Thursday, 22 October 2020

Keeping the Main Thing – the Main Thing.

 


I recently heard of a story attributed to the late John Stott. He spoke of a man who, when ordering his breakfast at the hotel asked for egg and bacon. When his breakfast arrived, there was on his plate egg, bacon and a sausage. The man complained to the waiter pointing out that he only wanted egg and bacon.  The waiter duly took away the plate and returned a short time later with the man’s breakfast. This time there was only an egg on the plate. The man again protested, ‘I asked for egg and bacon’ he said. The waiter apologised, took away the plate, later returning with what the man hoped was the breakfast he had asked for. As the plate was put before him, the man sighed. On the plate was a fish!

Credited to the author of the book ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ Stephen Covey said: The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. I can say amen to that.

But I do find it ironic that such a statement could come from a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Covey was a Mormon. Far from keeping the main thing the main thing Mormons, like many other religions and cults, either add a sausage, remove the bacon or give you a fish.

What is the main thing?

The main thing is the Gospel. The main thing is how a person is made right with God. This was uppermost and front and centre in the mind of the Apostle Paul:

‘Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…’ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)

The apostle here is setting out the gospel. Note the following points he makes.

It is this gospel by which they are being saved.

They are to hold fast to that which he proclaimed to them.

What he said to them were of first importance (the main thing)

Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures

Christ was buried and he rose on the third day, according to the Scriptures.

These things for Paul were the main thing. This is the gospel.

I have often asked Jehovah’s Witnesses what the gospel is and what is the good news they are sharing. I have never had one of them take me to 1 Corinthians 15 or even alluded to anything it contains. Their reply has always been to tell me in detail their version of the good news. It usually goes something like this: Armageddon is coming soon and I, through being baptised into their organisation, can escape annihilation, and live forever on a paradise earth. This is not the biblical gospel.

If I ask the Mormons the same question, they will often tell me about an illiterate young man named Joseph Smith who, when visited by an angel, was led to gold plates, which he in turn translated into the Book of Mormon.  If I accept Joseph Smith as a prophet sent by God and confess my faith in the restored church he founded, get baptised and faithfully follow the laws and ordinances of the Mormon ‘gospel’, I may become a god. This is not the biblical gospel.

These kinds of groups never talk about the main thing, they never share the biblical gospel, they are always ‘adding a sausage’.

Then we have so called liberal progressive Christians. If I were to ask them what the gospel is, they may say something along the lines of the good news is that God loves everyone. This leads them to teach that everybody will therefore be saved. It matters not how a person lives or what they believe. There is no need to trust the Scriptures or believe you are a sinner in need of forgiveness. You need not believe that Jesus died or that he literally rose from the dead. This is not the biblical gospel.

These kinds of groups never talk about the main thing, they never share the biblical gospel. They remove the meat of the gospel, the ‘bacon’.

Finally, there are other religions and cultic groups who have neither the egg nor the bacon but give you something completely different. These groups either leave Christ out completely or so downplay his person and role in salvation, that he is not important at all. There is no biblical gospel to be found. Think Buddhism, Hinduism, Scientology etc.

These groups like those mentioned above, never talk about the main thing, they never share the biblical gospel, they just offer something different, they give you a fish.

The simplicity of the gospel gives what the complexity of human wisdom promises but never delivers.

John MacArthur

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to make sure keep the main thing the main thing. Only the Lord Jesus can save. We need to know that we are wretched sinners in need of grace. Jesus died to pay my sin. He was buried to prove that he died. He rose again proving his victory over death and appeared to many to testify to this fact.

Paul encourages the Corinthian church to hold fast to these important truths and we believing the Scriptures to be the Word of God, must do the same. For this is of first importance – this is the main thing.  

Many will add a sausage, remove the bacon or offer you a fish – but only the true gospel of the Lord Jesus can save us!

