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.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Why the Storm? – Acts 27:14-44

I came across a message by Jon Courson and thought, given Hurricane Irene,  I’d pass it on to you with a few editorial changes. The Lord promised everyone on board would survive the storm - Acts 27:1-13.  In the rest of the chapter we see four types of storms that blow into our lives:

Storms of correction. Jonah is a good example of this. When a storm arose he was tossed overboard and swallowed by a great fish, because he was rebelling against the Lord (Jonah 1:10). So, too, sometimes when we rebel and disobey the Lord, He will allow a storm to get us back on track again.

Storms of perfection. Jesus fed the five thousand and then sent His disciples across the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 14). Midway through their journey, a storm arose around them for their perfection. You see, Jesus knew it wouldn’t be too many months before these same disciples would see another multitude of five thousand—not fed, but saved (Acts 4:4)—followed by another storm—not on the sea, but of persecution within the church (Acts 8:1). Thus, Jesus was training His boys to endure the storms of persecution that inevitably follow the seasons of blessing. Faith is not a pill we take, folks. It’s a muscle we work (e.g. 1 Peter 1:6-9). Therefore, the Lord will send us storms from time to time not for correction, but for perfection because the way I respond to storms internally will tell me where I’m at spiritually. Storms provide a unique opportunity for us to see where we are in our walk with the Lord and to grow in our understanding that the Lord will come through at the right time, saying, “Be of good cheer. We’re going to make it.”

Storms of protection.  “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Genesis 6:8). And we see that grace as God sent a storm to drown out all of the carnality, sin, and iniquity that surrounded him. The storm raged for forty days and nights, but Noah and his family were not only protected in the storm—they were protected by the storm. “Oh no!” we cry. “My TV blew up,” or, "My phone . . . iPad . . . iPod . . . computer . . . etc. broke. What a storm I’m in.” But, as in Noah’s case, it might be a storm of protection—protecting us from the distractions of life, the carnality and iniquity that surround us continually.

Storms of direction. Knowing there was a group of people on the island of Malta in need of ministry, the Lord said, “Before you go to Rome, Paul, I’m going to allow you to be blown off course because there is something I want you to do for Me—something you never would have thought of on your own, something that wasn’t part of your agenda. I have some people to whom I want you to minister, so I’ll allow a storm to arise, which, although it looks like it’s blowing you off course, will put you in the very place I want to use you.” “How come I got canned?” “Why did she dump me?” “How come it’s not working out?” you ask. Don’t be blown away. Realize that the Lord is changing your direction because there’s something He wants to do that will ultimately be a blessing. Look at such things not as rejection, but as redirection.

Storms of correction and perfection, storms of protection and direction—how can you know which one you might be in? Talk to the Father: “Why am I in this storm, Lord? Is it correction—or are You perfecting me for what You see is coming my way? Is there a new direction for my life—or are You protecting me from something that would be very damaging?”

(Courson, J. (2003). Jon Courson's Application Commentary (851). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.)



Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Spirit Built Church has a Passion for Fellowship

“And they continued steadfastly in . . . fellowship . . .” – Acts 2:42c

Acts 2:42 gives us four pillars of the church as well as for the individual believer. For the church and individual Christians to be spiritually healthy, these four pillars must be firmly in place. These are the posts upon which the foundation of Christ is laid (1 Cor. 3:11). The teaching of God’s word, fellowship, worship and prayer are these pillars. I believe the Spirit inspired Luke to give these pillars in a particular order. Each succeeding pillar flows from the other. The Spirit gives us a passion when He comes upon us. That passion of the Spirit leads to a passion for the teaching of God’s word. A passion for God’s word unites God’s people in fellowship. This passion for fellowship happens as we come into the presence of the Lord in worship. Worship finds its most hospitable place in prayer. Let’s proceed in our consideration of the Spirit built church and its attributes while keeping these pillars in mind.

