The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.
Saturday, October 30, 2010
If your eyes are only on the things of this world your joy will fade away. Corrie Ten Boom, Holocaust survivor, used to say, "Look around be distressed. Look within be depressed. Look to Christ and be at rest." The above verses conclude a chapter in which Paul describes joy in terms of how it is related to complete consecration to God. He said knowing Jesus, even in the fellowship of His suffering, was far greater than any human achievement he ever attained to. In fact he said all his earthly achievements were garbage in comparison to knowing Jesus. Paul contrasts this total consecration with those whose god is their belly, who are only concerned with earthly things and who are as result, enemies of God. He then punctuates this chapter by pointing believers to a heavenly perspective. He seeks to have his readers lift their eyes to heaven.
Paul substantiates his call to a fully surrendered consecrated life by pointing out, “For our citizenship is in heaven.” The word “citizenship” (πολίτευμα - pŏlitĕuma, pol-it´-yoo-mah) means citizenship, colony, commonwealth, or community. We get the English word politics from the original Greek word politeuma from which “citizenship” is translated. One commentary states of this word:
Politeuma was used in classical Greek from the Fifth Century B.C. onward of the various acts, departments, and functions of government (cf. Bauer). It was used of the business of government, the administration of government, and the policy of government (both local and foreign). Aristotle used it in his Politics for “the government,” those who hold political power or who hold a share in it.
From the time of the Third Century B.C. politeuma also meant “citizenship.” Politeuma was frequently used to designate a “corporate body of citizens,” a colony of foreigners who are residents in a foreign city while their citizenship and allegiance is elsewhere. It was used, for example, of a “body of Judeans living in Berenice,” or of “Cretans living in Egypt.” Politeuma is not found in the canonical books of the Septuagint but is found in 2 Maccabees 12:7 where it is said that Judas wanted to “root out the whole community of Joppa” (RSV). Hence, politeuma can mean “community.”
Christians are a “colony of foreigners” in this world. We are temporary residents. Our “citizenship and allegiance is elsewhere.” We should see ourselves as passing through this world on the way to our true eternal destination of heaven with Jesus. This perspective should impact the way we live. This world is not our final destination. We are on our way to a different far more glorious and perfect destination, heaven.
It would be easy, given the state of governments and the political upheaval that so often characterizes the world, to be enticed into the quicksand of horizontal political endeavors. While we are to be good citizens within the government systems God has sovereignly placed us (Rom. 13), we are also called to a higher calling. As Citizens of heaven, when the ways of God and the ways of man come into conflict, our position is clear, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29; cf. Daniel 3:16-18; 6:10, 13).
A patriot is “one who loves his or her country and supports its authority and interests.” We are, therefore, to be heavenly patriots. What is a heavenly patriot? I asked that question to a group of pastor friends of mine and here is a sample of what they said:
• "Being a citizen of heaven means that heavenly concerns and divine guidance take precedence over anything and everything that is earthly generated and conflicts with the grace and character of God. The way I see it is if we all stood as firmly on our rights enumerated in the US Constitution as citizens of the USA like we do our rights and privileges granted to us by God, this nation would be a whole different place. We could have been born at any time in history, and in any place in this world, and God through His divine Providence saw fit to place me HERE, in this country, NOW – when they needed me most. I do not want to leave God or country down. I once took an oath to defend this nation against all enemies foreign and domestic, and as long as I can do that and still look my loving and gracious God in the eye when it is over, I will fight to the death to defend this land and its people. The way I see it, I have more right to do that than I do to defend myself against persecution for my faith. In the former I have been given a mandate by God, through His Holy Word to obey the laws of this land that HE has allowed to exist, yet when it comes to persecution for my faith, I am required to turn the other cheek and suffer as Christ has suffered which is my reasonable service."
• ". . . . I have often said that if our nation decides to take God out of our country, they will have to take a chisel and hammer to Washington, DC - His Name and His word are carved in stone everywhere. . . . We are citizens of heaven and citizens on earth, placed here as salt and light and as witnesses of Jesus Christ (not His attorneys, but His witnesses). Thus, we ought to always conduct ourselves accordingly. So many pastors I have spoken with believe that we have only a heavenly responsibility and some believe that we have only an earthly responsibility. I believe that it is not either/or, but both/and - let us not disconnect the two but exercise both in all that we do. We . . . pray and participate - to awaken ourselves and as many as we can to the privileges and responsibilities that come with our dual citizenship."
• "Our ultimate citizenship is in Heaven, not on earth. We are here as ambassadors, advancing the interests of our Better Country. We are on temporary assignment here, but we have a permanent home in Heaven. No matter how bad things get with the kingdoms of the earth, the Kingdom of Heaven is ruled by a wise and righteous King. And He will return here and make all things right, and one of our goals is to hasten His return by properly representing Him while we're on our assignments here."
• "A heavenly citizen is a good citizen – wherever he/she may live. A heavenly citizen is one who does not vote Democrat vs. Republican, red vs. blue, conservative vs. liberal but biblical vs. world. Unfortunately, most Christians go to the polls with a worldly world-view rather than a biblical one. They will vote their pocketbook, personal interests, party line or for “the face” without filtering their choices through the Word of God. A heavenly citizen does not go with the stream but votes his/her Bible."
So what is a heavenly patriot? A heavenly patriot hungers and thirsts for righteousness (Mat. 5:6). A heavenly citizen knows they are blessed if called upon to suffer for righteousness sake (Mat. 5:10; 1 Pet. 3:4). Jesus said if we are persecuted for righteousness sake we should, “rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven” (Mat. 5:12). We heavenly patriots are, quite simply, yet profoundly, called to a higher standard than the lost sinner who lives in and for the things of this world. What characterizes this joyful heavenly patriotism that God calls us to?
First, God’s joy producing Heavenly Patriotism lives united with other heavenly patriots (3:20a). Paul says, “For our.” He emphasizes the community aspect of citizenship. To the Galatians he was inspired to write, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2). There is a “law,” a principle of Christ that says we should stand by and help our brothers and sisters in Christ. A burden is differentiated by Paul from a “load.” A load is each individual’s responsibility (Gal. 6:5). A “burden” is that too heavy for anyone person to bear. We are to help our brethren when they are weighed down with burdens too heavy for them to bear alone. Paul was willing to be “poured out” for the Philippians (Phi. 2:17). God calls heavenly citizens to support one another and sacrifice for one another; to love one another (Rom. 13:8; 1 Thess. 3:12; 4:9). It’s a joy producing thing to receive help with burdens and to give help to others with burdens.
