What’s So Wrong about Following Jesus
Scripture Text: –
“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.” – “Luke 14:26”
I’m so glad to be part of this time of fellowship together and I count it a privilege to have been invited to minister Gods Word and to share my Heart and Passion for Jesus and His Kingdom.
Let me begin by saying: –
Jesus is the Rock upon which we stand – “Where are we standing?” “Sur le rocher “– “On the Rock” – That’s right. If we are today standing upon the Rock of Christ Jesus, then I declare to you right now “Standing on the Rock we shall not be moved” – What is our declaration – “Sur le rocher je serai ferme” – “On the Rock I shall not be moved” that’s right.
Jesus Christ had many names when He was here for His short sojourn of 33yrs. Some of the names were cast upon Him in derision; others were given by those who He had helped and had healed. His enemies called Him a drunkard because He ate and fellowshipped with the common people of the day. Others called Him the Prince of Devils, Why? Because He cast out evil spirits from those who were possessed. Yet others named Him as a blasphemer because He declared that He was the Son of God; He was deemed to be mad because of this.
However, He was by His friend’s considered to be the King of all Helpless Cases, Why? Because there was not a single case of sickness that He could not heal and there was not a sin which He could not deal with. He could have had the epilate of King of Outcasts, because the majority of His follower’s and disciples especially in the early days were of that type of character and personality. But, one title He truly could have been called and would truly have been applicable was King of Truth.
Today as I minister Gods Word, I want to commence by saying that Preaching, Teaching and Ministry of any sort is not a spectator sport. We can sit and watch, but that’s not the point. The ministry of God’s Word is not a form of spiritual entertainment.
Preaching, Teaching and ministry and especially Preaching at its heart is a form of engagement, it’s a conversation that’s being entered. In the final analysis I sincerely believe that you will get from it what you bring to it.
Why Do I Preach – Let’s remind ourselves of some of the good reasons?
- I preach because God is a God who speaks.
- I preach as an act of service to others.
- I preach because the Gospel is thrillingly good news.
- I preach because people need to hear the Gospel.
- I preach to build God’s kingdom.
- I preach to equip others for ministry.
- I preach because I can’t help but speak of Someone so wonderful.
- I preach because I care about the people to whom I preach.
With those things in mind I want to say that sincerest desire is that through these days together you will be challenged but more than that encouraged in your faith and journey.
I have a vision and it is a vision that I believe God implanted in my spirit some time ago and it has been nurtured and has grown over the passing years since I commenced the fulfillment of Gods calling upon my life for global evangelism.
I have recognized (and I say this without any degree of self-grandiose) that the vision is not just for me; but for those to come after me and it carries with its eternal consequences. I am certain in my spirit that God wants us all to live with an eternal perspective in our thinking that will embrace generations that follow us. My life, your life today and everything that has led to this day and will follow this day will and has had an impact upon other people’s eternity. That impact from today onwards will depend upon how we and I embrace His calling in our lives and journeys.
In light of that let me add that Gods purposes and His plans are beyond any single generation and it isn’t what we achieve that’s the most important but what we set in motion.
I know for a fact that we all go through our difficulties, we face various challenges. There are those who are gripped by shame and its crippling because they are convinced “God cannot love me as I am” – Well! I’m here to tell you that it’s a lie that comes from the pit of hell. There are those who are “afraid to put their faith to the test because they are filled with fear” – Well! I’m here to tell you that the author of fear is the devil and to remind you that “Fear is simply a lie that’s running out of breath” and it has no bearing upon your life if you recognise that He loves you.
Let me tell you today without any hesitancy that we serve an Unstoppable God and He is a God who is Not Afraid of Impossible Odds.
We need in these few days together to be honest with ourselves and others and it’s a unique period of time when we can reflect on our lives, enjoy Gods fellowship and out of the busy lives we live give God time to speak to us.
- If we are honest, we have mountains that we feel will never move am I right?
- If we are honest, we have doubts that prevail in our journey am I right?
- If we are honest, we have times when we listen to the lie that says it can’t be done am I right?
- If we are honest we could be in a situation where right now my struggle is all I see am I right?
Well I’ll tell you we all go through these things – but its now how we start its how we finish that’s the most important.
I would be lying if I told you I was anything but weak I’m a simple bag of clay like you and any other leaders here, but I’m determined that my story will not end in defeat. I know I’m in the Battle and there will be Conflicts in Which I Lose, there will be Battles Lost BUT!!!! I know whose fighting for me – Its Jesus – He has already Won the War it was Jesus who declared at Calvary It is finished and His word has resonated both through Past History right through until Present History and will continue through until we are In Eternity so we can triumphantly declare I’m claiming victory because I know who’s fighting for me.
Where does my help come from – Where does my help come from – My help comes from the Lord
Sure, you may not feel that you are not a warrior – you may feel broken – you may feel that your too afraid to lose – you may feel that you are unqualified for that which God is calling you to – Well! If that’s the case I want to tell you that it breaks His heart to see you suffering – Hear me my friends, He is not against you He is for you.
If you are feeling broken today, then broken people are just those that He delights to use.
- Consider the plight of Daniel in the Lion’s Den, do you think he was not in the midst of all his humanity “Shaking in his sandal’s” sure he had faith, but he was still human.
- Consider Moses out in the Wilderness, do you think he was not filled with a sense of “Rejection and Isolation” sure he could see the plan of God unfolding but he was still human.
- Consider David as he faced down Goliath, do you think he was not on a human level filled with “Trepidation” both before and during the conflict? Of course, he was after-all he was still human.
But in all these cases there were keys to their victory which are the same keys to yours.
- Daniel had Faith
- Moses had Hope
- David had Fortitude of Heart
Rejection, Isolation, Fear, these are all walls that stand in the way of the full potential you have in God and I really believe that God is calling upon you as He did to Joshua in “Joshua 6:20” – “When the trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so everyone charged straight in, and they took the city.”
- What’s your City that needs Conquering?
- What’s Your Wall that needs to Collapse?
- He is calling upon you to shout and shake the walls and not to stop until I see them fall and you can then enter the City of His Grace & Freedom in your life.
- Can I hear an Amen to that?
He knew the End from the Beginning and in reality, God had already given Joshua and the people the City and the Walls had already come down but as they responded to His call, they obtained the promise.
The apostle Paul assures us, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” – “Romans 15:4”.
So, what do we see from this Scripture: –
- There is a Vast Difference between God’s Way and Man’s Way “Isaiah 55:8-9” – “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – NIV Though militarily it was irrational to assault Jericho in the manner it was done, we must never question God’s purpose or instructions. We must have faith that God is who He says He is and will do what He says He will do “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful“ is what “Hebrews 10:23” tells us an in “Hebrews 11: 1” we are told “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not see.”
- The Power of God is Supernatural and Beyond our Comprehension “Daniel: 4:35” tells us “All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?”The walls of Jericho fell, and they fell instantly. They did so under the sheer power of God at work.We can expect God to do just the same for us as we trust in Him even as “Philippians 2:13” tells us – “For it is God who works in you to will and to act on behalf of His good pleasure.”
- There is an Uncompromising Relationship
between the Grace of God and our Faith and Obedience to Him.
- Scripture says, “By
faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for
– “Hebrews 11:30”.
numerous occasions before there had been failures of faith however on this occasion
Children of Israel believed and trusted God and His promises. Let’s remember He
does not deal with us under human reasoning. Humanly, people would say “Oh! Why
should I bother they always fail me” but that’s not how God works. They showed
their faith and their faith was the key to their success in this instance. God
always responds to faith.
- However, let’s remember that faith must be evidenced by obedience. And that’s why in “James 2:18” it says, “Now someone may argue, ‘Some people have faith; others have good deeds.’ But I say, ‘How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.” NLT
- On numerous occasions before there had been failures of faith however on this occasion Children of Israel believed and trusted God and His promises. Let’s remember He does not deal with us under human reasoning. Humanly, people would say “Oh! Why should I bother they always fail me” but that’s not how God works. They showed their faith and their faith was the key to their success in this instance. God always responds to faith.
