The Sanctioned Position

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My Musings – The “sanctioned position” is “to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”  But only for those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ.  For those who have not, getting old is indeed better than the alternative.

My Advice – If you have not put your faith in Christ you can.  It is open to all who will believe and receive.  But “now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation,” for we never know if we will ever have another opportunity.  For we certainly do not want to be absent from the body without Jesus present in our heart.

If you have put your faith in Christ, do not get too comfortable being “at home in the body.”  For the things of this world can distract us, causing us to drift “away from the Lord.” We do not want Him to be displeased with our walk. Rather “we should make it our goal to please Him.

 

Good Neighbor Sam

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My Musings – As was usual in His parables, Jesus turned conventional wisdom on its head with some surprising twists.

Pleading His Case“Teacher” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25, NIV 1978).  The question implies a works-based salvation (“what must I do?“) So, unlike the fairly straightforward answer given to Nicodemus, “you must be born again,” Jesus asked the legal expert what he thought.  “He answered: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Luke 10:27, NIV 1984).  Jesus’ response appears to imply that a works-based salvation is indeed possible – “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” (Luke 10:28, NIV 1984).

Seeking A Loophole – Apparently the legal expert felt he could love God sufficiently (all his heart, soul strength and mind – really?), but might have a problem being a neighbor to some, since his only question was “and who is my neighbor.”  (Luke 10:29, NIV 1984).  Notice his question was who should be his neighbor, rather than who he should be a neighbor to.  To drive home this point, Jesus told a most unlikely parable.

Examining The Crime Scene –  “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.” (Luke 10:30, NIV 1984). The road to Jericho was called the “bloody way”, with winding roads and hidden turns, where robbers often laid in wait concealed in the rocks.  A dangerous route.

The (Un)usual Suspects – “A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him.” (Luke 10:31-34, NIV).  Priests were Levites descended from Aaron.  They served the higher duties in the Temple.  Of course, not all Levites were descended from Aaron and were not priests.  As a result, they served in lower functions in the Temple.  But both would have been expected to have compassion, but they did not.  Samaritans were “half-Jews” of the northern kingdom who had inter-married with Assyrian colonists.  They were despised by “pure-bred Jews.”  The Samaritan was an unlikely candidate to have compassion on the injured man (assumed to be Jewish), but he did.

The Cross-Examination – Jesus turned the legal expert’s question back on him. “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” (Luke 10:36, NIV 1894).  It must have been hard for him to reply, “the one who had mercy on him.” (Luke 10:37, NIV 1984).  He couldn’t even use the word Samaritan.  To bring this parable up to date might have included a Catholic priest, an evangelical Christian (ouch!) and a Muslim or an illegal alien.  Guess which one would have compassion in the updated parable?

The Verdict – “Jesus told him, Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:37, NIV 1984).

My Advice – Attainment of eternal life is not a matter of scrupulously following the rules. “Do this and you will live” is more rhetorical “if you could do this you would live.”  The lawyer appeared to understand this because he sought to limit its application and find a “loophole.”  And so do we all.  But all is not lost.  Jesus became a “neighbor” to us to bring salvation.  But we should still have compassion and be a neighbor to all.  Not to gain salvation, but to imitate the Master.  “Go and do likewise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Increasing Measure

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My Musings – As we wrap up my musings on discipleship and “Got Spiritual Milk” we might be asking ourselves – what now? Have we arrived at the place where God wants us to be? The answer to these questions is simply in remembering what was learned at the outset: Growth and maturity, are a process that takes place over time. We looked at twelve key “steps” that are essential to following Jesus and realizing our full potential as His disciples.  It is not a magic formula that in twelve “easy” steps will make us a model disciple. For each individual step is a process of its own leading us into a spiritual transformation that is continually evolving.

Justification – Like Paul, we must realize that we have not yet been made perfect. We have been saved. This was a past event, never to be repeated, where once and forever God made it “just as if I’d never sinned.” Justification is a legal term signifying that the all claims of God’s moral laws have been satisfied by Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and that those accepting the terms of that sacrifice (believe and receive) are acquitted.

Glorification – Because we have been justified we have a future destination. Someday we will enter God’s presence and we will be made perfect. Glorification, as the term is used in the Bible, refers to the ultimate perfection of the believer.

