruity between that person and the Word, between what that person says and does, and how the Word is reinvented to accommodate the sin that this person proposes we adopt, we must walk completely away.  

In other words, once we see past the smoke and mirrors, and realize that this teacher is false and is serving Satan (even if the person doesn't realize it) we need to speak the truth in love, if this is possible.  If not, we need to stick to the truth in our love for Jesus.  

Faith is not easy, comfortable or quick.  Faith requires the burden of knowing His Word, and using it constantly as the measuring stick for what others teach.  

A false prophet appealed to the fleshy nature in his listeners when he told them that prophets like Jeremiah were not right in saying that God was calling down doom on His chosen people for their egregious sins.  But judgment came.  

A false prophet loves to take a few verses of Scripture, build a whole theology and then teach how his or her interpretation is the only correct one. 

False prophets use their supposed power to benefit themselves primarily, with signs and wonders to keep their followers coming back for more, and for giving the "ministry" more. 

Even the world can be amazed by a false prophet, and gain respect and support.  When the hard questions are asked, the false prophet always has a rather nebulous answer, offends no one and so maintains a presence in the public limelight. 

Eventually, the line is drawn in the sand:  Jesus made it very clear that a student is not above His master; if people hated Him (and they did, enough to put Him to death) can we expect anything less?

Let me end with Jesus' words on how we will not be popular and well-loved by the world if we follow Him:

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also." (John 15:18-20)









Thursday, October 18, 2018

A False Teacher's Resume

Nobody ever shows up and declares, "I am a complete and utter fake."  No.  The person either:

1.  Knows that what they say and do is false, but enjoys deceiving others (a liar)
2.  Believes what they say is true even when faced with contrary evidence (a deluded person)
3.  Believes the ends justifies the means (a pragmatist with a twisted morality)
4.  Needs the approval of others to function (a broken person)
5.  Has two agendas: appear upright to others but cultivates a sinful life (a hypocrite)

It is hard to tell which kind of person you are confronting here.  The common denominator is a level of deception, either to oneself, to others or both.  But if we understand the person's true motive, does it really matter?  Deception is deadly to one's faith, walk in Christ and maybe even their salvation.  Deception was at the core of Satan tempting Eve:  "Did God really say?" (Gen. 3:1)  This was not a mere inquiry to the nature of God's instructions to Adam and Eve.  It was a loaded question, designed to lead Eve down a path of questioning the truth of God and then to deceive her about the truth of God.

Satan's tactics have not changed:  deception and death are always the endgame.

But sometimes we are mystified about what is driving the person to teach and behave the way they do. Our feelings are not always a good indicator, for even if our feelings are positive, we are still stepping into the lion's den.  Or maybe our intuition says, "Red flag!" but we talk ourselves out of it, for we feel guilty seeing this person in less of a positive light.  Or we know the Scripture so well, we can clearly identify when the teachings are wrong, but we like the person, and so we don't know how to approach them to correct their error. It's easy to castigate a false teacher on TV, but when you are faced with someone who actually believes that person on TV, it's another matter.

Again, let's go to the Word, and see what it says about false teachers.

Jeremiah 23:16: "This is what the Lord Almighty says: 'Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes.  They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord.'"

"False hopes" is a perilous form of deception, for when those hopes are too delayed in coming, or don't appear as if they ever will come, then a person's faith is rocked, maybe even shattered.  But that is Satan's goal.  He doesn't want you to simply be disappointed.  He wants you to ultimately reject God. 

Prophets spoke in God's name; so if what they said didn't come to pass, it would be very simple to equate God's word with a lie.  But Jeremiah is saying that just because someone claims to be a prophet, does not make them one, even if what they say seems right.  (If the words were so obviously wrong, no one would regard the prophet as such, and would cease to listen.  There will be just enough truth to give credence to the prophet's claim, but enough lies to deceive the listeners.) 

Deuteronomy 18:18-22 sets the standard:  "I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him. I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name. But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, is to be put to death.”  You may say to yourselves, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?” If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed."