The Spirit built church has a passion to be united in fellowship. It states, “And they continued steadfastly in . . . fellowship” (2:42c). “Fellowship” is not just hanging out, playing cards or some other game, watching TV together or doing some other thing together. “Fellowship” (from the Greek term koinonia) involves communion, communication, contribution, interacting actively.  [1] Fellowship is the gathering together of believers to edify one another spiritually by discussing the work of Jesus by the Spirit in and through them. In Hebrews it describes fellowship in the following way:  

  • Hebrews 10:24-25 – “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” 

Look at these inspired words. There is much to glen from them. It says, “And let us consider one another.” The first thing is that we are to put others before ourselves. This is especially true when we come to church. Most come to church looking for what they can get from the service. That is true. But we should also be looking to the Lord for what He would have us give. I’m not speaking only financially. I’m speaking about being alert to bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2) and encouraging others or sharing a scripture (2 Tim 3:16-17).

Specifically we are to come together, “in order to stir up love and good works.” When we come across someone who is in an unloved or unloving state of mind, insert the love of Jesus into the conversation. And the love we insert should be an active love that leads to good work and action. It is in fellowship with other believers that we see the opportunity for us to become “fellow workers” with Christ and with each other (1 Cor. 3:9-10).

We are exhorted to, “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some.” Fellowship and going to church needs to be a priority. It shouldn’t be just one other activity on your calendar. It should take priority on your calendar. That means if there’s a conflict in the schedule you put church first! Even if it’s a little league game, dance practice, you have family or friends coming over and you want to prepare your home and the meal, or anything else, make sure you don’t get distracted from going to church. If ever there was an oxymoronic practice it is those who will stay home from church in order to prepare for a time of fellowship in their home! Some do this. You should not.

Instead of not fellowshipping we should come together, especially in church; “but exhorting one another, and so much more as you see the Day approaching.” We need to redeem the time! Time is short. Look at the signs of the times in God’s word (e.g. Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21) and then compare them with what is going on in the world today. These are the Last Days. Soon we will be raptured into the presence of our Lord Jesus. Then we will all stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ to give an account. Make sure you are able to give a good report. Make sure you are able to lay your life before the Lamb who was slain and not be ashamed. Fellowship is important! We need to exhort each other to keep the main things the main things. We need to exhort one another to keep Jesus and His mission as our top priority.

The early saints were passionately dedicated to encouraging and exhorting one another to serve the Lord. Is that what you do in your times of “fellowship”?

In one of the psalms of assent (that the people would sing as they made the trip and assent up to Jerusalem), the blessing of fellowship is expressed through the inspired words:

  • Psalm 133:1-3 – “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity!2 It is like the precious oil upon the head, Running down on the beard, The beard of Aaron, Running down on the edge of his garments.3 It is like the dew of Hermon, Descending upon the mountains of Zion; For there the Lord commanded the blessing—Life forevermore.” 

In Psalm 133 we are told the gathering of brethren in unity is like anointing oil poured out on the head. Oil is a type or symbol of the Holy Spirit (cf. Zech. 4). When the Spirit comes, He unites believers! Are you united with fellow believers or living as a lone wolf Christian? Private Christianity is an oxymoron. Christians were and are created by God for fellowship with Him and with each other (see 1 John 1:7).

Jesus died to make a way to unite us with God. He also died to unite us to each other. The Spirit brings people together. When we come to fellowship with a worldly mindset that is self-centered and full of “deceitful lusts’ such as lying, mean spirited speaking, stealing, “bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking . . . malice” it grieves the Spirit and hurts the fellowship for which Christ died (cf. Eph. 4:17-31). Instead we should “be kind and tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave” us (Eph. 4:32).

That is what the Spirit built church looks like. It is filled with those who have a passion for fellowship. Too often our churches are empty because people have a passion for the thing sof this world. Our nation has a rugged individualist nature in its DNA. Christ came to build a church. The Holy Spirit draws us to Him and into fellowship with each other in the process. Don’t neglect the gathering of the fellowship. Instead, be filled with the Spirit and come together in fellowship. Come! “Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”



[1]Strong, J. 1996. Enhanced Strong's Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship: Ontario

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Spirit Built Church has a Passion for the Teaching of God’s Word

“And they continued steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine . . .” – Acts 2:42b

The Spirit built church has passion. But passion must be directed toward something. The Spirit doesn’t instill passion for passion’s sake. It must be directed toward the right thing. Otherwise it won’t serve its holy heaven sent purpose. For what does the Spirit give passion?  There are a number of things the Spirit’s passion is to be directed toward. But the first thing we are to have a passion for is the teaching of God’s word.

