God’s Adversary

thRUTTMUVR

He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me. (Psalm 18:17-19)

You armed me with strength for battle; you humbled my adversaries before me. You made my enemies turn their backs in flight, and I destroyed my foes. (Psalm 18:39-40)

 

Take a moment and read the scriptures above. Think of God as your Deliverer in the first. He rescues you because He delights in you, not because you turned to Him. He brings you into a spacious place where you are no longer bombarded by your present trouble. Now think of God as your Provider and Vindicator in the second. He gives you what you need to battle the darkness of this world and walks before you in battle.

Now read the scriptures again knowing the character of God but this time see that the “foes” and “adversaries” represent your sin and your flesh. Many times, you are your own enemy as your flesh battles the spirit that is put inside you when you accept Christ as your Savior. Many times, God has to rescue you from yourself and give you weapons to battle the sin left in your soul.

We tend to think of our enemies as outward influences but many times we are at odds with ourselves. Our humanity founded in worldly things fights our spirit founded in eternal things. It is when we submit to God and the character shown in His Word above that we have the ability to fight the residual sin found in our flesh. It is when we crucify our flesh daily that the Spirit of God in us can shine forth and lead us to deeper relationship with Him. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:24)

The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God…. You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. (Romans 8:6-9)

Touched to Serve

th3VQ623LW

When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever.  He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him. (Matthew 8:14-15)

                In the passage that inspired this message we see Jesus heal Peter’s mother-in-law from her illness. Taken in a larger and God revealing context we see our Lord healing her from the effects of her illness in the same we Jesus, as our Savior, heals us from the effects of our sin. He takes away her fever in the same way He takes away our death from sin. In the same way she was raised, we are also raised to eternal life through Jesus.

                When she was raised her first reaction was to serve her healer. This is a message to believers that we are called into servanthood when we accept that Jesus gave His life to redeem ours. We are not called to serve out of obligation but out of love. When we can truly understand what we have been saved from, and experience the life that we have access to, we should look to serve the purpose God created us for. We should seek the purpose that Christ’s sacrifice has called us to.

                God’s grace has called us out of the darkness of this world, not because we deserve it, but because His love and mercy have been bestowed upon us. Only through God’s grace and the sacrifice of His Son have you been called to Him and redeemed from your sin. You have been called for a purpose. That purpose is found in submission to your Heavenly Father. As we submit to God we are called to serve His kingdom. We are called to serve others.

                Develop a spirit of gratitude as you seek true appreciation of what you have been given from a gracious and faithful God. Let your love grow along with your relationship to the Father. Share the love God has for you with others through selfless servanthood.

Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. (1 Corinthians 4:1)

O LORD, surely I am Your servant, I am Your servant, the son of Your handmaid, You have loosed my bonds (Psalm 116:16)

Avoid Self-Purification

thC2KRELO3

                As Christians we are called to live our life in obedience to Christ our Savior. A life lived in submission to Jesus produces spiritual fruit in the believer. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23a) Many believers know that a genuine walk with the Lord shows through in that person’s life. They’ve seen people who know the Lord and know what that looks like as it contrasts with the fallen world.

                Many people fall into a cycle of trying to rid themselves of the fallenness in their hearts hoping that cleaning up their life will produce Christian maturity. The problem is they are using their flesh to control their flesh. That is contradictory to God’s design. Trying to control a spiritual process leads to self-reliance and pride. We must remember that the acceptance of Christ comes with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. That indwelling gives us the ability to mature in the truth given by God’s Word and displayed in Jesus Christ.  But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (John 14:26) Indwelling of God’s Spirit creates an inward change in our hearts which develops into an outward manifestation in our lives. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26)

                What we must be sure to understand is: simply trying to correct sin in our lives is futile. What good is there in attacking our sinful nature with a flesh that is also sinful? We must allow the sinfulness in our hearts to be replaced by the Holy Spirit of God. We must allow the darkness of sin to be forced out by the light of God. Just like cold is the absence of heat and darkness is the absence of light; sin is the absence of submission to God’s presence in us. The only way to drive air out of a cup is to fill it with water. In this case it is the living water found through Jesus Christ. Focus in being filled with the Holy Spirit and submitting. This will give you the ability to live a life where sin and its penalty (death) have no hold over you.

                The verse below talks about sin returning to a heart it has been removed from. When that heart isn’t filled with the good of God the sin has a place to return to. Think of addictions. When good habits aren’t developed the bad ones have a foothold to reoccur. The same is true with sin in our lives. Let the Holy Spirit dwell in your heart and leave no room for the deceiver to pull you away from the Father.

“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.” (Matthew 12:43-45)

You Cannot Change Yourself

th82NQEVVN

       Many people come to Christ and dive into trying to be good. They imitate what they think a Christian should do and end up disappointed and exhausted in their effort. The yoke of Christ is light. He bore the burden of our sin and sent the Holy Spirit as our Helper to continue our growth and maturity. When we try to walk in our own strength we end up burned out and wondering where the peace and joy is. It is impossible to control your flesh with your flesh. Even if it were possible you would not be walking with God, you would still be alone. God didn’t send His Son to reconcile you to Him and then allow you to walk alone.

