Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Christmas: God's D-Day

I have been away for awhile.  Thank you for your patience, readers.  But I have felt led to take a slightly different approach from my spiritual warfare emphasis, but it all ties in.

Christmas is huge.  It is the economic engine that drives the next twelve months.  It is a time of gathering families, with all the joy and sadness that pervades all of our relationships.  It is a time of eating, drinking and being merry, even if the next day reminds a person that over-indulgence is not a good thing.  It is a time of gifts, thank-you's and acknowledging the hard work of the passing year; some walk away feeling appreciated, and others walk away with a sense that just another year has gone by.  It is a time of memories, with childhood's past being felt forcefully felt in the present; warmth and kindness mixed with loss makes such musings bitter-sweet.

Let's reconsider Christmas for a moment.  Let me take you on a short journey first. 

In his book, Bondi's Brother, Irving Roth recounts his horrific time at Buchenwald concentration camp as a young boy.  I was privileged to hear him speak about nine years ago at a community event, where he spoke with high school students, and I took a group of my students to hear him.  I later bought his book. 

He told us that he knew what the Messiah looked like:  He was black and He was white.  That was the color of the two American soldiers who opened up the door of his barracks, and while they stood in horror looking at the people so terribly contained within, Roth was elated.  He knew that liberation had come. 

I have never forgotten that.  He saw liberation in the two men standing there.  He knew that they alone had the power to release him and the others who were suffering under the camp's regime.  He didn't know their names, their rank nor their personalities.  All he knew, and all he really needed to know is that he was now free, because a greater power had descended into the camp and the evil there now had its days numbered.  The regime was going to be torn down:  gates would be opened, the crematoria would stop, the gassing would stop and life now had hope of going on.  Fear was no longer the dominant force in the lives of the inmates.   

Of course, the liberation of the camps was a long process of release and rehabilitation of the inmates there.  Germany had many camps to liberate as the American made their way across, having landed on the beaches of Normandy, with no guarantee of success, given how entrenched the Germans were.  10,000 men lost their lives on D-Day; with many more soldiers over the months to die as well. 

The Red Army found the eastern European camps; they also had to be liberated one by one.

But in the midst of liberation, a war equally had to be won.  The soldiers were fighting the enemy and freeing the captives.  It was an epic task.  Such evil doesn't just say, "Oh, well.  Here comes the Allies.  Let's just lay down arms and hope for the best."  The German army and the SS were going to fight to secure victory.  The Allies were going to fight to secure victory. 

The Allies also had to set people free as they went. 

In other words, the Allies had a two-front war, as it were:  victory to secure and liberation to provide.  They couldn't go up to the camps' occupants and say, "Hey, folks, we are fighting a war, and we will come back for you when we are done.  So, hang on, OK?"  The suffering was so overwhelming, the soldiers did the best they could to alleviate the suffering in the midst of a war that wasn't going to be over quickly. 

Now, let's reframe Christmas. Many people do not believe in Jesus as the Messiah, because His coming did not inaugurate the peace on earth that the Messiah's kingdom promises in the Bible.  In fact, the last 2,000 years has been anything but peaceful and the 20th century alone saw 100 million people killed by war and genocide.   

"Peace on earth, good will to men" seems almost a mockery.  Or is it?

Think of Christmas as D-Day.  Jesus lands on the shores of earth, as a Soldier.  He is fully on planet earth, arrayed in the uniform of our frail flesh.  He walks up from the beach and death and destruction surround Him:  The screaming of babies slaughtered in Bethlehem rings in the night.  The wailing of mothers echoes through the narrow streets of a village forever changed. 

He must escape the evil king Himself.  So to Egypt He flees with His parents; they wait to return. 
Even when they do, they go to another village, because the evil king's son now rules. 

Just because He arrived on the shores of an occupied earth, the prince of this world wasn't going to say, "Oh, well.  Here comes the Son.  Let's call this war off, and just lay down our malevolent influence and hope for the best."  Satan and his minions were going to fight to secure victory over this Man.  They knew what His presence meant:  the days of their regime were numbered.  A Power greater than themselves has arrived, fully prepared and fully committed to see their regime collapse. 

Meanwhile, as the Son was fighting to retake this planet--one soul at a time--He couldn't say to the sick, the demon-possessed, the lonely, the broken, "Hey!  Can you just hang on while I secure the planet?  I am going to be crucified in a few years, and then My power will be evident and available to all who put their trust in Me.  So, hang in there, OK?"

No, Jesus liberated those who were suffering under this evil regime.  He opened up the gates and touched people, seeking to stop the illness, the death, the pain, the loneliness and hopelessness that permeated this planet, all the while fighting to secure victory over sin and death.

World War II was not over the day the Allies landed on the beaches of Normandy.  Fierce fighting awaited the soldiers; many would die as they took Europe back from Hitler, one village, one country at a time.

But what did hit the beaches that day was HOPE.  It was HOPE that Roth saw standing in the doorway of his barracks that day. 

On that first Christmas, HOPE stood in the doorway of the barracks of  Concentration Camp Earth. 

HOPE said the evil regime's days were and are numbered.

HOPE said that good will prevail.  Peace on earth is possible.  Why?

The War for this World started that first Christmas.  While this war still rages all around us, we now have HOPE.  Why?  We now have JESUS. 

Friday, November 3, 2017

Wrapping Up My Posts On Spiritual Warfare

We have explored principles we must stand on: what the Word says about God, us, and Satan will give us victory.  We saw what Jesus did while He was here on earth.  We discovered what we are to do in His name while we are here. We need principles to stand on because the warfare is real.  Satan’s lies are real.  But Jesus’ power is greater. 
The fortified cities of fear and addiction are real, but Jesus’ power is greater.  I can walk in fear and doubt by myself, looking up at walls that mock my puny self, or I can walk in faith and look up at Jesus.  He stands above all else and enables me, in Him, to do the same.

