My Heart, In His Hands

Related image(Psalm 86:11) Teach me Your ways, O Lord; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name.

Below is a puritan prayer, from the devotional Book “The Valley of Vision”. As you read, let it be your prayer, your heart’s desire and proclamation–Mike

I am a stranger, with a stranger’s indifference; my hands hold a pilgrim’s staff, my march is Zionward, my eyes are toward the coming of the Lord, my heart is in Thy hands without reserve.

Thou hast created it, redeemed it, renewed it, captured it, conquered it.

Keep from it every opposing foe, crush in it every rebel lust, mortify every treacherous passion, annihilate every earth born desire.

All faculties of my being vibrate to Thy touch; I love Thee with soul, mind, body, strength, might, spirit, affection, will, desire, intellect, understanding.

Thou art the very perfection of all perfections; all intellect is derived from Thee; my scanty rivulets flow from unfathomable fountain.

Compared with thee the sun is darkness, all beauty deformity, all wisdom folly, the best goodness faulty.

Thou art worthy of an adoration greater than my dull heart can yield. Invigorate my love that it may rise worthily to Thee, tightly entwine itself around Thee, be allured by Thee.

Then shall my walk be endless praise.

 

 

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Wake Up!!! (Is That Really True #2)

A few weeks ago we looked at an interviews of pastor Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church in Dallas. In the video, the pastor erroneously uses Roman’s 13 to defend President Donald Trump’s rhetoric concerning the bellicose threats North Korea has made against the United States. The pastor made multiple appearances across many multiple media outlets the same day as the video.

It appears the pastor has become a bit of an attack dog for the president (as well as other pastors and Christian power brokers), when controversy arises around the president’s tweeting, speaking and policy making. Considering that there is little or no biblical instruction for servants of God to endorse, or defend political or government entities, should engender concern for the state of the Church and its leadership. Sadly Jeffress’ behavior  is part and parcel of a broader historical error the church has fallen into, far too often, to its own detriment.

In the 2005 book “The Myth of the Christian Nation”, pastor and author Greg Boyd, details the harm this historical error has caused in the church.

“Jesus came to establish the kingdom of God as a radical alternative to all versions of the kingdom of the world, whether they declare themselves to be “under God” or not.”

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“I believe a significant segment of American evangelicalism is guilty of nationalistic and political idolatry. To a frightful degree, I think, evangelicals fuse the kingdom of God with a preferred version of the kingdom of the world (whether it’s our national interests, a particular form of government, a particular political program, or so on). Rather than focusing our understanding of God’s kingdom on the person of Jesus—who, incidentally, never allowed himself to get pulled into the political disputes of his day—I believe many of us American evangelicals have allowed our understanding of the kingdom of God to be polluted with political ideals, agendas, and issues.”

“The evangelical church in America has, to a large extent, been co-opted by an American, religious version of the kingdom of the world. We have come to trust the power of the sword more than the power of the cross. We have become intoxicated with the Constantinian, nationalistic, violent mindset of imperialistic Christendom”

Boyd’s book came out of a sermon series he preached at his church before the 2004 election, called the “Cross and the Sword”. The result of his sermon series was 1000 of the church’s 5000 members leaving. Boyd also became a whipping post for evangelical conservative Christians leaders, who demonized him as a political liberal hack. Without face to face debate, they would consistently misrepresent his central premise.

Although I would not agree with every statement made in the book, Boyd is overwhelmingly correct in exposing the degree to which the church has been convinced of the need to be in union with politicians and their politics. I called this error historical because it really can be traced all the way back to the Roman empire in the forth century, but its destructive nature can be seen much closer to our day.

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The thoroughly researched and very well written book “The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became A Religious Crusade” reveals the unequal yoke Christians take on, in marrying themselves to politics and governments, as well as its disastrous results. Author Philip Jenkins details how the major nations at war, during WWI, had believed they were doing God’s kingdom will in fighting their enemies. In fact, two of the nations (England and Germany) fighting against each other, believed they were God’s only Christian nation. the overwhelming majority of the German populations believed, that after gaining military conquest, they would be the nation that would bring God’s gospel light to the world.

Even in America, which made no claims to being “The” Christian Nation (at that time), politicians and preachers alike incited masses with crusade like rhetoric. It was not uncommon for American pastors, of all denominational stripes, to call for the annihilation of the entire German race.

This is what is so unsettling about the way that Jeffress called for whatever it takes, concerning North Korea, which could mean the annihilation of most of the North Korean race, if nuclear weapons are used.  My point is not to judge the presidents’s authority to do what is deemed necessary for the U.S., but that a follower of Jesus Christ, should care more about the human toll of such military actions, on all sides. The question we really need to ask, is should an ambassador for Christ, be so engaged in politics that their actions, attitudes, and words, become apparently un-Christlike to the watching world? To answer my rhetorical question… No! ambassadors for Christ ought to be ambassadors for Christ, at all times.

I am sure that Jeffress is a sincere follower of Jesus, but he is no longer known for gospel preaching, or advancing the kingdom of God, but political activism and rhetoric. So why is this the case and why is he so adamant and animated in his defense of the president? Because in many ways, he and the other Christian leaders are existentially tied to the president being the right man for the job; because these leaders influenced a lot of votes from evangelical Christians. Therefore whenever something controversial happens, these leaders have to try to counter the controversy, because their ministerial credibility is on the line.

For example, during the presidential election campaign, candidate Donald Trump was interviewed and asked if he ever asked God for forgiveness. His answer was “I am not sure. When I do wrong, I just try to do better: I don’t bring God into that”. Donald Trump then proceeded to explain that his pastor growing up was Norman Vincent Peale; the same Peale who denied God was actually a being and that being born again was unnecessary. I am not suggesting that a president needs to be a Christian, but Trump’s answers made many  evangelicals, beholden to the idea of the need for a Christian in the White House, very nervous.

Interestingly, another of president Trump’s “spiritual advisers” spoke to quell evangelical woes during the fall out from Trumps comments. Paula White the televangelist and pastor of New Destiny Christian Center, in Orlando Florida, spoke to defend the candidates spiritual life, going so far as to declare she led the man in a sinners prayer. Well isn’t that nice? Go figure a Christian leader is pronouncing someone, as in the kingdom, based on a prayer that Jesus never even used. Recently, White in and interview compares the president to Esther from the Bible. In later backtracking those comments, White again doubled down on the spiritual life of the President, “Our president, 100 percent is a Christian who understands to receive by faith in grace the Lord Jesus Christ. He understands repentance”.