Second, God’s joy producing Heavenly Patriotism lives with a heavenly perspective (3:20b). Paul says, “For out citizenship is in heaven.” “Heaven” (οὐρανός - ŏuranŏs, oo-ran-os´) refers to the sky and is used to point to the abode of God. It used to refer to the air or sky such as where birds fly (Mat. 6:26; 8:20; Acts 10:12; 11:6). It is used in reference to the location of the stars (Matt. 24:29, 35; Mark 13:25, 31; Heb. 11:12). And it is used to refer to the eternal habitation of God (Matt. 5:16; 12:50; Rev. 3:12; 11:13; 16:11; 20:9). Heaven is also the abode of angels (Matt. 18:10; 22:30; cf. Rev. 3:5).
With this in mind scripture speaks of heavens. When Jesus ascended He “passed through the heavens” (Heb. 4:12; cf. also Eph. 4:10 Heb. 7:26; 8:1). Paul speaks of the “third heaven” (2 Cor. 12:2). The first heaven is the sky, the second heaven is where the stars and planets are, and the third heaven is the abode of God. The Father has always been in heaven (Mat. 5:16; 12:50). Jesus is now in heaven (Rom. 8:34; 1 Pet. 3:22; Heb. 9:24). The Holy Spirit descended from heaven at Pentecost (1 Pet. 1:12). Jesus will descend from heaven to the clouds and receive His saints at the rapture (1 Thess. 4:16). Seven years of Tribulation on earth will take place as God pours out His wrath from heaven on a Christ rejecting world (Rev. 16). Then Jesus will return at His Second Coming with His saints and angels (Mat. 24:30; Jude 14; 2 Thess. 1:7; Rev. 19). Jesus will set up His earthly Kingdom on earth for a thousand years (Rev. 20). And at the end of that thousand year reign there will be the Great White Throne Judgment wherein sinners will be judged (Rev. 20). After this a new earth and heaven will be created by God (Is. 65:17; 2 Pt. 3:10; Rev. 20 and 21). Finally, we the saints of God will one day be welcomed into this new heavenly abode (2 Cor. 5:1).
Third, God’s joy producing Heavenly Patriotism lives with eager expectation of Christ’s return (3:20c). Christian, we have a glorious future to look forward to and that should cause us to rejoice. In fact Paul says we “eagerly” (ἀπεκδέχομαι - apĕkdĕchŏmai, ap-ek-dekh´-om-ahee) or with great expectation we intensely wait for our “Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” It’s exciting to think of the prospects of Jesus’ return. We should live every day with the intense and great expectation that today could be the day Jesus returns for us! That is a blessed hope that fuels Jesus’ joy within us (Titus 2:13).
Fourth, God’s joy producing Heavenly Patriotism Contends for the Lordship of Christ (3:20d). Paul identifies Jesus as, “the Lord Jesus Christ.” A Day is coming when Jesus will reign as King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev. 19:16), but right now there is a “god of this age,” Satan, a usurper who is battling against Jesus for control of this world. This usurper Satan is trying to force his way into a position of lordship that only rightfully belongs to Jesus. Satan is a deceiver and part of his strategy is to blind people to the truth of God (John 8:44; 2 Cor. 4:4). Satan’s ultimate goal is to reign in place of God (Isaiah 14:12-15). Satan wants to be the King of kings and Lord of lords. That just isn’t going to happen. Satan is so deep in sin and self-deceived, (sin has a warping deceiving effect on those who sin – 1 John 1:8, 10) that he actually believes he can unseat God. He is like a maniacal genius consumed with delusions of grandeur and devoid of truth and reality. He will ultimately be defeated (Rev. 20). But until then the heavenly patriot must realize we are in a war.
The heavenly patriot realizes we are in a war. While we exist and function in a material world, beneath the surface in the spiritual realm, (a realm just as real as the material world), is a war of the ages raging. Guns and explosives have little impact on our enemy in this war. We need to use different weapons. Paul explained our situation like this:
• 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 - 3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,
Because this war is in the spiritual realm the primary battlefield is in our minds and hearts. The sin we see in the world such as violence, hatred, perversity, injustices, and spiritual blindness are all symptoms of hearts and minds that are depraved and separated from God. The battles to be fought therefore are battles for the minds and hearts of people. Satan tries to establish strongholds of false, deceptive, lying thoughts and emotions in people. The things which oppose the “knowledge of God” must be cast down, captured and brought into obedience to Christ. The hearts and minds of people must be brought into subjection to the Lordship of Jesus.
God has given us powerful weapons to wage this war. What are these weapons? Paul further describes the war we are in and the weapons we are provided by God when he is inspired to write:
• Ephesians 6:10-18 - 10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—
First to fight effectively and win this war we must depend on the power of God (6:10). We have to pay attention to the detailed war strategy God has given us in His word putting on all the armament He has provided (6:11). We need to recognize our struggle is not against people as much as it is against Satan and his demonic forces who manipulate people in sinful ways (6:12). We have to take a stand for God and His word (6:13). To do so we need put on all the armor of God: the belt buckle of truth which keeps all the other armor in place (6:14a); the breastplate of righteousness which guards our hearts (6:14b); the shoes of the gospel so we take the gospel wherever we go (6:15); the shield of faith to ward off the lying accusations of the enemy (6:16); the helmet of salvation which protects our mind from thoughts of condemnation (6:17a); and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God (6:17b) – all that the heavenly patriot does in this war needs to be done in God’s truth. And lastly the heavenly patriot relies on prayer, the long range artillery of the Lord which softens enemy bunkers so that we can storm the beachhead (6:18). The heavenly citizen must be in constant communication with their Commander in prayer and praying always for those in earthly leadership positions since influencing and controlling earthly leaders is a prime target of the enemy (1 Tim. 2:1-4).
We are in a tough struggle, but we have one piece of incredibly important information about this war. We know the outcome! We know that in the end Jesus wins. That’s incredibly important because that makes us “more than conquerors.” Read the words of Paul in this regard:
• Romans 8:31-39 - 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? 33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” 37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Nothing the enemy does to us can separate us from God. He can, literally, capture us and isolate us from other people, but Jesus will be there with us. Jesus said He would never leave us or forsake us (Heb. 13:5). God is for us, it doesn’t matter who is against us. God has proved by giving the most precious of things, His only Son Jesus, that He will provide every resource needed for victory in the war. We are settled and secure on the battle lines knowing God loves us and is for us. We may be physically killed, but that only brings us into the glorious presence of Jesus. Nothing can separate us from God. That information makes us more than conquerors. What does that mean, what is a “more than conqueror”? A conqueror goes up against an opponent hoping they have mustered enough forces and a good enough strategy to defeat their enemy. Even the most confident commander entertains the possibility of an upset victory by their opponent. Not so the more than conqueror. We are “more than conquerors” because we go into battle knowing the outcome. There is no doubt, Jesus wins and therefore we win. We are supremely confident in our Lord. He has never failed before and He will never fail ever. The heavenly patriot therefore is supremely confident because of the trustworthiness and omnipotence of the Commander leading them.
