Saints vs. Sinners

“Only Jesus can bless someone with everlasting life in the paradise of God’s love. Is it your desire to receive such a blessing?”

Are you looking for a better life? Well, you are not alone. People everywhere today are looking for a better life. Politicians know this because in every presidential election, candidates declare how they will lead our country so we can all have a better life. Marketing advisors know this for it seems that every commercial we see tries to convince us that if we just had this product or that, we’d have a better life. Our colleges are filled with people looking for a better life. However, the way to a better life is not found in politicians, money, success, or any other worldly thing. A better life has nothing to do with the homes in which we live or the cars we drive. The only way to a better life is found in Jesus Christ, in understanding who we are and what we have in Christ.

Jesus very clearly said, “I have come that you might have life, and have it more abundantly.” And someone may try to convince you that this means Jesus wants us to have all the stuff we want. But Jesus very clearly taught that the abundant life is not about things, but rather about a quality of life found only in him. The eternal life Jesus offers is not merely a quantity of life, but it is a quality of life. It is a life of true peace and contentment despite the troubles that come our way. Abundant life is a life where Jesus is included in all you do, all you think, and all you say. It’s not enough to know we are Christians. There is so much more. You are on a journey and on your journey to a better life, you must understand this about yourselves, that you are a saint in Christ. And what is a saint? The dictionary defines a saint as one who is a very holy person, one who is pure in heart and upright in life. Does this describe you today?

The Bible writers chose the word saint that means “holy ones, righteous ones, those who have been separated from the worldly and profane.” And a saint is any and every born again child of God. If you are familiar with the Apostle Paul’s writings to the new churches, you will notice that he addresses the people as saints. These people didn’t perform great feats of compassion for humanity. They didn’t have to meet a certain criteria of a church. They were simply those who have experienced the touch of God on their lives, those who have responded by turning from a life without God to a life that is totally dependent on God. Are you one of those people? A saint?

The moment you repent of your sin and place your faith in Christ, you are clothed in the righteousness of Christ and you are set apart and holy in the eyes of God. But though we have been born again, we still have a sin nature that has to be dealt with. We still mess up and we still fail. And there are days and times when you don’t feel saved, when you don’t feel like a saint. But your being a saint has nothing to do with your feelings. But it has everything to do with your eternal position in heaven. You may say, “I don’t feel holy…I don’t feel worthy to be a saint.” You may have these feelings because you’re living in sin and need to do something about it. But you may also have these feelings when there is nothing really the matter. None of us are worthy, but God has made us worthy in Christ. That’s why Paul wrote of us as being in Christ Jesus. But the devil will try to tell you otherwise. The devil will say “You’re so bad. You’re so unworthy. God can’t love you and he can’t use you.” Don’t believe it! They are lies from the pits of hell! God bought you with the precious blood of His only begotten son. He saved you from the judgment to come. And so if you are a true Christian, you are not your own. You’ve been bought for a price! And when God looks at you now, He doesn’t see your inadequacies, but rather He sees the righteousness of Christ that covers you. And being in Christ is cause for celebration as Paul says in verse 2, “grace and peace be to you.” This was a common greeting in those days. But what does it mean? To have grace is to have the favor of God in your life, a favor you receive, but don’t deserve. If I say ‘grace be to you’, I’m saying ‘may you experience the mercy of God’. I’m saying ‘you may have messed up today, but God stands ready to forgive you.’ That’s amazing grace! Amazing mercy that saved a wretch like me. And the peace that Paul wrote of is the peace that so many are searching for, but can’t find. And so therefore, the believer should rejoice because of the peace he has in Christ. Are you experiencing the peace that passes all understanding? Do you sense something deep down inside of you that brings a calm to your soul that you can’t really explain? Only Christ can give this peace. Only Christ who is the highest authority bestows divine grace.

Not only does the saint have grace and peace, but he has also been blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places. This is not money, success, popularity or power. This is not the house, the car, or even the wife or kids. It is spiritual blessings that you have in Christ that nothing can ever take away, where neither moth nor rust corrupts or destroys. No one or any circumstance can steal your precious relationship with God. It will not expire. Only Jesus can give what will last for eternity. Only Jesus can bless someone with everlasting life in the paradise of God’s love. Is it your desire to receive such a blessing? Where is your heart today? If you want a better life, then you must be in Christ and you must set your devotion on things above.

Don’t live like a sinner. Embrace life as a saint. Listen to the strong words of Paul.

Ephesians 1:4-6-8 ~ For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding.

He predestined us unto the adoption of children, but notice in the Gospel of John. It is written…

John 1:10-12 ~ He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.

This is one of the greatest paradoxes in the Bible. How that God in His sovereignty chose you before he ever created the world, that he already knew who would and would not be saved, and yet, he still gives you the freedom to choose. From eternity past, God has done all that was necessary to bring you to Him. Now what will you do? It’s your move. God has shown Himself to your heart. Do you realize how special you are to God? You have been chosen for a reason! He chose you to be holy and this is the exact same word as saint. He chose you to be a saint. And to be a saint means to be set apart from the ways of the world, and set apart to the ways of God. It means that you turn from sin and let your heart be filled with the presence of God through the power of the Holy Spirit. Your life is now to be used for God’s service, like clay in the potter’s hands. Verse 6 lets us know that when we are living for the purpose God has chosen for us, there is praise to the glory of His grace. In other words, not only is God glorified in our obedience, it brings Him great pleasure. We can bring God pleasure! God chose you for a better life because He loves you. And it begins with salvation. If you are saved, remember that you are a saint, a holy one of God. You are a saint! Not because of your goodness, but because of Christ’s goodness and your trust that His goodness is more acceptable than yours.

