Healthy Hearts (Part One)

IMG_0242Proverbs 15:13-17

The Bible uses the word heart as the center of the human personality—the inner person in contrast to the body. It is the spiritual side of the person, and it has three aspects: the mind, the emotions and the will. While we all share these three aspects, God has formed our personality and the events of and people in our lives style it, so that we are all unique people. But regardless of our individual form, God tells us truths that he intends to transform our inner person increasingly into his moral likeness. In other words, God wants to perfect the variety that he has designed in the womb and develops through the events and people of our lives. So let’s examine what he tells us about human hearts from this passage.

The Lord tells us the effect of a healthy heart (15:13). Every human is a functional unity of the outer person (the body) and the inner person (the heart or soul or spirit). Contrast this text with Psalm 42:3-5, where we see the depressing influence of a downcast heart. Depression leads to inactivity that breeds more depression and inactivity. It is a downward spiral.

Since we have this functional unity between the inner and outer parts of our humanness, the Lord encourages happiness of heart. In the words of John Trapp of long ago, “The heart sits smiling in the face and looks merrily out of the windows of the eyes.” However, we must clarify the Lord’s intent. The Lord wants us to have a happiness of heart that is based on proper principles (for example, Psalm 32:1-2). The Lord wants us to express our inner joy wisely and with a regard for the life situations of others (Romans 12:15; Proverbs 27:14).

Consider how the heart can create two very different effects. First, a happy heart will make you appear cheerful, and that shows up on your face. I recall two songs from years ago that sought to get this point across: “Take that frown off your face, put a smile in its place, let the love of Jesus Christ show through!” And, “Smile a while, and give your face a rest, raise your hand to the One you love the best, then shake hands with one nearby and greet them with a smile!” Those who are part of a local body of Christ should learn to read each other’s faces, and then prayerfully, boldly and gently seek to serve each other in love.

But second, heartache crushes the spirit—a person loses the desire to continue. What are some causes of heartache? Events like unfulfilled expectations, untimely or unexpected separation, and betrayal by one you love. Such happenings can pile up quickly, and we can feel shattered.

The way out can be difficult and long. The Lord Jesus Christ has provided ways to help you. He speaks to us through his word, providing us his perspective and counsel. For example, read out loud and listen to Psalm 119. It is a great prayer of a person enduring affliction. Let its words soak into you, and then pray them back to God our Father. Jesus has given us his Spirit, who desires to produce his fruit in us (Galatians 5:22-23). Think of each of those qualities, and ask the Spirit to refresh your heart with them. Christ has also placed us in groups of people who know him and love one another (1 Peter 1:22). You are with them to share life, and since they belong to Christ, they are equipped to help you (Romans 15:14). The Lord is forever faithful. Draw near to him; he wants you to have a healthy heart.

Grace and peace, David

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A Place for You (Part Three)

IMG_02321 Corinthians 12:7-26

Every believer, every part of the spiritual body of Christ is needed (12:21-26). We must accept each other in his body and value the contribution of each person (12:21). Every local church has a unique gathering of individuals, and these groupings might not seem to offer much promise for friendships at first glance. For example, one person might not be able to approve of much another does. The second might not particularly want a third as you’re their close friend. But for Christ’s sake we must accept one another in love and spur one another on to love and good works. Let me say some things to push us all to consider the actual condition of our local gatherings. In order to make progress, we must see one another as “in Christ” and realize that we are members together of one body. I think most will claim, “Of course we believe this and do this!” But I ask, “Is your assembly (church) really this way? Or are many being rejected in subtle or not so subtle ways (James 2:1-4)? Toleration is not the same as reaching out in friendship.

There is a place for “other-esteem” in the church. We must see each other with the Lord’s eyes. Yes, we will see failures and weaknesses, but we should also see the grace of the Lord, and seeing that, prize each other highly. If a local church is more like a social club than the body of Christ, worldly distinctions like ethnicity, education, economic level will abound. In some churches, people are valued above others because of their attainments in doctrinal knowledge. In other churches, it is because they are skilled social mixers. However, we ought to prize one another because each one is “in Christ”.