Sanctification – In the meantime, we need to keep pressing on toward growth and development, adding to our faith in increasing measure. Sanctification is a fancy theological term that means being purified and made holy. It is a continuing process happening now that connects our past justification with our future glorification. It is not a perfect process, because “we have not yet been made perfect.” There will be up and downs. We will encounter speed bumps along our path as Satan tries to sidetrack us along the way. He cannot change the fact that we have been justified. He cannot change our final destination. But he can influence our journey between the two points hoping to make it less victorious that it might otherwise be.

So by now, we should know and understand that discipleship does not refer to a past event or our future destination. It is the journey that we are on here and now. It is not twelve steps and done. It is twelve steps in increasing measure until the journey is done. We do not know when our journey will be over. So we continue in our efforts to add to our original step of faith. We add goodness (role of a servant), knowledge (illuminated by the Word, engaged with the Church), self-control (hold out against sin, Spirit-led lifestyle), perseverance (suffer with Christ, pray on all occasions), Godliness (desire what God desires, learn spiritual wisdom), kindness (is Christ-like in attitude, involved in evangelism) and love (proven by love).

None of these are things that we will achieve perfectly in our lifetimes. But we can possess them in increasing measure.

Increasing means to become progressively greater. The increase can be a gentle slope or a steep grade. It can also be exponential. What it will be, to a large degree, will depend on our efforts. Paul instructed his readers to “make every effort.” Half-hearted efforts will only give us half-hearted results. We do not want half-hearted results. What we want is to “become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

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My Advice – A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. We took that step when we accepted Christ. That decision has already been made. The question before us now is: are we satisfied with remaining an infant or do we want to grow? If we want to grow, the question then becomes: how much effort do we want to put into it? De we want to make every effort? Do we want to grow in increasing measure? Do we want to keep pressing on? So how are you answering these questions?

This Thing Called Love

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My Musings – Love. Little else is as captivating or inspiring as love. It is, perhaps, one of the most sought after and motivating experiences that anyone can have. As a subject matter it permeates movies, songs, books, television and advertising. Yet it is often misinterpreted, misunderstood, mislabeled and misused. We say that we love this and that we love that. In the process we devalue something that is of such worth that it prompted God to send His Son to die for us.

The depth of that love seems far beyond our ability to fully grasp or adequately comprehend. But Jesus calls us to know it and be filled with it in our love of God (“with all our heart, soul and mind“) and for each other (“as ourselves“). All that is written in the Law and Prophets (the Old Testament) as well as the Gospels and Epistles (the New Testament) “hang on” these two commandments. If that were not sufficient enough to underscore how vitality important love is in the born-again experience, Jesus said that it was the primary and most distinctive characteristic by which all men will know that we are His disciples. It is the litmus test of how well the previous eleven steps of discipleship that we have examined are doing in making changes in our lives and character. For example, what causes us to desire what God desires? How do we know we are becoming more like Christ? What compels us to serve others? Why are we motivated to resist temptation? When we witness to others, what prompts us to do so? What causes us to unite with other believers in a local church? The common denominator, or at least it should be if we are growing as disciples, is love – love for God and for one another.

God calls us to the highest degree (agape) of love. Agape refers to a selfless and unconditional type love. It is the highest of the four types (Eros – sensual; Philia – brotherly; Storge – family; and Agape) of love in the Bible. That is not to say that the other three types do not have their proper place. But unlike these other three types of love, agape has less to do about involuntary desires of love and more about voluntarily desiring to love.

It is a motivation for action that we are free to choose or reject. It is a sacrificial love that willingly suffers inconvenience, discomfort, and even death for the benefit of another without expecting anything in return. How do we know it is the highest degree? Jesus said “as the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you,” and for us to “love each other as I have loved you.” It cannot get any higher than that. Jesus told us how to identify this type of love when He said “greater love has no one than this: that one lay down his life for his friends.” Then He provided the ultimate proof that He was more than an itinerant preacher of the warm and fuzzy when He laid down His own life on the cross and died for our sins.

This is unmerited love – we do not deserve it. It is love that bore a very high cost – the sacrifice of the Son of God. It is love that is often rejected – not everyone accepts the free gift of salvation. It is love that not always returned – many do not serve Him the way that they should. Of course, relatively few believers will be called upon to literally lay down their lives for Him or for a fellow believer. But there are many ways that we can figuratively lay down our lives (serving Him, obeying Him, caring for those that He cares for, to name just a few). Paul refers to this kind of love as “the most excellent way.