Fifth, God’s joy producing Heavenly Patriotism relies on the transforming power of Jesus (3:21a). Politics, psychology, worldly philosophy, social sciences, sports, entertainment, nothing in this world can deal with the root problem of this world which is sin. The only thing powerful enough to deal with sin is the power of the gospel (Rom. 1:16). Only full surrender to Jesus can bring the change needed to make a difference in this world (e.g. Rom. 12:1-2). God alone can give us the power needed to live a godly, holy, righteous, meaningful and purposeful life that is satisfying and complete. It’s only through knowing Him and experiencing His power that we can escape the corruption that is in the world (2 Pet. 1:3-4).
Paul speaks of the fact that when Jesus does return, He will “transform” (μετασχηματίζω - mĕtaschēmatizō, met-askh-ay-mat-id´-zo) or change, fashion, figure, transfigure believers. This word is to be distinguished from another Greek term metamorphoo. Metamorphoo refers to a change in “character, nature, the very essence of a person or thing.” This is the word used to describe the Transfiguration of Jesus (Mat. 17:2). Metaschēmatizō “refers to that which is changeable, the outward “fashion” of a person or thing, e.g., a person’s gestures, speech, clothing.” When Paul spoke of Satan as one who “transforms himself into an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14) he used metaschēmatizō alluding to a change on the surface, in appearance and not a change in his essence.
What significance does Paul’s inspired choice of words have? When Jesus returns He will transform our “lowly bodies,” bodies susceptible to illness, aging, sinful warped appetites, disease, and death into bodies like the one Jesus has. Our bodies will “conformed” (συμμορφός - summŏrphŏs, soom-mor-fos´) or fashioned like His, “glorious body.” No more aches, pains, sickness, disease, or weakness due to sin. It will be the ultimate body makeover! The apostle John chimes in with his own inspired words of confirmation and agreement saying:
• 1 John 3:2- Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.
Jesus’ “glorious” (δόξα - dŏxa, dox´-ah) body is radiant, honorable, splendorous. We won’t be Jesus, but we will have bodies like Jesus! When Jesus returns and we are united to Him we will receive glorious resurrection bodies unshackled at last from the deteriorating effects of planetary sin. That is reason to rejoice!
Sixth, God’s joy producing Heavenly Patriotism rests in the Sovereign Power of Jesus (3:21b). Paul says, “according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.” The word “subdue” (ὑποτάσσω - hupŏtassō, hoop-ot-as´-so) means to make subject, to make submit, or put in submission to. Jesus has sovereign power to put “all things” in submission to Himself. Not only will Jesus powerfully change our bodies, but He will bring “all things” under His sovereign Kingship and rule.
Commentator Adam Clark makes the following comment:
According to the working] κατα την ενεργειαν According to that energy, by which he can bring all things under subjection to himself. Thus we find that the resurrection of the body is attributed to that power which governs and subdues all things, for nothing less than the energy that produced the human body at the beginning, can restore it from its lapsed and degraded state into that state of glory which it had at its creation, and render it capable of enjoying God throughout eternity. The thought of this glorious consummation was a subject of the highest joy and confidence amongst the primitive Christian. This earth was not their home; and they passed through things temporal so as not to lose those which were eternal.
Remember what Paul was inspired to write in the previous chapter:
• Philippians 2:9-11 - 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
That day is coming and every heavenly patriot of God looks forward to that day and lives in light of it. Even though things on earth may look bleak and even hopeless at times, the heavenly patriot can always take joy in the solidly sure fact that one day Jesus will indeed “subdue all things to Himself.” Take joy in that my fellow heavenly patriots.
Friday, October 29, 2010
Halloween is one of the biggest money making holidays in our country. Costumes, candy, parties, movies, and a host of scary paraphernalia are a bonanza to stores and merchants throughout the land. Merchants begin promoting Halloween in August and it seems they are pushing it earlier and earlier each year. What’s the attraction? Why is Halloween so successful?
What’s wrong with Halloween? Some people say that the Halloween, even though it promotes dark images of the occult, witchcraft and sorcery, are harmless. But is it so harmless? More importantly, is the occult something God wants the Christian to take lightly or be involved in? What does God say in His word (i.e. the Bible) about the occult, witchcraft and sorcery? There are a number of reasons why people should think twice about exposing themselves to the occult, witchcraft and sorcery. Here are a few reasons to stay away from it.
The Bible Our Authority
The Bible has stood the test of time and history and the repeated onslaught of those who would discredit it. The Bible is like no other book. It is confirmed and proved by archeology, fulfilled prophecy, its accuracy, and its power to change lives. The Bible is the Word of God and as such, is our standard, our manual for life. The Bible is a love letter from our heavenly Father who loves us so much that He gave us directions about life and how to live it the right way. Listen to what the Bible says about itself:
· 2 Timothy 3:16-17 - 16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
The Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, is breathed out from God through the human authors to us so that we can know who God is and how we can have an eternal relationship with Him. Someone has said of the Bible:
“This book contains the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers. Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding, its histories are true, and its decisions immutable. Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, and practice it to be holy. It contains light to direct you, food to support you, and comfort to cheer you. It is the traveler’s map, the pilgrim’s staff, the pilot’s compass, the soldiers sword, and the Christian’s charter. Christ is its subject, our good its design, and the glory of God its end. It should fill the memory, rule the heart and guide the feet. Read it slowly, frequently and prayerfully. It is given to you in life, will be open in the judgment, and be remembered forever. It involves the highest responsibility, rewards the greatest labor, and condemns all who trifle with its holy precepts.” – Author Unknown
Therefore, it’s to the Bible that we turn to see what God says about the occult, witchcraft and sorcery.
Seven Reasons to Stay Away From the Occult, Witchcraft and Sorcery
Below are seven reasons from the Bible that we should refrain from the occult, witchcraft and sorcery. We will let the Lord speak through His word on this account. There are seven reasons God gives in His word to not take the occult, witchcraft or sorcery lightly and indeed to stay away from such things.
First, occult, witchcraft and sorcery are forbidden by God.
· Exodus - “You shall not permit a sorceress to live.
· Leviticus - 26 ‘You shall not eat anything with the blood, nor shall you practice divination or soothsaying.
· Deuteronomy 18:9-14 - 9 “When you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. 10 There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, 11 or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. 12 For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you. 13 You shall be blameless before the Lord your God. 14 For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the Lord your God has not appointed such for you.
God loves us and like the holy Parent He is, He wants what is best for His children. If our Holy loving Father forbids our involvement in something we should be obedient children and obey what He says and trust that He knows what is best for us. When my children were very young they used to enjoy watching me shave. I’d put some shaving cream on their noses (and toes at times) and we had some fun. But when they asked to use the shaver that had a very sharp razor blade in it, I drew the line and forbid them to use it. Why? Because I didn’t want them to have any fun? No, but because I knew they could cut the soft beautiful skin on their face if I let them use the shaver. The occult, witchcraft and sorcery are like sharp razorblades that will cut us if we play with them.