Everyone in the body must have a concern for everyone else (12:25). What about special friends? People can be drawn close to one another in surprising ways. Close friendships are not a problem as long as the friendship is holy. Then they become very beneficial to the whole body. You probably will feel closer to some than to others, but do not neglect the whole for the sake of the few. Move out of your comfort zone and seek out fellowship with others that you suppose are unlike you. (You see yourself as an eye or ear, and see others as knees and elbows.) My friend, show some loving concern for those members that you suppose are beneath you. This requires ongoing, special effort; it doesn’t simply happen.

The local church is a spiritual body, and it only develops as the parts of the body enjoy spiritual fellowship with each other. Local institutional churches grow for many reasons: a good location, enthusiastic inviters, an upbeat, contemporary music program, a watered down message that offends no one, or they grow for the fact of being large enough so that those attending can do nothing but attend and enjoy the big crowd, or because they promise healing and prosperity to the faithful, etc. A few actually grow because they are faithful to the Lord, according to the light they have! But we need to ask: what is developing—a gathering of disciples who make disciples who make disciples, or is it merely a weird kind of social club?

The spiritual health of each part affects the spiritual health of the whole body (12:26). Your holiness and sinfulness affect more than you. Your spiritual condition affects all of us. The best course of action is to walk with the Lord in holiness, love, joy and peace and share these blessings with others. If you are taking steps toward heaven with the Lord, why not share that journey with others?

Grace and peace, David

P.S. Yesterday, Sharon and I went all day to the Philadelphia Flower Show, which was the reason for no new article. We had a great time, and we will feature some pictures from our excursion there. For today, a flower from a few years ago.

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A Place for You (Part Two)

DSCN02401 Corinthians 12:7-26

Christ’s people have a variety of functions in his spiritual body (12:14). This is illustrated by hands, feet, eyes, ears and noses (12:15-18). The Spirit of God is teaching us that there are clearly defined bodily functions and parts of the body to fulfill those functions.

Your position in the church is an adult son; you have authority to minister because you are a priest; the place of your ministry is determined by God. Since we have spiritual gifts and have been shaped by the Spirit to serve, we perform various spiritual functions in the local gathering of saints (church) we attend. To use the illustration, God makes you, a priest and an adult son, to act as a hand, a foot, an eye, an ear or a nose.

Many parts are necessary in the body for all spiritual functions to be fulfilled (12:17). Clearly, this makes the spiritual maturity of every member of the body important. In the new covenant way of life, this is very important. (I will spare you from an overdose of adjectives and adverbs, but I’m pausing here so that you will reflect on this point.) The new covenant way of life is not about pressing people to conform under a code of laws, rules, etc. This “checklist morality” is the focus for Christian behavior that many people are zealous to enforce by “church discipline”. But that is not my subject. The new covenant way of life is about people in Christ sharing life in the Spirit, which involves mutual service. You do not achieve service by investigating whether everyone is keeping the code. You serve because you have a vital relationship with others that impels you to show concern by practical actions for the benefit of each other. It is a sense that all of us, yes, all of us, are necessary for the spiritual health and progress and mission of our local gathering. For example, your timely use of your gift of encouragement might be what the Spirit uses in me today to persevere in the struggles of life. The personal Spirit enables spiritual people to provide care for Christ’s people.

So then, think on a couple ideas. First, a few people cannot possibly do everything. God intends a better way. That better way is the involvement of every member of the assembly. Some people have remarkable people skills that bring people to open up their hearts to each other. It is a joy to behold. Second, the tragedy is that people gifted by the Spirit are not fulfilling their function. This means that some parts of body ministry are left unfulfilled and other parts are weakly done by members unequipped to do them. They see the need and valiantly seek to serve, but… it would be so much better if those with the right spiritual skill sets were doing them. Try lifting your fork to your mouth with your ear! I don’t think the job will be done very well. If you are thinking, “That’s ridiculous! You can’t pick up a fork with your ear!” then you might be able to understand the weakness of the church in our time.

