Thursday, July 23, 2020

Life Is Dangerous…for Christians Too

Life is a battle – an intense spiritual battle that must be fought every day and on every front that our enemies assail us.  And yes, I say “us” because this battle must be fought by the believer in Jesus Christ.  It is true (and wonderfully true, indeed) that through our trust in Christ’s atonement, we are saved from the penalty of our sin. We are in Christ, adopted into His forever family; made a co-heir with Him; sealed with the Spirit of redemption; and indwelled with the Holy Spirit.  Our past decision to believe the gospel has secured our eternal future. That’s a done deal. 

But our present location (the fallen earth) and our present status (pilgrims in the adventure of sanctification) mean that we remain engaged in constant spiritual warfare.  We are not yet home. We are not yet free from the nagging of our flesh. And we are not yet free from the efforts of the devil to tempt and manipulate us into sin.  Therefore, the Christian cannot rest on his laurels.  He cannot relax his alertness and focus.  He cannot rely on his own strength and resources.  No, the battle rages on and we can only stand if we do so in full dependence upon Christ’s provision, protection, and empowerment.

Do you doubt the extreme seriousness of this situation?  Then note just the few Scriptures I print below. Keep in mind, they are not written as warnings or rebukes to non-believers. Rather they represent stern, practical warnings to those who do, in fact, know Christ as Savior.

1) “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert.  Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.” (I Peter 5:8-9, NASB)

Get it?  The would-be prey the devil is seeking is believers.  He’s going after you and me!  It’s true that he can’t steal our salvation. Jesus paid that debt once and for all when He died for our sins. Again, that’s a done deal.  Atonement is forever.  But, make no mistake, the devil can steal our joy, pollute our testimony, distract us from our duty, and cause us to miss out on eternal rewards.  And so Paul’s warning is a serious one.  Nevertheless, his exhortation is incredibly hopeful in that he reminds us we are not Satan’s patsies.  We can resist him.  We can remain steadfast.  We can win our battles.

2) “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”  (I John 4:1, NASB)

It could not be clearer here too that this exhortation is written to believers. The recipients of the epistle are addressed as “beloved.” But dangerous traps are laid for these saints and, apparently, a few have fallen into them already. The specific snare John mentions is in believing false doctrines spread by evil prophets. And the Greek verb used here is in the present imperative tense. That means that a better translation would be “stop believing every spirit.”  Let that sink in. Can the minds of genuinely Christian people be twisted by bad theology, bad morals, bad politics, bad priorities?  Yes, says the apostle. But it doesn’t have to be so. As clever as the devil tries to be, as alluring as the world presents itself, as intimidating as peer pressure and political-correctness is nowadays, and as comfortable we can get in our ruts of cowardice and compromise…there is always a standard of truth by which all temptations and lies and false promises can be judged.  Left to our own resources, we can be easily duped. But, praise God, He doesn’t leave us to our own resources! He has given us His Word. And as we study, meditate, and obey the holy revelations therein, we can correctly evaluate every teaching, every source. The Bible is the lamp that shows us the way to live and the Holy Spirit graciously gives us the power we continually need to walk in that light.

3) “Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God.  But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”  (Hebrews 3:12-13, NASB)

Like Paul and John, the writer of Hebrews also underscores that his warning is for those in the Church, for those he calls “brethren.” But, again, even though our eternal security in Christ cannot be touched, we can be defeated in the existential battles of life if we choose to operate in the “evil, unbelieving heart” of the flesh.  The correction?  Hold fast to our assurance, to our faith in God’s purity and power.  And, instead of listening to false spirits and/or the whining of our own carnal desires, pay close attention to the example, counsel, and intercession of fellow-pilgrims who are living all out for the Lord.

An incredible challenge? You better believe it! But it is a do-able challenge when we lean wholly upon the Lord for wisdom, strength, and joy in the battle.  We can be victorious.  We can light up the darkness.  We can hold high the banner of His righteousness in this sad, sick world.  And we can live lives of devotion, purity, love, faith, and expectation.

4) “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.  Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.  Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.  Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the Gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.”  (Ephesians 6:10-18, NASB)

Let’s do this!