The Spirit built church has a passion for the teaching of the word of God. It states, “And they continued steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine” (Acts 2:42b). “Doctrine” simply means “teaching” (Greek - didache). What was it that the early apostles were teaching? They were teaching what the Spirit brought to their remembrance from the teachings of Jesus (John 14:26; 15:26). Jesus taught the Old Testament word of God to the disciples. The Apostle’s teaching consisted of the Spirit revealed application and fulfillment of the Old Testament in Christ. In the Spirit they were teaching the word of God to others as Jesus had taught them.

When the Spirit acts He moves people to teach God’s word.  The teaching of the word of God is the mainstay of God’s church. What a tragedy it is that so many churches have left the simple expository teaching of the word of God. The impotence and apostasy we find in churches is directly correlated to the absence of proper teaching of God’s word. If a church is to be a church according to God’s model it must be a church where the word of God is taught in the Spirit.

Why study the Bible? The Spirit who inspired or breathed out the words of the Bible through holy men gives us many reasons for studying the Bible. Here are just a few.

First, believers need a steady diet of God’s word to grow in their faith. The apostle Peter was inspired to write, “as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby,” (1 Pet. 2:2). God’s word is filled with all of the spiritual nutrients necessary for spiritual nurture and growth. The new believer as well as the believer who has been walking with the Lord for a time needs to study God’s word so that they know what and why they believe and have been born again.

Feeding on God’s word equips the believer to move in to a life of discipleship where they share God’s word with others (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Therefore, God’s word is essential to spiritual growth from the onset of life in Christ to the sunset of life on earth.

Second, studying God’s word gives the disciple skill and discernment in ministry. As the disciple studies God’s word he or she becomes equipped to minister and be used by God to further His kingdom plan. The Bible instructs us that the disciple should not only familiarize themselves with the entry-level truths of repentance, faith, salvation, etc., but that the disciple should broaden their understanding of God’s will by feeding on the full counsel of God’s word.

When Paul was saying farewell to the Ephesian church leaders he reminded them of how he had taught them. He said, “Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men.27 “For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.28 “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”  (Acts 20:26-28). The Bible is a manual for life. God made humankind and gave us an instruction manual so that we would know how to get the most out of life on earth as well as be prepared to live life eternally. God’s word equips us for life. God’s word tells us what is really important in life, what the purpose of life is.

In Hebrews the study of God’s word is promoted and likened to moving from milk to the meat of God’s word.  Studying God’s word is the means by which the Christian is prepared and equipped to guard against falsehoods. It states, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”  (Heb.5:12-14). The implication here is that if the recipients, to which the letter of Hebrews was written, had studied and taken to heart God’s word, they would be better prepared and skilled, “exercised,” for ministry. This leads us to the final statement about why we should study God’s word.

Third, studying the Word of God prepares the disciple against falsehoods, fallacies, and fakeries. In Paul’s inspired letter to the Colossians he warns them against heretical teachings that diminish the deity of Jesus Christ and that rely on human tradition and worldly philosophy as their foundation. In this letter Paul exhorts believers to grow in their relationship with Jesus and one of the primary means this is accomplished is by the application of God’s word by the Spirit to their lives. Paul states, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord”  (Col. 3:16). If we are to grow in our relationship with Jesus and be protected against the evil influence of aberrant teachings, we need to be students of God’s word.

Fourth, we need to study God’s word to get an accurate appraisal of where we are in our spiritual walk. The heart is deceitful and wicked (Jer. 17:9-10). The only way to know it accurately is through God’s word (Heb. 4:12-13). God’s word is a mirror that shows us what we look like (James 1:22-25). We need God’s word to show us our blemishes and to keep us going in the right direction (Ps. 119:105).

Do you have a passion for God’s word? One prime sign of a Spirit built church is that central to its ministry will be the teaching of the word of God. And while not everyone will be able to teach God’s word, everyone will be moved by the Spirit to live by God’s word. Does that describe you? I encourage you to do everything you can to assure and encourage that your church teaches the word of God. And I encourage you to get into the word of God yourself. Ask Jesus to give you a passion for His word. He has a way of stoking the fires of His passion in us with His word.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Spirit Built Church has Passion

“And they continued steadfastly . . .” – Acts 2:42a

Acts chapter 2 is where the Spirit is poured out in power on 120 disciples including the apostles. At the end of that chapter the church is born. Acts 2:42-47 is an account of the growth and formation of the church. These verses give us God’s model for the Spirit built church.  As we look at these verses we should ask, Is this what my church looks like? It should be. Every church should be a Spirit built church. Every church should look like this. I believe the revival we need in the church and for our nation will come when we get back to this Spirit built model for the church.