Blessings on you, fellow warrior. 

In His name, have no fear, but faith. 

In His name, be not a victim, but a victor. 

In His name, be not overwhelmed, but overcoming. 

In His name, S.T.A.N.D.: "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled." (2 Cor. 10:3-6)

Or, to put it another way: "We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ. And after you have become fully obedient, we will punish everyone who remains disobedient." (2 Cor. 10:3-6 NLT)

I will end with this quote from “Got”: "The enemy is firmly entrenched; these strongholds have been guarded for thousands of years, presenting a great wall of resistance to the Truth. None of this deters the Christian warrior, however. Using the weapons of God’s choosing, he attacks the strongholds, and by the miraculous power of Christ, the walls are breached, and the bastions of sin and error are battered down. The victorious Christian enters the ruins and leads captive, as it were, every false theory and every human philosophy that had once proudly asserted its independence from God.  If this sounds a lot like Joshua fighting the battle of Jericho, you’re right. What a great illustration of spiritual truth that story is (Joshua 6)!"

Be blessed.  Go out and serve God in the mighty power of Christ! 

Excerpted from S.T.A.N.D. Spiritually Trained And Not Defeated: Our Position in Christ, Our Mission in Christ A Handbook on Spiritual Warfare.  Buy it on Amazon.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Full Circle (Spiritual Warfare, Part XX)

The temptation of Christ took place in a wilderness, a desert.  In facing down the devil, Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy.  Why?

The NIV Study Bible sets the scene:  "Deuteronomy locates Moses and the Israelites in the territory of Moab in the area where the Jordan flows into the Dead Sea (1:5).  As his final act at this important time of transferring leadership to Joshua, Moses delivers his farewell addresses to prepare the people for their entrance into Canaan.  These addresses were actually a covenant renewal…In them, Moses emphasized the laws that were especially needed at such a time, and he presented them in a way appropriate to the situation. In contrast to the matter-of-fact narratives of Leviticus and Numbers, the book of Deuteronomy comes to us from Moses’ heart in a warm, personal, sermonic form of expression…The love relationship of the Lord to his people and that of the people to the Lord as their sovereign God pervade the whole book.  Deuteronomy’s spiritual emphasis and its call to total commitment to the Lord in worship and obedience inspired references to its message throughout the rest of Scripture." (243)

The Israelites were facing a transition from Moses’ leadership to that of Joshua’s. They would be moving from wanderers to warriors. 

The Jews of Jesus’ day were facing a transition from the law of Moses to the revelation of Jesus Christ: "For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known." (John 1:17-18 NIV)

Deuteronomy emphasizes the covenant the Lord made with His people.  The Jews of Jesus’ day were seeing a New Covenant, not written on stone tablets, but written with the blood of the Son of God.  Covenant, God’s sovereignty, His love for His people, and His call for total commitment to Him are the book’s major themes (NIV Study Bible 243).  It is no surprise that Jesus, Who was inaugurating a new era in God’s salvation plan, would use this book to rebuke the devil and emphasize those same themes by His own life and ministry. 

Jesus Himself entered into the narrative of the Forty Years in the Desert by adding His own chapter as He faced His Forty Days in the Desert.  Let’s see Jesus’ responses and the larger context from which they are drawn. 

To the first temptation, Jesus says, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’” (Luke 4:4 NIV) He is quoting Deuteronomy 8:3. 

I have included the surrounding verses to show the larger context: "Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you." (Deut. 8:2-5 NIV)

God led His Son to a place where He would have to keep His Father’s commands, depend on Him only, and only do His will.  Jesus says later in His ministry: "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...By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me." (John 5:19-20 & 30 NIV)

Jesus responds to the second temptation with, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’” (Luke 4:8 NIV) He is quoting Deuteronomy 6:13.  

Here are the surrounding verses: "Fear the Lord your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name. Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you; for the Lord your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land. Do not put the Lord your God to the test as you did at Massah. Be sure to keep the commands of the Lord your God and the stipulations and decrees he has given you. Do what is right and good in the Lord’s sight, so that it may go well with you and you may go in and take over the good land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors, thrusting out all your enemies before you, as the Lord said." (Deut. 6:13-19 NIV)

Jesus will not even consider serving anyone else other than His Father.  In fact, in Deuteronomy 6:4 is the beginning of the Shema, the prayer that is the essence of Judaism: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." (NIV)

Jesus is reasserting the oneness and the holiness of God.  No other gods shall receive any honor other than the one true God—Jesus’ Father.  The absolute unity of God, His glorious oneness is preserved by Jesus, for He applies this verse to Himself.  The mystery of one God in three Persons is never up for debate by Jesus.  He asserts it as truth, for He is Truth. 

Thus, Jesus will serve only God as He walks on this planet.  That alone is the reason why He came.  Jesus loves His Father with every fiber of His being.  He will walk in obedience for He loves the Father with an all-consuming love.

Jesus responds to the third temptation with, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (Luke 4:12 NIV) He is quoting Deuteronomy 6:16.  