In every local church, God arranges the parts as he intended (12:18-20). If the Lord has saved you and brought you to a gathering of his people, he clearly has a purpose for you to fulfill in it. God your Father wants you to experience the joy of fulfilling his purpose for you as you share life with others. You find your purpose by learning the needs of the body and your desires and abilities in reference to those needs. Others should notice your gifts. But you can’t wait for others to push you to do it. I don’t want someone to tell my liver every morning, “Please do your liver thing, whatever it is.” Start to serve one another in love, and the Spirit will provide insight to you and others that you are learning to function in your local church. If you are not connecting with other followers of Christ, seek a local gathering to join this week.

Grace and peace, David

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A Place for You (Part One)

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1 Corinthians 12:7-26

In this article I want to build on some teachings about the Christian and the church that we all (should) know. But in writing to such a broad audience, it is impossible to know where you are in your spiritual growth in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord (2 Peter 3:18). But I hope you know the following:

  • The church is the spiritual body of Christ
  • Every follower of Christ is a member of his spiritual body
  • Everyone in Christ’s body shares many blessings: new life, a vital relationship with God, the position of an adult son, the standing of a royal priest, and the possession of one or more spiritual gifts to equip each one for ministry in the body
  • These truths have a global and local significance

Each of us is given a place in the body by the Holy Spirit. No Christian is left out (12:7). Every learner of Jesus has a significant place to fill. Our Sovereign Lord has formed each of us with a unique combination of personality, genetic material, family and ethnic heritage, personal experiences and spiritual gifts to display his glory in special ways. And each part of the body of Christ will be in the process of development or decline. This can be very complex! Surprising as it may sound; you might be improving in some areas and declining in others. What is your spiritual health?

Your place in Christ’s spiritual body is for the common good (12:7). We live in a very “me-centered” time. “What is in this local gathering of believers for me?” is the only question many seem to consider. Two basic questions about any assembly (church) are: Does it delight in God’s truth? Does it delight to love God and people? Yet countless professed believers will focus on a church’s programs, facilities, “demographics” (ethnicity, economic and educational levels, and age groupings), and other less important matters. However, the Holy Spirit wants us to understand that he places us in a local church “for the common good”. Yes, we all are needy people in various ways. So then, we dare not look at a church from the standpoint of “what is this church doing for me?” That attitude has crippled churches for years. I boldly ask, “What are you doing for the good of people in Christ with whom you share life?” I think that way of putting it unmasks one of the hindrances to the church in our time. Those who know the Lord Christ share life in him. We want to share our lives with others who know the Lord. Ask, “What can I do for the benefit of my brothers and sisters in the Lord?”

The Spirit equips each one for his or her place in the body (12:8-11). The Spirit of God does not thrust Christ’s people into positions unprepared. He gives each person special abilities to minister in the body for the common good. Consider Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-13; 1 Peter 4:10-11. Every member has a function to fulfill. For example, those gifted with the gift of showing mercy need to step in and do the job when there is a need for mercy. If you see a need in your fellowship of believers and think that you know how to meet that need, the Lord might be calling you to serve and to meet that need.

The Spirit determines what place each one has (12:11). This causes people discomfort. We want to fill a function in the church that we like, and we fail to appreciate others who are functioning to the best of their ability. There is no reason to “seek the gifts”, as many use the term, since the Spirit gives according to God’s own pleasure. We can be sure that the Lord has very good reasons for giving people the gifts that he does. This ought to cause us to appreciate and admire the Spirit’s will. We ought to rejoice in the way that the Lord has put his body together. Are you fulfilling a function in your local church? What is God doing through you? How does your ministry show forth the power of the ascended Christ by his Spirit?

Grace and peace, David

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An Alternative to an Empty Life

DSCN0546Luke 12:13-21

In the Four Gospels we read selected accounts of the earthly mission of our Lord Jesus Christ. He came to set us free from an empty way of life (1 Peter 1:18). Often we fail to realize the depths of that emptiness. Let’s listen to how our Redeemer revealed that emptiness in his teaching and pointed us to a better alternative.

Luke has already set the scene for this teaching session. A crowd of many thousands gathered (12:1), and it was not a calm crowd. Please do not think of a typical church service in our day where people are bored with the building, the pastor, the music, the ritual prayers, the message, and each other. No, this crowd was trampling on each other in their shared eagerness to listen to Jesus. (The time when modern churchgoers trample upon each other is to get out of the building and the parking lot.) This, however, did not mean that this crowd was filled with spiritual, godly, heavenly-minded people.

