Battle Plan – Strategy 5 – Put on the Armor

(The list of these strategies in chart form can be found here: http://rogert.me/2w6E0sK )

Strategy 5: I have put on the whole armor of God so that I will be able to be standing when each skirmish is over.

Paul gives us this admonition in Ephesians 6: “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:10–11, NKJV)

We already discussed the fact that our strength and power comes from the Lord. As we work, He works (Philippians 2:12-13). Paul tells us here in Ephesians that we are to be strong in the power of His might. Obviously we are not strong in our own might. Our defeats day by day are enough evidence of that.

In order to stand against the schemes and tricks of the devil, we are to put on the whole armor of God as explained in this passage. There are pieces of armor for the head and for all the other parts of the body. They are mostly defensive, but He has given us the Sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, as our offensive weapon. We are to put it on. It won’t put itself on.

Why do we need this armor? Because we are not wrestling against flesh and blood, but against spiritual forces of wickedness. This is a dirty battle and the enemy is deceitful and cruel. Therefore we need all the protection we can get.

We need the belt of truth. Don’t believe the lies, even the lies you tell yourself. Know the truth and base your life on it.

We need the breastplate of righteousness. This cannot be our own righteousness because our righteousness is porous – full of holes. Paul writes in Philippians: “[that I might] be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;” (Philippians 3:9, NKJV)

We need God’s righteousness as our breastplate.

We are to have the gospel as our footwear. We need to preach the gospel to ourselves every single day. Christ died for our sins and paid the death penalty for us. He was raised the third day and is ascended into heaven where He makes intercession for us.

We are to have the shield of faith to quench those fiery darts. Faith is believing God, taking Him at His word. Faith involves acting on what He says. Faith which doesn’t act is not faith. As James tells us, such faith is dead.

We are to have the helmet of salvation. In other words, we are to be a regenerated person. A person who has been given a new heart, a new spirit and new inclinations toward God.

And we are to have the Word of God as our defensive and offensive weapon. Remember how Jesus responded to the temptations Satan brought him?  He said, “It is written.” We must now and use our Bibles effectively.

Priority Goal 5: Today I will make sure I have the armor on. I will think through the components of God’s armor and make sure I am securely protected by them. I will do this consciously and intentionally with my mind and heart focused on its importance for a successful battle. So that having done all, I will still be standing.

Battle Plan – Strategy 3 – Sin and Satan Defeated

(The list of these strategies in chart form can be found here: http://rogert.me/2w6E0sK )

Strategy 3 I am reminding myself of the fact that sin and the devil are defeated and God will not allow me to be tempted above what I am able.

These truths are not designed to make us complacent. They are given to us by God to strengthen our resolve and assure us that victory is possible on a daily basis.

Meditate on these passages of Scripture:

Hebrews 2:14-15 Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He (Jesus) Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.

Colossians 2:14–15 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. 15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.

1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

Romans 6:6, 14 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.  For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

From these passages we can see that sin and Satan have been defeated. God is actively engaged in preventing us from being tempted more than we are able to deal with. The power of sin has been broken. It might not feel that way, but the Bible tells us that this is the truth and so by faith we are to believe it and claim it to be true and to respond accordingly as we face the various temptations that come our way.

Priority Goal 3: Today I will claim the fact that sin and the devil have been defeated and that the power they claim to hold over me is a fraud. God has taken away their power and authority and I am able to overcome whatever temptation is coming my way.

Patience – Part 2

Patient endurance is required of all Christians. The passage under consideration  (2 Peter 1:5,6) tells us to be diligent in adding it to our faith. Peter also tells us in I Peter 2:20 that when we do good and suffer, it is commendable before God to take it patiently. Paul tells Timothy in I Timothy 6:11 that patience is one of the things a man of God is to pursue having fled from youthful lusts and other evils. In 2 Tim 3:10 we find that Paul commends Timothy for having followed his example in the area of patience among other things. An older man who would be a good example to the young men around him must have patience as one of his personal characteristics (Titus 2:2).  Patience is one of the attributes that commended Paul as a minister (2 Cor 6:4).

