Understanding Jesus & The Role Of The Holy Spirit

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John 16:5-18

5 “Now I am going to him who sent me, yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 Because I have said these things, you are filled with grief. 7 But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; 10 in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.

12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.

16 “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.” 17 Some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,’ and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” 18 They kept asking, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand what he is saying.”

                                

It is painfully obvious that the disciples did not understand the deep spiritual truths that Jesus was trying to convey to them here.  It must have been difficult for Jesus on this last night of His life before His crucifixion to see His closest friends and followers not understand what He was telling them.  But He knew that they would one day understand, for He was able to promise them that the Holy Spirit would come after He was gone and would lead them into all truth concerning Him and His teachings.

Now Jesus does not use the name Holy Spirit here, but calls him “Counselor” and “Spirit of truth”.  We know from John 14:26 that “the Counselor” and “the Holy Spirit” are one and the same.  I believe that is quite significant these names that John uses for the Holy Spirit.  Notice that in other English versions, they translate the Greek word in verse 7 as “Advocate”.  John is using legal terminology here.  And you might be asking, “So what’s going on here, and why are these titles for the Holy Spirit important?”

Jesus knew that the disciples would soon be on their own in the sense that He would be going back to the Father in Heaven (v. 5).  And Jesus also knew that the disciples would be facing a hostile world that stood opposed to Him and to the Gospel message of salvation through Christ.  (Read John 15:18 – 16:4 and read my last article “The Cost of Discipleship”.)  Jesus knew that the disciples would need help to stand up for truth and righteousness.

    

And so He lets them (and us) know that we are not alone in this battle against sin and evil that is in this world.  Verses 8-11 say that the Holy Spirit, acting as our legal Counselor, will stand up and help us to correct the wrongful thinking of the world concerning sin, righteousness and judgment.  What does this mean?

When the world says, “Do as you please, for truth is relative and morality is defined subjectively by each individual,” the Spirit of Truth will confirm within us and to the world that pursuing a self-serving life apart from God is to sin against the Almighty God.  Jesus also said that “No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)  The religious leaders crucified Jesus for this, but when He rose from the dead, He proved that He was right and also innocent of their charge of blasphemy.  And so the Spirit declares Him righteous, and we as Christians can be assured of this truth also.

Jesus was challenged by Satan himself, who is referred to here as the “prince of this world”.  Satan tried to tempt Jesus to worship him and in doing so would be given all the wealth and power that this world has to offer.  (Matthew 4:8-9)  But only the True God is worthy of our worship, and the treasures of this world will all fade away and be useless in the life to come.  And so the Spirit will help us to realize these lies of the devil, and he will ultimately be judged by God as the “Great Deceiver”.

    

What is the bottom line here?  Jesus came to teach us about the truths of God and the Kingdom of Heaven which belongs to all true believers in Christ.  Sin was blocking all people though from full access to the truth and to Heaven, and so He died to open the door for forgiveness.  And after He ascended to Heaven, He sent the Holy Spirit to live within all believers, and he strengthens us in our understanding of who Jesus is, and is able to convince us that the “prince of this world” is doomed and has no more authority over our lives.  Hallelujah!!  Jesus paid our debt of sin, and has set us free to live in Truth.  Do you believe that?

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Overcoming Discouragement By Our Faith – Pt. 5

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In the article two weeks ago, I mentioned that I struggled quite a bit during my first long-term period of being a missionary.  That was when I was serving with Teen Missions and my summer experience turned out to be 18 months in length as I kept extending my time with the mission group.  There were so many new issues to deal with, both cross-culturally and in the relationships I had with my fellow missionaries.

It is now coming up to 35 years for me of being involved in mission experiences, so I guess you could say that I am a “veteran” missionary.  I think I can say that I have grown quite a bit over the years and am able to handle the hard issues that a missionary faces on a regular basis.  And yet at the same time, there are some things that don’t change.  Life is still challenging on the mission field, the Enemy does not let up on his assault, and people can still be difficult to work with.

