Monday, October 22, 2018

spiritual battle, Angels to Demons (2 Peter)

Mankind is born with a sinful nature.  God is holy and cannot have a relationship with sin.  Therefore unless a person is perfect - they cannot go to heaven.  Only when we become believers, confessing our sins, do we become righteous in God's eyes and escape judgment and eternal punishment.

I've heard many people say they don't need God's forgiveness, because they are not "that bad" - telling themselves that surely God - who is loving and good - will let them into heaven because they are essentially "good".

Then there are those people who love being bad - telling themselves that there is no God or judgment or hell.  Or - they simply don't care - telling themselves that evil is better than good.

So here in the scriptures, we are reminded that God does judge and there will be a final judgement day of all sins!  Right now there are consequences to sinful behavior.  Just from history, throughout the Bible, we can see how God has dealt with various situations.

Even when (about a third of) the angels rebelled, God was not afraid of carrying out judgment!  They made their choice!  And He committed them to darkness - those angels became demons - and they will also face a final judgment and eternal punishment.

Knowing all of this should wake people up to realize that God is love, but He is also just...

(2 Peter 2:1-22)  But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.
For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgmentand did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; and if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly lives thereafter; and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds), 9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment, 10 and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority. Daring, self-willed, they do not tremble when they revile angelic majesties, 
11 whereas angels who are greater in might and power do not bring a reviling judgment against them before the Lord. 12 But these, like unreasoning animals, born as creatures of instinct to be captured and killed, reviling where they have no knowledge, will in the destruction of those creatures also be destroyed, 13 suffering wrong as the wages of doing wrong. They count it a pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are stains and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, as they carouse with you, 14 having eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed, accursed children; 15 forsaking the right way, they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; 16 but he received a rebuke for his own transgression, for a mute donkey, speaking with a voice of a man, restrained the madness of the prophet.
17 These are springs without water and mists driven by a storm, for whom the black darkness has been reserved. 18 For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, 19 promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved. 20 For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. 21 For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them. 22 It has happened to them according to the true proverb, “dog returns to its own vomit,” and, “A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire.”

From this we see:
- God committed the rebellious angels to darkness and they will face a final judgment and eternal punishment (2:4)
- demons do, but God's angels do not bring accusations against God's children (2:11)

Personal experience:  there has been a trend in the last few decades where it has become fashionable to be bad.  Things like shoplifting, premarital sex, promiscuous sex, having a same-sex-experience, using marijuana - is now a rite of passage.  Like, if you have not done all of these things, you are not complete.  And so we hear people not just admitting - but - bragging about it - because they are now more experienced and rounded as a person.

Today's takeaway:  interestingly, our society is struggling more and more with discontentment, depression and anxiety...

Sometimes, it is necessary for a doctor to prescribe medication.  But for an overall healthy attitude towards life - and more importantly, for our spiritual health - only salvation through Jesus, and having His forgiveness and love in our lives can help us!  He provides us with contentment, joy, confidence and courage... 

Because God is just as well as loving and fair, He gives everyone enough time to make their eternal decision...

(2 Peter 3:3-18)  Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.
But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.
11 Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! 13 But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.
14 Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, 15 and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, 16 as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. 17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, 18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

spiritual battle, The Devil Prowls (1 Peter)

Salvation (eternal life) and having God's light is only possible through Jesus, who paid the price and conquered death and darkness...

(1 Peter 3:8-22)  For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; 19 in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, 20 who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. 21 Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.

Even though Satan looks for those he can devour, because Jesus has dominion over darkness, we just have to look to Jesus for our protection...

(1 Peter 5:6-11)  Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. Be of sober spiritbe 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. 10 After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. 11 To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.

From this we see:
- when Jesus died for our sins, He went and made a proclamation to the demons (3:19)
- Jesus conquered death and darkness and has dominion over all (3:22)
- we have been called out of darkness and into God's light (2:9)
- resist the spiritual battle of lust in our flesh (2:11)
- be sober and resist the devil who prowls, looking for someone he can devour (5:8)

Personal experience:  notice in 1 Peter 5:7 that we are to cast all our anxiety on Jesus!  All our worries and our fears!  The demons will try whatever they can to keep us from looking to God.  This includes trying to make us fearful.

I remember as a little girl, my room was right next to the basement stairs.  There was one particular night that I kept hearing sounds - like footsteps plodding up the stairs - up and up and up.  I felt a dread come over me, until I started to pray.

Years later, my younger brother (who had been involved in the occult until he had become a Christian) told me that there were several demons who hung out at our house.  One was usually in the basement, beneath my room.

My older brother always had to share a bedroom with the younger brother.  In the earlier years, he would be screaming for Mom and Dad because he was seeing spiders all over the room.

Then later in high school, he had been just laying in bed when he heard his guitar start to violently strum on its own - then all of the strings broke - one at a time.  I don't have to tell you that this would raise the hair on the back of one's neck!

Today's takeaway:  we have been called out of darkness, yet we will still experience a spiritual battle around us and within our own flesh;  so we have to remember that we are now in God's light and we should want to rest in that and reflect that to the rest of the world...

(1 Peter 2:9-12)  But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nationa people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
11 Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. 12 Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe themglorify God in the day of visitation.

Friday, October 19, 2018

spiritual battle, Resist the Devil (James)

The book of James is very clear and practical.

We live in a fallen, sinful world, so there will be tests and trials that we go through.  We will sometimes suffer the consequences of that fallen world, and the consequences of other people's sinful behavior.

And we were born with a sinful nature.  So while believers are still on earth, we will still struggle with falling into temptation and the consequences of our own sinful behavior,

Temptation comes from our own lusts, as well as from demonic activity.  Temptation itself is not a sin.  It is acting on that temptation that is the sin.  And it is completely our choice to sin or not to sin!