Let me wonder aloud, for a moment, does this woman have the slightest clue what repentance is? Obviously not! how detrimental to a any person to pronounce them “saved” because they said a prayer or even declares “I repent”. Repentance is seen through the alteration of the life, brought about by faith in the work of Jesus Christ. Her declarations line up with the “prosperity gospel” lie she preaches, to the detriment of Christ’s glory.

Being that these statements are coming from a known purveyor of heretical teaching, one would think evangelicals would ignore Paula White’s character assessment, concerning the president. When it comes to many in the charismatic realm, her words are gospel, but because of her proximity to the president, her profile with rank and file evangelical Christian’s has been elevated. In fact Jim Dobson, of focus on the Family fame, cited her when attempting to assure his constituency of Trumps sincerity of faith. It appears as if discernment has taken a back seat for the purpose of political expediency.

Herein lies the bigger issue of why Christian leaders are defending and advocating for the president. The evangelical “brute squad” is not doing this for love of the man’s soul, or to be a prophetic voice from God, but to effect change that is beneficial for them. It is no different than the way the democratic party uses unions and civil rights to bolster their cause and remain in power. Republicans have been doing this for generations with white evangelicals, where leaders are brought up close and personal, to reassure the rank and file that the politician is on their side.

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Take for example the “secret prayer” meeting at the White House on July 11. Now I believe it is a wonderful thing to pray for any person, but when did it become a matter of publicity? In fact Jesus warned us not to pray as to be seen, but this prayer was seen all over the world. The whole event was planned by Paula White, and was a thrill for more than a few who were present. Once more I am not against prayer for the president, but am against using prayer, as a photo opportunity, to quell real and growing cynicism concerning some of the president’s actions.

Maybe one would think I am cynical. I am not, but with God’s help we must be discerning. I am also not against President Trump. My desire is that he does very well, for his authority and power can either improve or make worse the lives of at least 330 million Americans. More sobering is that his office can literally impact the lives of billions more outside the United States. In spite of this, we must recognize that the president is what he is, and a follower of Jesus he does not appear to be, at this time. In spite of others proclamations, he has never overtly said he follows Jesus, nor behaved accordingly for any leRelated imagength of time. Although his twitter attacks are less frequent they still exist as does his penchant for character assassination when anyone disagrees with him. I am however hopeful, that the overwhelming nature of his job, will humble him and reveal to him not only his need for God’s help in leading, but for the redemption of his soul.

In his business life, Trump has always been a ruthless and cut throat money maker. This was the case if that meant appealing to the lusts of the flesh, or filing bankruptcy when the fall out in lost jobs would be immense, effecting multitudes adversely. Donald Trump is the P.T. Barnum of the business world, losing more fortune than the gross domestic product of many nations in the world, only to make it back by selling his name for big bucks.

I do not fault the man for his fortunes lost and gained, but he has been a “snake oil salesmen” of the highest order, convincing people that they need what he can alone provide. In writing that last statement my mind hearkens back to the Republican National convention where, he stated he alone could fix the nations problems. This is hubris of the highest order, and it seems little has changed in him since that time. Lately, rank and file Christians have been leaving off support, as they have seen him begin to cozy up to the democratic party, and appear to walk back on some campaign promises.Image result for pathetic not prophetic

All the while, many of the evangelical elite, still seek to defend. This must stop, for it is pathetic not prophetic. Have they become addicted to power? Do they actually believe that being in the presence of presidents will change that leaders’ political agenda, or that they will advance their Christian Utopian dream? That kind of “spiritual counsel” almost always bears little fruit. In the broader context, we Christians are not called to pick winners or sides. We are called to preach Christ, live holy, and pray for the souls of all men. It is for that vision we are willing to suffer, not some warped Christian Candy Land where the right politician approves the funds, resources and protection for our preferred life.

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The word of God does speak of men who were close to national leaders. they were the prophets. The one prophetic book which seems to be most apt to me, during our current climate is the Book of Daniel. Daniel was close to a hot headed, invective spewing, brutal, arrogant, extremely rich, national leader, who liked to build golden things (sounds like someone we may have been speaking of). Nebuchadnezzar was not unaware of God, but not quite convinced of His sovereignty over him. In fact, the king acknowledged the Most High God more than a few times, yet He was not a follower. Daniel knew this, and was not enamored with being in the king’s presence. He had a purpose to tell the truth of God, and live the truth of God no matter the risk. He did!

Eventually, Nebuchadnezzar would acknowledge God as the only true God, but not until God humbled him, removing his kingdom and sanity from him.  This account is written in Daniel 4:34-35, please read it for the turn around in this wicked king is remarkable.

Let us pray for evangelical leaders to be like Daniel, and not the cohort of suck-ups, “wise men” that surrounded Nebuchadnezzar. The United States of America needs a truly humbled and repentant president. The president needs to find the reality of the one true God for the sake of his own soul and that of his family. The church needs to come out from among them and be separated, for we have lost our prophetic voice. may God help us all.

Posted in Christians and 2016 election, Christians and politics, government, Myth of a Christian Nation, Paula White, politics, Robert Jeffress, Romans 13, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

NEGLECT

Image result for neglectNeglect is defined as failing to care for something properly. Whenever this is the case the something needing attention, begins to deteriorate. Followers of Jesus should take great care to never have the word neglect associated with their name. This of course is difficult for us, because our humanity, after the fall, tends toward breaking down, losing strength and becoming insensitive. Those who are truly redeemed, through repentance and faith in Christ’s atoning work, have resurrection power to live apart from neglect, as we live in humble submission to God’s Spirit.

That being said, the New Testament is filled with commands and admonitions, which reveal the fight we still fight against being negligent, concerning our faith…

“Come out from among them” — “Awake, you who slumber” — “Finally, be strong in the Lord… take up the whole armor of God” — “walk worthy gird the loins of your mind” — “Be sober, be vigilant”—“contend earnestly for the faith”

*(II Corinthians 6:17; Ephesians 5:14, 6:10-12; Colossians 1:10; I Peter 1:13; Jude 1:3)

We definitely must consistently strive against our old nature’s bent to re-prioritize what needs taken care of in our relationship to God. It is my contention today that negligence in all areas of our walk with Christ arises from ministerial neglect. I realize this may sound a bit clunky  or redundant, so let me explain using the ministry of pastor.

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Ministerial neglect is not avoiding, ignoring or forgetting some important function, as outlined in church by-laws, ministerial handbooks, expectations from congregations, ministerial peers, or even by the minister himself. Although some of the afore mentioned, may have biblical significance and need attended too, neglect in biblically defined areas, arises from a more primary and problematic neglect.