- Scripture says, “By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days” – “Hebrews 11:30”.
I wonder what was going through your mind this morning when you woke up – It may have been “Every day I wake up and I meet the same old fight in my life” – it’s a fight perhaps where in the midst of your sense of chaos you are aware of that little quiet voice inside that tells you it’s a lie to believe there is hope. Well! Let me say right here and now that you do not need to live in that lieand during today and the next few days God can gloriously release you.
In following Jesus, we must always remember it’s about Relationship NOT Law.
In “John 18:26” it says referring to Peter “Did I not see you in the Garden with him?” and what I want to try to remind us of is that we are all on a journey of maturity in our relationship with him.
Consider for a moment if you will – Thousands had watched miracles, been fed, heard gracious words and had reveled in the parables that Jesus spoke. They cried “Hosanna,” crowded the Temple courts to rejoice in the controversies – However, the thousands never reached the Garden. Only eleven stayed close enough to Christ to reach Gethsemane; out of those eight hesitated in the shadows; three went on to the trees to pray with Jesus and then they fell asleep.
What is revealed here? The revelation is of varying levels of spiritual life: –
- Some kneel beside the manger who never listen to teaching.
- Some join Jesus on the sunny hills, and by
the peaceful lake. They imbibe idealism, a contagion of faith, they recognize a
kindly spirit, and know wholesome living is required. However, they leave Him
when He sets His face to go to Jerusalem.
- Sure, there are a few who follow Him there and even to the Upper Room – But where are they in the Danger, Darkness and Confusion of Gethsemane.
There is something very important for us to reconise – If we don’t enter the Garden then we are not going to fully experience His work and know of the fullness of fruitfulness.
What I wonder do you expect from your walk and journey with Jesus? Is it a walk that you expect to be sweet filled with reasonableness and optimism? Is it a walk and journey with Jesus that you expect to be not righteous overmuch or holy overmuch or committed overmuch?
I know I’m being pretty tough here but there is in our day and generation a “Cheap Grace of Evangelicalism” that accepts all that Christ offers, and yet leaves Him to pray alone in the shadows, refusing to share in the cross.
I have to tell you today that Christ expects us to “Take up His cross and follow Him” in the shadows of our Gethsemane’s is where: –
- Personal Issues are Clarified
- Great Souls are Forged
- Prayers like Jacob of old become Wrestling
- Obedience is found to be Costly
- Faith often narrows in its perspective to Painful Surrender
Without and until these are experienced and personally tasted a whole range of spiritual possibilities remain unexplored and a whole dimension of spiritual strength never known.
The brief I have been given for these few days is to support the preparation of God’s people for both present and future challenges that face us as Christians. It is broken down into two elements: -Falling away from Faith in Christ through coldness of heart.
The Return of Jesus and the problem of the Shallowness of Christian Living in light of that return of the Lord and Falling away from Faith in Christ through coldness of heart.
- “1 Timothy 4:1” says to us “But the Spirit expressly states that in later times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons….” Berean Translation.
- In “Matthew 24: 9-12” we read “Then you will be tortured and killed and hated all over the world because you are mine, and many of you shall fall back into sin and betray and hate each other. And many false prophets will appear and lead many astray. Sin will be rampant everywhere and will cool the love of many. But those enduring to the end shall be saved” – Living Bible
Shallowness of Christian Living in light of the return of the Lord.
- “1: Thessalonians 5: 2b-6” – “……the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober.” – NIV
Martin Luther (1517) said: – “There are two days in my calendar: this day and that day,” and he was referencing Christ’s second coming and the day of Gods judgement.
The Church has come a long way since 1517 – The 502yrs from 1517 to 2019 has found the Church erring dramatically in one of two directions – Either Awake or Slumbering – either as Virgins with Oil or Without.
Twenty years or so ago, there were sermons, studies and literature replete on the topic of the second coming. However, I can say personally that I cannot recall a sermon on the topic, Church based studies on it or literature which has given it emphasis. It appears to be and out of style fad from a previous generation “these things ought not to be”
In “Isaiah 59: 14” we read the statement “Truth stumbles in the streets, and honesty has been outlawed.” New Living Translation. It’s true to say today that some of the great doctrines that were once held as sacrosanct such as Divine Healing and The Second Coming of Christ are not only ignored but as the symbolism of the verse reads indicates that they are left dying in the aisles of our Churches and in our streets and Truth is desecrated, wounded, torn and left in a tattered condition.
One might ask the question and quite rightly of Leaders and Preachers Why? My personal opinion is that many Leaders and Preachers today put personal approval and likeability before “Nailing their colours to the mast” – The other reason is that they are “Not Fully Persuaded Themselves” – I really don’t know what is worse out of the two options – What I do know however is that Introspection should commence in their hearts and they either Declare their Belief being Fully Persuaded or Leave their Pulpits – Because either way they are leading Gods People down an impoverished, erroneous and false pathway.
I’m a second coming person. Sure, we may hold differing doctrinal positions on if it’s before or after the tribulation but for true Bible believing Children of God there is a unified acceptance on the literal, imminent and soon-coming return of Christ. For Christians, though, the most important questions to ask are not if Jesus will return – that is settled – and not when he will return, that is unknowable. The most helpful question to ask ourselves is: “So what?” – “What relevance has it to me?” – “What difference does it make?”
It is well for us to remember that Jesus’ return is not to be viewed as some Biblical abstract doctrine which has no significant bearing upon our Christian lives. No! Rather, the New Testament references are there for application to us. The Biblical passages are there to remind us of a forthcoming event that is designed to shape our daily Christian living.
In “Titus 2:13” Paul describes Jesus’ second coming as the church’s “blessed hope.” However, in our cultural standing we see the affluent Western Christian World of this 21st century treating it as a “blessed nuisance”. Believers today unlike the 1st Century are enjoying a relatively comfortable life. All the following has diminished our yearning for Jesus’ return: –
- Religious Freedom
- Modern Medicine
- Middleclass Lifestyle
Whilst these things in general and other modern-day conveniences have brought earthly comfort, they have like a cancer ushered in with them spiritual complacency and shallowness of discipleship.
This complacency is frequently found in the local church as well. Many congregations act as though Christ’s return would: –
- Interrupt their building program
- Disturb their long-range strategic plans
- Young adults seem content for material pursuit
- Senior adults are too busy enjoying retirement to long for Christ’s return
On a personal basis I sense that for many today, heaven is too far away, it’s too distant, and eternity well that’s too abstract an idea to be particularly challenged by – Is that because I’m nearer to all those things? Perhaps but the return of Jesus is not a theoretical concept and it will unfortunately (Because of Leaders and Preachers) catch many unaware.
Jonathan Edwards (October 5, 1703 – March 22, 1758) had a resolution and it was “never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if I expected it would not be above an hour, before I should hear the last trumpet” (Resolutions of a Saintly Scholar).
Theodore Epp (January 27, 1907 – October 13, 1985) once said: – “Live as though Christ Died Yesterday, Rose from the Grave Today, and is Coming Back Tomorrow”
This is all in light of the Return of the Lord and to challenge the problem we see today in the shallowness of many Christians. It also has a “Knock on effect” that of a casualness in regard to Evangelism. If we really believed His coming was imminent, we would most certainly invest our time, energy, resources and money into making the Gospel known to others.
It has always been my intention and that has not changed now to be a source of encouragement to all I minister too. We read in “Hebrews 3:12” the following “You must encourage one another each day. And you must keep on while there is still a time that can be called “today.” If you don’t, then sin may fool some of you and make you stubborn.” Contemporary English Version.
