Saturday, February 18, 2017

S.T.A.N.D. On Who You Are in Christ: Spiritual Warfare III

Every week or so, we are going to explore spiritual warfare.  Join me on this journey!
Here are some familiar verses.  How do they fit in to the notion of S.T.A.N.D. (Spiritually Trained And Not Defeated)?  Everything!

3  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
5  Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
6  To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.
7  In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;
8  Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence;
9  Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:
10  That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:
11  In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:
12  That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. (Eph. 1:3-11)

T
hese verses summarize who we are in Christ.  Putting on the “whole armor of God” is accepting this identity and surrounding yourself with it.  When your enemy comes, he sees your armor, which is really God’s.  You are immediately identified as a soldier in God’s army.  That makes you a tempting target for Satan.  Without the armor of God on you, you don’t stand a chance.  Satan has never fought fair, and because his days are numbered, he isn’t going to start now.

Verse 3:  You are blessed and dressed because you confess that Christ is Lord.  You now possess “all spiritual blessings.”  Thus, you have a dual citizenship:  You possess all that God has for you in the heavenly realms, but you still walk on this planet.  You are encased in His armor, but underneath you are still in a physical body.  Point?  Don’t take off God’s armor.  To maintain your position in Him, stay arrayed.  Stay in Christ.  Pray, walk and talk with Him. A soldier out of uniform looks no different than a civilian.  A Christian out of armor looks no different than a non-believer.  We know how Satan treats his own.  Don’t look like one of his own.  You are emphatically not when you are in Christ.  So, look that way!

Verse 4:  You are one of His chosen.  God loves you and chose you.  Why?  Ask Him, and He will open His hands and show you His scars: "Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands…"
(Is. 49:16) There was nothing you did or said that made Him call you.  There is nothing you can do or say that can make Him let you go.  You are His.  You are holy.  That means you have been set aside for His special use.  You have purpose.  You are without blame.  Why?  Your sins have been washed away by the blood of Christ.  You are clean in His eyes.  He sees you standing in Christ. His Son’s sacrifice is your new life.  You now live as His child.   

Verse 5:  God signed your adoption papers long before the universe was set in motion.  His signature was written in Christ’s blood.  You are Christ’s; you weren’t adopted only to be abandoned.  His will for you to be His gives Him great delight.  He has always been thinking about you.  He will never stop thinking about you.

Verse 6:  His grace shows you He loves you without measure.  His grace is glorious because He is.  He offers Himself to you for no other reason than He loves you.  God sees you standing in His beloved Son.  He loves His Son with an unfathomable love; because you too stand in Him, He loves you equally as much.

Verse 7:  His grace alone—not who you are, what you are doing, or what you have done—is what saves you, forgives you and enables you to walk tall in Him, richly arrayed in the finest armor possible: His Son’s blood.  Where God sees blood, you see a garment white as snow:
These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. (Rev. 7:14)

Verse 8:  Jesus is all we need: "But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption…" (1 Cor. 1:30) Know Jesus, know Wisdom, for wisdom is not what you obtain, it is Who you know. Righteousness is also Who You know.  You are now in a position to know Him:  He has redeemed you and set you aside for holy use and to fill you with Himself.  It is only by  knowing Him that you will be able to navigate life.

Verse 9:  If you are arrayed in His armor, that is His will:  to be His, fighting the good fight and resting solely on His power and provision.

Verse 10:  We are a gathered people.  First, we are gathered in Him.  Secondly, we are gathered with each other in Him.  We are an army.  We are a body of people set aside to enact His will on this planet:  that all should come to know Him and walk in Him. We are His Body animated by love, for God is love.  His love, embodied in His Son, reached out and died for us.  We must also act in that kind of love.

Verse 11:  We have received an inheritance, which makes us heirs.  We are His family.  Only a family member can be designated as an heir: "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.  For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.  The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together." (Rom. 8:14-17) You have purpose and a calling, which He saw in you long before you were even born.  You are precious to Him.

Verse 12:  Our trusting in Him is the greatest gift we give back to Him.  He gives Himself as the greatest gift to us. Thus, who are we?  We are the children of God, whom He long ago sought out and pursued with love; we are arrayed in white and shine with our praises which brings Him glory. 
Point to His armor lovingly encasing you and say to the enemy, “I am my Beloved’s and He is mine!”