For ministers of the gospel it is important to differentiate between Biblical pastoral responsibilities, and the expectations of men. Even in the early church this was an issue. Consider reading Acts 6, where the apostles needed to diffuse a difficult situation, that was sucking their time away from their most primary responsibility before Christ (Acts Acts 6:1-7). Without refusing to be dragged around by others preferences and expectations, spiritual breakdown is certain.

Yet even being able to differentiate between God’s called activity and refusing the opposite, takes discipline and protection concerning the most important ministry. This ministry is outlined in II Corinthians 3:18-4:1.

2 Corinthians 3:18 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

Chapter 4
​2 Corinthians 3:18 – 4:1 1 Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart.

You will notice I left the chapter heading in between the cited verses. The reason for this, is that these two verses, are rarely seen as being connected. This is the unfortunate by-product of our citation based English translation of the Bible. Remember, in its original language, there are no chapter headings or titles. Therefore, when the word “Therefore” appears in a sentence (much like in our own grammatical structure), it signals that what follows is tied to the previous verse or verses. In this case the “Therefore, since we have this ministry…” of verse 4 is defined by the previous verse. What is this that we ALL have? The ministry of beholding the face of Christ, through seeking him in the secret place.

Related imageNo we must be careful, in our Christian devotional culture, to remember that beholding Christ and being transformed into His image by the Spirit of God, is not reading alone or praying a list. Lets face facts, our current devotional culture is set up to give us little bite sized nuggets, so we have some truth in our crazy and overbooked lives. Millions are made each year on new materials that are not inherently evil, but constantly have us living off of someone else seeking the Lord Jesus in the secret place. For those in ministry, with unbelievable and unreasonable expectations, planning 1/2 to choke a chapter of the bible down into our soul and pray something at all, is often seen as a spiritual victory. The only issue is that there is no victory in it, only ministerial neglect.

We are so adamant on referring to our walk with Jesus as a relationship instead of religion, that we have missed that we are what makes a relationship real, lasting, and life giving… Intimacy. Intimacy takes time, and complete focus on the person with whom you desire relationship. We need to have a shift in our understanding of discipline in the ministry of beholding. We need to have a transformation of mind, concerning what it means to know God.

In Christ Jesus we are called into one of the most intimate relationships possible in the human world; that of Father to child. Yet what does intimacy look like? Essentially it is to have first hand interactive knowledge of the persons presence and actions. To the Christian, this is more than knowing orthodox word of God facts concerning the nature of God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, how we are to live and what happens to us when we die. All those things are necessary, but without a cultivated and personal knowledge of God’s person and presence, the necessary will be at risk of being wasted.

It's All About relationship

Although our American Christian culture trumpets relationship to God, and there are many who know much about God, His word, and His Christ, we are suffering without the manifest presence of God. As we are called to “Behold His face, and be changed”, it appears many are simply adding more files in their informational archive. We may be intellectually prepared to give and answer to people about our beliefs, but are we growing in submission to the word of God, as the Holy Spirit leads us in all things? Truth be told, if you can’t find His voice speaking to you in the secret place, letting Him lead by that voice the rest of the day is impossible.

In America, both minsters and rank and file believers, I’m afraid, are guilty of gross ministerial neglect. Sadly, this neglect may not be acknowledged or even seen until the devastation of crisis hits. Then, in the midst of soul shaking trials, we will potentially see an absence of Christlike character and unbelieving actions in ourselves, which reveals our current ministerial neglect.

May God leads us to drive beyond what we see as required fair for the Christian life, and learn to pursue His presence. This ministry is for all who come to Christ receiving God’s grace, through the cross. This ministry is the pursuit of Abba’s person and presence. It is an unrelenting journey to see His glory.

Image result for consumed GodPsalm 63:1-8 1 O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water. So I have looked for You in the sanctuary, to see Your power and Your glory.Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You. 4 Thus I will bless You while I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name. 5 My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips. 6 When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches. 7 Because You have been my help, therefore in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice. 8 My soul follows close behind You; Your right hand upholds me.

 

Posted in II Corinthians 3:18, ministerial neglect, neglect, Psalm 63, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Yeah, Pain!!! Say What?

We are granted many rights and privileges as those who are redeemed in Christ. Some of these precious rights and privileges are…

Image result for all his promisesThe right to become children of God; calling Him “Abba Father” (John 1:12; Romans 8:15).

The gift of the supernatural fullness of the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-38).

The privilege of being witnesses for Christ (Acts 1:8; II Corinthians 3:18-4:6).

The promise of the blessed hope, which is the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13).

Two additional privileges can be found in Philippians 1:27-29.

(Philippians 1:27-29) Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God. For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only [1]to believe in Him, but also [2]to suffer for His sake.

The word “granted” (vs. 29) means “gratuitously granting as a favor”. As a gratuitous expression of of His love for Christ, the Father gives us the ability to not only to believe in Christ, but to suffer for His name.

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Most would agree the right to “believe” is wonderful. In God’s mercy and loving-kindness, He comes to awaken us, making it possible to see and enter it the kingdom, so long as we exercise repentance and faith in Christ (John 3:3-6; II Corinthians 2:14). I have rarely run into those who call themselves followers of Jesus, who have a problem with the first blessing granted to us . This “believe” is the fountain head of every received promise and privilege, which is afforded to us in Christ. That being said, the second privilege granted is not so readily understood or received.

To the body, soul and spirit of a human, declaring suffering to be a privilege is like a man in agony declaring “YEAH, PAIN!!!” To which most sane people would questioningly declare, “Say what?”

The shock at “YEAH PAIN!!!” is understandable to the human condition, but the confusion arising from this particular passage should trouble us all. It would be my assumption that this passage is not readily preached or taught in many Christian churches around America; it is possibly one of the more glossed over verses in the Bible among American Evangelical types. Some may interpret its meaning as being for another time or only applies to the people who first heard it.

We can dismiss the excuses after considering II Timothy 3:12, which declares “all who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution”. As with most of the “all” statements in the O.T. and N.T. this one simply means “all”, or everyone who is truly a follower of Jesus. Therefore, we must not ignore the intent of the word of God or try to explain it away, because to do so potentially sets the stage for many to fall away.

The reasons for these errors are many, but most primary is that we have little practical or historical context to understand the passage. This we will look at a bot further later.

In God’s word suffering for Jesus name, through threat to life, limb or property–through rejection of family, friends or countrymen–or through satanic/demonic spiritual attack , is not something to avoid but a cause for rejoicing.

Image result for leaping for joy(Matthew 5:10-12) Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.                   

The word “rejoice”, in Greek,  carries with it’s most expressive manifestation which is to leap. Can you hear your flesh saying “Say What, Rejoice and leap for joy, when being slandered, slapped, clubbed, shut out, stolen from, insulted, put out of a job, tortured, threatened or killed?” Jesus answer when it is for His sake is, “Absolutely!” Let’s examine why.