Here are the surrounding verses: "Do not put the Lord your God to the test as you did at Massah. Be sure to keep the commands of the Lord your God and the stipulations and decrees he has given you. Do what is right and good in the Lord’s sight, so that it may go well with you and you may go in and take over the good land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors, thrusting out all your enemies before you, as the Lord said. In the future, when your son asks you, 'What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the Lord our God has commanded you?' tell him: 'We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. Before our eyes the Lord sent signs and wonders—great and terrible—on Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole household. But he brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land he promised on oath to our ancestors. The Lord commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the Lord our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today. And if we are careful to obey all this law before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us that will be our righteousness.'"(Deut. 6:16-25 NIV)

Jesus is the new Moses, about to deliver His people from the greatest enslavement of all: to sin and death. We are to be the new house wherein the God of the Universe personally dwells.  

That will only be possible, however, with the death and resurrection of Jesus: "He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house. Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house, bearing witness to what would be spoken by God in the future. But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory." (Heb. 3:2-6 NIV)

I see many things emerging out of Jesus’ encounter with Satan that are very applicable to us.  God’s Word alone is our strength and shield.  Jesus stood on it no matter who He was talking to and what He was doing.  The Word alone was His foundation for how He saw His Father and for His ministry.  He knew the Word well enough to wield it powerfully at His supporters, His detractors and Satan. 
But most of all, it was His comfort.  He knew the promises were absolute, not subject to change or whim.  Those promises were woven into every part of Him.  We, in following our Lord, should do no less.

It is in the desert where we are tested THE MOST.  If you look at the desert in Israel, it is rocky, desolate and hot.  The landscape has a certain ominous aspect to it that says: If you are not careful, you will perish here.  

We are tested every day, but a desert period in our lives can reach into our very soul causing us to ask:  Does God care?  Will He continue to care?  Why should He even care?

Jesus went into a desert to show us how we should cope with ours.  He doesn’t ask us to do anything that He Himself has not done.  He truly knows what we are going through: "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)

He knows and hears the depths of our cries.  Out in that silent and desolate desert, His Father heard the cries of His Son’s heart.  He hears ours as well. 

Excerpted from S.T.A.N.D. Spiritually Trained And Not Defeated: Our Position in Christ, Our Mission in Christ A Handbook on Spiritual Warfare.  Buy it on Amazon.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Cages Are Open

If you parachuted into a place where children were lying dead, houses were bombed out and dogs roamed the land, you would say you were in a war zone.

If you saw guns blazing, people falling, hateful graffiti on walls and devastation all round you, you would say you were in a war zone.

If you saw tents, medical personnel running hither and yon, stretchers with the wounded and the dying being brought in, you would say you were in a war zone.

If you happened upon a large congregation of people, screaming and crying, with blood everywhere and many moaning in pain alongside the dying, you would say you were in a war zone.

America is that war zone. 

A war is in America and it has been raging for a long time now. 

It didn't start with 9/11.

It didn't start because people own guns.

It didn't start because of a Republican or Democratic presidency; a Congress filled with one party or another, or a judiciary with a social engineering bias. 

Evil is a lion, crouching in the shadows.  We used to catch it and keep it in the cage of Law.  Yes, the lions were still about, but the cages awaited when they emerged from the shadows. 

This all started when people went to the zoo and felt so sorry for how the lions were in cages.  They said, "Release them.  Be free!"  So, go ahead and...

Abort your inconvenience. 
Marry your partner.
Don't marry at all.
Have a child and raise this child without a mother/father. 
Have a child.  Have another.  Have another.  The State will take care of them.
Deadbeat dads, incarcerated dads, absentee dads, no dads, just a sperm donor.
Assert your rights, and blame every obstacle, every unhappiness, on the society. Take no personal responsibility.
Make movies more and more violent, sexual, and violently sexual.  No subject is off-limits.
Make video games more and more violent, sexual and violently sexual.  No subject is off-limits.
Bully until the person kills him or herself and celebrate it on Facebook.
Encourage your friends to kill themselves.  Repeatedly text them do they can't escape you.
Videotape someone being beaten up and post it on Facebook.  Don't try to stop it though.
Marry. Divorce.  Marry.  Divorce.  Step-parents, step-grandparents, step siblings...Families are flexible in the definition.  The nuclear family did just that:  it exploded in a big divorce rate and there is no end in sight. 

Rename the lion a lifestyle, a right, a progressive move.  But the bow of tolerance on it and watch it run off into your country, your schools, your media. 

Then our country, whose lions have been released (and more are released with every passing decade) turned into a place I no longer recognize:

Teenagers go into schools and shoot their fellow students.
People go into malls, schools, daycare centers, places of business, hotels, churches to kill the people there. 
Men marry men, women marry women, men marry multiple women. 
Young people kill themselves.

Some lions are still in the zoo, waiting in cages, though:
It's not legal to marry a child.
It's not legal to mutilate a girl's genitals.
It's not legal to murder your son or daughter for dishonoring you.

But the day will come, under the banner of multi-cultural tolerance.  After all, who made western values king?   Why should western values be the highest standard? 

Evil is in full swing because we let the lions out of their cages.  They wander and devour anyone they can find, innocent or guilty, young or old, proponent or opponent. 

The government has helped to unlock the doors or has stood idly by while the judiciary has, until now there are too many lions wandering about.  We simply can't catch them all. 

The churches have tried to make peace with the lions, calling them big kitties that need compassion and love.  Truth?  No.  Keep the Bible in the pew, please.  Take the cross down.  Don't offend.  Make the lions purr when they come into church.

The media likes the lions running around.  It makes people watch and read the media more.

In the end, it will be the Lion of Judah who takes down the lions we now face.  We will have to choose to serve either the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Darkness. 

Gray is going away. 

Being on the sidelines is going away. 

As Bob Dylan sang, "Ya gotta serve somebody.  It may be the devil, or it may be the Lord, but ya gotta serve somebody."

