Spiritual Warfare: Taking the Offensive

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There Is No Time to Waste

At long last, we are nearing the end of our exercises in Spiritual Warfare.  Our graduation from Boot Camp is right around the corner, as is our return to our duty stations, where we will have the opportunity to put into action the things that we have learned here.  As we do, we can be confident that…

  • Because of what Christ accomplished on the Cross, we now possess the Authority we need to overtake and defeat any foe that we come up against;
  • Everything we will be called upon to overcome is all part of God’s way of preparing us for our Destiny, which is ruling and reigning with Christ when He comes to set up His Kingdom;
  • As we take the Light of the Gospel  into the sin-darkened territories presently held by Satan, we will be bringing liberation to those who are still being held captive there; and,
  • To prevent us from completing our missions, Satan will do everything in his power to stop us.

In light of this last point, before we can graduate and move on, there is one last exercise for us to complete—one providing us with an understanding of the basic principles of Strategic Warfare and the Offensive Weapons needed to ensure our success on the battlefield.

As we learned in our last exercise, we have been outfitted with a top-notch arsenal of defensive weapons known as the Armor of God.  These—the Belt of Truth, the Breastplate of Righteousness, the Shoes of Peace, the Shield of Faith, the Helmet of Salvation, and the Sword of the Spirit—when worn faithfully and used as directed, will provide us with the defensive covering we need whenever we come under attack by the devil.  However, there is more to Spiritual Warfare than merely protecting ourselves while we maintain our current positions.  To the contrary, we have been charged by Christ to launch out into the world, to be sown as seed among the nations, in order to free Satan’s spiritual captives and bring the Kingdom of Christ to the earth.  For, it was Christ who boldly proclaimed…

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (Luke 4:18-19)…

…and, it was He who also commissioned us to…

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age (Matthew 28:19-20).

We Need to Carry Out His Strategy in Ways that Honor Our King Understanding Strategic Warfare

Understanding Strategic Warfare

When seeking to understand the principles of Strategic Warfare, it is essential that we first establish a clear definition for the term.  Since strategic is defined as…

…pertaining to, characterized, or of the nature of strategy…

…with strategy being…

…a plan, a method, or series of maneuvers or stratagems for obtaining a specific goal or result.[1]

When we put this into a military context, Strategic Warfare can be defined as…

…the science and art of military command aimed at meeting the enemy under conditions advantageous to one’s own force…[2]

…a military command in which…

…a distinction is made between strategy and tactics.  Strategy is the utilization, during peace and war, of all of a nation’s forces, through large-scale, long-range planning and development, to ensure security.  Tactics deals with the use and deployment of troops in actual combat.[3]

Here, in this definition, we have two levels of war described for us; but, according to modern military theory, there are actually three that we need to take into consideration—the strategic, the operational, and the tactical, where…

…the strategic level…involves a strategic concept, plans for preparing all national instruments of power for war or conflict, practical guidance for preparing the armed forces, and leadership of the armed forces to achieve strategic objectives;

…the operational level is concerned with employing military forces in a theater of war or theater of operation to obtain an advantage over the enemy and thereby attain strategic goals through the design, organization, and conduct of campaigns and major operations; and,

…the tactical level translates potential combat power into success in battles and engagements through decisions and actions that create advantages when in contact with or in proximity to the enemy.[4]

To put this into more understandable terms, at the Strategic Level, those at the top of the chain of command are the ones responsible for creating an overall plan for winning the war, taking into account the manpower and materials they have at their disposal.  Once their plan is in place, they delegate different aspects of the plan to those serving under them at the Operational Level, whose duty it is to orchestrate and oversee the campaigns assigned to them and their individual theaters of operation.  Directives from this level can then be sent down to the Tactical Level—to those in charge of the troops on the ground—to make sure they are deployed to the right place at the right time, are appropriately trained and armed for each engagement, and they have adequate intelligence and support for each and every battle.

Why is this so important for us to know?  Because this is the same way that the Spiritual Warfare we’re engaged in is structured and carried out.  At its Strategic Level, creating the plan for the war itself, is God—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Charged with the implementation and oversight of their plan’s many Operational Level campaigns are the Angels of various ranks and with specific responsibilities.  The troops on the ground at the Tactical Level are us—the Born Again members of the Church, serving under the leadership of the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, whose responsibility it is to…

…equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes (Ephesians 4:11-14).

Given that our enemy is merely a copier/counterfeiter and not a creator, he has pretty much duplicated this strategic structure—with the exception that, instead of the All-Wise, All-Powerful, and Everywhere-Present Creator God making the plans—he, the quintessential Usurper is the one devising the schemes that he hopes will one day defeat God’s Army, overthrow God, and catapult himself onto the throne of the universe.  Unlike our Commander-in-Chief, who is headquartered in the Third Heaven, this Presumptuous Pretender to the throne has been relegated to the less advantageous location of the Second Heaven, where he and his generals occupy what will prove, in the end, to be temporary thrones from which they oversee his operations in the First Heaven and on the Earth.

As we learned in Spiritual Warfare: Getting the Lay of the Land, these operations are carried out by an army of demonic subordinates whose responsibility is to keep their human charges on the earth in bondage to their master; and, should they somehow fail at this, to prevent those who do find freedom in Christ from growing in their knowledge of Him and from serving Him and His Kingdom purposes successfully.

The Plan for Winning the War

Assessing Strategies

To help us better understand the part Strategic Warfare plays in the on-going conflict between God and Satan, let’s assess and compare how each side makes use of these three levels.  We know from our exercise in Spiritual Warfare: Knowing the Enemy that…

  • Satan’s original plan—his Plan A—called for his overthrow of God and the take-over of His Throne in Heaven; however, given the fact that God was and still is All-Powerful, and Satan’s power was and still is severely limited in comparison, this proved to be a colossal failure.
  • This led to the creation of Satan’s Plan B, which called for him to set up his kingdom and reign upon the Earth—but, this plan, too, hit a wall when God created Man and gave him Dominion and Authority over the Earth instead.
  • Undaunted, Satan then devised a scheme whereby he could gain control of the Earth by taking God’s Authorized Representatives captive through deception and lies. So, lying about who he was, who they were, and who God is, Satan convinced Eve, then Adam, to disobey God.  As a result, Man and Woman became slaves to Satan, sin, and death, and the Authority which should have been theirs was handed over to Satan.
  • Satan’s plan was dealt a bitter blow, though, when eventually he, sin, and death were defeated through Christ’s Atoning Death and His powerful Resurrection.  As a result of His Victory, this Second Adam reclaimed the Authority that the First Adam had lost, and restored it to all those who afterward would come to the Father through Faith in His Finished Work on the Cross.
  • But, because Satan had already established rulership over the world’s systems and its structures, he continues to occupy territories which rightfully belong to Christ and His Church. What is enabling him to maintain his grip on them is the ignorance, timidity, or unwillingness of the Church to rise up and retake these areas in the Name and Authority of Christ, through the Power of the Holy Spirit.
  • So, Satan’s Strategy is—by whatever means necessary—to keep the people who don’t know God from knowing Him, and to keep those who do know Him too ignorant, too fearful, or too self-seeking and apathetic to do anything to dislodge him.

Given that Satan’s Strategy is primarily focused on maintaining control of the territories presently under his rule, it is essentially a Defensive Plan.   On the other hand, God’s Strategy, being one of Infiltration, is a decidedly Offensive One.  Because He is not willing that any should perish but that all would come to repentance, God has chosen to strategically place His very own Sons and Daughters in positions behind enemy lines where they can reveal the Love of Christ to the captives and, shining the Light of the Gospel into those dark places, they can illuminate a way of escape into the Kingdom of God.  This is exactly what God did when He sent His willing and obedient Son, Jesus, into Satan’s authorized territory where, having shone the Light of God in the darkness and revealed the Love of the Father there…

…Jesus’ obedience, then, took Him even to the cross, and through that to the empty tomb.  Thus He won the battle over Satan from behind enemy lines…to defeat the enemy and begin to establish His own Kingdom in the middle of enemy territory…

…and, since this was behind enemy lines, it meant warfare—spiritual warfare aimed at taking back God’s world from the usurper.[5]

Like our Savior, we have been assigned to carry on this mission in the very same way.

The Individual Campaigns of the War

Assessing Operations

Because Satan is neither omnipresent nor omniscient like God, he is limited to being in one place at a time.  Therefore, he must depend on a hierarchy of subordinates to carry out his operations, and rely on this system of underlings for his much-needed intelligence reports.  Depending upon their nature and location, these operations are most likely carried out by one of these three groups…

  • Satan’s Hierarchy—consisting of Rulers, Principalities, and Powers, with…
    • Rulers—being the spirits charged with gaining/maintaining control of the world’s authority structures, such as government at all levels, schools, businesses, churches, civic groups, athletic organizations, and families;
    • Principalities or Territorial Spirits—being the demonic spirits that are in charge of operations taking place within a specific geographic area or ethnic/cultural group of people; and,
    • Powers or Strongholds—being the spirits representing the evils associated with certain sins and the demons assigned to their promotion.
  • Forces of Darkness—the lying spirits behind any Religions, Philosophies, and Ideologies that are opposed to God and the Truth, including humanism, atheism, evolution, New Age, reincarnation, existentialism, socialism and communism; and,
  • Lower Level Spirits—the wicked spirits assigned to individuals in an effort to influence their behavior.[6]

No doubt imitated by Satan when he set up his own kingdom, God’s Operational Level is also made up of a hierarchical structure of spirits who carry out the operations called for in His plan.  Although the Bible doesn’t give us a lot of specifics about the structure itself, what we do know is that it consists of Angels operating at different levels, and possessing various degrees of authority.  From what we can gather in the scriptures, those closest to God and His Throne, and those highest in rank and authority, are the… 

Cherubim;
Seraphim; and
Living Creatures. 

  • Cherubim

The Cherubim are probably the highest ranking of all of the Lord’s Angels.  The first time they are mentioned in scripture is in Genesis 3:24 where, following Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden, they are placed as Guards at the entrance to the Garden, to keep Adam and Eve from returning and eating from the Tree of Life while in their fallen state.

They are next mentioned in Exodus 25:18, when God instructs Moses on how to build the Tabernacle.  For the Most Holy Place, Moses is told to make two Cherubim of gold and to place them at the two ends of the Mercy Seat…

The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be…

There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel (Exodus 25:20, 22).

The Mercy Seat which the Cherubim sheltered was also known as the Seat of Atonement and revered as the earthly Throne of God.  Verses such as these inform us that, in addition to their role as Guardians, the Cherubim also serve as the Bearers of God’s Throne…

The LORD reigns; let the peoples tremble!  He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake (Psalm 99:1)!

“O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth (Isaiah 36:17).

Ezekiel saw this throne and gave us a description of these incredible creatures in Ezekiel 1:5-14…

And this was their appearance: they had a human likeness, but each had four faces, and each of them had four wings.  Their legs were straight, and the soles of their feet were like the sole of a calf’s foot.  And they sparkled like burnished bronze.  Under their wings on their four sides they had human hands.

And the four had their faces and their wings thus their wings touched one another. Each one of them went straight forward, without turning as they went.  As for the likeness of their faces, each had a human face. The four had the face of a lion on the right side, the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and the four had the face of an eagle.  Such were their faces.

And their wings were spread out above. Each creature had two wings, each of which touched the wing of another, while two covered their bodies.  And each went straight forward. Wherever the spirit would go, they went, without turning as they went.

As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, like the appearance of torches moving to and fro among the living creatures. And the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning.  And the living creatures darted to and fro, like the appearance of a flash of lightning.

Later in Ezekiel 28:14, we learn that Lucifer, Satan’s name in his pre-fallen state, was one—probably the highest ranking one—of these Angels…

You were an anointed guardian cherub.  I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the stones of fire you walked. Ezekiel 28:14

Angels Carry Out the Operational Campaigns of God

  • Seraphim

Because the Seraphim are only mentioned once in the Bible—in Isaiah 6:1-3, 6-7—much less is known about them and their ministry. From Isaiah’s description…

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.  Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.  And one called to another and said:  ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!’

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar.  And he touched my mouth and said: ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for…

…it would seem that, because of their non-stop praise and their access to the heavenly altar, their primary ministry is as priests before the throne of God.  And, given that their name means “burning ones,” I think we can infer that they are burning in passionate devotion to God and in their dedication to the praise of His holiness.

  • Living Creatures

Although Ezekiel, in his vision, describes the Cherubim as Living Creatures, in Revelation 4:6-8, we find another set of Living Creatures being described…

…around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind:  the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight.