The kind of patience or endurance spoken of here is not the simple patience that we normally think of when we say we might need some patience when the car ahead of us is moving too slowly or something like that. Patience is the enduring of a trial whether that trial is directly from the hand of God for our discipline or is being applied by the world and its system in opposition to God and His people. We are strengthened by God Himself so that we might endure. (Col 1:11)  It is a goal to be sought after, not avoided. According to James in chapter 5 we are not to grumble against one another while enduring the trials. So rather than grumbling and complaining as we often do when going through hardships, we are to be joyful and accept the trial without complaint. That’s a tough assignment.

God shows his pleasure in this kind of endurance when he commends the Ephesian church in Revelation 2. He says in verse 2, “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary.”

Being able to endure trials with endurance and patience is helpful in providing the support and encouragement needed by others coming after us who may face the same or similar trials (2 Cor 1:6-7).

As I mentioned earlier, there is a strong connection between patience and hope. We already looked at the fact that patience produces the proof in our lives which gives us hope. When Paul wrote to the Thessalonians he said he remembered their “patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” Patience helps produce hope and hope also strengthens patience. When we have a sure hope, we wait for it more patiently like the farmer does for his harvest (James 5:7-10). Even though the word is different, Hebrews 6:11 says that “we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” In other words through our patience we demonstrate the full assurance of the hope we have. Romans 15:4 tells us that through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures we might have hope.

One of the things that is most interesting to me is the close connection with endurance and the final reward. Heb 10:36 tells us, “For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise.” He goes on to say in verse 38 that the just shall live by faith, but if anyone draws back, my soul has no pleasure in him.  In speaking in an “end time” context, Jesus tells us that His followers will be hated by all for His name’s sake. He then adds, “By your patience possess your souls.” In the same kind of “end time” context Matt 24:13 says that he that endures to the end will be saved. 2 Timothy 2:12 tells us that if we endure, we will reign with him.

Our pastor, in preaching on 2 Corinthians 4 called our attention to verse 8 which tells us that though we are hard pressed on every side, we are not crushed. Then in verse 16 we see the evidence of perseverance. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.

In a message during prayer meeting he spoke from 2 Thessalonians 1:1-4. It was interesting to see the connection with what we are studying here. Paul boasted of the Thessalonians for “your patience and faith in all your persecutions.” He goes on to say in verse 5 that this is a “manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer.”

Patience or endurance then is to be the hallmark of the Christian life. It is the pattern of life that results in God’s approval of our lives. We are told to run with patience the race that is set before us. Jesus said that the seed that fell on good ground are those who heard the word and keep it and bear fruit with patience (Luke 8:15). This is the characteristic of a true believer. Love endures all things. As our lives are marked by the love of God, they will also be marked by the kind of endurance that only comes from the power of God at work in us for His glory.

(This article was first posted to Faithful Men Blog in October 2006)

Ephesians 1:15 -23

Ephesians 1:15-23

In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, 12that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. 13In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

It’s an interesting study to go through this chapter and see the number of times Paul speaks of being in him or in Christ. Here we see that in Him we have received an inheritance. Later on Paul will describe God’s inheritance, but here we receive an inheritance because of our union with Christ. To describe this idea, Paul says that we were predestined. Predestination is not the same thing as election. Predestined means to determine the destiny or outcome ahead of time. In this passage, that destiny is that we should be to the praise of His glory. In other words, God has determined and planned that we will be to the praise of His glory. He works all things out according to the counsel of His will and if He determines and wills to accomplish it, it will be accomplished. We will be to the praise of His glory, because God knows what it will take in our lives to accomplish that task.

The Ephesians also trusted in Christ after they heard the word of truth, the gospel. That is the way we all come to salvation. It is always and only by trusting in Christ that a person is saved. It is always faith in the Word of God. Salvation never comes except through the Word. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. People cannot be saved without the Word, that is why missionary activity and preaching are so important.

Having believed, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. Paul describes Him as the guarantee, earnest or down payment of our inheritance. Someone provides a down payment as a pledge that the rest will be forth coming. If the rest does not follow, the down payment belongs to the recipient. In this context, that would mean that if God does not follow through on the rest of His promise, we get to keep the Holy Spirit. It is foolishness to think that God would lose the Holy Spirit because of failure to fulfill the remainder of His promise and that is the point. God’s promise of our inheritance is that secure. The Holy Spirit is the down payment until the redemption of the purchased possession. What is that purchased possession? Us!

All to the praise of His glory.  These things are not for our glory but for His. Modern Christianity has made man the center. God does what He does for His glory including our salvation. Let’s give Him the glory He deserves.

