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 how we go about Honoring the Rules of Engagement.

 

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.

Spiritual Warfare:  The False Faith of Religion

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A Self-Righteous System Based Upon ‘Good’ Works

Now that we have finished mapping out the first two tiers of Satan’s earthly kingdom…

Its Physical and Financial Landscape; and,
The Educational and Media Structures making up its Cultural Landscape…

…it is time for us to move on to a survey of its third tier, which is the Religious Landscape over which he rules.  As we do, we need to keep in mind that the Structures in these Landscapes have been especially designed to maximize Satan’s control, conditioning, and corruption of Corporate Humanity’s Body, Soul, and Spirit.  As we have learned previously, it is through the manipulation of the…

Physical and Financial Structures that he Controls what people
can do and where they can go;
Educational and Media Structures that he Conditions the way people think and feel;

…and, as we shall learn in this session, it is through the…

Religious Structures that he Corrupts the worship of God and
redirects that worship to himself. 

As we have been reminded of so often over the course of these exercises, Satan’s motivation for this Corruption is his obsessive and self-destructive quest to usurp God’s throne and grab the glory that goes along with it.  Since most people consider Religion to be the means by which we are drawn closer to God, to say that Satan uses it to do just the opposite, might seem somewhat incongruous at first; however, once we have examined the matter more closely, I think we will come to see that the difference between Religion and the Righteousness required by God is as vast as the distance between the Heaven and Hades we learned about in Spiritual Warfare: Getting the Lay of the Land.  So, to clarify what we mean when referring to Religion, we must pause for a DOT—or, a Definition of Terms for this particular structure.

  1. Religion—What Is It?

As defined by Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, Religion is…

…a system of thought, feeling, and action that is shared by a group and that gives the members an object of devotion; a code of behavior by which individuals may judge the personal and social consequences of their actions; and a frame of reference by which individuals may relate to their group and their universe.[1]

Breaking this definition down, we find that…

  • Because it is a system of thought, feeling, and action, Religion is something that appeals to, encompasses, and makes use of every aspect of the Human Soul—both the individual and the corporate one;
  • Because it is shared by a group, Religion provides its adherents with a community that they can be a part of and relate to; and,
  • Because it provides its followers with an object of devotion, a code of behavior, and a frame of reference…
    • Religion satisfies their inherent need for something to worship or revere;
    • Religion provides them with guidelines on how to behave or act by defining morality and establishing boundaries for them; and,
    • Religion helps them make sense of the world around them and explain its origins.

Religion, then, is the belief system expressly designed to meet the needs of the Human Soul which, as we know from our previous exercises, has been a part of Man’s Carnal or Fleshly Nature ever since it became separated from his Spirit (and God’s Spirit, as well) as a result of Sin.  Given this, and the fact that…

…God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth (John 4:24); and,

…all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment (Isaiah 64:6)…

…the Soulish Worship produced by Religion—no matter how pious it may appear to be on the surface—is something which is reprehensible to God.

  1. Religion—When and Where Did It Originate?

When trying to determine just when and where Religion originated, we must first decide which approach to the subject we are going to take—the Secular Approach or the Biblical Approach.  In choosing the secular one, we would find ourselves in the company of Anthropologists, Sociologists, and Historians who approach the subject from an Evolutionary Perspective; one which…

…starts with the view that man evolved from a pre-simian ancestor.  Since animals have no religion, there must have been, it is said, a long ascent through apish chatter and fear of the dark unknown to…a ‘belief in a vague, potent, terrifying inscrutable force.’

Animatism developed into ‘animism,’ the spirit-fearing religion of most isolated tribal people.  Then came the polytheism immortalized in the Greek mythologies.  Israel’s glory, so this summary of the development of religion suggests, was that she was able to narrow down the many gods of the surrounding nations to one tribal god.  And eventually the one Creator-God of the Hebrew prophets, together with the philosophical monotheism of Plato, paved the way for higher religion.[2]

The Biblical Approach, on the other hand, gives us a completely different and, to my way of thinking, a far more reasonable explanation; for…

According to the Bible, the first true man was a monotheist, and when he falls into sin, he seeks restoration through animal sacrifice.  The theory of the evolution of religion suggests that man is an animal taking a long time to become divine.  The Bible describes a human couple made in the image of God, who degenerated into what we are now.[3]

According to this approach, instead of it being the unexpected byproduct of, or the evidentiary support for, Man’s upwardly mobile evolutionary journey, Religion is actually the degenerative process that was set in motion by Man’s Original Sin back in the Garden of Eden.  Although we have made quite a few trips to the Garden already, it will be necessary for us to visit there once again, if we are to expose the roots and the true nature of Religion’s False Faith.

To do this, though, we must first have an understanding of the significance of the Garden to the relationship between God and Man.  Because God is Spirit and Man is Flesh, for the two of them to enjoy fellowship together, it was necessary that a special meeting place be created for them.  In much the same way that man’s spirit and his body of flesh needed his soul to be a place of mediation between two such disparate entities, God and Man needed a place—something like a Sanctuary, a Tabernacle, or a Temple—where they, too, could come together.  This, then, is what the Garden represented to them.

Although the world that God created was beautiful enough in itself, when it came to creating the Sanctuary of the Garden, He pulled out all of the stops.  He filled this Sanctuary with everything that was beautiful to behold and to enjoy.  It was well-watered by a river flowing up from underground springs and filled with every tree that was good for food.  In addition, the areas surrounding it were also well-watered and filled with gold and precious stones!  When this special Sanctuary was completed, God took the Man He had created and placed him in it, and charged him with the responsibility of caring for it.  God made it clear to Man at the time that if he wanted to maintain their fellowship and continue living there, he would have to obey the Word God had given him, even when tempted to do otherwise.

In addition to all the other trees in the Garden, God placed two very special ones at its center—the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  His purpose for doing so was to test Man—giving him the opportunity to choose for himself whether to obey God and be blessed, or to go his own way and reap the consequences.  In reality, what He was setting before the first Man and Woman was the choice between the only two Systems of Faith that would ever be available to mankind—the choice to either put their Faith in the Works of the Flesh and try to achieve Salvation on their own terms, or to do things God’s way and put their Faith in His Word as the only means of securing their Salvation and Eternal life.  Since these trees were representative of those two systems, an examination of their roots and fruit will aid in our understanding of the systems themselves.

Such an examination reveals that…

The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil…

The Tree of Works and Death

…was rooted in the same desires that motivated Satan to rebel against God.  As listed in Isaiah 14:13-14, these were…

I will ascend into Heaven;
I will be like the Most High;
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God;
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; and,
I will also sit on the Mount of the Congregation.

The SAP produced by it was Selfishness and Pride, and its Fruit was all about Me and My Glory.

On the other hand…

The Tree of Life…

The Tree of Grace and Life

…was rooted in the same desires that characterized Jesus, as described for us in Psalm 40:6-10…

I delight to do Your will;
Your law is within my heart;
I have not concealed Your lovingkindness and Your truth;
I have declared Your faithfulness and Your salvation; and,
I have proclaimed the good news of [Your] righteousness in the great assembly.

Its SAP was Submission and Praise, while its Fruit was all about God and His Glory.

In comparison, then, the Two Systems of Faith line up something like this…

The Roots and Fruit of the Two Trees

Of course, hindsight being what it is, it’s easy for us to see that the reason the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was so attractive to Adam and Eve was because of its overpowering appeal to their flesh—to their selfishness and pride, as well as to their desire for self-determination and glorification.  Unfortunately, when they chose to eat of this tree, there was no way for them to know the kind of fruit it would bear in the lives of their children, grandchildren, and in the generations to come.  They had no idea that in choosing the Way of Works over the Way of God, they were dooming every one of their descendants (with the exception of Jesus Christ) to enter this world already bound to the same system–the system of Satan’s Soul-Centered False Faith of Religion, which actually leads it followers away from the Truth of God and on to their Spiritual Deaths.

  1. Religion—How Did It Develop?

Starting out as just a small seed of unbelief in the hearts of our first parents—but, nurtured as it was in the fertile soil of Satan’s prideful ambition—it didn’t take long for this False Faith of Religion to grow into an enormous tree with a very sturdy trunk.  That’s because it was founded upon Cain and his self-styled Worship of Works, it was fed and grew stronger on Man’s Worship of Nature, and its reach was eventually extended to cover the whole world through the many branches it developed following God’s confounding of the languages at the Tower of Babel.

Cain’s Worship of Works

That Cain and his offering would serve as the base upon which the Tree of Religion was founded should come as no surprise to us; for his—and his brother Abel’s—offerings were the first ones to be recorded after their parents’ expulsion from the Garden of Eden.  Given their proximity to that event, in both time and location, it seems reasonable to expect that Adam and Eve had instructed their sons concerning the type of offering that would be required of them by God.  The fact that Cain brought an offering of produce from his field, which was rejected, and Abel brought a lamb to be sacrificed and it was accepted, would tend to lend support to this theory.  But, was the difference in their offerings the only reason to look upon Cain as Religion’s Founding Father, or was it something that went much deeper than that?