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Facing a Jericho Stronghold With Jesus (XIX)

I was inspired by an Internet website to see Joshua 6 as an excellent roadmap for how we are to take down spiritual strongholds.       

When I read the passage, I saw a good battle plan! 

1 Now the gates of Jericho were tightly shut because the people were afraid of the Israelites. No one was allowed to go out or in. 
2 But the Lord said to Joshua, “I have given you Jericho, its king, and all its strong warriors. 
3 You and your fighting men should march around the town once a day for six days. 
4 Seven priests will walk ahead of the Ark, each carrying a ram’s horn. On the seventh day you are to march around the town seven times, with the priests blowing the horns. 
5 When you hear the priests give one long blast on the rams’ horns, have all the people shout as loud as they can. Then the walls of the town will collapse, and the people can charge straight into the town...”
20 When the people heard the sound of the rams’ horns, they shouted as loud as they could. Suddenly, the walls of Jericho collapsed, and the Israelites charged straight into the town and captured it. 
21 They completely destroyed everything in it with their swords—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep, goats, and donkeys. (Josh. 6:1-5 & 20-21 NLT)

The word “stronghold” in Greek means “a castle” (Strong’s).  When we read about Joshua conquering the first stronghold or fortified city in the Promised Land, we find a powerful analogy here. 

Joshua’s name in Hebrew means “the LORD is salvation” (Strong’s).  Jesus’ name in Hebrew means the same thing—the same as Joshua’s name. So, making this comparison has merit.

Now the gates of Jericho were tightly shut because the people were afraid of the Israelites. No one was allowed to go out or in. 

Strongholds are where people hide.  But we are called to be different in Christ.  1 Peter 2:9 declares:
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.  (NIV)

That is who we are.  We don’t hide and we are not afraid.  We have the King of kings and Lord of lords on our side.  The Promised Land is ours because we have salvation in Jesus and He is always with us. 

Sadly, the world is full of those who do not know Jesus and do not care.  The world is equally full of those who know Jesus but are living behind a wall, filled with fear and condemnation. They don’t want to go out and they certainly don’t want anyone coming in. So, we have to show both groups that we are victorious in Christ.  We walk in His freedom and shout the praises of God.  That kind of faith brings results.

But the Lord said to Joshua, “I have given you Jericho, its king, and all its strong warriors."

The Lord had already given Joshua the city.  Even though it stood there, looking invincible, God had other plans. Addiction, fear, condemnation, doubt, deep hurt, unforgiveness, and unrepentance: they all look invincible, whether we see them in ourselves or in others.  But the battle is won in Christ.  We need to take this promise and boldly walk up to the city walls. 

"You and your fighting men should march around the town once a day for six days."

Marching showed the people’s faith in God.  But it also showed obedience to a God-ordained process.  Whatever process for recovery and growth God shows you—a counselor, a mentor, a doctor, therapy, medication, fellowship with believers or all of the above—do it.  Joshua did not question the process of conquering Jericho. Once God reveals His plan, we step out in faith, knowing it is for our best. Yes, God could have caused the walls to immediately tumble down, but He was out to build the character of His people.  A character centered on faith in God will be able to move mountains.  Why?  A mature character knows of God’s goodness in the past, how God doesn’t change and how He will come through in the future: 

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Rom. 5:3-5 NIV)

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4 NIV)

Faith is a walk. Joshua and his men boldly walked out and around the walls, focused only on the mightiness of God and His love.  Compared to that, the walls seemed rather puny!

"Seven priests will walk ahead of the Ark, each carrying a ram’s horn. On the seventh day you are to march around the town seven times, with the priests blowing the horns."

We serve and follow the High Priest, Jesus.  The Ark contained the covenant was made between Moses and God.  Jesus is our Covenant with God.  He died for us and we die to self.  He lives in us and we live in Him.  We are His own.  As we walk behind Him each day, we are reminded how much He loves us, even if our walls haven’t fallen.  YET. 

"When you hear the priests give one long blast on the rams’ horns, have all the people shout as loud as they can. Then the walls of the town will collapse, and the people can charge straight into the town...”

The process that Joshua and his men engaged in will take days.  Our process of building and acting on faith takes time as well.  We are walking, focused on our High Priest and His love covenant for us.  Then, just as God had the people walk around seven times on the seventh day, our day of freedom dawns. The stronghold begins to weaken, for our heart is growing stronger in Him.  The walls lose their power to instill fear and a sense of never-ending slavery. The priests blow the horns one last time and the people shout.  We work together with our High Priest; we follow His lead and we shout for joy in His presence.  The trumpet of His love drowns out the whispers of Satan that sin is who we are, we can never recover, hope is for other people, and condemnation is all we deserve. 
The trumpet blast of His declaration of “It is finished” from the cross drowns out all of the lies of Satan.  The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is ours: 

And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.  
(Rom. 8:11 NIV)

When the people heard the sound of the rams’ horns, they shouted as loud as they could. 

Suddenly, the walls of Jericho collapsed, and the Israelites charged straight into the town and captured it. The Holy Spirit rushes into our city as the walls collapse to give us hope that the city will not rise up again.  Now, the Lord is occupying our city in His power:

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Gal. 2:20 NIV)

They completely destroyed everything in it with their swords—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep, goats, and donkeys. 

It may sound harsh to our modern ears, but what is sinful must be removed completely.  If we have an addiction, we may have to walk away from friends, family, and certain environments to keep the city from rising again. We may need to bag the computer, or put it out in the living room, facing where everyone can see it. Whatever needs to be removed for your recovery and to remain free in Him, do it!  Do Jesus’ words sound any less harsh than what was said to Joshua?

