Witnessing for God – Matthew 10:16-20

It’s Not Paranoia When They Truly Are Out To Get You

16 “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. 17 Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. 18 On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. 19 But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, 20 for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”

Shrewd as Snakes

Jesus warns His disciples that they will need to be as shrewd as snakes.  He is, literally, sending them us into the pits of vipers.  The religious leaders did their very best to trap Jesus in what He said and did.  And Jesus, submitted to the Holy Spirit, saying only what He heard the Father saying through submission to the Spirit of God, was able to refute them, befuddle them, confound them, and reveal their very hearts to them.

Snakes are very shrewd creatures.  They make very little sound.  They study their prey, and carefully calculate whether they have both the ability and opportunity to take down their prey.  They slowly position themselves around their prey, giving it no opportunity for escape.  For some, they strike hard.  Others they reach out and coil around to slowly squeeze the life-breath out of them.  Others will drop from above without warning on their prey, surprising those that aren’t looking for them.

God desires that we be shrewd as well, for we will encounter these very same types of people looking to malign the good name of The Lord God Almighty.  Be aware of people and what they are trying to do.  Understand their tactics and do your best to prevent yourself from being waylaid.  But Jesus also gave His disciples another piece of advice – be as innocent as doves.

Innocent Inside

Doves were considered “innocent” because they have beautiful white feathers.  White is used throughout scripture as a sign of innocence and purity:

“Come now, let us settle the matter,”
says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.”

We are to be aware of our enemies’ ways, yet keep our ways pure.  Just because we understand what they do, we are to choose the path that keeps us as far from sin as possible.  Shrewd does not necessarily mean evil – it means wise.  And Jesus, shrewd towards His accusers, was as innocent as white snow – He never sinned once.  We must remember His example and conduct our lives in a similar manner.

Potential Placement

God fully intends to place His disciples in places where most people would not even be able to secure a private meeting.  He placed the apostle Paul in front of kings and leaders of men.  Paul was faithful in witnessing to them every time he was given the opportunity.  Be prepared to be arrested and brought before the authorities – Jesus has told us this in advance.  And do not worry what you will say, for when you are submitted to the Holy Spirit in obedience to the word of God and His leading, He will provide you with the words that you should speak.

Powerful Persuasion

God Himself, through the Holy Spirit, will provide you with everything that you need to witness.  We can see this in the lives of the apostles as recorded in the word of God in the book of Acts.  Peter, John, and Paul were repeatedly brought before the governors and kings for proclaiming the name of Jesus Christ and His message of salvation.  Their audiences were astounded when they realized that these men had been with Jesus, and apart from Paul (who had the equivalent training in today’s terms of at least a double doctorate in Theology), they were simple men who spoke boldly what they had seen and heard.

And when you are given the opportunity by God to witness, allow Him to provide you with the very words that you speak so that He may be given glory through your obedience to Him.  And when you allow Him to speak through you, He will powerfully use you to bring people into His kingdom.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I allowing God to use me in such a way that He is positioning me to reach the broadest of audiences and the people He wants to hear His message of salvation?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You provide for my every need.  Help me to speak boldly of you every opportunity that I am provided. Help me to submit to Your Spirit that I would speak the words that You intend for me to speak, and to be in the places You intend for me to be.  Help me to yield myself to You so that You can use me in the most powerful and efficient ways possible.  Help me to be bold as I speak, and to completely trust that You are sovereign over my circumstances, regardless of what they are.  Help me to keep my eyes firmly focused upon You, so that regardless of the outcome, You would be glorified and magnified among men.  This I ask in the precious and holy name of Jesus, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Combat Training with God – 1 Timothy 4:1-5

Not Everyone Who Claims To Be Of God Truly Is

1 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 2 Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. 3 They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. 4 For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.

Deceived by Demons

It would appear that many today have abandoned their faith to listen to the teaching of demons.  They seek to enslave the people of God by placing restrictions upon them that are not required of God, and thus leading them into bondage.  This does not bode well for the people of God, who are looking for good shepherds who will protect, feed, and care for the flock.  Great care and discernment must be used to recognize the dangers of allowing leaven to be introduced to the bread.  We must remember that a little leaven will affect the whole lump of dough, causing every part of it to be infected and affected.

Lauded by Liars

These individuals who are wreaking havoc among God’s people are those who refuse to love the truth, and so have been given over to a great delusion so that they would believe the lie.  They themselves become very skilled liars, seeking to deceive any that they can.  Lies become their trade, and they perfect their craft using their skills to get dishonest gain.  Scripture says that their consciences are seared as though they have been burned by a red-hot iron.  What could drive a person to such a place?  The only conclusion is that they never did know who God was, and therefore could never really trust Him to be alongside them in their trials and difficulties.

Powerful Prohibitions

Some of the prohibitions listed by Paul are reminiscent of the ones that we have read about in cults.  Several of the more recent cults have forbidden men and women to marry.  Only the leader of the cult can marry women and have relations with them.  These cults have a tendency to fall apart.  Nevertheless the damage is already done.  Additionally, they restrict the types of food that people can eat and beverages people can drink.  Everything that God has created is good for consumption (with some exceptions that could kill or hurt us).

God’s Goodness

When God created the Earth and everything in it, He declared that it was good.  It was the fall of Adam that brought the curse of sin, and the sacrifice of Jesus as a man hung on a tree and declared to be cursed to break the power of the curse of sin.  Now, everything is good again. People can now live their lives with the power of sin broken in ways that will honor and glorify God through submission to the Holy Spirit.