Previously Published June 2005

Ephesians 1:7-10

Ephesians 1:7-10

Several things come to my mind as I read these 4 verses. I think of the key word “redemption” mentioned in verse 7. Here we have visualized the process whereby a slave is bought back. Someone has been sold as a slave and a kind person pays the price to buy him out of slavery and sets him free. I see that as a picture of how Christ has bought us back and set us free from guilt and sin. In fact that is what the next part of the verse talks about – the forgiveness of sins. There are some people who have no concept of how sinful they really are and therefore may not fully appreciate what forgiveness is. To be completely set free from the guilt and penalty of sin is an amazing thing. As we grow older and study the Word more, we realize how depraved we actually are and as a result we realize all the more the wonder of forgiveness. All of this of course comes from His grace. It is all undeserved by us. Sometimes I think we come to believe that God owes us something. But the Bible teaches us that it’s all because of His amazing grace.

Paul seems to delight in superlatives because he doesn’t just stop with the word grace at the end of verse 7. He tells us that this grace abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence. His grace doesn’t come in a trickle. It is abundant and it doesn’t come out of God’s ignorance but through his great wisdom and insight. It’s a result of His character.
Probably the next two verses take a deeper study, but what I see here is an expression of ultimate purpose. It flows down through verse 12. But in this section I see that when time is complete and all of the ages roll together toward their ultimate conclusion, God is and will gather together all things in Christ and make Him the ultimate focus of everything there is. This not only includes the things in heaven but also the things on the earth. I imagine that this is why he tells us elsewhere that every knee will bow. Thinking about this certainly makes a lot of other things pale in comparison and much we focus on in life seems rather insignificant, doesn’t it.

An Imagined Conservative Liberal Dialogue — 1

These CL Discussions are imagined conversations between a conservative Christian and a liberal person. They are not real conversations. They are in my head and I’m the conservative Christian, a fact you would have had no trouble discerning yourself. I make no claim to neutrality and the opinions of the conservative are my own and the opinions of the Liberal are typical of people I have met over the years, but don’t reflect any one persons’ point of view.

 

L: I agree with the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage. And I think Jesus would have agreed. He was one to show compassion and not condemn people, don’t you think?

L: Think about the woman who was arrested while committing adultery. Jesus rebuked people for judging saying, “Let him who is without sin throw the first stone.”

C: When all of her accusers had left her, Jesus said, “I don’t condemn you either.” This is just what you said. Somewhere else in the Bible Jesus said, “I have not come to condemn the world but to save it.” But Jesus said more than this to the woman. After he told her that he didn’t condemn her, he told her to go and don’t sin anymore.”

L: Yes, but he wasn’t condemning. And that’s the point. Christians today are so condemning. They’re no better than anyone else and yet they are often so condescending.

C: You’re right. Many of us are. But I think you’re missing an important point in what Jesus is saying. Jesus is not willing to let her go and continue in the life style she was engaged in. He called her adultery a sin. That’s different from the way modern people think. To most people today, adultery is not a sin. It’s a life style choice. But Jesus is telling her to stop. Jesus, the person who loves sinners the most does not want people to continue sinning because doing so will lead to eternal destruction.

L: First of all, I don’t believe adultery is a sin. I don’t really believe in sin as such unless you’re talking about abusing the most defenseless among us. That is a sin. It is a sin to not pay people a fair wage and keep people in poverty. But whether someone has sex with someone he’s not married to is a personal matter and I certainly wouldn’t call it a sin. As long as both people are consenting and no one gets hurt, it can’t be a sin.

C: But Jesus thought so, didn’t he?

L: But Jesus lived at a different time. He was under different expectations from his culture.

C: Jesus went against the teachings of his Jewish culture in many ways and he certainly went against the pagan culture of his time. And if Jesus was just acting out a part, and if he wasn’t giving actual true truth, then he must not have been God. Because I don’t think God would have played along with either the religious or the secular culture. God would tell it like it is.

L: Maybe so, but at least he had compassion on this woman and didn’t condemn her.

C: But I think you’re missing the point. He had compassion and so should we. But it is not compassion to let someone go without telling them that the path they are on is sinful. The path of sinning leads to eternal judgment in hell.

L: I don’t believe in hell and Jesus didn’t either.

C: Jesus said that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause is in danger of the judgment and whoever calls someone a fool is in danger of hell fire (Matt 5:22).