If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. (Matt. 5:29-30 NIV)

God does not compromise with our sin in any way.  Why?  When we compromise with sin, Satan gets actively involved. When we surrender an area of our lives to God, Satan now has one less area to operate on in our lives. It’s a process, but God is faithful!  The walls of Jericho fell down after the warriors followed and were obedient to the leader and the priests.  We (the warriors) must follow our Leader and High Priest (Jesus) to bring the city (whatever strongholds we face) down. 

He is faithful. 

The battle is won.

He fought and died for us. 

We need to be faithful by remaining obedient.

We wield the Sword of the Spirit in one hand.

What do you think we do with the other hand? 

We keep it firmly in His nail-scarred hand.

Excerpted from S.T.A.N.D. Spiritually Trained And Not Defeated: Our Position in Christ, Our Mission in Christ A Handbook on Spiritual Warfare.  Buy it on Amazon.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Jesus’ Enemy Contact in John’s Gospel (XVIII)

We will now explore with Jesus how Satan collides with religious people.  

One expects the world to be influenced by Satan; but to hear Satan through the mouth of religious leaders, who should on the lookout for such intrusions, is mind-boggling.  Some of our deepest hurt can come from those who should know better:

But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham. Ye do the deeds of your father.

Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.

Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me. Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word.  Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.  And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not. (John 8:40-45)

The leaders, because of their anger and jealousy at Jesus, have given Satan a stronghold.  Their emotional reaction has now transformed into murderous intent.   

This is why anger is so dangerous, for it can lead to murder.  Why?  Once you have given Satan an open door with your anger, he will come in and start building a case against the person you are angry at; soon, with your anger growing, ideas about what you should do to that person also grows.  It may even grow into ending that person’s life.

This is why lust is so dangerous, for it can lead to adultery or any kind of sexual sin.  Lust opens the door to Satan, allowing him to influence your thinking. Such thinking grows into more and more of a focus which transforms into potent desire.  Before long, you are making plans, with Satan providing the itinerary. 
Satan is the “father of lies.”  A stronghold—anger, lust, jealousy, fear, doubt—will allow him in to start weaving the lies into a greater and greater web.  Our emotions and our heart will blind us to who Jesus really is; Satan works with that blindness and the lies will become stronger and stronger, bringing us deeper and deeper into Satan’s way of thinking.  Soon, we have united our wills to his agenda and the results will be devastating. 

These religious leaders, so angry with Jesus, are going to soon unite with the Romans (whom they despise) to kill Him.  Sin makes strange bedfellows, does it not? 

Think of the kid, growing up in an alcoholic home and despising his father, will, because of anger and unforgiveness, someday turn into his father and head down that same road of destruction.

Think of the kid, growing up in a violent home and despising her father for beating her mother, will, because of hurt and a desperate need for love, choose a man who will turn out to be like her father. 

The list goes on and on, because of Satan’s lies to our heart. 

We have the right to be angry, jealous, hurt, bitter, disappointed, and broken because of what has happened to us in our lives.  God doesn’t want us to live in such bondage.  Jesus came to heal and restore us.  But instead of seeking Him, we listen to the lie of You Deserve to Feel This Way!

Then a long list (signed by Satan) of how to live with the pain comes rolling in: drugs, alcohol, abuse, fear, sinful indulgence, alternative lifestyles, unbelief...

The list is endless because Satan tells us the pain will be as well. 

But if we bring our anger, jealousy, hurt, bitterness, disappointment, and brokenness to Jesus, He will heal, restore and give us a new heart, one sensitive to His love and forgiveness.  The choice is ours, despite what Satan and the world says.  Stand on what the Word says:

What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?  He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?  Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth.  Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.  Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.  For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:31-39)

In summary, Jesus encountered evil and spoke the truth and the Word to drive it away.  Despite Satan’s best efforts to appear invincible, he’s not.  The Word of God is the best at rebuking Satan; this sharp Sword reminds the enemy that you are ready and willing to use it for yourself and for others. 

Whatever we do for His Kingdom must be done in the name of Jesus:

The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe. (Prov. 18:10)


Next:  We will learn how to face our own Jericho!  (Hint:  It's a whole lot easier if we follow God's instructions...)

Excerpted from S.T.A.N.D. Spiritually Trained And Not Defeated: Our Position in Christ, Our Mission in Christ A Handbook on Spiritual Warfare.  Buy it on Amazon.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Finishing Up Jesus' Enemy Contact in Mark & Luke (XVII)

Let's continue our examination of how Jesus encountered evil and how He dealt with Satan:

And when he went forth to land, there met him out of the city a certain man, which had devils long time, and ware no clothes, neither abode in any house, but in the tombs.  When he saw Jesus, he cried out, and fell down before him, and with a loud voice said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God most high? I beseech thee, torment me not.  (For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For oftentimes it had caught him: and he was kept bound with chains and in fetters; and he brake the bands, and was driven of the devil into the wilderness.)… Then the whole multitude of the country of the Gadarenes round about besought him to depart from them; for they were taken with great fear: and he went up into the ship, and returned back again.

Now the man out of whom the devils were departed besought him that he might be with him: but Jesus sent him away, saying, Return to thine own house, and shew how great things God hath done unto thee.

And he went his way, and published throughout the whole city how great things Jesus had done unto him. And it came to pass, that, when Jesus was returned, the people gladly received him: for they were all waiting for him. (Luke 8:27-29 & 37-40)

We met the two demon-possessed men earlier.  Luke decides to focus on just the one (Wycliffe Bible Commentary 220).  Both were healed, but one stayed and shows us vividly how demon oppression works.  The man still had a will for he came to Jesus.  (Wycliffe Bible Commentary 221). If the demons were in complete control, the man would have run away from Jesus as fast as he could, for the demons knew what Jesus could do: drive them out and heal the man. 