Second, occult, witchcraft and sorcery are EVIL in the sight of God.
· 2 Kings 21:1-6 - Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-five years in
· 2 Chronicles 33:6 - 6 Also he caused his sons to pass through the fire in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom; he practiced soothsaying, used witchcraft and sorcery, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke Him to anger.
Manasseh, like many other kings of God’s people, “did evil in the sight of the LORD” and that evil was directly associated with “imitating the detestable practices of the pagan nations” which led to practicing, “sorcery and divination, and he consulted with mediums and psychics. He did much that was evil in the Lord’s sight, arousing his anger.” His downfall began with taking the occult lightly, with considering it, with dabbling in it, with disobeying God’s clear forbidding of it. And why did he do this? Maybe because his relationship with the Lord was casual, superficial and he had no sensitivity to the holiness and spiritual life of God. Maybe he thought to himself, “This isn’t so bad, I don’t know why God has forbidden it.” Maybe he thought he could handle the occult. But he couldn’t and he fell and failed terribly before God. Don’t lower your standards! Don’t let your guard down!
Third, occult, witchcraft and sorcery are an act of REBELLION against God because it is an attempt to control the world (by spells and curses) putting the practitioner in the place godhood. God is in control, not people.
· 1 Samuel - For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king.”
· 2 Kings 17:14-17 - 14 Nevertheless they would not hear, but stiffened their necks, like the necks of their fathers, who did not believe in the Lord their God. 15 And they rejected His statutes and His covenant that He had made with their fathers, and His testimonies which He had testified against them; they followed idols, became idolaters, and went after the nations who were all around them, concerning whom the Lord had charged them that they should not do like them. 16 So they left all the commandments of the Lord their God, made for themselves a molded image and two calves, made a wooden image and worshiped all the host of heaven, and served Baal. 17 And they caused their sons and daughters to pass through the fire, practiced witchcraft and soothsaying, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke Him to anger.
Ask yourself, “Why do I have such an allure to Halloween and such scary dark things?” It may be the excitement of it or the thrill, but because God forbids such things, the deeper reason for your attraction is rebellion toward God. Where will you draw the line? How much will be enough until you say, “Okay, I’ll stop now.” If you rebel and ignore God’s warnings in His word, you will find that as you lower your standards and give in to the worldly pressure to go along with the crowd, you will become more and more insensitive to the Spirit’s voice and you will become more and weaker in your walk with the Lord. You’ll become like King Saul who ignored the instructions of God thinking he knew a better way only to find God put him on the shelf because of his rebellion against His word.
Fourth, occult, witchcraft and sorcery will ROB YOU of your peace.
· 2 Kings - 22 Now it happened, when Joram saw Jehu, that he said, “Is it peace, Jehu?” So he answered, “What peace, as long as the harlotries of your mother Jezebel and her witchcraft are so many?”
Nothing will rob you of your peace with God more than the static of Satan. Involvement with the occult will fog your mind, callous your heart, and cloud your lines of communication with God. It will ultimately rob you of your peace with God. Is it worth it; is your peace with God worth dabbling in the occult, no matter how harmless you think it may be? No never!
Fifth, occult, witchcraft and sorcery are WORKS OF THE FLESH (Flesh = sinful nature; man’s efforts to manipulate and control their own fate).
- Galatians 5:19-21 – “ Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness,20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies,21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
Whether it is the scantily dressed Morticia or Buffy the Vampire Slayer; whether it is the temptation to your sweet tooth; or the thrill you get from being frightened or frightening others, it is all an incitement of your flesh, an allure to self and spiritually deadening. Walk in the Spirit, seek the Spirit’s direction and fullness and you will not fulfill the lusts of your flesh (Galatians , 24-25).
Sixth, occult, witchcraft and sorcery can give SATAN A FOOTHOLD (a beach head; a hold on you; his foot is in the door) in your life.
· 2 Corinthians -7:1 - Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? 15 And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? 16 And what agreement has the
- Ephesians – “nor give place to the devil.”
- Ephesians -18 - 10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—
· 1 Peter 5:8-9 - 8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.
· 2 John 8-11 - 8 Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward. 9 Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; 11 for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.
Satan is powerful and smarter than you. He’s quick and cunning. He’s not someone you want to mess with friend. Playing with him or on his field will lead to great loss. When Satan comes knocking, don’t even open the door a little, don’t give him a foothold, ask Jesus to answer your door.
Seventh, occult, witchcraft and sorcery can keep you out of heaven.
· Revelation 21:8 - 8 But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
Why risk being drawn into something that keeps people out of heaven and that can greatly hinder and disrupt the spiritual life of the believer? Don’t have an exalted view of yourself and assume you are spiritually strong enough to handle dabbling in and associating with the occult, witchcraft and sorcery types of things. Steer clear of such things and speak out against them.
In light of these verses it doesn’t seem as though the occult, witchcraft, and sorcery are things that God takes lightly. Therefore, do you think those who follow God should take the occult, witchcraft, and sorcery more lightly than God does? God doesn’t seem to think that the occult, witchcraft and sorcery are harmless, should we?
Many get into witchcraft and sorcery because they want power over their lives and other people in their lives. But where is the real power?
Where’s the Real Power and Why Does God Give It to Us?
People have a desire and lust for power, a desire to control their lives and destinies. Is there such a power? Is such power found in the occult, witchcraft and sorcery? There is power in the occult; no one denies that. But the power that is found in the occult is like the power of the ring in Lord of the Rings, it destroys you, it destroys your soul as you use it. Jesus said:
- Matthew - “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (See also Luke 9:25).
There is nothing in this world worth your eternal soul. No power is worth giving up your eternal soul. And that is exactly the price Satan is seeking when he draws and lures people into the occult. To gain the power to manipulate and misuse people in the occult, you have to pay with your soul as you disobediently and rebelliously turn from God to Satan in the process. That is what we have seen God’s word bear witness to in the above verses.
Is there a power greater than the power found in the occult? Yes, indeed there is. There is a greater power provided by God and what is gloriously great about the power of God is that it builds and blesses your eternal soul rather than rob you of it. God does not give us power to manipulate people according to our will, but He does give us power to do His will. He knows all and is all-powerful, and the wise person submits and surrenders to Him rather than rebels against Him.