The first thing we see here is that the Spirit built church is filled with people who  have a passion for God and ministry.”  It states, “And they continued steadfastly . . .” (Acts 2:42a). The phrase, “continued steadfastly” is translated from one Greek term proskartereo which occurs ten times in the New Testament being translated as “continue” four times, “continue instant” once, “continue steadfastly” once, “attend continually” once, “give (one’s) self continually” once, “wait on” once, and “wait on continually” once.” [1] The grammatical form of the word emphasizes an ongoing persistence. It means, “to be earnest toward, . . . to persevere, be constantly diligent, . . .  to adhere closely to. . . .” [2] These disciples were wholeheartedly committed to, passionately dedicated to, zeroed in on and focused upon the things mentioned about the church, which follow here.

Think of the focus people have at the critical time of a movie or a sports match. Think of how you would hang on every word of someone who was bringing information that was of particular interest to you. These people lived for their life in the Spirit and what God was doing. There was nothing else in their lives that came close to challenging their interest and dedication to the work of the Spirit in and through them and their brothers and sisters in Christ. When the Spirit spoke, they jumped to ready service.

This first aspect of the Spirit birthed church is essential. It is the energy that propels us and empowers us to fulfill what follows. When the Spirit comes He empowers. And that power will in part be evidenced by a passion for God and His work. Do you have a passion for God and His work? When you look at the people of God in Acts, do you see more similarities or more dissimilarities?

God’s plan for all people is that they become like Jesus (Rom. 8:28). This is the holy work of the Spirit in us. Jesus had a zeal and passion for the house of God (John 2:13-17). He had compassion for people (Mat. 9:36). We need the passion of Jesus. True repentance produces such passion (2 Cor. 7:9-11). Jesus finds lukewarmness detestable; it makes Him nauseous (Rev. 3:14-19). It is tremendously telling that today’s church and many “Christians” are so passionless for God and the things of God. We won’t escape if we neglect the great salvation of God in Christ (Heb. 2:1-3). Truly, if we claim to be Christians and live on unchanged in our sin, we are only fooling ourselves; we don’t fool God (Heb. 10:26-29). Anyone in Christ is a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). And the love of Christ should be compelling us (2 Cor. 5:14 f.). We are not our own, we have been bought with the precious blood of Jesus (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Does our life reflect that? Is there a heaven sent Spirit enflamed fire within us?

In Jesus’ Olivet Discourse He first mentions characteristics of the world that will be found in the Last Days before His 2nd Coming (Mat. 24). He said the love of many would grow cold (Mat. 24:12). Sadly, this seems to be true of some in the church. Jesus illustrates how we should be living in light of His imminent return (Mat. 25). The first of these illustrations speak of virgins awaiting the Groom, five ready for His return, five who aren’t ready. Those who are ready have oil in their lamps symbolic of the fullness of the Spirit (compare Zech. 4:1-8). The four who aren’t ready have lamps that have run out of oil. Lamps were lit with a wick of fire. Which group best describes you? On fire for the Lord and burning bright, ready for His return? Or is the light in your lamp gone out and you are groping in the darkness?

Jesus said He wouldn’t break a bruised reed or snuff out a smoldering wick (Mat. 12:20). If you are bruised and as a result smoldering instead of on fire with a passion for Jesus, He will fire up your passion if you open up and invite Him in for some personal one on one time. In fact, the Last Days Laodicean Lukewarm church was called to repent by Jesus (Rev. 3:14-19). He said He was knocking on the door of that church and if anyone opened and invited Him in, He would come in and dine with them (Rev. 3:20). That is the key to acquiring His fire. Spending time with Jesus is how we can be re-fired. Contact with Jesus kindles a holy passion in us. I encourage you to open your heart and invite Him in. I encourage you to encourage your churches to open the door to Jesus and invite Him in. It’s time to burn bright with His holy fire.