We get an indication of the real issue in Hebrews 11:4, where we learn that the truly distinguishing feature between these two men and their offerings was faith, for…

By faith, Abel offered up a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts.

Why, then, was faith the deciding factor here?  Because…

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

…the Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, the Lord looks on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).

If it was a heart of faith that was required to please God, how did Abel’s offering reveal that?  The most logical conclusion is that, since…

…faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Rom. 10:17)…

Abel must have taken to heart the Word that he had receivedmost likely from his parents and something to the effect of “…without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins (Heb. 9:22)”—then, acting upon that Word, he offered up to God his best lamb as the substitutionary payment for his sins.

Cain, on the other hand, having rejected the same Word, and determined to do things in his own way, foolishly attempted to come to God on his own terms, rather than approaching Him in the manner previously ordained.  Such an arrogant action on his part revealed that his heart was far from God, he was in denial concerning his sinfulness and need of sacrificial atonement, and his faith was in his own worthiness and works.  So great was Cain’s sense of self-righteousness that even when he was corrected by God and given an opportunity to repent, he refused—choosing instead to try to vindicate himself through the murder of his brother.  The true nature of Cain’s heart and actions were described centuries later by the Apostle John, when he warned his readers…

We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother.  And why did he murder him?  Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous (1 John 3:12).

So, it was these characteristics of Cain…

  • An unbelief in and a rejection of the Word of God;
  • A life built upon deception;
  • A faith based on self-worth and the works of the flesh;
  • An inexplicable resentment and envy of the truly righteous; and,
  • An unjustifiable need to suppress and eliminate those who are walking with God…

…that have, ever since the time of Cain, become the hallmarks of the structure we know of as Religion—hallmarks which were clearly demonstrated by the Religious Leaders of Jesus’ day who, in their resentment and envy of Him, felt completely justified in their persecution and crucifixion of the very Son of God.

The Way of Cain

Man’s Worship of Nature

I must admit that when considering the transition from Cain’s Worship of Works to Mankind’s Worship of Nature, I was at a loss to explain how it could have happened.  I mean, why would any reasonably intelligent person choose to worship a being or a material entity lower in rank in the created order than himself?  It just didn’t make any sense, for the leap from the one to the other seemed far too great.  Thankfully, in Romans 1:21-25, the Apostle Paul provided us with some insight into this highly illogical progression (regression, actually) as he explains that it was really just a short hop because…

…although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever!

It would seem, then, that if we—like Cain—don’t believe God and we reject His Word as the only source of Truth in the world, not only will we fall for any and every lie that comes down the pike, but we will also have to invent a few of our own if we’re going to ever make sense of our existence and the world in which we live.  After all, how else can we explain why…

  • The sun rises in the east and sets in the west on a daily basis;
  • The moon and the stars come out at night and move from place to place in the sky;
  • The wind is so powerful and yet invisible;
  • The thunder thunders and the lightning flashes randomly across the sky;
  • The land is separate from the seas and the earth, at times, rumbles mysteriously under foot;
  • The rivers race downhill from the mountains to the sea;
  • People are people and animals are animals—why we eat one but not the other; and,
  • People die and what happens to them after they do?

Well, those in ancient times chose to explain these things through the use of Myths…

Myths explained how Earth was created, where life came from, why the stars shine at night and the seasons change.  Why there was sex.  Why there was evil.  Why people died and where they went when they did.  In short, myths were a very human way to explain everything.

…in its most basic sense, a myth is defined as ‘A traditional, typically ancient story dealing with supernatural beings, ancestors, or heroes that serves as a fundamental type in the world view of a people, as by explaining aspects of the natural world or delineating the psychology, customs, or ideals of society (American Heritage).’  ‘Explaining aspects of the world’—that’s another way to say ‘science’ or ‘religion,’ the two principal ways people have used to explain the world.[4]

Creation myths set out to explain the origin of the world, the birth of gods and goddesses, and eventually the creation of human beings.  Explanatory, or causal, myths try to give a mythic reason for natural events, such as the Norse belief that Thor made thunder and lightning by throwing his hammer…another fundamental type of myth is the ‘foundation’ story, which explains the beginnings of a society—often with the distinct sense of superiority that direct descent from the gods clearly implies.[5]

This eventually gave rise to the rule and domination of men over men because…

Once local rulers understood that connecting themselves to the gods would cement their hold over people, myth was elevated to an institution that could prove more powerful than an army.  Most of the great ancient civilizations…were theocracies, in which there was no difference between religion and state.  With connections to the gods and usually the cooperation of a potent priesthood, divinely anointed rulers held the power of life and death over their subjects…[6]

…a development which eventually led to the founding of the world’s first empire in the land of Shinar—as well as the world’s first Religious System at the Tower of Babel.

Religion’s Many Faces

A System of Worship for the World

In Genesis 11:1-2, we are told that following the flood of Noah’s day…

…the whole earth had one language and the same words.  And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there.

Then, in Genesis 10:8-12, we learn that Shinar is where Nimrod, Noah’s great-grandson, came to power—and, where it was said of him…

…he was the first on earth to be a mighty man.  He was a mighty hunter before the LORD. Therefore it is said, ‘Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before [against] the LORD.’  The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.  From that land he went into Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth-Ir, Calah, and Resen between Nineveh and Calah; that is the great city.

Although the Bible doesn’t tell us much about Nimrod, there are a number of references to him in ancient extra-biblical literature.  One such reference is in Antiquities of the Jewscompiled by the Jewish historian, Josephus…

Now it was Nimrod who excited them [the people] to such an affront and contempt of God. He was the grandson of Ham, the son of Noah, a bold man, and of great strength of hand. He persuaded them not to ascribe it to God, as if it were through his means they were happy, but to believe that it was their own courage which procured that happiness. He also gradually changed the government into tyranny, seeing no other way of turning men from the fear of God, but to bring them into a constant dependence on his power…[7]

From what we read here, Nimrod sounds very much like the man of lawlessness the Apostle Paul warned his readers about later in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-10—and described there as…

…the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God…The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan, with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing because they refused to love the truth and be saved.

And, from Josephus’ description of them, it would seem that those who were following Nimrod were very much like those just described by Paul…

Now the multitude were very ready to follow the determination of Nimrod, and to esteem it a piece of cowardice to submit to God; and they built a tower, neither sparing any pains, nor being in any degree negligent about the work: and, by reason of the multitude of hands employed in it, it grew very high, sooner than anyone could expect; but the thickness of it was so great, and it was so strongly built, that thereby its great height seemed, upon the view, to be less than it really was. It was built of burnt brick, cemented together with mortar, made of bitumen, that it might not be liable to admit water.[8]

It should be noted here that the building of this tower…

…was not an innocent, scientifically naive, primitive effort to reach the highest heavens! It was, instead, a brilliant but blasphemous effort to dismiss forever the God who had commanded Noah and his three sons after the Flood to ‘be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth’ (Genesis 9:1). Instead of honouring His name [i.e. God’s character and attributes], they said, ‘Let us build for ourselves a city … and let us make for ourselves a name; lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth’ (Genesis 11:4).

In reality, this tower was created to be a religious center; one designed in the shape of a mountain which, when ‘scaled’ through the accomplishment of varying degrees of religious ritual, would elevate men to the status of deity and to the pinnacle of human power.  The ziggurat—or stepped tower–is probably what this “mountain” would have looked like; a place where…

The top compartment represented heaven. The inner walls, in all probability, were decorated with blue glazed tile, with the sun, the moon, and the five known planets (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn) lined up along the plane of the zodiac. In the centre of the room would be their “god” seated upon a throne! Nebuchadnezzar later rebuilt such a tower in Babylon, which the Sumerians had called E-TEMEN-AN-KI (‘the building of the foundation-platform of heaven and earth’).  The pyramids of Egypt and, much later, the great Mayan temples of Central America, reflected the design of the original Tower of Babel.[9]

Most Likely What the Tower of Babel Looked Like

So, in addition to establishing himself as the first tyrannical emperor in human history, Nimrod also made a name for himself as the instigator of the first organized false religious system in the world—one …

…based primarily upon a corruption of the primeval astronomy formulated by Noah’s righteous ancestors before the flood.  In the original this system, depicted by means of constellations, [was] the story of Satan’s rebellion and the war in the heavens, his subversion of mankind, the fall of Adam and Eve, the promise of One to come who would suffer and die to relieve man from the curse of sin [and] then be installed as Lord of Creation, and the final re-subjugation of the cosmos to God through Him.

[However] These eternal truths were corrupted…into a mythic cycle wherein the great dragon is depicted as the rightful lord of the universe whose throne has been temporarily usurped by One whom we can recognize as the God of the Bible.

According to this corrupted version…

…the serpent creates man in his present miserable state, but promises that a child would one day be born of a divine mother—which child would supplant God, become a god himself, and return rulership of the Earth to the serpent…

Madonna and Child

…and, it was this woman and child who would later become known everywhere as the Madonna with Child.  

