Fundamental Christian Attitudes: Thankfulness

Let’s open our Bibles tonight to the next in our study regarding the anatomy of the church.  One of the essential attitudes, one of the essential motivations, essential spiritual realities in the life of the church, through which its life flows, is gratitude.  As we’ve been talking about the church – and we’ve been having such a wonderful time over the last number of months – as we have been talking about the church, we have been talking about its various internal systems; those attitudes, those concepts, those spiritual realities, those motivations that carry the life of the church, that carry its spiritual life, its real life.  We talked about faith, and obedience, and attitudes of love, and humility, and unity, and forgiveness.

And this morning we talked about joy.  It was a wonderful, wonderful study, I think, for all of us, and in some ways, these studies come and go too fast.  We can hardly imbibe one.  I really have never done this in the years of ministry here – that is, to do a series Sunday morning and Sunday night.  I always kind of give you a week to think about it and let it sort of settle in your heart, but we’re moving pretty fast – but you’re up to it, and you can carry two messages through the week, and let God use them both in your heart.  But we want to talk about this spiritual attitude of thankfulness, of gratitude. 

I can remember many, many years ago reading a very fascinating story in Luke’s gospel that has stayed with me as one of those passages that lingers in my mind, and the Spirit of God brings it back to me.  It comes in chapter 17 of Luke, and verse 11.  “And it came about, while He was on the way to Jerusalem, that He was passing between Samaria and Galilee” – up on the north part above Jerusalem – “and He entered a certain village.  And as He did, ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him.”  Lepers always stood at a distance because it was believed, and probably true, that their particular disease had infectious capabilities, and so they were basically quarantined, and isolated into leper colonies, and they were kept to themselves, apart from any interaction with healthy people. 

And so these ten lepers stood at a distance from Jesus, “and they raised their voices.”  They had to yell at Him from a distance.  Verse 13, “saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.’  And when He saw them, He said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’”  It might seem like a strange command, but it wasn’t, because when a leper believed that he had indeed recovered from his disease and was well, he was to go the priest, and there was to be a purification ceremony to assure that that, in fact, was the case, as much as they could in ancient times.  And then he could recirculate among the people.  And so Jesus said to them, “‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’  And as they went,” it says, “they were cleansed.”

Now, they started out in an act of faith heading for the priests.  Nothing had happened before they started in that direction; it happened as they were going.  Ten of them – this is the remarkable part of the story.  “One of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him.  And he was a Samaritan.”  It’s almost inconceivable that one could be cured of something as terrible as leprosy; something which rendered a person socially unclean, and ceremonially unclean, and put you in an isolation with others of that same frightening disease.  Cut yourself off from the family, and loved ones, and the synagogue, and all the social events, all the interaction that makes up life.

And then to be totally cleansed – you would think that ten of them would have come back, and fallen at the feet of Jesus, and given thanks.  The only one who did, interestingly enough, is a Samaritan.  And the interesting part about that is there was no love lost between Jews and Samaritans.  There was a mutual hate that had been engendered by the fact that Samaritans were a half-breed people.  That race of people came from the loins of Jews who intermarried with Gentiles, a despicable thing to most Jews in the ancient world.  And so this was remarkable indeed, for here came a Samaritan, falling on his face at the feet of a Jew, and thanking Him.

“And Jesus answered and said, ‘Were there not ten cleansed?  But the nine, where are they?  Was no one found who turned back to give glory to God except this foreigner?’  And He said to him, ‘Rise, go your way; your faith’” – literally in the Greek – “‘your faith has saved you.’”  Ten got healed, one got saved.  It’s a wonderful story for the one; it’s a tragedy for the nine.  It illustrates that how ugly ingratitude is, being unthankful – how hard to understand that these people could so quickly forget the very one who was the source of their cleansing.  In Romans, chapter 1, as we think about this matter of gratitude, when the apostle Paul indicts society, sinful society, when he indicts the nations of the world, the indictment is very specific. 

He says in verse 21, of Romans 1, “Even though they knew God.”  Everybody coming into the world knows God, they don’t know Him personally, they don’t know Him savingly, but they know Him.  They know Him through reason; they can observe creation, and reason to a first cause, and know a lot about that first cause by the character and nature of creation, in all of its manifestations.  And they can know God as judge, by the understanding of moral law that is written into the fabric of their life; Romans 2 talks about that.  The Gentiles who have no law have a law written in their hearts, and a conscience to go with it, which activates the law in response to their behavior.  So they know God through reason, and they know God through the moral law in their hearts. 

But you notice in verse 21, “even though they knew God they did not honor Him as God or give thanks.”  It is right at the top of God’s list of damning sins – ingratitude – ingratitude.  It so characterizes fallen men, it certainly shouldn’t characterize God’s people.  We can understand that nine lepers who didn’t know God could be thankless.  We can understand a world of thankless people.  I cannot understand a thankless Christian when we understand what the Lord has done for us.  Nor can God understand a thankless Christian.  Turn to 1 Thessalonians, again chapter 5, where we were this morning, and let’s go back to another command there; verse 18, and again a very brief command. 

Verse 18 says, “In everything give thanks.”  And that’s all we need to look at.  Obviously, “this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”  In everything give thanks.  God desires this.  That little phrase at the end of verse 18 actually follows all three commands, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and in everything give thanks.”  All three of those sum up God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  In the Old Testament sacrificial system there were sin offerings, and sin offerings were to be constant reminders to the people of their sinfulness.  They would just go in and give them over, and over, and over, and over – it was not only the offering of the day of atonement, but all through the year there were necessary sin offerings being made, and the people of Israel were making them at all times. 

There were actually twenty-four courses of priests who came down to Jerusalem, and each course of priests served for two weeks, and that made up the full year.  And they spent those two weeks coming from their various towns and villages where they lived, coming to the temple, and they spent those two weeks with blood up to their elbows, butchering incessantly the animals that were coming in to be offered as sacrifice.  None of those animals could take away sin but they were constant reminders to the people of their sinfulness, and the requirement of sinfulness which is death, the desperate need of forgiveness, atonement, cleansing, and righteousness before God.  But there were another kind of offering that was given in the Old Testament; they were called thank offerings – you remember them – and also called in Leviticus peace offerings. 

And those were designed not to remind the people of sin, but to remind the people of their need to be thankful to God for all of His merciful, gracious provisions for their needs.  They would bring in a sheaf of grain as a thank offering.  They would bring oil and wine as a thank offering.  And those were symbols of all of God’s provision, and reminders that they needed to be thankful to God, who supplied everything.  Even today as a church, since our Lord Himself ordained it, we have a ceremony as Christians.  We call it communion, or the Lord’s Table, or the Lord’s supper, and it combines both the elements of the sin offering, in terms of its memorial character, and elements of the thank offering into one. 

We remember Christ, the sacrifice for our sins, and we offer up thanksgiving for all that that sacrifice has accomplished for us.  So when you come to the Lord’s Table, you come to what is a table of thanks.  Now, let’s go back to this text, even if it is so brief, and remind ourselves of this simple command: “In everything give thanks.”  It’s a lot like “rejoice always,” because it has that unlimited requirement – in everything, en panti in the Greek.  It has the idea of being in connection with everything that occurs in life, no matter what it is, and as I noted this morning, with the exception of personal sin – with the exception of personal sin.  In everything give thanks, no matter what the situation is, no matter what the difficulty, no matter what the trial, we are to find reason to thank the Lord. 

And as I noted for you, thanklessness is a sin that characterizes the unregenerate, those who know not God.  In fact, just to expand your understanding of that a little bit, remind yourself of 2 Timothy 3.  In that text it says, “Realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come.  For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy.”  And what Paul is saying there is that in the last days, ingratitude will characterize people.  Down in that same chapter, in verse 13, he said that “evil men will get worse and worse.”  The closer we get to the coming of Christ, the more wicked men become; the more wicked they become, the more thankless they are. 