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I just recently shared with some of my colleagues that there are times when it is good to have a focused time of prayer and fasting.  This would be true when we seem to be facing difficulties that are physically and emotionally challenging, but also when we sense that there is spiritual opposition and/or oppression that is coming against us.

I reminded the group that fasting was a spiritual discipline that was regularly practiced by God’s people throughout the Old Testament period and has continued up until today.  As you might already know, Jesus Himself did not say, “If you fast…” but rather “When you fast….”  One of my translator resources said that “the three primary expressions of piety [for Jews] were charity, prayer and fasting.” (Translator’s Handbook on Matthew for Mt. 6:16-18)

Fasting is normally considered to be a voluntary abstinence from food for the purpose of dedicating one’s self to a time of prayer and drawing close to God.  I certainly recommend this practice as a way to face the difficulties of life and the attacks of the enemy.  James 4:7-8 aptly ties two important spiritual truths together: when we resist the Devil, he will flee from us, and when we draw close to God, He will draw close to us.

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We are encouraged in Scripture to have faith in God, to worship Him and be a praying people when we face difficult times.  James 5:13-15 mentions all of these things as a means to deal with sicknesses that can hit us and sins that we may have committed.  We are also encouraged in Scripture to do battle with our spiritual enemy, the Devil.  Read Ephesians 6:10-18 to understand that many battles we face in life may be spiritual in nature and must be dealt with spiritually.

There are so many more verses that could be mentioned in this whole topic of learning how to stand strong and do battle against the forces that hit us and wear us down.  We must always be ready in our prayers to fight against sickness that disables us, sin that entangles us, and Satan who want to destroy us and our faith in God.

All of this is true, but we must not keep our attention focused solely on the negative side of this great battle that we are in.  If we were to only think about the challenges and difficulties that we face when sickness, sin or Satan come at us, then we probably would end up feeling spiritually fatigued all the time.  I believe that we must also have our focus centered in on the positive side of the victory that is provided for us in Christ.

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When we face great difficulties (whether physically, spiritually or emotionally), we need to pray like Elisha did for his servant when the vast armies of Aram were totally surrounding the city they were in.  Elisha asked God to open the eyes of his servant to see the “REAL” reality of the battle.  God heard that prayer and suddenly the servant saw the vast army of God’s angels who would win the battle for them.

We also need to have our minds opened and attuned to God’s way of thinking.  Romans 12:2 says that we must no longer be conformed to the pattern of this world.  That means that when it is natural to worry, to be afraid, to seek for power, wealth or fame, we are acting in a worldly way.  Instead, the verse says that we can be transformed people when we have our minds renewed by God, and then we will see and understand how good God’s will and God’s ways are and we will be able to follow in that path.

The third part of our selves that we need to focus in on to have a victorious life is to open up our hearts to the full measure of the love of God.  Read Ephesians 3:16-19.  Paul is praying that we all might come to understand just how broad, deep and wide the love of God is for us.  And when we do immerse ourselves into His love, accepting all that the Father has done for us and will do for us out of that love, then Scripture says that our inner being, our heart and soul, will be strengthen by the power of the Holy Spirit.

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So what am I saying in all of this?  I do understand that all of us will face difficult periods in our lives due to the effects of sickness, sin in the world, and the attacks of Satan against us.  But we must not keep our attention focused in on just these problems.  We need to open up our eyes, our mind and our hearts, not physically, but spiritually, to see the victory that God through Christ has obtained for us.  And then we need to walk in the power of that victory as a transformed person, able to overcome these discouragements by our faith.

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How To Break The Power Of Satan

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John 12: 27 – 36

27 “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.”

29 The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.

30 Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. 31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32 But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” 33 He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.

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34 The crowd spoke up, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ will remain forever, so how can you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this ‘Son of Man’?”

35 Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going. 36 Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light.” When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them.

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Most of us like to do something very special to mark a significant day or event.  Just look at any calendar and you see that there is pretty much one kind of holiday or celebration within every month of the year.  Within the family, we also celebrate events like birthdays and anniversaries.  Some of these events are even more special than all the others and so we go way out of our way to mark them as being special.