      Our job is to deny our flesh, turn from our sin and allow the Holy Spirit to create genuine and lasting change in us. God looks to break down our flesh and let His Spirit guide us in our walk. If we try to imitate godly attributes by ‘being good Christians’ God still has to break down those human imitations so that His Spirit can instill the eternal ones. Man-made attributes are motivated by man’s will and not the Spirit. Even at their best, which is broken, they build up man instead of glorifying God. God will not let His children settle for lesser gifts, He knows His Spirit is necessary for the relationship He desires. All your children will be taught by the Lord, and great will be their peace.

       Spend time daily with God in submission to His will and the correction of His Holy Spirit. Be led by the Spirit to lasting, eternal change in your spirit. It takes longer because it’s genuine. After experiencing the process, you will see changes to your heart that you were not even aware needed attention. Then you will experience the lasting changes of God that are accompanied by the peace and joy promised in Jesus Christ.

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. (John 3:5-6)

Using satan to Grow

thLWLGR029

                It is rare that we are exposed to preaching and writings that focus on the schemes of the deceiver. I agree that the love of God the Father through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus is the most important message by far; but the enemy of God’s love must be acknowledged. Thinking about an entity and his army trying to draw you away from God can be terrifying. As with all things, perspective makes all the difference. It is inevitable that a walk with the Lord will be met with equal opposition. If you don’t feel the opposition of the devil you might be walking in the direction he wants for you. If you don’t feel his opposition you may not pose a threat to his plan to destroy God’s reconciliation with His creation.

The closer you get to God the more the deceiver looks for a way to hinder your progress. You could get discouraged by this, or be prepared and wear his attacks as a badge of honor. You can know ahead of time that the deceiver wants you to fail and use the power you have in your Savior to walk in victory. Better than that, you can use satan’s prideful attempts to trip you to grow!

The deceiver will use earthly desires and pride to tempt you to settle for something far less than what God has for you. When he shoots the flaming arrows of Ephesians 6, use your shield to defend yourself and acknowledge where the devil was trying to hurt you.

 Let his attempts to hurt you reveal the weakness he perceives in you. When you are attacked stand secure in what God has promised you and let the deceiver point out the weak points in your armor. If he continues to aim at a certain place, he is just showing you wear your armor might be weak. Let your walk with God strengthen that part of your armor. Most of the time the deceiver will use your pride to draw you away. Not a chest pounding pride but the pride that makes you feel that you can do anything without God, the pride of self-sufficiency or self-focus.

When you feel drawn away or beat down in your walk with the Lord, identify what weakness the deceiver is looking to exploit and ask the Holy Spirit to help you in that weakness. Ask God to give you His power to grow in that area, closer to His grace and love. After having God’s view of the deceiver’s feeble attempts to hurt you, you will gain experience and get better at seeing the new ways he comes against you. Each new angle gives you another chance to grow closer to God and stronger in His Spirit.

As satan’s pride causes him to battle in vain to win a battle we know He loses in the end, use his pride to destroy yours. As the devil’s pride attacks, yours will fall away when you draw closer to God. Your self-reliance will fall to pieces and God’s indwelling Spirit will shine through in your maturity. Use the devil as a stepping stone. Each new stone lets you raise higher. As long as the hatred of the devil comes against us, we have another way to perceive our weaknesses. Now we can let the Holy Spirit work in us so that we are stronger in battle and closer to our Father.

The Enemy in Psalms

thL2IU6K3L

Many times, in the reading of the Psalms, there is a distance between our hearts and the heart of the psalmists. We read these words where someone is in anguish over their persecution. They have enemies that are actually pursuing and attacking them. It is rare in our modern lives to have the same kinds of situations occurring around us that drove the words of the Psalms to be penned. I see where this can cause a separation in what the message has the ability to convey to us.

                What if we had an enemy that was pursuing us day and night with the intention to defeat and kill us? Their sole motive was to take all that what was given to us by God. They existed to destroy a relationship with God that leads to sanctification. They found pleasure in our misery, depression, hopelessness, defeat, etc. They were willing to battle us until we turned away from God and too the comforts of the world. That enemy exists! That enemy is the devil and his army of fallen angels. We can read the Psalms and know that every word of desperation would be the crying out of our hearts if the deceiver were to make himself as clear as a physical enemy. Our biggest battle is with the spiritual realm and not the earthly realm that seeks to hold our attention. For 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) The deceiver is constantly looking for a foot hold in which to attack the hedge of protection God places around those who follow Him. The devil himself acknowledges this hedge when he complains of God’s protection of Job. Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. (Job 1:10)

                Don’t wait until the spiritual battle is manifest in the flesh. Read the Psalms and know the power of God against an enemy that attacks you in your mind and in ways you can’t always see immediately. Let your relationship grow with God as well as His hedge of protection from your enemy. Let the Psalms draw you closer to the nature of your Protector, Shelter, Sustainer, Rock, and Fortress against all enemies. Draw close to the hope found in the Psalms. Draw close to hope found in God.