There.  If the prophet is deluded about on whose behalf he speaks or is manipulating others, it matters not:  He is deceiving the people as to what God would have them know.  If a "word from the Lord" leads to a wrong action, wrong belief, or to the start of a person falling away, God is just in His wrath against such a person who perpetrated the lie.  

Prophesy is still a part of the picture in the New Testament: "Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit,  to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.  All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines." (1 Cor. 12: 7-11) [emphasis mine]

Look at the word "prophecy" and its meanings as outlined by Strong's:   

Old Testament:  "a discourse emanating from divine inspiration and declaring the purposes of God, whether by reproving and admonishing the wicked, or comforting the afflicted, or revealing things hidden; esp. by foretelling future events"

And when the New Testament writers spoke of the prophets in the Old, here is what they meant: "of the prediction of events relating to Christ's kingdom and its speedy triumph, together with the consolations and admonitions pertaining to it, the spirit of prophecy, the divine mind, to which the prophetic faculty is due"

So, if the OT prophets were ultimately speaking of Christ, then there can be no lies tainting their words.  Hence, the utter strictness of God's standard in Deuteronomy 18.

If the NT writers saw the OT prophets as speaking of Christ, they accepted their utterances as truth, for only truth can point to the ultimate truth:  Christ Himself.  He even said that He was Truth itself.  

That is why deception is so dangerous, for it leads us away from the truth and from The Truth.  

Satan steals us away by leading us away and he doesn't care who he uses.  His goal?  To destroy and kill us. (John 10:10)










Thursday, October 11, 2018

Spiritual Warfare: Why Do People Fall In With False Teachers?

Excellent question.  The word "cult" is offensive only to those on the inside; if you are on the outside, it's a comforting word that allows you to pridefully declare two things.  First:  "I wouldn't be so stupid or naive to join such a group."  Second: "Why do people stay in such groups when they find out that it's wrong?"   

Fair enough.  From the outside.  How you respond to such a revelation that this group is wrong, cultic and you need to leave depends how deeply your needs are being met, and whether you think you can leave that all behind. 

False teachers tap into deep scars, wounds and needs that maybe no one knows about.  They exploit that connection with you.  How do they know?  They do, for their knowledge is coming from the one they serve. 

If God reveals a hidden wound in someone to you, the last thing a Christ-like person would do is exploit it, manipulate it or use it to meet their needs. 

Satan can reveal things to people, too. 

For me, the pastor that I was taken in by tapped into my daddy wound.  I never had approval voiced by my father.  I was an excellent student, obtained a Masters in college, and had a successful marriage.  He never took me aside and said, "Well done."  It was only on his death bed did he express an appreciation for who I was.  But forty-five years of craving approval had done its damage in how I saw myself. 

This pastor made me feel special, complimented me and made me want to please him.  I went out of my way to do so.  He returned the favor and let me do a bunch of different things in the church that I love to do:  teach, lead worship and participate in Bible studies.

After a year of this, and my self-esteem bolstered by all this attention, things began to change.  I was no longer invited to do certain tasks.  He would shut me down in front of others with disparaging comments.  Instead of growing angry, I would question myself:  What did I do wrong?

The point of no return was when I told him I felt God was calling me to a church plant.  I had served for eight years in this church and almost two under him.  The time was right to move on. 

The reaction was swift and severe.  He became emotionally distant from me.  He told me not to tell anyone for fear it would be depressing to the church.  He blamed me for some changes that were not my idea.  I finally went to his house to make amends.  He was so angry, I could feel it emanating from him.  I tried to make small talk and his wife walked out of the room.  WHAM: He let me have it.  I couldn't get a word in edgewise and I gave up.  He finished and I left, feeling even more stupid, for others had warned me not to try to reconcile with him. 

People who loved me figured him out long before I did. 