Occult, witchcraft and sorcery are powerless against God. The Bible says:
· Isaiah 47:8-11 - “Therefore hear this now, you who are given to pleasures, Who dwell securely, Who say in your heart, ‘I am, and there is no one else besides me; I shall not sit as a widow, Nor shall I know the loss of children’;9 But these two things shall come to you In a moment, in one day: The loss of children, and widowhood. They shall come upon you in their fullness Because of the multitude of your sorceries, For the great abundance of your enchantments.10 “For you have trusted in your wickedness; You have said, ‘No one sees me’; Your wisdom and your knowledge have warped you; And you have said in your heart, ‘I am, and there is no one else besides me.’11 Therefore evil shall come upon you; You shall not know from where it arises. And trouble shall fall upon you; You will not be able to put it off. And desolation shall come upon you suddenly, Which you shall not know.
There is no power in this world or the netherworld that can match up or even be in the same ballpark with the power of God Almighty!
Occult, witchcraft and sorcery are powerless against the holy disciple of God.
· Numbers - “For there is no sorcery against Jacob, Nor any divination against
· Romans - And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly.The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.
· James 4:7 - 7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
· 1 John 4:4 - 4 You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.
There is no power in this world or the netherworld that can match up or even be in the same ballpark with the power of God that is manifested and worked in and through the disciple of God.
There is a lot going on in the world right now and most of it is scary and intimidating to the disciple of God. The god of this world Satan is working overtime. We see his dark handiwork with the spread of Islam, which seems to be making inroads in the world and is used to perform horrendous and violent acts against humanity in the name of “Allah.” There are false teachings everywhere (e.g. the false teaching that “Allah” is the same as YAHWEH; the false teaching that Islam, Christianity and Judaism all follow the same God). The occult and doctrines of demons is a product of the latter days. The Bible warns of such days saying:
- 1 Timothy 4:1-2 – “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons,2 speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron,”
It is the expressed definite warning of the Holy Spirit that as we draw closer to the return of Christ we will see a rise in people departing from the truth of God’s word (i.e. “the faith”) and a succumbing to the lure of demonically authored teachings that are opposed to God and His word. That is what we are called to watch out for in the “latter times.” Is that what we are seeing today?
Now are we just being prudish in our denunciation of Halloween and related occultic things? If taking God’s word seriously is “prudish” then let me be prudish to the max! I would rather err on the side of safely living within Biblical boundaries than recklessly cross the lines of God’s word and warnings. Is it wrong to associate with what some call “harmless” (e.g. Halloween) when the Bible associates it with, “doctrines of demons”? The answer to that should be obvious. We know that Satan is a liar. According to Jesus He is the Father of lies and those who follow him or are used by him are liars and deceivers as well (John ). We are told in the Bible that Satan and his agents present themselves as “angels of light,” in other words as harmless and helpful (2 Corinthians -15). What more insidious and deceptive strategy is there to get a foothold in people’s lives than to present the occult, witchcraft and sorcery in a way that is associated with yummy candy (an appeal to our body and flesh), and fun (an appeal to our carnal nature to disregard God’s word and think we know better)? There is nothing wrong with “fun.” Jesus frequently had children around Him. Children do not gravitate to prudes or funless people; they gravitate to fun-loving people. I believe Jesus was fun loving, but His fun was holy loving fun, not dark and devilish fun. Could Halloween and other things such as occultic oriented movies and TV programs be a Satanic Trojan Horse in these latter days? Hmmm, that’s something to consider prayerfully in the Spirit.
Today more and more the occult and darkness are being presented as light. How? There are movies like Harry Potter and others that present the occult in a positive light. There are TV programs on almost every channel that present the occult as a fascinating frightfully fun thing to play with. There are unholy days like Halloween which present the gory, dark, and occult in a fun and happy way. All of these things are a means to bring sorcery, witchcraft and the occult into our lives. All of this lowers our defenses against Satan’s dark devices and is a supreme setup for evil infiltration in the Last Days. To some it seems harmless, but God’s word says different (Romans -2). To others it all seems overwhelming. But God has given us a promise:
- Isaiah 59:19 – “So shall they fear the name of the Lord from the west, And His glory from the rising of the sun; When the enemy comes in like a flood, The Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him.”
God promises that when the enemy comes flooding in, He will raise up a standard, a banner, and a wall that will thwart the enemy. That standard is you and me empowered by God’s Spirit. God is in control and none of this has taken Him by surprise. Trust Him, follow Him, walk in the Spirit and leave Halloween, the occult, witchcraft, sorcery and all things related to them behind.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
At the end of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 as Benjamin Franklin was exiting Independence Hall he was asked, “Well doctor, what have we got, a Republic or a Monarchy?” Franklin’s response was, “A Republic if you can keep it.” “If you can keep it” are words that we need to revisit today. A republic is a representative government. The system of our nation is supposed to be government by the people, for the people and of the people. On June 1 1865, Abraham Lincoln in the closing words of the Gettysburg Address stated, “. . . that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” As we watch our government act like an amoeba consuming large swaths of society for government control we have to wonder is the government still by the people or for the people? What does this have to do with the Christian? Is it a matter we should be concerned about?
The apostle Peter was inspired to write:
1 Peter 2:13-17 - 13 Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, 14 or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men— 16 as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. 17 Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.
When Peter was inspired to write those words he was under Roman rule. Citizens of Rome had rights, voting was one of them. But Roman government was dominated by the wealthy and well to do. The reality was that the common citizen had little to say about what their government did. We live in a democracy where each person has a right to vote. This is a sacred right in our governing system.
These words of Peter are introduced by the word “therefore” (2:13a). This links them with what precedes. Peter had just exhorted his readers to act honorably in a way that would reflect well on God. He said: “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, 12 having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.” (1 Pet. 2:11-12). By Peter saying, “I beg you,” indicates it was pretty important for those reading his words to follow through on them obediently. From these words we see our attitude is that we are “sojourners and pilgrims,” in other words we are just passing through this world. Therefore we shouldn’t be consumed by or fall prey to the temptations and lusts connected to the things of this world. Instead we are to live honorably in a godly way so as not to give God’s enemies ammunition to discredit God by discrediting us. Instead, our “good works” should give onlookers reason to “glorify God.” What good works can this be applied to?
The first thing Peter refers to as an area where we should do good works to bring glory to God is submitting to government (2:13b). No matter the government, we are to submit to it “for the Lord’s sake.” In other words we are to be good citizens. Peter identifies “the king,” as in a monarchy, and “governors” as in a republic such as Rome. He states that these officials are in place to punish evildoers and to praise those who do good (2:14).
How do we submit to government? Does submission mean we are to simply sit back and let government officials do their thing no matter what it is; evil or good? The word “submit” here (ὑποτάσσω - hupŏtassō, hoop-ot-as´-so) means to subordinate, or obey. It includes man’s duty toward authority, voluntary submission. The word “ordinance” (κτίσις - ktisis, ktis´-is) refers to institutions, building, creation, ordinance. How do we apply this? When we put that together the idea is that our good works as they relate to government involve doing our duty within the system of government God has sovereignly placed us. We abide by the legislation, laws, and constitution of the nation we are living in.