Suffering for Jesus is a special privilege granted to those who love Him with all their heart, soul, and mind. This is not only is not only for the glory He receives, but also the door way of personal blessing it opens for us. Our Savior, loves to bless those who love Him.

The disciples lived out Matthew 5:11-12 in a graphic display of joy in Acts of the Apostles, after they were beaten for ministering the gospel.

(Acts 5:41-42) So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ. 

Paul also understood this and asked for the privilege of suffering, which was a means to knowing Christ more intimately.

(Philippians 3:10) that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Even with these overwhelmingly good examples, the “Yeah pain!!!” suffering being a blessing, just doesn’t fit the warped view American Evangelicals carry, when it comes to Christian blessing and suffering. I began to notice this disconnect just two years into my walk with Christ.

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In late June of 2001, my wife and children and I traveled to the Alive Fest in Canal Fulton Ohio, with our fellowship’s youth group. Lincoln Brewster would lead the songs in the late morning followed by a speaker. Later that day we would rock out with The O.C. Supertones, Pillar and end the evening in an incredible time of adrenalized praise with the U.K. band Delirious.

In between the morning time of praise and afternoon concerts, pastor John Piper spoke to the crowd. His message for the day, was on the our being call to suffer for Jesus sake. Piper spoke to approximately 11,000 teens, parents, pastors and youth leaders, who were awaiting the afternoon shows. The message profoundly impacted my life, bringing into view for the first time, the persecuted church and the possibility of suffering on Christ’s behalf in our nation. Pastor John was not painting a bleak picture, but one of privilege and love, yet his words were lost to most of the crowd that day; It was as if he was shooting BB’s at a tank.

One of our fellow youth leaders commented on how out of place the message seemed to him, for in His view God has called us to be blessed, not suffer. Tragically he missed that suffering for Christ is a privilege and blessing of the highest order; it is where we can encounter His presence most manifest in our lives (regard Psalm 23; Psalm 46, mind the context of each).

The insensitivity and lack of love for Christ, which lead the majority of the crowd to miss the point that day, is still sown throughout the body of Christ in this nation. I have seen this first hand over the last 11 years,  advocating for the persecuted church worldwide. In the churches I have been called to pastor sharing the testimonies of our suffering brethren has been a distinct honor. As we have encountered their lives, written letters and considered their love for God, many have been transformed to being more committed followers of Christ. Yet the vast majority are still confused, indifferent, or even angry at what the testimony of suffering Church suggests for them.

Why is this the case? In the first place, Christian’s in America have known little suffering for our faith. Therefore our faith is often absorbed into an unquestioned religious nationalism; which is tied to the political doctrine of American exceptionalism. This American Christian paradigm has little intersect with the kingdom of God. As a result of this being sown through out the church, it has produced the error, that we are a Christian nation. Before you curse the messenger, we need to regard world history concerning this assumption, before the end of WWII.

For the past 2000 years, many nations have laid claim to the title of “Christian nation”. Rome was the first, followed by other, like France, Spain and yes even Russia. During WWI both Germany and England, had claimed the title for years, to being “The” only “Christian” nation. Interestingly, there were millions in each nation population and leadership, which believed they were called by God to destroy the other nation. The political and social fervor of the last 65 years in American, which led to the rise of the error of us being “The” Christian nation, actually reveals we are like all other nation, are “drop in the bucket to the God of the universe (Isaiah 40:15).

The belief America is a unique Christian nation in the earth, has led us to seek to insulate ourselves from the uncomfortable things of life, because God (in our view) wants us to be blessed. We have believe freedom is to have the stuff we want, to use this stuff to make our lives easier, and to have the ability to do what we desire without hindrance. In this we have chosen the error Israel made. Their faulty thinking concerning access to “blessing”, led to their being characterized as worse than Sodom (Ezekiel 16:48-50).

In this error we are also like Abraham in Genesis 15:1-2, where God declares “Abram! I am your shield. I am your exceedingly great reward”.  In response,Abraham did not even say thank you. he complained that he did not have what he wanted.  Here we can see the problem with misunderstanding the True blessing of God for the redeemed, which is His presence with them regardless of their state of material affairs. Our error concerning our uniqueness before God, and the blessing that guarantee , has left the church wanting more rather than being content with the presence of God, through Jesus atonement on our behalf.

Also adding to this mess is the predominance of the pre-tribulation rapture view concerning eschatology. I am not seeking to debate its theological merits or lack in this post, but I will speak to the religious cultural phenomenon that has arisen as a by-product of this view. What is it that I am referring too? The idea that before it gets real bad in the way of persecution, the Lord will get His church off  this rock we call earth. This has practical significance.

Only a few years after my wife and I became follower of Jesus, while listening to a sermon, our pastor blurted out…

“You see this building we just built? Well, after we have been raptured, the Antichrist can have it! We won’t know or care. We will not suffer, we will be with Jesus”.

I had two problems with what he said. In the first place, I was fulfilling a monetary pledge for that facility. It made me mad to think the Antichrist would use the building I was funding in faith. Yet that irritation paled in comparison to second problem. I had recently read that “all who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution (II Timothy 3:12)”. For a man of God to pronounce we would not suffer, bothered me tremendously, as it contradicted the plain written word of God.

Beloved in Christ, I realize we are not appointed to endure God’s wrath poured out on the earth (I Thessalonians 5:9), but we are ordained and privileged to suffer for His name. The benefits are wonderful to those who endure on His behalf.

Blessings To Those Who Chose To Suffer For Jesus Sake!

(James 5:12) Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.

  • The crown of life

(II Corinthians 4:8-12)We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So then death is working in us, but life in you.

  • Persecution allows those around us to see Christ through us, we get to encounter the power of His Presence.

(I Peter 4:1-2) Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.

  • Suffering on Christ’s behalf, is the means to greater sanctification and holiness for God’s glory.

In closing let me encourage you to prayerfully consider the passages of scripture in this article. Allow the Holy Spirit to give you singleness of heart for Jesus alone. In that Christ fixation and the joy that comes with it, you will suffer for His name. This suffering is inevitable, but it is momentary and light, considering the eternal weight of glory you will encounter on that great day, when we see Him face to face.

Posted in Christian love, Christian suffering, enduring faith, Myth of a Christian Nation, persecution, Philippians 1:27-29, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Is That Really True?

In the clip above, Pastor Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church in Dallas, cites Romans 13 as the pretext for the president to take out the leader of North Korea. Is what he declares really true? The simple answer is No! Especially not from that passage of scripture he uses.