It's taken a lot of pain, time and love from the Lord and others to get a hold of why this went so wrong.  Now, if this pastor had started out mean, then I would have left immediately.  One of the church members, who left way before I did, said, "Either he is the most spiritual person I know, or he is a fraud." 

I saw things early on in him that raised flags for me, but I wanted to believe that this man was sent by God and would help me grow. 

He did.  I grew in a lot of knowledge of the Word.  I explored the area of spiritual warfare under his leadership.  But I also learned that wolves will eat salad for a long time before they clamp their jaws on you.

This man had great teachers and he was able to share their teachings with us.  But after a year, his  well ran dry.  Left to his own devices, he started recycling the same basic messages over and over.  He didn't seem to have the vibrant life in Christ that he presented when he first came to our church. 

His teachings became less and less predicated on the Word and more on his personal practices.  He opened the Bible less and less.  It became more and more about him. 

That was the undetected problem at the very start of our relationship:  He was centered on himself.  He was happiest when his needs were being met; when you ceased to meet his needs, you were discarded.

So, what did I learn about why people fall in with false teachers?

A false teacher will meet your deeper needs: Perhaps you are looking for a daddy-figure; a strong man; a kind man; a compassionate leader; a buddy; a good friend; a knowledgeable teacher or an inspirational Christian, who seems to have it together.  Or, yes, all of the above.  That teacher will be there for you. 

A false teacher will make you feel special, unique, chosen:  You will receive such positive affirmation that you will begin to act and feel better about yourself than you have in a long time.

A false teacher will have strong Biblical knowledge, but it will have other elements blended in:  These other elements will raise a red flag, but because the teacher's Biblical knowledge is the larger percentage of what is taught, you ignore the flags.  You are hungry for the Word, and thus you will sift through the teachings.

A false teacher has an answer to every question:  Even if you sense it is not all Biblical, you enjoy the confident glow around such a leader.  Your own questions don't seem so pressing; you bask in the glow of someone who has figured it out. 

A false teacher will make you part of his family:  Your church will have a strong sense of community, and you are placed smack-dab in the middle of it.  Others will not be in the middle with you, but that's OK.  The teacher makes you feel part of an inner circle, and you feel safe and valued there. 

A false teacher will appear successful, happy and in control:  In a world of just the opposite, a leader that emanates these qualities is refreshing.  You want to be a part of this!

A false teacher will have an "us versus them" mentality:  You are so glad to be a part of the "us" that you do wonder why the "them" don't see life the way the leader does.  You are concerned for them, but feel a deep sense of pride to be an "us."

A false teacher will soon confuse you by acting differently than before:  You will seek to correct the problem; after all, everything started out so good.  If something went wrong, it's you.  The leader has it all together, after all. 

A false teacher will have reasonable explanations for the inconsistencies that eventually arise:  The leader, unbeknownst to you, has well-rehearsed reasons for why things go wrong; you just see this as the leader being very confident in the face of problems.

A false teacher will have reasonable explanations for why other people cannot get long with him:  This will cement your bond with him; you determine that you won't act this way, therefore you will not be cast aside.

A false teacher will have reasonable explanations for why things start to fall apart, people leave and what was once a vibrant community comes tumbling down:  Actually, the facade of a vibrant community comes down.  Whatever was real was small; the unreal, the manufactured, the manipulated was the stronger element, and the truth comes out eventually. 

A false teacher doesn't want the Truth; he wants his truth:  That's the great divide.  Truth as revealed in the Word, or a truth created to keep a person in control: that is where the rubber hits the road.  You have to make a decision in face of such compelling evidence about the foundation upon which the leader has built. 

Now, briefly take these points and enlarge them.  These are why so many cults flourish.  These are why so many people, even faced with compelling evidence that what they believe and who they follow are not in line with the Word, still carry on. 

I have learned a lot during the past few years.  Instead of standing Pharisee-like and excoriating followers in thus and such cult, I get it.

The Holy Spirit led me out.  For that I am grateful.  My prayer is that He will lead out those still caught in the net. 