Here’s where a definition is useful. In the Greek, the word used to describe what the man in the tombs was afflicted with is “demonization” This means “the presence of an evil personality (a demon) within an individual” (Richards 83).  

Richards continues:

"This does not means or imply that a demonized person is controlled by an evil presence.  He or she typically might not even be aware of the demon or demons.  It says simply that from a position within the human personality the demon has a unique opportunity to influence an individual’s thoughts, emotions and choices.  This is different from the sporadic attacks of demons on an individual from the outside—attacks that need to be repelled, but that can generally be dispatched without great effort once they are recognized." (83)

So, unlike the man who sat in the synagogue every Sabbath and then reacted when Jesus walked in, this guy was clearly (to everyone around him and to himself) overtaken with a demon and more than one as it turned out.  But he still had a will.  He wasn’t a puppet only capable to doing what he was told.  So, he approaches Jesus (his choice) and then screams at Jesus (the demons’ choice). 

A terrible imbalance exists in the life of someone who is being oppressed.  The man cuts himself and hangs out with the dead.  He is clearly being tormented; but he approaches Jesus, sensing something different about this Man.  The man senses that Jesus is not here to chain him up or throw stones at him. 

That is what we need to understand.  A person under the influence of a demon has not checked his or her will at the door.  This person can still think, reason and react.  Jesus spoke to the demon directly, just as He did when Peter was Satan’s mouthpiece.
Satan drives those whom he influences out into the spiritual wilderness, where addictions and distractions keep the person in bondage.  The bondage itself is not the end; the person’s destruction and death is Satan’s goal.  So, the longer in the wilderness, the greater chance that Satan will succeed in his plan for the person.

That’s when we speak truth into the life of a person.  We speak the truth of Satan’s agenda without condemning the person, but lovingly telling them where their lives are going to end up. 
Then we speak Truth into their lives:  Truth is Jesus Christ and His way leads to life and life abundantly.

This man’s restoration was not initially celebrated by the townsfolk.  You would think that losing some pigs was not as important compared to this man who was now in “his right mind” (Wycliffe Bible Commentary 221).

Family and friends can be an impediment to a new believer achieving recovery and freedom in Jesus Christ.  It is critical that we mentor someone who has walked away from Satan’s influence.  We must teach and encourage this person to keep leaning into Jesus with prayer and time in His Word.  This is what keeps us pressing on:

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  (Phil. 3:12-14 NIV)

The man wanted to follow Jesus.  Jesus wanted him to be active now in his faith.  As the man shared his story with each person he met, this would reinforce his new life.  It would remind him of God’s grace and love in his restoration.  He would be under no delusions that he had somehow handled his former life on his own. Equally, his new life was only sustainable with God’s power. He would have to rely on God every moment of every day. 

The results?  The people received Jesus positively the next time He came around.  This man was a walking testimony to Jesus, His ministry and His love.   

We cannot recover from demonic oppression on our own.  It takes walking with Jesus every day.  We need to stay connected to the family of God.  Our new life is tender and takes time to grow.

Next up, we will walk with Jesus as He encounters evil in the Gospel of John.

Excerpted from S.T.A.N.D. Spiritually Trained And Not Defeated: Our Position in Christ, Our Mission in Christ A Handbook on Spiritual Warfare.  Buy it on Amazon.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Jesus' Enemy Contact in Mark & Luke (XVI)

Satan sometimes hides in plain sight. He may even use the guy sitting next to you in church. 

Hollywood has portrayed satanic influence as being so shockingly weird and abnormal that you can’t miss it.  This has been such a disservice to the discussion of spiritual warfare.  Satan oppressing someone can be as subtle as the silent growth of cancer inside the body. 

We will start in Mark with our next encounter: 

They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!

“Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.  The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.” News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.” (Mark 1:21-28 NIV)

Isn’t it interesting that this man sat in the synagogue, Sabbath after Sabbath, and no one seemed to notice he was oppressed demonically?  Or were the people too afraid to say anything?  Or did they sense something was wrong, but felt powerless to do or say anything?

As you grow in the knowledge of Him, you will become more sensitive to Satan’s influence over someone.  This person may come to your church Sunday after Sunday, and you sense something malevolent is going on.  So, what to do?  Pray!  Then, pray again:  pray for that person.  Pray as to what you should do.  Pray for the leadership of the church for their discernment.  Pray about what to say and what not to say. 

The saddest part about demonically influenced people is the underlying emptiness in them.  They may love the Lord, but because they haven’t surrender all the areas in their life, Satan has a stronghold that he exploits regularly.  Prayer is the answer.  Prayer is always the answer.

Next encounter: 

Whenever the impure spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” But he gave them strict orders not to tell others about him. (Mark 3:11-12 NIV)

Interesting how the demons immediately understood who Jesus was. 

The Pharisees caught on early who Jesus claimed to be. 

The High Priest, at Jesus’ trial before the Jewish high court, demonstrated that he fully understood the claim Jesus was making about Himself, that of being God’s own Son.

Interesting how Jesus’ enemies got it so easily, and yet the ones He came to save did not.  How sad:

When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’” At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.” (Luke 7:20-23 NIV)

Jesus’ ministry is a direct fulfillment of Isaiah 61:1-2.  He is telling John and his followers that the ministry is validated by the works He is doing.  John’s question is legitimate, and Jesus does not mind the inquiry. 

The Kingdom of God is not filled with sickness, demons, death or poverty.  Jesus established that in His ministry.  Now, in His name, we are working for this Kingdom where He is Lord.  We are trying to put the prince of this world out of a job.  We do it, like our Lord, one person at a time. 