And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Revelation 4:6-8)

These are set apart from those in Ezekiel in several ways…

…in Revelation, each one has only one face, whereas in Ezekiel each had four faces.  In Revelation, each has six wings; in Ezekiel, they had four.  In Revelation, they have eyes around and within; in Ezekiel, the eyes were in the wheels, and the spirits of the cherubim were in the wheels.  In revelation, they do not move; in Ezekiel, they propelled the throne of the sovereign God throughout the world. [7]

As for their ministry, in Revelation 6:1-7 and 15:7, we learn that, in addition to their worship and praise, these creatures also play instrumental parts in the execution of the God’s end-time judgments on the world.

  • The Other Angels

From other portions of scripture, besides being the worshipers at, the guardians of, and the priests before the Throne of God, we learn that the Angels carry out God’s operations in a number of other ways…

  • In Luke 2:10 and Acts 27:23-23, they serve as God’s Messengers;
  • In 2 Kings 6:17 and Daniel 10:13-20, they are God’s Warriors in the heavenlies and on earth;
  • In Daniel 4:13 and 17, they serve as God’s Watchers, observing and recording the affairs of men and nations;
  • In Psalm 34:7, Psalm 91:11, Daniel 6:22, and Acts 5:19, they provide Protection and Deliverance for God’s People;
  • In Genesis 24:7 and Exodus 23:20, they give Guidance and Direction to the righteous;
  • In Matthew 13:39-42 and Mark 13:27, Jesus informs us they will be the Reapers in the End-Times Harvest;
  • In Revelation 1:1, they bring God’s revelation to man;
  • In 2 Kings 19:35, Acts 12:23, and Psalm 78:49, they are God’s Instruments of Judgment and Destruction;
  • In Revelation 7:1-2 and Revelation 16:1, we learn that they have Power over God’s Creation;
  • In Matthew 18:10, we are told that they are the unseen Guardians of Children; and,
  • In Luke 16:22-23, we discover that they Escort the Saints into the Presence of God upon their deaths.

The Troops Deployed on the Ground

Assessing Tactics

With Satan’s Rulers engaged in controlling the world’s Authority Structures, and his Principalities busy riding roughshod over its Geographic and Ethnic Territories, it seems that the actual Tactical Maneuvers of his plan have been delegated to his Powers, Forces of Darkness, and Lower Lever Spirits for implementation.  These are the spirits who are responsible for establishing Strongholds, or bases of operation, in the minds of men and women, from which Satan can exercise control.  This is accomplished through their promotion of certain sins, through the lies contained in their false religions, philosophies, and ideologies, and through the intelligence gathered by and resulting from the harassment of the Lower Level or Familiar Spirits.

Those in this last group are the spirits that most of us must contend with on a daily basis.  They are the demons who, much like God’s Guardian Angels, are assigned to us at birth—those who study us, our habits and tendencies, throughout out lives, looking for ways and opportunities to trip us up and keep us in a perpetual state of confusion and defeat.  As Familiar Spirits, they become so well acquainted with us that they can pretty much predict what we’re thinking about and how we will react in any given situation.  Armed with such valuable information, they not only know which sins we will be predisposed to give into and which lies we will fall for, but also which of the Devil’s D-Bombs will be the most useful in rendering us ineffective…

The Devil’s D-Bombs are Some of His Most Effective Weapons

  • Distraction—a loss of focus, confusion;
  • Distortion—of the truth; or,
  • Deception—disguise and outright lies;
  • Disobedience—a disrespect for authority;
  • Delay—in answers to prayers and provisions;
  • Disruption—of plans and schedules;
  • Discouragement—resulting from stress, overwork, lack of appreciation, hurt feelings;
  • Depression—mental and emotional ailments, especially due to repressed anger;
  • Defeat—after repeated failures;
  • Destruction—a loss of property and reputation;
  • Disease—physical ailments and suffering; or,
  • Death—suicidal, accidental, or disease-related.

Apparently, in his dealings with those who already belong to him, Satan is free to use these, or any other evil tactics he can come up with, against them with impunity—especially if and when he finds that they are in danger of going over to the other side.  When it comes to dealing with those who belong to God, however, he doesn’t enjoy the same privilege.  We know this because, when he came against righteous Job (Job 1: 9-12), seeking to prove that Job only worshiped God for the blessings he could get out it, he had to obtain God’s permission to do so.  Later, in 2 Corinthians 12:7, we find out that he had to get God’s permission to harass the Apostle Paul, permission which was granted in order to achieve God’s higher purpose… 

…to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.

While being limited in what he can do to the Righteous, Satan does enjoy a distinct advantage in his dealings with everyone else.  Because every person coming into the world is born “in sin” and in a state of alienation from God, they not only already belong to Satan, but they are, by virtue of their carnal natures, predisposed to living according to their physical appetites and soulish desires.  This state of affairs makes it easy for the Powers of Satan to do their work of establishing secure Strongholds within them—Strongholds from which they can operate throughout their lives, even if these people later come to Faith in Christ.

If We are to be Victorious, We Must Identify and Eliminate the Devil’s Fortresses in Our Lives

What Are Strongholds?

Simply put, Strongholds are faulty patterns of thinking which have developed such a “strong hold” on us that they keep us bound by bad habits, irrational behaviors, pride or an exaggerated sense of self.  They are anything in our lives that misrepresents God, anything that deceives us about who we really are, and anything that deludes us into thinking we can live life successfully apart from God.  These misrepresentations, deceptions, and delusions are ways of thinking that have developed in our minds over time, and which serve primarily as a means of keeping us alienated from, and at odds with, God.

Their points of origin can be traced all the way back to our births, when we arrive in this world with the strongest of all Strongholds already intact—an “IT’S ALL ABOUT ME!” mentality.  Then, as we make our way through life, others are gradually added; with the most deeply ingrained ones coming first from our interactions with family, friends, and our early experiences in life, and with later ones coming from our educational and religious training (or lack thereof), or as a result of our encounters with the cultural forces at work all around us.  As such, they become fortresses erected around our erroneous beliefs; fortifications which, in our minds, serve to protect and justify our choices in life, and to help insulate us from any potentially painful experiences—and, which Satan delights in using to keep us in bondage or to render us useless in our Kingdom Service.

But, it needs to be noted here that bondage of this or of any other kind is an anathema to God.  Therefore, the Strongholds in our lives are one of the first things we must deal with in Spiritual Warfare.  Before we can successfully liberate any of Satan’s other territories, we must first rid our own of its enemy outposts.  As Jesus would say…

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye (Matthew 7:3-5).

Because they are the heavily guarded outposts of lies and deceptions built up in our minds by the devil, and the devil is a powerful spirit whose chief aim is to keep us from God and His revelation of the Truth, the only way for us to deal with these Strongholds is through the power of a stronger Spirit–the Holy Spirit of Truth—and the Spiritual Weapons God has made available to us.  For…

…though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh.  For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.  We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).

With our spiritual armor in place, we can begin the process of taking our thoughts captive by exercising the authority delegated to us by Christ in Matthew 28:18; with it, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can proceed to bind up the “strong man,” or the demonic being in charge of protecting that mental fortification. According to Jesus’ instruction in Mark 4:27…

…no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man.  Then indeed he may plunder his house.

Once this strong spirit is overthrown, we can move in and take captive any of the lying thoughts previously under his protection, and replace them with Truth from the Word of God.  As we do, we begin erecting a Strong Tower of Truth, built in the very place where the Stronghold of Lies once stood.  And, as warriors for Christ, we will have reclaimed territory too long in the possession of His enemies.

When it comes to God’s Tactical Operations, unlike Satan’s, which are nothing but destructive, God’s tactics are always redemptive and remedial, because they are borne out of love.  In Spiritual Warfare:  Understanding the Nature of the Conflict, we learned that the goal of Satan and those in his kingdom is to destroy the individual and absorb his will into their own, for no other reason than to satisfy their insatiable greed and increase their power base.  However, it is the goal of God and those in His Kingdom to bring the individual into the Family of God, shower him with love, and empower him to become the unique and whole/holy person God created him to be.   In the former, the motivation is selfishness and greed, while in the latter, it is giving and grace.

So, to help His Children realize their spiritual potential and prepare them for their eternal destinies, God routinely deploys them to the front lines of the conflict where, in the heat of the battle, their character will be refined and they can learn to use their Offensive Weapons to overcome His enemies.

Fighting the War with God’s Weapons will Ensure Our Victory

Our Offensive Weapons 

When it comes to a discussion of our Offensive Weapons, it may come as a surprise to learn that the most powerful one in this category is a Godly Lifestyle.  That’s because…

Spiritual Warfare is not just a prayer prayed or a demon rebuked—it is a life lived…everything we do either aids the forces of darkness or repels them…

Since it is sin that gives the devil an entryway into our lives, we need to take seriously the charge given to us in Ephesians 4:27 to…

…not give place to the devil.

Maintaining this kind of lifestyle, though, demands that we “keep short accounts with God.” To do so, we need to vigilantly guard our hearts and minds, and routinely examine our lives to see if there is any sin that has gone unchecked and unrepentant of, for…

Repentance is a major weapon against Satan.  It’s simple:  if I repent, I break the powers of darkness.  But if I’m disobedient, I allow the enemy to work.  If I obey God, I hold the devil off.  If I’m moving in unbelief, I make room for him.  But if I exercise faith, I cut him off.[8]

The reason behind this is also a simple one.  Because Spiritual Warfare is the cosmic conflict between two competing wills—the holy and perfect will of God and the perverted and opposing will of Satan, both vying for the allegiance of man—and, the decision as to which one will prevail on the earth has been delegated by God to the will of each human being living on the planet, every time a person chooses to do that which satisfies his own selfish desires, he is actually empowering Satan to carry on his work.

To help us keep this from happening, we need Faith and Obedience, two more of the weapons making up our offensive arsenal.  Faith is that inner assurance or confidence we have that, because our Father knows what exactly He is doing, He has a good plan in place, even if we don’t know yet what it is.  As we develop more of this kind of Faith, it becomes easier for us to believe God for the impossible, to launch out into new territories, and to pray our way to victory.  Jesus told His disciples as much in Matthew 17:20 when he said…

For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.

Our Obedience is simply the outward demonstration of our inner trust that this is so.  In our submission and obedience to a higher Authority, we are not only coming at Satan in an opposing spirit—which serves to render him ineffective in that situation—but, we are also keeping him from sowing his seeds of pride and rebellion in our hearts.

When We Come at Our Enemy in an Opposite Spirit, He is Rendered Ineffective in that Situation

Although we may not realize it, obedience is a key factor in Spiritual Warfare because…

There are rules and principles by which the spirit world operates.  Among the most important of these:  the rules that govern authority relationships.[9]

As we have emphasized so many times over the course of these exercises, God has established a very specific authority structure within Creation, and it is one that He expects us to honor.  When we don’t—that is, when we use our wills to do things that overturn that order—we are actually giving Satan and his demons permission to carry out their wills in the spheres where we live…

Scripture is clear that there is a close connection between the spirit world and the human world.  In spite of our habit of regarding spirit things and human things as separate, in Scripture these realms are not compartmentalized from each other.  They are tightly interrelated, with events that go on in the spirit realm having repercussions in the human realm, and vice-versa.

Furthermore, the same rules seem to govern interaction between humans and God and humans and Satan.  The authority of God to do what He wants, for example, seems enhanced when His devotees obey, acknowledge the authority of, pray to or worship Him.  Likewise, the authority of Satan to do what he wants is enhanced when his devotees respond in such ways to him.

It looks as though a major principle is this:  The way authority is exercised in the human sphere affects what goes on in the spiritual realm, and vice-versa.[10]

Closely associated with our Obedience, then, are the weapons of Discipline and Self-Control—two things which must be instilled in any soldier who is to be used by God.  These are essential to us if we are to avoid the many land mines of temptation that the devil has carefully laid out in his effort to sideline us from our service.  This is a reality that even the Apostle Paul had to come to grips with in his ministry, leading him to…

…discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:27).

So, it stands to reason that we must learn to do the same.

For the Battle is the Lord’s

As for Prayer and Worship, if God’s authority is enhanced through our implementation of these two weapons, then they are ones that we definitely need to use more often.  When we pray, we are not just staying in touch with our Father, but we are activating the ministry of His Angels on our behalf and releasing His power into the lives and situations that need it, while rendering the enemy in those situations powerless.  Then, when we worship God and offer Him a fitting sacrifice of praise, we are not only giving God His due but we are actually creating confusion in the enemy’s camp and throwing his troops into disarray.

Probably the best illustration of this is the story recorded for us in 2 Chronicles 20:14-15,17,20-23.  When the Moabites, Ammonites, and people of Mount Seir came against Judah and godly King Jehoshaphat, the king prostrated himself before God, and pleaded with Him to deliver him and his people from these enemies.  At that point…

…the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, son of Benaiah, son of Jeiel, son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, in the midst of the assembly. And he said, ‘Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the LORD to you, Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s…

You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the LORD will be with you.’