Excellent means something that is of the highest or finest quality.

One might think this is definition enough for the kind of love God calls us to. But Paul affixes a superlative (most) in front of something that is already defined as highest and finest (excellent). Most means greatest in degree. So the love we are called to as Christ’s disciples is one in the greatest degree and of the highest and finest quality. As we look to some of the more challenging people in our lives we can begin to appreciate how great a challenge this might be.

Because the love Jesus refers to is of the highest degree, it is difficult for sinful man to understand it, much less to attain it. But perhaps we can gain a clearer understanding by knowing a few things about it. In what has become known as the love chapter of the Bible (1 Corinthians 13), Paul describes this type of love in terms of the positive characteristics it has (what it is) and the negative characteristics it does not have (what it is not). The positive characteristics it has are: patience, kindness, truthfulness, protectiveness, trust, hope, perseverance and trustworthiness. The negative characteristics it does not have are: envy, boastfulness, pride, rudeness, selfishness, anger, bearing grudges and a delighting in evil.

Interestingly, Paul’s discussion about love comes immediately after his discourse on spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12. In conclusion Paul instructs his readers to “eagerly desire the greater gifts.” He then goes on to show us “the most excellent way” in 1 Corinthians 13.

In doing so he tells us that even extreme giftedness is of little value
if it is not accompanied or motivated by love.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love. I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3, NIV 1978)). At some point the gifts may fade or disappear, leaving us with only faith, hope and love, of which love is the greatest.

LOVES ME CHARACTERISTICS

Love is patient, love is kind. Love rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8. NIV 1978).

Is Patient –  Endure evil, injury & provocation without thoughts of resentment, indignation or revenge.

Is Kind  – Not only takes advantage of opportunities to be kind, but looks for such opportunities.

Rejoices In Truth – In the truth of God and the Gospel. Rejoices to see loved-one molded by these truths.

Always Protects – Unwilling to expose loved-one’s faults to others. Also translated bears all things, i.e., will put up with much injustice without harboring anger or seeking revenge.

Always Trusts – Believeth all things. Always sees the best in loved-one. Allows for circumstances. Keeps the faith when it is easy to believe the worst.

Always Hopes – Refuse to take failure as final. When trust or belief begins to give way, hope takes over.

Always Perseveres – Not resigned acquiescence, but rather an active positive fortitude. Willing to endure persecution for sake of, or even from loved-one.

Never fails Gifts will cease to exist or be needed. Love will never cease to exist or be needed.

LOVES ME NOT CHARACTERISTICS

Love does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8, NIV 1978)

Does Not Envy – Not grieved at good or prosperity of loved-one, but rather rejoices in it.

Does Not Boast – Windbag. Fair words without regard to the truth, or any intention for good.

Is Not Proud  – Puffed-up, proud of oneself at the expense of another (i.e., pride in yourself obscures feelings for loved-one).

Is Not Rude – Base, vile, disgraceful, dishonorable, indecent.

Is Not Self-Seeking Not seeking own interests to the neglect of loved-one. On the contrary, often neglects own welfare for the sake of loved-one.

Is Not Easily Angered  – Not touchy or eager to take offense. Not angry without just cause. Hard to be angry, eager to be reconciled.

Keeps No Record Of Wrongs – Does not take into account wrongs done. More likely to disbelieve accusations of wrongs about the loved-one. Does not give way to suspicion based upon appearances.

Does Not Delight In Evil – Resist human nature of delighting in the misfortunes of others. Sins of loved-one rather bring grief.

My Advice – We live in a fallen world. Because it is fallen, it is imperfect. Because it is imperfect, our love is also imperfect. There is still a tendency towards harshness, quarreling and jealousy. All of which are signs of an immature love. But we need not lose heart. As we continue to grow as disciples, our love will continue to grow as well – our love of God and of each other. As Christ is reflected in us more and more we will find ourselves giving way to gentleness, peace and kindness. Where we once loved to fight, we will fight to love. Love is the litmus test of how we are growing as disciples. So how are you doing with this thing called love?

 

On Being Salt and Light

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My Musings – God has commissioned us to share the Gospel, so that others may know the way they can inherit eternal life. We should view this as a privilege, for that is what it really is. Not so much a command as it is an opportunity to share the best news anyone could ever hear.