Not the labour of my hands
Can fulfil Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.[1]



[1] Rock of Ages


Tuesday, 20 October 2020

Faith, Works, and Faithful Followers


Paul, in Romans, carefully argues that Gentiles are unrighteous before God (1:18-32); Jews are, likewise, unrighteous
before God (2:1-3:8); indeed, all are unrighteous before a holy God (3:9-20) In Romans 3 Paul shows, the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it – the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.’ (vv.21-22)

Father Abraham

Our model of this kind of faith, Paul writes, is Abraham (Ro.4:1-15) ‘Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness.’ (v.3) Paul carefully explains that this righteousness is not our due, as though we had earned it but, as with Abraham, it is a gift because we simply trusted God. In Romans 3 27-31 we read this gift of righteousness is for both Jews and Gentiles.

Indeed, in Romans 4 we are assured that Abraham is the father of the faithful, both Jew and Gentile:

We say that faith is counted to Abraham as righteousness. Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, and to make him the faith of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.’ (Ro.4:9-12; Heb.11:8-10))

Chapter 5 of Paul’s letter to believers in Rome begins, ‘Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ (v.1) It is this justification by faith that many find unpalatable. Surely, they ask, you must do something, it can’t be that easy. Well, it isn’t easy, and their objections demonstrate as much.

It isn’t easy to lay aside our pride, to confess our total inadequacy, to die to self, to lay down our rebellious arms and submit to a holy God. Total surrender is certainly not easy, but it is the way to attain peace with God. Consider Abraham’s saving faith:

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign and, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.’ (Heb.11:8-10)

The Tree Must be Made Good

If you will therefore be at peace with God, and love him, thou must turn to the promises of God, to the gospel, which is called of Paul...the ministrations of righteousness (2 Cor.3:9) and of the Spirit. For faith brings pardon and forgiveness freely purchased by Christ’s blood, and brings also the Spirit; the Spirit loosens the bonds of the devil, and sets us at liberty. For, ‘Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty,’ says Paul...that is to say, there the heart is free and hath power to love the will of God; and there the heart mourns that he cannot love enough. Now is the consent of the heart unto the law of God eternal life…’

Works are integral to the life of the faithful. Being justified and having peace with God by faith isn’t a licence to live as we please. We often hear people ask, ‘Does faith mean you can go out and commit murder and still go to heaven?’ What a strange notion! As Tyndale points out, if we would be at peace with God we must first turn to his promises and trust them. The consequences of such faith are:

Pardon and forgiveness freely purchased by Christ’s blood

The companionship of the Spirit to dwell within

A loosening of the bonds of the devil

Liberty and power to love the will of God

A Heartfelt consent to the law of God

Eternal life


Jesus tells us how to identify false prophets by the fruits of their lives and ministries:

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognise them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognise them by their fruit.’ (Mt.7:15-20)

The fruit does not make the tree good or bad, rather it is the fruit that signifies a good tree or a bad tree. The tree must be good in the first place for the fruit to be good. In the same way, a man’s good works don’t make him good. The man must be good in the first place for his works to be good. The Bible tells us, Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.’ (Prov.4:23) Jesus tells us, ‘What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart.’

A Sure Conclusion

Is your heart right before God? Do you know peace with God? If you would have peace with God, insists Tyndale, you must, like Abraham, look to the promises of God. I will let Tyndale have the last word:

This is therefore plain, and a sure conclusion, not to be doubted of, that there must be first in the heart of man, before he do any good work, a greater and a more precious thing than all the good works in the world, to reconcile him to God, to bring the love and favour of God to him, to make him love God again, to make him righteous and good in the sight of God, to do away with sin, to deliver him and loose him out of that captivity wherein he was conceived and born, in which he could neither love God nor the will of God…That precious thing which must be in the heart, ere a man can work any good work, is the word of God, which in the gospel preaches, offers, and brings to all that repent and believe, the favour of God in Christ. Whosoever hears the word and believes it, the same is thereby righteous; and thereby is given him the Spirit of God, which leads him to all that is the will of God...This Peter confirms in Acts fifteen, saying that God through faith purifies the hearts.’ (Acts 15:10)

Previous posts in this series:

Faith, Works, and Foot Washing

Faith, Works, and Philosophers

Friday, 16 October 2020

The Occult: Facing Down the Enemy

"Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith." (1 Pet. 5:8-9)

That enemy uses innumerable means to trap and devour the unwary. All he employs to frustrate and destroy the work of God has one thing in common; it appeals to the Adam in us all, the unholy ambition to be the gods of our own lives.