These fables…were introduced under the guise of revealing hidden esoteric knowledge [but]…this esotericism…only masked the actual goal, which was the worship of the ‘heavenly host,’ which the Bible equates with Satan’s army of fallen angels.

Satan was quite willing to receive worship ‘by proxy,’ hence the third major element of the mystery religion was emperor-worship. This religion was propagated by a hierarchy of priests and priestesses, to whom were assigned the task of initiating the populace at large into its ascending degrees of revelation, culminating at the highest level in both direct worship of Satan and demon-possession.[10]

Given the true nature of this rebellious and blasphemous endeavor—and the fact that it was God’s declared will from the beginning that human beings scatter abroad over the earth so that the earth would…

…be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14)…

…it was no wonder that…

…the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built.  And the LORD said, ‘Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.  Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.’

So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.  Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth (Genesis 11:5-9).

As a result of this scattering, when the people made their way into strange new lands, one of the things they all carried along with them was the false religion they had known at Babel in the land of Shinar—the place later called Babylon

…from Babylon this mystery-religion spread to all the surrounding nations…Everywhere the symbols were the same, and everywhere the cult of the mother and child became the popular system…The image of the [Madonna] queen of heaven with the babe in her arms was seen everywhere, though the names might differ as languages differed. It became the mystery-religion of Phoenicia, and by the Phoenicians was carried to the ends of the earth. Ashtoreth and Tammuz, the mother and child of these hardy adventurers, became Isis and Horus in Egypt, Aphrodite and Eros in Greece, Venus and Cupid in Italy, and bore many other names in more distant places. Within 1,000 years, Babylonianism had become the religion of the world, which had rejected the Divine revelation.[11]

And, it was for this reason that Babylon came to be known as the “mother” of every pagan religious system in the world— the system referred to in the Bible as Mystery Babylon, and the one described in Revelation 17:1ff as…

…a woman arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality;

…the great prostitute…with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk; and,

…having written on her forehead a name of mystery: Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.

Mystery Babylon–Satan’s False Religious System

This is the same Religious System used by Satan throughout history to deceive and seduce those following in the Way of Cain, and to oppress and destroy those choosing to follow in the Way of Abel.  The one…

  • Out of which God called Abram, in order to create Israel as the nation through which His Son would come into the world;
  • That enslaved the Israelites in Egypt—and, the one that God crushed when He delivered His people from bondage there;
  • That God commanded His people to destroy when they went into the Promised Land—but whose failure to do so led to their eventual corruption;
  • That killed the prophets God sent to call His people to repentance;
  • That eventually carried God’s people into captivity, destroying their temple and leaving their land barren and in the hands of their enemies;
  • That crucified Christ;
  • That has persecuted the Church throughout its history and been responsible for the death of its martyrs;
  • That was responsible for the Inquisition, the Holocaust, and all the religious wars throughout history;
  • That led to the formation of Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Rationalism, Atheism, and every cult the world has known; and,
  • Whose syncretism is now manifesting itself in the New Age Religion that will soon serve as the State Religion during the reign of the Antichrist.

4. Religion–How Will It End?

Most importantly, it is the one that God will one day judge and destroy…

Like Her Master, She Will Meet a Fiery End

…and God remembered Babylon the great, to make her drain the cup of the wine of the fury of his wrath. Rev. 16:19

…for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. Rev. 18:5

‘Pay her back as she herself has paid back others, and repay her double for her deeds; mix a double portion for her in the cup she mixed.’ …her plagues will come in a single day, death and mourning and famine, and she will be burned up with fire; for mighty is the Lord God who has judged her. 18:6,8

Alas, alas, for the great city that was clothed in fine linen, in purple and scarlet, adorned with gold, with jewels, and with pearls! For in a single hour all this wealth has been laid waste. 18:16-17

Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, for God has given judgment for you against her!” Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, ‘So will Babylon the great city be thrown down with violence, and will be found no more;’ 18:20-21

…[for] all nations were deceived by your sorcery…and in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slain on earth.” 18:23-24

In that day, like her Master and Manipulator, Satan’s Soul-Centered False Faith of Religion will meet her well-deserved doom—and, she will be seen no more!

 

Phillips, Craig, and Dean remind us that our salvation is all about God’s amazing grace–not our works…

 

[1] “religion.” The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia. © 1994, 2000-2006 on Infoplease.
© 2000-2017 Sandbox Networks, Inc., publishing as Infoplease.
14 May. 2018   <https://www.infoplease.com/encyclopedia/philosophy-and-religion/other-religious-beliefs-and-general-terms/religion-general/religion/>.

[2] Robert Brow, “Origins of Religion,” in Eerdmans’ Handbook to The World’s Religions (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1982), 30.

[3] Brow, Eerdmans’ Handbook, 31.

[4] Kenneth C. Davis, Don’t Know Much About Mythology (New York, NY; HarperCollins Publishers, 20060, 23-24.

[5] Davis, Mythology, 12.

[6] Davis, Mythology, 12.

[7] Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews: Book 1 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1960), 79-80.

[8] Josephus, Antiquities, 79-80.

[9] https://answersingenesis.org/tower-of-babel/babel/.

[10] Bryce Self, Semiramis, Queen of Heaven (http://www.ldolphin.org/semir.html).

[11] Harry A. Ironside, Babylonian Religion (http://www.biblelineministries.org/articles/).

 

 

Welcome to His Truth, My Voice

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Welcome

Welcome to His Truth, My Voice

For those of you who are new to this website, we are currently engaged in a series of exercises designed to help strengthen us in our spiritual walks with the Lord Jesus Christ.  Hopefully, these exercises will help explain what Salvation, Sanctification, Service, and Spiritual Warfare are about and, in order to make their study a bit more accessible and orderly, they are arranged chronologically on the Workout Room page located at the bottom left side of the home page.

Once this series has been completed, we will return to our presentation of the Bible as “God’s One Big Story”–where we will once again be enjoying the story of the Bible as it is presented in the form of a play.  To learn more about that and what we have covered so far, please follow this link, as it will give you a list of our studies in that series…http://histruthmyvoice.org/?p=2748.

Thanks for visiting today, and I hope that what you find here will be prove to be a blessing to your spirit.

Judy Roberts

Spiritual Warfare: Knowing the Enemy

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Snake in the Grass

The devil…was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him (John 8:44).

In our last exercise, we learned how important it is to understand the nature of the spiritual conflict in which we, as the Sons and Daughters of God, are engaged.  As we shall learn in this exercise, it is equally important for us to discover as much as we can about our adversary—that is, if we want to stay alert and guard against his assaults.  For…

…unless we grasp how the devil fits into God’s scheme of things, we will find it more difficult to stand against his conspiracy against us personally and his influence within our culture.  How we perceive our enemy will largely determine how we fight against him.[1]

Over the course of the past six exercises in our Workout Program, we have learned a lot about this adversary–the one who goes by the names of Satan, Lucifer, and the Devil—so let’s collect that information here and review what we have learned about him thus far.

  1. His History and Character

As for his history and character, we now know that Satan…

  • Was a created being, making him vastly inferior to the God who created him, and meaning that…

Since he was created, he is not self-existent, and never can be free from the Creator.  He may vainly propose to become independent, and even be permitted for a time to act under that delusion; but that only delays the inevitable judgment that awaits him.[2]

  • Was created perfect…

…or was the perfect fulfillment of the Creator’s intention.  Satan was a free moral agent, capable of choosing evil but not obligated to do so.  That he chose evil must ever be to his own condemnation, for the Creator had surrounded him with sufficient motives for choosing the good.[3]

  • Was created as one of the highest ranking in a class of Spirit Beings called Angels

…powerful creatures who have a significant role to play in God’s unfolding plan for mankind; and who…
…were present at pivotal points in the spiritual history of man, including the creation of the universe, the proclamation of the birth of Jesus and will return with Christ’s heavenly army to establish His Millennial Kingdom.[4]

  • Possessed a superior intellect and surpassing beauty…

First, consider God’s statement [in Ezekiel 28:12] ‘You were the model of perfection, full of wisdom and exquisite in beauty.’  For the God of the universe to declare that another is perfect in wisdom is remarkable.  Satan must have incredible intellectual powers; repeatedly the Bible stresses his brilliance.  His beauty and majesty also must be unimaginable.[5]

  • Became vain because of his beauty, proud because of his wisdom, and power-hungry because of his position. He conceitedly regarded these things as emanating from within himself, instead of acknowledging them as endowments from God—gifts given to him by the good pleasure of the Almighty, for the benefit of the Kingdom of Heaven…

Lucifer was God’s masterpiece, a showpiece whose presence brought glory to his creator… [And] until he sinned, he existed to serve God, without weariness, struggle, or competition.  He was God’s worship leader; the director of choirs and coordinator of praise.  If only he had known how fortunate he was![6]

  • Rebelled against God’s authority and attempted to usurp that authority for himself…

… instead of passing all of the praise to God, he began to keep some of it for himself.  Like a trader who keeps a bit of the profits that cross his desk, so Lucifer would hold back some of the worship, enjoying what he thought was his share…

…[Until] consumed with jealousy and burning with a desire for recognition, he set out to do what he wanted to do rather than what God wanted him to do.[7]

  • Began his career as a liar and a slanderer of God in order to justify his misguided and failed actions…

Satan apparently concluded that he was so magnificent he didn’t need God.  Like the first humans, he probably felt he could be his own God.