People usually cannot wait to share a piece of good news with others or to introduce new friends to old friends. In the same way, we should be very eager to share the Gospel and to introduce others to the Savior. To play whatever part we can in rescuing them from eternal separation from God. Yet all too often we are hesitant to do so. Perhaps this is because we fear rejection and ridicule. Whatever the reason, we sometimes let our burden over these fears overcome our burden for the lost.

But it is not just failing to speak out when we should that prevents us from being the witnesses that we should be. It is also the way that we live our lives. Our external behavior is not always as consistent as it should be with the internal change that has taken place in us. So, if we dared to speak up to share our faith, would our testimony be credible based upon the evidence of how we live our lives day-to-day? The sad reality is that when we fail to speak out when we should, or when our conduct is inconsistent with our professed faith in Christ, we are actually being a witness – a poor one. This is certainly not the legacy we want to leave with our friends and family.

Apart from the rule of law itself, attorneys have two primary tools at their disposal when presenting their case before a judge or jury. The first tool is the personal testimony of a witness that is offered in support of the case being presented. The second tool is physical evidence that corroborates the case that has been presented. In a court proceeding there is also an adversary, an opposing attorney who will attempt to impugn the integrity and veracity of the witnesses and contradict or call into question the credibility of the evidence.

When it comes to faith in Christ, the Gospel is the case that is being presented. The Holy Spirit is the “attorney” that is presenting (convicting) the case. He uses believers as witnesses to testify about their own personal knowledge and beliefs (this is what I believe and this is why I believe it). He uses the Scriptures as the evidence to support His case (fulfilled prophecy, empty tombs, historical record of contemporaneous eyewitness accounts, etc.). The adversary, of course, is Satan. The individual lost soul is their own judge and jury, and this “courtroom” drama plays out in the conscience of every individual.

As it relates to our roles as personal witnesses, we must be prepared to testify when called to the “stand.” In the meantime, we need to make sure that the lives we are living will be consistent with the truth that we proclaim.

We must not only “talk the talk,” we must “walk the walk.”

The adversary the devil will take every opportunity to show that what we do does not support what we say. At stake is a life sentence – heaven or hell. So, it is very important that we speak up about what we believe and give it added credibility by showing how it has changed our lives. It is not our responsibility to convict or convince. But it is our responsibility to do whatever we can to make sure that our testimony (what we say) and the evidence in our lives (what we do) are working together and are both convincing and convicting

God has many witnesses that he can call to the “stand.” While it is our duty to answer the summons, it is also a privilege. It is a privilege because there are others He could call, but He called us. It is a privilege to be a play part in rescuing the lost from eternal punishment. It is a privilege to show our love for Him by showing love for His lost sheep. It is a privilege to demonstrate our thankfulness for saving us by answering the call to the Great Commission.

The case has already been made. It is recorded in the Bible for all to read and respond to the call. But “how, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the One of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching? And how can they preach unless they are sent?” (Romans 10:14, 15, NIV 1978) God is sending us.

We may be sent across the ocean or merely across the street. But wherever He sends us, we are sent to be a light to the world and as salt to the earth.

These are two images used by Jesus to illustrate our task (commission) that He has called us to. Jesus did not waste words when He was here on earth. He chose them carefully because He understood how important it was for people to grasp the truth. In this case, his chose salt and light.  “You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.(Matthew 5:13-14, NIV 1978)

SALT OF THE EARTH

Pray…that God may open a door for [your] message, so that [you] may proclaim the mystery of Christ. Be wise in the way you act towards outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (Colossians 4:3, 5-6, NIV 1978).

A Preservative – Salt is a preservative that prevents or retards decay. So it is with believers. We act as spiritual preservatives in a world that is decaying. While it is not in our power to save others, the positive influence that we have on non-believers should never be underestimated. Our behavior should positively impact the non-believer’s behavior, perhaps slowing the decay and preserving what righteousness remains. Who knows, whether or when the influence may eventually lead someone to the Lord.

Adds Flavor – Salt enhances or adds flavor where there is little or no taste. Christians should add spiritual flavor in a world that is tasteless. We cannot achieve this if we are overbearing in our witness. This only leads to bitterness, much like too much salt can ruin the taste of food it was meant to add flavor to.