Thus we are not surprised to see unsaved people going through life complaining, bitter, angry, thankless, without any gratitude, expecting everything good that comes their way, and a lot more.  The unregenerate man in our culture, in our time, views life as moving along a path of manipulation and luck combined.  He manipulates as much as he can, and hopes for luck to come in and help him.  Or he may view life fatalistically, as some inevitable force which he must reluctantly accept, and he can’t do anything about it.  Or he may view life as the end product of his sheer genius, of his great effort, of his amazing skill.  And we even hear people today be so brash as to thank themselves for what they are.

So there are those people who just complain and hope for some lucky break.  There are those people who fatalistically think they can’t change anything, and so reluctantly accept what comes with a thankless heart, believing they are at the mercy of the fates that are purely random.  Or there are those people, those unsavory and egotistical people, who think that everything good that comes their way in life is purely the product of their own human genius.  But for believers, we know God is at work.  And we know that God is unfolding a divine agenda, and a divine plan, and a divine purpose.  Each component determined by Him for our benefit, and our good, and His glory. 

He’s leading us to a sovereignly designed goal.  We quoted that wonderful verse this morning: “For we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.”  God is unfolding a purpose, and the end of that purpose is good for His own.  In fact, 1 Peter 4, in verse 12, Peter says, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you.”  It’s not strange to go through a fiery trial.  It’s not strange to go through testing when God knows the end result.  So as we said this morning, whatever may come into life should be treated with joy, and now we want to add with gratitude – with gratitude. 

As Christians, we sin often, I think, with our ingratitude.  It’s not just the lack of joy that is a sin; it’s the lack of gratitude.  We ought to be thanking God for every blessing, every small blessing, every small goodness, every large goodness, every little thing that God provides for us.  And I think that’s why, in 1 Timothy 4, the apostle Paul said that you can eat anything, as long as you receive it with thanksgiving.  Sometimes, when I bow my head in some circles to thank the Lord for my meals, which I always do at every meal, somebody will say to me, “You know, that’s a little bit legalistic.”  And my response to that is, “Nah, it’s not legalistic, it just reminds me of where every single thing comes from.” 

And I need that – I need that so I don’t take God’s goodness for granted.  The early church made thanksgiving an actual part of their fellowship, and that is not a bad idea, believe me.  In 1 Corinthians, chapter 14 – by the way, a very interesting chapter, with a lot of interesting issues – but one of the things that gets passed over in this wonderful chapter is down in verses 16 and 17.  He’s talking about blessing.  In verse 16, he says, “If you bless in the spirit only, how will the one who fills the place of the ungifted say the ‘amen’ at your giving of thanks?”  He’s talking here about speaking in tongues, or if you’re praying with the spirit, that is, in a way that is not a language that can be understood, if you’re singing with the spirit, people don’t know what you’re singing. 

If you’re blessing with the spirit, in verse 16, and they cannot understand what you’re saying, how can they say “amen” at your giving of thanks?  Now, the thing I want to point out here is it must have been a common part of worship when the people of the Corinthian assembly came together for public thanks.  They were singing, they were praying, and we do that, and they were saying thanks.  Verse 17, “You are giving thanks well enough, but when you do it in a way that people can’t understand, the other person is not edified.”  So the point to draw there is that part of the church’s celebration of worship involved a time of giving thanks. 

I try to do that in the prayer that I pray.  We try to do that in the hymns that we sing, but we want you to do that from the heart.  It would be impossible, as you can imagine, in a church this large, for everybody to stand up and say thanks, but that attitude of thanks should be rising up within you.  And how often this kind of attitude is missing in the discontent of this age, when we have so much, so much, but not enough to be thankful.  It would be so much easier if we were deprived of almost everything, and we would be filled with exhilarating thanks with just the smallest morsel of bread.  In 2 Corinthians, chapter 4 – again, this is such a wonderful verse, 2 Corinthians 4; we studied it some months ago, verse 15. 

Paul is here defining his ministry as to its purpose, and he says, “For all things are for your sakes.”  I mean he didn’t do what he did for himself; if he had his own way he’d go to heaven, he said that, “Far better to depart and be with Christ.”  He didn’t do what he did because he enjoyed persecution, and suffering, and pain.  It was all for their sakes.  He endured it all, took the pain, took the suffering, for their sakes, “in order that the grace which is spreading,” that’s saving grace, “which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to redound to the glory of God.”

Christians today, fussing and fuming and stressed out, and disappointed, depressed about every little thing in their life that doesn’t go right, and that’s a really disgusting sin.  Your heart ought to be so overflowing with thanks that it ought to redound, as it says at the end of the verse, or abound to the glory of God.  That’s what happens, you see, when saving grace comes and spreads among people; it just causes more giving of thanks.  Paul’s saying it’s like every time somebody is converted, we add them to the “Hallelujah Chorus.”  It should be the normal pattern for Christians to be grateful, and thankful, and overwhelmed with thanks. 

I’m very disappointed in people who are discontent, and unsatisfied, and unhappy, and don’t like their circumstances, and don’t like this, and don’t like that, and want to change their environment, and change this, instead of being overwhelmed with gratitude for God’s great grace.  In the ninth chapter of 2 Corinthians, Paul reminds all of us about how great God is, and how rich He is, and how He pours out those riches on those who give.  Remember, this section in chapter 8 and 9 is about giving, but pick it up in verse 11, where he says, “You will be enriched in everything for all liberality.”  In other words, when you give, and you bring your money, and you give it to the Lord, and you give your resources, and you give all that you are and have to Him, it says you will be enriched. 

In other words, you can’t out-give God.  Remember, “Give and it shall be given unto you, pressed down, shaken together and running over,” it says in Luke?  “Sow sparingly, reap sparingly; sow bountifully, reap bountifully,” it said earlier.  “God” – in verse 8 – “is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.”  The whole principle here is that when you give God pours it back.  You’re investing and He pours back a dividend.  You’re sowing and He brings in the crop.  You’re putting something in the cup and He fills it to overflowing.  You’re investing with God and He pours it back.  Why?  Verse 11, “You will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing” – what – “thanksgiving to God.” 

God wants to be thanked.  And when He indicts the whole of the fallen human race, He says, “They’re not thankful – they’re not thankful.  They don’t acknowledge Me as the source of everything.”  God is worthy to be thanked.  And that’s one of the reasons He saved you, to add you to the “Hallelujah Chorus,” and you’re going to spend forever thanking Him for it – you ought to start now.  And that’s the reason that when you give, He gives back, because He wants to hear your thanks.  In fact, verse 12 follows it up.  “For the ministry of this service” – in other words, when you give, when you give your money – “is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints” – it’s not just that you’re giving so that needs can be met and ministry can go on – “but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God.” 

Now, look, this is a big picture.  You give generously, God gives back, and you say thanks.  The church takes your money, translates it into ministry to other people, and they say thanks, and thanks is multiplied, and God is glorified.  You see, in verse 13, he says – remember the scenario here.  The Corinthians were giving money.  The money would be taken to the poor saints in Jerusalem.  It would be given to them to meet their needs.  And, in verse 13, he says, “Because of the proof” – the proof of your love – “given by this ministry” – this money – “they will glorify God for your obedience to your confession of the gospel of Christ.”  They’re going to praise God that your salvation is real.  They’re going to praise God for how He’s changed your life, as manifest in the liberality of your contribution.

And then, verse 14: “While they also, by prayer on your behalf, yearn for you because of the surpassing grace of God in you.”  And then everybody is going to say, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!”  God wants our thanks in everything.  He wants it in everything.  Turn to Ephesians, chapter 5.  Thanks should be a part of our normal speech.  I suppose if we get this new greeting “rejoice” going we talked about this morning, and somebody says, “Rejoice, good morning, good evening, rejoice,” you might say, “I am, because I have so much” – what – “to be thankful for.”  Look at Ephesians 5: “Do not let immorality” – porneia, sexual sin – “or any impurity” – that’s a word that would mean every other form of sexual sin – “or greed even be named among you, as is proper among saints.” 