Considering the topic, I have been given to focus on during these ministry times together I believe that these words in Hebrews are very apt.
The portion of scripture that it is my task to unwrap for us is – “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.” – “Luke 14:26”
This is a very difficult passage of scripture and to understand it is made worse because our natural tendency is to read it with the vision and understanding of our own cultural background and thinkingwhen we do this with this verse and other verses, we lose out on the reality of what is being said. We need to see it as the speaker saw it, hear it as the speaker heard it and relate to it in the way the speaker related to it.
The story is told of a man who was un-saved and wanted to be “one up” on a friend who had shared with him truths from Gods Word. With a Bible open he declares to his friend – “I’ve got you now, I’ve found something in the Bible you gave me that proves the Bible contradicts itself.” he went on to say “You said Jesus reflects love and peace, right? Well, look and listen to this.” The man then went on and quoted very pedantically the words of “Luke 14: 26” emphasising the “hate his father and mother…….”
Initially let me say that nothing, nothing, nothing must be more important to us than our love for God and the outworking willingly of our obedience to both His Word and His Law. If we have ever said – “Lord, I’ll do this or give that IF” has forgotten the commandment of God of “You shall not make for yourself an idol of any kind, or an image of anything in the heavens above, on the earth beneath, or in the waters below. “You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God……” – “Genesis 2: 3-4b” and “Exodus 20:23” – “You are not to make any gods to rival Me; you are not to make for yourselves gods of silver or gold.” – Berean Study Bible
- If people teach that we are not duty-bound to keep His law, then the Scriptures teach that the love of God is not within them – “This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands.” – “1 John 5:2” – NIV also – “And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.” – “2 John:6” – NIV
- It was Jesus Himself who
declared that God’s GREATEST commandment was to love HIM with all our heart and
soul and mind “Matthew 22:37” – “Jesus replied: “Love the
Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your
Referring to “Deuteronomy 6:5.”
- He was declaring that this was to be much, much more when comparing it than anyone and anything else.
And we only truly can say we love God if we keep His Word – “But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him” – “1 John 2:5” NIV
Christ also commanded us to love even our enemies “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you……” – “Luke 6:27” NIV. He further said “And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself. referring to “Leviticus 19:18” – “Matthew 22:39” NIV
So, how we are then to understand the verse in question, and does it make Jesus contradict both Himself and Scripture – Of course not! Let me try to unpack its real meaning.
It is entirely correct for us to understand the word HATE in the general usage of the term to mean – “An intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury or an extreme dislike or disgust.” Indeed, this is what the original Greek word (μισεῖ) “misei” conveyed. Overwhelmingly most times, the word HATE (misei) refers exactly to this.
Its utilised 7 times –
- “Luke 14:26” (Own Paternal Father) – Greek: καὶ οὐ μισεῖ τὸν πατέρα
- “John 3:20” (Light) – Greek: φαῦλα πράσσων μισεῖ τὸ φῶς
- “John 7:7” (Me) – Greek: ἐμὲ δὲ μισεῖ ὅτι ἐγὼ
- “John 15:18” (You) – Greek: κόσμος ὑμᾶς μισεῖ γινώσκετε ὅτι
- “John 15:19” (You) – Greek: διὰ τοῦτο μισεῖ ὑμᾶς ὁ
- “John 15:23” (The Father) Greek: πατέρα μου μισεῖ
- “1 John 3:13” (You) – Greek: ἀδελφοί εἰ μισεῖ ὑμᾶς ὁ
However, we need to also understand that it is also utilised contextually in other areas to mean “to love less” or “to postpone in love or esteem.” Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. The Apostle Paul for instance says – “As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” – “Romans 9:13” NIV and what does this mean? God is declaring here in the statement that God love in respect of Esau and Jacob was to be in comparison to each other.
The theme of comparison is continued in the parallel passage in “Matthew 10:37” of “Luke 14:26” – “He that loveth father or mother MORE than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter MORE than me is not worthy of me.” but here instead of Hate the word More is used declaring the finer / comparison usage of the word (μισεῖ) “misei”. It is declaring very clearly not that we are to Hate (Negative) but LOVE LESS (Positive) in comparison to Jesus.
Albert Barnes (1798-1870) was an American theologian, born at Rome, New York, on December 1, 1798 said the following: – “Christ must be loved supremely, or he is not loved at all. If we are not willing to give up all earthly possessions, and forsake all earthly friends, and if we do not obey him rather than all others, we have no true attachment to him.”
It’s well for us to remember that the ancient world unlike the one we live in now dealt and talked in absolutes.
You will recall that I mentioned earlier that Hate / More were to be considered as Comparatives. In “Genesis 29: 30-31” we read of Jacob and we are told that he had two wives, Rachel and Leah. The Bible tells us that Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah. “When the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he allowed her to have a child, but Rachel was without a child.” I trust that this makes clear the comparison between loving something less. Jacob took care of Leah his Wife, stayed with her, honoured his vows, raised his children. But he had more feeling for Rachel. Being loved less is called being hated or despised in this instance.
Likewise, Jesus says in “Luke 16:13” – “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to the one and love the other.” Jesus does not say that the Servant will scream and yell in an attitude of violent rebellion, bring him into dis-repute or try to bring his business into bankruptcy No! He tells us that Obedience will be manifested to one and a Rebellion of the law of the other. This is an example of the Biblical use of the word and attitude of hate.
So, having I hope brought some clarification to the Scripture: – “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.” – “Luke 14:26” I want now to try and concentrate our thoughts on what the implications of this are to all of us. When I say all of us that’s precisely what I mean from the youngest to the oldest it has enormous and profound implications.
You see, we live in a time and generation where everything is designed to make life easier. There is every modern convenience and social assistance. However, like a cancer which usually takes a significant time to spread and be diagnosed this attitude of making life easier has found its way into the Church of Jesus Christ and it has infected His Bride to such an extent that the words of the Apostle Paul ring out loudly to me in “Galatians 1 6-9” – “I am amazed how quickly you are deserting the One who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel which is not even a gospel. Evidently some people are troubling you and trying to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be under a divine curse! As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you embraced, let him be under a divine curse!” – Berean Bible
As Leaders who are privileged to either Pastor a Congregation or many Congregations, or itinerant in their ministry calling the same one purpose, one goal and one desire is at the very foundation of their calling. If a Leader is a True Shepherd then their most important priority will be to ensure that those under their care and ministry will be enabled to stand before the judgment seat of Christ presented to Him pure, unspotted, holy and righteous, rooted and grounded in the Word.
“James 1:26-27” says “If anyone among you thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” – NKJV Its my job nay calling to support all my brothers and sisters in this whilst maintaining my own.
Furthermore, my hearts-desire is to see my family in Christ able to stand before His throne with assurance, knowing they have given them the whole counsel of God. Ensuring that they were not tossed about by every wind and wave of doctrine, not deceived by doctrines of demons and that they came through every test and trial with the Word of God hidden in their hearts!
So, how does one become spotted? It comes about as a result of decisions we do or do not make; the kind of people we mix with and allow to influence us; the things we give ourselves to that are not of God.
Temptation is a part of this life, but we do not need to yield to it. That is why faith and vision are so important for us. We need to ask ourselves the question “what are we really living for day by day?”. Faith and vision motivate us in the purposes of God.
My personal experience in the purposes of God is that there are usually not enough hours in the day to accomplish all that God has called us to do! I’ve been saved since the 4th April 1968 some 50 years and after 49 years of being a Spirit-filled Christian I am still highly motivated in that which God has called me to do. And I love it! Hallelujah!
Boredom is not a thing I know about! It is not about, “What can I do?” for if we know the will of God for our life then we know what to do and can get on and do it! If you struggle in this area, then get alongside other Christians who are motivated and accomplishing something for God and let some of their motivation and enthusiasm for Jesus “rub off” on you!