I will next focus on what the Word says about false teachers.  I have sat in church for over 40 years and have never heard a pastor preach on how to detect  false teachers.  I sadly had to go through the school of hard knocks to understand the danger and damage such a false teacher can cause.  









Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Spiritual Warfare: False Teachers

Spiritual warfare and Satan exploiting our natures to gain access is real. Equally real are those people who come as sheep in wolves' clothing to purposely mislead and exploit other people. Their teachings ultimately assassinate God's character by misrepresenting His mercy, love and justice. Their teachings leave a debris trail of broken faith in those who were seduced by their false teaching.

Christianity's history is fraught with those who claimed the Bible allowed them to proceed with their interpretation and inaugurate a new order. Witch trials; the Inquisition; persecution of the Jewish people; cult leaders; slavery; oppression of women; abuse and new "revelations" replacing Biblical teachings, have far too many examples. People held the same Bible in their hands as we do, and yet were able to use it to further Satan's kingdom, not God's.

It is only the tender work of the Holy Spirit and His brilliant truth flooding into souls throughout the ages that Christianity has been able to survive the onslaught of the wolves.

But Jesus warned us.

Let's go to the Word: “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven,but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’" (Matt. 7:15-23)

Wow. Jesus makes it abundantly clear that: False prophets and teachers will show up, using His name to give their ministry respectability.

They will have the outward appearance of humility and being a follower of Christ.  What you cannot initially see is their motive, which is the exploitation of the flocks' faith in Jesus for personal gain. Whether these false teachers crave money, power, prestige, control over others or all of the above, it matters not.

But you can evaluate such teachers by how they live their lives and the kind of results that follow them.  Their hearts are saturated with fleshly desires and Satan's influence, whether they know it or not.

Their lives give away what is hidden in their hearts. What is darkly invisible eventually comes to the surface.

They entice the sheep to focus on them. They "stand in" for Jesus. That's why John uses the word "anti-Christ," for it means not only against Christ, but in place of Christ. When things do not work out accordingly, the teachers blame the sheep and the sheep blame God.

They will be able to do "Kingdom" work. They will use Jesus' name in everything they do. They will speak forth the truths found in the Word; drive out demons, and perform miracles. Or, they will have the appearance of doing so, and will be so convincing that other sheep will swear up and down that these people are the real deal.

They don't know Jesus intimately. He does not live deep within their hearts. They are not fully repentant and surrendered.

Thus, any "good" (or maybe it is good, only a while) they do is not of Jesus; it is of Satan and must be repudiated by the sheep, even if it looks real.

Their hearts, steeped in sin, effectively asked Jesus to leave, and to not interfere with their ministry; Jesus will say the same words back to them one day.

The will of the Father--as revealed in His Word--is clear. It is the standard by which the sheep evaluate what they hear. They are led by a diligent and trustworthy Shepherd. No earthy person can ever be a substitute Jesus in all His glory to the sheep. Teachers are to relay Jesus' words with all integrity and love. The sheep need to learn His voice, and follow only that.

Jesus made an interesting comparison between sheep and a wolf in sheep's clothing. How do you get clothing from a sheep? You kill it, skin it and put it on. You are not sheering it, and making a costume from its wool. You wear its body on you. From a distance, it moves, makes noise and looks like a regular sheep. But you gotta get close. That's why I think Jesus switched to fruit.

It is hard to dash across a pasture to get close to a sheep, especially if you are not the shepherd. The sheep will flee in fright. Your inspection will not go well. But, trees are another matter. You can stroll into an orchard, and get so close as to pick the fruit and examine it closely.

I believe Jesus is saying, "Look. I know that sheep are hard to track down and get a close look. Do not, however, use that as an excuse to not evaluate what someone is teaching. You may not meet them personally or talk to them. You certainly cannot get close enough to see their heart and what is motivating them to say what they are saying. But, their lives will show the kind of sap that is flowing into the tree and feeding the fruit. Out of the abundance of their hearts, their mouths will speak.