Pride, greed, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony, and sloth, the so-called seven deadly sins, appeal to our more base, self-serving, nature.

False religion, the society of secrets, supernatural powers, appeal to man’s spiritual pride, his determination to be master of his own destiny, god of his own world.

The Darkness of Spiritual Pride

We see spiritual pride at the Tower of Babel, where men built a tower to make a name for themselves. We see it in the desert when God’s people built a golden calf, the chosen choosing for themselves. We see it in the worship of Artemis in Ephesus, worship designed to harness her power over nature and fecundity to their own ends.

A people determined to make a name for themselves, rather than submit to the name above all names; a people determined to choose their own path, rather than the path God showed them through the prophet; a people determined to harness the power of a goddess to their own ends, rather than trust the maker and sustainer of all things, follow his plan and purpose.

We have seen that occult means hidden, it reminds us that Adam, having chosen his way over God’s way, hid in the Garden. The Bible tells us,This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil’ (Jn.3:19)

The Light in Which we Walk

As Christians, however, we are to walk in the light:

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.’ (1 Jn.1:5-7)

Just as God called out to Adam, so he calls us today to repent, receive forgiveness, and have fellowship with him once more, to walk in the light.

Even so, there is still so much darkness. The enemy remains, prowling like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. What are children of light to do? ‘For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night.’ (1 Thess.5:5)

He Who Is In Us

Our opening text, in 1 Peter, tells us to be self-controlled and alert, to resist the devil and the darkness, to stand firm. The devil loves our complacency, so we need to be alert. He preys on our appetites, for pleasure or for power, so we need to be self-controlled. He plays on our fears, so we must take courage and resist him. As in the Garden, he loves to sow doubt, so we must stand firm.

John affirms, We also know that he who is in us is greater than he who is in the world.’ (1 Jn.4:4)

There is so much ‘in us’ that is so much stronger than the darkness of the occult, of anything that would draw us away from God and his ways. We need to recognise this, not in a spectacular, fireworks light show sort of way, but in a, self-controlled, standing firm sort of way.

We need to be biblical, remembering God’s promises to those that love him.

We need to be biblical, learning and following God’s purposes in Christ.

We need to be biblical, trusting in the power and finished work of the Cross.

We need to be biblical, knowing his power in us to resist the devil.

We need to be biblical, seeing our resistance is truly putting the devil to flight.

"No weapon that is formed against you will prosper; and every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their vindication is from Me," declares the Lord." (Is. 54:17)

Previous posts:

A Counterfeit Supernatural Power

Ouija Boards and Other Abominable Practices

See on our Website: The Occult, Christ, and Christians

Thursday, 15 October 2020

PROGRESSIVE OR REGRESSIVE CHRISTIANITY? (Part 2)




Some time ago I posted a question on social media. The question I asked was this: ‘Which is more important Orthodoxy or Orthopraxy?’

The response was interesting, but not surprising. Apart from a couple of people who answered ‘huh?’, most people answered orthopraxy!

Why Orthopraxy?

When defined, the words orthodoxy and orthopraxy literally mean right belief and right action. So, my question revealed that most of those who responded thought right action to be of more importance than right belief.

Now I believe that when people saw my question, they presupposed what I was really asking was, which is more important doctrine or people? The answer then in their minds would be obvious, it is people.

In juxtaposing orthodoxy and orthopraxy and then asking a person to choose, I set up a false dichotomy because, orthodoxy and orthopraxy are of equal importance. They need each other. Right belief (orthodoxy) informs right action (orthopraxy). The problem comes when we have one without the other or allow one to trump the other.

Why Orthodoxy?