There really is no excuse for being idle in the Kingdom of God. Let the words of that old chorus sink in deeper to us: “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face; and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”
Rodney W. Francis said “One of the observations I have made in recent times is that it seems many Christians do not know where the world ends, and the Christian life begins. There has become such a mixture in the church that many do not discern the difference! And that is very sad. How can we be effective in winning this lost world for Jesus if we are so caught-up in it we are unable to discern their great need?”
That truly is the one desire of my heart and I know it is of other Leaders. If the Apostle Paul was alive today, he would stand in our Town Squares, Church Pulpits and in fact anywhere Gods People gathered, and he would say the same things to us that he did in the New Testament (and I paraphrase): – “Beware! An invasion is coming! In fact, it’s already here. Be on your guard because there are false teachers with false doctrines that are bombarding you from all sides. They will introduce to you another Christ not the Christ of Scripture. They will not be of the Holy Spirit, but of another spirit. And it will not be the true gospel — it will be another.“
How do we then recognise another gospel? Let me offer a few suggestions:
- If you hear any teaching that tends to undermine the Fear of God is an accursed Gospel and is of the Devil.
- If you hear of any teaching that Diverts you from a single focus, mindedness and devotion to Jesus Christ is an accursed Gospel and is of the Devil.
- If you hear of any teaching that indicates that you can have a Devotion to Christ without a walk of holiness is an accursed Gospel and is of the Devil.
The True Gospel is and will always be concerned with our hearts because as the Bible says – “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” – “Proverbs 4:23” NIV
I am very aware from my understanding of the Scriptures that there is an invisible yet very real global and spiritual conspiracy in which demons are involved in high places – “Ephesians 6:12” says “For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against persons without bodies – the evil rulers of the unseen world, those mighty satanic beings and great evil princes of darkness who rule this world; and against huge numbers of wicked spirits in the spirit world.” – Living Bible.
“What is Spiritual Warfare? It is a war of universal proportions pitting God and His truth against Satan and his lies. It’s a battle of wills between God and Satan. I’s a cosmic conflict that involves God and the highest creature He ever made, and it filters down to every human being. Satan and his army of demons are fighting Christ, His holy angels, the nation of Israel, and believers. The battle lines are clearly drawn” – John Macarthur “Standing Strong”
All humans and earthly organisations (Government’s, Local Councils etc..) whether they like it or not are unwitting participants in this demonic kingdom battle and warfare – the same that was offered to Jesus in the wilderness.
Don’t believe me well both the Old and New Testaments are clear on the topic: –
- “For all the gods of the nations are idols (demons), but the Lord made the heavens.” – “Psalm 96:5” – NIV
- “What am I trying to say? Am I saying that the idols to whom the heathen bring sacrifices are really alive and are real gods, and that these sacrifices are of some value? No, not at all. What I am saying is that those who offer food to these idols are united together in sacrificing to demons, certainly not to God….” – “1 Corinthians 10:19-20” – Living Bible
- “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” “2 Corinthians 4:4” – NIV
Satan is the “god of this world” and thus he controls (under the authority and sovereignty of God) much of what occurs in the events of this world.
So, to say we live in difficult times, I’m not telling you anything new and it does not come as a great surprise to be told it. However, if we are not careful it is easy in the business of life to forget it.
The problem we face as the Children of God, His Church and His Bride is that when we live in a religiously culturally easy part of the World it’s easy to forget that there is a spiritual war is going on and we have been conscripted into the Army of the King.
It’s all too easy for us to forget the millions of souls in the world that are in the grasp of Satan. John tells us very clearly in “1 John 5:19” – “We have come to know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” – ESV
It’s interesting as an aside that John uses the phrase “Come to know” 3 times: –
- “We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep
on sinning, but one who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not
touch him.” – “1 John 5:18” – ESV
- “We have come to know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.”
– “1 John 5:19”
- Born of God – (ek theou) (from God) a shortened form of saying that we have been born of God (ho gegennemenos ek tou theou)
- “We have come to know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” – “1 John 5:19” – ESV
- “We know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ.” – “1 John 5:20” – ESV
We may therefore be confident in the reality that God has given us eternal life. If we are Children of God then because we are confident about our origins (from and born of God), then in like manner we can be entirely assured about our destiny.
John in these three verses is supplying us with the graphic image of total, entire and unconscious passivity on the part of those who are outside of the household of faith the enemy, the evil one has he describes has the world completely within his dominion.
Remember, Jesus did not contradict the Devil in the time of His temptation in the wilderness in “Matthew 4:8-9” where it says “….the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” – NIV
Take time to reflect upon who you were before you became a child of God if you are honest with yourself. Tragically we thought we were the ones who were really living. We were engaged in doing anything and everything that pleased us, and imagined that in chasing every opportunity available to us, that we had life when in fact it was quite the opposite you and I have to include myself were simply the living dead we were no better that zombies looking like we had life but stumbling around and stinking to high heaven in our sinful state. In pursuing those very things that we thought were lifegiving and freeing were in fact enslaving us more and more to Satan.
The reality is that there are only two kingdoms in this world: – The Kingdom of the Evil One, and the Kingdom of our God and of His Christ. The entire human race is a citizen and is subject to the rules and laws of one of these two kingdoms.
The one Kingdom that of the Devil is one personified by death and slavery; the other the Kingdom of God is personified by the characteristics of life and freedom.
If we know Jesus Christ as our Saviour and Lord then we know the Gospel caused Salvation to find us and He so graciously gave us the very faith we needed to believe because the “…..the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth……” – “Romans 1:16” – King James and it gives the promise that we will be saved (Saved from What?)
- Saved from – The Dominion of Darkness
- Saved from – The Penalty of Sin
- Saved from – The Judgement of God
As an Ambassador for Christ “2 Corinthians 5:20” – “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” – NIV it behooves us to not forget that we must be on our guard, we must be vigilant, we must be sober minded and Why? Because Satan will always take advantage of Christians who are lethargic, indolent, or spiritually stagnant.
Which Christians face the greatest challenge from the Devil, I’ll tell you it’s those who try to hide away in a sanctified environment instead of fighting the battle. “Ephesians 6: 13b-14a “says to us “….and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist…” When the Roman Soldier was ordered to Stand Firm, it was not the Long Sword but the Short Sword he utilised with short but decisive thrusts that sent the enemy into retreat or death. Thus, we are called with the Sword of the Spirit to live with the belt of truth. In” James 4:7b” we read “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” NIV
On a side note we are in a Global Spiritual Battle, it is well to recognise that nowhere in the Bible are Christians given the authority to “rebuke” the devil, we are only told to “resist him.” In “Zechariah 3:2” we read that it is the Lord who rebukes Satan – “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?” referring to Joshua the High Priest. One of the most powerful of Angels Michael did not have the authority did not dare to accuse Satan, but rather said, “The Lord rebuke you” – “Jude 1:9”
In response to Satan’s attacks, we should redouble our efforts to clothe ourselves in the spiritual armour, wield the Word of God, and rely on His power through prayer. Instead of focusing on “rebuking” the devil, we should focus on resisting him with the full armour of God.
Soldiers of Christ
I mentioned earlier that I’ve been saved now for 51 years and thus I have been in the Army of the Lord for 51 years. However, It does no matter if you have been saved for – 1hour, 1 day, 1week, 1 month, 1year or even 1 century – as soon as you were born again you were conscripted in the Army of the Lord and the training continues right through intro eternity.
We are in a uniquely unusual position in Gods Army. Why? Well, the reason is this – In any natural Army troops are being trained to fight should an enemy attack and all their training is designed for readiness.