Not Obscured – Salt is most noticeable if it is not obscured by other spices. We cannot control whatever distractions come into the lives of those within our sphere of influence, but we should be careful of whatever distractions come into our lives that might obscure our witness. We may be the only contact some non-believers have with the Gospel. If our witness is obscured by our worldliness, we are not helping their chances of entering the Kingdom of God.

Must Be Applied – Salt must leave the saltshaker in order to do its work. As witnesses to the Gospel, we must go out into the world. We cannot spend all of our time within the closed circles of church, small groups and Christian schools. If we are to have an impact on the world, we must go out into it.

No Substitute – While many so-called substitutes line store shelves, there really is no satisfactory substitute for salt. The taste may not be quite right, it may leave an after-taste or it might not work as a preservative. In a similar fashion, there is no satisfactory substitute for witnessing. While many things may point to God (nature, word, conscience, etc…), there is nothing like a life that has been changed to bear-witness. There is nothing like someone who has been there to show the way.

LIGHT OF THE WORLD

A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16, NIV 1978).

Gives Light – Sometimes you have to state the obvious. The purpose of light is to give light. It is meant to be seen. It is meant to attract attention in dark places. Christians should be a source of light to a world that otherwise walks in darkness. But the purpose is not just for our light to be seen and to call attention to ourselves, but for the light to allow others to see the redeeming work of Christ in our lives.

Dispels Darkness – When light is introduced where there is darkness, darkness is chased away. Interestingly enough, it does not work the other way around. You cannot introduce darkness where there is light and have the light chased away. Light can be extinguished, but not by darkness. This is the way we should live our lives, as witnesses for the true light. We should be dispelling darkness, not extinguishing our lights.

Contrasts With Darkness – Light is most noticeable the darker it is. In pitch-black darkness, even the faintest light is obvious. So we should not be too quick to dismiss the effectiveness of our witness or the impact that it has on those groping around in the darkness of sin and separation from God.

Do Not Hide – Darkness may not be able to overcome light, but light can be hidden. If hidden it cannot dispel the darkness or serve as a beacon to those lost in the darkness. We must not hide our witness, whether from fear or shame. We have nothing to fear and nothing to be ashamed of. We may be the only light that some ever see.

Noiseless – Light is quiet. It does its work without distracting noise. This does not mean that our witness should be nothing more than something to observe. We can verbally communicate the Gospel and our testimony. But it should be done with gentleness and respect. Not flashy or overbearing. The Gospel needs no added flash and our testimony need not be offensive.

My Advice – No one who is conscientious wants to be known as someone that shirks their responsibility. No caring person wants to withhold what they have to share from those who are in need. Christians who have not merely tasted salvation, who are no longer infants but have allowed the Holy Spirit to begin the process of transforming their lives are to some degree both conscientious and caring. So why is it that some shirk their responsibility to witness and in so doing withhold the good news from those who need it? There may be many reasons – fear of rejection, fear of ridicule, fears of inadequacy, fear of messing it up, fear of failure, fear of physical harm, etc. Unfortunately, not of these fears absolve us of our responsibility of failing to warn. And none of them an valid excuse that our warnings might fail. So we must confront our fears.

We had a lot more fears when we are younger. We also had a lot less ability to cope with our fears when we were younger. But healthy adults, as they grow, as they gain more knowledge and experience, overcome some of their fears and become better able to cope with their other fears. As Christians, it should be the same as it relates to our fears about witnessing. A healthy Christian is a growing Christian. As we grow, our old fears about sharing the Gospel will increasingly give way to a “burning fire, shut up in my bones, I am weary of holding it in; indeed I cannot.” When we are “full grown” and “fully mature” perhaps we will get to the point where “we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” We may not be there yet, but in the meantime there are a lot of things we can try to be (available, willing, clear, natural, believable, consistent, prepared, sensitive, respectful, patient, truthful, faithful, encouraged, seasoned, shining, responsible, eager, humble, precise, uncompromising, loving, gentle). The good thing is that we are not alone. God wants us to be all of these things as well. Through the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives He is working to make them be.