Do you want a better, abundant life? Do you want a quality of life that this world claims to offer, but cannot deliver? Are you living as God intends for you to live? Could it be that someone here today is not sure of their eternal destiny? Maybe you want a better life but have been looking in all the wrong places. Maybe you’ve been coming to church for a while but haven’t come to the point of humbling yourself and asking Jesus to save you. Only Christ offers the better life, the ultimate life of true meaning and peace. And this life is made possible by admitting you a sinner, admitting that you’re lost without Christ. Have you done that? Because, once you see yourself as a sinner in need of a savior, then you’re on your way to become a saint. You’re on your way towards living a wholesome life, a life free from activities and attitudes that only bring attention to Satan. A better life doesn’t necessarily mean a life with better health, more money, or less problems, but a better life has more to do with matters of the soul as the conscience is cleansed. The heart is softened. The mind is clearer. Don’t live like a sinner. Embrace life as a saint. Embrace a clean life, a life that says to a watching world, “I’m a holy child of God.!
“I prefer light over dark. I prefer a healthy marriage over a dysfunctional relationship. I prefer to be sober over the influence of drugs or alcohol. I prefer kindness over callousness. I prefer to be wise with my money over being irresponsible with it. I prefer to think Godly thoughts over perverse thoughts.”

Sinners live in defeat, defeated by ignoring God’s love and guidance. Saints live in victory, victory by embracing God’s love and guidance. To live a wholesome life means that we allow the Holy Spirit into every area of our life. That’s how we become more like Jesus. If that’s what you want! If you are trusting Jesus with your soul by asking for his forgiveness of sin, you are a saint. Are you living like one?

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Brokenness that Leads to Healing

“Jesus will never force his love on us because he knows that love ceases to be love if it must manipulate a response.”

 

In my view, what is known as the Beatitudes as found in Matthew chapter 5, it is a portion of scripture that defines what deep spirituality of the Christian faith looks like. Because Jesus brought his closest disciples away from the common crowd, it’s clear Jesus was ready them teach some of the deeper spiritual truths. Let’s taste a sample.

Matthew 5:1-4 ~ Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. He said: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Now some folks may read these verses and say, “Man this Christianity is wimpy stuff. There’s this poor in spirit business not to mention the crying and comforting.” But like it or not, we are prone to having broken hearts, a condition where we find our hearts spiritually and emotionally damaged. And in this place of intense personal poverty, we must recognize our deep spiritual need, that something is not right with us. And furthermore, we acknowledge our limitation to fix it ourselves by ourselves. When all of our own attempts at fixing the problem and numbing out the pain have failed, and when we get desperate enough for the real answer to our pain, where can we turn?

Today we’re going to hear about the journeys of two broken people. And while these people were in completely different situations, their stories do have some things in common. First, they were both in a place of emotional and spiritual poverty and they didn’t know where else to turn. They found their lives upside down in a ditch feeling lost and disconnected. The second thing they have in common is that they recognize their desperate need and they sensed something deep down wasn’t right. And finally, they acknowledged that the situations they were facing were completely out of their control. They see that they couldn’t fix their problems themselves.  In every possible way, their stories model for us the character of brokenness.

Mark 5:35-36 ~ While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?” Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

In the first story, a desperate father runs into town to find Jesus because his little girl is very sick and the situation looks hopeless. He knew his daughter’s only hope was to be miraculously healed, something he couldn’t do for her. As you could imagine, this father was heartsick at the thought of losing his precious little girl. He wasn’t prepared for this. These kinds of things only happen to other people’s kids. As a religious leader, this father had it all figured out, or so he thought. The religion of the Jews was to keep the law, make the appropriate sacrifices and receive God’s blessing and protection. But in an instant, his neat and tidy religious world came tumbling down. As he looked into the face of his suffering little girl and cupped her tiny little head in his strong and capable hands, nothing made sense anymore. Suddenly the answers weren’t so clear. So in an act of complete emotional and spiritual poverty, this father turns to Jesus. No doubt he heard all the things people were saying about him. And maybe after hearing Jesus himself, he was beginning to believe that there was something to his teaching and authority. We can’t be sure what led this father to take a chance on Jesus, but he did. He didn’t send a servant but went to find Jesus himself. He had to be sure that Jesus would be found and be persuaded to come and heal his daughter. And his desperation drove him to take some serious risks. Because as a synagogue leader, the moment he went to Jesus for help, he was officially validating Jesus’ ministry. Coming to Jesus meant he recognized a power and authority in Jesus that his synagogue buddies would have ridiculed. But that’s the funny thing about desperation. When we are truly desperate enough about something, we tend to go to extremes. The more desperate the need, the more extreme the measures. You see, desperation has a way of freeing us to put our faith in things we would never consider. But this can be both a positive and negative aspect of desperation. This father knew none of the conventional remedies were going to help the little girl’s pain and suffering.

Mark 5:38-42 ~ When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him. After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished.

In the father’s brokenness, he turns to Jesus and his daughter is healed.

The second story of brokenness is the story of a woman who had a serious medical condition in which she suffered continuous menstrual bleeding.

Mark 5:24-34 ~ A large crowd followed and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ” But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

Normally, a woman’s cycle lasts 7 days. But this woman had been bleeding for 12 years and counting. Not only was this a humiliating condition, but because of the religious laws governing life in her Jewish community, she was forced to spend her days in complete isolation. Her disease made her ceremonially unclean which meant she wasn’t allowed tom have human contact, no friends to encourage her through her dark days, no friends to celebrate with her on a rare good one. Alone on the journey of life, she quietly suffered not only the physical pain of her medical condition, but the emotional, spiritual and mental anguish of being completely rejected by the community where she lived. This woman was in quite the desperate place. She tried every single remedy, every single doctor. After spending every cent she had on doctors who couldn’t help, she turned to Jesus. And she did this out of complete personal poverty. What she found was that her step of faith did not bring her rejection and condemnation which is what the desperate act was risking. Instead, she received healing and a hope for a better life as she fell into the embrace of Jesus the great healer.

Mark 5:27-29; 33-34 ~ When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

She reached out in desperation, believing in Jesus’ power to heal. Jesus honored her desperate desire for healing. Her faith moved the heart of God and she was healed. Now listen carefully! The power for healing wasn’t in her faith. Trusting in God does not release a power. But the power that healed her was her faith as it was her faith which moved God’s heart to heal her. Do we understand that?