And they rose early in the morning and went out into the wilderness of Tekoa. And when they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, ‘Hear me, Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem! Believe in the LORD your God, and you will be established; believe his prophets, and you will succeed.’

And when he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to the LORD and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say, ‘Give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever.’

And when they began to sing and praise, the LORD set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed.  For the men of Ammon and Moab rose against the inhabitants of Mount Seir, devoting them to destruction, and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, they all helped to destroy one another.

Afterward, all Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah had to do was collect the spoils, something which took three days for them to do.

In addition to the Prayer, Worship, and Praise offered by the people to God in this situation, it is apparent that the Word of God, which was given to them by means of His prophet, played a decisive role in the securing of this victory.  In our last exercise, we learned that the Word of God is the Sword of the Spirit with which we guard our minds against our enemies’ assaults; but, this is not the only way that God intends for it is to be used when it comes to Spiritual Warfare.  Because His Word is the Spirit-inspired revelation of His character, and His will and His purposes for Man and the Earth, when we speak His Word into a situation, we are actually declaring that His will regarding that situation be done.  And, as we speak His Word into that situation, the resources of heaven are activated to ensure that His Will is carried out there.

Some of the other Offensive Weapons at our disposal, that we don’t make use of the way we should are…

…patience, consistency, and tenacity, by which we learn to wait on God and His timing, and to not give up even in the face of adversity and suffering;

…giving, for when we are generous with our time, talents, and resources, we sow seeds of provision into the lives of others and in our own lives as well;

…love, because it covers a multitude of sins, and it enables us to overcome evil with good; and,

…unity, because it not only increases our effectiveness exponentially and helps to speed our victory—but, because it was the chief concern on Jesus’ heart when, on His last evening before going to the Cross, he offered this prayer on behalf of His disciples

And now, Father…I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me…keep them in your name…they may be one, even as we are one.

I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.

I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word…that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me (John 17:6ff).

Amen–may it be so, Lord Jesus!

To Win the World for Christ, We Must Become United in Our Purpose

 

 

The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir reminds us what it is all about…

 

[1] Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018, at http://www.dictionary.com/browse/strategy?s=t

[2] Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary and Thesaurus, Revised and Updated Edition (Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, Inc., 2014).

[3] Dictionary.com Unabridged.

[4] USAF College of Aerospace Doctrine, Research and Education (CADRE), Air and Space Power Mentoring Guide, Vol. 1 (Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Air University Press, 1997), excerpt.+

[5] Charles H. Kraft, I Give You Authority: Practicing the Authority Jesus Gave Us (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Chosen Books, 1997), 22.

[6] Dean Sherman, Spiritual Warfare for Every Christian (Seattle, Washington: YWAM Publishing, 1990), 95-114.

[7] C. Fred Dickason, Names of Angels (Chicago, Illinois: Moody Press, 1997), 58.

[8] Sherman, Spiritual Warfare, 182.

[9] Kraft, I Give You Authority, 123.

[10] Kraft, I Give You Authority, 124-125.

Spiritual Warfare:  Gearing Up for Battle

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Time for Us to Gear Up for Battle

For some time now, we have been involved in a rather rigorous training program, a Spiritual Boot Camp of sorts, designed to prepare us—as followers of Jesus Christ—for service as soldiers in the Army of God.  As part of this training, we have…

Our Uniforms and Their Maintenance

Having completed these preliminaries, the time has come for us to suit-up in our uniforms and learn about the weapons we will be carrying with us into battle.  Unlike the heavy duty combat attire worn by most soldiers—designed to camouflage both a soldier’s person and location (as well as any dirt that he might pick up along the way)—the uniforms we will be wearing are robes of purest white, made of the finest linen, and designed to call attention to our holy lifestyles and identify us as saints set apart for service to our Lord and Savior.  According to Revelation 19:7-8, this is what we, as the Bride of Christ, will be wearing to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb…

…for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

And, according to Revelation 19:14, it is what we will be wearing when we accompany our Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, on His return to earth to crush His enemies at the Second Coming

And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses.

Our Uniforms are Meant to Shine as Lights in the Darkness

These Kingdom-Issued Spiritual Robes are what each of us receives when we come to Christ for Salvation—robes that were purchased for us by Him through His sacrificial death on the Cross, and given to us to replace the filthy, sin-saturated civilian clothes we are wearing when we are first saved.  We find a wonderful illustration of this in the spiritual re-outfitting of Joshua, Israel’s high priest, in Zechariah 3:1-4…

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him.

And the LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, O Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?”

Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments.  And the angel said to those who were standing before him, ‘Remove the filthy garments from him.’ And to him he said, ‘Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.’

Like the new garments given to Joshua, our robes, when first issued, are spotless and bright white; however, because we are still living in bodies of flesh and in a corrupted world system, it doesn’t take long for them, too, to become soiled by sin.  This, of course, brings us to the matter of maintenance; for, as Soldiers of God, we need to understand that once we have been issued our uniforms, we must make every effort to see that they remain in the same pristine condition as when we first received them.

Fortunately, we have not been left on our own in this endeavor; for, from the moment we are born into the Family of God, we are placed under the supervision of our very own Drill Instructor/Inspector General—the Holy Spirit—who comes to live within us 24/7 for the rest of our lives, in order to train us in the righteous ways of God, to empower us to live obediently to His commands, and to call attention to any violations of God’s uniform code of conduct.  When such violations do occur, and our uniforms become soiled and tattered due to sin, He is there to inspect us, to convict us of our need to repent, and to assist us in carrying our dirty laundry to the Cross of Christ where it can be cleansed in the Blood of the Lamb.  We can be assured of this because of the promise of God that…

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

Putting on the Mind of Christ

Developing a Missional Mindset

In His capacity as our DI, the Spirit of God works tirelessly to transform us from the raw recruits we once were into the seasoned soldiers we need to be; those who are trained and fully equipped to meet any challenge that might eventually be faced on the battlefield.  However, just providing us with uniforms and then helping us to keep them clean isn’t enough to make us into this kind of soldier.  To really prepare us for service in the army of our King, along with a change of clothing, we must also undergo a change of mentality—one in which we replace our old carnal, self-centered, civilian ways of thinking with new spiritual, selfless, and mission-oriented mindsets.  In other words, it is essential that we learn how to…

…put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:22-24).

What does it mean to be renewed in the spirit of our minds?  Well, it means that we…

  1. Put on the mind of Christ…

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:3-8).

We must have a mind of humility, servanthood, and obedience and, like Christ, we must be willing to give our lives in service to God our Father.

  1. Learn to live in submission…

First, to God…

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you (James 4:7)

Then, to Earthly Rulers…

Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.  For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people (1 Peter 2:13-15).

And, to others…

…submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21).

We should be living as one “under authority,” respecting whatever authority structure God has placed over us—like the Roman centurion, who told an impressed Jesus in Matthew 8:9…

For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.

  1. Like Jesus, be prepared to suffer…

[For] Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered (Hebrews 5:8).

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God (1 Peter 4:1-2).

Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.  No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him (2 Timothy 2:3-4).

  1. Train ourselves in godliness…

Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come (1 Timothy 4:7-8).

Our Spiritual Dogtags

We do this as we study our Training Manual in Righteousness, the Bible… 

[For] All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

We do this by learning to Communicate and stay in contact with our Father and Commander-in-Chief through Prayer…

I call to God, and the LORD will save me.  Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice.  He redeems my soul in safety from the battle that I wage, for many are arrayed against me.  God will give ear and humble them, he who is enthroned from of old…because they do not change and do not fear God (Psalm 55:16-19).

For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer.  But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil (1 Peter 3:12).

And, we do this as we Dedicate our Lives and Wills to the Purposes of God through Worship…

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship (Romans 12:1).

…for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body (Corinthians 6:20).

Therefore…let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:28-29).

We Must Remember Who Our Real Enemies Are

The Weapons in Our Armory 

Now that we have addressed the matter of our uniforms and their maintenance, and our mental attitudes have been reoriented from individualistic, self-seeking, and opportunistic ones to those that are more team-spirited, selfless, and completely dedicated to God’s mission in the world, we can move on to an introduction to the weapons that we will be carrying with us into battle.

The first thing we need to know about these weapons is that they, like the warfare we will be engaged in, are spiritual, not fleshly, in nature.  We need to remember that we are not battling flesh and blood people, or warring against the physical, cultural, or religious structures that we’ve identified in our previous exercises, but against the evil spirits who are working in and through these to accomplish the will and work of Satan.  As the Apostle Paul explains in Ephesians 6:12…

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 

Our real enemies, then, are the powers of Satan who are…

…organized in a hierarchy of ruler/principalities (archai), authorities (exousia), powers (dunamis), and spiritual forces of evil (kosmokratoras).  It is reasonable to assume the authority structure here is arranged in descending order.  Daniel 10:13 and 20 unveil the identity of the archai as high level satanic princes set over nations and regions of the earth.

The word exousia carries a connotation of both supernatural and natural government.  In the Apostle’s understanding, there were supernatural forces that ‘stood behind’ human structures…

Presumably, the dunamis operate within countries and cultures to influence certain aspects of life.

The kosmokratoras are the many types of evil spirits that commonly afflict people, e.g., spirits of deception, divination, lust, rebellions, fear, and infirmity.  These, generally, are the evil powers confronted and cast out in most deliverance sessions.  Even among them there is ranking, the weaker spirits subservient to the stronger ones…

These insidious powers continue to work through human governments, religions, and powerful personalities to keep people in bondage to legalism, social ideology, and moral compromise.  Their role is to pollute the minds and pervert the wills of people, diverting them from redemption, holding them hostage to the father of lies.[1] 

Powerful spiritual enemies such as these require powerful spiritual weapons to ensure their defeat—the kind of weapons which can only be provided by our All-Powerful Lord…

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the fleshbut have divine power to destroy [enemy] strongholds.  We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete (2 Cor. 10: 3-6).

We Are Never Out of His Line of Sight

Our Defensive Weapons

As for the weapons themselves, these fall into one of two categories—they are either defensive or offensive in nature.  In Ephesians 6:10-12, Paul describes those in the defensive category by comparing them to the armor worn by the Roman soldiers in his day.  During his many imprisonments, when he was either chained to or guarded by one soldier after another, he had countless opportunities to study these warriors up close, and plenty of time to reflect on the parallels between Rome’s mighty fighting machine and the kind of warriors we should be for Christ.  Given this insight, Paul’s instructions to us are to… 

  1. …be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might…

Here, at the outset, Paul admonishes us to remember just where our strength for the battle comes from—it comes from the Lord.  This is so important for us to keep in mind because, on our own, most of us don’t even have the strength to deal with enemies that we can see—much less take on enemy forces that we cannot see.  Fortunately for us, the Lord is not at the same disadvantage that we are.  Not only is He All-Powerful but He sees everything—and, according to 2 Chronicles 16:9…

…the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.

In fact, He has made the very same power that raised Jesus from the dead and exalted Him far above all rule and authority and power and dominion available to us, so that we can…

…walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy (Colossians 1:10-11); and,

…to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us (2 Corinthians 4:7).

  1. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm…

Being fully assured of having the strength we need to fight, we can now put on the armor that will protect us from our enemies.  And, armed with the knowledge that every need of ours will be supplied by our Commander-in-Chief, we can, with confidence…

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.  Let all that you do be done in love. (1 Cor. 16:13-14).

The Belt of Truth

  1. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth…

As strange as it may seem, the very first piece of armor we are told to put on is the Belt.  That’s because, while seeming to be the least important piece of equipment in our arsenal, it is actually the most important.  Although it is nearly invisible when the rest of the armor is put on, this piece is so important because, like the Belt worn by the Roman soldier…

  • It secures the soldier’s robe and keeps it from flapping around in battle;
  • The soldier’s shield and lance are attached to it when they are not in use;
  • The soldier’s breastplate is attached to it and held in place by it; and,
  • The sheath containing the soldier’s sword is also attached to it.[2]

Unlike the Roman soldier’s belt, though, our belt is not just any old piece of leather.  Paul refers to it as the Belt of Truth because Truth, for us, is the foundational piece of our spiritual armor—Truth, for us, is none other than Jesus Christ.  Not only is He the One who holds everything in life together but He is the One who gives us eternal life and brings us into the Family of God in the first place.  As soldiers in the Army of God, we know the Truth that…

…In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1)…

…[and that] the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).

We know that He is…

…the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through [Him] (John 14:6).

And, we know the saving Truth that God wants everyone else to know is…

…there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time (1 Tim 2:5-6).