Once Satan enthroned himself and rejected God’s moral guidance, a whole series of negative character traits automatically developed.  Any moral being who rejects God’s leadership finds it psychologically necessary to justify that decision…[Thus] Satan justified his rebellion by finding fault with God.

When Satan rebelled, he became the supreme accuser of God’s character.[8]

  • Became a murderer when he provoked Cain to kill his brother, Abel, in an effort to eliminate the righteous son of Adam and Eve—the one he thought might be the redeemer promised to Eve by God…

By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts (Hebrews 11:4).

We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother.  And why did he murder him?  Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous (1 John 3:12).

Angel of Light to Prince of Darkness

You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till unrighteousness was found in you (Ezekiel 28:15).

  1. His Ambitious Plan

in addition to his History and Character, we also know that…

  • Lucifer’s original plan—his Plan A—called for his overthrow of God and the take-over of His Throne in Heaven; this in spite of the fact that God was and is All-Powerful, and his own power was severely limited in comparison. But…

Far from withdrawing, Satan chose to escalate the conflict.  Admitting defeat was too humbling; better to forge ahead with sustained rebellion than withdraw from the fray and accept his punishment.  He would pretend that illusion is reality; he would call his defeats triumphs.  And he would store up more retribution by expanding his rebellious rule.[9]

  • This, of course, led to the creation of his Plan B, which called for him to set up his kingdom and reign upon the Earth…

Pride caused Lucifer to gamble his privileges away.  He took the big risk, thinking that if he could not dethrone God, at least he could set up his own throne somewhere in the universe.  He had underestimated God and overestimated himself.[10]

  • This presented him with another problem, though—God had given the Earth to Man to rule, so what was he to do about that?

When the devil noticed that a new being existed, created in the image and likeness of God, destined to have the lordship over creation, he developed his own plan and wanted to destroy God’s work.   Satan’s attack consisted in tempting Adam and Eve with exactly the same iniquity that constituted his own ruin.  Lucifer himself had wanted to be like God.  That was what he offered Eve, saying, ‘You will not surely die…’[11]

  1. His Overall Strategy

Given that…

God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.  And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth’ (Genesis 1:27-28)…

…so that, in bearing God’s image to the ends of the earth…

…the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea… (Habakkuk 2:14)

…for Satan to achieve his Plan B and realize his ultimate goal, his strategy had to include…

  • Gaining control of the Earth by taking God’s Representatives and intended Family captive through deception and lies. Lying about who he was, who they were, and who God is, Satan convinced Eve, then Adam, to disobey God.  As a result…

Adam dropped the scepter and Satan picked it up.  Man, created to be king of the earth, would now become a slave and be everywhere in chains… In Eden, the crown slid from man’s head, Satan picked it up from the dust and crowned himself…He would now treat the world as if it belonged to him.[12]

  • Preventing God’s Kingdom from coming to the Earth; keeping his captives from escaping to freedom by blinding them to the Truth of God, and keeping them ignorant of His Word and His free gift of Salvation…

By their disobedience, Adam and Eve abdicated their throne of earthly dominion, yielding it to Satan, the architect and instigator of their fall.  This ushered in a counterfeit kingdom that the Bible calls the ‘kingdom of darkness,’ which is in constant conflict with the Kingdom of God…

Satan rules his kingdom of darkness by keeping his ‘subjects’ in ignorance of the true nature of their environment and of the existence of God’s Kingdom.  He fills their heads with lies and deception.  Satan controls his subjects by keeping them ‘in the dark’ regarding spiritual truth.  He blinds their eyes lest they understand the glorious good news of Jesus and the Kingdom of Heaven.[13]

The Nature of the Beast

The Enemy of the Truth

  • Harassing, intimidating, slandering, and deceiving them at every possible turn—and, should any of them manage to escape…

Satan sees our down times as his opportunities.  True to his nature, he strikes with vile determination when we are weakest… Satan is relentless in his attacks because he utterly hates us.  He desires our complete destruction.  There is no goodness in him at all.  He is absolutely void of virtue and compassion.  This is his nature and he is not going to change.[14]

  • Frustrating the Service of those who manage to make it to the Kingdom of God by stirring up division and strife among them, and wearing them down until they finally give up and quit…

Satan is unable to destroy Christians, so his ultimate goal is to make us ineffective in our mission.  Whether he can destroy faith or stalemate us in other ways, his point is to block Christians’ efforts to rescue those currently under his control…he wants to guard his captives from the power of the gospel.  Satan can convince most Christians never even to try to advance God’s cause on earth.  Others do try, but he can frustrate their plans or redirect them into fruitless projects…

He can divide believers or get them to pursue foolish, doomed-to-failure tactics.  And he has been remarkably successful getting believers to preach a message so alien to the gospel that no one could meet Christ through their message.[15]

  • Corrupting all the institutions which affect their lives—especially the Family—and distorting the Image of God on the Earth through Sexual Perversion and Gender Confusion…

…when man chose to renounce the will of God…the knowledge of good and evil made its entrance.  Man now had a knowledge that corrupted him, poisoned him…now humanity carries in itself the seed of evil that it transmits from generation to generation.

In the moment in which the devil enters into a place of authority over man and creation, the polluted and corrupt world becomes his vehicle of expression, a system designed to keep humanity in slavery.  The Bible teaches us that since then, the world serves the devil’s purposes.[16]

  1. His Defeat and its Impact on the War
  • From his victory over the First Adam to the coming of the Second Adam, Jesus Christ, Satan treated “the world as if it belonged to him.”[17] After all, he had wrested the lordship over the Earth from Adam and Eve, and now that they were his slaves, there wasn’t anything that they or their descendants could do about it.  That is, until Jesus came, and then it became an altogether different story…

…Jesus came as a human being, living in our post-Fall human context ‘for a little while lower than the angels’ (Hebrews 2:7).  As a man He retraced Adam’s footprints up to the point of temptation, facing temptation after temptation and succeeding in obedience where Adam had failed.

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—won it as a man for both humans and God.  When the Father resurrected Jesus, a cosmic battle was won, and the usurper defeated and deposed from second place in the universe.[18]

  • As a result of His Victory, this Second Adam reclaimed what the First Adam had lost, and restored it to those who would come to the Father through Faith in His Finished Work on the Cross. In spite of his loss, though, Satan isn’t about to roll over and play dead…

…like Nazi Germany even after D-Day, Satan still has plenty of fight left…Knowing he has been defeated doesn’t bring melancholy to Satan; it makes him furious.  Seeing his end draw near makes Satan even more frantic to destroy.  In the psychology of hatred, rage becomes irrational, and Satan apparently has become angrier than ever.  But his strategy is far from irrational.  He continues, in calculated and effective ways, to pursue his course of opposition to God’s plans.[19]

  1. His Kingdom: Past, Present, and Future

From the Garden to the Cross—

  • Satan ruled over the Earth with impunity. Having already robbed Man of his innocence in the Garden, he was now free, from the Garden to the Cross, to successfully…

Sear men’s consciences through sin—leading to the destruction of the then-known world through the Flood;
Corrupt the governmental system ordained by God
—leading to the rebellion at the Tower of Babel and the confusion of languages;
Introduce a false religious system into the world—which, once the nations were scattered, made its way into every culture in the world; and,
Compromise the worship of the people of God—ultimately leading to their expulsion from the land God had chosen for them.

  • At this point, given mankind’s colossal failures and his many successes, it must have seemed to Satan that his rule over the Earth had at last been firmly established. This, however, would soon be proven to be a false assumption.  That’s because, in spite of Satan’s best efforts to destroy God’s plan and His people, the Lord has never left Himself without a faithful remnant.   As prophesied by Isaiah…

…the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah shall again take root downward, and bear fruit upward… (Isaiah 37:31)

  • And, it would be through this remnant that the long-awaited Redeemer would finally come…

…when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons (Galatians 4:4-5).