Matthew 5:3 says God blesses those who realize their need for him. And a realization is an awakening, an experience of inner clarity so vivid and real like something we once ignored now has a million watt bulb shining on it. Both of the people in this story from Mark’s gospel came to the realization that their situations were way beyond their ability and control. Their attempts to fix their problem were useless. But it was their brokenness that brought healing and wholeness. We see that in their desperation and need, they cried out to Jesus. And as they fell into his embrace, he gave them exactly what they needed. But there is a third part to this story that Mark doesn’t record. And it’s the story of millions of people dying deaths of desperation. Looking only to the worldly solutions available to them, they quickly discover that these remedies only numb the pains of life temporarily. It’s the story of people who know the sting of rejection, who feel the weight of their guilt bearing down, those whose trust has been betrayed and those whose hope is now on the verge of becoming lost. It’s the story of people all too familiar with loss and pain: divorce, abuse, abandonment, hidden sin and addictions that become strongholds that choke the spiritual life out of us. Our attempts to numb it all away fall dreadfully short of the inner need and desire for wholeness that haunts our hearts. And why? Because we know deep down something within us isn’t right. Like the woman with the bleeding disorder, we have tried every single remedy only to discover that our pain and brokenness seems to get worse. We too are at a place of great personal poverty and faced with a choice. Do we keep searching for a self-help – quick fix, or do we accept our brokenness for what it is and lay it at the feet of Jesus Christ? Do we keep our desperation suppressed or do we cry out with desperate groans and fall into Jesus’ embrace.

The promise is this. If we realize just how much we need Jesus, regardless of how long we’ve known the Lord, we will be blessed beyond measure. What do you need today? What are you desperate for? Will you stop trying to do it alone? Not until your brokenness drives you to seek him with all that you’ve got, will you accept the fact that he loves you and deeply desires to make you whole. Our only hope is to cling to Jesus with everything we’ve got and never let go. When we cling to Jesus, we discover that his presence becomes a place where our lives begin to heal. Our deep wounds lay open and exposed before him. There’s no hiding here. As we permit Jesus to peel back the layers of pain and confusion that has settled around our hearts, he begins the process of breathing truth and love into those places of hurt and need.

The bottom line is this: We can’t heal our hurts. We can’t calm our fears. We can’t make what’s deeply wrong right. That’s why our only hope is clinging to Jesus and never letting go. And guess what, Jesus knows we’re not perfect. He knows we make mistakes and poor judgments. But his only expectation is that we are willing to have him enter these places and experience the intimacy he longs to have with us. If we want him to fill and transform us, we must be willing to given him access to any place in us he wants to go. He will never force himself to these areas unless he is invited. He will never force his love on us because he knows that love ceases to be love if it must manipulate a response.

We are all part of these two stories and have the opportunity to fall into Jesus’ embrace and find everything we need for the journey home. Don’t miss out on what God has for you. Today, if you need to cry out to God, go right ahead and cry out.

The Soul

Matthew 16:24-26 ~ Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?

I’m going to focus our attention on something that tends to be overlooked in Christian education, something that’s difficult to grasp, something that is at the core of Jesus’ mission. I think we can all agree that the Bible introduces us to images and concepts that short circuit our brains. For example, even though the kingdom of God, or heaven, is described in the pages of scripture, we still struggle in our mind to truly comprehend what life in the very presence of God will be like. When we hear the word heaven or hell for that matter, we may say we know what those terms mean. So, because you haven’t been there yourself or can talk to someone who has, scripture provides for us little snapshots of these two destinies. But all in all, we possess only a limited knowledge about them.

For me, there is another such concept that is as slippery as an eel covered in Crisco, and that is what we call the SOUL. The soul. What do you know about your soul? Are you aware that you have a soul? And if so, are you aware that there is a fierce and grisly battle waged to claim it? No matter how insignificant you may feel, no matter how low your self-esteem is, no matter what you look like, there is a vicious and desperate struggle between God our Father and the father of lies, Satan.

Do you know just how valuable you are? Do you have any idea just how much you’re worth? Our soul is priceless. Our soul is a gift from God that can’t be measured by any standard of value. Our soul is who we are and God is responsible for the existence of our soul. You say, “Well, if God is responsible for the existence of my soul, why is there such a battle for it? Isn’t God more powerful than Satan?” And these seem to be very appropriate questions worthy of a rational response. But before we tangle with questions like those, I ask if you ever really experienced the reality of your soul? In other words, have you ever been confronted with your very own soul? Are you fully aware of your existence as a human? It’s an eerie feeling. It’s a very profound occurrence when you truly come to grips that life is more than working a job; that life is more than homes and gadgets; that life is even more than raising a family. When you are confronted with your soul, you come to realize it’s real. You come to realize the serious nature of its salvation. It’s usually in the darkest of times when we are most aware of our existence and the realty of God and be aware of our nakedness before God who is all knowing of our every breath. When you are confronted with your soul, you sense the immortality of it, its connection with its creator, your personal connection with God your Father. But as we may or may not be aware, despite this profound connection with God, our soul, that is, who we are as persons with personality, our soul is hunted down by Satan to claim it for his own as a victory over God. Surely God is more powerful than Satan! How is that Satan can claim souls? Although God is the creator of everyone who ever lived or will live, He is not everyone’s heavenly Father. Jesus speaking to those folks who saw no need for a savior said:

John 8:42a; 44a ~ Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Jesus points to us and knows our loyalties. He can see by our attitudes and actions if we support him in ways of righteousness and truth, or oppose his authority and take comfort in our sinfulness. God is the creator of all, but only a Father to those born again of the spirit of God unto the salvation of their soul. As for Satan, he is merely an object of creation, a father to those who curse or even ignore the voice of God. Either we walk on the path and in the direction of God’s truth and righteousness, or we walk down the path and direction of Satan’s deception and wickedness. So we see that it’s not a matter of God being stronger than Satan when it comes to who gets custody of our soul, but by who we are loyal to. Either we are attracted to the influence of God for holiness, or we are attracted by Satan’s influence for sinfulness. How does God influence us? His Holy Spirit. How does Satan influence us? By appealing to our inclination to selfishness and pleasure. Satan takes advantage of our 5 senses, our selfish desires, our affection for the things connected to this world and its philosophies.