For the evangelical bible believing Christian right belief (orthodoxy) comes from the Bible. The Bible is the authority, it is the framework from which right action (orthopraxy) is to be drawn. Right belief then leads to right action. If the Bible is the Word of God, then its precepts are to be followed, it’s doctrine to be believed, it’s teachings to be taught and it’s principles to be lived. If the Bible is truly the Word of God, then to deny it, to ignore it, to seek to change it is a most dangerous thing; that would inevitably lead to wrong beliefs which will ultimately lead to wrong actions.

 Love Wins

“We should never be more loyal to an idea or an interpretation of a Bible verse than we are to people."[1]

The so called progressive ‘Pastrix’ Nadia Bolz-Weber, here sums up how progressive Christianity sees the world. People are more important than doctrine. This sounds right doesn’t it? After all, we should all agree that people are important. The problem with her statement though is what she means by this.

For the progressive ‘love wins.’ This means that they, not Scripture, will determine what is the most ‘loving’ course of action for a person. This leads them to deny orthodox Christian teaching on sin because it is not loving to tell someone they are a sinner. You can’t teach orthodox Christian ethics on sex and sexuality because it would be unloving to tell a same sex attracted person that how they feel is wrong. You can’t teach the orthodox Christian belief that Jesus is the only way to heaven, because that is unloving towards those of other faiths. You get the idea.

It is obvious that this kind of ‘all-inclusive’ progressive Christianity will be hugely attractive in an age of social activism, identity politics and cultural Marxism. It matters not what a person believes, they just need to know they belong.

This idea of putting people first and God’s word possible not even second, leads to a serious deconstruction of the historic Christian faith. That which has stood the test of time, that which was once and for all delivered to the saints,[2] is now side-lined as the prevailing culture determines what is now to be accepted. This is seen most manifestly in the progressive support of homosexuality.

Zeitgeist

“I am for marriage, I am for fidelity. I am for love, whether it's a man and a woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man. I think the ship has sailed and I think that the church needs to just … this is the world that we are living in and we need to affirm people wherever they are.”[3]  Rob Bell

 The church needs to just… what Rob? Get with the programme? Stop believing the orthodox Biblical view of marriage?[4] Disregard Jesus teaching?[5]

For the progressives the cultural zeitgeist is more important than biblical truth, or at least, biblical truth as understood by evangelicals.

The problem with this is that the moment you deny the Authority of Scripture, the moment you deny there is such a thing as absolute truth, then all is up for grabs. Everything is true and nothing is true. So, where does this leave progressive Christianity and the gospel – the good news regarding Jesus and the way of salvation.

The Gospel

But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Isaiah 53:5,6

“Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 2:38

Generally speaking, progressive Christians would say that people are inherently good, but they occasionally get things wrong. This view leads to the idea that people do not need to be saved from their sin which they have stored up against a Holy God. Rather, we are just naughty children that need to be aware that God loves us.

Because of this, many Progressive Christians see no need for repentance or atonement. The very idea that God would punish His only Son that we may be forgiven of sin is abhorrent to them. Steve Chalke likens this idea to a form of ‘cosmic-child abuse’.[6]

The inclusive nature of progressive Christianity then turns away from the need of individual repentance and faith in Christ, to a corporate everyone and everything is in idea. The afore-mentioned Nadia Bolz-Weber said:

“I confess that I am a Christo-centric universalist. What that means to me is that whatever God was accomplishing, especially on the cross, that Christological event, was for the restoration and redemption and reconciliation of all things and all people and all Creation—everyone.”[7]

Friends I close by pointing out, as if it were necessary, that progressive Christianity is dangerous. It lessens, weakens, and eliminates the gospel message and in doing so, puts its adherents in danger of hell.

Progressive Christianity is not Christianity at all.