From the Cross to the Second Coming of Christ—

  • Although Christ soundly defeated Satan on the Cross, and conquered his power over death through His Resurrection, for reasons that are His own, God continues to allow Satan to rule—albeit as a Usurper—over the ungodly systems he has managed to establish during mankind’s time on the Earth.  As we learned previously…

God could put Satan completely away, but He has chosen to use him to give the Church ‘on-the-job’ training in overcoming.  Otherwise, there would be no more warfare of any kind.  We are in apprenticeship for our place with Christ on the throne following the Marriage Supper of the Lamb…and without an adversary there could be no practice in overcoming.[20]

…Satan exists as God’s instrument of justice for the disobedient and God’s means of purification for the obedient.  Our war with him teaches us about the nature of sin, the holiness of God, and our own helplessness apart from Grace.[21]

  • So, until Christ returns to set up His Kingdom here on Earth, Satan

Though under the restraining hand of God…is now in authority over the unregenerate world, and the unsaved are unconsciously organized and federated under his leading…

This federation includes all of the unsaved and fallen humanity; it has the cooperation of the fallen spirits, and is the union of all who are living and acting in independence of God.

This satanic system has its own ideals and principles which are in sharp contrast to the ideals and principles given to the redeemed, yet these two classes must mingle together as closely as the ties of human life can bring them.[22]

  • Jesus made mention of these two conflicting classes in His Parable of the Wheat and the Tares, characterizing the wheat as those in the Kingdom of God, and the tares as those in Satan’s Kingdom of Darkness. Since His instructions at that time were to…

Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, ‘Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn’ (Matthew 13:30)…

…such will be the status of Satan’s kingdom until the time for God’s Harvest. 

Satan Bound for 1000 Years

His Time Is Coming

From the Second Coming of Christ to the End of the Age—

  • When the time finally comes for the legal owner of the Earth to harvest the crops sown in it from the beginning of time—that is, when everyone who is going to be saved is saved, and Satan’s attempts at ruling the world apart from God have utterly failed, Christ will return to the Earth to execute judgment on Satan and his kingdom…

God’s judgment is often long in coming, but when it arrives it is swift and sure.  When God begins to wrap up human history as we know it, the demise of the Serpent will happen in a series of stages.  The lake of fire was inevitable from the moment Lucifer said, ‘I will make myself like the Most high’ (Isaiah 14:14), but for centuries God has postponed the inevitable.  When He no longer needs Satan for His own purposes, the end shall come. [23]

  • The three stages of Satan’s judgment are as follows…

First, he is cast out of heaven.  Second, he is bound for a thousand years.  Finally, he is cast into the lake of fire.

If the first step in Satan’s demise is that he is forbidden to reside in heaven, then the second step is that he is forbidden to reside on earth.  For one thousand years the nations are permitted to go their own way without satanic direction or influence.  

[Then] He who had always taken his own hell with him… [is] to be cast into a hell of a different sort.  He must now relinquish control of all beings he ever influenced.  The power is gone, so is the insolence, scheming, and defiance.  Stripped of everything he once thought he had, he [the former Light Bearer] is now forced to abide in eternal darkness.[24]

  • And, once…

‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever (Revelation 11:15)’…

The destruction of the Serpent in the lake of fire stands as a final witness to the fact that no creature who fights again the Creator will win.  No will pitted against the will of God will ever find permanent fulfillment and freedom.  God has proved that he alone rules, and beside Him there is no other.[25]

 

In spite of Satan’s claims to the contrary, there is only one I AM–and it’s certainly not him!

 

 

 [1] Erwin W. Lutzer, The Serpent of Paradise (Chicago, Illinois: Moody Press, 1996),20.

[2] Lewis Sperry Chafer, Satan: His Motive and Methods (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1964), 17.

[3] Chafer, Satan, 17.

[4] Grant R. Jeffrey, Heaven: The Mystery of Angels (Toronto, Ontario: Frontier Research Publications, 1996), 183.

[5] Dennis McCallum, Satan and His Kingdom (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 2009), 23.

[6] Lutzer, The Serpent of Paradise, 26-27.

[7] Lutzer, The Serpent of Paradise, 27-28.

[8] McCallum, Satan and His Kingdom, 24.

[9] Lutzer, The Serpent of Paradise, 40.

[10] Lutzer, The Serpent of Paradise, 33.

[11] Harold Caballeros, Victorious Warfare (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2001), 65.

[12] Lutzer, The Serpent of Paradise, 44-45, 50.

[13] Myles Munroe, Rediscovering the Kingdom (Shippensburg, Pennsylvania: Destiny Image Publishers, 2004), 84.

[14] Dean Sherman, Spiritual Warfare for Every Christian (Seattle, Washington: YWAM Publishing, 1990), 39.

[15] McCallum, Satan and His Kingdom, 56.

[16] Caballeros, Victorious Warfare, 67.

[17] Lutzer, The Serpent of Paradise, 44-45, 50.

[18] Charles H. Kraft, I Give You Authority: Practicing the Authority Jesus Gave Us (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Chosen Books, 1997), 21-22.

[19] McCallum, Satan and His Kingdom, 51.

[20] Paul E. Billheimer, Destined for the Throne (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 1975), 91.

[21] Lutzer, The Serpent of Paradise, 191.

[22] Chafer, Satan, 50.

[23] Lutzer, The Serpent of Paradise, 167..

[24] Lutzer, The Serpent of Paradise, 168, 186.

[25] Lutzer, The Serpent of Paradise, 191.

Service:  Women and the Work of God, Part 2

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It’s Way Past Time

As promised at the end of our last workout session, we are back to finish what we started in our exercise on Service: Women and the Work of God.  There, in Part One, in pursuit of a better understanding of the role God intends for Women to play in the Service of His Kingdom, we began, once again, with the story of Adam and Eve; looking at it to determine…

  1. God’s Purposes for the Sexes;
  2. God’s Punishment of the Sexes; and,
  3. God’s Promise to the Sexes.

As a result, before our break, we discovered that in His quest for a Family to love, God created Man as a Spirit Being; a Spirit which He then placed in the two houses He called Male and Female.  As a Spirit, Man could relate to God and, in the physical houses of Male and Female, he could (re)produce the Family that God has always desired.  We also learned that, because he was created first, the Man was placed in the Position of Head over God’s Creation; with the Woman being created later, to be his Companion and Helper in carrying out the Work of God.  This arrangement, however, did not mean that the Male was superior to the Female; for, from the beginning of their history together, they were both…

Equal in their standing before God;
Equal in their call to the work of God; and,
Equal in their blessing by God. 

Something else that we learned was that, in his Position as Head, the Man was meant to reflect the Headship of God the Father; while the Woman was intended to be a picture of the nature and work of the Holy Spirit.  As such, the Man possessed what the late Dr. Myles Munroe referred to as Position Power, while the Woman possessed what he aptly described as Influence Power.  In the words of Dr. Munroe…

Power and influence are equal, but different…

First, position-power generally comes with a title, such as king, governor, doctor, or pastor.  Second, position-power is usually executed through commands, whether verbal or written.  It is the authority that goes with the position, and the commands, that is the nature of the man’s power.

Influence-power manifests itself in a very different way.

First, a woman may have a title, but she doesn’t need a title to lead.  She leads by influence…Second, a woman doesn’t need to talk in order to run things.  She leads just by her influence…the woman doesn’t need to say a word; she just looks, and people respond.  This is a very powerful influence.[1]

Position-power announces itself.  Influence-power just comes in and controls things.  By the time you realize its presence, it has already taken over.[2] 

We will learn more about these differing leadership functions as we progress in this exercise—especially when dealing with Man’s Testing in the Garden, and the consequences of his failure there.  Since that was where we left off in Part 1, that is where we will begin this time—as we continue our look into…

  1. God’s Punishment of the Sexes

No matter how well you package it, testing is one gift that I think few, if any, would look forward to receiving.  At its mere mention, most of us shrink back; no doubt, put off by the mental images it evokes—images of the hard work and preparation it requires, the struggle involved in making the right choices, and the thoughts of failure and the consequences which that would bring.  Given the amount of angst involved in testing’s anticipation, it was probably a good thing Adam and Eve did not see it coming.

God, on the other hand, not only knew that it was coming but He purposely allowed it into their lives.  That’s because, to Him, testing is essential to the proving of one’s righteousness and obedience to the Word and Will of God; so essential, in fact, that He required the same kind of testing of His Son, Jesus Christ.  For, immediately following His baptism and just prior to the beginning of His public ministry…

…Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1).

The Apostle James explains some of the principles of testing in this way…

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.

Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death (James 1:12-15).

While this sort of downward progression is something we see taking place in the testing of Adam and Eve, of more immediate interest to us is the cunning plan lurking behind Satan’s temptation, and the bearing it will have on God’s punishment of Man’s transgression.

The Cunning Behind the Con 

In Service:  Interrupted…By Devilish Design, we learned of Satan’s goal to subvert the Kingdom of God and supplant it with his own.  Since God’s Kingdom is a Spirit-Down one, ordered in the following way…

God first;
The Man, next;
Then, the Woman; and,
Lastly, the Animals…

 …for Satan to achieve his goal, he would have to overturn God’s Spirit-Down order and replace it with a Flesh-Up one.  By Flesh-Up, I mean that Man would be living life, no longer under the direction of the Spirit of God, but according to the fleshly dictates imposed on him by his body and soul.  In a Flesh-Up order, Man would be dead to the things of God, and the line of communication between him and his Maker would be severed.  In this condition, he could not become a Child of God, and any Service he might have rendered as such to the Kingdom of God would be eliminated.  This, of course, is exactly the type of situation that Satan was hoping to create when he approached Adam and Eve in the Garden. 