1st Peter 5: 8 -10 ~ Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

Make no mistake, as you live out each day, your soul is a target. It is priceless. You are priceless because you, your soul, is eternal and created to dine with Jesus dressed in your whitest robe.But until the day of our glorification, until the day we are fully healed of the disease of sin, our soul needs to resist the temptation of taking the easy way out. Our soul needs to be satisfied in the hope of the crucified and resurrected Christ. “God have mercy on his soul”, we hear the minister say around the freshly filled casket. Have mercy on our soul indeed!

How are you caring for your soul? How are you protecting your soul? Have you been confronted with you soul and its cry for Jesus and his forgiveness? Have you been confronted by your soul’s cry for Jesus to touch and to comfort?

In closing, I admonish and I encourage you with scripture found in 1st John chapter 2.

1st John 2:15-17 ~ Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

Whoever does the will of God lives forever. This world will pass away. The philosophies of this world will fade into eternity past. Christ shall reign and we shall reign with him. We shall be exalted with Jesus. So don’t love this world. Don’t get caught up in materialism. Don’t get caught up in all the negative news that surrounds us. This place is only temporary. This world and its ways will pass away. This cesspool of sin will be destroyed and the new Eden will emerge where we will dwell in the midst of the full concentration of God’s glory. We will bask in God’s love for His people. If the Father’s love is in you, your soul is safe. Your soul is secure.
What do you crave? Where does your loyalty lie? Remember, not everyone is God’s child; but those who are trusting their soul with Jesus Christ. That’s where the rubber hits the road, isn’t it. This is at the heart of the matter. Who are you trusting with your soul? Who will you cry out to when death comes for you? It’s a serious matter. Whoever does the will of God lives forever. Whoever turns away from their sin inherits eternal life. If you were to die today, who would get custody of your soul? Where would you spend eternity? It is my hope that you are trusting Jesus with your soul. It is my hope you will escape the horrors of hell and enter the Kingdom of God.

The Enemy I Don’t Love

The reality of the spirit world brings us face to face with another reality. It is the reality of spiritual warfare.

 

Recently I preached to you about loving your enemies. And so I ask you, does that include our worst enemy? If we are to love our enemy, does that mean we are to love Satan?

If you haven’t noticed lately, there has been a revival in the interest of the spirit world. The role of the supernatural has been given great publicity by the New Age Movement…There has been a rise of the occult. There is an organization for those who practice witchcraft. From magazines to movies, the subject of the supernatural is constantly being raised. You can even dial a hot-line to be instantly placed in touch with your own “personal” psychic advisor.

So what about the supernatural? Is there an unseen realm populated by spirit beings? And if so, who are these spirit beings? The Bible teaches clearly that there is a spirit world and that world is populated by spirit beings. We know them as angels and demons. These spirit beings were created by God to serve Him. Satan, who was originally one of the chief angels, led a rebellion against God. In Isaiah 14:12-17, we read how this beautiful and anointed angel wanted to be like God.

Isaiah 14:12-17 ~

“How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!

How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations!

For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven,

I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation

On the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds,

I will be like the Most High.’

Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, To the lowest depths of the Pit.

 “Those who see you will gaze at you, And consider you, saying:

‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble, Who shook kingdoms,

 Who made the world as a wilderness And destroyed its cities,

Who did not open the house of his prisoners?’

 

Satan became exalted in his own pride and was thrown out of heaven. As he was cast down, he took a third of the angels with him. These followers of Satan are the demonic enemy. From the Scriptures, we know a number of things about these spirit beings. First of all, they were created by God.

Colossians 1:16 ~ For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.

The invisible things of heaven refer to angels. God created them. And for those of us who escape judgment, Jesus said:

Luke 20:34-36 ~ Jesus answered and said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.

These beings never die. They are eternal. Angels have no limit to their existence. But though they are eternal, they are not omniscient. That is, they don’t know what God knows. Jesus speaking of his return says, “But of that day or hour, no one knows… not even angels in heaven.” Concerning the gospel, the apostle Peter said that it is something that angels want to get in on. They want to know the details of the gospel. The angels are fascinated with the plan God has for our future. In other words, there are some things that angels do not know. But these beings are powerful. We read in Isaiah 37 how one angel killed 185,000 men in one night.

But they are not omnipotent. They are not all powerful like God. But they are far more powerful than any man. Yet it does seem angels are active in the lives of believers. In Daniel, God sent his angel to shut the lion’s mouths and save Daniel from being the lion’s main course. In 1st Kings, the angel ministered to Elijah when he was in the midst of emotional despair and distress. In Acts, an angel delivered Peter from prison not once, but twice. And we also find in scripture that the numbers of angels are huge. There are millions, if not billions of angelic beings in existence all over this world. With perhaps billions of unseen entities encircling us at all times, we should not only be aware of their presence, but also aware of their activity in our midst. You see, none of them are neutral towards us. There are some who are friendly towards us. But there are others who are not.

In fact, they are extremely hostile. They are our enemies. And we must understand who they are, how they work and how to combat their influence in our lives.

From scripture, we understand that there is a spirit world…We have seen that there are unseen forces that do good and others that do evil. And here lies our problem. The reality of the spirit world brings us face to face with another reality. It is the reality of spiritual warfare. It is important to think biblically about demons because all of us without exception must endure demonic attacks. Our text emphasizes this warfare:

Ephesians 6:12 ~ 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.

We are in a struggle. But our struggle is not against other humans, it is against spiritual forces of wickedness which are demonic powers. This conflict is a warfare. It is a struggle against these forces. And like it or not, we are placed in the role as a spiritual soldier. Indeed, the choice is between becoming an effective soldier or becoming a defeated casualty. It should be obvious from scripture that these demon spirits are set against us as well. Their purpose, like their leader Satan, is to fight against God and His work. The enemy doesn’t need to waste their time and effort fighting with sinners. They’re on the same side. But where you find faithful followers of Christ, you can sure demonic activity is nearby in attempt to trip us up and make God look weak. Satan is a liar and so are demon spirits. Satan is the father of lies. A deceiver, so are his followers. Satan comes to steal, kill, and destroy and so do they. This is their purpose.And how do they accomplish this purpose? What is their strategy? What are their schemes?