Ours is One of Righteousness

  1. And having put on the breastplate of righteousness…

The breastplate worn by a typical Roman soldier was made of either bronze or brass and was the shiniest and most beautiful piece of equipment he owned.  It covered the area of the body from his neck to nearly his knees and protected all of his vital organs, especially his heart.  It consisted of two sections of metal—one going down the back and the other going down the front—which were held together at the shoulders and attached to the belt at the waist.[3]  No doubt, when Paul saw this breastplate, he was reminded of an image of protection similar to the one afforded to us by the Righteousness of God, and made available to us through Christ…

…the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe (Romans 3:22).

When we come face-to-face with the Truth that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life—and the only mediator between God and men—and we put our faith in Him for Salvation, we are immediately made righteous in the sight of God and empowered to live righteously by the Spirit of God who comes to live within us.  These are the two aspects of Righteousness—one Positional and one Practical—that we need to take into consideration here.  John MacArthur explains them in this way…

Basically, God’s gift of salvation in Christ brings a believer into a position of righteousness. God imputes the perfect righteousness of His Son to the believer, and thereby declares him righteous positionally.  But as you know full well, believers still have sin in their lives — Christians are not practically righteous, 100 percent of the time. However, it is on the basis of our positional righteousness, that we are exhorted to strive for practical righteousness in our daily lives.

Positionally…

As a Christian you are: spiritually alive unto God, dead to sin, forgiven, declared righteous, a child of God, God’s possession, an heir of God, blessed with all spiritual blessings, a citizen of heaven, a servant of God, free from the Law, crucified to the world, a light in the world, victorious over Satan, cleansed from sin, declared holy and blameless, set free in Christ from the power of sin, secure in Christ, granted peace and rest, and led by the Holy Spirit…

Positionally, you cannot increase or decrease in the favor of God. As a genuine Christian, nothing you do, or fail to do, can change to the slightest degree your perfect standing before God — for ‘in Him you have been made complete’ (Colossians 2:10).

But…

…that completeness does not mean that when you understand your position you will remain as you are—no, you will see changes in your life. The New Testament continually emphasizes your identity as a believer and urges you understand and apply your spiritual resources. As you continue to mature in Christ, you will not only come to a greater understanding of who you are, but you’ll also rely more consistently on your resources — those granted to you as a result of your position in Christ — to handle the practical aspects of Christian living. [4]

Because of our Positional Righteousness, we can pray with expectation…

Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me (Ps. 5:8); and,

In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline your ear to me, and save me (Ps. 71:2)!

And, as we maintain our Practical Righteousness, we can trust God’s promise that…

Righteousness guards him whose way is blameless, but sin overthrows the wicked (Prov. 13:6).

Our Shoes are for Carrying the Gospel of Peace

  1. …and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace

Although they might seem relatively insignificant, especially when compared to his massive and beautiful breastplate, the shoes worn by a Roman soldier were critical pieces of his equipment.  Like the breastplate, they, too, consisted of two parts—the greave, which was a piece of metal—a sort of shin plate—extending from the knee to the ankle; and, the shoe itself, which was made of leather with long, dangerous spikes on the bottom of the shoe.[5]  Not only did these shoes enable him to stand firm while engaging in hand-to hand combat with an enemy but, because of the spikes, they could also be used as weapons to maim or even kill his opponent.  When properly shod, the Roman soldier was prepared for whatever the war threw at him—he was ready to march to the next battlefield and ready to fight when he arrived there.

The spiritual parallel for us is this:  having put on the belt of truth—that is, having put on the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 13:14), and having been covered by our breastplate of righteousness—both the positional and the practical or personal, we are ready to put on our shoes and take the gospel (the good news) of peace with us wherever we go.  Being so shod, we are equipped for both the march and any enemies we may meet along the way; remembering…

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns’ (Isaiah 52:7).

To Protect Against the Flaming Arrows of the Enemy

  1. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one…

So far, in the donning of our spiritual armor, we have put on…

  • our Belt of Truth—the Truth being Jesus Christ, whom we also know to be the Word of God;
  • our Breastplate of Righteousness—our Positions of Righteousness with God and our Practices of Right Living made possible through our relationship with Christ; and,
  • our heavy-duty Shoes—which enable us to take the Gospel of Peace–the good news about Jesus–across some rough and rugged spiritual terrain to those in need of it.

Before we march out, though, Paul tells us that we must take up our Shields of Faith to protect us against any enemy missiles that may be launched at us as we proceed.  Since we’ve already exercised Faith in coming to Christ for Salvation…

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9)…

By Faith, we have been made Righteous and live Righteously…

’my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.’  But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls (Hebrews 10:38-39)…

And, it is with Faith that we launch out with the Gospel of Peace…

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ…standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel…(Philippians 1:27)…

…what Faith could Paul be referring to here, when he tells us to take up the Shield of Faith?  Since Faith is…

…the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1)…

I think he is referring the assurance we need that—before going into battle…

If God is for us, who can be against us?…[assurance] that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

…and the conviction that…

…in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us (Romans 8: 31, 37-39).

If…

….everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith (1 John 5:4)…

…where does this Faith come from?  Well, according to Romans 10:17, it comes from the Word of God, for…

…faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ (Rom. 10:17).

To help illustrate why Paul chose this particular piece of equipment to represent the protection afforded to us by Faith, we need to take a closer look at the shield used by the Roman soldiers in his day.

A Roman legionnaire usually possessed two shields—a small round one made of metal that was highly decorated, and only worn when he needed to dress to impress; and, a large rectangular one, sized and shaped very much like a door that, when used properly, would cover just about every part of his body. It was this shield that he used in combat and the one that Paul was referring to in this instruction.

This type of shield was usually formed by taking at least six layers of animal skin and laying them on top of a piece of wood.  These were then tanned and woven together to created a nearly impenetrable surface.  In order to keep the leather on the shields from becoming dried out and brittle over time, a regular application of oil was needed—something which became an important part of a soldier’s daily routine.  In addition to this, prior to going out into battle, a soldier would immerse his shield in water until it was completely saturated.  In this way, be could prevent his shield from catching on fire when it was struck by the enemy’s flaming arrows.[6]

I am sure that when Paul learned how the soldiers cared for and used their shields, it put him in mind of the anointing oil of the Holy Spirit and the Water of the Word he mentioned at another time in Ephesians 5:25.  It is through our saturation in the Water of the Word of God, applied to us daily by the Holy Spirit, that we receive the Faith needed to move out onto the battlefield with confidence, laying claim to the victory that Christ has already won for us.  We can do this because we know that…

Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him (Proverbs 30:5).

The Helmet of Salvation

  1. …and take the helmet of salvation…

As for the helmet of the Roman warrior, it too was made of bronze, with pieces of armor attached to the sides to protect his cheeks and jaw.  It was often decorated with elaborate engravings and usually had a plume made from either feathers or horsehair standing straight up from the top of the helmet—so it was quite impressive to behold.  Because the helmet was so heavy, the inside of it was lined with a cushiony substance which protected the head.[7]  A wise soldier wouldn’t dare go into battle without it because he surely would have lost his head to an enemy’s battleaxe or sword.

Paul tells us that we, too, have a helmet for the protection of our heads—in our case, our minds—that is found in our Salvation.  When we come to Christ for Salvation, we come to a personal Knowledge of the Truth, something which we had never known before.  That’s because…

…the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4).

But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another (Ephesians 4:20-25).

Just as the Truth is in Jesus, the Truth is now in us, and given that, we are to live as people of the Truth.  In our former civilian lives, all we knew were the lies that the enemy wanted us to believe; but now, as people of the Truth, our minds must be renewed so that we think like Jesus—and, when we start thinking like Jesus, we will start acting like Jesus.  So, in putting on our Helmet of Salvation, what we’re doing is protecting our minds from the lies, accusations, and false guilt that the enemy hurls at us in an attempt to render the “command centers” of our minds inoperable.

But, having…

…been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God (1 Pet. 1:23)…

…we can protect our minds from the devil’s onslaught by filling them with the very same Word of God.  As we do, we will learn more about who we are in Christ and become more confident and secure in our identity as the Children of God.  Our “heads” will then be as protected as a Roman’s soldier’s was in his helmet, and the enemy will be denied the access to our mind that he has long been scheming to get.

The Word of God

  1. …and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God…

In Hebrews 4:12, we are told that…

…the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart…

…and, it was the two-edged sword of the Roman soldier that Paul had in mind here.  Although a soldier usually had five swords at his disposal, not all of them were suitable for use on the battlefield; some were too big and unwieldy for hand-to-hand combat and some were too small to inflict very much damage.  But the two-edged sword was just right for this purpose; it was the sharpest, easiest to maneuver, and the most lethal weapon he had in his arsenal.

This sword was about 19 inches long and in addition to its two razor sharp blades, it had a tip which turned upward.  When it was thrust into an enemy combatant and twisted, it could virtually rip the foe’s insides apart.[8] As gruesome as the thought of this may be, it was the image Paul chose to use when describing the Word of God as the Sword of the Spirit; for, it is the one weapon capable of penetrating a person’s innermost being, separating one’s thoughts from his feelings, one’s blood from his bones, and one’s mind, will, and emotions from those of God.

Probably the best example of the effective use of the Word of God as a defensive weapon can be seen in Jesus’ use of it in His wilderness testing, recorded for us in Matthew 4:1-11…

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.

And the tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’  But he answered, ‘It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, He will command his angels concerning you, and On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’

Jesus said to him, ‘Again it is written, You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.  And he said to him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.’

Then Jesus said to him, ‘Be gone, Satan! For it is written, You shall worship the Lord your God
and him only shall you serve.’  Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.

Three times, Jesus was tempted by Satan to act apart from the will of God and each time He met the temptation with the spoken Word of God.  This is exactly what we should do when confronted by the devil or tempted by “…the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16).”  Hindsight being what it is, if the First Adam had wielded the Word of God as faithfully and forcefully as the Second Adam, just think how different life on the earth would have been!

The use of the Sword of the Spirit is not limited to its use as a defensive capacity, however.  Unlike the other pieces of our armor, it also serves as an offensive weapon.  But, we will have to wait until our next exercise to learn more about that and our other weapons of offense–and, about the Strategic, Operational, and Tactical Levels of our Warfare.

 

Armed and Ready for Battle

 

The Gaither Vocal Band reminds us of the faithfulness of God’s promises…

 

Original Armor Images by Rev. Yves Langevin, courtesy of www.freebibleimages.org.

Image of the soldier’s shoes from Dressed to Kill by Rick Renner.

[1] Thomas B. White, “Understanding Principalities and Powers,” in Territorial Spirits, ed. C. Peter Wagner (Chichester, England: Sovereign World Ltd., 1991), 61-62.

[2] Rick Renner, Dressed to Kill: A Biblical Approach to Spiritual Warfare and Armor (Tulsa, Oklahoma: Harrison House, 2015), 261-262.

[3] Renner, Dressed to Kill, 292.

[4] John MacArthur, “How to Get in the Game,” article dated January 12, 2010, on the Grace to You website at https://www.gty.org/library/articles/a179.

[5] Renner, Dressed to Kill, 313-314.

[6] Renner, Dressed to Kill, 346-351.

[7] Renner, Dressed to Kill, 374-375.

[8] Renner, Dressed to Kill, 405-406.

Service: Continuing the Work of Christ in the World

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Service Please

All of God’s Children are Called to Serve

Now that we’re about halfway through our Workout Program, let’s pause briefly to review the progress we have made thus far.  We started out this regimen with four exercises in Salvationexercises through which we learned that…

  • Salvation is obtained through the one-time spiritual event known as the New Birth; an act taking us from sin-enslaved and hell-bound sinners to forgiven and heaven-bound sons and daughters of God;
  • While everyone has been Predestined, or pre-designed, by God to become one of His children, only those who elect to receive His offer of Salvation will do so; and,
  • Once that decision is made and our spiritual adoption is finalized, our Salvation is forever settled and rests Eternally Secure in the hands of our Heavenly Father.

Building upon this foundation during our next five exercises, we were introduced to Sanctification, the lifelong process of spiritual transformation which begins the moment we are reborn—and, the focus of which is the Holy Spirit’s Restoration of our Souls through Prayer, Bible Study, and Worship.  For, it is…

Through Prayer that He brings our hearts into alignment with the heart of God;
Through Bible Study that He brings our minds into alignment with the mind of Christ; and,
Through Worship that He brings our wills into alignment with the will of God.

Once these changes start revolutionizing the way we feel, think, and act, it isn’t long before our perceptions of the world around us also begin to change.  No longer approaching it from the self-centered, grab-all-that-you-can-get perspective of our pre-salvation days, we start looking at it from God’s viewpoint—that is, with a heart of compassion for those still lost in sin, and with a new desire to do something about it.  Such changes in our character and outlook as these should come as no surprise, though, because they are a reflection of the attitude and characteristics of Christ which must be developed in us, if we are to carry out His work in the world.

