Tuesday, April 4, 2017

STAND on Who God Is--Spiritual Warfare VII

The Bible declares in Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.” The Bible begins with a simple but profound truth. God exists, He created what we see and He is still involved with His creation. He is our loving and ever-vigilant Shepherd, as Psalm 23 (NIV) so beautifully describes. 

1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.  You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. 

Satan believes in God and acts accordingly. We too need to believe in God and act accordingly.

Jesus never debated the existence of either party. Jesus came with the confidence of a soldier. He was sure of His mission and His orders. Jesus is taking this planet back, one soul at a time:  "I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance." (Luke 15:7)

When you are at war, you don’t sit around headquarters debating whether or not you are at war; the fact that Paul says that we need to put on the armor of God is proof enough.

So, we are to stand on Who God is. This is not Theology 101. This is Be Confident in Whom You Serve 101.

Satan’s greatest tactic is to assassinate the character of God. If he can get you to doubt Who God is, he opens a door for you to question the very claims the Bible makes about God. Satan will flat out say the Word is lying about God or insinuate that most of it is unreliable. He will throw into your face this world with all of its horrors as proof that God is not as good as you think He is. The irony here is that this world is a result of his work with willing human participants. In other words, Satan will blame God for his own dirty work.

Or, Satan will quote Scripture, twisting it just enough to cause you to wonder. Don’t debate Satan. He’s better at it than you.  He’s much more experienced at it than you.  So, if you encounter his argument, state Scripture.  No need to run and get a theological kitchen knife.  The Sword of the Word is sufficient. We will unpack this rich psalm on who God is.  Who He is directly impacts who you are.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

He is the Shepherd and I am the sheep.  Because He knows the landscape, He is more than capable of leading me through it.  Because He knows me, He is more than capable of leading me to victory. 
He is my High Priest wrapped in a shepherd’s garb: "For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." (Heb. 4:15 NIV)

That’s what this Shepherd does: He leads His flock: "and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice." (John 10:3-4 NIV)  He walks where the sheep walk, and will not lead them anywhere He has not gone first. He surveys the landscape, seeing where the grazing is the best and where the danger is the least.  

He loves His sheep so much that He laid down His own life:  "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep." (John 10:11-13 NIV)

He knows the exact number in His flock. If even one goes missing, away He goes: "Suppose one of
you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent." (Luke 15:3-7 NIV)
Because this Shepherd truly cares, I will lack nothing. He is providing for me now in this earthly pasture and will provide for me when He returns: "And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away." (1 Pet. 5:4 NIV)

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,

He knows exactly what I need to flourish in this life. He leads me to the places where I can grow. The green pastures of His Word, His presence and my sheep to Shepherd conversations (prayer) will sustain me. The quiet waters are refreshing as well. The waters aren’t just a place, they are a Person:
"…but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (John 4:13-14 NIV)  He desires to lead me to Himself, but I must choose to go with Him. I will come to my Living Water, and by staying in His Word, I will drink deeply.

[H]e refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.

By following the Shepherd, and doing what He requests of me, I will be refreshed. When I dash out in front of Him, act as if I know better and fall into a ditch of my own choosing, I lose the peace only He can provide. The world claims it can provide peace, but underneath its alluring grasses crouches a lion: "Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." (1 Pet. 5:8 NIV)  As my brother Rob suggested, maybe a better spelling would be “lie-on.”

How can God guide me in the “right paths?” He has trampled down the grasses with His own feet.
Look closely: His feet have nail scars and fang marks.  Look further up the path: See that serpent with its crushed head? It is still moving, but it is far less powerful now.  We are refreshed because Satan is a defeated foe. For the Word says, "[H]e will crush your head, and you will strike his heel." (Gen. 3:15 NIV)  Stray off the path and beware. Stay on the path and know that you are His, for His name is inscribed on your heart.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

The Shepherd is leading and the sheep are following. Of course, being by the still waters and lovely pastures are very appealing to the sheep. But that’s not where sheep wander off to. They wander off to a distant valley… If the Shepherd has to leave and look for one, He will look everywhere in that valley. Valleys are not frightening when the sun is high in the sky. It’s when the sun dips behind the mountains, the shadows lengthen and all sorts of predators lie in wait or start lurking about, that the sheep knows it is now alone. The valley where darkness has settled is truly frightening.