Jeffress makes and egregious but common error in using Romans 13, for the purpose of giving moral credence to actions of war. He runs afoul in reading of the word of God with his mind already made up concerning what is being communicated, without a full understanding of the context or ignoring the context altogether.

Romans 13:1-4 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good.

In the first place, Paul’s readers were facing persecution at the hands of the government of Rome. In spite of this threat, Paul reminds them that rebellion for being unjustly treated was out of the question. God called to be submissive to the laws and leadership of Rome, in so far as they did not inhibit their practice of faith in Jesus. If the law deemed following Jesus a crime, they were to suffer the penalty under Roman law for the sake of Christ (this can be seen in Romans 12:14-21).

Secondly Paul reminds them that governments are appointed and allowed by God, until Jesus returns, therefore even if the governments fall outside their ordained authority, becoming evil, God is allowing it for His purpose.

Thirdly Paul instructs them to be good citizens, which is a good testimony concerning Christ. Note thus far none of this deals with nations at war or pretext for going to war with another nation, which the Bible is not concerned with in the New Testament. Consider the foundation for understanding Romans 13.

Romans 12:14-21 (NKJV) Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Upon reading the above passage it ought to be clear Paul was calling his readers to understand, their Christ-like submission and actions of love, in the face of persecution, was how they were to overcome the evil and present Christ.

Lets look further at where Robert Jeffress error is found.

Romans 13:5-7 But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.

Note that Paul declares to the Christian “But if you do evil” (meaning Christian’s who rebel against the authority), you’re not fighting man but God. Again this does not mean we obey laws that say we cannot pray or follow Jesus. In those cases we obey the God and receive punishment prescribed by men. This we do for Christ’s sake. That being said, we cannot miss that the Romans 13 is not a pretext for just war against another country. Contrary to Jeffress use, the passage is a call for Christians to behave exactly how Jesus behaved, when He was faced with contrary governing authority. What did Jesus do? He laid down His life.

My question is why would the pastor feel the need to defend president Trump on this matter at all? When considering president Trumps own remarks especially the phrase “Fire and Fury”), he did not use language any more inflammatory, then the former three presidents concerning North Korean aggression.

It is for this reason that watching the pastor’s response grieves me all the more. Jeffress is supposed to be one of the presidents spiritual advisers. Would it not have been more prudent to council the president in exercising more self control in his tweeting, or refrain from being hooked into foolish arguments? One would think, but the pastor has already declared he is not looking for those qualities in his president.

 “A Christian writer asked me (Jeffress), ‘Don’t you want the president to embody the Sermon on the Mount?'” he said, referring to Jesus’ famous sermon. “I said absolutely not.”

I realize that a president does not have to be Christian to be a good president. Nor should one’s Christianity (or lack of it) be the acid test for whether a Christian should vote for a president, but the pastor’s words are far more revealing than we might see at the surface. As the a spiritual adviser to the president, does that not entail concern for Donald Trump’s personal spiritual life and soul before the Holy God? Is it not clear to most discerning Christians in America, that the president is in dire need of resurrection life of Jesus Christ? The answer to these questions is yes! Donald Trump is in need of the Christ-life, as revealed in the Beatitudes, a lot more than we need him to protect our civil rights.

The president needs to understand his poverty of spirit, as opposed to his narcissistic pride. He needs to mourn over his sin before the Holy God, instead of believing he does not need forgiveness, but only to do better. The president needs to develop meekness or power under control, rather than spontaneously ejecting diatribes against his enemies. He needs to develop a hunger and thirst for true righteousness. He needs to desire mercy over judgment. He needs a desire to be pure in heart, devoid of his former life and its influence. Donald Trump, as our president of the most powerful nation on earth, needs to seek peace with all men as much as possible.

We followers of Jesus should desire to see all men embodied the qualities of Christ in the beatitudes. When we see these develop the men, we know it has happened only by the grace of God through Jesus Christ. This is what is most troubling about Robert Jeffress. Why would he not want the president to embody these principals?

Could it be that if the president did, Jeffress assets and agenda might not be as safe? My opinion is that many pastors (and Christians) see Donald Trump as the best means, at this time, to a more accommodating culture for themselves or the church. Sadly is appears we may be sucking up to a president, because it’s our best option. We ought to learn the lessons of history well though. When the church has come into union with those who are “friends” of Christianity, without those “friends” being truly Christians, we have never fared very well.

Interestingly, J.K. Rowling author of the Harry Potter series (books I detest), answered Robert Jeffress comments by quoting William Shakespeare…

“The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose. An evil soul producing holy witness is like a villian with a smiling cheek. A goodly apple rotten at heart. Oh what a goodly outside falsehood hath.        

(William Shakespeare from “The Merchant of Venice”)

Although I am not a fan of her work or life style, Rowling’s quote cannot simply be dismissed because she falls outside the community of faith. She reveals a very real cynicism against the church. This cynicism is not unwarranted as it appears we often are silent or on the wrong side of important issues, when its expedient for us.

Please understand I am not writing as an indictment against Robert Jeffress Christianity, as it is clear that even the apostles could love Jesus and be on the wrong side of an argument, such as Peter in Galatians chapter 2. Yet we must remember that Paul rebuked Peter’s un-Christlike behavior, for its potential to carry others off into error. This is the reason I am grieved by Jeffress and other pastors apologetic fervor for the president,  which does not come from the Spirit of God or love of the presidents soul. In my opinion, It arises from either fear, or a desire to curry favor with the president. In either case, it arises from seeking self interest. We will explore this in my next post.

Until then, remember… Stay close to Jesus can rejoice in your calling!!!

Philippians 1:27-29 Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God. For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me.

Posted in "Fire and Fury", Just War Theory, Robert Jeffress, Romans 13, theology of suffering, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Something is definitely MISSING!

Related imageI’ve been married for almost twenty years. My wife is a fantastic cook. She can do things with chicken that few ever dare to dream of. If I have had one complaint concerning my wife’s cooking, it would be that at times it seems there is one ingredient missing.

You know what I am talking about; when the smell is intoxicating and the appearance causes the kind of drool that involuntarily leaks out of ones mouth (if not careful). As the fork raises to my lips, beads of sweat break out in anticipation, on my forehead. As the morsel of wonder enters my mouth, and in spite of the plethora of flavors, something is missing. What is that necessary ingredient? SALT!!! I am simply not kidding.