Well, insofar as their attack against Christians is concerned, the scripture reveals that the primary place of their assault is on our minds. Demons seek to influence the way we think. Because when they can accomplish that, they can then control our behavior. If Satan and his subordinates can get us to believe a lie, if he can deceive us, he can make us live our lives on the basis of that lie. Now this is a powerful strategy and I want everyone to listen carefully to what I say next. If demonic influence can convince us that we cannot overcome a particular sin, then we will continue to live in that sin. If demonic influence can convince us that a certain circumstance will surely defeat us, then we will program ourselves to be defeated. How are we to combat demonic influence when it comes against us? If we are in a warfare, what are weapons we can use to defeat the enemy? Since we are engaged in a supernatural conflict, what are the supernatural weapons available to us? The supernatural weapons available to us consist of two powerful offensive weapons and a number of defensive pieces of armor. In the verses both before and after Ephesians 6:12, the armor of God is mentioned.

Ephesians 6:11; 13 ~ Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 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.

There are a number of pieces of armor which are given to protect us. We have our defensive weapons. There is a girdle of truth…A breastplate of righteousness. A shield of faith…A helmet of salvation…There are gospel boots…These are all defensive weapons. Then there is the sword of the Spirit…This offensive weapon is defined as “the Word of God.” And finally, there is another offensive weapon — “all prayer and petition.” We attack the enemy through prayer and through the Word of God. We reject His attacks by being clothed in the armor of God. What is in view here is a lifestyle in which we live for Jesus and rely on his word and prayer. The function of his word and prayer is to change our minds, to transform them into minds that think biblically, to think that way Jesus thinks. The function of the armor is to cause our lives to be in such a state that there is no place for Satan to strike. When we are walking in truth, righteousness and faith, the flaming missiles of the evil one simply bounce off. There’s no gaps in our armor. But there is one overriding reason why all of this supernatural weaponry is utilized. The reason is: “that you may be able to resist.” The main method which brings us success against the attack of demonic powers is to ability to resist its influence. In James 4:7 we’re told to submit  to God. And to what? Resist the devil and he will flee from you.  Our strategy in using the armor and weaponry of God is to submit to God and to resist the devil. We are given the promise that if we do these things, then the devil will flee. This is the truth of God. We must remember that one of the devil’s biggest lies is that he can do more to us than he really can. Demons are real. They can do terrible things. And so we must not make the mistake of acting like they don’t exist. But we also must not make the mistake of assigning to them more power than they have. While we cannot defeat them in our own strength, as we resist them in the power of God, they must flee. Now this does not mean that our struggle is any less a real conflict. Sometimes the battle is difficult. Sometimes there are times when we must work hard at prayer. There are times when we must labor long and hard at diligently searching the scriptures. We always must be disciplined to live in obedience, careful obedience to the Word of God. But as we stand against the enemy and resist his attack in this way, then he has no choice but to leave us alone. When we do find ourselves under the attack of the enemy, there may be times when we need the help of other believers. While I find absolutely no evidence in scripture that a Christian can be possessed, there is ample evidence that a Christian can be under such attack that leads him or her into some form of bondage. By flirting with sinful acts, we give the devil a foothold into our lives which gives him the chance to enslave us to that sin. The bondage could range from racism, to pornography, to addictions. These are examples of demonic oppression and may require the assistance from other believers to help. They may need to pray for you and encourage you and keep standing with you over time until you find total freedom. If the influence over your mind is severe and ingrained, it may take the prayerful intervention of other believers to set you free.

The spirit world is a reality. Spiritual warfare is a reality. But in Christ, victory can be a reality. But we must clothe ourselves in the armor of God and we must use the powerful weapons that are provided by God. As a child of God, I know that there is a spirit realm. To deny the presence of angels and demonic spirits is rather naïve. But I don’t worship angels. And I don’t rely on anyone other than God Himself to bring peace to my heart and salvation to my soul. And if I’m in close communion with God, if I’m attracted to holiness and having pure motives inspired by the Holy Spirit, I don’t fear demons. This is my experience and this is what the Bible is talking about when it appeals to us to submit to God and resist the devil. The devil and his demons are only interested in us to the degree that we flirt with sinful behavior or attitudes as Christians. As long as you keep Jesus out of your daily affairs, Satan has a willing subject in you. And that can only lead to a life of turmoil and frustration.

So I beg of you. Submit to God and resist the Devil. That’s the spiritual battle plain and simple.

What Is “Pure in Heart”?

A Christian salivates at the prospect of seeing God and a true Christian can anticipate seeing God with great enthusiasm because he lives a life pleasing to God. His hands are clean and his heart is pure.

 

If you’ve been tuned into the political arena lately, you may have noticed that the Republicans and Democrats are fighting over who has more morals. But the debate over morality in our culture has rightly underscored the importance of behavior. To be moral, one must act in a moral manner. This is clear. But morality is more than simply behavior and this is something that may be missed by our culture. While we may be able to impact the behavior of individuals in our society with laws of restriction, we will never be able to change the essence of a person’s morality. In other words, laws alone cannot warm a cold, cold heart. Limiting what a person can do outwardly does not change who that person is on the inside, in his heart. So when Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart . . .”, he was emphasizing that what we really need is to be right on the inside. And this is the call to heart-purity.

In the Beatitudes, Jesus is dealing with principles which impact every area of our lives. This simple sentence, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”, it becomes a powerful road map that will lead us to the promised fulfillment of a personal encounter with God. It is a call to heart-purity. Jesus is saying that the condition of our heart before God is of most importance. Indeed, it seems to me that our priority as believers is to maintain a right heart approach toward God because this will affect our approach to our family and friends. We might be able to fool people by pretending to be something we are not, we might be able to appear like we are walking with God when we are not. But God is not fooled.

In 1 Samuel 16:7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

It is clear that God looks past outward behavior and appearance and looks to the condition of our hearts.

We read in Proverbs 21:2  ~ Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, But the Lord weighs the hearts.

Even in the Old Testament, we see that God has always chased after hearts receptive toward Him. So what did Jesus mean when he spoke of pure in heart? What does pure really mean? Does it mean perfect?  Does it mean sinless?  I can give you the many Greek translations of the many shades of the word “pure”, but in the interest of time, I’m going to narrow down the definition of the word pure as “uncontaminated”. If something is contaminated with a foreign substance, it is impure. If something is not contaminated with a foreign substance, then it is pure.