After the Lord spoke directly to his disciples (12:1-12) about the important topic of fear and worry, a question comes from the crowd. Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” [All italicized quotes are from the NIV.] Ah, there can be many people in “church”, and many of their hearts are not thinking about meeting with the living God and his dearly loved Son, but their minds are on other personal and “important” matters. People are very easily distracted from God.

The Lord Jesus, instead of brushing aside the man’s impertinent request, used it as a teaching opportunity, because he had come to make God known and to reveal what we are to us. Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” It was a dangerous course to ask Jesus questions. The man perhaps thought that Jesus would take his side out of a concern to see justice done. But Jesus unmasked the greed in the man’s heart. Though he had gathered with the crowd to hear Jesus, he was a functional idolater (Colossians 3:5). Jesus warned his hearers of getting their identity from their possessions. This is a problem in our affluent culture. It is too easy to confuse what we have with who we are. We can learn this about ourselves from how we evaluate others by where they live, what they drive, the clothes they wear, or the places they go. People might say they admire those who devote their lives to helping others, but are they willing to divest themselves of their possessions to do it? We can drift into this kind of transfer of identity, which is why Jesus calls us to be on our guard against all kinds of greed. Where should our identity come from?

Next, Jesus told a story to warn everyone about greediness. And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’” This parable is very well-known, and I will make only a few observations. First, the providence of God was working for the prosperity of this rich man. While there is skill in being a successful farmer as well as other occupations, God’s rule of the world overrides the skill of people. If there had been a couple years of drought, the rich farmer would not have had a large crop. Second, God’s blessing on his crop had brought the rich man to the need to make new choices. Prosperity and poverty require us to make decisions. What should a person do when he or she prospers? Consider Romans 2:4. Third, the rich man’s heart was filled with himself. He was proficient at using the first person pronouns. Greed is idolatry, and so is a consuming interest in oneself. Fourth, he thought he knew the future. People proudly assume that they are in charge, that they can map out their lives. The rich man’s attitude can be shared by anyone. Fifth, he lived for pleasure. Hmm, it sounds like he was a “last day’s sort of person” (cf. 2 Timothy 3:1-4). Sixth, God interrupted his plans. This is what people forget. The living God can expose our true emptiness in a moment.

Jesus made his point. “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” The Lord Christ is teaching us the nature of true repentance. We must turn from a self-focused view of life to building our life and identity in relationship to God. Being rich toward God is true wealth. We must prefer the true God over all things.

What is the question you would like to ask Jesus? Since he knows your heart, how would he answer you?

Grace and peace, David

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Counter Strategy in Spiritual Warfare (Part Two)

DSCN3659Ephesians 6:13

We must follow the counter strategy that our Lord has planned. We must put on “the full armor of God”. This armor will certainly protect us from spiritual attacks, because it is Christ and the blessings of salvation that belong to us through our union with him. Since the apostle will present this in detail in the following verses, we will discuss it more fully “piece by piece”.

However, we must understand our responsibility to “put on” each part of the armor. Possessing a resource for protection is not the same as using it. My car came equipped with a system of lights. If I drive it in the twilight or at night or in poor weather conditions like fog, those lights help protect me. But I am responsible to turn them on when necessary.

Every day we must put our armor on. This is not a legalistic ritual, though people have a remarkable talent for making anything legalistic! I am not talking about putting something on a daily checklist, mumbling a “putting on the armor” prayer, and then feeling self-satisfied. “I put my armor on! Did you put your armor on?” No, the Holy Spirit is directing us in the Word to a daily fellowship with the Lord in which by faith we rely on his resources.

We must stand our ground. At this point some paint pictures of passivity, wrongly imagining that the apostle is recommending that we curl up into some sort of spiritual fetal position and let the evil ones beat on us! What kind of general would order that posture for his soldiers? Generals equip their soldiers to enter combat, to engage the enemy, and by standing firm, to drive the enemy from the battlefield. How did Chamberlain defend the extreme left of the Union Army on Little Round Top? He stood firm against repeated attacks, and then with his equipped men drove his enemy away.