Be Available, Be Willing, Be Clear, Be Natural, Be Believable, Be Consistent, 

Be Prepared, Be Sensitive, Be Respectful, Be Patient, Be Truthful, Be Faithful, 

Be Encouraged, Be Seasoned, Be Shining, Be Responsible, Be Eager, Be Humble, 

Be Precise, Be Uncompromising, Be Loving, Be Gentle.

Be a witness.

 

 

Hold Out, Stand Your Ground

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My Musings – Sin. Our earthly nature. We read the items from Colossians 3:5-9 (sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed – among others) and are outwardly repulsed by them. Yet, because we still have a sin nature (our old self) we are sometimes inwardly attracted to and desire them anyway. More often than we care to admit it, our outward actions become guided by our inward desires. Virtues. We read the items from Colossians 3:12-14 (compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience – among others) and outwardly admire them. Yet, even though we are Christians (our new self) and sin has no real power over us, at times we inwardly find them unattractive and undesirable. More often than we care to admit it, our outward actions are not guided by them. This seems so illogical, but it is a struggle we all face every day. We need to learn how to put off our old self and its earthly desires and to put on our new self and its heavenly desires.

Of course we have all heard the old saying that “it is easier said than done,” which seems to be the case when trying to put down our sin nature. We seem to be powerless to resist. But this is lie from the father of lies (“you will not die”). The truth is, the only power temptation has over us is the power we give to it. Handing over power is a process that begins when our own evil desires (our sin nature), are dragged away and enticed. These desires, once conceived, can give birth to sin, which when they are full-grown lead to death (James 1:14-15). Just like God told Adam and Eve. For them, and for all of their descendants who inherited the sin nature from them, spiritual death became a reality. But it need not be a certainty. God provided the remedy – Christ’s death on the cross for our sins. Those who believe in Him and receive this free gift are born again to experience eternal life.

But this does not stop Satan from trying to “kill” our fellowship with Christ (“Adam, where are you?”) and our witness to others. He tries to do this with more lies. His lies are not always easy to recognize as lies. They can be very subtle and are often packaged to look and sound like the truth. He will attempt to confuse us about God’s truth. He did this in the beginning with Adam and Eve (“did God really say?”). He will also try to distort God’s word by twisting it to suit his purpose. He did this when he tempted Jesus (“it is written.”). But we must remember, saying that a lie is the truth does not make it the truth any more than saying the truth is a lie makes it a lie.

We must also remember that temptation is not sin. It only becomes sin if we give in to the lies, when we submit (give power) to its rules. So, we must ask ourselves who or what we love more – “the basic rules of this world,” or the one who saved us from them? We show our love by which one we obey.

So, how do we keep temptation from becoming sin? Well, another popular saying is “knowledge is power.” So first, we need to know and understand our enemy, because “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:12, NIV 1978).” This is spiritual warfare, we have a spiritual adversary, but he is not all powerful. Second, we need be aware “in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes (2 Corinthians 2:11, NIV 1978).” If we know his devises, tactics and schemes we will be better prepared to do battle. Third, we need to beware, to “be self-controlled and alert,” because, “the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8, NIV 1978).” What were Adam and Eve doing at the tree anyway? If we do not want to eat the fruit, we need to stop hanging around the tree. Fourth, we need to arm ourselves for battle. This is not a second amendment right, but a Biblical imperative. We need to “put on the full armor of God; so that when the day of evil comes, [we] may be able to stand [our] ground (Ephesians 6:13, NIV 1978).” Spiritual battles call for spiritual weapons. You should not take a knife to a gunfight. Finally, we need to stand our ground, because if we “resist the devil he will flee from [us] (James 4:7, NIV 1978).”

THE DEVIL’S SCHEMES

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8, NIV 1984).  “In order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.”  (2 Corinthians 2:11, NIV 1984).

Lies  – “When he [the devil] lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44, NIV 1978).  Be careful! Satan is crafty. He will feed on our secret desires and doubts through scriptural half-truths (like when he tempted Christ – is it not written?) and by calling God’s word into question (like when he tempted Eve – did God really say?).

Accusations – “For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before God day and night has been hurled down.” (Revelation 12:10, NIV 1978).  Satan loves to accuse us to make us wallow in guilt. He will accuse us of our past sins. He will accuse us with respect to the law (but certainly not grace). And he would love for us to give in to the accusations and sin some more, thinking what’s the use anyway, so he can accuse us before God.

