The Lord’s Message July 19, 2015 Intro: In a few months one of our members will be deployed in Afghanistan. What qualified him to be sent to the battlefield and in harm’s way? He has been through rigid training called boot camp. In the Christian life there is also a training ground called “Discipleship”. There is a similar process that starts with being recruited and then sent to training. Last Sunday we went through the first battle when one is born again. To be able to face the greater battle we call spiritual warfare one needs to go through the basics starting with the foundation of the faith which is to know Christ, to become like Him and to make Him known.
The discipleship training we have carried out in the church starts with the “Lesson on the Way.” After one has been saved, he/she needs to fully understand the gospel that saved him. This is the basic doctrine of salvation and the benefit of this is twofold the most important of which is not to be deceived by false teachings on salvation. The second is it will equip you in sharing the truths of how you got saved and then pass this lesson to another new born baby in Christ.
After this lesson one goes through five assurances from God through Christ and what you have in Christ. The first is the assurance of salvation. Very important so that no matter what happens in his life his eternal life can never be lost even in the battlefield. This assures us that no matter what happens even death cannot separate us from the love of God but serves as the gateway to heaven. “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” 1 John 5:11-12
Then we have this assurance of direct contact with the Lord at any time through prayer. We don’t need a phone or a cell phone to talk to God nor Wi-Fi and we will never be out of range. Think of Jonah in the stomach of a giant fish under the ocean he did not lose contact with God. We only need to ask in the name of Jesus. “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive and your joy will be complete.” John 16:24
Why did Jonah end up in the stomach of a fish? It was because of his disobedience to God’s command to go to Nineveh. His sinful nature got the best of him and chose to disobey God because of his hatred against the Ninevites who persecuted them and were their enemies. How are we to respond to our enemies today? Jesus said we are to love them. But can we really love our enemies? Because of our sinful nature we cannot. But if we surrender to do the will of God to love them, Jesus will love them through us by His Spirit. God has given us the assurance of victory over sin and temptations with this promise. “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful: he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so you can stand up from under it.” 1 Cor. 10:13
However, if we fall we need to cry out to God to be restored in our fellowship because we gave in to sin. Here’s what we need to do to be forgiven. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9
Once we are forgiven then we are back on tract. But how do we maintain staying on tract in God’s way? Jesus said, I am the way, so we need to make it our will to follow Him. How can we be assured that He will guide us? By trusting Him. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” Prov. 3:5-6
David learned to follow his Lord as his Shepherd. “He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” Ps. 23:3
So with these assurances we are ready to be sent to the battlefield. However, God will not send baby Christians into the battle field. When we have been fully trained and equipped and have grown in our faith in knowing Christ we are now ready for the battle. And who knows and determines that – the Lord! He is our Commander in Chief and the One who fights the battle through us.
“The Battle is the Lord’s – Part Two”
“Finally be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s scheme. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Eph. 6:10-12
There is still a continuation of this passage but we will deal with this first for now in identifying our enemy. When one is fighting a battle how can you fight and win when you do not know your enemy? It’s like fighting terrorists in the Middle East but they are not identified as Islamic Terrorist called ISIS, then who is the enemy?
For the Christian our enemy or enemies are not people. Our enemy is Satan also known as the devil and demons who follows him. In the Old Testament there are few descriptions of Satan as to who he is and what became of him to this day. He started as one of the angels of God, created by God even before the creation of the world. And here’s who created him. “He is the image of the invisible God, the first born over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.” Col. 1:15-18
So who created Satan, the demons and angels? It was Jesus Christ before He took a body to become flesh, born of a virgin, died and rose as the firstborn of all the dead. That’s why He has supremacy over everything. But here’s how the angel who is referred to today as Lucifer sinned against God and fell. You said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” Isa. 14:13-14
Notice how many I will did he say, five times. So what was his sin against God? Pride! He became proud because of the power given to him. Were we also guilty of this sin with still some pride left? Because of his sin of pride God did this to him. How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to earth, you who once laid low the nations! Isa. 14:12
So what did Satan do with God’s first creation, Adam and Eve? He deceived Eve because she listened to him and believed therefore she sinned. “…you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Gen. 3:5b
But sin was reckoned from Adam because he was not deceived but willfully disobeyed the only command God gave him, thus sin entered through the man. So what happened after that? We all inherited the sin of Adam and are born with a sinful nature, but not from the woman otherwise Jesus would have been born also with the sinful nature. That’s why Jesus had to be born through a virgin.
