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?

What Are You Hanging On To?

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My Musings – He was seeking eternal life.  He had meticulously kept the commandments that Jesus mentioned.  He could almost reach it.  But there was one thing he lacked.  Something he could not let go.  There’s a scene from “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” that provides a great illustration.  After finding the elusive “Holy Grail” supernatural events intervene.  A massive earthquake opens up threatening to swallow the grail causing it to be lost forever.  Suspended over the gaping crevasse, hanging onto his father (Professor Henry Jones) with one hand, Indiana Jones (Junior) desperately reaches for the grail, just inches from his other outstretched hand:

Professor Henry Jones: [in an urgent voice] “Junior, give me your other hand! I can’t hold on!”
Indiana Jones: [straining to reach the Grail] “I can get it. I can almost reach it, Dad…”
Professor Henry Jones: [in a quiet voice] “Indiana.”
[surprised, Indy looks back at his father].
Professor Henry Jones: [firmly, but still quietly] “Indiana… let it go.”

Of course, we all know what happens.  Indiana grabs onto his father with both hands and is saved.  Letting go of the prize he had long sought to find.

The application?  We cannot hold onto our Heavenly Father with one hand while clinging onto our prized sins – sinful habits, sinful relationships, sinful pursuits, etc…  We cannot serve two masters.

My Advice – What are you reaching for or hanging onto that is keeping you from fully committing to a relationship with Jesus Christ?  Let it go.

Don’t Get Cocky Kid!

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My Musings – Going to battle requires preparation.  Being properly prepared involves at least three key elements:  knowing your enemy, surveying the battlefield, and choosing your weapons.

Knowing Your Enemy – “So that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” Ephesians 6:11, NIV 1984).  In the movie “Patton,” on the eve of battle, actor George C. Scott who portrays General Patton is seen reading Field Marshal Rommel’s book “The Tank in Battle” (actually “Infantry Attacks”), a book on battle tactics.  In a following scene, Patton has Rommel on the retreat and as he gleefully exclaims “Rommel…you magnificent %@$&*!, I read your book!”  I don’t know how historically accurate this is, but it nicely illustrates how knowing your enemy can help you defeat him.  This is especially important in Spiritual warfare “in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes” (2 Corinthians 2:11–12, NIV 1984).

Surveying The Battlefield – “So that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground” (Ephesians 6:13, NIV 1984).  An army would not willingly go into battle without knowing a little about the “lay of the land.”  Choosing the “high ground,” would provide a definite advantage.  Avoiding positions that would make your army vulnerable, is another example.  When Adam and Eve were tempted, they were in the worst position they could be in to avoid temptation.  They were hanging around the forbidden tree.  At the time of the year that kings go to war, David stayed behind.  His first mistake.  Then he “found” himself where he should not have been, watching Bathsheba bathe and inciting lust.

Choosing Your Weapons – “Therefore put on the full armor of God” (Ephesians 6:13, NIV 1984). Spiritual battles require Spiritual weapons.  “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” (2 Corinthians 10:3–4, NIV 1984). In a classic fight scene in “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” Indiana Jones had just fought a fast-paced battle against a dozen attackers.  Already weary, he is confronted by one final ninja-type adversary wielding a samurai sword. Somewhat nonchalantly, Jones draws his gun and shoots the warrior. Moral of the story: don’t bring a sword to a gunfight.  Corollary: don’t bring worldly weapons to a Spiritual battle.

My Advice – Know your enemy, survey the battlefield and choose your weapons wisely.  Lest you think these make you invincible, one final movie quip from Han Solo to Luke Skywalker in “Star Wars” – “Great, kid. Don’t get cocky”   To avoid this “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power” (Ephesians 6:10, NIV 1984).

I Can Do It Myself?

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My Musings – Like most “sound bites” from the Scriptures it is important that this verse be read in context so we do not read into “do everything,” what was not intended.  Paul has just finished saying that he has learned the secret of being content whatever the circumstances (and boy has he been through plenty of circumstances), whether in need or in plenty.  What Paul is actually saying is that he has strength to face all these things, through Christ who provides the strength.  Elsewhere, Paul recounts being told by Christ that His grace is sufficient.

My Advice – This is not just a Paul thing.  God’s grace is sufficient for all of us no matter what the circumstances.  The problem is, we frequently do not draw the strength from Him, preferring to tackle things on our own.  Draw from His strength.  The “well” never runs dry.

Stay With The 99

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2 Chronicles 15:2The Lord is with you when you are with Him.  If you seek Him, He will be found by you, but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you. (NIV 1978)

My Musings – It is hard to walk against the wind, row against the current, ride a bike uphill or “kick against the goad.”  But these are nothing compared to going against or forsaking God’s Word.  There will still be difficult times in this world because our relationship with Christ earned us a new enemy.  Satan wants us to think that the winds, current and terrain are against us, but again these are nothing because they are from his hand not God’s.  God allows them to strengthen and temper us.  But we need not despair. In fact we can take heart, because Christ has overcome the word.

My Advice – Not all who wander are lost, but they still are wandering.  So, keep in step with Jesus. He will never leave nor forsake you, so do not leave or forsake Him.  Then we can take heart because “He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world.

Choose Wisely

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1 Chronicles 16:34Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever. (NIV 1978)

“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”.  “Safe?” said Mr. Beaver.  “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

My Musings – What is good?  We all have a general idea what it means to be good, and we usually contrast it with bad or evil.  But when it comes to man, in his fallen state, good is a relative term.  Relative to one another, but not to God.  In fact, the Bible states that “[t]here is no one righteous [good], not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:10–12, NIV 1984).  Only God is good.

Before the fall, mankind desired the knowledge of good and evil more than life.  You might recall that there were two trees in the center of the garden – “In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” (Genesis 2:9, NIV 1984).

But only one was forbidden – “And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”  (Genesis 2:16–17, NIV 1984).  And that is the one they desired.

When it came to choices, mankind chose what was forbidden and forfeited what they already had – goodness and innocence.  It was a “fool’s choice,” for who needs to know the difference (good versus evil) when all they have and all they are is good and innocent?  In making the “fool’s choice” mankind also gave up the opportunity to live forever in that state (good and innocent).

As a consequence of that choice, God was no longer “safe,” for mankind.  But He was still good.  “He’s the King, I tell you.”  And His love “endures forever,” even in the wake of mankind’s bad choices.  Because of His goodness and love, He was compelled to provide a way back to the paradise lost, through the death and resurrection of the only man to ever be good (“the exact representation of His being“) relative to God – the second Adam, God’s only Son Jesus.  By accepting Christ, that goodness is imputed to man.  It all boils down to another choice.  This time will we choose the “tree of life” or will we continue to think that our ill-gotten knowledge is “better?”

My Advice – Choose wisely, choose life.

Cravings, and Lusting and Boasting, Oh My!

1 John 2:15-17Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in Him. For everything in the world-the cravings of sinful man, the lust of the eyes and the boasting of what he has and does-comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever. (NIV 1978)

My Musings – The allure of the world is strong, but deceptive. Worldly things will eventually disappoint and ultimately will not last. The things of God in our life will never disappoint, and will last forever.

My Advice – Be careful of what you set your affections on. Make sure that your love of worldly things does not take the place of God in your heart.