The Effects of the Fall

The Effects of the Fall

As for his method of achieving this end, instead of confronting Adam directly, the possessor of the Position Power and the direct Word of God, Satan made his sly and subtle appeal to Eve.

The devil is clever…he was after the man, because the man is the foundation, but he couldn’t get to the man because position-power can usually stand firm as long as its position is genuine.  You can’t destroy position-power directly; you have to destroy it through influence.[3]

So, appearing in the form of a Serpent, he beguiled Eve into eating of the Forbidden Fruit; and then, through the manipulation of her Influence Power, he succeeded in enticing her husband to join her in her Sin.  As a result of this coup, Satan’s reversal of God’s order was complete, for…

  • A member of the Animal Kingdom had usurped the authority of the Woman;
  • The Woman had used her Powers of Persuasion to usurp the authority of the Man; and,
  • The Man had rejected the authority of God and His Word, abdicating his position of Headship in the process.

The Consequences of the Con

In Genesis 3: 14-19, we find the record of God’s judgment on this upheaval of His divine order, a judgment in which the punishment was meted out in the same order in which the crime was committed.  Addressing the Serpent first, God said…

Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life.

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.

Next, He came to the Woman, and said…

I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children.  Your desire shall be contrary to  your husband [for your husband, in some translations], but he shall rule over you.

Then, finally, to the Man, He had this to say…

Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field.

By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

Looking closely at these judgments, we can also see that in each case, the punishment was appropriate for the crime—something to be expected, given that everything in God’s Creation was designed to reproduce “…after its own kind.”  We know this to be true because God said so ten times in the Creation Story found in Genesis 1—a principle which was later affirmed by the Apostle Paul in this very familiar passage…

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.  For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life (Galatians 6: 7-8).

And…there is NO Way of Getting Around This

Here, then, is the way this Sowing and Reaping Principle played out in God’s Judgment on the perpetrators of this crime…

The Serpent—as an Animal 

  • Because it had presumed to raise itself above its divinely-ordained station in life, it would be brought down, cursed as the lowliest of creatures, to spend its days slithering on the ground.
  • Because it had tempted Eve to eat what she shouldn’t have, it would have to eat what it didn’t want to—which was dust.
  • Instead of being looked upon as the beautiful creature that it once was, it would forever after be regarded as a loathsome beast.
  • Instead of the friendly relationship it had shared with the Woman in the Garden, from then on, their relationship would be one of mutual hostility.

The Serpent—as the Devil

  • As the one who had exalted himself in rebellion against God, leading others to do the same, he was given notice that eventually he would be “…brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit (Isaiah 14:15).”
  • Here, he was presented with a “Declaration of War” by God—the notice of perpetual warfare between his kingdom and the Kingdom of God; between his offspring, the Wicked, and the offspring of the Woman, the Righteous.
  • And, because it was the Woman whom he had beguiled, here he was notified that it would be through her childbearing of the Righteous Seed of God that he would ultimately suffer defeat and meet his doom.

The Woman

  • The blessing of childbearing, which prior to the Fall, would have been a joy, would now be accompanied by pain and sorrow.
  • Submission to her husband, which before the Fall, would never have been an issue or a hardship, would now be a daily struggle.
  • Her Influence Power, which before the Fall, would have remained unchecked, would—until the coming of the promised Deliverer and Restorer—have to be regulated by means of external restraints. For, apart from the internal control provided by the Holy Spirit, the Woman would continue to use her Influence Power to manipulate and control the Man, and he would use his Position Power to try and dominate her in an effort to keep her “in her place.”  For some examples of a Woman’s Influence Power gone horribly wrong, we need look no farther than the Old Testament…

— To Sarah who, through her Influence Power, convinced Abraham to have a child by her maid, Hagar, rather than wait for God to fulfill His promise;
— To Delilah who, through her Influence Power, succeeded in bringing down Israel’s most powerful judge, Samson; and,
— To Jezebel who, through her Influence Power, manipulated her weak-willed husband, Ahab, and corrupted Israel with her idolatry.

The Man

  • His habitation from then on would be among thorns and thistles, instead of the lush beauty he had experienced in the Garden.
  • His occupation would become a toil, instead of the pleasure that it had once been in the Garden.
  • His food would become difficult to obtain, instead of being readily available, as it had been in the Garden.
  • His life would be shortened and he would be returned to the soil, instead of living forever in the Garden of God’s Fellowship.

At this point, it is important for us to note that God’s Punishment on the Sexes here was in no way a Curse.  That’s because, back in Genesis 1: 28, God had already blessed the Man and Woman.  And, from what we learn later in Numbers 23: 8,20, when the prophet, Balaam, was hired by the king of Moab to curse Israel, each time he tried, a blessing would come out instead of a curse.  Balaam’s explanation at the time was this…

How can I curse whom God has not cursed?  How can I denounce whom God has not denounced?   …he has blessed, and I cannot revoke it.

Since that which God has blessed cannot be cursed, the only things to be cursed here were the Serpent and the Soil.  For the Serpent, there is no hope that his curse will ever be removed; but, for the Soil, there is such a hope, and it will be realized when God’s Promise to the Sexes has been fulfilled…

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.  For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now (Romans 8: 19-22).

  1. God’s Promise to the Sexes.

The Promise that God made to the Sexes may be hard for us to spot at first, and that’s because it’s contained in the unlikeliest of places—it was not given to the Sexes directly, but was first spoken of in the curse which God pronounced on the Serpent.  His Promise was that one day, a Holy Offspring would be born to the Woman—the One by whom Satan would finally be crushed, and all that the Sexes had lost in the Fall would be restored.  Of course, this Redeemer and Restorer was none other than Jesus Christ, who, through His obedience to the Father, not only secured our Salvation, but restored us to the Purposes of God.  Matthew Henry describes the work of Christ on our behalf in the following way…

How admirably the satisfaction our Lord Jesus made by his death and sufferings answered to the sentence here passed upon our first parents.

— Did travailing pains come in with sin? We read of the travail of Christ’s soul (Isaiah 53:11).
— Did subjection come in with sin? Christ was made under the law (Galatians 4:4).

— Did the curse come in with sin? Christ was made a curse for us, died a cursed death (Galatians 3:13).
— Did thorns come in with sin? He was crowned with thorns for us.
— Did sweat come in with sin? He for us did sweat as it were great drops of blood.
— Did sorrow come in with sin? He was a man of sorrows, his soul was, in his agony, exceedingly sorrowful.
— Did death come in with sin? He became obedient to death.[4]

Through His substitutionary death on the Cross—dying the death that should have been ours—Christ redeemed us from the power and the penalty of the Law, delivered us from bondage to sin and death, reconciled us to the Father, gifted us with eternal life, and empowered us with His Holy Spirit.  With the Spirit now living within us, writing God’s Laws on our hearts, the restraints previously imposed on us by the Old Testament Law are no longer needed.

Now, empowered from within by the Spirit of Christ, the Man can love his wife as Christ loves the Church, regard her as his equal in the work of the Lord, and not have to resort to his Position Power to dominate her into submission.  The Woman, empowered by the same Spirit, can respect her husband and submit to his leadership—for the sake of order—just as Christ has submitted to the leadership of the Father.  She can keep her Influence Power in check herself, making sure that it is used to glorify God and not to manipulate others—because…

Under the redemptive work of Christ, the woman is not only restored to fellowship with God but is restored to the position of partner with her male counterpart.  Therefore, she is no longer to be dominated or ruled by the male, because, if she were, it would mean that the redemptive work of Christ had not been successful.[5]

A Woman in Christ

If the Spirit of God can raise Christ from the dead, He can certainly control a Woman’s Influence Power

Scriptural Stumbling Blocks to a Woman’s Service

Now that we have established the fact that, in Christ, Male and Female are once again…

Equal in their standing before God;
Equal in their call to the work of God; and,
Equal in their blessing by God…

…why is it that Women are still being denied the freedom to exercise their God-given gifts of Leadership in His Service?  I think that, in most cases, it can be traced back to a misunderstanding of the two most troublesome Scripture passages that relate to Women.  Both of these were penned by Paul, with the first one being found in 1 Corinthians 14: 33-35…

For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says.  If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church…

…and, the second one being found in 1 Timothy 2: 11-15…

Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness.  I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.  For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.  Yet she will be saved through [the] childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.

Doesn’t the Church have more important issues to deal with than this?

The reason these passages have created so many problems is that they have, more often than not, been taken out of their immediate context; and, instead of being interpreted in light of the cultural conditions of the day, they have been isolated from the rest of the passage and elevated to the stature of a doctrine which, in its meaning, flies in the face of not only Paul’s but Jesus’ attitudes toward women.