This focus and passion is something that is frequently missing in the church of our time. We have TVs, computers, the Internet, cell phones, hobbies, sports, careers, and a myriad of other things to distract us from the same kind of passion for the Spirit that these first century believers had. But it’s not too late and it’s not impossible to recapture that zeal. Jesus told the lukewarm Laodiceans that He was waiting and knocking on the door of their church and their heart. All that is needed is to open and invite Jesus in. Passion and zeal are kindled as the Spirit brings us into the presence of Christ. The Holy Spirit working in and through us can start the fire in us. Jesus wants to stoke and fire us up again, if we let Him. Jesus is knocking. Will you open your church and heart and invite Him in?

[1]Strong, J. 1996. Enhanced Strong's Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship: Ontario
[2]Strong, J. 1997, c1996. The new Strong's dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words (electronic ed.). Thomas Nelson: Nashville

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Undetected Spiritual Pride One Cause of Failure in Times of Great Revival by Jonathan Edwards

The first and worst cause of errors that abound in our day and age is spiritual pride. This is the main door by which the devil comes into the hearts of those who are zealous for the advancement of Christ. It is the chief inlet of smoke from the bottomless pit to darken the mind and mislead the judgment.

Pride is the main handle by which he has hold of Christian persons and the chief source of all the mischief that he introduces to clog and hinder a work of God. Spiritual pride is the main spring or at least the main support of all other errors. Until this disease is cured, medicines are applied in vain to heal all other diseases.

It is by spiritual pride that the mind defends and justifies itself in other errors and defends itself against light by which it might be corrected and reclaimed. The spiritually proud man thinks he is full of light already and feels that he does not need instruction, so he is ready to ignore the offer of it.

On the other hand, the humble person is like a little child who easily receives instruction. He is cautious in his estimate of himself, sensitive as to how liable he is to go astray. If it is suggested to him that he is going astray, he is most ready to check into the matter.

Nothing sets a Christian so much out of the devil s reach than humility and so prepares the mind for divine light without darkness. Humility clears the eye to look at things as they truly are. Psalm 25:9—He leads the humble in justice, and He teaches the humble His way.

If spiritual pride is healed, other things are easily corrected. Our first care should be to correct the heart and pull the beam of pride out of our eye and then we shall see clearly.

Growing Christians Beware!

Those who are most zealous in the cause of God are the most likely to be targeted as being filled with pride. When any person appears, in any respect, to be noticeably excelling others in his Christian walk, odds are ten to one that it will immediately awaken the jealousy of those about him.

They will suspect (whether they have good reason or not) that he is very proud of his goodness and that he probably thinks no one as good as he is, so that everything he says and does is observed with this prejudice.

Those who are themselves cold and dead, and especially those who have never had any experience of the power of godliness on their own hearts, will easily entertain such thoughts of the best Christians. This arises from nothing less than a secret hostility against essential and fervent holiness.

But the zealous Christian should take heed that this does not prove a snare to him, and the devil take advantage of it to blind his eyes from beholding the true nature of his heart and to think that because he is charged with pride wrongfully and with an unkind spirit, that such charges are not sometimes valid.

Alas, how much pride the best have in their hearts! It is the worst part of the body of sin and death; the first sin that ever entered into the universe and the last that is rooted out. It is God s most stubborn enemy!

Pride: a Secret Enemy

Pride is much more difficult to be discerned than any other corruption because of its very nature. That is, pride is a person having too high an opinion of himself. Is it any surprise, then, that a person who has too high an opinion of himself is unaware of it? His thinking is that he thinks that the opinion he has of himself has just grounds and therefore is not too high. If the grounds of the opinion of himself crumbled, he would cease to have such an opinion.

But, because of the nature of spiritual pride, it is the most secret of all sins. There is no other matter in which the heart is more deceitful and unsearchable and there is no other sin in the world that men are so confident in. The very nature of it is to work self-confidence and drive away any suspicion of any evil of that kind. There is no sin so much like the devil as this for secrecy and subtlety, and appearing in great many shapes that are undetected and unsuspected.