I remember when we were in the village and our older son turned 12, the last birthday before becoming a teenager.  We had a group visiting us from the States at that time and we really made a party out of it.  Then we topped it off by giving our son his very own guitar, a really big thing for him.  When our son turned 16 four years later, we found 16 different ways to give him presents, and then I had three important Christian leaders who knew our son well to each individually pray with him and give him good spiritual advice.

We also made sure to celebrate and honor our younger son when he had a significant moment in his life.  Turning 21 is a big thing for young people, as that marks the day of becoming recognized as an adult.  I still remember his great joy when we gave him that special leather jacket he had wanted, but was too expensive.  But with the right sunglasses, he looked just like an Air Force bomber pilot.  (Except of course that he wanted to join the Army, not the Air Force.)

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So what do we see as being significantly special in our passage above?  Jesus spoke to God, His Father in heaven, wanting to praise God for being so wonderful (the root idea of “glory”).  And guess what?  God spoke back, and received the honor given to Him by His Son.  Others heard God’s voice, but they thought it was like thunder.

This was now the third time that God had spoken out loud to Jesus, His Son.  God first spoke out loud to Jesus at His baptism at the beginning of His ministry on earth, and then at His transfiguration on the mountain, when Jesus talked with Moses and Elijah about His upcoming death and resurrection (read Luke 9:28-36).  God made Himself known at these special and critical moments in the life of His Son Jesus.

Just a few days before this event, crowds of people had celebrated the entrance Jesus made on a donkey riding into Jerusalem.  They thought He had come to take His place as the coming King who would rule over all Israel and free them from their enemies.  They were partly right about the purpose of Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem, but what they did not know is that Jesus would win the victory over Satan by dying on the cross to break the power of sin and Satan.

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Even though the people did not know that Jesus only had a few more days to live before being crucified, Jesus knew what was about to happen.  He who was the “Light of the World” would lose His life at the hands of evil men.  And so Jesus warned the people that they needed to put their trust in Him before it was too late.

Praise God, Jesus did not stay buried in the tomb, but rose again three days later in majestic power and supreme authority over death, and Satan and sin.  In this way, it is never too late for any of us to put our trust in Jesus, the Creator of Life, and the Victor over Death.  None of us would like to be floundering in life in total darkness, and in a similar way, in spiritual terms, if people would truly understand that without Jesus they are in spiritual darkness, then I think more people would entrust their lives to Jesus.

And that is how we can break the power of Satan today in our lives.  We do not have the spiritual strength or authority to conquer our nature of sinfulness and the attacks of Satan upon our lives.  But if Jesus lives within our hearts, then His Light of Life will shine brightly in our lives and lead us along the path of forgiveness for sins and the power to overcome our enemy, Satan.  Take heed my friend, for you do not know when your time is over and it might be too late.  Come to Jesus now.

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Who Are The Children Of God?

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John 8:38 – 47

38 I am telling you what I saw when I was with my Father. But you are following the advice of your father.” 39 “Our father is Abraham!” they declared. “No,” Jesus replied, “for if you were really the children of Abraham, you would follow his example. 40 Instead, you are trying to kill me because I told you the truth, which I heard from God. Abraham never did such a thing. 

41 No, you are imitating your real father.” They replied, “We aren’t illegitimate children! God himself is our true Father.” 42 Jesus told them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, because I have come to you from God. I am not here on my own, but he sent me. 

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43 Why can’t you understand what I am saying? It’s because you can’t even hear me! 44 For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies. 

45 So when I tell the truth, you just naturally don’t believe me! 46 Which of you can truthfully accuse me of sin? And since I am telling you the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47 Anyone who belongs to God listens gladly to the words of God. But you don’t listen because you don’t belong to God.”

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This passage is the second of three in which Jesus is talking specifically with those who were professing to say that they believed in Him.  Go back to verse 31 and you will see how Jesus switches His audience from the whole crowd of Jews gathered there in the temple in Jerusalem, to “the people who believed in Him.”