[1] https://yaledailynews.com/blog/2018/02/02/bolz-weber-calls-for-new-christian-ethic/

[2] Jude 1:3

[3] https://www.charismanews.com/us/38737-controversial-teacher-rob-bell-endorses-same-sex-marriage

[4] Genesis 2:24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

[5] Matthew 19:4-5 “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 

[6] (Steve Chalke and Alan Mann, The Lost Message of Jesus, [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003], pp. 182-183)

[7] Jesse James DeConto, “For All the Sinners and Saints: An Interview with Nadia Bolz-Weber,” Religion & Politics, July 28, 2015https://religionandpolitics.org/2015/07/28/for-all-the-sinners-and-saints-an-interview-with-nadia-bolz-weber/.



Tuesday, 13 October 2020

Faith, Works, and Philosophers


 ‘Our doctrine is positive and life affirming...We refuse to believe, with some churches of Christendom, that the biblical account of the fall of man records the corruption of human nature or to accept the doctrine of original sin. We do not believe that man is incapable of doing the will of God, or is unable to merit the reward of Divine approval; that he is therefore totally estranged from God and that whatever salvation comes to him must come as a free and undeserved gift.’

(Hugh B Brown, Mormon apostle, April 1964 General Conference)

Wicked Mammon

In his work, The Parable of the Wicked Mammon, Tyndale brings a very specific charge against false prophets:

‘...[divers texts] many have enforced to draw the people from the true faith, and from putting their trust in the truth of God’s promises, and in the merits and deserving of his Christ, our Lord...and have taught them to put their trust in their own merits, and brought them in belief that they shall be justified in the sight of God by the goodness of their own works…’

Tyndale charges that such false prophets follow the wisdom of the world, typified by the philosophers of this world. He describes such worldly philosophers as ‘enemies to the gospel,’ citing Paul, who wrote:

For the word of the cross is folly to those that are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’ Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?’ (1 Cor.1:18-20)

Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.’ (1 Cor.2:6-10)

The quote above, from the Mormon leader Hugh B Brown, typifies what Tyndale addresses himself to, what Paul is warning us about. Brown makes clear his conviction:

  • Man is not corrupted in the fall

  • Man is not incapable of keeping the law

  • Man can merit Divine reward

When a Christian, then, declares we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, Mormons and others sneer at our ticket-to-heaven, token, easy-believism. It is an offence to them, this presumption on God’s good nature.

This is the thinking behind such statements as, ‘Ours is not a one day a week religion, ours is a seven day a week faith.’ This is what is behind the Jehovah’s Witness belief that they alone ‘go into all the world,’ obeying Jesus’ injunction in Matthew 28. Christendom, after all, is full of people who simply go to church; Snug.

This, however, is the philosophy and boasting of the world. The world cherry-picks its ideas and philosophies to make itself look good, to make itself god, and it does look good to the undiscerning. Who can fail to be impressed by the self-made man? But the self-made man has an unfortunate habit of worshipping his maker, no matter he tragically falls short (Ro.3). The Bible makes clear this won’t do:

You were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you walked, following the course of this world…children of wrath!’

Doing things the world’s way brings only death but, for many, this language is too strong. What many Christians struggle with is the imperative pressed upon us to choose between the world and the Kingdom of God.


 Fooled by the World or Saved by Grace?

That is why we see compromise with the world. Just as did Israel in following the condemned and forbidden ways of their neighbours, so we are drawn to compromise with the world in which we live, from which we are meant to have fled.

No wonder since it presses in on us from all sides, It’s the way people think and speak, the atmosphere they breathe and they don’t even reflect on it. Tyndale’s concern, our concern, is that we should not be fooled by the works salvation message of a lost and perishing world, with its false pride, and godless self-regard.

Paul goes on to write, ‘But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together in Christ-by grace have you been saved…’

Tyndale insists:

For in the faith which we have in Christ and in God’s promises find we mercy, life, favour and peace. In the law we find death, damnation, and wrath...The law when it commands that you shall not lust, gives you no power so to do, but damns you, because you cannot do so.’

