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.

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.

And Now, the Drama Begins…

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When our last meeting ended, we were left waiting—imagine a drum roll here—poised for the drama of the ages which was about to unfold before us.   Today, as we come together again, this is how we find the stage set for us:  the first man and woman have been created, they are living in a garden paradise which has been prepared especially for them; they are living in an idyllic state of innocence; plus, they have been entrusted with a specific word of instruction from God, concerning the tree that was growing in the center of their garden.

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Adam and Eve in the Garden

As we learned last time, man had been created for the express purpose of becoming a “Son” or a child of God; however, we also learned that before that could ever happen, he would have to be found righteous, or to be in right standing with God—in other words, he would have to be holy, just like God, His Father.  (As the old saying goes, “like Father, like son,” so, we can hardly expect a holy God to go around fathering a family of “unholy” children, now can we?)

Of course, this would mean that before the innocent man could be found righteous in the eyes of God he would have to be tested and then maintain his innocence in the face of that testing, thereby demonstrating that he could be trusted with the awesome responsibilities of “Sonship,” which is nothing other than the carrying out the will of God on the earth.  And, if he could prove that he trusted the Word of God enough to obey it, then that Word would be all that he would need to overcome any temptation presented to him by the flesh, the world, and the devil.

Let’s take a moment to consider the real situation here.  For the first man and woman, there were no parents, grandparents, in-laws, children, bosses, or co-workers; no government authorities, bureaucracies, taxes, traffic jams, or irritating friends or nosy neighbors to deal with, or to blame.  They were living in ideal circumstances—in perfect health, in the perfect home, in the perfect neighborhood, working at the perfect job—and they were wanting for nothing.  They were even living in the very presence of God, meeting and conversing with Him daily—Wow, what a treat that must have been!  Every physical, emotional, and spiritual need was being met.  There was nothing, absolutely nothing, hindering their relationship with God and with one another, until…and this is where the lights go up, the orchestra commences with it melodic strains, our characters appear on stage, and today’s action begins…

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Face to Face with Temptor

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?'”  

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.'”  

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.  For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  

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.  

Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked.  And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.  Genesis 3: 1-7 (ESV)

At this point, our director yells, “Cut!,” and all action ceases for the moment so that we can analyze what has just happened in these few but epic moments in human history.  In case you missed it:

  • The Serpent (or as we are told in Revelation 20:2, “…that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan”) has come in the guise of an animal serpent and presented himself to the woman.
  • That is, the “Tempter” (for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light, 1 Cor. 11:14) has come masquerading as a creature from the lowest level of authority in an effort to entice the next one  in line over him to disobey the Word of God so he can undermine and overthrow God’s established authority structure.
  • He does this by causing her to:
    – doubt God’s Word…“Has God said…?”
    – question God’s goodness…God is withholding important information from you…
    – accept a lie for the truth…“You will not die…”…, and
    – believe that they could become gods themselves through their own efforts…“You will be like God…”.
  • In this brief interchange, the Tempter has launched a full-scale attack on the woman’s body, her soul, and her spirit, and she didn’t even see it coming.  So “…when the woman saw that the tree was good for food (body), and that it was a delight to the eyes (soul), and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise (spirit), she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.”
  • Please note the order here, it is very important:  the serpent/animal goes to the woman, the woman goes to the man, but the man does not go to God.  Instead, he ignores the Word of God and acts in response to the circumstances at hand, and according to his own reasoning and desires.  And it’s at that moment…we hear the colossal cosmic cymbals crash!
  • For, in that moment, God’s established order has been turned upside down; man’s spirit has died and with its death, sin, sickness, and physical death have gained entry into the world; man has, for the time being, lost the precious right of “Sonship” with God and has, instead, enslaved himself and all of his descendants to sin and Satan; and, as such, he has lost his right to exercise dominion over the earth, for that has been transferred to the Serpent himself.

What a cosmic catastrophe!  It is absolutely mind-boggling to think that the actions of just two people, living on such a small piece of real estate in some unidentified area of the world, could alter so radically not only their destinies but the destinies of every single person who would ever live, as well as the very planet that they and their future generations would call home.  And yet, that is exactly what happened; and all because two people who had everything doubted God’s Word, questioned God’s goodness, exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and believed—and tried unsuccessfully—to become God through their own works.  Have you ever wondered if, given the same set of circumstances, you would have done anything differently?   Have you ever thought about how different things would be today if only they had obeyed the Word of God—or, considered how different things might be for each of us if only we would obey the God’s Word?  

 

Smiley Face with Earphones2      “Word of God Speak” by Kutless