Having said that, this makes it even more shocking as we look at what it was that Jesus says to these people.  In this passage, Jesus accused these people of not being true descendants of Abraham, but rather that they were liars, rejecters of Jesus and His teachings, and doers of evil like their father the devil.  Ultimately, Jesus says that they were not true believers in Him.

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Wow!!  That sounds extremely harsh, doesn’t it?  Especially in light of verse 31 which identified them as “people who believed in Jesus.”  I encourage you then to go back and read last week’s article, “The Truth Will Set You Free.”  In that article, I suggest that while these people may have given mental assent to the truth statement that Jesus was the Messiah, they were not prepared to give their whole lives over to Jesus and move from theoretical knowledge about Jesus to experiential knowledge of Jesus.

Now before we look at the details of this passage, let us remind ourselves that just as other verses in the Gospels point out, Jesus always knew what was in the hearts of the people with whom He talked.  So let us look for clues in this passage which will help to reveal to us what was really going on in the hearts of the people.

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As I looked more closely at this passage, I believe I discovered at least four places which give us some insights into the state of their hearts.  First of all, in verse 38, see how Jesus refers to “my Father” and “your father”?  Everyone by this point would know that Jesus was stating that “His Father” was God.  So note the response of the people when Jesus mentioned “your father”.  They immediately state, “Abraham is our father.”

Sorry folks, that’s the wrong answer.  We should never place a person in the place of God.  And this obviously shows that these people were concerned more about their blood lineage to a man of faith, than being concerned about their relationship with God.  They were believing that by following the examples of Abraham, that they would be found worthy by God.

But even if rituals could win over relationship with God, Jesus went on to point out that they were not really following Abraham’s example anyways.  Scripture tells us that “Abraham believed God and was then considered righteous.”  But his righteousness was backed up with obedience to God’s words.  And these people were even thinking about killing Jesus because they could not accept His words of truth.

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So Jesus implies that they follow the pattern of a different father, meaning Satan.  The people catch that barb and throw one right back by saying, “We are not illegitimate children!”  Here again, the old rumor surfaced about the idea that Joseph and Mary conceived Jesus outside of marriage and that would make Jesus an illegitimate son.  They turned the attention off of themselves who were not obedient children of God, and they turned instead to name calling and mud slinging (false) accusations at Jesus.

Finally, Jesus makes it quite plain.  Not only were these people not really wanting to receive His teachings, and thus they find they were not even in a position to understand what He taught, but Jesus clearly pointed out that they “love to do evil things” just like the devil would have them do.

So we can now clearly see, the hearts of these people were still being ruled by sin and Satan.  There is no room in such a heart for God to do His work of forgiveness and make such a person a child of God.  No, a true child of God has turned his/her back on sin and renounced Satan and accepted Jesus and His teachings into his/her life.  And so I ask in closing, “Are you a true child of God?”

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Satan Is The True Enemy – Pt. 2

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“GOD’S STORY, your story” – Pt. 4

As mentioned two weeks ago, at the end of Max Lucado’s book, “GOD’S STORY, your story“, there are study questions and activities to consider that relate to each chapter.  I invite you to read the book, and look over the entire question and application section.  In my articles, I will usually only pick up on two or three questions and relate them to my own experiences. 

                                          

Chapter 2: When God’s Story Becomes Yours….
YOU KNOW SATAN’S NEXT MOVE

Question #1: This chapter talks about the distractions of “possessions and problems.”  Share with the group the distractions you seem to encounter most — distractions that keep you from engaging the story of God in Scripture.

Most people know that the ministry work I do is Bible translation.  Our family lived out in a remote village in Papua New Guinea for five years.  During that time, I learned the language and culture of the people, and helped to get the Gospel of Mark translated into their language.  Thankfully, I had a basic word list, a grammar paper of the language and some notes on Mark from the man who had started the language project years before we got there.