The “heart” in Scripture refers to both the will and emotions. It refers to the control center of the will. The writer of Proverbs 4:23 counseled ~Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.

In Matthew 15:19, Jesus said: ~ For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.

The heart encompasses both mind and will. The heart determines behavior.So when Jesus speaks of the pure in heart, he is talking about a heart with a pure motive. Our hearts should be characterized by undivided devotion.

To be pure in heart means more than avoiding outward sins. It means avoid serving two masters as it is like a cancer of the spirit. Double-mindedness slowly eats away at your spiritual life until there is no real spiritual life left. Our mind cannot be divided into one half that wants to save his soul, and the other half that wants to ignore the transforming grace of God. You see, mixed motives make our hearts impure and single-minded devotion is what purity of heart is all about.

William Barclay, the famous New Testament scholar says that Matthew 5:8 can be translated in the following way: “Blessed is the man whose motive is always entirely unmixed, undivided for that man shall see God.” When we examine ourselves in this light, what do we find?  At times, we find that we fall far short from the standard. Our motives are seldom unmixed. Many times our motives are self-centered. Instead of single-minded devotion to God and a passionate desire to please him, we are often concerned about what we can get out of Him. I must confess that we preachers have contributed to this kind of thinking and attitudes in some Christians. Too often we hold out the gospel as something which people should decide to accept because of what they can get in return. “Follow Jesus and you will be blessed,” we announce. We say you ought to serve God because it pays. We imply that you ought to give because of what you can get in return and some preachers even guarantee a hundred-fold return. Now God does bless us in many ways and you cannot give without becoming one who receives from God. But the motivation of our service ought to be an undivided devotion to God Himself. The motivation for our giving ought to be out of love for God and His ministry. To promote it in any other way is to create a weak, double-minded Christian. The call of Christ is clear. We are to be unmixed in our devotion to Him. How about you? Is your heart single in its devotion to God?

How can we make our hearts pure? If we find that our motives are mixed, how can we return to an undivided devotion to God? The answer to those questions to a great degree is found in the Beatitudes themselves. The first four lay the foundation for the second four. To put it another way, the second four Beatitudes are the result of walking in the first four. In order to become pure in heart, we must see our need and respond to that need. We must walk through the progression we have seen in the first four Beatitudes. As those who are poor in spirit, we see our sinfulness. As those who mourn, we repent in godly sorrow for our sin. Our hearts are broken before God. Thus, they become gentle and tender before God. We then come to the place where we hunger and thirst for righteousness because we have seen that only the righteousness of God satisfies. This is the foundation we must lay if we are ever to become pure in heart. This is really the process of sanctification. It is what Jesus meant when he told us that we were to take up our crosses daily. It is seeking God with all our heart. It is coming to God like David and praying “create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). It is desiring God more than anything else and the result is heart-purity. The reason we must become pure in heart is because only the pure in heart shall see God as God reserves intimate fellowship with Himself to those whose hearts are unmixed in their devotion to Him. And when we are devoted to God, we will enjoy the privilege of catching a glimpse of His glory – a vision of His majesty. And this is the promise to all who are pure in heart. If we are pure in heart, we will see God.

Now, I am not sure just how much this promise is fulfilled in the here and now. But I am sure that those who are pure in heart will one day see God in His fullness as we stand before Him in His eternal kingdom. We shall then behold His glory and stand in His presence forever. But I also believe that there is a partial fulfillment of this here and now. God desires that we catch a glimpse of his glory to enable us to live today. He desires to reveal more of His power to us. He desires to reveal more of Himself to us that we might understand His ways and walk in them.

God desires fellowship with us. God desires that we are enabled to see Him. And this is the promise to us – it is the result of becoming pure in heart. The pure in heart are a rare breed in our society today. They are even rare in our churches.  But I believe God is calling us back to that single-minded, unmixed devotion to him.  But in the Kingdom, the way up is always down. We must fall on our knees in repentance before we can look up to catch a glimpse of His glory. How can we measure our devotion to God? And this is a valid question for Christians to ask of themselves. After all, if we want to see God, both here and throughout eternity, we need to have pure hearts. We need to have uncontaminated hearts. We can’t come to church on Sunday and engage in practices of the heathen the rest of the week. Being a Christian isn’t a hobby or belonging to a certain club. A Christian salivates at the prospect of seeing God and a true Christian can anticipate seeing God with great enthusiasm because he lives a life pleasing to God. His hands are clean and his heart is pure. How about you? Are you truly worshiping God?

This is what the doctrine of holiness is all about. And the church of the Nazarene clings to scripture that appeals to our hearts that they may be purified of sinful desires. O God, purify our hearts that we may see Jesus!

Is My Home a House of Worship?

We are surrounded daily with opportunities to offer greater worship to things and people other than God, which is of the devil.

                                  

I’d like to briefly make the connection between church life and our home life. We see church as a distinct place of worship and rightfully so. But many divide the way they act in church from the way they act in their homes. For you see, many Christians do not see their homes to be as sacred as the church. They have undervalued and underestimated God’s perspective and heart for the home.

God began human existence with a marriage and a family, that of Adam and Eve and their children Cain and Able. The first community that God established was a family and a home.  Now notice this. God had a relationship with man in the context of the family long before the setting of the church came along. The Israelites did not have a formal place of worship until the Tabernacle of Moses. Previous to this, the place of worship was the home and all worship was directed and led by the head of the home, the husband and father.

DEUTERONOMY 6:4-9 ~ “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

These verses teach about worshipping at home but we have replaced the home with the church. Now I’m not telling you to walk out and go home, but that we need to strike a balance of church worship and home worship. For many Christians and their families, all spirituality is exercised IN church – all prayer is IN church – all teaching is IN church – and not in the home. In too many Christian homes, there has been a surrender of responsibility of godly leadership and spiritual discipleship, surrendered to the Sunday School teachers and preachers. In so doing, we miss out on the blessing of worshipping in the home. But how do we experience genuine divine blessing in our homes? How can we incorporate church life into our homelife? These questions lead us to our scripture focus.