How do we stand or resist successfully the enemy? (These suggestions are based on teaching by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.)

  • Don’t feel unhappy or discouraged because you are in a battle. Your Lord has called you to battle, fully equipped you, and promised you his strength. A spiritual battle is an opportunity for the Lord to demonstrate his glory through you.
  • Don’t feel frightened in the battle. Certainly we must never under-estimate the power of the evil one, but the Lord’s power is greater. Yep, you’re going to be hit, but by grace, you’re going to strike back with the fear of the Lord hitting the enemy.
  • Don’t be lazy! Take your stand! Don’t expect someone to carry you or to fill your spot. Get in the battle line. “Hate what is evil” (Romans 12:9).
  • Never give thought about retreat. Stand to the last!
  • Keep alert (1 Peter 5:8-9)

Grace and peace, David

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An Extra Day

DSCN3748Leap year day comes every four years giving us an extra day in the year. There are never enough opportunities to praise Our Lord, and on this day we are given twenty-four more hours to use in praise. In praising God, we become overwhelmed by joy as God expresses to us His pleasure in our obedience. Thank the King of kings for creating you, praying that He would fill you to overflowing with His love to saturate your spirit.

If that is not enough, praise Him because He already owned us as His creation. He paid an exorbitant price for us by redeeming us with the blood of His Son. Even though He owned us and bought us, in order to place an even higher claim on us, he exhibited His endless and unfailing love. He adopted us and promised us a rich inheritance! He does all these things and so much more every day. How can it not bring praise to our lips as we realize the pure love, joy, peace and freedom that these gifts bring? We can only accept them by thanking Him for them.

Have you ever woken and just stood beside the window, looked out and up, and gave praise to the Lord? Perhaps on a warm morning you even carried your breakfast out to the porch and read your Bible, communicating with your Heavenly Father, the One who created you. Somedays you might see a beautiful sunrise and hear the birds lift their voices to the Creator. The Scripture says, “Let all creation praise the Lord.”

I sing an old hymn by the title of “Praise the Savior”. Perhaps you could think about some of the words of Thomas Kelly as he expresses himself in praise. We can’t possibly tell just how much we owe Him for all He does and gives. He watches over us. His eyes never leave us for we are His treasure. We should give Him our praise, thanking Him for designing us just the way we are.

Mr. Kelly also wrote in verse two that Jesus is the Name that charms us, for He fits and arms us for the conflicts we face daily. God never changes. Nothing moves us and nothing can harm us while we trust in Him! There is so much in these words of a hymn writer whose heart was filled with praise. God is faithful and there is no force nor deceit that can ever sever our relationship with Him. His love for us is deep!

Next, the author writes, “Keep us, Lord, O keep us closely to Him. Keep us believing!” God enables us to believe through each day of our lives until we reach Heaven, where we will receive so many more joys.

Finally, in the fifth stanza of this little hymn he writes that when all this has taken place we shall be where we would be, and we shall be what we should be, because things that are not now nor could be, soon shall be our own.

This is our confident expectation as we approach Easter time. We should daily praise God for giving us His Son and for forgiving us of all sin! Praise is God’s way of opening us up to sharing His joy. The Psalmist says in Psalm 145, “I will praise you every day”! Feel blessed that you have been given this extra day to praise the Lord!

Praising the Lord, Sharon

(You can listen to Thomas Kelly’s hymn on YouTube.)

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Counter Strategy in Spiritual Warfare (Part One)

DSCN0511Ephesians 6:13

Every follower of Jesus Christ is involved in a spiritual war. Satan and his evil allies have an implacable hatred for God and his people. The spiritual forces of evil endlessly seek to oppose God’s plan to display his glory, and they strive to ruin God’s chosen people. It matters not to the enemy how he strikes us; any harm he causes is a reason for perverse delight. However, Satan and his army are doomed to defeat, because God has already won the war through the saving work of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The Lord has spiritually outfitted us with spiritual protection and has made available to us the greatest resource, his almighty power to face the enemy and his malicious schemes. Although the war is won, there are still many battles to fight until the Lord returns and finally ends all evil works. We face a desperate, fatally wounded dragon, which still lashes out at us before he meets his eternal doom. God has willed that we must confront the enemy to make known God’s triumph in his Son. How do we do this? What is the Lord’s counter strategy for us?