  1. I don’t believe Jesus said that. He was too loving to have said something like that.

C: It’s in the Bible.

D: But the Bible must not be right at that point. Jesus would not say that!

C: How should we know what Jesus actually said and what he didn’t? Just accept the parts we like and agree with? How are you going to know if any of it is true with that method?

D: No, but I just don’t believe Jesus would threaten someone with hell for calling someone a fool.

C: Jesus also said that if someone causes one of the young believers to stumble, it would be better for that man that a heavy stone be tied to him and be thrown into the sea rather than suffer what he was going to suffer. He went on to say that if your hand causes you to sin, it would be better to have it cut off than to go to hell where the fire is never quenched (Mark 9:42 and following).

C: So it doesn’t sound to me like your Jesus is compassionate in the same way you imagine. Jesus knows that sin is destructive. Sin will keep a person from God. God pleads with people saying, “Turn from your evil ways. Why will you die?” (Ezekiel 33:11).

C: That is true compassion. Someone who knows a course of action will lead a person to certain death and doesn’t do anything to warn them doesn’t love them very much.

More discussions to follow.

Summary of God’s Curse or Blessing

To help you pull this together in your own mind, I’m including a list of truths that we have discovered in this study.

 

In the Old Testament, God gave statements of blessing and cursing. Those who keep all of the law are blessed. Those who fail in any of it are cursed.

 

There are two ways of living – under the law or by faith.

 

Those who are under the law are under that curse that God gave.

 

Abraham believed God and God blessed him and his seed.

 

The law that came later could not annul that promised blessing otherwise God is guilty of breaking his contract.

 

If we too believe God and accept His word of salvation through Christ, we are Abraham’s seed according to the promise and therefore recipients of the blessing that cannot be revoked.

 

Christ lived a perfect life and yet died on the cross and therefore was cursed because anyone hung on a tree is cursed. He bore the curse that was due to us.

 

The law cannot bring reform to our lives because with it comes the curse. It also stimulates sin and gives sin its power.

 

The law was in charge before the time of Christ, but now we are in an adult age when those who are Christ’s are adopted as adult sons into his family and are no longer under the guardianship of the law to keep us in line as though we were children.

 

God begs us not to look to the law as the answer to our sinful and fleshly ways. He reminds us that we, just like Isaac are children of promise and should live our lives in that light.

God’s Curse or Blessing? – Part 9

In Galatians 4:21 Paul asks us to look at the picture provided by Abraham’s two sons. If you know your Bible you will recognize these references as to Ishmael and Isaac. One was of the freewoman (Isaac) and one was of the bondwoman (Ishmael). The one born to the bond woman was of the flesh. He came into existence because of the Abraham’s scheming, not according to the working of God. Isaac, the child of the free woman, was a child of promise. He came into existence because of the promise of a miracle, which promise Abraham believed.

Romans 4:19-22 And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore “it was accounted to him for righteousness.”

 

These are symbolic of two covenants (Galatians 4:24) – one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage and the other corresponds to Jerusalem. Sinai of course was the place where the law was given.

Paul concludes by saying this in verse 28, “Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise…. Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? ‘Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.’ So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free. Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with the yoke of bondage.”

This is the warning and admonition with which we conclude this study. The seed of bondwoman, representing life under the law, and the seed of the free woman, representing the life of faith based on the indwelling Holy Spirit according to the promise of God, are mutually exclusive. The warning is not to be entangled again in the bondage that comes from trying to perform in order to reach an acceptable standard with God. So we are to live by faith, trusting God’s promises and living accordingly. We are to accept the forgiveness freely given by God and not beat ourselves up for our lack of perfection. God is working on us and molding us more and more into the likeness of his Son. That’s his promise. We need to accept that and trust him with the outcome.

God’s Curse or Blessing? – Part 8

So the bottom line for the person who is in Christ is that the days of the guardianship of the law are over. It did it’s job in the first part of human history but now in Christ it’s responsibility has been completed.

Please don’t interpret any of this to say that we are free to live in any way we like. I’m talking about the role of the law and its place in our lives. The reason this is important is that many Christians put themselves under the law in order to try to please God in the sense of making Him happy with their level of obedience. What they don’t realize is that perfection is the standard and we fall way short. Even though you may not lie, steal or cheat, do you really want God to condition his favor toward you based on whether you loved him with the entirety of your mind, heart, soul and strength over the last 24 hours? You didn’t fall at all short of that standard? Even though you didn’t rob a bank, you perfectly loved your neighbor as yourself and didn’t look with covetousness or envy at anything at all that another person has or does? You don’t really want to be evaluated by the law, do you?