“And” – verse 4 – “there must be no filthiness” – dirty talk – “no coarse jesting” – that’s a word for obscenities; no filthy talk, no foolish talk, no obscenities – “which are not fitting, but rather” – what – “giving of thanks.”  Boy, those two are far apart, aren’t they?  When you open your mouth, give thanks – give thanks.  I was in the home of Pastor Constantine in Belarus, and he had been in prison for many years; and a godly, saintly man, pastor for many, many years.  I have preached in his church many times, many, many hours.  I taught the whole New Testament there.  They invited me for six days.  I said, “What do you want me to speak on?”  They said, “We want you to teach the whole New Testament.” 

In six days, to 125 young pastors in training, in Minsk, in Belarus.  I said, “That’s very difficult, to cover the whole thing in six days, especially through translators.”  And they had to use three translators, ’cause it’s tiring to do translation.  And so they kept changing, and I just kept going, for six days.  Look, I like potatoes better and they have those, so I don’t know who told them that.  And I felt terrible when this dear lady said she got rice, because she knew I liked rice.  I mean who likes rice?  Rice is rice, but that was – put something on it I like it, you know.  But, I mean that’s the kind of people they are.

And so we sat at the table, and we ate this lovely meal, and we talked about the things of Christ through the interpreter, and he’s a great, great man of God.  So I said to him, I said, “You know, Constantine,” I said, “you’ve suffered, and you’ve gone through all this, and you went through the Communist regime, and the whole business.  What was it like?  I mean what kind of things did you suffer, and what do we need to know about that time?  What do Christians need to know about that time?”  And he looked at me, and he said, “Oh no,” he said.  “No, no,” he said.  “I will only thank the Lord.  I will not speak of sudch things.”  He wouldn’t speak of them.  He would just thank the Lord.  That’s all he would speak about. 

That is a marvelous thing, when you open your mouth and that’s all that comes out is thanks.  The Christian life is not nearly as complicated as some people think.  It’s just these attitudes that we’ve been talking about, practiced.  In the fifth chapter of Ephesians, you have an extended command, that really says the same thing that 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says.  It says in verse 18, “Do not get drunk with wine, that is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit.”  There was this ridiculous idea in the pagan religions that if you got drunk, your drunken stupor induced a higher state of consciousness, in which you communed with the deities.  It was that very same theory, by the way, that Timothy Leary borrowed from ancient religions, and translated it into the fifties drug culture.

If you really want to transcend and touch the infinite, get high.  Remember?  That was really out of the old pagan religions.  And instead of that, Paul says, “You’re not going to commune with God that way; just be filled with the Spirit.”  And the result of that is speaking to one another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord.”  We could sum that up in one small word, the theme of this morning; what is it?  Joy.  And then, verse 20, “Always giving thanks for all things, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to God, even the Father.”  Constantly, always giving thanks – that’s what a Spirit-filled person does; they’re characterized by joy, and they’re characterized by thanks. 

Now, thanksgiving is the normal pattern, and we should be in the “Hallelujah Chorus” thanking the Lord for His mercy in saving us.  We should be thanking Him for all the blessings He pours upon us; for the way in which we can give, and extend those gifts into the lives of others, and cause more thanks.  Thanks should come out of our mouths every time we open it.  We should be thankful in everything, constantly, unceasingly, because the Spirit is controlling our lives, and if He is, we will be.  And when you’re not thankful, the Spirit’s not in control.  You say, “Well, you mean to be thankful even for the difficulties?”  Of course, because as we saw this morning, those are the things working together for good; those are the things that are perfecting. 

“After you’ve suffered a while,” 1 Peter 5:10, “the Lord make you perfect.”  As we saw from James 1:2, this morning, “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, because they have a perfecting work.”  Turn to Philippians, chapter 4, as we continue this little pilgrimage on this marvelous theme.  It says in verse 6, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God.”  Just be thankful, even when you’re bringing up your petitions, even when you’re praying, and your supplications are going before the Lord, it ought to be in an attitude of total thanks.  I can’t resist Colossians 2.  “As you” – verse 6 – “have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him” – be like Christ. 

“Having been firmly rooted” – verse 7 – “now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed” – and listen to this – “and overflowing with gratitude.”  Boy, I’m telling you, people, this is such an essential thing.  You ought to be overflowing with gratitude.  You know, Thomas Hardy was right.  You know, he said, “There are some people who can find the manure pile in any meadow.”  I mean it doesn’t matter what is going on, they can be negative.  Why?  You have nothing to be thankful for?  You ought to be overflowing with gratitude all the time.  It ought to be, for all of us, an absolutely constant way of life.  Now, as if what we’ve read isn’t already enough, go one more chapter in Colossians, chapter 3, and verse 15.  And he says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.” 

Don’t be stressed, don’t be anxious.  “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.”  Be thankful.  Now, some of these Christians to whom Paul wrote were really stressed out.  But I’ll tell you, Paul himself was a prisoner when he wrote all of this.  “Let the word of Christ richly dwell in you,” he says, “with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to the Lord, to God.  And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”  I mean it’s getting pretty repetitious, isn’t it?  Just be thankful.

And as if that’s not enough, go to chapter 4.  “Masters, employers, grant to your employees, slaves, servants, justice and fairness” – be careful how you treat the people that work for you – “knowing that you too have a Master in heaven.  Devote yourselves to prayer, keep alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving.”  So marvelous – we are called to incessant thanksgiving, constant thanksgiving.  We noted this morning, in Acts 16, how Paul and Silas were in jail, singing praise and thanks to God; the apostle Paul – always thankful.  You say, “Well, there are a lot of things in life you can’t be thankful about.”  Well, look, if I were Paul, there would be one thing I wouldn’t be thankful about, and that would be a really messed up church that was a lot of trouble. 

And the one that comes immediately to mind is Corinth, right?  Listen to what he said: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  I thank my God always concerning you” – and that was just before he laid them out.  See, I mean you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do, but it shouldn’t mess with your thankfulness.  You say, “What was he thankful about?”  They were saved.  They were God’s own – much to be thankful for, even though they broke his heart.  So this is very important, we are called to an inward, incessant joy and a constant thanks.  The model for this – I can’t resist taking a minute to just show you this.  The outstanding model for this, who transcends all others, of course, is our Lord. 

In Matthew 11:25, just listen: “Jesus answered and said, ‘I praise Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou didst hide these things from the wise and intelligent and didst reveal them to babes.  Yes, Father, for thus it was well-pleasing in Thy sight.  All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.  Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you shall find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My load is light.’”

Jesus is approaching the cross, and this is what He says: “I praise You, O Father.”  Or actually, better translated: “I thank You, O Father.  I thank You for the privilege of serving You.”  He had a thankful heart.  It wasn’t easy, obviously; He was going to go through agonies we would never be able to comprehend, but He had a thankful heart.  You see it repeatedly, pouring out thanks to God.  We can’t look at all of those times, but just another one maybe, John 11.  In John 11, you know, He’s dealing with the death of Lazarus, and Mary and Martha, and Jesus says to Martha, who is worried because Lazarus has been dead four days, and as the King James says, “By now he stinketh.” 

So verse 40, “Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not say to you, if you believe you will see the glory of God?’  And so they removed the stone.”  And they were afraid this horrifying stench would come out.  “Jesus raised His eyes, and said, ‘Father, I thank Thee that Thou heardest Me,’” and then He said, “Lazarus, come forth,” and he came forth.  You know, you wouldn’t really think that Jesus would need to thank the Father for anything, since He was God, and since the plan was really equally His.  But what a wonderful example it is.  He thanked the Father for the privilege of ministry.  He thanked the Father for hearing His prayer for power on behalf of Lazarus.  He could even thank the Father for the death that He would die to redeem sinners.  In fact, in all that was so terrible about His humiliation, He was thankful to the Father.