The glorious Day is coming where a new heaven and new earth will be created and Jesus’ Kingdom will reign supreme.  But until that Day, we keep working. 

Again, think of D-Day.  The Allied forces had to take one beach, one village, one region, one country at a time until the Nazis were utterly defeated.  Even in this imperfect world, the Allies realized that the only way to remove Nazism was to conquer it completely.  That took a long time, many lives and lots of blood, sweat and tears. 

We are in a war.  We must take one beach, one village, one region, one country at a time until the world has heard of Him.  Slow, yes.  Rewarding?  Yes.  Hard?  You betcha.  We follow Him and His orders, for we are empowered with His Spirit.  We fight in the knowledge that He has won, despite the lies coming from the other side.

The next encounter comes through a parable of the sower: 

This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. (Luke 8:11-12 NIV)

Trust me when I tell you: As soon as you hear the Word, here come the birds.  Either going to church or leaving church (or both!) you will get into an argument with your spouse/your kids/the neighbor, get distracted, run out of gas…all sorts of annoying things to prevent the Word from taking root and bringing forth fruit in your life. 

So, what to do?  Keep sowing.  Keep praying.  Satan is not all-powerful:

Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them.  We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error. (1 John 4:4-6)

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Contact With The Enemy: Matthew's Gospel (XV)

Our next encounter is: 

Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. All the people were astonished and said, “Could this be the Son of David?”  But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.”

Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can plunder his house.  Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. 

Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.  A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matt. 12:22-37 NIV)

Here is another opportunity for Satan to snarl at Jesus.  This time, Jesus takes the Pharisees (and Satan) head-on.  He demolishes their logic and then reminds them that their words are eternally dangerous. The people are at least open to Jesus being the “Son of David.”  But when the Pharisees hear their question, they are furious.  Anger and jealousy are open doors for Satan and he jeers at Jesus through the leaders.  

One aspect of Jesus’ mission is to “bind the strong man.”  We can derived a quick profile of Satan from these verses:  Satan is strong, but he can be bound; he is not invincible. The strong man has possessions, us, but they can be “carried off;” we can be redeemed.  His house is here on earth, but he can be “plundered;” he can and will be conquered.

Jesus cares enough about the Pharisees to warn them of their serious transgression of attributing the things of God to Satan. His words are a warning to us as well:  What we store up in our heart will play out in the things we say and do.  Good fruit comes from good trees.  Good words and kind deeds come from a heart so enriched with Jesus’ love and mercy that it can’t help it. Jesus doesn’t excuse the Pharisees’ words.  He takes a no-nonsense approach with Satan and with them.  Whatever you store up will tumble out.  Words matter and show the state of our heart.  Nourish your heart with the good things of God: prayer and time in His Word.  Then when Satan comes a-calling, you will see him for what he is:  a liar and a deceiver who uses your fear, doubt and anger to incite you to attack others and likewise, for them to attack you. 

Next encounter: 

"When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, 'I will return to the house I left.'  When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation."  (Matt. 12:43-45 NIV)

Satan loves a clean (serving God based on my works), orderly (pride driven) but empty (no love) house. The context here is the leaders have asked Jesus for a sign.  He says that like Jonah, he will be confined in the earth for three days, but will emerge victorious. (Matt. 12:40).  That is the greatest sign of all: the Son of Man conquering death itself. Jesus will not perform a sign on demand.  He made that clear to Satan when He refused to jump from the Temple at Satan’s suggestion in the wilderness.  But even with the change of tone in the leaders (they are no longer accusing Him of being in league with Satan) they still have impure motives.  They may look clean and put in order.  In other words, they look spiritually respectable, but they are empty, for they have no love.

That is the key here. Satan loves an empty soul.  Even a good person—someone whose house looks in order to us—is in danger of Satan using and filling.  Nature hates a vacuum, and so does the spiritual world.  Our souls are containers, either filled with God or the deceiver.   I know this sounds harsh.  How could a good person who does not commit any egregious sins be serving Satan?  Jesus is condemning the unbelief of His generation in the surrounding verses.  They are asking for a sign, which seems to be harmless enough.  But it is still unbelief.  A sign, not their love, will supposedly enable them to follow Jesus.  That is what makes unbelief so dangerous:  If we don’t accept and serve Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, we default to the world and its values.  Satan is the “prince of this world.” So whether we know it or not, our empty soul will be filled.  We will serve either Jesus or Satan. A soul that serves God with pride-filled works and no love results in emptiness.  A soul that ignores God results in emptiness. 

We choose Who or who will fill our soul.  Jesus, in previous verses, says we are either with Him or against Him.  Again, we choose:  either unbelief or belief. Satan cheers us on towards unbelief and emptiness.  Why?  So he can gain entry and influence our lives. 

Our next encounter is: 

When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. “Lord, have mercy       on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.” 

“You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed at that moment.  Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matt. 17:14-21 NIV)

Jesus wants us to be ready to act on our belief in Him.  Acting on our belief is another word for faith.  Remember the armor and specifically the Shield of Faith?  Satan puts on a grand show through this poor boy:  falling into fire or water would terrify anyone.  The screams alone would send shivers down anyone’s spine.  And that is precisely the point:  Satan wants to appear utterly invincible.  The disciples bought that lie this time.  Their fear along with being stunned by such a display caused them to recoil.  Satan then capitalized on their fear and encouraged them to see themselves as powerless. 
With their Shield of Faith down, here came the dart of You Can’t Do This!  It worked.  That’s why Jesus had to remind them once again of the power of having faith in Him.  Satan’s tactic of seeming to be more powerful than Jesus is a favorite of his; Jesus reminded His disciples that Satan is a liar. 
If Satan condemns your faith as powerless, guess what?  It’s a lie!  Faith in Jesus is the most powerful force in the universe, not Satan, despite his displays to the contrary.  