Peter continues with some inspired substantiating words saying, “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men” (2:15). God wants to silence foolish men. Who are foolish men? A fool is someone who says there is no God (Psalm 14:1). A fool is someone who fails or refuses to factor God into the equation of life. This applies to the governing authorities as well. How do we obey God’s will in this? How do we obey God’s will to silence foolish men and submit to governing authorities? We vote. Rome included opportunities for its citizenry to vote for its representatives. Peter is directing his readers to do their duty within the system of government they were in and participate for righteousness sake; for God’s sake. In a democracy we vote. We get involved. We get informed. We vote. We participate in the political process and do our duty. We assess candidates through the lens of scripture and then either vote for or against them based on their scriptural soundness; based on the degree they have shown themselves to factor God into life and their governing. Do you vote in elections? You should. Have you researched the candidates running for office? Do you know who they are, what they stand for, what they’re voting record is? This is all part of submitting to the governing authorities set in place by God and doing our duty within that system to the glory of God.
Peter then says, “as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God” (2:16). We are free to pray, follow the leading of the Spirit and choose who we should vote for. But we should not allow ourselves to misuse “liberty as a cloak for vice.” “Vice” (κακία - kakia, kak-ee´-ah) means rottenness, depravity, wickedness, evil, or malice. Vice is anything that opposes godly living and God’s righteousness. In other words, vote for righteousness. This should give pause to those who refer to themselves as Christians but who vote for those who approve of things contrary to scripture, e.g. abortion, partial birth abortion, same sex marriage, burdensome taxation, injustice, corruption, bribe taking, et.al. We are “bondservants of God.” Does our vote reflect His truth, His righteousness, His word? He is our ultimate supreme Master. We should vote not along party lines or for pretty faces but according to those who most comply with God and His word.
The attitude of our political involvement is spelled out clearly by Peter when he says, “Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king” (2:17). The word “honor” (τιμάω - timaō, tim-ah´-o) means prize, value, or respect. We are to honor, value, and respect all people in the political process. We are to show love to our fellow Christian brothers and sisters. We should guard against the temptation to allow the political process to make us bitter and unloving. We should participate in our duty to government in “fear” or reverence toward God. We want to vote as we believe God would have us vote. He shows us His heart in His word and we should follow His word in our voting. And lastly we should respect those who are elected to office.
When does submission mean political action? Submission means political action when we follow God’s word to serve Him by doing our duty within the governing system He, in His sovereign determination, has placed us. A wise old man named Mordecai once advised a wavering princess that she had been put in her position of influence, “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). How about us? This is an important election. Our nation is going in the wrong direction. It is our duty to submit to the democratic process in which God has placed us. That means we need to vote and we need to encourage others to vote. And when we vote we need to vote prayerfully, wisely, reverently, scripturally in the sight of God. We need to vote in a way that brings glory to God. It’s true, we are only passing through. But as long as we’re here, we need to do all that we can; within the governmental system God has chosen for us, to bring Him glory. In this case, submission means action. Get involved. Get informed. Vote!
Monday, October 18, 2010
The laws of success operate also in the higher field of the soul-- spiritual greatness has its price. Eminence in the things of the Spirit demands a devotion to these things more complete than most of us are willing to give. But the law cannot be escaped. If we would be holy we know the way; the law of holy living is before us. The prophets of the Old Testament, the apostles of the New and, more than all, the sublime teachings of Christ are there to tell us how to succeed....
The amount of loafing practiced by the average Christian in spiritual things would ruin a concert pianist if he allowed himself to do the same thing in the field of music. The idle puttering around that we see in church circles would end the career of a big league pitcher in one week. No scientist could solve his exacting problem if he took as little interest in it as the rank and file of Christians take in the art of being holy. The nation whose soldiers were as soft and undisciplined as the soldiers of the churches would be conquered by the first enemy that attacked it. Triumphs are not won by men in easy chairs. Success is costly. (We Travel an Appointed Way, 26.)
"This success may be costly, Lord, but surely nothing in the light of the eternal perspective we looked at yesterday. Give me a willingness this morning to pay any cost which You may exact in my service for You. Amen."
- A.W. Tozer
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
God speaks to us through His word. I grew up in a very dysfunctional family disrupted by the mental illness of my mother. I won’t go into the details, but it included many times of public humiliation and embarrassment, physical and verbal abuses, tremendous frustration, anger, isolation because of shame, sleepless nights, and many nights of crying myself to sleep. There was a lot of sorrow. But my parents always made me go to church. We went to church as a family. We were very religious. We put on a good show; a good front as if we were a normal family. Despite all of this I grew up believing there was a God. Rather than be angry with God for my family problems I would cry out to Him. The frustration that comes with trying to deal with the mentally ill bred great anger in me, but not against God, against my mother.
During this time when pressed to my limits, I would cry out to God, or who I envisioned God to be. But I did not know God and had no relationship with Him. I did not care enough to heed the many ways God, in hindsight, sought to reach out to me. My cries were more groping in the dark to an unknown entity than a conversation with someone I knew. Therefore, whenever I would call out to Him there was silence. I remember being given a brand new Bible at age thirteen. My parents gave it to me upon my completion of church Confirmation classes. There were times when my parents would be fighting that I would take shelter in my room. Waiting for the storm to pass there were times when I’d dust off that Bible and open it up indiscriminately and search for something, anything from God. In these times of despair I was being drawn to the Source of a solution to my problem. But I wasn’t ready. All I found when I opened that Book was silence. I wasn’t patient enough or at my limit enough to truly listen and learn from that Book. All those classes and all that church attendance didn’t help me connect with the Author of that Book. The truth is that I wasn’t really interested in what God had to say. I went to Him looking for some relief. I didn’t go to Him on His terms, but on my terms. I wanted a fix and then to go my way. I wanted relief but not repentance. But even then God was doing something in my heart. He was drawing me with questions like, God are you real? God are you there? God will you help me? God will you please speak to me? He was on my mind even if He was yet to be in my heart. There was silence; I just wasn’t ready to hear. I didn’t have the capacity to hear. I was lost; in darkness; separated from God; alone. It hurt.
There were a lot of residual problems in my life connected with this dysfunction. I turned to eating as a source of comfort which led to obesity. At age twelve I was a fat little boy of nearly 250 pounds. I had a size 46 waist. This led to merciless teasing in school. I faked being sick to stay out of school as much as possible, (especially if there was an oral report to give!). My guilt ridden mother was an easy mark for such ploys. This led to poor grades. By the time it came for me to graduate high school I had read one single solitary book. It was the shortest book I could find, Beowulf the Warrior. One teacher told my parents I’d never be anything more than a garbage man. That hurt their pride and they were sure to make me aware of it. Obesity and stupidity are not highly favored in this world. I hated myself.