Paul tells us, then – back in our text – what we need to hear again and again.  In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you.  This is His will.  Now, as I said this morning, there are some things that come into our lives that tend to cause us to be hindered in these right attitudes.  Let me make some suggestions, and they’ll be much like what I said this morning.  If you have trouble being thankful, let me tell you perhaps why.  And I’m going to start where I started this morning.  Maybe you’re not a Christian.  Maybe you’re deceived.  Maybe you just think you’ve been regenerated.  Maybe you had some emotional experience, and nothing more.  If you can’t find in your heart endless cause for thanksgiving, then maybe you don’t have a new life.  And maybe you ought to do as 2 Corinthians 13:5 says: examine yourself to see if you’re in the faith. 

Moving beyond that let me give you a second thing that can hinder your gratitude: doubt about God’s sovereign power.  Or let’s say, doubt about God.  If you don’t think God is really in charge, if you’re ignorant about that or don’t believe it, if you’re not sure God is really all-wise, if you’re not sure He knows everything about everything, if you’re not sure He really loves you as His own, if you’re not sure He really has your best interest in mind, if you’re not sure He’s trying to perfect you into the image of His Son, if you don’t understand your God and His purposes, then you may not be thankful.  Or, I might add, if you do understand them, but you tend to forget them. 

Why not be thankful for anything, if You know God’s power is at work in it, God’s wisdom is at work in it, God’s purpose is at work in it, God’s love is expressed through it?  But if you doubt that, you’re going to have a problem being thankful.  There’s a well-known counsellor in our country who tells people that there are times when you need to get angry at God.  Shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody that he comes from an Arminian background, where they’re not too sure just exactly how involved God is.  There are times when you need to get angry with God; it’s good to vent that.  It’s a sin to do that, and it may rise out of ignorance of a sovereign God, always with a good purpose for your good and His glory, and always in control.

A third thing that may be the cause hindering gratitude is selfishness.  And this links up so much with joy – that’s why I wanted to them both today.  It’s that attitude that says, “No matter what I’ve got, I don’t have what I really want; I don’t have enough.  I just – I want more – and my will is more important than God’s will.  I don’t know what God has for me, but I know what I want for me, and God ought to deliver.”  Boy, that will really destroy gratitude.  “I want my circumstances different.  I want my children different.  I want my life different.  I want my ministry different.  I want my spouse different.  I want my job different.  I want a lot of things different.  I want more of this, and less of that.” 

If that’s what drives you, and you’ve set your own agenda, then you’re going to have trouble.  On the other hand, if you say, “I only want what God wants, and I’ll believe that God will give me what He wants me to have,” then you can be thankful, right?  Fourthly: worldliness – awfully hard to sort yourself out from that in this culture.  If you’re into the pleasures, and the people, and the places, and the possessions, and the pursuits, and the popularity, and the prestige, and you just want all the stuff that the world says makes people satisfied and happy, you’re going to have trouble being thankful, ’cause you’re never going to have all of that, and when you get some of it, you won’t have enough of it.

A fifth thing that I might mention is a critical spirit.  If you’re bitter or negative, if you just kind of have a sour attitude on life – and you know how you get that?  You get that by having unrealistic expectations of what you deserve.  You get that because you think you ought to control everything, and there’s some things you can’t control, and that bothers you.  And you get that – and, you know, this is the sad part – and then you feed it like a monster, until it gets as big as a dinosaur.  And every time you speak – or most of the time – the dinosaur roars, because you’ve cultivated it.  Don’t let yourself be critical two days in a row, or two hours in a row, or two half-hours in a row.  Don’t build that kind of habit. 

If it’s unchecked, it will just smash a thankful heart into bits.  This attitude will corrode your love, it will corrode your joy, it will corrode your peace, it will corrode your spirituality – a critical spirit that always criticizes, sees what’s wrong with everybody else, what’s negative, what isn’t the way you want it, what isn’t under your control.  Always looking at things from the negative side is a terrible, terrible thing to do.  And when you cultivate that habit, you get so into it, it becomes a monster to slay.  A sixth hindrance to gratitude is impatience – impatience.  God isn’t moving fast enough.  It’s not so much that they want this or that; it’s that they want it now. 

They’ve got their own timetable.  And the perception is that God’s not on their schedule – they’ve got it in their appointment book, and He’s not keeping the appointments.  They want God to work for them when they want Him to work – impatience.  You need to learn to just be patient.  Let God unfold His purposes in His time, and be thankful that He knows better the timing than you do.  I’ll give you two more – coldness.  And by that what I mean is spiritual lukewarmness, lack of zeal for God, lack of diligence in the Scripture, lack of passion in prayer, lack of interest in worship, neglect of the Bible, wasting your time on trivia, spiritual lethargy, spiritual indifference – that produces a coldness and a lukewarmness that just kills gratitude. 

When you spend your time in the Word, and you spend your time in prayer, and you spend your time in worship, and you spend your time in service to the King and the kingdom, it excites gratitude.  And one last point – I guess this would be number eight if you’re listing them – rebellion – rebellion.  And this is the strongest attitude, I think, that mitigates against gratitude, and this is when you’re in a settled state of outright anger toward God because things didn’t go the way you wanted them, and it’s become a settled state of rebellion.  You are angry with God.  I got a letter on e-mail – oh, e-mail.  I’m telling you, it’s not enough to get regular mail.  Now it’s this new thing, stacks and stacks of this stuff, that you have to answer.

And I got this letter in e-mail, and it starts out – I just read through the stack today – this letter from a sweet lady from back in somewhere on the east.  And she says, “Thank you for your ministry in radio, and my husband and I listen, and we love Grace To You.  And my husband had a job, and he felt through listening to you, and the development of ministry began to well up in his heart, and he decided God wanted him to preach, and so he went off and got into a small church,” and, you know, I’m reading and I’m saying, “This is wonderful, and this is a great story.  And then, “Something didn’t go the way he wanted it to go,” she said, “in the small church, and it turned him bitter at God, and for fourteen years he has not entered a church.” 

Fourteen years – he is angry.  And she said, “As a loving wife, I have prayed for him fourteen years.”  She said, “I’m at the end of my rope.  Would you please pray for him, and if it’s in your heart, write him a letter?”  Well, I will – fourteen years of rebellion against God?  Would you like to live with a thankless person like that, in a constant state of rebellion?  That woman must be some woman.  She’s patient.  It took her fourteen years to write me.  I thought the second half of the – some of you would rattle off that letter three days after the rebellion started.  Now, all of that stuff, all of that doubt, selfishness, worldliness, critical spirit, impatience, coldness, rebellion – all of that is sin – sin. 

That man should have said, “What was God saying to me?  What was He trying to show me?  What could I have learned, and how can I praise Him and thank Him?”  And the reason he’s been in that condition for fourteen years is the reason he’ll stay there; it’s because he’s got such a bitter attitude toward God, until he deals with that sin, he can’t be used.  All this kind of stuff, ingratitude, just destroys the church.  You want to have a church full of joy, and blessing, and happiness, and peace where people love each other, and the church grows and flourishes, then have a church full of thankful people.  And if you want to really mess up a party, just bring in somebody who is negative and unthankful.  Watch out for those hindrances.  Don’t let them get cultivated in your life.

We have so much to be thankful for, beloved.  God’s holiness that makes Him perfect, and He never makes a mistake.  God’s goodness and mercy, which is always available; which is overflowing and abounding toward us the gift of Jesus Christ; that unspeakable gift, for which we are thankful.  All good gifts that flow down from the Father of lights: the victory over sin and death, divine guidance, complete provision for all our needs, the hope of heaven, the power of the Word, and on, and on, and on, and on we go.  Lots of reasons to give thanks, and if the church is to be the church of Jesus Christ, and His life is the flow through that church, it will be people who are filled with gratitude, even for the trials, even for the pain, even for the suffering. 