Another motivation sometimes is to try to use the law to get our lives in order. If we struggle with certain temptations, we tend to go back under the law to solve that problem. The trouble is that the law brings a curse as we have seen. In fact in Romans 7:8 we learn that sin takes the opportunity in the law to produce all sorts of evil desire. Second Corinthians 15:56 tells us that the strength of sin is the law. Sin gains power when the law is in force. Life requires self-discipline, but putting oneself under the law doesn’t work and in fact God pleads with us not to do that.

Returning now to Galatians 4:7 we find that if we are a son then we are an heir of God. Think about what that means! We are adult sons, not children. We are heirs of God with all the rights and privileges of being an adult son. Paul tells us in Romans 8:17, ““and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.” We share in the inheritance that Jesus Christ receives. We are his siblings, so to speak.

Paul basically spends much of the rest of chapter 4 begging the people not to return to childhood. Notice his pleading in verse 9, “But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage?”

In Colossians 2:8, Paul writes, “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. Then in verse 20 he says, “Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, (there’s that expression again) why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations – do not touch, do not taste, do not handle.” The interesting point here is that he finishes up this thought in verse 23 by saying, “These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.” In other words, it doesn’t work to set up these rules for yourself to try to stifle the flesh. Returning to law-keeping seems like it has a wisdom to it, but it does not work! It just stimulates more sin.

So my question was, “does God beg us not to put ourselves under the law?” Look at verses 11-16 of Galatians 4 and see what you think. God is serious about this. He uses expressions like “I urge you…” and “I’m afraid for you….” The answer we need for trying to live a godly life is not more law. It is in our recognition and accepting by faith the fact that we are new creatures in Christ, we have the Holy Spirit within us and we need to yield to His leadership in our lives.

God’s Curse or Blessing? – Part 7

During this time of childhood, Paul describes it as a time of bondage under the elements of the world. What are those elements? This is not a trivial question just for theologians. It is a practical one for us because if we find out that we are still trapped under those elemental issues, then we are still responding like children. We are living like we are adults still under the sway and guardianship of our parents and that is not a good place to be.

Let’s begin with a question Paul asks in Galatians 4:9: “But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage?” Do you see what he is asking? There is something wrong with desiring to be in that kind of bondage to what he calls the weak and beggarly elements. What are these? In the very next verse he says, “you observe days, months, seasons and years.” What does he mean by this?

Let’s look at a couple of other passages and then draw some conclusions.

 

Colossians 2:8 Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.

Colossians 2:20-22 Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations— “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men?

 

So we can see from these passages that the elementary principles of the world involve man-made religion, human rules and regulations, religious exercises that are not from God and similar things.

In addition, God has said that even his law was given to keep us under its guardianship until adulthood came. That adulthood came with the coming of Christ. When an person is a child, he needs to be told what to do about virtually everything. He doesn’t have the maturity to know which vegetables he should eat and that he shouldn’t play in the street. He doesn’t know it’s good to go to bed at a decent hour to get a good night’s sleep. But when adulthood comes, he essentially has the maturity to make these kinds of decisions for himself.

In the religious realm, before the coming of Christ and the subsequent coming of the Holy Spirit, people needed to be told what to do and how to live. Humans innately develop religious rules and regulations to guide them and God gave his commandments to his people to serve that same function.

But after Christ and the Holy Spirit came, believers are recipients of the benefits of the New Covenant which promised a new heart, new motivations, and the presence of God’s Spirit (Galatians 3:14; Jeremiah 31:33-34; Ezekiel 36:25-27). Under these circumstances the guardianship of the law is not necessary. A Christian has within himself the resources to follow God and do the things that are pleasing to him. He is an “adult” in the sense that he has “grown up” spiritually. He has the internal resources he needs. He is treated by God as an adult son. There is obviously more growing to do just as in physical adulthood, there is a big difference between an adult 25 year old and an adult 60 year old in terms of wisdom and experience and so on.

So the bottom line for the person who is in Christ is that the days of the guardianship of the law are over. It did it’s job in the first part of human history but now in Christ it’s responsibility has been completed.