In light of all the resources I had, it still surprises some people at how long it still took us to finally finish and translate Mark.  The reason is that there is so much more involved than just doing translation when you live out in these remote villages.  The translator before me also built the house we lived in out of hewn and planed timbers from trees in the jungle.  That was nice, but the upkeep seemed to be never ending.  In those five years, I also learned to become a carpenter, a plumber, an electrician, a small engine mechanic, and much more.

I found then that this nice home out in the jungle often became a distraction from what I had come to PNG to do, to give God’s Word to the people who had never had the Bible in their language before.  But I know I spent a lot of time making sure that our own family was safe and secure and comfortable, while all around me the national people were living in small huts made out of jungle material that usually fell down in about five years.  I would not call this a direct scheme of the Devil, but I do have to be honest that my “mansion” was a barrier between me and the people.

Question #2: What kind of personal attacks does the Enemy plot?  How does he attempt to divide people?  Have you seen the Devil at work?  Do you tend to underestimate or overestimate the Devil’s activity?

Let me continue now to give some other background to our life in the village that shows how Satan has been (and still is in places) very active in dividing the people and attacking them with lies that destroy people’s lives.  One legend that is popular in PNG is the creation story.  In this story there are two brothers who either through their positive creative energies, or through their negative battles for supremacy, created the spark of life and the world came into existence.

The story continues with the elder brother leaving the younger brother on this island called PNG.  The older brother was going to go out into the world and discover all the riches and treasures and wisdom that the world contained, while the younger brother was left behind with nothing.   But the legend says that one day the older brother would come back and be reunited with the younger brother and share all the goods (called cargo) and the secrets to obtaining them.

Interestingly, some of the PNG legends end by saying that the older brother, when he came back, was a white-skinned man.  So…imagine what some of the people in the villages around us thought when the translator before me was going to come back after being away for almost ten years and join me in a “return celebration”.  Word went out, and immediately the legend rumours were ignited and it was thought that this other translator and I were finally going to tell the secret to get the “cargo” or material possessions of this world.

    

What’s sad is to realize that many of these people who live in this remote area have seen many “rich white people” come with huge amounts of clothing, food, amazing gadgets and objects with them.  And we never seem to “work” for what we have.  (Sitting at a desk over a laptop all day is work??)  And they never see us use money out in the bush.  We would just ask over our two-way radio for more goods and supplies, and presto, there they were on the next plane.  No wonder they thought we knew the right “magic”.

The end result from our big “celebration day” is that we had a wonderful reunion with our friend who came out to our village.  But none of the villagers received this magic cargo from the skies.  And this produced such heated arguments that it almost started an inter-tribal war.  Thankfully, I had been told what was going on, and I was able to hold an all-evening teaching/preaching time of explaining that these pursuits for material wealth do not come from God.  These evil desires come from Satan.

That is what we need to remember most.  The material objects themselves are not evil, but in Satan’s hands they become so if our focus is twisted to be only pursuing after them, instead of pursuing after a better relationship with our God.  How easy it is to let the things of this world distract us from seeking after our God.  Our true enemy in all of this is Satan.

                                          

[God’s Story, Your Story] Max Lucado.  Copyright [Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2011]  Used by permission.

Satan Is The True Enemy – Pt. 1

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“GOD’S STORY, your story” – Pt. 3

In Chapter Two of “GOD’S STORY, your story,” Max Lucado reminds us of how dangerous our true enemy is, whom we call “Satan”. Lucado gives us an overview of the great battle that occurred in the Judean desert so long ago between Jesus and Satan. Jesus is tempted to “look out for number one” (to turn stones into bread because He was hungry).

Then Satan encourages Jesus to show off His great powers and impress the religious people by jumping off the Temple pinnacle and having thousands of angels swoop in and rescue Him. And finally, Satan tries to bribe Jesus by offering to Him all the riches of the world, if only Jesus would bow down and worship him.