And my prayer is that God will fill your heart with joy no matter what, and that you’ll rejoice always and in everything give thanks; that’s crucial to the life of the church.  And you can do on the basis of this one little verse in Philippians 2:13: “It is God who is at work in you.”  Isn’t that great?  And what’s He doing?  “To will and to work for His good pleasure.”  And since He’s at work in you, using all this stuff to work for His own good pleasure, the next verse says, “You can do all things without grumbling.”  You can all things with joy and gratitude.  Father, we thank You so much for Your mercy and kindness toward us.  We thank You for the way in which You have consistently demonstrated Your goodness. 

And, Lord, fill us with thanksgiving.  We have so much to be thankful for, even the difficulties, for those we thank You – it’s easy in the good times.  Should be easy in the hard times, if we understand the purpose.  Lord, we pray that You’ll even use the strength of Your Spirit to break patterns of critical spirit, rebellion, worldliness, selfishness, impatience, all those things that hinder gratitude.  And may we begin every day, no matter how challenging it might be, by thanking You for being faithful in making your mercies new every morning.  Great is Your faithfulness.  By thanking You for all that is ours in Christ, by thanking You for eternal life, the hope of heaven, guidance, direction, truth, trials which humble us, trials which shape us. 

Give us thankful hearts.  You are worthy to be praised.  You are worthy to be thanked.  It is a sin not to do so; forgive us for that sin, and put us in a path of righteousness where we are, in everything, thankful.  And may it be infectious to those around us, that the thanks may redound to Your glory, in Christ’s name.  Amen.

John MacArthur

Courtesy of https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/90-123/fundamental-christian-attitudes-thankfulness

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Our Generation Needs to Return to the Simple Truths of Psalm 34

As we enter into the season of Thanksgiving, Psalm 34 is a wonderful example of praise, adoration, and thankfulness to our magnificent and awesome God. It is an acrostic Psalm meaning each verse begins with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet.  

Verse 1: I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.

Bless: To praise, to celebrate, to adore; act of adoration. The word comes from the primitive root “to kneel.” First used of how God blessed man and woman, blessed Noah and how God blessed Abraham. We need to praise him for all His blessings. David promised to praise God without ceasing. Praise God because of His words and works.

To bless God is an exclamation of gratitude and admiration.

Have you fallen in love with God? Are you swept up in emotional reverie when you consider Him? Do you find that you pursue God for His sake? 

We bless, celebrate, praise, and adore Yahweh. What does the name Yahweh mean?

Yahweh- The Name of Yahweh: An Eternal Indictment Against All Idolatry

Yahweh: He Is

At the heart of every idol is doubt about the character of God. God revealed in His name that we never have to doubt His love for us, and His desire to help us in all life’s difficulties. In this magnificent name Yahweh, God is telling us He is everything we will ever need. The voice of God declares in every generation “I am Yahweh, that is my name! I will not give my glory to another, nor my praise to graven images!” (Isaiah 42:8). The name of God, Yahweh, is used over 6800 times in Scripture and perfectly illustrates the character and nature of God. Yahweh is a personal covenant name of promise to the children of God. Yahweh’s name is the pledge and unbreakable bond of faithfulness and commitment to His people. Yahweh means the Eternal, Immutable One. He who was, and is, and is to come. Yahweh is a form of the verb hayah and means to be or to become. Yahweh was, is and always will be alive, active and present.

First of all, the name Yahweh means “He is!” He is everything perfect, good, just and holy in an endless capacity. He has no beginning and no end. He is the everlasting God; the self-existent One, absolutely perfect and limitless in everything He is. A.W. Tozer in Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God: Their Meaning in the Christian Life says: “God is infinite. We mean by infinite that God knows no limits, no bounds and no end. What God is, He is without boundaries. All that God is, He is without bounds or limits … Only God has no degrees.”[i] God’s love, strength, goodness, mercy, holiness, wisdom and grace are so immense and infinite that they cannot be weighed, counted or measured. These attributes are limitless in quality and perfection. They never diminish, change, or weaken. Everything that God is, is for the benefit of His children. Yahweh is the name that represents a personal invitation to partake fully in everything He is, and to experience the fullness of God in all His manifold characteristics. Yahweh is the very essence and origin of all life. He is the Life-Giver. He is the Creator. He is the maker of every star, planet, and galaxy in the universe. There is no limit to what God can do in our lives. The ancient cultures had thousands of gods for every occasion. But the name Yahweh declares that God is the only one you ever need in every circumstance and season of life. You can be completely satisfied in Him.

Jeremiah 32:17 proclaims that Yahweh made the heaven and earth by His great power “and nothing is too hard for Him!” When Sarah laughed at the impossibility of giving birth at the age of 90, God declared, “Is there anything too hard for Yahweh?” The Hebrew word for “hard” means marvelous, extraordinary, wonderful, surpassing, and beyond one’s power or ability. There is no mountain in life that Yahweh cannot move, there is no obstacle in life that Yahweh cannot overcome, and there is no need in life that Yahweh cannot abundantly provide. Yahweh is the solution, the answer, and the key to everything in life. Nothing is beyond Yahweh’s power. Nothing is above Yahweh’s understanding. Nothing is greater than Yahweh’s ability to act and bring about miraculous results. Nothing is ordinary or mundane about Yahweh! When Yahweh is called into action, it causes one to marvel at the wondrous and astonishing things He brings to pass. Praise God that Yahweh is!

Yahweh: The Coming and Becoming One

Secondly, Yahweh means “He who will be, the ‘Coming One’ or ‘Becoming One.’ We have the assurance that God never changes. What He is today, He will be tomorrow. He is the same glorious, perfect and limitless God yesterday, today and forever. Yahweh is the “Coming One,” always ready to come to the rescue and deliver His children from any enemy, problem, and oppression. He is ready to intercede with all His might when we call upon His name. He will come like lightening to fight all the battles of His beloved sons and daughters if we will only turn to Him. Yahweh is also the “Becoming One.” God becomes whatever is lacking in our time of need. God is the “Coming One” ever ready to rescue and deliver His children from everything that holds them in bondage. He is always ready to abundantly provide for their needs and bring them into the land of His faithful promises.

Yahweh as the “Becoming One” is the great “I Am” who says I am whatever you need at any point in your life. Yahweh wants us to remember that this is His very nature to be for us and meet our needs. Yahweh invites us to fill in the blank for our need. Do we need strength? Then He is our strength. Do we need healing? Then He is our healing. Do we need deliverance? Then He is our Savior. Do we need peace? Then He is our peace. Do we need provision? Then He is our provider? Do we need courage? Then He is our courage? Do we need assurance? Then He is our confidence? Do we need comfort? Then He is our comforter? Are we tired? Then He is our rest. Are we fearful? Then He is our refuge? Do we need love? Then He is our love. Are we depressed? Then He is our joy. Are we hungry? Then He is our Bread of Life. Are we in darkness? Then He is our light. Are we in bondage? Then He is our freedom.

Do we feel worthless and downcast? Then He is the lifter of our heads. Do we have fears, worries and anxieties? Then He is our burden-bearer. Do we need solutions to life’s problems? Do we feel that the pressures of this life are crushing us under their weight? Then He takes the weight on His shoulders and becomes our Liberator. He is our solution and answer to ever single dilemma, circumstance and challenge we will ever face in this life. We do not need a thousand idols. We only need Him. He is the ever-flowing fountain of life and river of living waters that will sustain us all the days we draw breath on this earth. The Psalmist declares that Yahweh is the only God he will ever need. Now we see why our heart should be full of praise for Yahweh. What an awesome God.