The unusual position however for us is that from the very moment we are born again we are immediately engaged in the fierceness of the battle. The battle against principalities and powers in heavenly places – “We’re not waging war against enemies of flesh and blood alone. No, this fight is against tyrants, against authorities, against supernatural powers and demon princes that slither in the darkness of this world, and against wicked spiritual armies that lurk about in heavenly places.” – “Ephesians 6:12” The Voice
Trials, Skirmishes, Conflicts and Battles will all be fought but unlike a natural army – We may lose the odd battle or conflict, but we know the “Actual War has already been won”. I said earlier that Jesus declared “It is finished” and the outworking of that victory is manifested in His Resurrection where He defeated the last enemy Death. In “2 Chronicles 20:15” it says, “The battle is not yours but Gods”.
In Ministry the Leaders are faced with a significant challenge. People expect them to have all the answers, but it is an unfounded expectation. Why are Leaders faced with many challenges? The answer is simple “Soldiers neglect their God given armour.”
In “Ephesians 6:14” we are told that God has given to all without exception the following items: –
- The Belt of Truthfulness.
- The Breastplate of Righteousness.
- The Shoes of the Gospel of Peace.
- The Shield of Faith.
- The Helmet of Salvation.
- The Sword of the Spirit.
None of these items are forged in a human weapons factory No! they are heaven built – “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 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. “- “2 Corinthians 10: 3-5” NIV
We are expected to Drill, March and Rest in this armour at all times. However, people don’t.
Let’s take a look at just one of the Sword of the Spirit. We need to recognise that no trial or conflict can come against us unless – 1st God has permitted it – Even then, when He has permitted it the trial or conflict is – Controlled in its Outworking. Its also encouraging to know that no temptation that comes our way is without a way of escape or designed with the end result without the hope of success. It says in “1 Corinthians 10:13” – “Any temptation you face will be nothing new. But God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can handle. But He always provides a way of escape so that you will be able to endure and keep moving forward “– The Voice
We are all faced with a predicament _ Why? – Do we fail? Is it Gods fault? Of Course not. Is it our fault? Of course, it is.
When the Apostle Paul penned and spoke these words what was he drawing the attention of the listeners too? By referencing the Sword, it was immediately understood that it was the Short Sword that the Roman Soldier would carry, and it was utilised in 1 to 1 combat. In our understanding the Sword is the Word of God.
We need to remind ourselves that this is no Natural Sword No! It is Divine in its Origin and as such we can rejoice in its quality.
It is: –
- Infallible (Perfect)
- Inerrant (Contains no faults)
- Determinative (It decides a future)
If we were to combine all these qualities and attributes together, we would have to conclude that the Sword of the Spirit – The Word of God is Invincible.
When you take up your Sword it does two basic things: –
- It brings about people’s salvation.
- It liberates both saved and un-saved from the dominion of the enemy.
- If you want to change Error to Truth.
- If you want to change Sadness to Happiness.
- If you want to change Darkness to Light.
- If you want to change Stagnation to Growth
Then there is an absolute imperative and necessity to use your sword. You must know it intimately and wield it with expertise and skill.
Have any of you ever faced a conflict or temptation? If so, you are in very good company. Jesus did and He was victorious, not because He was the Son of God but because He knew how to wield Hi sword.
In the wilderness temptations recorded for us in “Matthew 4:1-11” we see what a master swordsman Jesus was.
Temptation No 1: –
- He was tempted in the midst of His severe hunger to turn Stones into Bread. He countered the temptation by quoting “Deuteronomy 8: 3” which says – “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
Temptation No 2: –
- He was tempted to put God to a test. He countered the temptation by quoting “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” from “Deuteronomy 6:16”
Temptation No 3: –
- He was tempted to take Kingship of the World if He would give worship to the Devil. He countered the temptation by quoting from “Deuteronomy 6:13” where it says, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.”
What was the net result of this encounter with the Devil – The Devil fled from Jesus as he could not withstand the effectiveness and the authority of God’s Word. In “James 4:7”we read “So place yourselves under God’s authority. Resist the devil, and he will run away from you.” – Gods Word Translation
If you have the same attitude of heart where you are submitted to Gods Authority in your life when you quote Gods Word it will be as “Thus says the Lord” it will be like “Let it Be Authority and Power” there will be a creativeness contained within it that the enemy is helpless to counteract.
Jesus knew what principles were relevant to all situations – Do You? Off course not we are in training. However, I have met Christians who have sat in Church all their Christian Lives and yet have not grasped even the 1st Principles of Gods Word. When it comes to conflict they fail.
What is the right way to use the Word of God? Our lives are described as a Garden and in it there are various insects and visitors such as Butterflies, Bees and Botanists. It was observed that the Butterfly would alight on a number of flowers, stay for a second or two then move on to another (It derived no benefit from its visit). The Botanist entered the Garden took copious notes regarding design of the flowers put them in his notebook, closed it and filed it away (He derived no benefit from his visit). The Bee visited many flowers. He stayed a while entered into the flower and came away with his legs covered with pollen – He arrived empty but left full.
Do you flit from one scripture to another, do you take notes and get no benefit because you lock away all the information gained? Or do you like the Bee inwardly digest Gods Word.
If your desire is to live a victorious and clean life pleasing to God, then the Scriptures gives you the answer in that it says: – “Psalm 119: 9-11” – “How can a young person live a clean life? By carefully reading the map of your Word. I’m single-minded in pursuit of you; don’t let me miss the road signs you’ve posted. I’ve banked your promises in the vault of my heart so I won’t sin myself bankrupt.” – The Message
Do you want: –
- Faith like Daniel in the Lion’s Den?
- Do you want Hope like Moses in the Wilderness?
- Do you want a Heart like David?
So, you can face the giants of conflict and temptation then: –
- Faith is Increased by Gods Word.
- Hope is Established by Gods Word.
- Hearts are Defended by Gods Word.
“Matthew 16:24-25” is where Jesus raised this call to all would be Children of God He said “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” – NIV
Let me pose you a really fundamental question and a question that is by asking, “Am I making a difference in the fight?” – There are far too many of the Household of Faith that are settling for indifference and worldliness.
I know from Scripture that there is an unseen spiritual global conspiracy involving demons in high places, and many humans and earthly organisations are unwitting participants in it. The Old Testament says that the gods of the nations are demons – “For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the LORD made the heavens.”- “Psalm 96:5” – “Do I mean then that food sacrificed to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons.” – “1 Corinthians 10:19-20” – “2 Corinthians 4:4” declares that Satan is the “god of this world” and thus he controls (under the authority and sovereignty of God) much of what occurs in the events of this world.
In the context of our subject matter relating to remaining firm in Christ we can be fully assured of the fact that when Christ is Lord of a Life then that person will be kept by the power of God and he/she will be the recipient of the gift of God’s Gift of Persevering Faith – Is this me just making this up No! it’s Peter himself who tells us this in “1 Peter 1: 5” – “who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time” and wonderfully “the evil one does not touch him ” – “1 John 5:18”.
In case you are in any doubt let me tell you that when the Holy Spirit inhabits a person, no demon can set up house as a squatter. Indwelling by demons is only evidence of a lack of genuine salvation.
In “Colossians 1: 13” is where the Apostle Paul said that God “rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son.” Salvation brings true deliverance and protection from Satan or nothing. Again, the Apostle tells us in “Romans 8: 37” – “….in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us”.
We are a people of God given Victory “1 Corinthians 15: 57” He God always leads us in triumph “2 Corinthians 2: 14”. Finally, in “1 John 2: 13” John said we have “overcome the evil one” and in “1 John 4: 4” John said the indwelling Holy Spirit is greater than Satan.
So, I ask the question “How could anyone affirm those glorious truths yet believe demons can indwell genuine believers?”
As we continue together, I want to now concentrate on some issues that affect all children of God and Leaders are not immune from these issues.
There are five issues that we are looking at: –
- The Devil Opposes All References to The Sacrificial Work of Christ on the Cross.