 Joshua 24:14-15 ~ “Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord! And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Joshua made a choice for his home. His choice was for his household to serve one God only, to worship one God only. It was a choice against idolatry and for faithfulness. Regardless of the choices of others, Joshua’s wife and children were following the direction of their spiritual leader within the family. The challenges of Joshua’s day were no different than those we face today. Like Joshua, we have to choose to live according to God’s design for our home and families. Perhaps you’ve seen the plaque in the hallway of someone’s home, which reads….

Christ is the head of this house,

The unseen guest at every meal,

The silent listener to every conversation.

Is your home God’s home? It’s no good saying “well of course it is because I’m a Christian’. It involves much more than that. There is a secular pressure on Christian homes today to compromise our highest spiritual values. Do we behave at home as we do at church? We are surrounded daily with opportunities to offer greater worship to things and people other than God, which is of the devil. Are we as parents and spouses the undying influence of our homes by seeking to make Jesus the center of our home? Who teach and model an authentic relationship with God whether our circumstances are happy or difficult? Living in such a way brings blessing to one’s home: Let’s welcomes God’s presence in our homes.

2 Samuel 6:9-11 ~ David was afraid of the Lord that day; and he said, “How can the ark of the Lord come to me?” So David would not move the ark of the Lord with him into the City of David; but David took it aside into the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite. The ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite three months. And the Lord blessed Obed-Edom and all his household.

For 3 months, the most awesome symbol of God’s presence was placed in Obed-Edoms home. This box, the Ark of the Covenant was the most sacred article in all of Israel’s history – the most powerful object on the face of the earth. And it became the focal point of Obed-Edom’s home. It represented the very presence of God. And I am certain beyond doubt that this box changed the way they lived in that house. Every day for 3 months, they were aware that God was living with them, sharing their home. And when God’s presence is welcomed and encouraged, a home is truly blessed.

In most of our homes, there’s a box which is the focal point and all the furniture points toward it. And all too often, our attention is too focused upon it instead of the things of God. It has the power to shape our home life, form our children, corrupt our values, disturb our relationships. In many Christian homes, the TV Guide is read more than the Bible. But the box at the center of Obed-Edoms house brought blessing. It reminded them daily of God’s presence and goodness. It reminded them of his faithfulness, his promises, his covenant and power and glory. Inside the Ark of the Covenant were three items. The stone tablets of the Ten Commandments -Which God’s Word in our homes. A jar of manna from Israel’s wilderness wanderings – God’s provision in our homes. And Aarons budding staff – God’s ordained leadership in our homes. Each of these should be represented in our homes, and when they are, we too will be blessed as Obed. For in his house, God was acknowledged, valued and treasured.

Jacob was another who valued the worship of God in his family and declared in Genesis 35:3 …. ” I will build an altar to God.” Is there an altar in our home? Not constructed of gold or stone, but of a heart to love and worship God with passion. We need to be passionate about God and we need to build an ark of salvation in our home. When warned about the coming judgement of the flood, Noah by faith, and in holy fear, built an ark to save his family. Noah did all he could to save his family from the impending judgment on the earth. He could not drag them into the ark – but he warned them and built their way of escape in his home. The salvation of our homes is of utmost importance. We cannot save our families, only God can. But we can build into our homes the design God has given us, and that is the design of a home that always points our families to Jesus the Savior. Our kids will make their own choices. But we must point them in the right way. For those of us still raising children, one day, our children will leave home. One day, they will set up their own home. But let’s pray that one day, they will declare  “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”

So where do we begin?  We begin by exalting God in our homes. We begin by modeling Christlike behavior. We encourage faithfulness and educate our children in God’s way. And most importantly, establish godly values in your home and live by them. We are faced with the most noble of challenges, to provide a home where Jesus is Lord, a home where Jesus feels welcomed.

American Idol

God is a jealous God…He loves us with a passionate love…He desires for us to be totally his.

 

Today we are going to look at a word found rather frequently in the Bible, and that word is idolatry. Idolatry is not something that we give much thought to these days. In fact, one is tempted to pin the notion of idolatry to those times and places where people lived in ignorance and worshiped golden calves. The problem is that people still live in ignorance and our society today is growing increasingly ignorant concerning the true and living God.

We are like those described in Romans 1:28 ~  Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 

When we refuse the knowledge of God, we quickly replace him with something else. It may not be a golden calf, (although there are many who worship gold in all its forms.) But our replacement for God could be anything. Anything other than God can be an idol. Even good things can be an idol. Sometimes they are the most dangerous idols because they seem so good and right. Idolatry includes much more than bowing down or burning incense to a physical image. Idolatry is having any false god, any object, any idea, any philosophy, any habit, any occupation, sport, or whatever has one’s primary loyalty over trust and loyalty to the Lord. Anything, even very good things, can become idols when we allow them to take the place of God–– the place of first allegiance.

Some people worship material things. They are always thinking about what they want to buy. The multibillion-dollar advertising industry in this country feeds this desire as we are developing into a society of shop-a-holics. Some people worship pleasure. There are certainly those who desire to live lives of excessive self-indulgence, who never miss a chance to party. You may think that you are exempt because you don’t live like that. But there are many ways to indulge the flesh, ways that you know that interrupt your intimacy with God. Some people worship their children. Everything in their lives revolves around keeping their children happy.  But many parents, while they spend incredible amounts of time and energy catering to their children, never succeed in imparting anything of eternal significance to them. And they neglect their own spiritual lives in the process. When that day comes, when those children say goodbye and leave the nest, those parents look at the shell of a meaningless life  and simply don’t know what to do next. This is why idolatry is so deadly. It substitutes for God what can never satisfy. It robs us of our spiritual life as we settle for shadows. As we look at the text before us, we may be surprised,  even shocked at the truth concerning the practical implications of our own idolatry.