"It may take months or years to see the fruit hanging on the branches. But the fruit will come. It always does and it will show you the heart of the teacher. The sheep can flee and you will never get close enough to see who's under the wool.

"But you can approach the tree and see what's under the leaves.

"The standard for evaluation? My Father's Word. I, as the Word, do not contradict any thing He has said or ordained. I only do what He tells Me to do and I only speak what He tells Me to speak. Trust Me: Satan will do everything he can to counterfeit Me, My work and My kingdom. Measure everything taught by the written Word--the Bible. Measure the life by the living Word--Me. My Holy Spirit will guide you. But you must be diligent."

You may not know that it's a wolf until you smell the sheep-flesh on its breath. That is why we will be studying what false teachers do and behave like. We will equally be studying what sincere teachers do and behave like.

Join me.









Friday, September 7, 2018

Stronghold Starter #10: Self-Righteousness, Hypocrisy & Denial: Only My Truth Counts

Self-righteousness is an excellent way to allow Satan to slither his way in.  Just listen the self-righteous person's  musings:

I have all sorts of facts, observations, stories and personal knowledge as to why I am right and you are not.  I am superior in my knowledge and my conclusions, and if you want to be more acceptable,  you must think like me.  If you throw in biblical knowledge on top of all of this, I am the one in church with the answers, and I am entitled to look down on everyone else when they don't get in line with my conclusions.  I dominate Bible studies and I love to argue.  I love to keep score on how I silence my opponents, even if they are brothers and sisters in Christ.   

Hypocrisy is an equally excellent way to allow Satan entrance.  Just listen to these musings:

I am above the law.  Whatever the law may say or demand, or wherever its values are applied, I am above it.  Why?  Because I am, well, me.  Rules and regulations are for other people.  They need the corral of correction...I am free to run unhindered, because I control myself.  I am a law unto myself, and if I don't think something is a problem, then it isn't, regardless of what the law says.  But, I will make one concession:  I will act like other people, even though I am certainly not other people.  I will smile and then go home, and do want I want.  

Denial is another way:

I don't see a problem.  I have faith there is no problem.  If the "problem" (your name for it, not mine) persists, then I will have a ready answer:

1.  The problem doesn't exist because my faith says it doesn't exist.  I walk by faith.  You don't.

2.  You don't have the faith I have, so no wonder you still consider this a problem.

3.  I will confess only positive things, because my words shape reality.  I say, "There is no problem."  
     So, there isn't one.  But, please, do not correct me or speak anything contrary to me; your 
     negative confession could ruin my reality.  

4.  Hey, I cope, don't I?  This is how I cope.  If I didn't engage in denial, I would have to face pain, 
     suffering, disappointment...in other words, reality.  Reality bites; my reality is where I am in total 
     control. My words, my beliefs, my, my, my...I do it so I can live my life.  I do it so I can be in
     control.

The common denominator of all these is pride, with control being the essential operating principle. 

Self-righteousness means I control the conversation by what I know, what I believe, and I don't have to listen to others.  I know what I know.  I enter the room and leave the room unmoved by the less-informed opinions of others.  I don't grow in my knowledge; I stagnate.  But I don't care.   

Hypocrisy means I control my interior life by my own definitions.  I equally control the image others have of me; I present well, so others consider me legitimate.  Little do they know, and that's fine by me.

Denial means I control reality to fit what I believe.  It's not just enough to believe something: I put it into practice by telling everyone what my reality is; how my faith makes it so, and how it will come to pass.  Even when reality is continuing to be the opposite of what I tell others, I just speak more:  I talk of my faith, my words, my relationship with God.  Others question me silently; when someone dares to question my reality, I strike back, quickly and without mercy.  I cope with life this way and no one, not even God, is going to tell me how to proceed.  I can't trust Him; I can't trust others.  But, I can trust me, and so I am in control.  Who better than me?   