We must be actively engaged in spiritual warfare. The true Christian life is not a way of passivity or of inactivity. At various times in church history, there have been those who have taught a passive view of the Christian life. Their teaching has been presented something like this: “Don’t struggle; that is the way of the flesh; just let go and let God.” I think that they wanted to protect the importance of faith against works, but they went wrong in the process.

One thing that people want to avoid is a struggle. We want life to be easy; Christians want the Christian life to be easy. In the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, many taught the error of sinless perfection—that a Christian could achieve, in various ways, freedom from sin. It is still taught and followed today. Many teachers of perfectionism taught that it could be attained by effort of will. The tragic error is that human effort can never perfect a person. Although others saw that perfection could not be achieved by human effort, they could not let go of the concept of the possibility of perfection. So for effort they substituted a redefined idea of faith that taught, “You can’t become perfect by struggling. Instead, you must not struggle; let God make you perfect. ‘Let go and let God.’”

But faith is not passivity. It is an active reliance or dependence upon God that produces action, as the letter to the Hebrews makes very clear. Think about the following verses from that letter’s chapter about faith (11:3-4, 7-8,17, 20-23, 24-28, 29, 33-36). Faith reasons that God is able to do what we cannot, and then moves forward in obedience, actively relying on God to supply our need.

In this entire text (6:10-18), the Lord calls us to action. In this passage the Holy Spirit gives us five clear commands: “be strong… put on… put on… stand firm… take….” The Lord through the apostle demands that we carry out these orders! Everyday we have these orders; to disobey them is to sin. How many Christians are nowhere near as holy and godly as they suppose themselves to be, because they assume that doing nothing is the way to please God? Why is it that a professing Christian can have great troubles of conscience about shop lifting or telling lies, and not feel the least anxiety about direct disobedience of to the Commander of the Lord’s armies? I suggest there are many poorly taught consciences.

The Spirit teaches us that we are in a struggle or more literally, a “wrestling match”. We come into close combat with the powers of darkness, and in their view, there are no “illegal holds”. Addiction, abandonment, betrayal, sexual immorality, domestic violence, robbery, and verbal abuse scar the human heart and provide pain-filled targets for the enemy to strike with self-pity, jealousy, anger, an unforgiving attitude, despair, discontent and plain old unbelief.

Have you been scarred in the ways that I mentioned? Do the evil spirits wrestling with you seem to have you in an unbreakable hold? For example, when something causes you to remember how you were robbed or cheated, you are tempted to become angry or perhaps are filled with a near paralyzing fear that it might happen again. Is there a way out? Yes, if you want to follow the Lord, you will find his way. He promises the way out (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Grace and peace, David

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The Nature of Spiritual Warfare (Part Two)

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Ephesians 6:11-12

In spiritual warfare the Christian faces a cunning opposing commander. Satan thinks up schemes or traps to try to defeat those who follow Jesus. The word for schemes could be translated as “strategies”. He is drawing up battle plans to be used against us (2 Corinthians 2:11). All these schemes are saturated with deceit and lies, because they come from the father of lies (John 8:44). Consider 2 Corinthians 11:3-4, 13-15; 1 Timothy 4:1. This kind of deceptive activity will only increase as we move closer to the coming of the Lord (2 Thessalonians 2:7-12; Matthew 24:10-14, 21-25). How then can you know what is truth or error? You can know by the Scriptures (John 17:17).

Here are eight types of schemes that the devil uses against us to draw us into sin.