1 Corinthians 10:14-15 ~ Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say.

We have already discussed something of the reality of idolatry. The fact that the apostle Paul gives us such a succinct and stern warning speaks to the ever-present nature of idolatry. And as we have already stated, idolatry is not simply some backwoods bowing before a rock or tree.Idolatry is allowing anything but God first place in our lives, intentionally or unintentionally. When we do, we put ourselves in a very dangerous position. The only response that is acceptable for the Christian is given in one word––Flee!…Back off….Turn around….Run away. This is the sense of Paul’s command. It is imperative for us to put as much distance between us and idolatry as we possibly can. You see, this is serious business. And the Lord knows how serious and potentially devastating this can be. That is why we have such a forceful warning. Flee!…Flee idolatry! And the reasons for this are found in the illustrations he gives us in the following verses:

1 Corinthians 10:16-18 ~  Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?  Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf. Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar?

Paul uses the illustrations of the Lord’s Table and the sacrifices made on the altars in Israel. The temptation as you read this is to get lost in the details and overanalyze the text. But don’t miss the use he makes of the words participation and partake. What Paul is driving home is the point that we become partakers in the substance behind the symbol when we as believers identify with the Lord. We enter into a fellowship, a koi onia, a common sharing together. Both the Lord’s Table and the altar were themselves symbolic. In the Old Testament sacrificial altar, we have a representation of the sacrifice for sins that would be given in the person of Jesus Christ. The entire sacrificial system was a picture of what would be fulfilled in Jesus Christ. So also the Lord’s Table is a picture. It is a symbolic representation of the sacrifice of Christ. In itself, it is not the sacrifice. When Jesus gave them the bread and called it his body, it is clear that Jesus intended for it to symbolize his body. When we participate in communion today, it is an act of worship and remembrance. It is a picture to remind us of the death of Christ. It is a picture to inspire us through the resurrection of Christ. To spur us on. It is a picture of when we will enjoy perfect fellowship with each other and with God. But it also needs to be said that just as some have made more of the Lord’s Table than they should have. Many have overreacted in the opposite direction and make far too little of it. When we come to the Lord’s Table, we do enter into a participation of the substance behind the symbol. This is the point Paul is making here. This is why Christians should flee idolatry. We have been made partakers of Christ. We have identified with him. Therefore we should never identify with or worship anything less. Because when we do, we participate in the substance behind the shadow we are worshiping. You see, those lesser gods we substitute for the true God are also symbols of a spiritual reality.

1 Corinthians 10:19-21 ~  Do I mean then that food sacrificed to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons.

There is a deceptive nature to idolatry. It is not what it seems to be. The devil has been in the business of deceiving people from the very beginning. When he came to Eve in the Garden of Eden, he painted a beautiful picture of how wonderful it would be if she indulged herself. He deceived her by not telling her the real consequences of her actions…In fact, he told her that God lied to her about the consequences. The devil would like to have us believe that sin is no big deal. But sin is a big deal. In fact, it is demonic. There is an unseen spiritual reality behind all sinful behavior. It is the reality of the demonic. Sin is diabolical in nature. And when we engage in sinful behavior, we open our lives up to demonic activity. We give the devil a foothold in our lives. We can laugh about sinful activity, and pretend that it’s no big deal. After all, everybody’s doing it. We can mock those narrow and prudish people who make a big deal out of sin. And I’m sure we could find lots of people to agree with us. But there is one who will not agree––He is God. He knows the consequences of sin and idolatry. It is deadly. It will destroy our relationship with Jesus Christ. It will sap us of our spiritual life. It will rob us of our joy. It will open us up to the activity of the powers of darkness. It is deadly. That is why we are told to flee. How many people have been laid low by the deceptive, demonic, and deadly nature of contemporary idolatry? We need to tear down our idols before they possess us. We need to flee idolatry.

1 Corinthians 10:22 ~ Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

How do we think God will react? Do we think God simply shrugs his shoulders and says, “Oh well, sinners will be sinners”? If we do, we’re mistaken. And we are given a clear warning to that effect. It is as if Paul is saying, “What do you think you are doing? Are you trying to pick a fight with God as if you are strong enough to defeat him?”

Deuteronomy 4:23-24 ~ Be careful not to forget the covenant of the Lord your God that he made with you; do not make for yourselves an idol in the form of anything the Lord your God has forbidden. For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.

God is a jealous God. He loves us with a passionate love. He desires for us to be totally His. And just as you would be extremely jealous if your mate showed an interest in someone else, so God is jealous of us when our allegiance is divided. Think about what God has invested in your salvation. It took nothing less than the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross to purchase your salvation. And that was no small sacrifice. Because of God’s great love for us, Jesus bore our sins in himself on the cross. He suffered the humiliation of the cross. He suffered the torture of crucifixion. And he also suffered the spiritual agony of being cut off from the Father. Considering all that God has done to purchase our salvation, considering all that God has done to bring us into a right relationship with himself, how could we imagine that he would not desire our pure and unbroken fellowship? God desires for us to be totally His. And when we are unfaithful to him by substituting other things and lesser things, his passion is stirred up and his anger is kindled. Our God is a jealous God and our sin stirs up his righteous wrath. Paul warns us not to trifle with God. After all, are we stronger than He? Absolutely not! If we are trying to pick a fight with someone, it should be someone other than God. So we are urged to consider our course of action. After all, God cares for us. He proved that in the death of Jesus Christ. So, our motivation ought to be a passionate desire for an intimate relationship with Jesus, the one who loved us and gave himself for us.

Idolatry continues to rear its ugly head among Christians today. It is as destructive today as it ever was. And far too many of us take it far too lightly. Both Christians and churches are anemic because we do not take seriously this command to flee idolatry. What can we do? How can we deal with the insidious nature of idolatry? Well, we can begin by asking God to search our hearts. We can ask God to show us anything in our lives that we put before Him. We can ask Him to show us the deadly effects this has had in our lives. And then we can do some serious repenting. Remember that repentance means that we have both a godly sorrow for our sin and a godly determination to turn away from it.I believe that when we get serious in our striving against sin, we will experience the blessing of God like never before. The Lord has clearly given us the command to flee from idolatry. And we must remember that with every command given by God comes the power to obey that command. God will never ask you to do anything that he does not give you the power to do.

What are the idols in your life that take your attention away from God? You know what they are! You know the value you place on the salvation of your soul! You know the priority you set for God in your life.