In spite of being a culinary master bringing diverse flavors together, and making tasty meals out of almost anything, my wife habitually under salts the food she cooks for our family. My wife on the other hand would tell you I am addicted to salt, so much so that I ought to be the poster child for “high blood pressure” (my blood pressure is actually very good).

maxresdefaultYou may be wondering what is the big deal with salt. The big deal is that salt enhances flavor and in meat it enhances juiciness. Top chefs will report that the right amount of salt, makes the flavor of food blow up in wonderful ways. I do realize that one can use too much salt, like the guy in the picture above, but salt is often the missing ingredient, when food is lacking taste; because salt enhances the power of the flavor of food. Therefore in your cooking add a little more salt.

In like manner there are many powerful passages of scripture, where God’s promises are dripping with potential. We read them and we rejoice at the prospect of what they hold for us. As we pour over the words and consider them, the Holy Spirit speaks “This is for you”. In those times we begin to see we can “live by every word which proceeds forth from the mouth of God”. Yet when we taste to see that the Lord is good, we find something is missing. We understand the promise and potential, yet there seems to be a disconnect in its coming to pass. We take another bite and another hoping in faith for the fulfillment. Eventually we will recognize we can’t avoid the something that is missing. We can see this illustrated from a familiar passage we use in attempting to overcome life controlling issues.

2 Corinthians 10:4-5 (NKJV) For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ

This passage happens to be a “go to” passage for many who instruct in Biblical deliverance. I happen to think this is with good reason, Related imagefor this passage is filled with truth on the spiritual warfare; which includes the battle against our being sanctified by the Holy Spirit into the Christ life.

A problem arises when we look at this passage apart from its original context. When this occurs we are trying to ingest a potential laden promise of God, while missing an essential ingredient in assimilating it by faith into our experience. When this occurs we tend to proclaim the promises of God, like a magician’s “Abracadabra”, instead of receiving it by faith, according to the word of God.

Over the course of my pastoral life I have grieved to hear sincere Christians, “name it and claim it”, attempting to “blab and grab” the potential in the words “bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ”. We have even simplified the expression, to our detriment to “I take every thought captive”. This leaves out the more labor intensive and essential words, one being “obedience”.  In order to avoid the error, which leaves us wanting and powerless against strongholds, we must consider what Paul was communicating and how that opens the door for a more personal and powerful application in our walk with Christ.

PAUL HAD A BIG SPIRITUAL PROBLEM HE WAS ATTACKING

When dealing with II Corinthians 10:4-6 we see it is written as Paul is defending his apostolic authority. Paul had real enemies wRelated imageho were trying to undermine his calling and message in the sight of the Corinthian believers. When reading his first letter to the Corinthians we see the beginning stages of this battle in the very first chapters, where the church is being divided into factions; some claiming to follow Paul, some Peter, and even some the Lord Jesus Christ (I Corinthians 1:11-13; 3:1).

Reading further into I Corinthians reveals false teaching, on legal matters between brothers, marriage, the judgment seat of Christ, gifts of the spirit, Christ’s bodily resurrection and the return of Jesus. In the apostle speaking truth to those divisions and heresies, he made some enemies. These enemies in turn were teaching the sheep to disregard Paul’s authority and attack the leaders who stood up for truth.

These enemies began to insult and malign the apostle, as to undermine his authority and teaching (II Corinthians 10:10). To understand the serious nature of this battle, Paul equates these upstarts as Satan’s servants (Read II Corinthians 11:1-4, 12-15). Therefore when we come to II Corinthians 10:4-5 we must understand this context. Paul gives us a clue that his words are about to reveal how he will demolish this satanic church against the church…

2 Corinthians 10:2-3 (NKJV) But I beg you that when I am present I may not be bold with that confidence by which I intend to be bold against some, who think of us as if we walked according to the flesh. For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.

In Paul addressing the lies (satanic doctrine) that have divided the Corinthians from simple devotion to Christ, and the false teachers (satan’s ministers) that were producing them, helps us understand the need for weapons beyond what humanity can produce to win the fight.

  1. Spiritual wars are won by God’s supernaturally powered weapon; His Word. In vs. 3-4 Paul sees attacks on himself, as attacks on the kingdom of God. Therefore he is not going to fight with the strength of his arm or mind (I Corinthians 2:4-5). Paul declares the foes of the Christ in false teaching can only be brought down by the power of God’s word.
  2. God’s word has destructive force against Satan’s lies, but must be swung. In vs. 5 Paul is saying I am going to swing God’s word like a hammer, to destroy the falsehood, and keep swinging till the strongholds are toppled. Strongholds quite simple are the lies being repeated and taught that lead us to handle life without faith in God’s promises. The apostle would use God’s word as a fire to melt the insensitive coldness that had crept over the faith, who suffered under the falsehood (Jeremiah 23:29).
  3. He would do this by bringing every lie into the light of God’s truth. We read further in vs. 5 that Paul would seize the lie and lay it against the truth, not allowing the lie to stand.
  4. Paul would bring the heretics to kingdom justice if the readers did their part. In vs. 6 Paul writes “and being ready to punish all disobedience...” Here Paul is letting them know that he will be coming to deliver divine justice (church discipline) upon the false teachers. Yet this is only possible if the Corinthian fellowship picks up the missing ingredient.

2 Corinthians 10:6 (NKJV) and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.

OBEDIENCE IS THE SALT OF SPIRITUAL WARFARE

Simply put, Paul is revealing to the Corinthians divine justice and in this case church discipline (ecclesiastically), can’t work until the people are on board with God’s weapon (His word). Not just from a perspective of holing the false teachers accountable, but also the individual Christian as well. Consider for a moment that the Corinthians (including the called leaders) were chastised in Chapter 11:4 for potentially “putting up with” those preaching another Jesus, a different spirit, in fact a different gospel. Why would they do such a thing? Because over time the truth of God’s had meant less and less to them in thier every day lives.

Related image

A mentality of “Were saved, what else is there to know” had begun to creep over them. in this state, they only cared to hear what supported their “get out of jail free card” mentality of faith. In that state, obedience to the word of God and being led by the Holy Spirit had been shelved. In the absence of obedience, carnality was king, instead of King Jesus.

Before the church could be the sweetness of God’s grace to a lost and dying world, where truth reigned and the Spirit of God empowered, the false teachers needed justice. That could only happen if the Corinthians added the missing ingredient of OBEDIENCE to thier individual lives, cocnerning the word of God and His true apostle. Without their return to Christ as Lord over their lives, Paul would have no ability to bring justice through ecclesiastical discipline.

WE NEED TO SETTLE THE QUESTION ONCE AND FOR ALL

This passage transcends the corporate setting of its primary context. Its principals on spiritual warfare is instructive in understanding and prosecuting spiritual warfare as individuals, who often have various and sundry known and unknown stronghold in our lives. I do believe that this passage gives us a pattern to deal with long entrenched spiritual strongholds. God’s word is not bound in its application.