Spiritual pride takes many forms and shapes, one under another, and encompasses the heart like the layers of an onion: when you pull off one, there is another underneath. Therefore, we have need to have the greatest watch imaginable over our hearts with respect to this matter and to cry most earnestly to the great Searcher of hearts for His help. He that trusts his own heart is a fool.

Since spiritual pride in its own nature is so secret, it cannot be so well discerned by immediate intuition on the thing itself. It is best identified by its fruits and effects, some of which I will make mention of below together with the contrary fruits of Christian humility.

Pride: the Great Fault-finder

Spiritual pride causes one to speak of other persons sins, their enmity against God and His people, or with laughter and levity and an air of contempt, while pure Christian humility disposes either to be silent about them or to speak of them with grief or pity.

The spiritually proud person shows it in his finding fault with other saints, that they are low in grace and how cold and dead they are, and are quick to discern and take notice of their deficiencies. The eminently humble Christian has so much to do at home and sees so much evil in his own that he is not apt to be very busy with other hearts.

He complains most of himself and complains most of his own coldness and lowness in grace. He is apt to esteem others as better than himself and is ready to hope that most everybody has more love and thankfulness to God than he, and cannot bear to think that others should bring forth no more fruit to God s honor than he.

Some who have spiritual pride mixed with great learning and joy, earnestly speaking to others about them, are likely to be calling upon other Christians to emulate them and sharply reprove them for their being so cold and lifeless.

There are others who are overwhelmed with their own vileness, and when they have extraordinary discoveries of God's glory, they are taken up by their own sinfulness. Though they are disposed to speak much and very earnestly, yet it is very much in blaming themselves and exhorting fellow Christians, but in a loving and humble manner.

Pure Christian humility causes a person to take notice of everything that is good in others, to make the best of it and to diminish their failings; however, he turns his eye chiefly on those things that are bad in himself and to take much notice of everything that aggravates them.

Pride: Ministering in a Harsh Spirit

It has been the manner of spiritually proud persons to speak of almost everything they see in others in the most harsh, severe language. It is frequent with them to say of other's opinion, conduct, advice, coldness, silence, caution, moderation, prudence, etc. that they are from the devil or from hell.

Such kind of language they will commonly use, not only towards wicked men, but towards those who are true children of God and also towards ministers of the gospel and others who are very much their superiors. Christians who are but fellow-worms ought at least to treat one another with as much humility and gentleness as Christ treats them.

Pride: Putting on Pretenses

Spiritual pride often causes persons to act different in external appearance, to effect a different way of speaking, to use a different sort of dialect from others, or to be different in voice, countenance or behavior. But he that is an eminently humble Christian, though he will be firm in his duty, however different — going the way of heaven alone, though all the world forsake him — yet he does not delight in being different for difference s sake.

He does not try to set himself up to be viewed and observed as one distinguished, as desiring to be accounted better than others — despising their company or conformity to them — but on the contrary, desires to become all things to all men, to yield to others and conform to them and please them in all but sin.

Pride: Takes Offence Easily

Spiritual pride takes great notice of opposition and injuries that are received and is prone to be often speaking of them and to be much in taking notice of their aggravation, either with an air of bitterness or contempt.

Pure and unmixed Christian humility, on the other hand, causes a person to be more like his blessed Lord when reviled: quiet, not opening his mouth, but committing himself in silence to Him who judges righteously. For the humble Christian, the more the world is against him, the more silent and still he will be, unless it is in his prayer closet, and there he will not be still.

Pride: Presumption Before God and Man

Another effect of spiritual pride is a certain self-confident boldness before God and men. Some, in their great rejoicing before God, have not paid sufficient regard to that rule in Psalm 2:11 — Worship the Lord with reverence, and rejoice with trembling.

They have not rejoiced with a reverential trembling, in a proper sense of the awful majesty of God and the awful distance between Him and them. There has also been an improper boldness before men that has been encouraged and defended by a misapplication of Proverbs 29:25 — The fear of man brings a snare... It is as though it became all persons, high and low, men, women and children in all Christian conversation to wholly abandon all manner of modesty or reverence toward man.

Not that any should refrain from Christian conversation, but with such humility as in I Peter 3:15—But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.

Pride: Hungry for Attention

Another effect of spiritual pride is to make the subject of it want attention. People often tend to act in a special manner as though others ought to take great notice and regard of them. It is very natural to a person that is very much under the influence of spiritual pride to take all the respect that is paid to him.