I searched for a diversion from the pain experienced at home and in school. I got involved with sports. This was the one area in which I always excelled. Sports were my “salvation” at this point in my life. It helped me lose weight and get in shape. It helped me make friends. It helped me get positive attention. It provided an escape. It was an environment where I could pay back some of those who had teased me in school. It was a diversion from what was going on at home. It was a diversion but it still didn’t solve the dysfunction at home or the emptiness inside me. Upon graduation I seized the opportunity to flee home and go away to college.
Upon entering college I had something to prove to myself and to others. I wanted to prove I was more than a “garbage man.” Those early days of college were times when I applied myself and succeeded. I was an “A” student. But once I had accomplished that there was still emptiness. I proved myself but it didn’t fulfill me or lead to the lasting satisfaction I thought it would. I turned to relationships, (if you can call them that). I sought to fulfill my needs through lust and partying. That only led to more pain and more emptiness.
Then one day I returned home during a college break and noticed a radical change in my sister. Before I had left my sister had been coping with our family dysfunction by overeating, indulging in drugs and dabbling in the occult (e.g. Tarot card reading; witchcraft, spells; etc.) She scared me a few times with some of the things she was getting into. I loved my sister and didn’t like to leave her home when I went away to college but for my own preservation and liberation I had left her behind. But when I returned home she was entirely different. For instance we had always fought (like most siblings do). But now when I came home she was being nice to me. She cleaned up after me. She talked nice to me. She would tell me she loved me. She was patient with me and didn’t respond negatively to my usual taunts. She was different, changed. What happened to my little sister? Her change was inescapable. I asked, “So Suzy, what’s up? What’s going on with you? You’ve changed? What gives?” She responded, “Well Claudie I accepted Jesus as my Savior and Lord and you should to.” I was dumbfounded. What?! Wait I minute, I was confirmed in church. I was religious. What did she mean by that?
Over time the undeniable change in my sister’s life made me more and more curious. I became fascinated if not convicted by it. Her loving constant pestering to attend a coffeehouse meeting at her church wore on me. Finally I acquiesced. This coffeehouse was a place where young people gathered to listen to live Christian music, give and hear testimonies, and receive Bible teaching. I was curious. So I went. God was working.
This was a big deal for her and her friends at church. Little did I know that she had told all her friends about me and had them all praying for me. When I stepped through the doors of the coffeehouse my reputation preceded me. Why did I go? What was my initial motive? Well, this was my little sister (four years my younger) and I was her big brother. I thought someone was messing with my sister and even though she was annoying she was still my little sister. It was a matter of pride and honor that a big brother should look out for and defend his little sister. I was living in a delusion but thought she was. And so, being pretty athletic, I went to the coffeehouse to judge those who were there and to threateningly make my presence known so that they would leave my sister alone. I wanted her to get on with a normal life even if my view of “normal” was abnormal by most standards. Not having an answer to her life and words, I would resort to physical intimidation.
When I stepped into the coffeehouse right away I sensed something different. The people seemed genuinely caring and loving and concerned for me. They were friendly in a good way. They all seemed happy. It was clear they had something I didn’t have. I couldn’t put my finger on it. They seemed full while I was empty. I could see it in their eyes.
The guys there were pretty big. That persuaded me to leave my strategy of threat behind. I stayed. I listened. I took it all in. And when it was time to leave they asked to pray with me. I agreed to let them do this. They all gathered in a circle and held hands, including me! It was a bit uncomfortable but they were so disarming. Then one of the young men my age said, “Let’s close our eyes and bow our heads for prayer.” He prayed. When he was done I opened my eyes and it seemed to me like the room was smoky or cloudy, dreamlike, surreal. It impacted me but I still didn’t accept Jesus as my Savior. It was still all strange to me. But I was closer.
Time passed and I continued to take it all in. I didn’t attend church with my sister. I was still ensnared and distracted with the things of this world. But seeds had been planted. Portions of God’s word about salvation had spoken to me. They were ringing in my ears. They were resonating in my heart. The Lord was drawing me to Himself.
The time came for me to return to college in upstate New York. Usually I would carpool with a bunch of my college buddies and split the expenses of the long ride back to school. This time it was different. On this particular occasion they all, one by one, cancelled. I was on my own and all alone, (or so I thought). It was a 600 mile journey in the middle of the winter of 1977, (one of the worst winters on record in terms of snowfall). The Lord arranged this to give me time to think. He wanted to be alone with me.
As I remember the trip took about fourteen hours. During the ride I did some real soul searching. I thought about everything I had experienced in life up to that point. I thought about all my attempts to fill the void in my life and how none of it filled the emptiness. I was lost. I had no direction. I didn’t understand what life was all about. It all seemed directionless, meaningless, futile, and purposeless. God waited patiently for me to get around to Him. Finally I began to talk to God. God what is life all about? What’s wrong with me? Why am I here? What’s going on? Why do I feel this way? I’m so confused, lost. As I asked these questions there was still silence. I was groping for answers and solutions but there was still darkness. I began to think about my sister and her friends. God, what do they have that I don’t have? What makes them so different? More silence. God, why won’t You speak to me? Why are you so silent? The silence in that car was deafening as I drove mile after mile in the snowy silence. More thoughts, more silence.
Finally I arrived at the college. I was the first one there other than the dorm director. He let me in and I went up to my room; all alone. I unpacked. Then I just flopped on my bed mentally and physically exhausted. I was sick and tired of life as I knew it. The weight of my sinful life was heavy on me. All my efforts had failed. I had no place to turn. As I lay there I reached my hands longingly to the ceiling and prayed. I don’t remember the exact words. I acknowledged my sin. I told God I didn’t want to live this way anymore. I told God I believed in His Son Jesus. I asked God to forgive me. I simply surrendered to God. The particular words I do remember are, God, if You’re real come into my life. At that moment I settled it; that struggle was over. I made a life decision to do whatever Jesus would ask of me. And at that moment it felt like a tremendous weight, a weight of sin had been lifted from me. I was filled! I was free! A light went on. I then got on the phone and called my sister and told her what I had done. She was ecstatic and I could hear her jumping for joy over the phone.
I didn’t feel any tingly feelings after I had made my prayerful decision. But something definitely had happened to me. I was different and there was evidence of a real change in me. Prior to my decision to receive Christ my words were laced with filthy profanity. I was an angry person. I hated the world. And I didn’t care what anyone else thought. I once nearly started a riot at my high school homecoming because of my filthy language and my willingness to shout it out with no care of those around me. But now that was gone. The anger was gone.
My college friends began to notice a change in me. I was still they’re friend. But now when I would join them in one of their dorm rooms as they smoked marijuana, played cards and passed along the bong (a kind of marijuana smoking device), when it came to me I’d just pass it on. Instead I tried to share with them what God had done in my life. They weren’t interested. My desire to smoke pot or drink alcohol was gone. I didn’t need it anymore. I didn’t want it. Rather than seek a numbing I wanted to experience this new life. I was excited about Jesus. They thought I had gone crazy or something. But I knew I was never more sane.