Our next encounter comes in the form of a parable: 

The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” 

Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.”

They also will answer, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?”

He will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”  Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life. (Matt. 25:40-6 NIV)

Spiritual warfare is not always an encounter with overt evil.  Spiritual warfare is also about how you are going to serve the One you love.  Loving Christ without serving others is like “unsalty” salt.  It is utterly useless: "Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out." (Luke 14:34-35) 

The ones who need Christ the most are the ones whom the world quickly passes by.  All the folks mentioned here in this parable—the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, the prisoner—have a steady satanic whisper in their ears:  God doesn’t care about you.  That whisper is a lie.  We are to prove that by how we treat and care for others in Jesus’ name.  The Kingdom of God is marked by our compassion and love for one another: "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.  By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."  (John 13:34-5)

In fact, love is the only law in the Kingdom of God: "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ."  (Gal. 6:2)

We will continue to survey Jesus’ encounters with the enemy next time in the Gospels of Mark and Luke. 

Excerpted from S.T.A.N.D. Spiritually Trained And Not Defeated: Our Position in Christ, Our Mission in Christ A Handbook on Spiritual Warfare.  Buy it on Amazon.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Contact With The Enemy: Matthew's Gospel (Part XIV)

Our next encounter in Matthew is:  

While they were going out, a man who was demon-possessed and could not talk was brought to Jesus. And when the demon was driven out, the man who had been mute spoke. The crowd was amazed and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.”
But the Pharisees said, “It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons.” (Matt. 9:32-34 NIV)

Don’t you just hear Satan laughing in the remarks of the Pharisees?  Remember how Satan waits to attack Jesus “until the next opportunity came”? Here is one of the many opportunities where Satan uses human beings as mouthpieces to snarl at and mock Jesus. So, here’s something to think about:  Satan uses others to get to you. Jesus was down range of Satan using others to attack Him on many occasions and it will be no different with you. The Pharisees here are being completely illogical (Why would Satan destroy his own works?) and in grave peril (attributing to Satan what God is doing is the “unpardonable sin”) so it makes no sense from a human perspective. 

But in the spiritual realm, it fits.  Anytime Satan can demean, belittle, question, cast doubt, or sabotage you and your calling with another person’s mouth, he’ll do it.  Pride, anger, envy, fear in the other person is the perfect open door that Satan comes through and uses to his advantage.  Let’s look at one time where Satan used one of Jesus’ closest followers: 

From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”
Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (Matt. 16:21-23 NIV)

 Peter was well-intentioned with Jesus.  Who wouldn’t want to dissuade your best Friend from pursuing such a horrible end?  But Peter missed the part about Jesus being raised to life, and the fear of His death opened up a door for Satan to enter and insinuate that Jesus did not need to go to the cross to fulfill His mission.  But Jesus had clearly stated, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:45)

Let’s examine another follower whom Satan used:

Now the Festival of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people. Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. They were delighted and agreed to give him money. He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present. (Luke 22:1-6 NIV)

There’s that word “opportunity” again.  This time, Satan did not use fear but doubt in the heart of Judas to get what he wanted: Jesus arrested and killed. Judas has begun to doubt Jesus’ mission. Jesus had not used His mighty power to destroy the Roman oppression of Israel; all Judas saw was Jesus using His power to raise the dead, heal the sick and drive out demons. 

Judas may have thought to himself:  Fine use of your power there Jesus, but what about using it against those Romans?  They are the greater evil!  Use Your mighty power to conquer them!  The crowds are always clamoring for your attention.  You need to turn your attention to the Romans and their abuses.  I would love to see you wipe their arrogant smiles right off their faces once and for all.

Satan entered Judas, perhaps deceiving Judas into thinking that he could force Jesus’ hand.  Judas may have reasoned that when He was finally handed over to the Romans, Jesus would demonstrate all of His power to benefit the oppressed Jewish people.  Jesus would free Himself from His captors and then free His fellow Jews.  This, as we know, did not happen. Jesus’ mission was to impart a new heart, not a new government.  Judas’ remorse over what he did drove him to suicide.  His guilt and shame were just too much when he found out Jesus was not going to deliver the Jews from the Romans, but had delivered Himself to be crucified. Satan laughed many times in those final days, as Judas was swinging in the trees and Jesus bled on that cross. 

On that Sunday morning, however, the laughter stopped. 
Satan can use friends, family, disgruntled strangers and anyone to go after you.  Most of the time, the person doesn’t even know he or she is being used by Satan to get to you. But your reaction should be the same: Pray for wisdom as to where those hurtful words or actions are coming from. Remember Satan’s endgame: to destroy you and anyone he can along the way.  He will use any means necessary. Reclaim your heritage as a child of God and move forward.  Then, PRAY:

But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.  If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:27-36 NIV)

Prayer softens your heart, opens you up to God’s healing and consoling presence, and allows you to have compassion on those who have hurt you.  Besides, Satan hates it when we show mercy and see others as ourselves.  

We all need prayer, a Savior and infinite patience with one another.

We will continue looking in Matthew as to how Jesus dealt with the enemy in upcoming blogs. May His Word comfort, guide and direct you!

Excerpted from S.T.A.N.D. Spiritually Trained And Not Defeated: Our Position in Christ, Our Mission in Christ A Handbook on Spiritual Warfare.  Buy it on Amazon.

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