My soul wait thou ONLY upon God, for my expectation is from Him. He ONLY is my rock and my salvation; he is my defense; I shall not be moved. In God is my salvation, and my glory: the rock of my strength and my refuge is in God. (Psalm 62:1-2 KJB, Cambridge Edition)

At all times: continually, in all seasons, at every opportunity

Praise: song of praise, a hymn, a celebration, unhindered praise. “Praise” is really genuine adoration and thanksgiving due to the worth of the object. Praise magnifies the Lord. 

Psalm 40:3a:  He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.

Amazingly, praise is not an automatic human response to life. Perhaps it should be, but it seems that most of the time we are caught up in the necessary, but trivial and we simply forget the fact that our reality is necessarily dependent. We forget that being alive is the hallmark of His grace, that having our lives extended for one more day is mercy manifested. We become occupied with email, work schedules, commuting, meals, children, washing, ATMs, bills, coffee and all the thousands of insignificant activities that prevent us from recognizing life granted to us today. So we need to stand in front of the mirror and chide ourselves to bless the One who is really responsible for our very being.

Continually: always, constantly, perpetually-Daily

This much is clear. Life is not entitlement. Even life’s most basic needs are the gifts of God. It is not that we are to be content with only the most basic elements of life. Rather, we are to acknowledge that everything, even the necessities, come to us as gifts. When we think of this part of the verse, the word for “daily” begins to make some sense. We are part of the fellowship of the redeemed. More than anyone, we know that our basic needs must come to us one day at a time. We are healed for this day. We are helped for this day. We are whole for this day. The basic necessities of our lives cannot be stored up for tomorrow nor appropriated from yesterday. We can only live daily. One day at a time.

Be in my mouth: What is in our mouth daily? What do we speak forth? Blessing or cursing? Love or hate? Joy or dismay? Humility or pride. Our mouths should be an organ of praise and gateway to thanksgiving.

Verse 2: My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad.

Boast: to shine, to flash forth as light, to make a show. Permanent affection of the mind-to exult in the possession and enjoyment of some admired and beloved object. What does your soul boast in? What gives your soul ultimate enjoyment?

This word describes sincere devotion and thankfulness to YHVH.

“Boast” is the Hebrew verb halal. You see the root in halleluyah, or perhaps in tehillah (rendered “psalm”). The same word we usually translate “praise” is also the word for “boast.” This helps us understand that the principal meaning is not found in personal self-acclaim but rather in sincere and heartfelt thankfulness. When YHVH tells us to “boast” in understanding and knowing Him, our boasting is praise of Him, not us. Intelligence, wealth and power mean nothing in the face of the King of the Universe. To Him we owe our lives and to Him we offer boasting praise.

Take a good look at the sky every time we feel as if God isn’t paying attention to us. We could remind ourselves that the presence of light is an ongoing praise operation. That would take us back to the opening creative act and hopefully reinstate our confidence that He is watching over things. Doesn’t the Bible suggest that God is light? I wonder if we ever though that John might have translated his Hebrew worldview as “God is praise, and in Him is no darkness at all.” When you open your eyes in the morning, when you first see the light of day, what comes to mind? Is that a moment of praise? 

Psalm 44:8: In God we have boasted continually,  and we will give thanks to your name forever. Selah

Verse 3: Oh, magnify the Lord with me,  and let us exalt his name together!

Magnify: to make great; to enlarge, to increase, to be greatly valued, to make much of. How awesome it is to magnify Yahweh rather than the things of this world. What do we make great, enlarge and greatly value in our life?

Psalm 69:30: I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving.

Exalt: to be set on high; to be exalted; to lift up; to rise up to the highest degree. To exalt with praises and celebrate. What do we exalt and hold high in our lives? What do we look up to? What do we set on high?

Psalm 57:5: Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!  Let your glory be over all the earth!

Magnify and exalt together in the community of believers.

Verse 4: I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.

Sought: To seek with care, to tread a place with the feet, to diligently inquire, to frequent. We are to show a trampled path to the heart of Yahweh all times and in all circumstances. This word is never used of seeking someone whose location is unknown. We are seeking here deliverance, help, restoration. It is serious purposeful searching, not confused wondering or wandering.

Psalm 105:4: Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!

We should seek to be in His presence continually. He will give us His strength to battle any circumstance. The problem is we seek so many other things first: people, drugs, booze, success and self-exaltation. God looks for those who seek him-Psalm 14:2; Romans 3:11, but the model of those in the world is that they do not seek Him. People turn aside and seek worthless things that cannot deliver.

Deliver: Primitive root means to snatch away, to rescue, to recover, to take away and strip off. We cannot deliver ourselves, ever. The cry of this world is there is none to deliver, there is none to rescue! No idol can ever deliver (Isaiah 57:13). God has the power to deliver, but so often we do not seek His deliverance, we turn to another person or thing that ultimately is helpless to deliver. You deliver me, O Lord!  I can’t do it myself. Deliverance is God in action. God desires to deliver. He wants do deliver because we express our desperation for liberation. If it is left up to us, there is no deliverance. He removes the oppressor, He removes the fear; He overcomes the oppressor that has held us captive. God brings the full victory against every false deity, every bondage, and every encasing fear.  

Jeremiah 1:8: Do not be afraid of them for I am with you to deliver you, declares the Lord.

Verse 19: They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, declares the Lord, to deliver you.

All my fears: all=whole, the totality, every single one; not one is missed.

Fears: Fear, terror, that which is dreaded, horror. This is a stronger word for fear, not the usual Hebrew word for fear and describes terror itself. Night terrors, the nightmares, Maybe you can handle the ordinary worries of life. Maybe you can rise to the occasion when something unexpected presents itself, but when it comes to terror, no one is really ready. A form of this word is used in Jeremiah describing “terror on every side.”

I suspect that the worst of all terrors come from deep inside of us. We are powerless over them because they reside in the darkest corners of our lives. They are megurot—and God is the only deliverer. Proverbs 10:24 says what the wicked dreads will come upon him, but God’s deliverance is so complete that only He can deliver from every single terror that often reside deep within us and keeps us in bondage. Yahweh can and will set us free if we only diligently seek Him above all else.

2 Timothy 1:7: For God did not give a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind.

We cannot allow terrors and fears to seize our minds and hearts. The world promotes fear and terror. It is its message behind everything. God’s clear message and it is the message of the gospel is deliverance, full and complete, where not one fear is left behind; not one fear isn’t obliterated.

Verse 5: Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.

Look: To look intently, to behold, to consider, to regard highly with respect.

What to our eyes gaze upon? Where are eyes directed? What are we looking at? Lot’s wife looked back at Sodom and all its ways and became a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:26). The eyes are the gateway to the heart. God created the eye so that we can behold Him. We need eyes that see! Only God can open our eyes so that we may see. We need to fix our eye on His ways (Psalm 119:15). We need to lift up our eyes to the heavens (Isaiah 57:6).

Radiant: The primitive root means to sparkle, to give light, to beam. Jeremiah 31:12 says we are radiant because of the goodness of the Lord. What do people see when that see your face? Radiance or gloom? Joy or dismay? We should radiate joy in a tangible visible way. Radiance comes from the glory of the Lord, the spirit of God that lives within us. People see should see the glory of the Lord in our faces. No blush of shame.

2 Corinthians 3:16-18: But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

I tell you truly, and I exaggerate not, I tell you truly, that these who are with God, who live in the presence of Jesus, somehow shine in their souls, in their eyes, and in their lives.  Whatever kinds of people they are, and however strange and unusual and different, and whatever their backgrounds, if they have been with Jesus, they shine.  

Ashamed: Disappointed, shame, be brought to confusion, to be confounded; shame arising from disappointed hope. Only in God there is hope, in fact in Romans 15:13, He is called the God of Hope. God is not the author of confusion. When we trust in Him, we will never be confounded or disappointed. Only the idols of this world bring shame, confusion and chaos. Unbelief is the starting point of all disappointment.