In dealing with strongholds we must understand that they can arise from false teaching. Strongholds can arise from trauma, where we are unable to process what problems we face in a godly fashion In those times, we can react in patterns of behavior that are sinful. This can include, drugs and alcohol, sexual immorality, rage or anger, depression, perfectionism, escapism (through media, recreation, sports, gambling etc.), Image result for STRONGHOLDScults and false religions; the list  is potentially endless. The issue is that they are well ensconced patterns of thought or behavior tied to root cause.

It’s my firm belief that most followers of Christ have strongholds and many of them are infused with demonic chains. Since this is the issue, a mere “name it claim it” or “blab it grab it” declaration is not sufficient. Like Paul, we need to swing the supernatural weapon of God’s word. How does this take place?

  1. The stronghold must be diagnosed in light of God’s word. We don’t want to assume we have a stronghold or make one up when we fail in the Christ life. Being that strongholds are behavior controlling, especially when shaken by life, we need to diagnose them in light of what God’s word calls us too, in living the Christ life. Remember that the behavior is not always the stronghold. The underlying lie that leads us to un-Christlike behavior is. For example, staying in bed for a week with depression is not the stronghold. The stronghold is the improper way we perceive life, apart from God’s viewpoint when we are shaken. The behavior may be the bricks of the tower, but not what is being protected inside.
  2. Once diagnosed we must swing the word of God. This is most difficult for we have been led to believe that faith brings instantaneous results. Let me be clear. At the cross all strongholds are broken. Yet in spite of this truth, we are left to deal with years of stronghold like behavior in well entrenched patterns of thinking. Many of these are not simply erased because we say a magic beans salvation prayer. These patterns emerge to us as we endeavor to walk according to the word of God. The struggle indicates a stronghold, praise God! It is then we use the hammer of the word of God, when the pattern arises. We do this as long as it takes for the word of God, through Holy Spirit empowerment, to become our pattern.
  3. It is often painful demolition. We must remember that this can become very painful. Just like a crutch we become accustomed to using when breaking our leg, where we are fearful of walking without it, our stronghold have been enabling us to cope for a long time. These strongholds, which are inherently tied to the “old man”, appear as “old friends”, the kind that stuck by you when no one else did. Although knowing they are detrimental, destroying our dependence on them and subsequently trusting God can be difficult. Add to this the fact that Satan, wants you to walk with a limp on his crutch, we can see it takes a disciplined, militant effort of faith in God’s word; not merely proclaiming we have taking the thing captive.

Finally this is where we arrive at that often missing ingredient of OBEDIENCE. Just as Paul could not administer divine justice to the false teacher, without the church coming under Christ’s Lordship themselves, so the Holy Spirit can not demolish our strongholds, if we have not settled the issue of OBEDIENCE in ourselves.

Jesus is Not my Homeboy. He is my King! – Guy's T-shirt - Men's Premium T-Shirt

In I Peter 3:15 declares “But sanctify the Lord God (some translations “Christ as Lord) in your hearts”. This means set apart Christ as the sovereign director over every aspect, moment and decision of your life. This means we submit to His sovereignty over our life, willingly. Interestingly Paul prays something similar in Ephesians 3:17 “that Christ would dwell in your hearts by faith”. Why would the apostle pray in this manner, if those who believe have Jesus in their hearts? Because theological truth, however correct, is wasted if it is not practical in the lives of those who believe it. Paul wrote it because Jesus was not the director of their moments, decisions and actions. Jesus is not the invisible guest of my life, he is the King who commands His subjects.

The only way this can be seen, is when we take all His directives now commands, no suggestions if we desire to do them. Without this type of commitment (with the missing ingredient of OBEDIENCE), we will be walking contradictions of His grace. When the lsot seek to taste and see the LORD is good, through our lives, they will distinctly know… “Something is missing!

 

 

Posted in Ephesians 3:17, I Peter 3:15, II Corinthians 10:3-6, Jesus Christ is Lord, spiritual warfare, strongholds, The missing ingredient, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Cutting Off Satan’s Access

Related imageThis past week I was troubled by the ease Satan exerted in influencing those who were following Jesus Christ, in the New Testament. I want to clarify that I am not writing of being tempted or being demonized (possessed) by an unclean spirit or demolishing a stronghold, even though the discipline for combating our topic (the ease of Satan influencing followers of Christ) will certainly bear fruit in these areas of spiritual.

My proposition is as follows…

  1. The scriptures illustrate Satan can easily enter into influencing a follower of Christ, even when that follower thinks they are on the narrow road.
  2. The scriptures reveal how ignorant followers of Christ can be when Satan is influencing them or one of our number.
  3. The word of God reveals the place Satan enters our life in order to influence us and subsequently the discipline needed to cut off his access.

ONE MOMENT GOOD AND THE NEXT BAD?

In Matthew’s gospel chapter 16 we see perhaps one of the most polarizing turn of events in the entirety of scripture. First  we see Jesus commending Peter and proclaiming a profound truth.

Matthew 16:16-18 (NKJV)  Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.

Here we see Jesus pronouncing blessing over Peter’s life for believing the revelation the Father gave him concerning Jesus. Subsequently Jesus proclaims Satan’s kingdom will never prevail against church. Fantastic!!! Peter must have been on top of the world. Yet in spite of this wonderful commendation from our Savior, Peter was about to have a very cold bucket of water dumped on his head, in a rebuke from our Master only a few verses later…

Matthew 16:21-23 (NKJV) From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind  Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”

In looking at the other two records of this encounter in the Gospel’s of Mark and Luke we find that, Jesus rebuke of Peter was directly on the heels of His commendation of the disciple.

It is clear that Satan was influencing Peter, for Jesus said to Peter “Get behind me Satan!” What is not apparent is how Peter went from being influenced by the Holy Spirit to being influenced by Satan in such a short time frame. Two things must be noted as we move forward… 1) None one but Jesus filled with the Holy Spirit, on this occasion, was aware that Peter was being influenced by Satan. 2) We must be careful following moments of great revelation; for Satan will look to minimize the effect of the revelation moving forward.

SATAN ENTERS JUDAS

Let us now move to consider Judas Iscariot. John’s Gospel 13:18-29 gives us some enlightening and scary details concerning his betrayal of our Savior. In this passage Jesus is asked to identify the one whom would betray Him. Jesus tells John it would be the one who he gives a piece of bread to directly. Judas is of course that man, but consider what the scripture reveals further…

 John 13:27-29 (NKJV)  Now after the piece of bread, Satan entered him. Then Jesus said to him, “What you do, do quickly.” But no one at the table knew for what reason He said this to him. For some thought, because Judas had the money-box, that Jesus had said to him, “Buy those things we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor.