- The Devil Snatches Away the Good Seed of The Word of God to Prevent It Lodging in Our Hearts and Bearing Fruit
- The Devil Tries to Make God’s People Compromise in their Consecration
- The Devil’s Attacks the Faith of God’s Children
- The Devil Hinders God’s Work by Putting Difficulties in the Way
In doing so I want you to remember that in the words of the 16th and 17th centuries Puritans that we have Precious Remedies against Satan’s Devices.
Here’s a question for you – Why Did Jesus Come? You are all correct in one form or another but the Scriptures give us the exact definition why when it says: – “The reason the son of God was manifest was to undo, loosen and dissolve the works the devil has done” – “1: John: 3:8b”
It’s a fact that the enemy is constantly at work, he never ceases, never rests, he is totally focused upon his desire and intention is very simple it is to “Kill, Steal and Destroy”- “John 10:10”. Whilst we a “more than conquerors” – “Romans 8:37a” we should not at any time underestimate his effectiveness, ability or power. Usually, his victories are handed to him on a plate by us by our failure to recognise who we are in Jesus Christ and by living lives that are careless in the areas of discipleship, prayer and study of God’s Word these.
I want to continue this line of thought and to try to bring out some of the methods and devices that the devil utilises in the lives of men, women and children alike. I hope that as a result we will be more aware, and thus more able to deal with him when he comes in both covert and overt ways against us.
The devils whole aim is to maintain his grip on the unregenerate of the world, and especially to destroy, or minimize the faith of the child of God.
- His desire is to reduce in our thinking the Lordship of Christ and to grind us down.
- The more he can lead the non-Christian into destructive forms of bondage, the happier he is.
- The more he can dissipate our faith and spoil our walk with Christ the more delighted he is.
In the text I have utilised we are informed that the whole purpose of the manifestation of Jesus into this world and the purpose of the Father, was that He might be a Saviour and that all might be freed from the devil’s tyranny and bondage.
We rejoice in the fact of our experience of freedom and ownership of His Saviour hood, and yet how often do we find ourselves in need of the Lord to come afresh into our lives to liberate us. We find ourselves impoverished and bound and this ought not to be the case. That is not a criticism, because we are all “horribly human”, but it is a fact that He has set us free “Once and forever”, so what is the answer for our often slipping.
I believe the answer is being aware of the devil’s methods. In being aware, we are enabled to overcome his temptations. So, let us look at what the Word of God reveals to us in order that we may truly be “More than Conquers”.
Scripture Reading – “1: PETER: 5:1 to 11”
“I want to speak to the church leaders among you. I am a church leader also. I saw Christ suffer and die on a cross. I will also share His shining-greatness when He comes again. Be good shepherds of the flock God has put in your care. Do not care for the flock as if you were made to. Do not care for the flock for money but do it because you want to. Do not be bosses over the people you lead. Live as you would like to have them live. When the Head Shepherd comes again, you will get the crown of shining-greatness that will not come to an end.
In the same way, you younger men must obey the church leaders. Be gentle as you care for each other. God works against those who have pride. He gives His loving-favour to those who do not try to honour themselves. So, put away all pride from yourselves. You are standing under the powerful hand of God. At the right time He will lift you up. Give all your worries to Him because He cares for you.
Keep awake! Watch at all times. The devil is working against you. He is walking around like a hungry lion with his mouth open. He is looking for someone to eat. Stand against him and be strong in your faith. Remember, other Christians over all the world are suffering the same as you are. After you have suffered for a while, God Himself will make you perfect. He will keep you in the right way. He will give you strength. He is the God of all loving-favour and has called you through Christ Jesus to share His shining-greatness forever. God has power over all things forever. Let it be so.”
It is an undeniable fact that we as the Church of Jesus Christ have a wonderful and magnificent Savior in Jesus.
- He is not just Mighty but Almighty not only Powerful but also All Powerful and not only does Jesus Save but He saves to the Uttermost.
The children of God have every right to be confident and to rest in the assurance that He is not only in control of all things but that He is well capable in His sovereignty of determining the results of all circumstances. To that there is the fact of having been given over 30,000 promises within God’s Word. Truly, we do well to rejoice as the songwriter puts it with “Joy unspeakable and full of glory”.
It is however true though that with all the justifiable rejoicing that we do that we should not neglect the fact that where there is one who is for us there is also one who is unmistakably against us.
He is the great enemy of the child of God and the entire Church of Jesus Christ. The World is blinded to this, and in this blindness do not recognise that he is also their greatest enemy. “Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.” – “2 Corinthians 4:4” New Living Version.
It is therefore important that we understand how exercises his devilish ministry.
In “1: Peter: 5:8-9” we read the following words of counsel and of warning.
“Be well balanced, temperate, and sober-minded; be vigilant and cautious at all times. For you that enemy of yours the devil roams around like a lion roaring in fierce hunger seeking someone to seize upon and devour. Withstand him, be firm in faith against his onset. Rooted, established, strong and immovable and determined …. Knowing that the same identical sufferings are appointed to the whole body of Christians throughout the world”
It is of vital importance that we know our enemy, for not only what he is, but also his destructive desires.
1. The Devil is a Real Person
It has been said in the Past by many a learned Theologian that the Devil is merely a mythical monster or that he is just the evil and unsociable aspects of people’s characters. No Christian should ever be caught in this folly.
- The theologians
have in many cases now passed on and found to their eternal loss how very wrong
- They will bear the responsibility and the reward for the many they have taken with them.
The Devil is very real, and he is the enemy of God and all His ways.
2. The Devil is a Powerful Person
In the Verses we read earlier Peter described the Devil as a “Roaring Lion” the animal that is denoted to be the King of the jungle reigns powerful in his domain.
The domain of the Devil is this entire World. Peter is exactly right in his description of him. The Bible tells us that he is the “prince of the power of the air” and as such, he holds sway over all the activities of the world.
This is what Peter tells us: – “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” – “Ephesians 2:1–2”
3. The Devil is an Active Person
Peter tells us again that the devil in his roaming is behind all the dramas of world events. He is the source of: –
- Division – The Greek root of the word “diabolical” (diabolein) means to cut, tear, or divide and it is significant that Jesus prays and works to reunify what the devil divides.
- Deception – Jesus says “The devil was a murderer from the beginning he does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies he speaks according to his own nature, he is a liar and the father of lies.” – “John 8:44”
- Dissention – “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve” – “Romans 16:17-18”
- Schism – The Church in Ephesus was earnestly warned by the Apostle Paul about savage wolves that would if allowed tear people away from the church – “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock” – “Acts 20:28-29”.
All of the above and more is not confined to the world only, but also finds its way into the Church of Jesus.
Satan is the great destroyer.
The Bible likens Satan to different animals: –
- He is a serpent trying to deceive God’s people – “Genesis 3:1” – “Revelation 12:9”
- He is a bird trying to despoil God’s harvest – “Matthew 13: 4-19”
- He is a wolf trying to defeat God’s flock – “John 10:12” – “Matthew 10:16”
- He is a lion trying to devour God’s children – “1 Peter 5:8”
Satan is consumed by his obsession to destroy the work of God, so it is important to: –
4. The Devil’s Activity is Wholly Evil
The Bible tells us in a word of warning that the Devil shrouds and conceals himself when it suits him as “An Angel of Light” – “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light” – “2 Corinthians 11:14b” in other words. Although he is going about as a roaring lion, he also conceals his activities under the guise of good works and worthy activities.
He utilises many methods such as: –
• He plays on vulnerabilities.
• He uses leadership.
• He uses the mind.
• He lies through well-meaning people.
• He makes use of us being busy.
We must not be deceived; his activities are wholly evil. It may appear that organisations such as Spiritualists, Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons etc. are doing a good and worthwhile work, but at the root of it is the devil with his deceptive ways, leading Men and Women and Children’s lives away from a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ as Saviour.