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Gear Up and Stand in Christ--Spiritual Warfare II

10  Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
11  Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
12  For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against  spiritual wickedness in high places.
13  Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
14  Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
15  And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
16  Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
17  And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
18  Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints…                                                                                                                                                                         
L
et’s begin our journey to understanding spiritual warfare by reviewing Ephesians 6:10-18.  The verses are very familiar.  Many writers have done an excellent job of unpacking this verses.  For our purposes, I am going to do a quick overview.  What can we learn right off the bat?
     Verse 10:  We need strength and power from God.  Whatever we think our strengths are, whatever talents we possess, whatever our spiritual track record is, we cannot do this Christian life alone.  We cannot do this spiritual warfare alone. 
     Verse 11:  We need armor to do this Christian life.  Why?  It’s a war we are in—pure and simple.  No other garment will do.  Someday we will be arrayed as His bride, but while we inhabit Earth, we are in a battle zone, and we need to be outfitted appropriately.  Why?  So we can STAND.  If you are lying on the ground, the battle’s over and you lost. 
We need to put on the whole kit and caboodle. Not one or two pieces, thinking that will suffice.  Paul declared we need “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) and we are to wear the “whole armor of God.”  If we are outfitted correctly, we are then able to stand against the schemes of Satan.  Don’t bring your fist to the pistol war.  Don’t bring your ball gown to the trenches.
     Verse 12:  The armor fits the battle itself: You must be arrayed in spiritual power, provisioned by God for this expressed purpose, because the battle is in the spiritual realm with spiritual foes.  You wouldn’t bring a crossbow when the enemy has an AK-47.  You don’t fight with your flesh what is in the spiritual realm. 
     Verse 13:  Paul repeats for us put on the whole armor of God.  It’s God’s armor, and we are to put it on—not put on our armor.  We don’t accessorize His armor with our flesh; it is His and His alone. 
He invites us to put it on.  We can either choose to put on what He provides, or we can walk away (a perilous choice).  Evil days are coming and we need to be suited up before they arrive.  Our “having done all” is putting on His armor willingly and standing in His power and might.  No snoozing.  No complacency.  No taking a nap behind the tent.  Armored up and standing.  That’s what He expects of us.
     Verse 14:  Again, Paul says, “Stand.”  A fallen soldier is either dead, MIA, or wounded.  Being properly armored allows us to withstand the onslaught.  Though we may take many hits, we will still be standing.  How? We possess His strength and His mighty power.  Where?  We stand only on His truth. Truth provides the only sure footing, for no matter how the winds of warfare blow, truth takes a beating and keeps on ticking.  Why?  Because you are standing in Christ.  He is The Truth:  Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (John 14:6) 
     He is The Rock: Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock… (Matt. 7:24)
     Jesus alone is the only solid ground on which to stand.  Your heart will be protected by the breastplate of His righteousness as you stand.  Why?  You are facing your foe, and he will strike at your heart.  Because you standing in Christ, He has given you His heart.  Because He is standing, so are you: A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. (Ezek. 26:36-7)
       Jesus says,  A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh. (Luke 6:45)
     The Word says, Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. (Prov. 4:23 NIV)  Good advice.  A guarded heart is a protected heart. You are not just protecting your own; you are protecting His, for He dwells within you.  His heart in you is far too precious to not protect.
     Verse 15:  People who stand need shoes.  People who sleep can afford to be barefoot.  A soldier must be booted up, for the mission of declaring the Good News of Jesus Christ requires movement when ordered to do so. So, standing or marching, you need shoes. Nikes will do, for Nike in Greek means, “victory.”  Flip flops?  No.
     Verse 16:  Faith is not just your response to God’s lovely offer of grace.  It is your shield that you wave around you, showing your enemy that you are serious.  The armor is on you; the shield is around you.  The bigger your faith, the larger your shield. A dinky shield means an arrow or two will get passed it.  Upgrade.  Faith itself is a gift, so ask for more, and trade up to a larger shield.  Less will get by that greater shield and you will feel bolder as you go forth.   
     But you must stay strong in Christ to wield it.  Faith not only protects, it extinguishes.  How so?Your faith says, “No!” to Satan’s lies and to those who perpetrate his agenda. You are clothed in righteousness because of Christ’s finished work on the cross.  You respond with faith by actively moving your shield and flashing it before the enemy.  Your faith protects you from all sides when the arrows of lies, deceit, temptation and condemnation come flying in. Faith:  Don’t leave home without it. Faith:  Don’t go to war without it.
     Verse 17:  A blow to your head can be fatal and down you go.  A blow to your mind—believing the lies, falling into deceit, yielding to temptation and wallowing in condemnation—can be fatal to your ability to stand and down you go. Your salvation—your adoption into God’s family as His son or daughter because of Jesus’ sacrifice—is your covering.  To insure that the foe doesn’t get too close, mightily wave that sword at him.  The Word of God is the weapon of choice.  Jesus used it to vanquish Satan in the wilderness.  Take a lesson from the Master.  But you must know the Word.  You read the Word and the Word reads you.  So, with the Spirit  + WORD, you get SWORD
     Verse 18:  Pray. All the time.  Every chance you get.  In other words, continuously monitor the intel from HQ.  Listen for Jesus’ voice and run everything you hear by His Word.  His voice and His Word will never contradict each other.  A soldier out of touch with his CO is a soldier in danger. So, persevere.  Fight the good fight.  In other words, STAND.
     What does STAND mean?  "Spiritually Trained And Not Defeated."  Amen!