Old Testament Exile is Our Difficulty

thUO41WFT6

       The exile/ correction of God’s people in the Old Testament can be compared to the difficult times God allows His people to go through today. He let His people in the OT suffer in their turning away from Him so that He could return the faithful/ humble/ obedient to their former blessedness. The same occurs today in difficult seasons where a believer’s faith draws them closer to God and His sovereignty; or turns them toward worldly security. When painful situations draw out the believer’s faith, humility (reliance on God) and obedience to His will; God is able to grow their spirit and mold them to His purpose. God allows trouble in our lives to grow and mature His children.

 The reaction of the afflicted is what decides the result of a difficult circumstance.

       The tendency of people in their sinful fallenness is to turn to their own ability and understanding to correct their situation in their own power. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6) Any battle fought with human power will not be finished. For 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) Only battles where God is our defender find completion for all time. We cannot fight spiritual battles with earthly weapons. Our flesh will only hinder the work of God in our spirits. let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles (Hebrews 12:1)

     With every difficulty we face there is also a plan for revival. God does not seek to bring us to ruin but to correct His children with love. He wants His faithfulness to lead us to a fullness of life beyond our dreams; and to grow us in faithfulness toward His provision and sovereignty. God is glorified when the result of a difficult season is a deeper relationship with His children and when His power and love is shown to those who are witness to His work in the lives of His faithful.

 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. (Isaiah 55:8)

so is my word that goes out from my mouth:  It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11)

Sin In The Eyes of The Law

thIBC4AONU

         If Adam’s disobedience was the match that started the deadly fire that we call sin. The law was the dry forest that allowed the fire to run wild, consuming people in their fallen nature like trees in their flammable nature. The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more (Romans 5:20) God then provided His only begotten Son as a rain storm of His Grace to extinguish the fire of sin. just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ (Romans 5:21) The transgression of Adam, which created in all of us a fallen nature leading to death, was redeemed through the sacrifice of Jesus who knew no sin. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:19)

        To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come. (Romans 5:13-14) The law could not conquer sin because death was still the result. Even perfect adherence to God’s law resulted in the same death that existed before law established and magnified sin and the fallenness of man. God had to come to earth in the flesh to redeem us from the disobedience of Adam and disobedience of man in turning away from God’s law. Jesus had to fulfill the requirements of the law to set us free from the penalty of death. The law given through Moses was fulfilled in Jesus. Jesus says: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17)

 

Adam-Moses: No Law, No Spirit   (People turn away from God)

The world was held under the rule of death. All humanity fell into the depravity of sin with no way to know God as His name was lost through generations. It fell into such disarray that God flooded the world that showed no promise of redemption.

Moses-Christ: Law, No Spirit   (People turn away from God and the law)

God gave Moses laws that would guide His people to be set apart and to keep God their focus. The laws were protection from their fallen nature and a way to keep God and His faithfulness at the center of their lives. They turned away even when God gave them direction and guidance.

Christ-Eternity: Spirit, No Law     (God comes to find His people)

The death and resurrection of our Savior gave us access to the Holy Spirit which writes the law upon our hearts. The love we are commanded to give to God and to our neighbors fulfills the requirements of moral law. As we walk in the newness of life and obedience to God we are not subject to the death penalty of sin.

Allow God to Lead

thLEFT643W

 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. (Colossians 2:18-19)

Asceticism: Self-discipline and personal efforts in understanding Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Worship of Angels: Using their own understanding to focus on perceived messages

Sensuous: Elaborate

                Don’t be misled by the confidence that people put into head knowledge and the elaborate stories they can weave together trying to interpret a God that considers the wise of this earth foolish.  For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” (1 Corinthians 3:19-20) Don’t let your own passions steer you into the counsel of such people. The deceiver disguises himself as wise counsel and twists the word of God to make crooked the path of those who lose focus on Christ who is the Truth. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:3-4)

            We run a race focused on the finish while Jesus asks us to walk and enjoy the journey with Him. We seek head knowledge and artificial growth which separates us from the body where Christ is the head. Let God be the source of your growth, the way He wants, how He wants, in the time He wants. Find rest in the hands of the Father. His ways are higher than your ways. He sees and understands all. Let Him guide you through the fog where your own understanding will leave you wanting and incomplete. When you resist the urge to run ahead, it will hurt. That is the desire of your flesh screaming. The pain feels unbearable as your spirit grows to rule over your flesh. Hand that pain to God and know that the pain is proof of God working to grow the part of you that will live with Him forever. He is letting the flesh attached to this world die. Lean on Him. His yoke is light and His burden easy. Let Christ grow in you and your self-sufficiency pass away. Less of you and more of Him.