But as Lucado says, “Satan just showed his cards. He wants worship. He wants you and me to tell him how great he is. He wants to write his own story in shich he is the hero and God is an afterthought.” (p. 50)

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What Lucado does very well in this chapter, is to give us a clear of how devious Satan is, and how much we must remain on guard against all of his crafty schemes and strategies to tear us away from God. In fact, as Lucado points out, the root word for “devil” which is a character trait of Satan carries within it the idea of “splitter” or “divider”. And he will use any means possible to do just that, keep us divided and separated from God.

This all reminds me of one of C. S. Lewis’ most famous best seller books called, “The Screwtape Letters.” In this book, the main character is Uncle Wormword, one of the senior demons of Satan, who (fictitiously) wrote letters to his much junior demon Screwtape, who happened to be his nephew.

What is fascinating about Lewis’ book is that he suggests that some of the best strategies of Satan are not the all-out-frontal attacks that we might expect. But rather, Satan often succeeds the best if we end up being complacent about our spirituality and do nothing to pursue a relationship with God. But if Satan must step in, he will use such sly tactics as materialism, self-centered egos, or just plain old busyness of life.

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Listen to how Lucado points out these very same thoughts on pages 42 – 43:

Distraction would work better. I hate spiritual focus. When you or one like you gazes intently on God for any length of time, you begin to act like Him. A nauseating sense of justice and virtue comes over you. You talk to God, not just once a week, but all the time. Intolerable.

So I’d perch myself on every corner and stairwell of your world, clamouring for your attention. I’d flood you with e-mails and to-do lists. Entice you with shopping sprees and latest releases and newest styles. Burden you with deadlines and assignments.

If I were the devil, I’d so distract you with possessions and problems that you’d never have time to read the Bible.

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I believe this last sentence of the quote above should be sounding an alarm for all of us who are believers in Christ. If we think that there is no time in our lives to read God’s word on a regular basis, then our lives are out of balance with what is truly important. Even worse, if any of us think we don’t need to be reading God’s Word as part of our daily and weekly lives, then Satan will find it that much more easy to bend us to his will, rather than God’s Word bending us to God’s will.

Here, let’s get even more clear and specific about who we are up against. Scripture describes Satan in the following ways (quoted from pages 45 – 46):

Serpent (Genesis 3:14; Revelation 12:9; 20:2)            Enemy (Matthew 13:25, 39)
Tempter (Matthew 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 3:5)               Father of Lies (John 6:44)
Evil One (Matthew 13:19; 1 John 2:13 – 14)                Deceiver (Revelation 12:9)
Dragon (Revelation 12:7, 9; 20:2)                               Roaring Lion (1 Peter 5:5)
Prince of Demons (Mark 3:22)

These are only some of the names that are used to describe what Satan is like. I’m sure we can find much more in Scripture to tell us just exactly who our true spiritual enemy is.

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So what is the point of all this discussion? Namely this: if we are to really understand how the story of our lives fit into the bigger story of God’s life, then we need to also realize that while we are in this life, and this world, Satan too is a part of that picture. We should not be taken by surprise as much as we are when bad and terrible things happen. There is an author behind all this — Satan.

What we need to do is to follow the example that Jesus gave to us when He faced off with Satan in the wilderness. We must be confident of who God is. We must continually be reading God’s Word and putting it into our hearts so that we have the spiritual tools to fight back against Satan. And we must trust that God can and will bring us through these times of spiritual wilderness experiences as well as the spiritual battles that come our way in life.

An excellent preacher I know has said that research into spirituals habits show that reading the Bible up to three times a week shows little improvement in the overall wellbeing of a person (emotionally, spiritually, and otherwise). But those who read the Bible on average four times a week or more, have better marriages, families, church experiences, general health and success in business. So what are you waiting for. Get out your Bibles, turn to God, and resist Satan and his ways. He is the Enemy.

[God’s Story, Your Story] Max Lucado.  Copyright [Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2011]  Used by permission.