How then to not allow this kind of thinking to provide access for Satan and our flesh to zone us off for castle construction? 

Jesus came to show us how to be utterly dependent on God.  We surrender our will, look to Him for guidance and purpose, and walk in faith in Jesus, not in our interpretation of reality. 

Jesus shows us the way to be dependent, for that He the way He lived.  He doesn't ask us to do anything that He did not first do.  Listen to Jesus: 

"Jesus gave them this answer: 'Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed.'" (John 5:19-20) 

In another passage from John, Jesus draws His identity from His Father alone, and from doing what His Father commands:

"Who are you?” they asked.

“Just what I have been telling you from the beginning,” Jesus replied. “I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is trustworthy, and what I have heard from him I tell the world.”

They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father. So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” Even as he spoke, many believed in him. (John 8:25-29)
[emphasis mine]

If anything moves us away from God, to be independent of Him in any way, that is our pride speaking.  Our pride is the foundation from which the castle is begun by Satan.  Every day, we should be moving more and more towards Him, in what we do, say and who we are.  


Saturday, September 1, 2018

Stronghold Starter #9: Offense, Blame, Anger & Hatred: I Only Give People What They Deserve

Whew.  Now that's a list from the pit of hell.  Even if we think we are basically good people, any one of those items will quickly dispel that notion. 

It is no coincidence that the first act out of the Garden of Eden was murder:  one brother to another.  We all know the story of Cain and Abel.  But do we know how God tried to intervene and warn Cain of where his anger would lead? 

"Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast." (Gen. 4:2-6)

We can clearly see a rivalry between the two in how they obey the Lord's instructions for an offering.  Abel understood that the firstborn of his flock had to be sacrificed, not just any animal he decided would do.  The fat portions--sweet and aromatic--were the selected parts, not just any portion that he decided would do.  

Leviticus 4 lists what constitutes a sin offering, and how the fat portions are to be burned: "They shall remove all the fat, just as the fat is removed from the fellowship offering, and the priest shall burn it on the altar as an aroma pleasing to the Lord. In this way the priest will make atonement for them, and they will be forgiven." (4:31). 

What are the sins that such an offering covers? Leviticus 4:1 says, "The Lord said to Moses, 'Say to the Israelites: "When anyone sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the Lord’s commands..."'"

Yes, the Law was not formally given yet, but I find it interesting that this sacrifice with its fat portions was meant to propitiate for sins unintentionally committed at first, but later the person realizes a sin has been committed.  

How must I confront sin on this side of the cross?  I must be spiritually humble. I must listen to the quiet voice of God, and when I sense His sadness and displeasure at my thoughts and actions, I react with grief. I must maintained an earnest desire to be right with God all the time and not rationalize what I have done.  I seek forgiveness immediately in Christ and He grants it.  

If I struggle with this, I ask Christ to empower me in this process.  

But it may require a sacrifice--walking away from a friend, leaving a job, or rethinking how I act.  I am not talking works here--I am fully forgiven as I confess my sins to Him, but He may ask me to place my lamb on the altar. 

But Pride says I can carry on regardless.  Yes, I hear God's convicting voice, but, hey, compared to so and so, my sin isn't so bad, and certainly not worth taking away one of my valued "sheep" for it. 

In fact, Pride will go further:  

I am offended that the Bible calls what I did sin;

I blame ______________ for what I did, for I am basically a good person; 

I am growing angry the more I think about it, that people would dare judge me--look at what they do!

I am beginning to hate those who would call me out and make me look less than them!

Let's go back to Cain to see this progression of Pride:  

"Then the Lord said to Cain, 'Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.'” (Gen. 4:6-7)

God was giving Cain time to reflect on how his thoughts were heading towards disaster.