Romans 10:11: For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.

Verses 6-8: This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles.The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him and delivers them.Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

Poor: Needy, humble, afflicted, weak, helpless

All his troubles: all=every single one. Troubles means anguish, adversity, affliction, distress, tribulation. When God is not among us, troubles will devour us (Deuteronomy 31:17)

Psalm 22:11: Be not far from me, for trouble is near,  and there is none to help. Trouble is always near and lurking. None can truly help you with trouble but God.

Psalm 9:9: The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.

Encamps: Pitches a tent, abides for a siege

The angel of the Lord surrounds God’s people with divine protection.

God fights our battles and surrounds us with His power, strength, and love. As Michael Smith says in his wonderful song: “It may look like I am surrounded but I am surrounded by you. This is how I fight my battles.”

Fear of the Lord:  The fear of the Lord is such an in-depth response to the magnificence of God it is difficult to give an exact definition. It is to have a deep, heartfelt, holy, reverential awe, respect, and reverence for God; it is to have a deep reverence and respect for His holy standards of life; a deep admiration and sense of awe and wonder of His attributes, His power, His love and mercy, and His greatness; it is to have an acute awareness of the presence of God in all His glory that produces in me a sense of awe and calls forth from me honor, respect, and reverence. It is to be in such a holy union with God that we love what He loves and hate what He hates and dare not even think to disobey Him. It is also holy respect for the judgment of God and a sense of trembling in awe at all of his glory and greatness. It is a deep understanding that God has entrusted much to us and we are accountable to God for our actions and the use of the divine abilities He has given us. It is to deeply understand and stand in awe of the majesty of our God. It is to be forever committed in heart to His standard of righteousness and His standard of justice and refuse to allow any impurity or contamination from the world into our hearts. It is to be humbled completely and awed by His holy presence that brings us to our knees before Him.

Taste and see that Yahweh is good. Our invitation to the world. Every day we must and see and realize and recognize God’s goodness. Nothing in this world compares to the goodness of God. Nothing. Nothing is truly good but Yahweh. God is good in so many ways. The gospel is the good news, it originates from God’s goodness to the human race rooted in his grace and mercy. Never forget God is good. There are no limits to His goodness. There is no boundary to His overflowing goodness. His entire creation rings out day and night that God is good. It is who He is and it is what he does. Everything God does is good starting in Genesis 1 and exploding through His word ending in the goodness revealed in the new heavens and earth. Don’t ever be deceived that God is not good.  

There is no greater revolutionary truth for our day and time than the truth that God is good. It is revolutionary because even though we have heard those words many times, they are rarely believed in the depth of our hearts. As a generation, we have lost our faith in the goodness of God.  As a generation, we have become disheartened in our understanding of the true character of God. This has often led to the conclusion that there is no God, or that God doesn’t care, because of the evil we see in the world. Or we may believe that God is good sometimes, or that God is good with exceptions, but the truth is that God is good always.

Nahum 1:7 (The Message):

God is good, a hiding place in tough times. He recognizes and welcomes anyone looking for help, no matter how desperate the trouble.

Verse 9,10: Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack! 10 The young lions suffer want and hunger;  but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

Lack: deficiency, impoverishment, to have want of anything, need, poverty

Yahweh supplies all our needs. He is Yahweh Jireh, the Lord who provides.

Philippians 4:19, 20:  And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. 20 To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Psalm 145:15: You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing.

Let’s return to the simplicity of life where praise, adoration, exultation, magnifying, and thanksgiving of Yahweh is the solid core and foundation of everything we do.

Psalm 63:1(a) (The Message Bible):

God-you’re my God! I can’t get enough of you!


 

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The Deadly Mix that Stops Revival in the Church

An obscure monk and professor in a city of 3000 souls became the Devid of religious reformation. On this night 504 years ago, Martin Luther posted 95 theses on the door of the Wittenburg Church. He challenged the doctrines and authority of the Roman Catholic Church (granting indulgences for people to buy their salvation) declaring that you are justified by grace and faith alone and not good works. Luther attacked the Catholic Church’s corrupt practice of selling “indulgences” to absolve sin. His “95 Theses,” which propounded two central beliefs—that the Bible is the central religious authority and that humans may reach salvation only by their faith and not by their deeds—was to spark the Protestant Reformation. Although these ideas had been advanced before, Martin Luther codified them at a moment in history ripe for religious reformation. The Catholic Church was ever after divided, and the Protestantism that soon emerged was shaped by Luther’s ideas. His writings changed the course of history.

The 95 Theses, which would later become the foundation of the Protestant Reformation, were written in a remarkably humble and academic tone, questioning rather than accusing. The overall thrust of the document was nonetheless quite provocative. The first two of the theses contained Luther’s central idea, that God intended believers to seek repentance and that faith alone, and not deeds, would lead to salvation. The other 93 theses, a number of them directly criticizing the practice of indulgences, supported these first two. This led to the Pope Leo excommunicating Martin Luther from the Catholic Church. On April 17, 1521 Luther appeared before the Diet of Worms in Germany. Refusing again to recant, Luther concluded his testimony with the defiant statement: “Here I stand. God help me. I can do no other.” On May 25, the Holy Roman emperor Charles V signed an edict against Luther, ordering his writings to be burned. The Protestant Reformation had begun.

On the other end of the spectrum, October 31st is also the celebration of Halloween, the second biggest, most celebrated holiday in America other than Christmas. What does the Bible say about Halloween? Is the holiday just harmless fun or does it have a Satanic agenda behind it? Why do almost all Christians celebrate and partake in it with delight? According to the National Retail Federation, seven in ten Americans (who live in a country that still marginally believes in the Bible) now celebrate Halloween. Retailers also rejoice as they warm up their cash registers to receive an average of $79.82 per household in decorations, costumes, candy, and greeting cards. Halloween will bring in approximately $8 billion this year.

How important is Halloween in the Satanic realm? Let’s look at a witchcraft website: “Halloween is such a magical time for all Witches – regardless their spiritual path. It’s this time of the year when the Veil faints and we are able to cross the worlds and receive valuable wisdom and magical powers. Halloween is associated with the passing of the living and celebrating the dead.” Modern celebrations of Halloween may seem to be quite harmless, but the spiritual implications of dabbling with the spirit world are extremely serious.

History: The Celts worshiped the lord of the dead, on Samhain (pronounced “SOW-wen” by Wiccans), October 31. Human sacrifice was offered. The Celts taught that on their New Year’s Eve (our Halloween) ghosts, evil spirits, and witches roamed the earth. Samhain was also a festival of the dead, whose spirits at this season were thought of as scouring the countryside, causing dread to the folk at large. Divinations for the fate of the individual throughout the new year were engaged in. On this night, evil or frustrated ghosts were also believed to play tricks on humans and cause supernatural manifestations, just like poltergeists today. In addition, food was put out to make the ghosts or souls of the good dead Samhain had released, feel welcomed and at home. Because Samhain marked the beginning of a new year, an interest in divination (the magic art of interpreting the unknown by interpreting random patterns or symbols), fortune-telling, communication with the dead and other occult practices became an important part of this holiday. The Celts believed the curtain dividing the living and the dead lifted during Samhain to allow the spirits of the dead to walk among the living—ghosts haunting the earth. Celts believed spirts were earthbound until they received a proper sendoff with treats-possessions, food, wealth and drink. Spirits who were not suitably treated would “trick” those who neglected them. Some traditions developed, which believed wearing a costume to look like a spirit would fool the wandering spirits.