In the Old Testament we have seen that the enemies of God’s people were people from different nations known also as the Gentiles or Greeks. God had to intervene to protect His people otherwise they would be wiped out although He also allowed them to punish His people when they sinned. And among His people there were many who were wicked like Ahab and the evil kings of Israel. Even when Jesus was already born there were many Jews who did not believe Him and had Him crucified, even one of the twelve, Judas Iscariot.
But if God says to us today to love our enemies why does God allow them to persecute and hate the followers of Jesus. It is because it is not our business to punish them or take revenge with anyone who persecute and harm us. It is God who will deal with sinners, those who are not saved. Our real enemy is the power behind that drives sinners to do the things that they do. God said this through Paul. “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of the world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.” Eph. 2:1-2
Paul knew this to be true because he persecuted Jesus by persecuting Christians. The spirit who was working in his life was the ruler of the kingdom of the air, evil spirits who had power over him. The kingdom of this ruler is the air because he is a spirit but evil spirit. God is spirit as well but more superior than him because He created the evil spirits. So we better know what he does so we will know how to discern when he is actively at work in persecuting us and opposing us when we are doing God’s business specially in bringing the gospel to the people under his rule. Satan has different names to describe what he does in the New Testament: 1. His name as “Satan” refers to him as “an adversary”, one who lies in wait or sets himself in opposition to another. How many people have you encountered who opposes the truth when you share the gospel. 2. The Greek word “devil” signifies a “slanderer” and an accuser, one who accuses another. The devil does not slander you but a person especially one who is close to you who accuses you of wrong doing or just by criticizing you. 3. Here are other names mentioned in the NT as Belial, Beelzebub, the Adversary, the Dragon, the Enemy, the Serpent, the Tempter and the Wicked One. These are the names describing who he is, his character and what he does.
So let us always bear in mind our enemy because the moment you lose track of that then you will respond in an unworthy manner to the person he uses to agitate you, insult you, persecute you and unjustly accuse you. Do you see them all around you? Yes, they are everywhere and do you believe even among us in the church. Have you been the subject of gossip? This could just be a simple criticism or something that was said about you and quickly it was passed on to others. And what is worse about this is when it is gossiped to people outside of the church. When one does this who is the person put to shame? The One you are identified with, Christ. Here’s what Paul warned and said to the church in Corinth. “For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outburst of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder.” 2 Cor. 12:20
Paul was not writing them about what is happening outside but inside the church and among members. Can this also happen with us? Of course! The church of Jesus Christ is not compose of all mature Christians and especially if it is a growing church because God is adding new believers fresh from the life of the world. That’s why there is the importance of discipleship to help them grow up to maturity. This is already the battle field and sad to say, it is between believers. But God knows this and this is where many of the character of God will be developed in us. In God’s wisdom this is how it works to accomplish His purpose. “As iron sharpens iron so man sharpens another.” Prov. 27:17
Gossip and slander is not the only problem. When our sinful is still alive the evil one whispers into our ears something to criticize a brother or a sister. Harsh word of criticism could come out of our mouth. The ones who are mostly criticize are the church leaders especially the pastor. When sin is preached and somebody gets hit of guilt there is a sure reaction. This person could feel that he is singled out by the pastor and is hurt and if the sinful nature is still alive, he or she would either criticize or stop coming for a while. By the way trust your pastor that when he preaches on sin, he has no one in mind. Hopefully he or she will come back. But this is not only true towards the pastor, anyone can be criticized too. So how should one respond to criticism? I believe the best way is to accept it as something that can be beneficial and learn from it even if it is not true. Our response can make us bitter or better. Here’s how Paul addressed this when he was being judged. “I care very little if I am judged by you or by any court; indeed I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.” 1 Cor. 4:3-4
So when we are criticized or judged by a brother or a sister that hurts us, it is to sharpen us and vice versa. Here is how we ought to respond. “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness and humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against another. Forgive as the Lord has forgiven you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Col. 3:12-14
Above all we are to love one another, just as Christ loved us. Here is love: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 1 Cor. 13:4-8a “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.” 1 Pet. 4:8
Is this how you are living your life, victorious through our Lord Jesus Christ? “The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Gal. 2:20b