The Works of Jesus

…and greater works than these we will do

The Works of Jesus

When we consider the nature and the number of things that Jesus accomplished during His earthly ministry, the prospect of us continuing His work seems a rather far-fetched, if not impossible, task to undertake. After all, during His brief ministry here, He…

Revealed God to the people, and taught them what the Kingdom of Heaven was like;
Healed the sick—restoring sight to the blind, mobility to the lame, hearing and speech to the deaf and dumb;
Raised the dead, cast out demons, fed the hungry, and shared the water of life with those who thirsted for it;
Took the religious leaders to task while putting the political leaders in their places; and, then…
As if it were a small thing, walked on water and subdued the storm… 

…making His the most difficult act of all times to follow.  And yet, in the Upper Room, on the night before His crucifixion, Jesus told His disciples…

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the work that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father (John 14:12)…

But, are we really to do greater works than Jesus did—and if we are, how is that possible?  We fully expect Him to be capable of doing works of this magnitude because He is, after all, the Son of God; and, because…

God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power [so that] He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him (Acts 10:38).

However, for us to be able to do even greater things than He—that’s a completely different story, isn’t it?

It would be if we were attempting to do these works in our unsaved and unsanctified conditions.  What we need to keep in mind, though, is that while Jesus is the only Begotten Son of God, when we came to Him for Salvation, we became the Adopted Sons and Daughters of God—as well as the legal heirs to and partakers of all the riches and power belonging to Christ.  And, it is for this reason that Jesus could and would make the following promises to us…

…I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you (John 14:16-17); and,

…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8).

If we doubted the possibility of our being able to carry out the work of Jesus before, we should be encouraged by these promises of Jesus; for, in them, we are assured that He will provide everything we need to fulfill the purpose for which we were created; a purpose which is described by the Apostle Paul in this way…

…we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Eph. 2:10).

As for understanding what He may have meant by “doing greater works,” we must to remember that during His life on earth, and in spite of His being God, Jesus willingly chose to confine Himself to one body, living in one time and one place.  As a result, His ministry of good works was confined to a limited number of people, living in one geographic area, during one brief period in human history.  This all changed, however, following His resurrection and with the coming of the promised Holy Spirit.

After that, as His newly-anointed disciples shared the Gospel with others and they, in turn, came to faith in Christ, the same resurrection life and power that the disciples had received was also manifested in these newborn Christians.  Then, as more and more people became believers, and as these believers scattered throughout the then-known world, demonstrating the character and commitment of Christ as they went, the quantity and scope of Jesus’ works increased to a degree previously thought impossible—and resulted in an explosion of faith and service that continues to this very day.

Terms of Service

Service for Christ must be done in His Will and Way

What It Means to Serve

When thinking about service and what it means, it’s likely that a number of different images come to mind.  For instance, we might think of service as serving in the military, or as police officers and firefighters; possibly serving patrons their dinners in restaurants; or, maybe even serving the ball in a game of tennis.  But, for those of us who are Christ followers, what does it mean for us to serve? 

In pursuit of an answer to this question, I looked to my handy-dandy Webster’s pocket dictionary—where, among the many definitions for the word, I found four that are highly relevant to this discussion.  And, in adapting them to the exercise at hand, I discovered that they provide us with a systematic, progressive definition of Serving, which for the believer, means…

  1. Rendering obedience and worship to God;
  2. Complying with the commands or demands of Christ;
  3. Being of use to the Master; and,
  4. Providing services that benefit or help others.
     
  1. Rendering Obedience and Worship to God

In one of our previous exercises, Sanctification: Restoring the Will through Worship, we learned that real worship is what takes place when we lay aside our will and wants, and choose to do God’s will instead.  This is what Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane as He surrendered His will to that of His Father; modeling for us a type of surrender later described in Romans 12:1…

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship…

..and, a surrender that each of us will be called upon to make as a routine part of our service.  Every day, we will find that, as we are faced with the choice of doing things God’s way or our way, we will repeatedly have to make a conscious decision to climb back on the altar of sacrifice and submit our wills to His in a demonstration of our obedience and worship to God.  If we don’t, no real work for Christ will take place; for, it is at the altar of worship that all service in His name originates.

  1. Complying with the Commands of Christ

In the same way that Jesus set the example for worship through the submission of His will to God’s, He demonstrated His love for the Father through His whole-hearted compliance with His Father’s commands–as He stated here in John 14:31…

…I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.

Because He did this first, His expectation is for us to follow His lead and do the same thing, so that the world will see how much we love Him and He loves us…

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command you (John 15:12-14).

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:35).

From this, we learn that love must be the motivation for any service done in Jesus’ name; something which the Apostle Paul elaborates on in 1 Corinthians 13…

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.   If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends…

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

The often overlooked aspect of this is that, along with our compliance to His commandment, comes the promise of Jesus that…

…whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him…[and] Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us (1 John 3:22, 24)…

…a promise which makes even the most impossible task or service do-able.

  1. Being of Use to the Master

Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable.  Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. 2 Tim. 2:20-21

In this passage, the Apostle Paul is instructing his spiritual son, Timothy, on how to be a good servant through a comparison of God’s servants to household vessels.  Just as a homeowner makes distinctions between the vessels in his possession, such as using only the cleanest ones to eat off of, God will only use those servants who have cleansed themselves of sin through confession and repentance.  Or, as Paul goes on to tell Timothy in verse 22…

So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart….

…with the lesson here being, service done in the name of the Lord Jesus must always proceed from a pure heart and clean hands.

Clean Hands and Pure Heart

Service for Christ Must Come from Clean Hands and Pure Hearts

  1. Providing Services that Benefit or Help Others 

With our wills surrendered to God at the altar of worship, with the love of Christ as our motivation, and with clean hands and pure hearts to keep us useful to God, we are ready to move on to the fourth aspect of service—which is, the provision of services that will benefit others.  This raises the question, though, about the kinds of service we should be providing. After all, there are so many needs in the world that are going unmet, how are we to know which ones are the most deserving of our attention?

Surely, as a result of our Salvation and of the Spirit’s work of Sanctification taking place in our souls, we are already engaged in good works that are in keeping with our new lives in Christ—works such as the ones cataloged in Ephesians 4:25 ff…

Having put away falsehood, let each of you speak the truth with his neighbor;

Be angry and sin not; do not let the sun go down on your anger;

Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone who is in need;

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouth, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear;

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with malice; and,

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you…

…works which could be considered as the MDLA—or Minimum Daily Lifestyle Adjustments—required of each and every believer.  Moving beyond these, though—that is, moving on to doing the greater works than those previously attributed to Jesus—will call for more than just our minimum daily lifestyle adjustments; they will demand the wisdom, direction, and anointing of the Holy Spirit, working through the cooperative gifts and prayers of all believers.  In other words, providing Service for Jesus will require the active participation of the Church—something which we will discuss at length in our next exercise.

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2
The Sidewalk Prophets remind us that through our service, we show the love of the Lord to the world and bring glory to our King…

 


Images used in the Works of Jesus montage courtesy of http://www.freebibleimages.org.

 

Sanctification: Restoring the Soul through Worship

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A Sanctified Soul

Sanctification Restores the Soul of Man

So far, through our exercises in Sanctification, we have learned that part of the work of the Holy Spirit is to restore our emotions through Prayer and our minds through the study and application of the Word of God; a ministry which brings our hearts into alignment with that of the Father, and transforms our minds into ones more like Christ’s.  However, this part of the sanctification process only takes care of two of the components of our souls—leaving the third one, our all-important and powerful wills, for the Spirit to deal with.  And deal with them, He must; because unlike our emotions, which are simply expressions of how we feel, and our minds, which merely reveal what we think, our wills through their actions express what we want and who we really are.

Also, through these workout sessions, we have learned that it is God’s will for us is to be saved from our sins and be adopted into His family; as sons and daughters who have not only been redeemed by the blood of Christ, but as ones who have also been conformed or remolded into His image.  This means that we are not only to become like Jesus in His character, but we are also to share in His mission and ministry here on the earth—which, as He stated in John 4:34, 5:30, and 6:38, was to do the will of His Father

My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work;
I can do nothing on my own…because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me; and,
I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.

Your AssignmentSince doing the will of the Father was at the heart of Jesus’ mission, and since becoming like Him is the goal of our Sanctification, it stands to reason that doing the will of the Father must become the mission in our lives, as well.  This, however, is something that is a lot easier said than done!

That’s because, before coming to Christ, our wills and the actions they precipitated were dominated by our flesh—which is to say, by how we felt and by what we thought.  If our bodies hungered for or lusted after something—regardless  of whether it was appropriate or beneficial; or, if our minds harbored certain thoughts about anyone or anything—regardless of whether they were true or not—our wills would initiate actions geared toward satisfying those feelings and vindicating those thoughts.  In short, before our Salvation, with no access to or Godly input from our dormant spirits, our wills were like puppets whose strings were being pulled by our baser human instincts; instincts concerned with the pleasing and preservation of our unregenerate and ego-dominated selves.  But, all this began to change the moment we said yes to Jesus and were Born Again.
 

Salvation and the Will of Man

The goal of and long term impact of Salvation on our wills has been well described by Watchman Nee in his book The Spiritual Man, where he remarks…

What is salvation?  It is none other than God saving man out of himself into Himself.  Salvation has two facets:  a cutting off and a uniting with.  What is cut off is self; the uniting is with God.

What is self? …were we to say self is self-will we would not be too far from the mark… [because] man’s essence is in his volition…

Salvation, then, is to deliver man from his created, natural, animal, fleshly, and self-emanating will…

The gospel is to facilitate the union of our will with God.  Anything short of this is failure of the mission.  God aims his arrow of salvation not so much at our emotion or our mind, but at our will, for once the latter is saved, the rest are included.

[For] …God intends to destroy the life of the soul but not its function, so upon being joined with the Lord in life, He launches forth to renew our soul with its various parts in order that our soul may be one with our new life and consequently one with His will.[1]

In the face of such a challenging, time-consuming, and (on our parts) painful prospect as the transformation of our self-absorbed wills into ones totally given over to the pursuit of God’s will, we might find ourselves wondering if it wouldn’t have been better for us, instead of being endowed with the capacity to choose, to have been pre-programmed for obedience by God.  Surely, this would have been much easier on everyone involved; and yet, if God hadn’t designed us in this way, we wouldn’t have been created in His image and would therefore not be eligible to be adopted as His children.  For us to be like God, then, we would have to be free to choose to act in ways that He would; ways such as…

  • Choosing to do what’s right, rather than what’s expedient;
  • Choosing to do what’s in the best interests of others, even at the expense of our own interests;
  • Choosing to speak nothing but the truth, even if we are the only ones doing it; and,
  • Choosing to believe God and take Him at His Word, even though we can see no evidence of His existence; and even when our thoughts and feelings do not concur.

The failure to make this last choice—which is really the first one we each need to make—is what caused our first parents, and eventually us, to be at odds with the will of God in the first place.  For, as Genesis 3:6 relates it, in spite of the fact that Adam and Eve had been told not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil…

…when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

Sadly, when Adam and Eve were given an opportunity to prove that they would carry out the will of God, they failed the first test of “Sonship,” which was obedience to their Father.  Rather than complying with His will, they allowed their own to succumb to the desires of their flesh, and to be seduced by the promises of self-achieved divinity being offered to them by Satan, the one whose will has always been in direct opposition to God’s.

On this, Watchman Nee comments again…

We may say that there are two massive contradictory wills throughout the universe.  On one side stands the holy and perfect will of God; on the other is arrayed the defiled, defiling, and opposing will of Satan.  In between subsists the sovereign, independent, free will of man.[2]

The War of the Wills

When overwhelmed by the countless mundane issues in life, it is very easy for us to lose sight of the fact that the driving force behind everything that takes place in our lives is this unseen, on-going conflict of wills between the one Righteous Ruler of the Universe and the evil imposter who is seeking to overthrow Him.  The evil imposter is none other than the powerful fallen angel, Lucifer—who is also known as Satan, “the prince of the power of the air (Eph. 2:2),” and “the father of lies and a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44).”  His bio, in Ezekiel 28: 12-17, reads like this…

You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.  You were in Eden, in the garden of God…an anointed cherub…blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till unrighteousness was found in you…

So I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God, and I destroyed you, O guardian cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire.

Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor…

His arrogant ambition and the self-centered nature of his will are also noted for us in Isaiah 14:12-14…

How you are fallen from heaven, O Daystar, son of Dawn!  How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low!

You said in your heart…

I will ascend to heaven;
…above the stars of God I will set my throne on high;
I will sit on the mount of the assembly in the far reaches of the north;
I will ascend above the height of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.