If others show a disposition to submit to him and yield in deference to him, he is open to it and freely receives it. It becomes natural for him to expect such treatment and to take much notice if a person fails to do so, and to have an ill opinion of those who do not give him that which he feels he deserves.

One under the influence of spiritual pride is more apt to instruct others than to inquire for himself and so naturally puts on the airs of control. The eminently humble Christian thinks he needs help from everybody, whereas he that is spiritually proud thinks everybody needs his help. Christian humility, under a sense of other's misery, entreats and beseeches, but spiritual pride tries to command and warn with authority.

Pride: Neglecting Others

As spiritual pride causes persons to assume much to themselves, so it treats others with neglect. On the contrary, pure Christian humility disposes persons to honor all men as from I Peter 2:17. To enter into disputes about Christianity is sometimes unseasonable, such as in meeting for Christian conference or for exercises of worship.

Yet, we ought to be very careful that we do not refuse to converse with carnal men, as though we counted them not worthy to be regarded. On the contrary, we should condescend to carnal men as Christ has condescended to us, to bear with our unteachableness and stupidity.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Halloween, the Election, and the Sway of the Wicked One

Halloween and politics are not so different. Both are deceptive. Both use masks. Both are scary. How should we respond? We need to follow the light of God’s revelation. 1 John 5:19 states, “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.” That is an apt verse for Halloween as well as for politics. It’s important for us to know the truth when the veil of deception descends. Halloween and politics can intoxicate us. They can confuse our thinking and destabilize us spiritually. They can cause us to forget who we are. They can make us act like a stumbling drunk swaying into oncoming traffic. That is dangerous.  

There are two groups of people. One group is aware, one unaware of who they are. Christians know they are of God. John was inspired to write about our fellowship with God. He wrote of the fullness of joy that comes from that relationship (1 John 1:3-4). If we walk in the light of God’s word we learn how to be cleansed from our sin by the blood of Jesus (1:7; compare Psalm 119:105).

John wrote that godly obedience is a fruit of fellowship with God (2:3-4). The supreme commandment to obey is to love (2:5, 7-11). To love is to live like Jesus (2:6). To love like Jesus means we aren’t attached or in love with the things of this world. We love God supremely (2:15-17). We are aware of and thankful for the incredible love God has bestowed on us (3:1). Living in this loving relationship with God in Christ enables us to have victory over life dominating sins (3:6-9). Love in the believer is evidence of spiritual life and knowing God (4:7-12, 16-21). Such love should permeate every facet of our Christian life.

With God comes discernment (2:20-21, 26-27; 4:1). We are enabled to discern those things which oppose Christ (2:18-19). Jesus came to “destroy the works of the devil” (3:8b). If Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil it’s inappropriate for children of God to be associated with them in any way (3:10-21). The devil attempts to instill hate. Jesus instills love. Children of God discern the two.

The Holy Spirit brings truth and light. Our discernment and the love of God come from the work of the Spirit in us (3:24; cf. also Rom. 5:5). It is the inward assuring presence of the Holy Spirit that helps us to know that we have an abiding relationship with God (4:13). He gives us identity. He is Holy. We are to be holy (e.g. 1 Pet. 1:15-16). We are a work of the Holy Spirit.

God’s discernment, love and Christlikeness are appropriated in us by faith. “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith” (5:4). Trusting God enables us to lovingly obey God in a way that is not heavy or burdensome (5:3). When you love God, to obey Him is a joyful blessed experience. That’s because we understand how great God’s love is for us. We can’t wait to show Him how much we love and appreciate Him. “And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son” (5:11; see 5:12). “It is finished!” (John 19:30). “Lord, what do you want me to do?” (Acts 9:6).

Such love makes God approachable. A Father who loves us so much hears us. We pray. If He hears us we can be confident this loving heavenly Father will answer us (5:14-15). This confidence opens the door to a wealth of blessing and strength to get us through life. Prayer more than politics is our power tool for life.