The word for “entered” in the Greek language means ‘to enter into or to or go through”. The  meaning is fairly plain, yet Judas was primed earlier by the enemy to do this very thing, as recorded in John 13:2 where it the word of God tells us Satan had already put the thought of betraying Jesus in Judas heart. Luke’s Gospel gets more specific concerning how the thought got into Judas heart.

Luke 22:3 (NKJV) Then Satan entered Judas, surnamed Iscariot, who was numbered among the twelve. 

Note that the word “entered” is the same Greek word used in John’s Gospel. Two things are again apparent from Judas being influenced by Satan that mirror Peter’s encounter 1) Although under Satan’s direct influence, he does not appear to other to be normal, not demonized to any degree. He has no violent and crazy behavior, no naked running around, or growling, or self violence. Judas appears to be normal. 2) Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit without measure is the only one that is aware.

WE CAN’T BE FOOLED LIKE THEM CAN WE?

I realize even asking the question above will ….

  1. Stir some to scoff at the notion of Satan influencing those who are redeemed contrary to God’s will, who are supposed to have the Holy Spirit .
  2. Effect those blissfully ignorant to the unseen spiritual battle raging all around us little if at all.
  3. Stimulate some to find a demon behind every rock in explaining “attack”, failures” or events contrary to their liking.

All three of the above notions are in error, and sadly in this writers experience are the dominant practical theological positions in our contemporary Christian culture. In our day and age, where it would appear the signs of time (Spoken of by Jesus in Matthew 24) are exploding across the world, Christians in our nation are living relatively shallow spiritual lives, unaware of deeper spiritual reality.

One need only to see the violent brutality, audacious sexual immorality, and the redefinition of humanity being portrayed in media and acted out in public view, to understand the American society has become almost reprobate. It is no longer a stretch to see the “land of the free” and the “home of the brave” has become “a dwelling place for demons, a prison for every foul spirit” (Revelation 18:2).

In spite of these things being evident, the church is still stuck in lethargy and self-focused individual congregation building. With breakneck pace fellowships split over almost anything, where the opposition parties both proclaim divine right for their preference. It seems they have never read James admonition/rebuke “But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, sensual demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exists, confusion and every evil thing are there” (James 3:14-16). Even a cursory read of James epistle makes clear that the readers following satanic and subtle wisdom of the kingdom of darkness led to division in the body of Christ.

This influence from Satan’s kingdom also halted their preaching of the Gospel in the community of lost men, as they exchanged the great commission, for catering to those “lost” who would come to their meetings and fund their operations. View the landscape of Christianity in this nation. When was the last time a Christian knocked at your door with the intention of sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ? In Contrast when was the last time you saw a sign for a “VBS” or “outreach event” or some beneficial program around the churches of your town?

Some would declare that only the Jehovah’s Witness and Mormons door knock. This may be true in our time, but that does not make it any less a biblical command. On the other hand, claiming that other solid churches are doing outreach as described above, is certainly not a justifiable reason for continuing its practice, no matter what the effect.

The above mentioned thinking is the way Satan plants counter biblical thought. Counter biblical thought leads to actions that take us from the will of God. The scriptures declare abundantly in the New Testament how easily Satan can move into our influence, through the warnings and admonitions to be on guard. Below are only a few.

1 Peter 5:8-9 (NKJV) Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.

Paul relates how Satan influences the church when the Gospel is overly complex…

2 Corinthians 11:3-4 (NKJV) But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it!

And still further the word of God declares…

2 Corinthians 11:14-15 (NKJV) And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.

Part of our defense, beyond being sober and vigilant, is the supernatural power of God through the gifts of the spirit described in I Corinthians 13, especially the “discerning of spirits” (I Corinthians 12:10). This gift of the Spirit is given for the purpose of discerning the spirit of antichrist entering in among the saints (I John 4:1-3). When the church has not recognized Satan’s often hidden influence, individual bondage ensues, God’s will is hindered by those of His own household and the unity of the church is at risk.

2 Timothy 2:23-26 (NKJV) But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.

HOW WE CUT OFF SATAN ENTERING OUR INFLUENCE

Matthew 16:24-25 (NKJV) Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, 

Jesus speaks these words directly following His rebuke of Peter, which reveals how Satan entered into his influence Peter’s influence. They also reveal how Satan entered Judas life and ours for the purpose of influencing us. The place of entry is when we are protecting SELF! When we are looking to protect self with all its interests, entitlements, preferences, and wants, we are on fertile ground for corruption through satanic influence. Therefore we are called not just to DENY the grosser desires of our baser nature, but to practice self-denial, in all areas of our life. This is not to be ascetic but to learn to trust the Lord for His direction and permission for our good and His glory.

Secondly we must recognize the need to be about the work of the Lord Jesus exclusively, as much as possible, wherever we are in our lives.

As a follower of Jesus our shopping is no longer for our needs, our work no longer to obtain provision, our rest no longer to fill our need for excitement or even rest; they are to be platforms for our being filled with the Holy Spirit, for the purpose of proclaiming Christ Jesus the Messiah. This is what it means to “take up your cross and follow Jesus. This necessary discipline in our lives leads us to the third necessary element in  cutting off Satan’s entering our influence: being filled with the Holy Spirit.

Ephesians 5:18 admonishes us to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Most of my readers will say “Amen” to that declaration, but many misunderstand what it means in practical reality. Contrary to popular opion being filled with the Holy Spiritd does not generally happen the moment a person is saved and sealed, although it could (as was  Cornelius household in Acts 10:34-44).

*[Consider the progression of the disciples from sealed to filled: John 20:22-23; Luke 24:45, 49; Acts 1:4,8, 2:4, 4:31, 8:15-17, 10:34-43, 19:1-7; Ephesians 5:18)]

Being filled with the Holy Spirit is to be the ongoing and miraculously powered sharing of the divine nature (II Peter 1:4), where we live in the fulfillment of what Jesus declares in John 7:37-38. This state of Christian life is like having a mighty river of resurrection power animating our obedience to God’s word. This is blessed union with Christ Jesus through the Holy Spirit fullness, whereby we do these things and greater, as we walk as He walked. In this fullness the promise of power over all the enemy becomes practical and real. It is in this state that we are the least vulnerable.

*[REMEMBER vulnerable does not mean invulnerable. Peter even after being filled with the Holy Spirit fell to satanic influence through respecting persons and legalism]  

How are you growing in self-denial, walking in the Great Commission to proclaim Christ wherever you are walking? Are you being filled to overflowing with the Spirit? We have not more time to dally in dipping our toes in, we must dive into the ocean of God’s fullness. We must cut off Satan’s entering our influence. Too much is at stake!!!

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