Thus, we as the children of God need to be on our guard and ever Vigilant relating to his devices, and to aid us in this let’s look at the 3 main spheres in which the devil is operating, which are: –
• The World in relation to the Unregenerate.
• The Church in relation to the Works of God.
• The Child of God in relation to his Individual Walk with Christ.
- The Devils Method with the Unsaved
The majority of the world’s population does not know in a personal way of Jesus Christ as Saviour. Even though there are vast amounts of religious people who go to Church and many millions of very respectable people who do good works and are the Pillars of society they are the Bible declares in “Ephesians 2:12” – “without hope whilst they are without God” and not only that they are in detention, dwelling in darkness and are bound for eternal destruction.
Why because the devil has done all he can to lead them away from a knowledge of Jesus Christ as Saviour. Let me read to you what the Apostle Paul says in “Ephesians 2:1-3” as it clearly portrays for us what the adversary has accomplished.
“And you has He made alive, when you were slain by your trespasses and sins, in which at one time, you walked habitually. You were the following the course and fashion of this world and were under the sway and tendency of this present age…following the prince of the power of the air. You were obedient to him and were under his control, that same demon spirit that constantly works in the sons of disobedience, the careless, the rebellious and the unbelieving who go against the purposes of God.
Among these we as well as you once lived and conducted ourselves in the passions of our flesh our behavior being governed by our corrupt and sensual nature; obeying the impulses of the flesh and the thoughts of the mind. Our cravings dictated by our senses and our dark imaginings. We were by nature children of God’s wrath and heirs of His indignation, like the rest of mankind”
These words very graphically show to us what has done; they clearly show that every person who has not made an individual decision to accept Jesus Christ as Saviour followed by an open confession of the fact of His Lordship is in fact held captive against their will by the devil.
The reason why they stay there is that is that even when the truth like a light comes to them the devil keeps them in darkness. In “2 Corinthians 4:4” we are told “For the God of this world has blinded the unbelievers’ minds that they should not discern the truth, preventing them from seeing the illuminating light of the Gospel of Christ who is the image and likeness of God”.
I said earlier that not only does the devil Detain and keep in Darkness but that his evil intention is to also Destroy lives, and this is shown in the description Jesus gave to us of him in “John 10:10” – “The thief comes only in order that he may Steal, Kill and that he may Destroy”.
This description of the devil reminds me of the days when I was in the Police Force when we had incidents of men dressed very innocently as Gas or Electricity officials who would go to the homes of people, usually the elderly on the pretense of doing good and the real intent was only evil.
In the same way, the devil comes in the pretense of doing good, whereas his real desire is to steal the souls of men and women and to impoverish the lives of all.
Captain Thunderbolt – Frederick Wordsworth Ward (1835 – 25 May 1870)
When an English robber called Captain, Thunderbolt escaped the law and moved to the eastern US in 1818, he began practicing medicine. He took on the name Dr. John Wilson. Often, he wore three suits of clothes to escape recognition by making himself look larger and covering up a deformed leg.
Just before the man died, he asked his friends to bury him without removing his clothes. But to prepare his body for proper burial, that request could not be honoured. The mortician was surprised to find scars from wounds and a withered leg. A search of “Dr. Wilson’s” house revealed a stash of watches, jewellery, and diamonds. The sheriff learned that the doctor was in fact Thunderbolt, a thief in disguise. They had been fooled!
Satan and his followers have disguises too. It says in “2 Corinthians 11:15” – “Satan’s ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness.” But how? One way is through false doctrine. Ever since Paul’s day, false teachers have taught that good deeds can earn salvation.
Paul warned us not to be deceived by the devil’s craftiness (v.3). The truth is: “By grace you have been saved through faith it is the gift of God, not of works” – “Ephesians 2:8-9”
Don’t be fooled. “Satan has many tools, but deception is the handle that fits them all.”
- The Devils Method with the Church and Gods Work
The Church of Jesus Christ is the only bulwark of righteousness this world has and consequently the devil hates it. His strategy therefore is to wherever and whenever and by whatever means he can to bring destruction. His ways can be summed up in three ways: –
The Lord Jesus prayed in “John 17:21” – that “We might all be one” and the constant desire of almighty God is that unity might prevail. What however do we see around us “disunity” and churches that are suspicious of one another? This ought not to be the case, but unfortunately, it is.
Now when I speak of unity, I do not mean that there should be one gigantic church in every locality everyone should attend it. If that had been the desire of the Lord, then He would have tried to close all the synagogues in Jerusalem. No, His desire is that we all be one in a heart’s desire to win the lost and to further His cause and above all to glorify His Father in heaven.
This was the desire of Jesus whilst He was on earth and remains so now that He is in heaven, but the devil is doing his utmost to divide the children of God.
Not only does the Devil love to divide but also where there are Churches and people who are wise to his ways, he then tries to bring in diversions to distract them from their prime cause. It can take the guise of so many legitimate things.
There are so many churches’ today that are caught up with their church program that even if Jesus walked through the doors, they would ask Him to wait.
- God’s fundamental desire is to find “worshippers” and not only “workers” because when He finds a worshipper, He also finds a willingness to work.
We must be careful not to love the work and miss the Lord of the work.
The Devil’s most commonly used method is to sow seeds of discord amongst people and to get us “rubbed up the wrong way” by our dearest fellow believer in Christ. As a result, we need to put on the whole armour of God that we find in “Ephesians 6: 10 – 13” to help and defend ourselves.
“This is the last thing I want to say: Be strong with the Lord’s strength. Put on the things God gives you to fight with. Then you will not fall into the traps of the devil. Our fight is not with people. It is against the leaders and the powers and the spirits of darkness in this world. It is against the demon world that works in the heavens. Because of this, put on all the things God gives you to fight with. Then you will” – New Life Version
D) The Devils Method with the Individual Believer
We have thus far seen the Devil at work in Detention, Darkness, Destruction, Diversion and Disaffection in the Unbeliever and in the Church of Christ but what does he try in the individual believer’s life again there are three areas where none of us are able to say we have escaped.
It is Gods purpose that every one of His Children enjoys perfect peace in their hearts and lives. The peace He gives permeates and becomes part of every activity we are engaged in.
Is it not true however that when we are at work or elbow deep in dirty nappies or the Car has just broken down on us that instead of peace there is panic and alarm? Well! be alerted to the fact that the devils desire is to do just that and in doing so rob you of your poise and power to overcome in the situation and leave us with a sense of defeat and condemnation.
I believe that I am relating what is truly the experience of us all. Well, if I am let me point you to a secret that has been given to us in order that we may overcome
“You will guard him and keep him in perfect peace and constant peace whose mind, both in its inclinations and character is stayed on You and hopes confidently in you” – “Isaiah 26:3”
Now in this, we are not to be so “Heavenly Minded” as to be of “No Earthly Use” but we are to seriously commit our way to Him each day.
The Devil is the great tempter the Bible declares, and he has been in control of our lives right up until we gave them to Jesus.
Even after finding Jesus, he has been watching our every move. He knows our every Inclination. He knows our Strengths and Weakness; he knows our Likes and Dislikes.
Is it really any wonder that he so often trips us up, but we can have the victory. We are not a defeated band but victorious in the victory that Christ gives and in “Philippians 4:13” we read and have a tremendous verse of encouragement – “I have strength for all things in Christ who empowers me. I am ready for anything. I am equal to anything through Him who infuses inner strength into me. I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency”.
Ye are not a defeated rabble, but an army of Christians who are in warfare and as a result, the devil’s desire is to get us into a place of defeat. If he does, we will achieve nothing for God or His Kingdom.
If today you are a Christian in defeat, then throw it aside and cling to the fact that you are and will be as victorious in the same measure that you allow Jesus by His Holy Spirit to both live in you and work through you.
We have an anchor that keeps the soul steadfast and sure whilst the billows roll fastened to the Rock that cannot move grounded firm and deep in the Savior’s Love.