For example, in his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul was dealing with a number of problems creating disorder in their church—problems such as spiritual pride, the misunderstanding and misuse of spiritual gifts, marital issues, confusion concerning the resurrection, and even incest.  Please note Paul’s emphasis on God not being a God of confusion, but of peace.  This is a good indication that there was confusion in the church, and it was being caused by some unruly women.

So what did Paul mean when he told the women to keep silent?  If he was indeed saying that women should not minister publicly, he was contradicting what he said earlier when he gave instructions for women’s dress code while prophesying!  There must be an explanation.  As we examine these verses, we will see that Paul was definitely not teaching against women ministering publicly.  Rather, he was correcting the way in which women were ministering in the Corinthian church.[6]

In his letter to Timothy, however, Paul was addressing a different set of problems; ones created as a result of false teaching infiltrating the church at Ephesus—the church where Timothy was ministering.  In all likelihood, this false teaching involved some “old wives’ tales” which were being passed down from the older women to the younger ones; tales promoting Eve, in her sin, as a benefactor to humanity, instead of as the transgressor that Paul later states she was.  To counter this heresy, Paul first addressed the women of the church in general, instructing them on how Godly women should dress and behave.  Then, he directed his attention to one woman in particular—the one most responsible for promoting the false doctrine—and commanded that she not be allowed to teach.  Instead…

Paul…commanded this woman to learn but not to teach.  Why?  Because she had been teaching false doctrine.  Therefore, Paul set aside the normal link between learning and teaching in her case.  For a season, she was being disciplined, corrected.  She couldn’t be allowed to continue spreading false doctrine.  It was time for her to abstain from teaching altogether and dedicate herself to study alone.

Paul silenced this woman not because she was a woman but because she was teaching false doctrine to others.[7]*

Now, concerning the question of women being saved through motherhood…

The phrase “the childbearing” is unique.  It isn’t found anywhere else in the New Testament…it’s a noun, dramatically preceded by the definite article (‘the childbearing’) to point to one particular childbearing…

‘The childbearing’ refers to the one mediator between God and persons, the person Christ Jesus, the promised seed of Eve, the Child born of a woman.  The issue at stake here was salvation, not motherhood.  Women aren’t saved by getting pregnant and having babies.  They’re saved by the child who was born–Jesus!  Throughout this passage, Paul was talking about how men and women are redeemed, not about how they procreate.  The central truth of this entire passage is Jesus and God’s desire for all to be saved through the promised childbearing.[8]

As for Jesus’ attitude toward women, I think we can agree that He always treated them with respect.  We have no record of Him ever rebuking a woman and telling her to be quiet, or forbidding her to minister in some fashion. Following His encounter with the woman at the well, she left Him and immediately went back to her town and started preaching about Jesus—something which He did not criticize or attempt to discourage.  It was to a group of women that He entrusted the good news of His resurrection, and it was to His Bride, the Church, that He entrusted the good news of His saving grace; charging her to use her Influence Power to convince the world of His Truth, and 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 (Matthew 28: 19-20).

Now, for those who may still have issues with Women in Leadership, I would like to offer this suggestion from Dr. Munroe…

…if you as a male have problems with a female preacher, I encourage you to close your eyes and listen to the spirit-man speaking.  This approach has helped many men.  Listen to what’s being said.  If the female house is the problem, then ignore the house and listen to the resident, the spirit-man within, because God speaks through the spirit-man.  It is the Spirit that gives life (2 Corinthians 3:6)[8]

…and, to bring this session to a close with this thought from J. Lee Grady…

Jesus’ blood was shed for all women, and it is the only covering they will ever need.  Blood-bought women don’t need a man to bring them closer to God.  Blood-bought women don’t need a man to legitimize their ministries.  Blood-bought women don’t need a man to ‘cover’ their spiritual endeavors or to replace the leadership of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

The blood of Christ is a woman’s true covering.  For the church to require anything more is to renounce our faith.[9]

In the Spirit-Man there is No Male and Female

*Since space and time will not permit a further examination of the passages here, I would like to suggest these books as resources for those interested in a more in-depth study of the subject…

Understanding the Purpose and Power of Woman, by Dr. Myles Munroe;
Why Not Women? by Loren Cunningham and David Joel Hamilton;
I Suffer Not a Woman, by Richard Clark Kroeger and Catherine Clark Kroeger;
10 Lies the Church Tells Women, by J. Lee Grady; and,
What Paul Really Said About Women, by John T. Bristow.

 

 

In keeping with the theme of this exercise, here is Shackles, by Mary Mary…

 

 

[1] Dr. Myles Munroe, Understanding the Purpose and Power of Woman (New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House, 2001), 185-186.

[2] Munroe, 189.

[3] Munroe, 187.

[4] Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan Publishing House, 1960), 11.

[5] Munroe, 191.

[6] Loren Cunningham and David Joel Hamilton, Why Not Women? (Seattle, Washington: YWAM Publishing, 2000), 185.

[7] Cunningham and Hamilton, 219.

[8] Cunningham and Hamilton, 224.

[9] Munroe, 197.

[10] J. Lee Grady, 10 Lies the Church Tells Women (Lake May, Florida: Charisma House, 2000), 100.

Service: Interrupted… by Devilish Design

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Service InterruptedFor some time now, we have been engaged in a workout program designed to help us become stronger and more effective followers of Jesus Christ.  Through this four-level series of increasingly difficult exercises, we are being challenged to grow in our knowledge and understanding of…

Salvation;
Sanctification;
Service; and,
Spiritual Warfare.

 Such knowledge is vital to our spiritual growth, for it is…

  • Through the study of Salvation and Sanctification that we learn who God wants us to be; and,
  • Through the study of Service and Spiritual Warfare that we learn what God wants us to do. 
Meaning of Life

These Exercises in God’s Word Will Help Us Answer Life’s Most Important Questions

As for who God wants us to be, to put it simply, He wants us to be born again so that we can be adopted into His Family, as children who can then be transformed spiritually into the image and likeness of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.

And, as for what He wants us to do, His will is for us to continue the good works which were begun by Christ, while bearing the image of God and the knowledge of His glory to the ends of the earth.

This mission is to be accomplished as His Family, also known as the Church…

  • Functions as a unified Body in the world, bringing the good news of Salvation to those who have yet to hear it;
  • Relates as a Family to its members, ministering to them and their needs in love; and,
  • Serves as a spiritual Army, advancing the Kingdom of God; crushing His enemies as they go and reclaiming their lost territory through the power of the Spirit.

Of course, the rule and reign of God over the earth is the last thing that God’s enemy, Satan (aka Lucifer and the devil), wants to see take place.  In Isaiah 14:12-14, we learn something of his alternative agenda…

How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn (Lucifer)…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 heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the most high’…

…an agenda in which he proposes to take the place of the Almighty, ruling over the earth and its inhabitants, so that he can receive the worship that rightfully belongs to God.  An audacious undertaking, to be sure, and one calling for no less than a devilishly-inspired plan for the subversion and supplanting of the will and work of God in the world.

Since God’s will is for men and women everywhere to be adopted as His children, it only makes sense that the first part of Satan’s plan would involve doing everything in his power to prevent this from taking place.  And, since God’s work for them—should they, despite Satan’s best efforts, succeed in becoming His children—is to carry out the work of His Kingdom while reflecting the image of God to the world around them, then the second part of Satan’s plan must surely involve the disruption of their service and the distortion of their godly images by any means possible.

Preventing Adoption

For some insight into Satan’s cunning strategy for the thwarting of God’s Program of Adoption, we need look no further than Genesis 3, where it is laid out clearly for us in the story of Adam and Eve’s temptation.  Although this is the first time this scheme was employed, because it was such a resounding success, it is the one that Satan continues to use in his efforts to keep men and women from coming to God.  Here, then, is the pattern it follows…

  1. First, Satan (in the form of the serpent here) subtly casts doubt on the Word of God:

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”

  1. This reveals or exposes a human ignorance and subsequent misuse of the Word of God:

And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’”

  1. Next, Satan completely contradicts God’s Word and replaces it with a Lie:

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.”

  1. After which, he causes them to question God’s goodness and motives, intimating that God is withholding something good from them:

“For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

  1. He follows this up first with an appeal to their physical desires, then to their reason and their emotions, and ultimately to their prideful desire for independence and self-sufficiency:

So 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.

With the completion of this action—that is, with the elevation and execution of human self-will over the expressed and divine will of God—the once-intimate relationship and previously blissful fellowship between God and mankind is destroyed;

  1. …leaving the man and the woman trying in vain to cover up their sin through their own inadequate resources:

Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths…

  1. …and, resulting in their flight from the presence of God:

And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

Here, by playing upon man’s ignorance of God’s true character and intentions, Satan is able to cast God in the role of villain; one whose chief aim is to rob humans of the joys and pleasures that life offers.  And, through his successful appeal to the fleshly desires of his human victims, he insures that their wills, which originally were intended to be used for the implementation of God’s purposes on the earth, will forever be dedicated to satisfying the lustful demands of their bodies and souls.

