Combat Training with God – 1 John 4:1-3

Test The Spirits

1 Dear friends, 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. 2 This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

Timely Test

Paul praised the Bereans for their willingness to research what He was saying in Scripture to verify the veracity of his claims.  We too should test those who claim to be from God, to see if they really are from God.  And the Apostle John has provided us with a litmus test: everyone who acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.  We must remember that the enemy is a liar and seeks to lead us astray.

We are to use discernment when we meet new people, and vet them to make sure that they are truly disciples of Christ before we believe what they say.  Even Atheists have memorized scripture and twisted it to their own means.  In these dark times, it is more important than ever to be careful in what we believe and in whom we believe.

Recognition to Remember

We must surely recognize that if anyone claims to be of God, but does not believe that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, they are not from God, and are preaching heresy.  For it is only through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ that we are freed from the bondage of sin and made righteous in God’s eyes.  Any other gospel is a false gospel, and should be avoided.

God has given us this so that we can use discernment in our dealings with others as they claim to be from God and yet are wolves in sheep’s clothing.  They seek to lead the elect of God away from the truth, because they believe that their version of the scriptures is true.  In these dark times, we must be vigilant to ensure that we are not misled into heresy.  We need to diligently comb through Scripture to ensure that what we hear is truth.  And in this, the whole counsel of God must be consulted to ensure that we are not misled.

Here is an example:  The Church of Christ denomination believes that baptism is a requirement for salvation.  Looking at the scriptures from one particular viewpoint, and excluding other scripture, a strong argument can be made for this position.  However, in view of the whole counsel of God, baptism is seen in the same light as communion: it is a privilege given to believers, not a requirement for salvation.  It is a practice to show identification with Christ and not a prerequisite for entry into the kingdom of Heaven.  For if it was a prerequisite, how could Jesus declare the thief on the cross to be with Him in Paradise?  Was he taken down and baptized?  And what about the prophesy of Joel that states:

And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved;
for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem
there will be deliverance,
as the Lord has said,
even among the survivors
whom the Lord calls.

In the case of the thief on the cross: he believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.  In Joel, there is no mention of baptism being required for salvation.  Baptism is a privilege and should be desired by disciples in Christ.  However, it is NOT a requirement for salvation.  For there is no place in scripture that says, “You must be baptized to see the kingdom of God”, or “you must be baptized to be saved.”  Jesus merely says,

“Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

Deadly Danger

The Greek word orthodoxy is made from two root words: ortho, meaning right, and doxy, meaning belief.  We must have right belief.  Right actions without right belief is self-righteousness.  Right belief without right actions is hypocritical.  The spirit of the antichrist (anything opposed to, or different from, Christ) is in the world today, and has been here from at least the time of the Apostle John.  We must guard ourselves from its power and influence.  We can be swayed when we hear things that tickle our ears.  We must rely upon the Holy Spirit of God and the word of God to properly discern these heresies.

That is why it is critical that anyone who claims to be a follower (disciple) of Jesus Christ MUST crack open the Bible, study it, and memorize parts of it to place in our hearts so that we would be better prepared for those who intentionally or misguidedly attempt to introduce anti-Biblical teachings in our lives.  A person who doesn’t know the word of God may be easily led astray.  Guard your heart and mind against the teachings from the spirit of antichrist through diligent study of the Bible and personal prayer with God.  And should anyone deny that Jesus has come in the flesh, recognize who they are and where they are coming from.  Otherwise, you run the risk of derailing your faith.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I taking the necessary time to read and learn the Bible to guard against heresy?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have given us Your word to counsel us and to reveal Yourself to us.  You have admonished us to be vigilant in our faith, and obedient in our practice.  Father, please help me to better learn and understand Your word so that I would not be fooled by anyone who would try to lead me astray.  Keep me faithful to You, and guard my heart against unrighteousness and desires that are not in alignment with Your word.  Help me to get more of Your word from my mind and into my heart that I would live out all that You have commanded me to do.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Freedom in Christ – John 8-32

Freedom is not Free

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

Finding Freedom

Freedom can only be found in the truth.  And there is only one person who can rightfully claim the title of truth – The Lord Jesus Christ.  The word freedom is bandied about quite a bit.  But what is really meant by “freedom”?  Have we not already been given free will?  Are we “free” from obeying laws?  Where are the boundaries of “freedom”?

Boundaries Bared

Christ came to fulfill the law, not abolish it.  So we find that we still have boundaries.  Jesus said:

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”

We also know:

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

The boundary of freedom is love.  So, what exactly are we being freed from?

Pardoned Prisoners

Sin entered the world through one man, and through one man we have been redeemed.  Sin leads to bondage.  When we sin, it is like we are taking a very powerful, very addictive drug.  It immediately has its grasp on your life.  And, just as an addict is a slave to drugs, we become slaves to sin.  When we sin, we voluntarily enter into bondage, whether we realize it or not.