Such love moves us to look beyond ourselves to others lost like we once were (3:1; 5:13). That becomes our new priority. We pray for those caught in sin to repent and be saved. Sinners are separated from God (Isaiah 59:1-2; Psalm 66:18; Hab. 1:13). They are “under the sway of the wicked one.” They are so blinded that they love their sin. They have no desire to leave their wicked ways. They promote their sinful lifestyles and belittle all objectors (e.g. Rom. 1:18-32). No one can come to the Father unless He draw them (John 6:44). The Spirit convicts of sin (John 16:8-11). That is grace. Pray for them. Love them into the Kingdom.

How can we expect those under the sway of the wicked one to behave? Based on 1 John they deny their sinfulness (1:8, 10). They are hateful (2:11; 3:17; 4:20). They love the world and the things of the world (2:13; 4:5). They oppose Christ proposing alternatives to Him as Savior and God in the flesh (2:18; 4:2-3). They are liars and deny Jesus and the Father (2:22-23). They live lifestyles of sin (3:10-13). They claim to be a part of the church but are not truly children of God (2:19). They are false prophets (4:1). We see a lot of this in political campaigns. As we look on the vicious mob of satanically swayed ones maybe we hear, “And such were some of you” (1 Cor. 6:11). There is hope in Jesus. Keep that in mind.

Ask an unbeliever if they are under the influence of the devil and more likely than not they will deny it. They may even deny there is a devil. The Bible states Satan, “the god of this world,” has blinded the minds of people (2 Cor. 4:4). Satan is a liar and deceiver by nature (John 8:44). He is wicked and seeks to destroy people not only physically but eternally by stealing their souls. He uses deception to do this. Our nation and its leaders are moving further away from God. Hence, it is not surprising to see so much deception in the political arena. Guess who’s behind that?

The word “wicked” is translated from the Greek term poneros. This word means, vicious, evil, hurtful, calamitous, malicious, morally corrupt, and lewd. Poneros is connected to the word ponos which means “labor.” The idea of pŏnērŏs is laboring to do evil. We could say the wicked campaign for evil. We also get the English word pornography from this word. All the filth and falsehood permeating and pouring out into the world today can be traced to the work of the wicked one. He is campaigning for evil.

People are not only dabbling in sin, but living in it, enjoying it, promoting it, intoxicated with it. It’s all part of the sway of the devil. Like a tasty morsel temptingly placed in the center of a trap. Sinful practices promise pleasure. But any pleasure sin promises is temporary and leads to death (Heb. 11:25).

Halloween is a dangerous time of deception. Ghouls, goblins, ghosts, skeletons, black cats, witches, tricks and treats are some of the “fun” indulgences we are tempted to partake in. But remember, they all have dark origins. None are a product of God’s light. That should be enough to sway us away. But still some will give in to temptation. And when someone succumbs to indulge it subtly lowers the sensitivity to discerning darkness and light. It blurs truth from error. It whispers assuringly, See, there’s nothing wrong with this.  Over time what is viewed as slight deviations from the word of God start to add up. One day, SCLAP! The trap slams shut. You’re caught in the sway of the wicked one. That which is presented as harmless isn’t as harmless as it seems. That is the nature of deception. And that is the sway of the wicked one.   

This is an election year. There’s a lot of added deception going around. The “prince of the power of the air” is having a field day (Eph. 2:2). We need to be good citizens and vote. Our choices may be discouraging. But we should still vote.  Are we choosing candidates based on a scriptural world view? “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ” (Col. 2:8).  Look at the party platforms. Look at the voting records.  Who promotes a biblical concept of work (2 Thess. 3:10-12). Who promotes a biblical concept of charity? (James 1:27; 5:14). Who promotes a biblical view of debt? (Prov. 22:7). Who supports the right to life of the unborn? (Ps. 139:13; Jer. 1:5). Who supports biblical monogamous heterosexual marriage? (Gen. 1:26-28; 2:18-25). Who supports Israel? (Gen. 12:3). Who is closest to biblical values? Vote! But before you do ask yourself, am I voting prophetically or profit-ically? How we vote will determine our bankruptcy or blessing. Think about it. Pray about it. Vote!

There’s pleasure in sin for a season. The first nibble of the cheese in the mousetrap tastes good. Rat poison is 99.99% nourishing to the rat. It’s the .01% of the poison that’s a killer. Don’t be deceived; not even a little. Know who you are. You are of God! Live it and don’t be swayed by the wicked one!