His opponent, of course, is God—the Sovereign, All Powerful, All-Knowing, Holy Being who not only…

…created the heavens…formed the earth and made it…[and] formed it to be inhabited;
…speak[s] the truth…[and] declare[s] what is right (Is. 45:18-19);
…gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist (Rom. 4:17);
…is light and in [whom] is no darkness at all (1 John 1:50;
…is love (1 John 4:10)….

…but is the One who could, at any time He chooses, destroy His impudent adversary with just one word from His mouth.  Instead, in His wisdom, He continues to allow him to “…prowl around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).”  And, why is that?  Because in this cosmic battle of wills, the decision as to which one will prevail on the earth has been delegated by God to the will of each—relatively speaking—puny and seemingly insignificant human being who lives on this planet; and, is determined every time he or she is faced with the choice of doing what will satisfy his or her own selfish desires, or what will be pleasing to God.

Screwtape

Screwtape’s Perspective on Humanity

In the classic apologetic novel, The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis provides us with additional insight into the nature of this war of wills through the instructional letters that seasoned demon, Screwtape, writes to his nephew, Wormwood, a lowly demon-in-training.  Here, in a slightly abridged version of one such letter, we learn that in the view of Satan and his minions

…Humans are amphibians– half spirit and half animal…As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time. This means that while their spirit can be directed to an eternal object, their bodies, passions, and imaginations are in continual change, for as to be in time means to change. Their nearest approach to constancy, therefore, is undulation–the repeated return to a level from which they repeatedly fall back, a series of troughs and peaks…As long as [they live] on earth periods of emotional and bodily richness and liveliness will alternate with periods of numbness and poverty…

…To decide what the best use of it is, you must ask what use the Enemy [God] wants to make of it, and then do the opposite. Now it may surprise you to learn that in His efforts to get permanent possession of a soul, He relies on the troughs even more than on the peaks; some of His special favourites have gone through longer and deeper troughs than anyone else. The reason is this. To us (demons) a human is primarily food; our aim is the absorption of its will into ours, the increase of our own area of selfhood at its expense. But the obedience which the Enemy [God] demands of men is quite a different thing. One must face the fact that all the talk about His love for men, and His service being perfect freedom, is not (as one would gladly believe) mere propaganda, but an appalling truth.

He really does want to fill the universe with a lot of loathsome little replicas of Himself—creatures whose life, on its miniature scale, will be qualitatively like His own, not because he has absorbed them but because their wills freely conform to His.  We want cattle who can finally become food; He wants servants who can finally become sons. We want to suck in, He wants to give out. We are empty and would be filled; He is full and flows over. Our war aim is a world in which Our Father Below has drawn all other beings into himself: the Enemy (God) wants a world full of beings united to Him but still distinct. 

And that is where the troughs come in. You must have often wondered why the Enemy [God] does not make more use of His power to be sensibly present to human souls in any degree He chooses and at any moment. But you now see that the Irresistible and the Indisputable are the two weapons which the very nature of His scheme forbids Him to use. Merely to override a human will (as His felt presence in any but the faintest and most mitigated degree would certainly do) would be for Him useless. He cannot ravish. He can only woo. For His ignoble idea is to eat the cake and have it; the creatures are to be one with Him, but yet themselves; merely to cancel them, or assimilate them, will not serve. He is prepared to do a little overriding at the beginning. He will set them off with communications of His presence which, though faint, seem great to them, with emotional sweetness, and easy conquest over temptation.

Sooner or later He withdraws, if not in fact, at least from their conscious experience, all those supports and incentives. He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs– to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish. It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be. Hence the prayers offered in the state of dryness are those which please Him best. We can drag our patients along by continual tempting, because we design them only for the table, and the more their will is interfered with the better. He cannot ‘tempt’ to virtue as we do to vice.

He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles. Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s [God’s] will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys…[3]

 

Servants to Sons

God’s Desire is to have Sons who Choose to do His Will over their own


Worship and the Will of God

Although he didn’t refer to it as such, the act that Screwtape is describing when a child of God chooses to obey the will of His Father—even in the face of any thoughts, feelings, or circumstances to the contrary—is something that God looks upon as Worship.  For, in spite of what we have been conditioned to believe, worship isn’t so much about what we do as we gather together in church on Sunday morning; it is more about what we do when we leave church and, going back out into the world, we come face to face with the people and situations that Satan likes to use in an attempt to get us to abandon God’s will in favor of our own.  It is then that, as we are strengthened by the Spirit and reminded that…

God is God, and we are not;
He created everything, He owns everything, and He established all the rules by which His creation operates;
He knows everything, is everywhere, and has all the power;
He is holy and always does what is right; and,
His thoughts or ideas, and His ways of doing things are better than ours; and,
He can always be trusted to do what is right, not only for us but for everyone else, as well…

…we can lay aside our will and what we want, and choose to do what Jesus would do, if He was there in our place.  This, in fact, is what Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane when, in the face of the Cross and in spite of His own human desires, He surrendered His will to that of His Father, so that His Father’s would be done on the earth.  What we learn, then, from His example, is that worshiping God simply means living surrendered to Him, in any and every circumstance in life, and anything less is not true worship.

With that in mind, then, we need to submit to and embrace the work of the Holy Spirit as He continues the work of restoration in our souls, so that in every situation our attitude will be…

O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker.
For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand (Ps. 95:6).

Worship the Lord

 

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2
The song of a soul restored…

 

 

[1]  Watchman Nee, The Spiritual Man (Richmond, VA: Christian Fellowship Publishers, Incorporated, 1968), Book 3, 81-83.

[2]  Nee, Spiritual Man, 77.

[3] C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2001), chapter 8.

Sanctification:  Restoring the Soul through Prayer

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PrayerDuring our previous exercise in Sanctification, we learned that it is the work of the Holy Spirit to…

  • Birth us as the spiritual children of God; then,
  • Mature us into sons and daughters of God who are committed to carrying on the work of Christ in the world.

While the birthing part of the Spirit’s work is accomplished at the time of our Regeneration, the maturing part is something which takes place over time, as the Spirit works relentlessly yet lovingly within us to restore our souls to their original function as mediator between our spirits and bodies—which is to say, as the conduit through which the knowledge of God’s will is transferred from the one to the other.  The goal of all this work is to bring us to the place where we are living in obedience to God, with our carnal or fleshly natures under the control of His Spirit, for the purpose of implementing God’s will on the earth.

The way in which the Holy Spirit accomplishes this great work of restoration in a Child of God is by…

Teaching him to talk to His Father through Prayer;
Teaching him to listen to and discern the will of His Father through the Study of His Word;
Teaching him to obey His Father through Worship… 

…with the wonderful end result of all this being the production of the Fruit of the Spirit—or, the reproduction of the very Character of Christ—within the emotions, mind, and will making up his personality.  Since talking to God is such an integral part of the sanctification process, this exercise will be given over to learning more about Prayer and the way the Holy Spirit works through it to restore our souls.


Talking to God through Prayer 

Since learning to talk is one of the earliest developmental milestones in the life of a child, it should come as no surprise that one of the first things the Holy Spirit does in the life a new child of God is teach him to talk to his Heavenly Father.  This extraordinary privilege is made possible when, as a result of the New Birth, the spirit of the new believer is awakened from its previously coma-like state and the lines of communication between his spirit and God’s Spirit are opened up and activated.  Once this system is operational, the two parties involved in this wonderful new relationship can begin to communicate with one another.  This is essential because…

People in relationships must be able to talk to each other;
People who love each other must be able to express that love; and,
Prayer is the language of love connecting the Father with His children. 

The late Dr. Myles Munroe expanded on this concept in the following way…

To understand its essence, we must realize that prayer began with the creation of mankind.  It was not instituted after the Fall but before it.  Prayer existed from the beginning of God’s relationship with man…

The essence of prayer is twofold.  Prayer is…
…an expression of mankind’s unity and relationship of love with God;
…an expression of mankind’s affirmation of and participation in God’s purposes for the earth.

To pray means to commune with God, to become one with God.  It means union with Him—unity and singleness of purpose, thought, desire, will, reason, motive, objective, and feeling.  It is also the medium through which the human spirit affects and is affected by the will and purpose of the divine Creator.  Therefore, prayer is man’s vehicle of the soul and spirit by which he communes with the invisible God.[1]

In other words, prayer isn’t just about us mouthing words to God; it about us learning to speak to Him in such a way that we…

Become One with Him in His Person; and,
Become One with Him in His Purpose.

 

Prayer Makes Us Like Jesus

 
Becoming One with God in His Person
 

Let’s face it—when we first came to faith in Christ, about the best thing that could have been said about anyone of us is that we were a big spiritual mess.  That’s because, up to that point, we had spent our entire lives dancing to the tune of the world; living according to its standards, with our carnal natures dictating the ways we thought, spoke, and acted.  The Apostle Paul accurately described our pre-salvation condition in Ephesians 2:13, where he said that…

…you were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were, by nature children of wrath like the rest of mankind (Ephesians 2:1-3).

However, when our spirits were reborn and the Holy Spirit came to live within us, He began breathing life into our once dead spirits by…

  • Assuring us of our salvation and of our new positions as sons and daughters in the family of God—thus, prompting us to go to our Father with prayers of thanksgiving and praise for His gracious gift of salvation;
  • Writing the laws of God’s holiness upon our hearts—thus, making us conscious of the sin in our lives and prompting us to seek His forgiveness through prayers of repentance;
  • Making us aware of and sensitive to the needs of others—thus, moving us to prayers of petition and supplication on their behalf; and,
  • Calling our attention to the injustices in the world around us—thus, compelling us to prayers of intercession in an effort to bring about change.

The more we prayed these Spirit-led prayers, the stronger our spirits became while the weaker our flesh grew.  Then, with our spirits growing stronger, it became easier for us to…

…be imitators of God as beloved children (Eph. 5:1);

…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thes. 5:18);

…put off your old self, which belongs to your former way of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Eph. 4:22-24);

…set your minds on the things that are above, not on the things that are on earth…put to death, therefore, what is earthly in you:  sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desires, covetousness, which is idolatry (Col. 3: 2,5); and,

…put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience…forgiving each other…And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony (Col. 3: 12, 14)…

…changes in our attitudes and actions enabling us to become more like Jesus while, at the same time, becoming One with God in His Purpose.  And, just what is that purpose?

 

Prayer and the Purpose of God


Becoming One with God in His Purpose
 

We find God’s purpose laid out for us quite clearly in Ephesians 1:4-14, where it was revealed that…

…he [God] chose us in him [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

In love, he predestined [pre-designed] us to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ, according the purpose of his will…

…In him [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace…making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 

In him [Christ] we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will; and,

…In him [Christ] you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

In short, it was God’s purpose, before the world ever began, to have a family of spiritual sons and daughters who would be holy, just like Him.  In order for them to be holy, though, they would first have to be redeemed and forgiven of their transgressions of God’s holy law—something made possible through the gracious and atoning work of Christ on the Cross.  To those choosing to receive His gift of redemption and Sonship, God also purposed to reveal the mystery of His will, which is to bring the Kingdom of Heaven, or the rule of God, to Earth through Christ; and, His plan to provide them with an eternal spiritual inheritance, guaranteed by the Holy Spirit Himself.

So, then, what is the ultimate purpose of this great Purpose of God?  It is so that, as we are transformed from sinners into the image and likeness of His Son, Jesus Christ, and we carry that image and likeness to the four corners of the earth—

…the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Hab. 2:14); and, 

…in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:7).

And, just how did our participation in this great Purpose of God begin?  It all began with prayer!
 

The Practice of and the Pattern for Prayer 

Now that we have familiarized ourselves with the purpose for and the restorative power of prayer, all that remains for us to accomplish in this exercise is to discuss the Practice of Prayer itself.  Since there are a number of guidelines for prayer scattered throughout the Bible, especially in the New Testament, as a means of providing ourselves with a handy reference, I have organized some of them into the following question and answer format…

  1. How should we come to prayer?

In faith…

…[for] without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him (Heb. 11:6);

With confidence…

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Heb. 4:16); and,

…this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him (1 John 5:14-15);

In humbleness

Humble yourself, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you (1 Pet. 5:6-7); and,

Without any unforgiveness in our hearts…

And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses (Mark 11:25).

  1. When should we pray?

At all times and without ceasing

…praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication…with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints… (Eph. 6:18);

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, giving thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thes. 5:16-18).

  1. Who should we pray for?

Everyone…

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.  This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:1-4);

But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you (Luke 6:28);

Is anyone among you suffering?  Let him pray.  Is anyone among you sick?  Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.  And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up.  And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.  Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you might be healed.  The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working (James 5:13-16).