Sin prevents us from living out a full life.  Just as boundaries exist to protect people from danger, sin creates a different type of boundary, much like a prison cell.  It keeps the person from being able to do what God has called them to do.  Every person has a calling from God on their life.  Most don’t recognize that or see their calling because of sin.  As a result, we often lead meaningless lives in pursuit of whatever will temporarily fill the void in our soul, a void that seeks to be filled.  That void can ONLY be filled by having a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  And we are prisoners in an invisible jail cell until we are freed by Jesus Christ, who brings truth to us.  And when we know the truth, we shall be set free from the bondage of sin.

Vexing Vigilance

But like God, who pursues all of us in an attempt at reconciliation with Himself, sin seeks to capture us again, and make us its prisoner.  John Philpot Curran said the following:

“It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.”

To keep free from sin requires eternal vigilance.  The world, the flesh, and the devil continually exercise pressure upon men to conform to their desires.  It is only by spending time with Jesus Christ every day that provides us the power, desire, and ability to withstand the tugs.  Like a reformed alcoholic who is forced to walk past bars and liquor stores every day, we must resist the temptation to once again indulge in that which caused our imprisonment.  Only through eternal vigilance in this shall a man remain free from sin’s grasp.

A Qualifying Question

So let’s ask ourselves a question: Am I resisting or yielding to the things that so easily ensnare me?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You sent Your Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for my sins.  My soul replies, “Hallelujah!”  Please help me as I navigate through this world.  I am bombarded every day with temptation.  Guard my eyes and my heart that I may not yield to it.  Rather, help me to yield completely to the guidance and leadership of the Holy Spirit that I may honor you, Father.  Your word says that when I am weak, You are strong.  Provide me with the strength to follow Jesus and resist evil.  Instill within me a steadfast spirit of contentment and obedience.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Abiding in Christ – Judges 16:20

The Price of Freedom is Eternal Vigilance

Then she called, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!”  He awoke from his sleep and thought, “I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the Lord had left him.

Complete Committal

One of the saddest phrases in the Bible is, “But he did not know the Lord had left him.”  Samson’s confidence in himself was the blessing that God had bestowed upon him – his great strength.  As long as no one cut his hair, God had poured out His blessing upon Samson.  He was so confident in God’s blessing upon his life that he started to do things that God had expressly forbade the Israelites to do:

Samson did not follow the Lord – he assumed he was fine because God kept blessing him with supernatural strength.  We need to be very careful, especially when God has blessed our ministry, that we are in the faith.  We need to be completely committed to God and His ways to prepare us so that we can avoid many pitfalls.

Subtle Separation

The separation from Samson from God didn’t just happen overnight.  It occurred over a period of time.  Sin does the same thing in our lives.  Once we veer off the straight and narrow path, we become further and further from the truth, and we are able to justify what we are doing.  The Holy Spirit will try to reconcile us, but if we ignore Him we will eventually sear our conscience (“con”=with, “science”=knowledge) and sin will truly blind us to what we are doing.  Samson kept going further and further away from God.  Although he led Israel for twenty years, he did so moving further and further away from God.

Odious Outcome

Captured now by his enemies, betrayed by his wife, eyes gouged out to cripple him, Samson languished in prison, a trophy of the Philistines.  We need to be very mindful of the consequences of our actions, especially when we are surrounded by people who seek to cause us harm, and possibly even death.  Samson is a prime example what can go wrong when we allow sin to reign in our lives.  David did the same thing when he went into the Philistine area during the time of Saul’s quest to destroy him.  He went there for a year and four months.  In that time, he lied to the king about who he was raiding and didn’t plan security for the wives and children which were under his care which resulted in their abduction by the Amalekites.

Resounding Restoration

God always wants us to come to repentance.  He restores us once we confess our sins and turn from them.  Samson had been humbled.  His hair had started to grow back.  Standing in the temple between the main pillars holding up the temple as the Philistine leaders gloated over their conquest of Samson, he asked the Lord to restore his strength.  And the Lord came upon him mightily.  In few moments, he destroyed the temple where they were and dealt a mighty blow to a people who had been oppressing Israel.

God seeks to restore us as well.  It doesn’t have to turn out in tragedy like it did for Samson.  We need to be on guard against the world, the flesh, and the devil.  We need to seek God with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength.  And through this vigilance we can avoid many of the pitfalls that we see of the great men of old in the Bible.  Their lives are both warnings and instructions to us so that we won’t repeat their mistakes.  But Solomon, the wisest person ever to live, rightly said “there is nothing new under the sun.”  Even with these warnings, we continue to do what we know is wrong.  But thanks be to God for His Son, Jesus Christ, who redeemed us and paved the path to repentance!

The Qualifying Question

So let’s ask ourselves a question: Do I learn from my mistakes?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You show us Your mercy and grace through Your Word.  Help me to be vigilant in all my ways that they may be pleasing to You.  Guard me from the influence of evil that I may walk in truth and righteousness.  Help me to abide in Christ, so that I may abide in You.  Help me to see the warning signs when I go astray, and reconcile me when I turn back to You.  Help me to have a steadfast spirit that is for You.  As You bless me and any ministries I am in, keep me free from pride and help me to keep everything in balance.  Deliver me from evil this day, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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