  • Satan presents the bait and hides the hook (Genesis 3:4-5; Matthew 4:8-9).
  • Satan paints sin with the colors of religion (1 Samuel 15:15, 22-23).
  • Satan lessens the sin or makes it seem less by mentioning all kinds of extenuating circumstances (Joshua 7:20-21; 2 Samuel 6:6-7).
  • Satan talks up the sin of the saints, while hiding their troubles from their sin, the sorrow of their repentance, and their true heart for God: David (2 Samuel 11:4; Psalm 51:1ff), Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 32:24-26), and Peter (Mark 14:71-72).
  • Satan misrepresents sin and its consequences, claiming that sinful people enjoy blessings while the godly suffer (Jeremiah 44:15-18), conveniently omitting eternal consequences (Psalm 73).
  • Satan encourages us to compare ourselves with people less religious and moral and in this way builds up our pride (Luke 18:11).
  • Satan pollutes minds with dangerous errors that make sin seem less dangerous (Jude 1:4).
  • Satan prompts us to choose wicked friends. 2 Chronicles 18:1ff; 19:1-3).

This is a small selection of the schemes that the evil one uses against us! Since we have a powerful enemy that seeks our destruction in many ways, what should we do? We must trust and obey the Lord. Rely on the Lord’s almighty power and put on the armor that he has given for your protection.

Grace and peace, David

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The Nature of Spiritual Warfare (Part One)

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Ephesians 6:11-12

To be a Christian is to be part of a new humanity or nation or society that God is making. This is exciting. God by his grace has called us to be a new people, joined to him and each other. Since this basic union in Christ exists, we have a true unity amid our obvious diversity. God has called us out from the old humanity, which is ruined by sin, and made us alive with Christ to be holy and blameless in his sight. This is a joyous calling for this life, and a certain prospect of eternal glory.

Yes, all this is very true, and we ought always to praise the Lord for his goodness to us. But we also have enemies, powerful ones, who totally hate God and us and who seek our ruin. “Is God’s plan to create a new society? Then they will do their utmost to destroy it. Has God through Jesus Christ broken down the walls dividing human beings of different races and cultures from each other? Then the devil through his emissaries will strive to rebuild them. Does God intend his reconciled and redeemed people to live together in harmony and purity? Then the powers of hell will scatter among them the seeds of discord and sin” (Stott). In short, we are in a war. We have seen already from this text that we are spiritually outfitted for battle and have the incalculable asset of the Lord’s mighty power. Now we want to understand more about the nature of this war we find ourselves in.

In spiritual warfare the Christian is in conflict with powerful, spiritual enemies. In any kind of war, we must know the identity of the enemy. The battle is not against “flesh and blood”; that is, this battle is not against other humans. The point is not to exclude other people as agents of evil, but to direct us to think of another enemy. Evil people are captives who follow Satan’s commands. They need to be set free by God’s grace, before they enter into eternal destruction.

Diseases like cancer and the flu, famine, and the desolations of war mar much of present life, but they are nothing compared to eternal wrath. However, we need to realize that behind evil people are implacable, malicious spiritual enemies who lust for our ruin. We are confronting enemies that are able to operate in the spiritual realm. Humans can strike at us with physical objects and terrible words, but this spiritual enemy can strike where people are not able.

In this war, we must realize the power that our enemies possess. The apostle uses a number of terms to impress on our minds the fact that they are powerful: rulers, authorities, powers, and spiritual forces of evil. The idea is not to learn some kind of hierarchy of demons, but to understand that they have ability to strike spiritually against the saints. In Pilgrim’s Progress, Bunyan graphically presents Christian in combat with powers far greater in power. After joining the church (the Palace Beautiful) and learning much, Christian continues on his pilgrimage and goes into the Valley of Humiliation. There he meets Apollyon, and becomes involved in a deadly fight with this prince of darkness. Only God’s armor protects Christian from his opponent’s fierce blows. When the contest is done, Bunyan writes a short poem about the contest.

“A more unequal match can hardly be—Christian must fight an angel; but you see, The valiant man by handling sword and shield, Doth make him, though a dragon, quit the field.”

We must also be convinced of the total evil of these enemies. They approve of whatever God forbids; whatever God says is good and right, they utterly hate. “If we hope to overcome them, we shall need to bear in mind that they have no moral principles, no code of honor, no higher feelings. They recognize no Geneva Convention to restrict or partially civilize the weapons of their warfare. They are utterly unscrupulous, and ruthless in the pursuit of their malicious designs” (Stott). Know your enemies and their heinous character.

Grace and peace, David

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