It’s no different with sin. It starts out all warm and sunny: No problem, I’ve got this. Then, after being in the valley for awhile, the darkness begins to fall and the red glow of eyes in the shadows brings fear into our hearts: Lord, help me! This sin has taken over!  Our prayer of repentance brings the Shepherd and He arrives with His rod and staff to drive out fear, shame and guilt.  The key here is don’t wander off. If you stick by Him, even a dark valley is no cause for fear. His strength is your comfort. Besides, your Shepherd is armed. If He has a rod and a staff, He is protecting and guiding you. If He only guides you, then when you see glowing eyes in the twilight on the path up ahead, you will be afraid. If He only protects you, then when you need to decide which way to go, you will be afraid. Your Shepherd does both, for real life is both.

 We need protection from the wolf of fear and we need wisdom to know how to proceed. The Shepherd does both with His love. How so?  "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." (1 John 4:18 NIV) “Perfect” means mature and maturity comes from trusting Him each day and remembering His faithfulness. The more His mature love grows in our hearts, the more our fear will tuck tail and run.

But, we must be willing to receive that love. We need to stick close to our Shepherd, every day and in every way. If He seems far away, guess who moved?

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

It takes utter confidence to set up a banquet in a war zone. Enemies are all about, and yet, there you sit. Your Shepherd has cast out your fear with His love, so your enemies do not sit at the table with you. Of course, they lurk on the outskirts, eyes aglow. But you dine in peace, resting in the work He has done: "There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his."  (Heb. 4:9-10)

Jesus laid down His life for His sheep; the war has been won by His blood. There is nothing you can do to earn a place at the table; you are invited because the Shepherd loves you and died for you. The Shepherd pours His healing oil over you; its sweet fragrance fills the air. Every breath you take is a reminder of His love and healing in your life. Your cup overflows with freedom from fear and shame:
"Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." (2 Cor. 3:17-18 NIV)

When you look into your cup, look carefully at the reflection: It’s your Shepherd’s face.

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Follow your Shepherd with confidence. Why? He proved His trustworthiness by going to the cross, even before you knew Him: "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Rom. 5:8 NIV)  By following Him, goodness and love will follow you. How could it not? He is Goodness itself. He is Love itself. Your destination is not to wander endlessly over the hills, but to come to His house and live with Him there: "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also."  (John 14:3 NIV)

Now you know Who God is: Your loving Shepherd. Here are some verses to S.T.A.N.D. (Spiritually Trained And Not Defeated) on and declare Who God is:

God is love:  "Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." (1 John 4:7-10)

"For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16 NLT)

God is light: "This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all." (1 John 1:5)

God is always on hand to help you: "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble."
(Ps. 46:1)

God is the Father/Daddy (Abba) Who will not fail you: "Doubtless thou art our father…Thou, O Lord, art our father, our redeemer; thy name is from everlasting." (Is. 63:1)

"A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation." (Ps. 68:5)

"The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, 'Abba, Father.'" (Rom. 8:15 NIV)

"And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, 'Abba, Father.'" (Gal. 4:6 NLT)

God is the One you run to:  "But I will sing of thy power; yea, I will sing aloud of thy mercy in the morning: for thou hast been my defence and refuge in the day of my trouble."(Ps. 59:16)

God is your Hope: "Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him." (Ps. 62:5 NIV)
"But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you."  (Ps. 39:7 NIV)

God is your soul/sole Support:  "They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support." (2 Sam. 22:19 NIV)
"Sovereign Lord, my strong deliverer, you shield my head in the day of battle." (Ps. 140:7 NIV)

God knows who you are:  "She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: ‘You are the God who sees me,’ for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me.’" (Gen.16:13 NIV)

God is your Comforter:  "You who are my Comforter in sorrow, my heart is faint within me." (Jer. 8:18 NIV)

"I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you... All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." (John 14:18, 25-27 NIV)

God’s joy in you will give you strength: "Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength." (Neh. 8:10 NIV)

My Shepherd sees you, Satan, even when I can’t. I am in His Good Hands. Always and forever. Because I am spiritually trained to see God as the only One upon whom I can depend, I am not defeated. I am standing on the ground that He won for me. I am standing by my Shepherd. Take that, Satan.

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