R.C. Sproul once said: “That what we are but God is making “Diamonds out of Dirt”.
Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices
- The Devil Opposes All References to the Sacrificial Work of Christ on the Cross.
In “Matthew: 16:21 to 28” we read the following words.
“From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. But he turned, and said unto Peter, get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. Then said Jesus unto his disciples, if any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. Verily I say unto you, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.”
In these verses, we read and understand that Jesus is speaking of His forthcoming death on the cross of Calvary. If there is, one subject that the devil hates it is this one. We should not make the mistake that the devil was pleased to have seen Jesus die. Yes! He would have been delighted to see him fail in some way, but not die.
The words “It is finished” when He gave up the ghost, spelt out the devils defeat and established it as eternal law. It brought into very clear focus the devils end. The devil may be very active, it may appear that he has been for many years but in reality, he is going through the twitches of death. Some of you may recall that just as you are about to go off to sleep, suddenly you shudder or twitch, this is called the “Little Death”, and the devil is doing the same and trying to take as many people with him as possible.
The Gospel is a Soul Saving, Eye Opening and Death Destroying Message and the devil’s best method of leading people into destruction is to prevent them from hearing the message of the gospel. It is the message of the cross and he uses every method he can. Even in the verses, we read earlier it is seen! Then “Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. But he turned, and said unto Peter; Get thee behind me, Satan”.
For us as the people of God he will do his best to distract us from our prime mission, he will get us to water down the message or even replace it with bazaars etc. To proclaim the Full, Unadulterated Message of the Gospel in many churches is frowned upon. Hell, Judgement, the Wrath of God and such topics are not preached because the Leaders are afraid that it would dissuade people from attending their meetings, its considered unsafe to proclaim – all this is doing is subtly playing into the hands of the devil and more importantly hiding truth from those that need it most.
Half the reason that many Church Members do not Evangelise is because they do not hear the Gospel in its Fullness and thus there is no real urgency to see the Lost Saved.
I remember in 1991 in a mission leading a young woman to Christ. You would have expected the local Minister and his Wife to have been delighted that a young woman from their community had received Jesus. The contrary however was true; they were plainly very much against it believing that she would now become even more confused.
The cross of Christ not only spelt out Satan’s downfall, it also made it possible for us to enjoy the glory and power of God in our lives. It has enabled us to live lives of victory and rejoicing. The devil will try to put a stop to the ongoing work of Christ in our lives, and it is therefore vital that we never get into a situation where the Cross and His Crucifixion take send place. We must always contend for its truths.
- The Devil Snatches Away the Good Seed of the Word of God to Prevent it Lodging in our Hearts and Bearing Fruit
In “Mark: 4:1 20 to 20” we read the following words
“And he began again to teach by the seaside: and there was gathered unto him a great multitude, so that he entered into a ship, and sat in the sea; and the whole multitude was by the sea on the land. And he taught them many things by parables, and said unto them in his doctrine, Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow: And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up. And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth: But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. And other fell on good ground and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty and some sixty and some and hundred. And he said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable. And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them. And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? And how then will ye know all parables? The sower soweth the word. And these are they by the wayside, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts. And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended. And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word, and the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful. And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.”
The Word of God is of enormous value not only in its power to deliver and to set free but likewise to keep free. It can maintain the child of God in a good state of spiritual health. There is nothing that God’s children do, and no amount of fellowship that we can have that can replace the goodness that reading, listening to and meditating upon God’s Word can do.
It is a fact however that we can listen to God’s Word preached or read a portion of it and if we were asked in about half an hour later to recall it invariably, we cannot remember what it is about. The reason for this is as Jesus stated, “Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts”. The last thing the enemy desires is that the seed root itself deep into our thinking, because when it does, he has a foe he cannot beat.
In our contending against the enemy let us remember to utilise the Word of God, it was good enough for Jesus and thus should be good enough for us.
- The Devil Tries to make God’s People Compromise in their Consecration
In “Acts: 5:1 to 4” we read the following words
“But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, and kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? And after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? Why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.”
Ananias and Sapphira are the young couple presented before us in these four verses. They were by all accounts a normal Christian couple, who had committed themselves to both Christ and the life of the embryo church in Jerusalem. There is no reason to suspect that there was anything amiss in there walks with Jesus. In the situation in which they found themselves they were probably urged by “peer” pressure and I’m sure the moving of the Spirit of God to participate in the sacrificial giving to the work of God.
They had a choice, they were not forced, but did not want to appear as the “Odd ones out” in the group that they belonged to, but instead of “Obeying there conscience” or simply saying “no”, the Bible tells us that “Satan filled their hearts to lie to the Holy Ghost”. In other words, the enemy gained a foothold in their consecration. It did not mean they had become demon possessed, but it did mean they had been led astray.
The devil’s desire is to do exactly the same with us, his desire is to get us into a situation where we are not dedicated to being the type of people God wants us to be. He convinces us that we are not the “Type of people to get involved”, or he comes and persuades us that we are not capable. It is all a ploy to ensure that we give in to our lower nature and not the new nature that has been born in us. He knows that when we do, we become mere shadows of the type of people God has created us in Christ to be.
The Bible tells us to “Put on Christ” – “Romans: 13:14” is He wearing well in our lives or has He merely become an undergarment on us. If He is not in a prominent position, then He should be, and if He isn’t, we will end up with inconsistencies in our walk with Him.
We must therefore contend for our consecration.
- The Devil Attacks the Faith of God’s Children
In “Luke: 22:31 – 32” we read the following words
“And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you that he may sift you as wheat, but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren”.
It was the devil’s desire to sift Peter as wheat, i.e. to make him blow around in his Christian experience like a seed. His desire was to make him unstable, inconsistent, unreliable, uncommitted and especially unsanctified.
There are times when we are feeling lonely, or things have not gone right at College, University or in our jobs. Perhaps we have a crisis in our family or love life, or we have been misunderstood. Perhaps you have had either legitimately or falsely fingers pointed at you, or word spoken about you and as a result lost your faith.
Simply because we are children of God, we cannot expect that these things will not happen. He has not promised to make life great and trouble free, but He has promised to get us through.
We are time and time told to contend for our faith; sometimes it is with others, other times it is against the devil and at other times it is simply battling in our contention within.
- The Devil Hinders God’s Work by Putting Difficulties in the Way
In “1: Thessalonians: 2:18” we read the following words – “Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us.”
God’s work is no easy task, and the preacher who once said “If you can keep out of it then do so” spoke very wise words. However, it is also the best work any person can have. We all have a task to perform, and when I say all that is exactly what I mean – We are saved to serve – that service will only end when we enter our final rest in the presence of Jesus. What is your task let me name a few? –
- Cleaning the Church
- Sunday School
- Children’s activities
These are but a few of the many tasks that each of us is called to participate in, none is more prominent than another, and likewise none is more important than the other. I believe that this is portrayed very clearly in “1: Corinthians: 12:1 to 27” – “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also, is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked. That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.”
There are times when the work of God can seem unglamorous, I remember a time when I used to every Saturday scrub, then lay floor polish and then polish to a shine my Church floor before I went to Bible School. It was all done by hand, it was tedious and boring, but it was part of God’s work and therefore vital to His plan for the extension of the kingdom of God.
There are times when the enemy will try to make you believe that what you are doing is un-important, at these times, and especially when he throws difficulties in your way resist him, he will then flee from you.
We have looked at five varying ways in which the devil will try to remove our effectiveness, in them all we need to: –
- Contend for and uphold the Work of the Sacrifice at Calvary.
- Contend for and retain the Word of God and its fruit in our lives.
- Contend against the attacks against our faith.
- Contend to maintain our consecration.
- Contend against the devil’s hindrances and for the works Jesus has given to us.
None of these things are easy, they are difficult, but we are assured that at all times He will not leave us, and that His strength is sufficient.