Unguarded – “If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.” (Luke 12:39, NIV 1978).  Satan is looking for opportunities where he has the best chance of success, when we are unguarded and unprepared.

Doubt – “He who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” (James 1:6, NIV 1978).  When we doubt we are not firmly established. When we are not firmly established it is hard to stand our ground. We are easily swayed (blown and tossed).

Legalism – “Having a form of Godliness, but denying its power.” (2 Timothy 3:5, NIV 1978).  Satan diverts our attention from the message of God’s grace, what He did, to legalistic rules that we “must” keep.

Tradition – “You have a fine way of setting aside the [word] of God in order to observe your own traditions.” (Matthew 7:9, NIV 1978).  Satan hates the Word of God. We have already seen that he desires to deny it with lies, call it into question with doubt, tie it up into legalistic formalism and now set it aside in favor of tradition.

TAKING OUR STAND

Put on the full armor of God; so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground. With the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness feet fitted with readiness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit (the Word).” (Ephesians 6:13, NIV 1978).

Truth – “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31, 32, NIV 1978).  We cannot expect to stand our ground against Satan’s lies if we do not have a firm grasp of the truth. God’s truth will always expose the half-truths and will always provide certainty where questions might otherwise exist.

Righteousness – “Not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” (Philippians 3:9, NIV 1978).  We cannot stand our ground against the devil if we attempt to meet his accusations in our own righteousness, our own works. We will always fail. But we have a righteousness in Christ that is apart from the law. For it is by grace through faith in Christ. In that we stand very firm!

Readiness – “Be on guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position.” (2 Peter 3:17, NIV 1978).  We must be on guard and we must be prepared, by being aware of how he operates and by staying close to the Father.

Faith – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5, NIV 1978).  The key to combating doubt is to trust in God, especially when we are most tempted to doubt. This is hard to do when we try to rely on our own understanding.

Salvation – “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16, NIV 1978).  The Gospel message, salvation by God’s grace, is powerful because it keeps us focused on the power source.

Word – “The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates and judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12, NIV 1978).  The Word not only guards our outward actions, it also judges our thoughts and attitudes. It helps us understand sin is more than outward disobedience, it is a matter of the heart.

My Advice – A line of dialogue from the motion picture Apollo 13, and attributed to mission control flight director Gene Krantz, is “failure is not an option.” When it comes to temptation, giving in is an option because we have free will. But it is a choice that we make that is avoidable. To obey is better. There is no the “devil made me do it” excuse that Eve used when she said “the serpent deceived me and I ate (Genesis 3:13).” We cannot blame others like Adam did when he said “the woman you put me here with – she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it (Genesis 3:12).” No making excuses. No blaming others. Only confession and repentance can restore the fellowship that we failed to maintain when we chose to sin. Then, our moment (sometimes a season) of unfaithfulness will be met with God’s promise of His faithfulness. Not only will He forgive us, but He will also purify us. He does this because Jesus is at His right side advocating on our behalf. We died to sin. How can we choose to live in it any longer?

Are We There Yet?

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My Musings – As a youngster, I remember the long road trips to visit my grandparents.  Without fail, either I or one of my two brothers would eventually ask “how much further?”  This question was usually asked a number of times before we reached our destination.  Five hours is considered a long trip when you are young.  In many respects, our walk with Christ is the same.  As long as “we are here,” means we are not there yet.  Just drifting through life will take us further away, because the “headwinds” of this world keep pushing us away from our “goal.”

For most of my childhood, our trips to my grandparents took us down two-lane roads.  No four-lane interstates went our way.  Road construction meant more than mere delays.  It meant long detours that took us miles out of our way before we could return to the designated route.  Life has its detours as well.  Many (but not all) are of our own making, requiring constant re-routing to return to our original course.

My Advice – To make forward progress we need to press on. We must forget what is behind and press on toward the goal to win the prize (reach our destination). If we are not looking forward (keeping our eyes on the prize), we are more likely than not to drift off course.  We must keep in mind that no matter how long, winding or hard the journey is, the destination (prize) that God has for us will be worth it.

Today’s musing was inspired by Pastor Kevin Rutledge’s sermon on November 10, 2019. Check it out at https://www.fbcsycamore.com/sermons. If you live in or are visiting the area, come and join us Sundays at 10:30 a.m. We’d love to be partners in the Gospel with you.