Paul has said that all things are lawful, but not all things are profitable.  It is up to the children of Almighty God to have discernment in choosing the things that are profitable rather than the things which are merely lawful.  Either way, all of these things have been declared by God to be good.  We need not worry about what we put into our mouths.  For it is what comes out of our mouths that defiles us.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I being a Berean and vetting what I hear from people against scripture before believing it?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Your Son Jesus Christ was sent to us to free us from the bondage of sin.  Help me to have a wise and discerning spirit so that I will not become entrapped by sin and the teachings of demons into a state of bondage ever again.  Guide me to Your word every time someone tells me something, and especially when it does not sound right.  Give me a heart of wisdom and may I seek You and Your counsel to verify all that I hear before I believe it.  Give the will, the time, and the ability to research these things so that I can be firmly convinced in my heart that what I hear from people who claim to be from You are truly from You and speaking Your truth.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Wolves Among The Sheep – Jude 3-4

Beware Of Those Who Are Wolves In Sheep’s Clothing

3 Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people. 4 For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.

Foundational Faith

As God’s people, we should rejoice and hold sacred the charge that has been given to us – the message of salvation from sin and reconciliation to God through Jesus Christ our Savior.  We are told to contend for the faith, and also to have an answer for anyone who would ask why we believe what we believe.

And while we don’t have the full picture, we should still learn and grow in our faith through the doctrines that have been laid out for us in Scripture.  Just as a soldier without a gun will be caught off-guard when faced by their opponent in war, so are Christians who don’t pick up their Bible, read it, learn it, and live it.

The sad part about the introduction to this short letter by Jude is that the invasion by the enemy into the people of Christ had begun just a few short years after Jesus was among them.  Although the apostles and the primitive church started in near spiritual purity, opportunity was seen by those whose father is the devil, and they promoted (and even to this day promote) themselves as beacons of light.  Paul had praised the Bereans for their trust-but-verify attitude, and they checked EVERYTHING that Paul said against scripture to see if it was true.  Regardless of who we listen to, we should do the same.  The enemy is planting tares in with the wheat.

Troublesome Tares

Tares are a plant that, when first sprouting, appear identical to wheat in appearance.  It is only after they begin to mature that the difference is noticeable.  Tares in the Church have an interesting appearance.  Although they look right at first, there are subtle differences.  When the church service is over, and during the week, their actions and words in public do not seem to match up with their profession of faith.  Great caution should be taken as they are evaluated, because the babes in Christ will act the same way as they are throwing off their grave-clothes.

But tares are different.  When confronted, they will say things like: “I’m just a babe in Christ” (even though they have been “walking with God” for more than a few years); “Don’t judge me – you aren’t the Holy Spirit”; “I’m working on that” (when they have been working on it for 20+ years, and there is no indication that they are even trying to address the particular issue).

Tares will also become proud, especially if they have successfully conned the sheep of God into believing that they are one of them and believe that the sheep can trust them.  Watch for such things as belligerence and turning on the people who approach them with a proper Biblical viewpoint.  “Attack your attackers” is a common way tares shut down people who come too close to unveiling them.  By turning the attention to the other person (and almost always in public, even if they were confronted in private), they try to place peer pressure on the one who confronted them.  But the person who confronts must be strong, even if the person is powerful enough and influential enough to have the person who confronted them removed the them from any office they hold in the church, or are asked to leave the church.

Penetrating Perversion

The tares desire to change the views of the sheep to their way of thinking and away from Biblical ways of thinking.  In just one specific example, within the Protestant churches there is a movement to allow the attitude of sexually desiring people of the same chromosomal pairings to be accepted not only as normal in the church, but also to promote them into leadership positions.  They have successfully moved the sheep away from the Word of God, even though there are multiple scriptures that refute this position:

24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.  26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.

9 Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

When the people of God agree that the current cultural position on any subject is more relevant than God’s position, they have strayed from the faith, and should be brought back with the Word of the Living God.  If they refuse (see Matthew 18:15-20), then no longer treat them as fellow brothers or sisters in Christ until they have repented.

Doctrinal Destruction

In doing these things, they say that God is love and grace.  Since all of our sins are moved as far as the East is from the West, they promote that God surely understands our circumstances and will surely give us grace as we engage in sin.  We just need to work on other areas of life first, and if we don’t get to that one before we die, we’ll be just fine.

We will be judged by what we know, and what we did with what we know.  We can either choose to accept that all scripture is God breathed, or not.  When we love our sin more than our Savior, we are in big trouble.  When our spiritual leaders say it’s OK to sin, and that God will forgive us because grace abounds, people flock to the message because they no longer have to deny themselves, pick up their cross, and follow Jesus.  This is a great abuse of grace.   People begin to lose their sense of the Holiness of God when they choose to openly sin, refuse to be obedient, and rely on the grace of God.  God views that as insolence.  And human parents tolerate that about as well as God does.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Are we carefully vetting what we hear from everyone to ensure that it is scripturally sound?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are full of mercy and grace. Your mercies renew every morning.  Father, please help me to be obedient to what I have been shown by You in scripture, and grant me mercy and grace when I fail.  Father, show me any areas where I am falling short, and help me to have the strength to overcome them.  Give me a sense of urgency in addressing sin in my life, regardless of the outcome, for I know that You are sovereign, and that I can trust You in all things.  Help me to have proper discernment when others tell me what You have shown them, so that I will not be misled into bondage or sin.  Guard my heart against the unrighteousness of the wolves in sheep’s clothing that the enemy has planted as tares among the wheat.  Protect me from them that I may honor and glorify Your name.  This I ask in the name of Your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?