Our Battles With Satan – Part 2

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How To Do Battle With Satan

My article two weeks ago ended with the words, “Engage in battle against our true enemy – Satan.”  We don’t often talk this way to one another, but we must realize that we are in fact in the middle of a spiritual war.  Mark Atteberry in his book “Walking With God on the Road You Never Wanted to Travel” says this on page 57:

His goal for the last two thousand years has been twofold: to keep unbelievers right where they are and to destroy the faith of believers.  Therefore, every grave you see along the hard road you happen to be traveling represents a victory for him.  Every time a believer gives up the struggle, Satan laughs and thumbs his nose at God.

Personally, I find it distressing when I hear of Christians in North America not taking Satan seriously.  For some, the idea of Satan has been watered down to see him as a funny cartoon figure in a red suit, pointed tail and pitchfork that has him be just a nuisance or a little voice in the ear whispering to people to show them how they can have more “fun”.

For others, Satan is not even real at all.  Either the “love of God” is emphasized which makes them rule out the idea of the existence of an evil Being, or the physical materialism of our culture has masked over the reality of the spiritual realm.  Sometimes Christians actually play around with the spiritual realm, but they don’t know that they are playing with fire.  Let me tell you a story.

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Many years ago, when I was going to Youth Group, we went to another city for a youth conference.  Our group shared the basement of a church with another group.  On one of the afternoons, I was back at this church with some of the other youth and they decided the conference was boring and they wanted to have some fun.  So one guy turned to a girl and asked if she wanted to black out again.

When I heard that, I was immediately concerned.  But the guy said, “Don’t worry, we’ve done this lots of times.  It’s fun!”  So the girl (who was probably only 5′ 3″ and weighed maybe 110 lbs) started to breathe real fast and hyperventilate.  Her face turned red and then she held her breath.  The guy then picked her up and squeezed her real hard until she blacked out and her body went completely limp.

The girl was eased on to the floor and the group waited.  Slowly the girl got up and opened her eyes and her eye balls had turned back into the sockets so all we could see were the whites of her eyes.  Then suddenly she started to lash out and punch the guys while they tried to hold her.  I was shocked and dumbfounded as I saw this petite girl fight off five guys that were so much bigger than her.  Then she finally slumped down semi-conscious and we waited….and waited….and waited.

The guy who had begun this started to get nervous, and I asked how long she had ever been like this before.  He said the longest was about 6 or 7 minutes.  This time it took over 15 minutes for her to come back to her normal conscious self.  Now I don’t know what others might think.  The group thought it was real funny (after she finally recovered).  But from what I had witnessed, I believe that I may have witnessed a person open themselves up to demon possession.  And that is NOT funny.

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What does our author have to say to all of this.  How are we to do battle against our enemy, Satan.  Atteberry says there are four things that we can do to “confound and frustrate the devil’s efforts to destroy you” (pg. 59-63):

  • First, you can take control of your thought life.
Paul makes it quite clear in 2 Corinthians 10:4 – 5 that our battles are primarily in the spiritual realm, and that includes our thought life.  He says, “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
  • Second, stay in fellowship with other people who are actively resisting the devil.
Regular fellowship with other strong believers is critical to our spiritual health.  Hebrews 10:24 – 25 says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,  not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
  • Third, if you’re serious about resisting the devil, pray like crazy.
Ephesians 6:10 – 17 is the well-known passage about the “Armor of God” that we are to put on if we are going to fight the spiritual realms of darkness.  But verse 18 really needs to be attached to this passage, and note what we must do in addition to wearing and using the armor of God, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
  • Finally, if you’re serious about resisting the devil, always run from trouble.
Running away from situations that we know in advance may cause us to stumble or be tempted to do something wrong is not a weakness.  Actually it is the sign of a strong person to know your areas of weakness and avoid them rather than to test or tempt yourself.

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There is so much more that needs to be said on this topic of the reality of Satan and our need to do battle with him on the spiritual level.  The most important thing in our study together here is to keep on keeping on the journey of faith, no matter how difficult it may seem at times.  Do not let Satan fool you into thinking that he can have the victory over you.  In Christ, we are always victorious in the end.

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