At this point, if Satan had his way, this would be the end of the story; for in this one brief but momentous encounter, he has achieved his goal of separating the man and the woman from God, and of making them (and all their future descendants) slaves not only to sin and death but also to him.

Fortunately, though, for both them and us, the story doesn’t end here; for in His grace and mercy…

the LORD God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you? …’

…inviting him and the woman to come back to Him, where they could receive forgiveness and His provisional covering for their sins…

And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them…

…a provision made possible through the substitutionary death of an innocent animal.

Today, this provision is still available to sinners—or, those who are presently alienated from God because of their willful or ignorant disobedience—as a result of the substitutionary death of God’s Son, the sinless Lamb of God, Jesus Christ.  For…

It is clear that, though Satan may have triumphed over the first Adam and thereby become the god and prince of this world, he himself was perfectly and finally triumphed over and judged by the last Adam on the cross. [1]

And, for all those who hear and respond to God’s call, it is this triumph and judgment which assures them of a gracious and loving reception, as well as a swift and sure adoption into the Family of God.

Support Adoption

Supporting Adoption Will Defeat Satan’s Efforts to Keep People from Jesus

Disruption of Service

Without a doubt, it would be a wonderful thing if, following his unsuccessful attempts at preventing their adoptions into the family of God, Satan would cease his harassment of God’s children.   Unfortunately, this just isn’t going to happen because…

The master passion of Satan leads him not only to strive for the success of his own projects, but also to wage an unceasing warfare against Jehovah.  These two lines of activity are inseparable, for he cannot establish and develop his own kingdom, and at the same time permit his subjects to be translated out of his kingdom into another, especially when they remain in the midst as a living power and testimony against him.  Nor can he reasonably allow for the accomplishment of any of the projects of God, for it is predicted that at the completion of these his own doom will be at hand.[2]

And, it is for this reason that…

…he makes unceasing effort to mar the life and service of believers…

…because of the fact that unto the child of God is committed the great ministry of reconciliation; that by his testimony both in life and word, and by his prayers, the facts of redemption may be given to the world.  If Satan can cripple the believer’s service he accomplishes much in resisting the present purpose of God.[3]

Therefore, when he sees that he is unable to prevent a believer’s adoption and, because once it has been done, it cannot be undone, Satan’s commences with his next plan of attack, which is to try to render as ineffective the life and service of the new believer, through the marring of his “testimony both in life and word, and…his prayers.”   Toward this end, and making use of every devious ploy in his arsenal, he redirects his energies toward keeping the believer…

Faithless;
Fussing and Fighting; and,
Fatigued and Fed up.

Bible Blindness

For Satan, Our Ignorance of the Bible is His Bliss

 No Faith = NO Service

Because Satan knows that…

…without faith it is impossible to please him [God] (Hebrews 11:60);

…according to your faith it [will] be done to you (Matthew 9:29);

…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 (Matthew 17:20);

…whatever does not proceed from faith is sin (Romans 14:23);

…the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up (James 5:15);

…this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith (1 John 5:4)…

…and, that by faith, the people of God throughout the ages have…

…conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight (Hebrews 11: 33-34)…

…his aim is to do whatever is required to keep the child of God from increasing his faith.  Even though the child may have had sufficient faith to be saved, this enemy of his soul is determined that it not grow beyond that.  This being the case, how then should Satan go about achieving this end?

Well, the simplest and most effective way is to keep this new believer out of God’s Word.   Because he knows that…

Faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the Word of God (Romans 10:17);

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:6); and,

…the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrew 4:12)…

…Satan wants to ensure that the Bible is the last thing that the new child of God becomes familiar with.

However, keeping the believer’s faith in its embryonic state isn’t the only thing that Satan hopes to gain in all this; he looks forward to enjoying a number of other benefits as a result of maintaining the new Christian’s ignorance of God’s Word.  For instance, he knows that he can keep the believer unaware of God’s true nature, of God’s plans and purposes for humanity and the earth, and of the thing that he is most loath to be reminded of—which is, his own eventual defeat and doom.  Satan can also see that his victim remains in the dark about the spiritual resources already provided for him by God; resources such as the instructing and comforting ministry of the Holy Spirit, the power available to him through prayer, the spiritual giftings he received the moment he was reborn into the family of God, and the spiritual weapons at his disposal—weapons which will help insure his victory over Satan and his success as an overcomer in Christ.

This information is so critical to the success of the believer’s life that, in its absence, the child of God will fail to fulfill the very purpose for which he was saved.  Instead of living a life of dedicated service as a functioning part of the Body of Christ, as a loving member of the Family of God, and as a valiant warrior in the Army of God, he will succumb to the enemy’s lie that being a Christian is all about his participation in the forms and rituals observed by his local congregation, and about his achievement and maintenance of an outward form of morality and respectability, rather than an inward pursuit of holiness.  In short, he will learn to content himself with being religious instead of becoming righteous—something that God never wants to see happen to one of his children.

Satan's Tool Box

Satan’s Tool Box

Fussing and Fighting = NO Service

Unity, on the other hand, is something that God wants all of His children to experience; for, as we are told by the Psalmist…

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity (Psalm 133: 1).

In fact, the unity of God’s people is so important to the fulfillment of God’s purposes that it was one of the last things weighing on Christ’s mind before His death on the cross.  Just hours before his Crucifixion, and surrounded by His disciples in the Upper Room, He offered up this prayer to His Father…

I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, 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: 20-23).

Let’s reflect on the significance of what is being said here:  Jesus is stating, in no uncertain terms, that the oneness of believers is intended to be…

  • a revelation to the world of the Godhead itself—which, while plural in person, with each member maintaining His unique identity, remains singular and totally committed to its purpose; and,
  • a confirmation to the world that Jesus’ mission was not only ordained by God, but that it was also a demonstration of His love for them.

Wow, just think about this—what the world knows of God, and its capacity to acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God, are dependent upon one thing—and that is the unity of God’s Family here on earth!

With so much riding on it, then, it is no wonder that Satan has made the creation of disunity among believers one of his chief objectives.  He knows from his first-hand experience at the Tower of Babel just how much can be accomplished when people come together and are united in a single purpose.  For, as the Lord said at that time, when passing judgment on the people’s efforts…

Behold, they are one people, and they all have one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do.  And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible to them (Genesis 10:6).

Unfortunately for the church, when it comes to causing division among the ranks of believers, Satan doesn’t have to work very hard; in fact, from the moment our first parents chose self over God, his objective in this area has been very easy to achieve.  All he has to do to stir the pot among God’s children is…

  • Compare one person’s lot in life to another, and he can stir up envy;
  • See that a less qualified person is promoted over a more qualified one, and he can stir up resentment;
  • Have one person show a little too much interest in another person’s spouse, and he can stir up jealousy;
  • Encourage someone to say some unkind things about another, and he can stir up anger;
  • Have someone take advantage of another repeatedly, and he can stir up bitterness; or,
  • Allow someone to be caught in a lie, and he can stir up distrust.

With a few of these well-placed injuries to people’s feelings and pride, it will not be long before there is so much rancor and division among God’s people that agreement on anything becomes impossible; making null and void this promise made by Jesus in Matthew 18:19…

Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven…

…and bringing the service of the church to a screeching halt.

Wearing Down Believers

Satan Wants Us Fatigued, Frustrated, and Fed Up

Fatigued and Fed Up = NO Service

Having had so much success with these tactics, Satan has learned that if he can keep church members going through the motions of their faith, and if he can continue to harass them through the creation of dissension among their ranks, it also won’t be long before they become so worn out by it all that they give up any ideas they may have had about serving God and advancing His Kingdom.  Of course, this is exactly what Satan hopes to see take place in every believer’s life.  Since he can’t “unsave” them, then his next best option is to wear them down to the point where they, having lost all joy in their service to God, decide to abandon the fellowship of other believers and retreat to the sanctity of their own homes, where they vow to “worship” God on their own.

This, of course, will surely prove to be a defeat for them but a victory for Satan; for, even though God can be worshiped anywhere, from what we have learned during our previous exercises on the subject, God’s service is designed to be carried out within the community of believers known as the Church.  This is because…

  • There is no body which can function with only one part;
  • There is no one to love or be loved by in a family of one; and,
  • There is no army of one that will ever win a war, no matter how valiantly it fights.

And, it is for this reason that God not only encourages and but also expects His children to…

…not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9);

…lay aside every weight of sin which clings so closely, and…run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted (Hebrews 12: 1-3); and,

…hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another and all the more as you see the Day drawing near (Hebrews 11: 23-25).

Body of Christ

We Each Need to Find Our Place in the Body and Stay There

 

 

Selah reminds us that whatever the enemy throws at us, “We Press On”…

 

 

[1] Lewis Sperry Chafer, Satan: His Motive and Methods (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1964), 23.

[2] Chafer, Satan, 68.

[3] Chafer, Satan, 70-72.

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.