It would serve well to consider those words in the context of Paul’s powerful message in Romans 7. Who, indeed, will deliver me from this body of death? Yet, works salvation, the philosophy of the world, insists this is scandalous. Believe me, we haven’t begun to see scandalous.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together in Christ-by grace have you been saved-and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.’ (Eph.2:1-9)

Where Hugh B Brown, and the world, sees man as principled, capable, and filled with potential, the Bible sees man as dissolute and dead, a child of wrath. Here is the scandal, that God, seeing us in that state of corruption, made us alive in Christ. This is the most dangerous idea of the Reformation, the most dangerous idea of Christianity. God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.’ (Ro.5:8)

Tyndale again writes:

If you will therefore be at peace with God, and love him, you must turn to the promises of God, to the gospel, which is called by Paul...the ministrations of righteousness (2 Cor.3:9) and of the Spirit. For faith brings pardon and forgiveness freely purchased by Christ’s blood, and brings also the Spirit; the Spirit looses the bonds of the devil, and sets us at liberty. For, ‘Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty,’ says Paul...that is to say, there the heart is free and has power to love the will of God; and there the heart mourns that he cannot love enough. Now is the consent of the heart unto the law of God eternal life...’

Previous Post:

Faith, Works, and Foot Washing

Saturday, 10 October 2020

A Counterfeit Supernatural Power

Occult means ‘hidden’ or ‘concealed.’ It is the opposite in every way of God’s progressive revelation. The closer our walk with God, the greater our insight into his ways. Conversely, the closer our association with the occult, the darker our world becomes.

The Bible warns us that there is a counterfeit supernatural power, that can perform wonders. Being aware of the existence, and of the root of the power at work, is vital. If we are not to be tricked by Satan we need to know his schemes (2 Corinthians 2:11)

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith…’ (1 Peter 5:8-9)

If Satan cannot stop us being saved, he will seek to compromise us, often by making us fearful. This is helpful to know, so that we are aware of what is happening in our own life, but also to understand how others are drawn in. Satan’s character is described in the Bible as, a deceiver (Rev.12:9), a causer of doubt in God (Gen’3:1-5), a liar (Jn.8:43-45), a tempter (Mt.4:1-11) and, if he can, a devourer (1 Pet.5:8)

We should not be surprised that the devil can counterfeit, to a degree, what God does. For instance, we have the changing of Aaron’s rod before Pharaoh. The Egyptian magicians could counterfeit that. However, God showed He was supreme in the events that followed and the magicians lost their magic rods for good! (See Exodus 7:8-13).

The occult contains a large spectrum of practices. Some, at the lower end of the scale, may seem harmless but they could be a doorway that leads down a path to something more sinister and dangerous. There is, really, no such thing as a ‘safe’ level of involvement in the occult. Whatever the situation we must remember that Satan does not play games.

Fear is a potent tool of the devil, it is the opposite of faith, it can paralyse us, make us ineffectual in stepping out in true faith. We must never underestimate the damage done by occultic practices, but neither should we ever give the devil more credit than he is due.

The battle is not yours but God’s

When Jehoshaphat, King of Judah, son of David, was told a great multitude was coming against him he was afraid, but his fear did not paralyse him:

Then Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout Judah. And Judah assembled to seek help from the LORD; from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the LORD.’ (2 Chron.20:3-4)

The Lord answered them:

All Judah stood before the LORD, with their little ones, their wives, and their children. And the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jahazeil the son of Zechariah...And he said, ‘Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the LORD to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s.’’ (vv13-15)

There is great truth in this, to which we must cling. We do not face the enemy alone, nor are we ill-equipped for the fray. We are reminded, as Christians, that, God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.’ (2 Tim.1:7) that, ‘perfect love casts out fear.’ 1 John 4:18)

We are encouraged to, ‘Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.’ (James 4:7) Paul reminds us, ‘Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.’ (Eph.6:11)

As we, like Jehoshaphat, consider soberly the enemy ranked against us, we must, like Jehoshaphat, know where our help comes from:

I lift my eyes up to the hills.

From where does my help come?

My help comes from the LORD,

who made heaven and earth.’ (Ps.121:1)

Last time we looked at Ouija Boards and other Abominable Practices