Let's break down how the Lord approached Cain.  The Lord saw the anger stirring in Cain's heart because his offering of produce was not viewed favorably by the Lord.  Why?  It is not what the Lord commanded for a sacrifice.  Fruits and vegetables always appear in abundance.  One plum is no different than another; one tomato is easily replaced by another.  So produce does not have any real value.  But a firstborn lamb is valuable.  It is unique and costly, because it takes time to obtain another one.  You can't just swap it out with another lamb down the birth order. 

But Cain's pride told him that one sacrifice was as good as another, and that the Lord was being, what?  Overly demanding?  Too particular?  Out of touch with Cain's life?  He tilled the soil after all; it wasn't as if he was a shepherd like his brother. 

Oh, wait a minute!  Here's the deeper problem:  Cain would have to go and ask his younger (!) brother for a firstborn lamb.  Uh-oh.  By asking Abel for one, Cain is admitting (albeit tacitly) that he has sinned and that he needs to offer a sacrifice.  His request is immediately a blow to his pride; his younger brother having the goods is another, and his younger brother knowing that his older brother has sinned is more than Cain can endure.

Thus, the anger and downcast face of Cain.  Cain had taken offense somewhere along the way.  Offended by what?  Abel's attitude?  God's demands?  Having to be humble and asking his brother?  Feeling judged?  

Offense is our pride being prickled.  Thus the progression begins.  

Cain, having been offended in some way, has opened the door to the enemy of his soul.  Feeling offended attracts Satan like a pit viper to a warm-blooded prey.  Satan senses offense and the prickling of pride, because that was his problem:  Satan was offended that he could not be worshipped as God was, for he saw himself as being equally capable as his Creator.  

God gave a strategy to Cain for overcoming his anger:  Do what is right.  He could have u-turned his actions and obtained a lamb. God states He will accept Cain by his change of direction.

If not, "sin is crouching at your door." Who does THAT sound like? The roaring, devouring lion of 1 Peter 5:8: "Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour." Yup.  Satan is waiting at the door, sniffing and knowing that Cain had a choice of which way to go.  

But, his anger was growing.  Therein lies the danger: "For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice." (James 3:16)

Cain blamed Abel for his feelings; his anger is growing, and hatred is seeping into his heart.  Satan desired to have Cain; Satan was building a stronghold, as long as Cain allows pride to dominate his heart.  

Hatred wins the day.  Abel is slaughtered like one of his lambs; Cain ducks out of the killing field, thinking all of his problems are over.  

Hatred is the castle in plain view in a person's life.  The progression of pride is subtle, interior and hard to detect sometimes in someone.  But once those stoney walls are erected, and you run into them, you know this person, or yourself, has a stronghold.  

John goes as far as to say that harboring hatred and being in God's presence are incompatible:  

"And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister." (1 John 4:16-21)

Emphasis mine.  Amen.  

How to demolish the stronghold?  "Rule over it" in the power of Christ.  Confess it and dispossess it. 

Now possess Christ's love.  He will take the stronghold down, stone by stone.





Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Hey Wonderful Readers! Want to Review My Books?


This is the book from which I took the last series of blog entries on spiritual warfare.  It's about who we are in Christ and how we are the face the evil we see all around us.  It is full of Scripture, to train us up as good soldiers of the Lord's and to more fully understand our mission and position in Christ.  If you would like a more complete overview of the book, go to Amazon.  There is a workbook that accompanies it as well, for personal study or group study.  It is also available on Amazon. 


If you want to know the demonic agenda for the Christian church and the US, you just need to read these emails, sent from a reigning demon to his protege, Wormwood.  Yes, the same Wormwood that you may have read about in The Screwtape Letters.  He has been given a second chance to take on the Western world to prepare the stage for the Kingdom of Darkness' Man of Action.  It's a "novel" approach to understanding the spiritual warfare that is confronting us everyday.  For a more complete overview, go to Amazon. 



OK, readers...I would like to send you a copy of either one of these books, with the promise that you will read it and review it on Amazon.  I just want to get some traction with these books, for I believe the message is important. 

My email address is rcramer@claytoncramer.com
Make sure that you give me your mailing address.    
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