  1. What are we to pray about?

Everything… 

Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation.  The spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak (Mark 14:38);

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9);

The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.  Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest (Luke 10:2);

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him (James 1:5);

…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:6-7); and,

Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father maybe glorified in the Son (John 14:13).

Many of these guidelines were covered, at least in principle, in the instructions and the Pattern for Prayer that Jesus gave to His disciples in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:1-13, when He said…

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.

But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.  Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

The Lord's Prayer

The Pattern for Prayer Given by Jesus

 

Finally, we are to pray, remembering always that…

…the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For [when] we do not know what to pray for as we ought…the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God (Rom. 8:26-27).

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2

 

Damaris Carbaugh reminds us that prayer takes us into the presence of God…

 

 

[1] Dr. Myles Munroe, Understanding the Purpose and Power of Prayer: Earthly License for Heavenly Interference (New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House 2002) 35-36.

Sanctification:  The Work of the Holy Spirit

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The Holy Spirit
As promised in our introduction to Sanctification, this workout time will be given over to becoming better acquainted with the Holy Spirit, our Trainer and Coach for this entire series of exercises.  The way in which we will do this is by asking and answering the following questions…

His Person—Who is He?
His Position—What does He do?
His Power—How does He do it? and,
His Presence—How does He relate this to each one of us? 


His Person:  Who is He?

Although some may have mistakenly thought of the Holy Spirit as nothing more than an emanation of God’s power, or some impersonal spiritual force from God, in reality, He is a Person—the equal, yet distinctive third Person of the Godhead, or Trinity.  This Trinity is actually a community made up of God the FatherGod the Son, Jesus Christ, and God the Holy Spirit—three separate and unique Persons who are united in purpose, with each one working together to bring about the achievement of that purpose.  As a member of this Godhead, the Holy Spirit is every bit as divine as God the Father and God the Son; meaning that He shares in the very same divine attributes which they possess. Like them, He is:

  • Omniscient—that is, He is all-knowing (1 Cor. 2: 10-11);
  • Omnipresent—that is, He is everywhere present, all at the same time (Ps. 139: 7-10; John 14: 26; John 16: 12-13);
  • Omnipotent—that is, He is all-powerful (Luke 1:35);
  • Eternal—that is, He is, always has been, and will forever be (Heb. 9:14); and,
  • Holy—that is, He is pure and totally separate from sin (Rom. 1:4).

The Trinity1ax
Even though He is singular in His Person, the Holy Spirit is known by a number of different names, with at least twenty-five of them found throughout the Old and New Testaments; with these names giving us some much needed insight into His Person, and into His ministry.  The names by which He is known are:

  • The Spirit—which is translated as “breath” or “wind.”  As breath, He is the “breathing out” of God that imparts news life (Gen. 2:7, Ps. 104:30), and that gives divine inspiration to the Word of God (Heb. 4:12); and, as wind, He is invisible and sovereign; and beyond human understanding or control (John 3:6-8).
  • The Spirit of God (1 Cor. 3:16), the Spirit of Jehovah (Is. 11:2 1 Cor. 12:11), the Spirit of the Lord Jehovah (Is. 61:1-3), and the Spirit of the Living God (2 Cor. 3:6)—in His relationship to God the Father;
  • The Spirit of Christ (Rom. 8:9), the Spirit of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:19), the Spirit of Jesus (Acts 16:6,9), and the Spirit of His Son (Gal.4:6)—in His relationship to God the Son;
  • The Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13), the Holy Spirit of Promise (Eph. 1:13), the Spirit of Holiness (Rom. 1:4), the Spirit of Judgment (Is. 4:4), the Spirit of Burning (Is. 4:3-4); and the Spirit of Truth (John 14:17, 15:26, 16:13);
  • The Spirit of Wisdom and Understanding (Is. 11:2, 2 Tm. 1:7), the Spirit of Counsel and Might (Acts 1:8, 8:29 16:6-7), the Spirit of Knowledge and the Fear of the Lord (Is. 11:2), and the Spirit of Life (Rom. 8:2);
  • The Holy Spirit of Joy (1 Thes. 1:6), the Spirit of Grace (Heb. 10:29), the Spirit of Supplication Zech. 12:10), and the Spirit of Glory (1 Pet. 4:14);
  • The Eternal Spirit (Heb. 9:14)—all in regards to Himself; and,
  • The Comforter (John 14:26).  As the Comforter, He is also known as the “Paraclete” (Gk. Paraklētos), or as the “one who is called alongside” of the believer for assistance.

The Spirit Searches


His Position:  What does He do?

Because He is a Person, the Holy Spirit does the things that any other personal being does:  He thinks (Rom. 8:27), He feels (Rom. 15:30), He wills (1 Cor. 12:11)—and He acts, with some of His actions being described for us in:

  • 1 Corinthians 2:10—-where the Holy Spirit searches the thoughts and the deep things of God;
  • Acts 8:29 and Acts 13:2—-where the Holy Spirit speaks;
  • Acts 15:28—-where the Holy Spirit makes decisions;
  • Romans 8:26-27—-where the Holy Spirit makes intercession for us before God;
  • John 15:26 and John 16:14—-where the Holy Spirit testifies of Jesus;
  • John 14:26 and 1 Corinthians 2:13—-where the Holy Spirit teaches us;
  • Romans 8:16—-where the Holy Spirit reassures believers of their salvation;
  • 1 Corinthians 12:11—-where the Holy Spirit distributes gifts to believers;
  • Ephesians 4:30—-where the Holy Spirit grieves over sin; and,
  • Acts 16: 6-7—-where the Holy Spirit overrules human actions.

The Holy Spirit teaches...


His Power:  How Does He Do It? 

Although no one has ever been able to adequately explain the Trinity or how it works, one thing that seems to be apparent about it is that:

  • God the Father is the One who wills and plans;
  • God the Son is the One who does the Father’s will and carries out His plans; and,
  • God the Holy Spirit is the One who provides the power (Gk. Dunamis, or dynamic power) needed to apply the work done by the Son.

In other words, the role of the Holy Spirit is to see that the will of the Father and the work of the Son are carried out to completion.

Although we cannot actually see the Spirit’s power as He is working, we can see the evidences of that power, not only throughout the Scriptures but throughout our world, as well.  Even as He, in Genesis 1:2, was busy hovering over the darkness and chaos preceding the first coming of life—waiting in anticipation for the Word of God to be spoken so that He could perform or empower that Word into reality—He is constantly, yet invisibly, at work, bringing light and life to those who are living in darkness.  From the creation of the world until now, the power of the Holy Spirit has been at work:  striving with and convicting men of their sins; performing miracles; inspiring the prophets and the preachers; protecting God’s people; maintaining life as we know it on this planet; and most importantly, magnifying Jesus, and shining the light of God upon the Truth. 

Speaking of Jesus, the power of the Holy Spirit was also clearly seen in every aspect of His life, including His incarnation; His anointing for ministry at His baptism; His ministry to His disciples and to the crowds which followed Him; His transfiguration; His sacrificial death on the cross; His resurrection; and, the empowerment of Jesus’ disciples on the Day of Pentecost.

Truth


His Presence:  How does He apply the will of God and the work of Christ to us?

Since it was the will of God that:

  • No one should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Pet. 2:9);
  • We believe on the One (Jesus) whom He has sent (John 6:29);
  • We be sanctified, or made like Jesus, and be set apart for the His holy purposes (1 Thes. 4:3);

It became the work of the Son to:

  • Provide the redemption and forgiveness of sins needed to save us from perishing (Eph. 1:5-7);
  • Be sent to earth, to live a sinless and righteous life before men, to die an agonizing death on the cross in order to make atonement for the sins of all men, and to overcome death through His own resurrection; and,
  • Go back to the Father, so that the Holy Spirit could be sent to apply the work that He had accomplished.

As for the way in which the Holy Spirit goes about applying both the will of God and the work of the Son in our lives, He does this through the on-going work of His Eternal, Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Holy Presence, as He:

  • Convinces of us of our sins, the righteousness of Christ, and the judgment waiting for us in the future (John 16:8-11)—so that we can be brought to repentance;
  • Regenerates, or brings back to life, our long dead spirits, thus reconnecting our spirits with God’s (Titus 3:4-7);
  • Comes to live within us—writing the laws of God upon our hearts, and teaching us to live lives that are pleasing to God—reproducing the very character of Christ in us as a result (James 4:5, Heb. 10:16, Gal. 6:22-23);
  • Baptizes us and places us into the Body of Christ, giving us gifts of service, and then empowering us to use those gifts to carry on the work of the Son (1 Cor. 12:4-11, 1 Pet. 4:10); and,
  • Guarantees our inheritance by His seal, until we can take possession of it ourselves when we get to Glory, (Eph. 1:13).

As you can see, the Holy Spirit is a very busy and a very important Person in our lives; for, in the plan of God, it is His work to birth us as the spiritual children of God, and then, to help us mature into sons and daughters of God who can carry on the work of Christ in this world, and prepare for His coming Kingdom in the next.  In light of what we learned in our introductory exercise in Sanctification, the initial work of the Spirit in this regard will include…

  • Opening up the lines of communication with God, and teaching us to talk to Him through Prayer;
  • Transforming our carnal minds into Christ-like ones, and teaching us how to hear from God, through the Study of His Word; and,
  • Cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit, or the character of Christ, in our lives through a combination of Prayer, Bible Study, Worship, and Testing of what we have learned…

…beginning the process whereby our Spirits, Souls, and Bodies are restored to their proper places and functions, with the Spirit controlling our thoughts, feelings, and actions—and our flesh responding with submission and obedience to the Will of God.

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2
The Gaither Vocal Band and “Search Me, Lord”…

Searching for Truth in the First Book of Begats

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Although I now use the English Standard Version as my study Bible, when I first started out, oh so many years ago, I used the King James Version—a translation that I loved because of the more melodic and poetic language it used in its presentation of the Bible Story.  The one aspect of that translation that I did not care for, though, was its use of the word “begat” in the many genealogies recorded for us in scripture.  “Begat” always sounded so harsh and impersonal that its use made those already tedious and uninteresting passages all the more difficult to get into and to appreciate.  And yet, when I was finally able to get past the archaic wording, as well as all of the repetitious and somewhat sanitized documentation contained in the passages,  I found that there was a lot of truth waiting to be discovered there among all of those old “begats.”  And, searching for some of those truths is what we will be attempting to do next, as we pause to critique the first such list in the Bible—the one which was presented in our most recent Vignette, “The Lineup to the Flood.”The Book of Begats

This Vignette, number five of the nine which make up Act 1, Scene 1 of God’s One Big Story, covers the material found in Genesis 5; a chapter which introduced us to the descendants of Adam though his son, Seth.  It should be noted here that Cain’s descendants, as the rejected line, were introduced back in Vignette #4 and, following their brief moment in the spotlight, they moved to their proper place at the rear of the stage.  Now, as for how we will conduct our search for truth in Seth’s line of begats, it will be done by analyzing the People, Patterns, and Precedents that were presented to us in the course of this Vignette.

The People…

An important thing for us to remember, when coming to this first genealogical list in the Bible, is that all of these funny sounding and sometimes hard to pronounce names belonged to real people, living in real time, and doing life in very real ways.  They were people who had to work for a living, who had to find and make homes for themselves and their families, who had to learn to relate to the other people around them—however difficult they may have been, and who had to learn to cope with the raising of children—many, many children, in fact.  Because they were all descended from Adam, this meant that they were all members of the same family—with everyone, at any given time, having to fill the roles of mother or father, brother or sister, aunt or uncle, niece or nephew, or grandparent or grandchild to someone else.  What a relationship nightmare that must have been!

However, there was more to being a descendant of Adam than merely belonging to the same huge physical family; it also meant being members of the same huge spiritual family.  Since each one had come into the world bearing the image and likeness of Adam, this meant that they, like he, were all sinners in desperate need of redemption.  Even though not all of them would go on to acknowledge this need in their lives, the ten that did were lined up across our stage—with one representing each of the ten generations from Adam to Noah.  As the men who held on to their faith in God, and to the promise He had made to Eve concerning a coming Redeemer, they, as the members of the Antediluvian Spiritual Hall of Fame, were the ones who kept the promise and the lineage of that Redeemer alive all the way to and through the Flood.  Of these ten, there are four—Seth, Enoch, Methuselah, and Noah–who merit special recognition; something which we will be sure to give them when we get to the Precedents section of this critique.

The Patterns…

But for now, though, let’s take a step back and try to get a look at the big picture presented to us by the men in this genealogy.  For, in so doing, we will see some Patterns starting to develop, as a result  of the sin nature passed down by Adam, which will characterize the human experience from this point on.  They are…

  • Life becomes a tedious and monotonous cycle of birth, reproduction, and death;
  • As this cycle repeats itself and as more and more people are born into the world, the level of wickedness increases dramatically while righteousness decreases in a corresponding manner;
  • This decrease in righteousness leads to a diminishing of the hope that God’s promise of a Redeemer will ever be fulfilled which, in turn, leads to an ever increasing sense of despair among the people of God;
  • But, even in the face of this all of this wickedness and despair, God repeatedly proves His faithfulness by His on-going preservation of a remnant through whom the Redeemer will one day come.