The Lord began to clean up my life. I had been engaged to a girl when I accepted Jesus as Savior. I still loved her. But as time went by it became more and more clear that we were no longer compatible. She wasn’t interested in Jesus while Jesus was all I was interested in. I began to see her more as a source of temptation to drift away from Jesus than as an answer to the hole inside me. That hole was now filled. Jesus filled it! I was full and free. It took me a while to fully see God’s way. There were things I continued to do once I became a Christian that I would later regret. We broke up. God was straightening out my life. God had different plans for me.
Eventually I transferred to a college closer to home so I could start attending my sister’s church. Her church became my church and I began to grow in the Lord. I got involved. I met a Christian girl who loved Jesus supremely and who would eventually become my wife. She’s God’s greatest gift to me outside of salvation. My parents were eventually saved. The Lord did an incredible work in my mother’s life. My father became a leader in the church. Our family became a testament to the power of God. We all attended the church together. God did an incredible thing in my life and the life of those in my family.
The greatest blessing from my decision to receive Jesus as my Savior was that the silence was broken. How was it broken? When I said God if You’re real come into my life, He proved His reality by coming into my life and changing me. But I still thought, God if You’re real how will you speak to me? I needed more than a one way conversation. That was still a major concern and question for me. In the first conversation with my sister after my decision I asked her, “Does God speak to you?” She said, “Yes.” I asked her, “How, how does He speak to you?” She said, “He speaks through His word the Bible. When you read it read it as though He’s speaking to you.” So that’s what I did. She had forced me to take a Bible from her when I left for college. So I got that Bible and began reading it. And as I read it, I could understand it. It was as though God was speaking to me! To me! The silence was broken. The conversation with God had begun. I devoured His word and He revealed Himself to me.
As I read and studied God’s word I discovered that the reason for all the silence was that my sin separated me from Him (Isaiah 59:1-2; Psalm 66:18). The problem wasn’t with God, it was with me. I was dead spiritually (Eph. 2:1-3; Col. 2:13). The wages of sin is death. I owed a debt of death for my sins. Jesus paid that debt for me on the cross (Rom. 6:23). Through faith in Him God removed my sin and made me righteous before Him (2 Cor. 5:21). I discovered God loved me and had been reaching out to me (John 6:44; 16:8-11). He is reaching out and offering salvation by grace, as a gift to be received by faith (John 1:12; Rom. 5:1-10; Eph. 2:8-9). When I was at the end of myself and willing to come to Him on His terms, forsake my sin, ask God to forgive me, and receive Jesus as my Savior He gave me spiritual life. I was born spiritually; a rebirth; a second birth (John 3). God made me a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). He gave me spiritual life by the Holy Spirit’s indwelling me (Rom. 8:9-11; 1 Cor. 6:19-20). Now I know God and Jesus personally (John 17:3). God’s word is all about Jesus (Heb. 10:7). God’s word is God’s language and you have to know that language to know Him and the meaning of life (2 Tim. 3:16-17). God’s word is truth (John 17:17). The Spirit uses it to help me know Jesus (John 14:26). Before Jesus came into my life I was merely a “natural man” devoid of spiritual life or understanding, unwilling to hear God. But once I was born again by God’s grace through faith in Jesus, the Spirit gave me life and indwelled me and helped me hear and understand God (1 Cor. 2:9-14).
God speaks through His word. His voice is in His word. The Lord impressed that on me recently during a time of devotional study with Him in His word. Hence this writing. I was prayerfully reading Psalm 103. It’s a fantastic Psalm expressing blessing and thanks to the Lord for all His benefits, forgiveness, healing, redemption, lovingkindness, tender mercies, righteousness, justice, and grace. It thanks God for not dealing with us according to our sins but making a way to remove our sins as far as east is from west. It thanks Him for pitying us as a Father pities and has compassion on His children. His mercy is everlasting and all should praise Him for it. Then, in the last verse of the Psalm, I came across the phrase “heeding the voice of His word” (Psalm 103:20). The Lord spoke to me in that phrase. “The voice of His word,” God’s word speaks! Yes, God speaks! And I can hear Him. Thank You Lord! Can you hear Him? When you go to His word are you listening to what He wants to say to you? Do you realize what an incredible blessing that is? Just look at that Psalm. It’s a Psalm of praise to God for His salvation and care. It’s a Psalm about His mercy and grace, His love and blessing. Read it and listen to His voice in His word.
But listening is not enough. The full phrase says, “Heeding the voice of His word.” God speaks in His word but we must respond to it. His word calls for decision. We must “heed” it. We must yield to it. We will either obey or disobey His word; there is no middle ground. Indecision is decision. Jesus said we are either for Him or against Him (Mat. 12:30; Luke 11:23). If you’ve read this far I pray God has spoken to you. Ask yourself, What is God saying to me? What does He want me to do? God is drawing you to Himself. Why wait until you bottom out? Surrender now. He has spoken and wants to have a conversation with you. His word is a love letter to you. His voice is in His word. Are you willing to listen? Ask Him your tough questions. Bring Him into your personal conversation about life. Seek Him with all your heart and He will be found by you (Jeremiah 29:11-13).
If you’ve tried to read God’s word only to find silence then ask yourself some questions. Have you turned to Him like I did and asked Him why the silence is there? Are you ready to surrender? Are you sick and tired of the silence and the futility of life without God? Are you willing to come to God on His terms, forsaking your sin, asking His forgiveness by His grace through faith in His only Son Jesus? If you do that He will forgive you and will give you spiritual life through the indwelling Holy Spirit. If you do that, you will be made new, you will become a new creation and the silence will be turned to a holy, comforting, constructive and eternal conversation with a God who is there for you always. If you do that the burden of your sins will be rolled away. Do you hear “the voice of His word”? Are you ready to “heed the voice of His word”? Go back and look up the references I’ve noted in this writing. Ask God to speak to you through His word about your salvation.
Many years have passed since I received Jesus as My Lord and Savior on January 16th, 1977. The years have been rich with revelation and spiritual fruit from God’s word. The Lord eventually called me to be a pastor. It has been a venture in faith. There have been incredible blessings. There have been difficulties as well. Sadly my sister has drifted away from the Lord. She’s proven to be like the shallow or thorny soil (Mat. 13:1-23; Mark 4:1-25). It’s so important to heed God’s voice in His word. Pray for her. Through it all God has proven ever faithful. His still small voice speaks in His word (1 Kings 19:12). Life heeding the voice of His word has been blessed and full. I’d have it no other way. My prayer for you and everyone is that you would hear and heed “the voice of His word.” God make it so. God bless you. Listen. He’s speaking.