Friday, February 3, 2017

A New Direction: Let's Talk About Spiritual Warfare

“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.” –C. S. Lewis

I
 am on a quest to more fully understand spiritual warfare.  I have studied it for awhile, read some books, had a few experiences, and yet…I am still unsettled about the issue. Why?  So much of what I have read about spiritual warfare has some scripture in it, but a lot of the information is driven by the author’s experiences.  Does that invalidate an author’s conclusions about spiritual warfare? No, but I found that sometimes the author’s own experiences began to take precedence over the scriptural references.  The author uses the Word, of course, but the author’s  experience become evidence in and of itself.  These experiences may be compelling, but they may lack a clear-cut parallel in Scripture.  

As writers and readers, we run the risk of a having a “Can You Top This?” kind of exchange.  We may share the author’s reading of the Word and see spiritual warfare’s reality. But what if we didn’t have the same experience the author did?  We may question what we went through.  We may even doubt that it was a legitimate encounter with evil.  We may downplay what happened, because it seems rather insignificant when we compare it to what the author said.
 
That’s when confusion steps in.  Confusion is not what the Lord wants for us as we study this: “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.” (1 Cor. 14:33)
Scripture should be the only basis for our theology. I have read books where the author has developed quite a theology speaking about areas that while not directly addressed or contradicted in the Word, are hard to disprove or prove scripturally.  It may be satisfying to plug in the gaps in the Bible with well-intentioned and reasonable ideas, but if the Bible does not specifically address it, should we? 
Must the gaps be filled in to be effective in spiritual warfare?  No, I think not. What the Word says about spiritual warfare will keep us informed enough to do battle. 

I am equally seeking a balance in my understanding of spiritual warfare.  For example, I have read books and have friends who say that every disease is caused by Satan.  Mental illness is especially subject to being diagnosed as a purely spiritual condition; though some will not argue as vigorously about say, diabetes being demonically caused.  But sickness, for some, is understood as being dominated solely by demons.  The cure, consequently, is only spiritual.  

On the other hand, I know people who say Satan isn’t really needed to mess human beings up; we are all perfectly capable of doing that ourselves.  Satan is a minor player (if even a player at all) on this planet, and talking about his influence only leads, in many people’s thinking, to diminishing our personal responsibility for the chaos we see. 

I have experienced only a handful of times when I knew Satan was lurking in the situation.  I sensed his malevolent presence.  However, as I mature in Christ and my spiritual discernment increases, I sense Satan’s involvement more and more.  I agree humans need very little help to destroy their lives, but I now know they are not alone in doing so.   

Thus, this book is part of my journey to understand Satan’s influence, what the Word teaches and our response to all of it.  Scripture is my starting point.  If I cannot find a scriptural basis for my statements, I won’t comment. I want this discussion to be moderated by His Word alone.   

I am using the KISS model:  Keep It Simple Saint.  I take spiritual warfare seriously, but I do not need to recoil in fear or put on a big display to drive Satan out.  Jesus spoke and it was enough.  The Word is our authority.  Jesus did not, in His encounter with Satan, engage in debate.  He quoted the truth and the father of lies had to leave.  Why should we try to do any more or any less? 

You will also see "in Christ" in these posts. "In Christ" is the only way to do this life.  We all know He came and died for us.  We equally need to know He wants to live His life in and through us.  This verse is the key to walking in victory in all we do:

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.  (Gal. 2:20)


Join me as we explore this topic.  Having a clarity of mind and of purpose is essential to being a good soldier.  We need better informed soldiers in these times of trouble, and hopefully this book will assist in achieving this goal.
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