The Precedents…

As for the precedents that were established during this pre-flood period in history, if we look at the unusual way in which this chapter opens, and at the unique characteristics of the men previously singled out for special recognition, we will find these Precedents to include…

1.  The Precedent of The Book of the Righteous… 

When Chapter 5 opens, it does so by saying, “This is the book of the generations of Adam”—a statement marking out a whole new section in the book of Genesis.  We know that it is the beginning of something new because toledoth, the Hebrew word for generations, is used eleven times in Genesis, and each of those times it is used to designate a break or a transition in the story.  But, while a break in the story is significant, it isn’t unusual enough to qualify as a precedent-setting event.  For that, we need to direct our attention to sepher, the Hebrew word for book, because its use here marks the first time that a record of human history is made, and that God begins recording a list of the righteous.

The Book of LifeThis list of names will become a special set of books, later referred to as The Book of Life, which, when human history comes to an end, will be brought out for all to see.  Its ultimate revealing will take place at something called the Great White Throne Judgment; the climactic end-time event described in Revelation 20 where, in verses 12 and 15, the Apostle John describes how these books will be used…

And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened.  Then another book was opened, which was the book of life.  And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done…And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

From this, we can conclude that the name of every human being who has ever lived will be written in one set of books, along with everything he or she has ever done.  In addition to these, there is another set of books, referred to here and in other places as “The Book of Life,” which contains the names of all of those who, through faith, have trusted in God for their salvation.  While everyone’s name will be listed in the first set of books, only the names of those who are deemed righteous according to God’s standards will appear in the second set of books—books which had their origins here in Genesis 5.

2.  The Precedent of The Practice of Prayer… 

From what we can gather about Adam’s and Eve’s, and Cain’s and Abel’s encounters with God, they appeared to have taken place on a personal and very intimate level.  However, with the appearance of Seth, and at about the time that his son, Enosh, was born, a new and different shift in the way men approached God seems to have taken place.  This change is noted for us in Genesis 4:25-26, where it says that…

…Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, “God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him.”  To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of the LORD.

Praying HandsAlthough this passage tells us that men, for the first time, began to call upon God in prayer, it doesn’t explain why this practice became necessary.  Was it because, as more and more people were born, worship became less of an individual practice and more of a corporate one? Or, was it because God, in response to the ever-increasing level of wickedness upon the earth, had withdrawn His presence from among the people?  Whatever the reason, here in the lifetime of righteous Seth, the practice of prayer had become a necessity and became an established precedent in the lives of godly men. 

3.  The Precedent of Preaching and Prophesying… 

Because the population and the level of wickedness began increasing at such an alarming rate, it wasn’t long before the preaching of repentance and the prophesying about a coming judgment became a necessity.  And, as we learn in Jude 14, 15, 16, 19, this was something that Enoch undertook with great zeal…

It was also about these [the wicked] that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” …These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage…It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.

PreachingAlthough there may have been others who had seen the need for this type of ministry and practiced it before the time of Enoch, it was during his lifetime and as a result of his ministry that the preaching of repentance and the prophesying about judgment became, for us, a Biblically-documented Precedent. 

4.  The Precedent of The Translation or Rapture of the Saints… 

Not only was the Precedent of Preaching and Prophesying established in the life and ministry of Enoch, the Precedent of a Translation or Rapture of the Righteous was also established by him.  For in Genesis 5:24 we are told that…

…Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him…

…and in Hebrews 11:5, that…

…By faith, Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death; and he was not found because God took him up; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God.

Although another translation from this life to the next, without experiencing death, was realized centuries later by the prophet Elijah, the ultimate fulfillment of the precedent set by Enoch is still to take place at the end of time when, just before the onslaught of an event known as The Tribulation, a global translation or rapture of the Saints from the earth will take place.  Just as Enoch was removed from the early world prior to the Tribulation of the Flood, those who are alive and whose names are written in the Book of Life, at the end of time, will also be “taken up” because they, like Enoch, had obtained the witness that they walked with and were pleasing to God.Rapture

5.  The Precedent of God’s Long-suffering and Mercy…

In Genesis 5: 21-24, we learn that…

…When Enoch had lived 65 years, he fathered Methuselah, Enoch walked with God after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters.  Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years.  Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.

And, then, in Genesis 5:27 that…

…all the days of Methuselah were 969 years, and he died.

The implication in the first passage is that before his son’s birth, Enoch had gone his own way, but that following Methuselah’s birth, he began developing a close, personal walk with God.  This, to me, begs the question of “Why the big change all of a sudden?”

Although the meaning of Methuselah’s name has not been completely settled for some, many believe that it means, “When he is gone, it will come”—with “it” referring to the judgment of the flood about which Enoch would later prophesy.  If so, it could be that Enoch had received a revelation about the coming judgment at the time of Methuselah’s birth; and, if he had, it would only be logical for him to believe that he might only have a short period of time in which to repent.  What if his son only lived a year or five years?  Not knowing how long a life his son would have would certainly have been reason enough for getting his life right with God as soon as possible—and to begin preaching to others about their need to do the same.

Could it be that Methuselah lived longer than other human because God, in His mercy, was trying to give men every opportunity to repent, like Enoch did?  It would certainly seem so, for as the second passage tells us, not only did God extend Methuselah’s life longer than any other human being’s, but that the year he died was the same year that the flood came upon the earth.

6.  The Precedent of The Preservation of a Remnant through Tribulation and Judgment…

Remnant in the ArkBy the time Methuselah’s son Lamech had a son of his own, things must have seemed pretty dismal because, when he named his name Noah, he spoke this prophecy over him, recorded for us in Genesis 5:29…

… ‘This one will give us rest from our work and from the toil of our hands arising from the ground which the Lord has cursed.’”

We shall see the fulfillment of this prophecy in our upcoming Vignette, for it will be through Noah that God will…

  • Reach out to the lost in his generation;
  • Bring the judgment of the Flood upon all of those who refuse to repent; and,
  • Faithfully protect and provide for His own, through the Precedent of the Preservation of a Remnant through Tribulation and Judgment.

As you can see, there is a lot more truth in this first book of begats than initially meets the eye; and, since “…All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…(2 Timothy 3:16),” it is still relevant and has application for our lives today.  That’s because, like those living between Adam and Noah…

  • We are all sinners whose natural end is death and eternal separation from God;
  • However, we can choose life instead of death by choosing to follow in the way of Seth instead of in the way of Cain;
  • This choice will always put us at odds with the majority who will be following Cain and the ways of the world;
  • But it will also mean that our names will be written in the Book of Life;
  • This will give us access to God through prayer;
  • It will motivate us to reach out to the lost through our testimony of the truth; and,
  • It will provide us the assurance that God will either take us out before, or preserve us through, any kind of tribulation or judgment that may come upon the wicked.

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Selah reminds us that throughout every age, God remains the “Faithful One…”

 

 

 

 

Treasures of Truth…

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During the course of our previous two visits, we learned two important things:  that God, for some reason, has chosen to use trees to tell His story of redemption; and, that God, for some reason, has chosen to use me, a very reluctant prophet, to give you an explanation for that choice.  But that presents something of a challenge, doesn’t it; I mean, how is it possible for any of us to know the mind of God concerning issues of this or any other kind?  After all, God is Big and we are small, God is Spirit and we are flesh, God is Infinite and we are finite, and God is Holy and we are not.  How, then, can we—the small, fleshly, finite, and sinful ever begin to understand Him—the Big, the Spiritual, the Infinite, and the Holy?

Amazingly, God has made that possible for us through:

  • The gift of His Spirit…

    The Spirit of Truth who comes to live within us when we are born again; and,

    The Spirit of Truth who, according to Jesus in John 16:13, 14, will guide you into all truth…for He will take what is mine and declare it to you.”

  • The provision of His Word…

    …which was in the beginning with God, and was God (John 1:1);

    …which was breathed out by God, and…”profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16);”

    …whose unfolding gives light and imparts understanding to the simple (Ps. 119:130); and,

    …the sum of which is Truth (Ps. 119:160).

  • The wisdom that has been made available to us through prayer, for…

    If any of you lacks wisdom let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him (James 1:5);” and,

    Yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding; if you seek it like silver and search for it as hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord [for, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” (Prov. 1:7)] and find the knowledge of God.  For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth comes knowledge and understanding; He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity… (Prov. 2:3-7).

Therefore, when the time comes for us to try and plumb the depths of God’s reasoning about anything, the first thing we must do is pray for wisdom and expect the Holy Spirit to be ready, willing, and able to guide us into the truth that we are seeking.  Next, we need to get out our picks and shovels, or the tools which will help us as we begin digging for the treasures of truth that are hidden in God’s Word.  Two such tools are:  an understanding of the way that God reveals Himself to us; and, an understanding of the way that God teaches us about spiritual things.

Of course, the most obvious way that God reveals Himself to us is through the things that He says—after all, His Word isn’t called His Word for no reason.  However, an equally revealing way, and one that is often overlooked, is through the things that He does—that is, in the way that He acts in a given situation, as well as in the way that He relates to the people involved in those situations.

For instance, from the very beginning of the Bible, we are introduced to a God who purposefully separates things, repeatedly making divisions or distinctions between them, before passing judgments upon them.  We see this taking place throughout the creation story, where, in Genesis 1:1, we learn that God’s intentions were to create two separate and distinct realms of existence, the heavens and the earth; while in the verses that follow, we learn how He went about doing that.  The process was simple:  He spoke, His Word was activated by the hovering Holy Spirit, then that which was spoken became reality; the results, on the other hand, were beyond impressive:

  • God spoke light into darkness, separated the light from the darkness, and then He gave them distinctive names;
  • God commanded the waters to be divided by an expanse or an atmosphere, with this resulting in the creation of the heavens;
  • God commanded the waters under the heavens to be collected and set apart so that dry land could emerge, thus creating the earth;
  • God called vegetation to come forth from the newly created earth, separating it into distinct kinds;
  • God then went on to separate day from night, season from season, fish from fowl, and one kind of living creature from another;
  • Then, God created man, separate and distinct from all the other living creatures, and gave him dominion over all of His other works;
  • Finally, God separated the woman from the man in order to provide him with the companion and helper that he would need in life; and,
  • All of this God judged to be good and very good.

This revelation of a God who divides, separates, and then judges, is an extremely important one for us to remember; for it will be a recurring theme throughout scripture, one eventually leading us to the final division and judgment of humanity at the Great White Throne spoken of in Revelation 20:11ff, but it will also prove to be essential to our eventual understanding of the part that trees play in God’s story of redemption.

Now, as for discovering how to use the second tool in our treasure hunting arsenal—that is, an understanding of the way that God teaches us about spiritual truths–let’s look at Romans 1:19-20 to see what insights the Apostle Paul can give us on that subject.  There, he says…

For what can be known about God is plain to them [men], because God has shown it to them.  For his invisible attributes, namely his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.  So they [men] are without excuse.  

To me, this is one of the most profound and enlightening verses in scripture because in just fifty-two words, we learn:

  • That God has manifested or made known to us such otherwise inexplicable concepts as His eternal power and divine nature (some translations say “His eternal power and godhead”) through the things that He has made; and,
  • That, in order to do so, God intentionally incorporated things into the natural world that could later be used as living illustrations or object lessons for some spiritual truth or reality.

This is just another way of informing us that God’s method of teaching has always been to take the known and use it to explain the unknown; or, in other words, to use the things that we can see and are familiar with to explain those things that are beyond the reach of our normal comprehension.

As you may recall, this was the same method that Jesus used when teaching His disciples the spiritual truths that they needed to know.  When Jesus wanted His disciples to understand the spiritual realities of who He was, He used such common ordinary things as bread, water, light, darkness, birth and death to make those things known to them.  And when He wanted to teach them what the kingdom of heaven was like, He used parables, or stories about events in everyday life—such as sowing, reaping, marriage, feasts and celebrations—to explain what life would be like in the coming kingdom of God.  Teaching in this way certainly wasn’t new, nor did it originate during the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry; in reality, Jesus was just doing what He had seen His Father do since the dawn of time—use the known to explain the unknown.

Now that we have been equipped with a rudimentary knowledge of the tools of that we will be using for the job, it is time for us to begin digging for the treasures of truth that God has hidden for us in the trees–a task which we will undertake when we meet together the next time.

 

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Searching for truth isn’t always easy, as Sanctus Real reminds us in “These Things Take Time…”