None of this is God's fault!  God only gives good gifts!  When we look to Him for help, He will help!!!...

(James 1:12-18)  Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 15 Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. 16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. 18 In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.

I've used the chair illustration a few times, so I'll use something else.  In advertisements, we often see celebrities saying, "I believe in this product!"  But sometimes they are only being paid to say that.  Their statement would only be true if they actually consistently used the product and saw the results.

God helps those who believe in Him.  Belief in God is more than just a cerebral recognition that God exists, and that Jesus and the Holy Spirit is part of the Trinity.  Belief is actually putting our faith and trust in Him as our Lord and Savior.  Belief in Him is following His directions - and using Him as our strength and wisdom and guidance, etc. - because we know that what He says is right and true and actually works!...

(James 2:14-20)  What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? 17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.

18 But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” 19 You believe that God is oneYou do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. 20 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? 

A friend to the world is an enemy to God!

I know some people think this is such an extreme statement.  They'll even joke about, "It's good to be a little bad."  Even Oprah exclaimed in one of her shows that God would never be jealous!

Now, remember that God is always present.  And as believers, we have the indwelling Holy Spirit, because we have accepted Jesus' work on the cross - a sacrificial love that goes beyond anything - and we have committed our souls to Him and have a personal relationship with Him!  We have chosen to make Him our Lord and Savior of our lives!

So let's put this in human terms.  Let's say you and your spouse are out for the evening to celebrate your anniversary.  And your spouse starts flirting with someone.  And that someone is enjoying the game, knowing that there's a chance to put a wedge between the both of you.  They will not stop - unless and until your spouse completely ignores them and puts all the attention back on you.

Are you jealous?  You should be!!!  Any sort of attention like that is only meant for you!!!...

(James 4:1-10)  What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”? But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit therefore to GodResist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.

From this we see:
- God does not tempt us, and God is not tempted by evil (1:13)
- the demons believe that God is one, they know who Jesus is (2:19)
- submit to God! and resist the devil and he will flee from you (4:7)

Personal experience:  my husband and I have a strong, committed relationship that works - because we are committed to WORKING at keeping the relationship strong!  And let me tell you, it is work!

We had been married for about a year when we attended a wedding of one of my husband's work friends.  Naturally we sat at a table with other work friends.  And I know my husband was just being polite;  but during the meal there was a woman who saw the chance to play a game.

It was very obvious - to me - that she was playing a game, because every so often she'd look my way and gloat, because my husband's attention was completely on her.  And she was doing things with her hands that were quite suggestive.

So when the music started playing, I cheerfully said to my husband, "Come on!  Let's dance!"  And while we were on the dance floor, I asked him if he realized what he was doing.  He had no idea.  But after I explained how he had been ignoring me and playing into her game, he apologized, and for the rest of the evening we had fun.

Not that we ignored the people around us, but the appropriate amount and the appropriate kind of attention was dispersed.  And so, the other woman had to look for another source of entertainment.  I'm not saying she was the devil, but her intentions were certainly not pure.

Today's takeaway:  some temptations are in our face, while others are subtle and deceptive.  Either way, they will disappear from our sight when we keep our eyes on Jesus and work on our commitment with Him...

(Psalm 37:1-40)  Do not fret because of evildoers, be not envious toward wrongdoers.
For they will wither quickly like the grass and fade like the green herb.
Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He will do it.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light and your judgment as the noonday.
Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who carries out wicked schemes.
Cease from anger and forsake wrath; do not fret; it leads only to evildoing.
For evildoers will be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord, they will inherit the land.
10 Yet a little while and the wicked man will be no more; and you will look carefully for his place and he will not be there.
11 But the humble will inherit the land and will delight themselves in abundant prosperity.
12 The wicked plots against the righteous and gnashes at him with his teeth.
13 The Lord laughs at him, for He sees his day is coming.
14 The wicked have drawn the sword and bent their bow to cast down the afflicted and the needy, tslay those who are upright in conduct.
15 Their sword will enter their own heart, and their bows will be broken.
16 Better is the little of the righteous than the abundance of many wicked.
17 For the arms of the wicked will be broken, but the Lord sustains the righteous.
18 The Lord knows the days of the blameless, and their inheritance will be forever.
19 They will not be ashamed in the time of evil, and in the days of famine they will have abundance.
20 But the wicked will perish; and the enemies of the Lord will be like the glory of the pastures, they vanish—like smoke they vanish away.
21 The wicked borrows and does not pay back, but the righteous is gracious and gives.
22 For those blessed by Him will inherit the land, but those cursed by Him will be cut off.
23 The steps of a man are established by the Lord, and He delights in his way.
24 When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.
25 I have been young and now I am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken ohis descendants begging bread.
26 All day long he is gracious and lends, and his descendants are a blessing.
27 Depart from evil and do good, so you will abide forever.
28 For the Lord loves justice and does not forsake His godly ones; they are preserved forever, but the descendants of the wicked will be cut off.
29 The righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever.
30 The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice.
31 The law of his God is in his heart; his steps do not slip.
32 The wicked spies upon the righteous and seeks to kill him.
33 The Lord will not leave him in his hand olet him be condemned when he is judged.
34 Wait for the Lord and keep His way, and He will exalt you to inherit the land; when the wicked are cut off, you will see it.
35 I have seen a wicked, violent man spreading himself like a luxuriant tree in its native soil.
36 Then he passed away, and lo, he was no more; I sought for him, but he could not be found.
37 Mark the blameless man, and behold the upright; for the man of peace will have a posterity.
38 But transgressors will be altogether destroyed; the posterity of the wicked will be cut off.
39 But the salvation of the righteous is from the LordHe is their strength in time of trouble.
40 The Lord helps them and delivers them; He delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in Him.