The Encyclopedia of Religion continues: “On this occasion, it was believed that a gathering of supernatural forces occurred as during no other period of the year. The eve and day of Samhain were characterized as a time when the barriers between the human and supernatural worlds were broken. Otherworldly entities, such as the souls of the dead, were able to visit earthly inhabitants, and humans could take the opportunity to penetrate the domains of the gods and supernatural creatures. “Fiery tributes and sacrifices of animals, crops, and possibly human beings were made to appease supernatural powers who controlled the fertility of the land … The souls of the dead were supposed to revisit their homes on this day, and the autumnal festival acquired sinister significance, with ghosts, witches, hobgoblins, black cats, fairies, and demons of all kinds said to be roaming about. It was the time to placate the supernatural powers controlling the processes of nature. In addition, Halloween was thought to be the most favourable time for divinations concerning marriage, luck, health, and death. It was the only day on which the help of the devil was invoked for such purposes” (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th edition, Micropaedia, Vol. 4, p. 862, “Halloween”).

As a loving Father, God commands us to avoid things that can harm us. Concerning the spirit world, notice what God says to His people: “Give no regard to mediums and familiar spirits; do not seek after them, to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:31). In addition to this command to avoid practices that pertain to evil spirits, God warned ancient Israel to avoid any kind of occult practices: “There shall not be found among you anyone who … practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord ” (Deuteronomy 18:10-12). God has called His people to a different standard. Instead of superstitions and myths, God tells us to look to Him for our blessings, direction and future.

Modern celebrations of Halloween may appear on the surface to be quite harmless, but the spiritual implications of dabbling with the spirit world are extremely serious. Fortune-telling, Ouija boards, astrology, voodoo, clairvoyance, black magic and the like can all be related to occult, satanic forces or the worship of natural phenomena and are forbidden in Scripture. Jesus Christ tells us that “the first and greatest commandment” is to love our Creator “with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37-38). God alone is the giver of life and all good things. To give recognition to false gods, and to imitate practices that honored them, is unacceptable and idolatrous. Setting aside a day to celebrate evil, darkness, witchcraft, fear, death and the demonic brings disdain to God. 

No doubt there has been a severe decline in the spiritual health of this nation and the spiritual health of the church around the world. So many churches have gone astray from the path of truth, they no longer stand for true justice and righteousness. Ravenhill: The tragedy of this late hour is that we have too many dead men in the pulpits giving out too many dead sermons to too many dead people.

Isaiah 59:14-16a: Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands far away; for truth has stumbled in the public squares, and uprightness cannot enter.15 Truth is lacking, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey. The Lord saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice. 16 He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede;

Voice: We took You for nothing, and did just the opposite of Your commands. We broke our promises to You, ignored and rejected You. We hatched up schemes to oppress others and rebel, to twist the truth for our gain while presenting it as honest-to-God fact. When justice calls, we turn it away. Righteousness knows to keep its distance, For truth stumbles in the public square, and honesty is not allowed to enter. There is no truth-telling anymore, and anyone who tries to do right finds he is the next target. It’s true. The Eternal One saw it all and was understandably perturbed at the absence of justice. God looked long and hard, but there wasn’t a single person who tried to put a stop to the injustice and lies. This is what the Eternal One declares. Eternal One: 21 This is My covenant promise to them: My Spirit, which rests on and moves in you, and My words, which I have placed within you, will continue to be spoken among you and move you to action. And not only you, but so it will be for your children and their children too. And so on through the generations for all time.

These verses describe the status of truth, justice and righteousness in America according to God’s eyes. We have entered into a marriage, a covenant with the world and it has severely hindered the growth of the church. The world system is fastened to our culture and we cannot let it push us in its direction.  Never let the world or culture define your terms. The world has no idea what social justice is yet we allow it to define the term. The world has no idea what love or tolerance is, but we let it define this term. The world has no idea what it is to be awake, but we allow it to define this term. The world has no idea what good is, yet we allow it to define this term. Who will intercede today; who will stand up for truth; who will stand in the gap?

Leonard Ravenhill: An unprecedented tidal wave of commandment-breaking, God-defying, soul-destroying iniquity sweeps the ocean of human affairs. Never before have men in the masses sold their souls to the devil at such bargain prices. “There is none…that stirreth up himself to take hold of Thee.”

What will it take to bring revival and reformation to the church today?

We need to call the Church back to its roots as revealed in the Book of Acts. The Christian church is losing ground in the world, and we need to call people back to authentic faith in Jesus Christ. The church is becoming mixed, contaminated by the evil of this world as they embrace it to make their voice in the world more respected, followed and adhered to. The world defines our terms, introduces us to words, and sets the boundaries and frameworks of our beliefs. This is a dangerous exercise in unbelief and an ill-fated marriage with the world. George Orwell’s famous book 1984 illustrated the power of words is enough to control an entire nation. Language was the ultimate form of power. In 1984 the Party, the ruling force over all of Oceania, has dominion over its citizens mainly through the manipulation of language. If you control language, you can control thought. Language is what structures power. Party controls and manipulates language, history, books, literature all to get people to think the same thing and to severely penalize anyone who thinks differently. This is exactly what is happening today, especially in our schools and colleges. You either conform to our accepted baptized thought or pay the consequences. Do not ever let the world define your terms, but let God’s Word, from His heart, enlighten our eyes to the meaning He has placed on words.

The Bible does not stutter when it comes to this world.

John 14:30: I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me,

Ruler-chief, commander, first in rank, supreme leader

World-kosmos: The Greek word for “world” is kosmos and in this verse means: the satanic system of world order with its seductive evil system of values, priorities, and beliefs that excludes and actively opposes God. It is interesting that the word kosmos also has the meaning of an ornament, decoration, or dress, as at its root is the word meaning “to polish, to cut or to carve into a perfect arrangement.” The devil’s world system of evil is very ornate and polished and looks so perfect to the human eye. Its polished presentation can be mesmerizing. This is part of the subtle attraction that deceives people and pulls them into its snare.  But if you peel away the layers, this system is dark, empty, evil and totally devoid of the goodness of God. Wuest, in his Word Studies of the Greek New Testament, defines kosmos as follows:

The word kosmos is used to refer to the world

system, wicked and alienated from God, yet

cultured, educated, powerful, outwardly moral

at times, the system of which Satan is the head,

the fallen angels and the demons are his servants,

and all mankind other than the saved, are his

subjects. This includes those people, pursuits,

pleasures, purposes, and places where God is

not wanted

Kosmos is what binds together the unbelieving world. It is unified against God. This world system of evil continually attempts to squeeze people into its mold of godlessness so they will live and act in accordance with it. Preceptaustin’s Greek Word Studies states: “The unsaved either consciously or unconsciously are controlled by the values and attitudes of this world system and behave according.” The devil has the authority, dominion, command, and power of this world system over the entire earth. He has the control of the world for now.

Claim: Nothing, not even one; not even a sliver. In me: fixed, rests upon.

John 15:18: “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you; Matthew 10:22: hated by all for my name’s sake 

That is true hate speech. The world system hates Jesus Christ and everyone one of his followers; They despise the gospel. They hate the words of the Living God. Then why does the church embrace it and welcome it into its holy sanctuary?

John 15:23-25: Whoever hates me hates my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’ The world also hates the Heavenly Father and all is this hate is without a cause, without justification. Can you imagine this? The hate for the Heavenly Father can only be understood as spiritual, birthed in heart of Lucifer himself. John 17:14: I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 

John 18:36: My kingdom is not of this world…

The Word of God, the Church, his Body, the Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the gift of holy spirit are not of this world. There can never be a mix. “Of” is the Greek “ek” and means “out of”; it is a preposition denoting origin. It is to be surrounded with a completely close connection.Hate: to pursue with hatred, to detest

I John 3:13: Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. 

The number one hindrance to revival and reformation on the church of Jesus Christ is that we love the world and the tings in the world. The world has become a part of the church of so many. This will never lead to reformation but regression, weakness, deterioration and corruption. As long as the world and the church mix, and intertwine, there can be no revival or reformation.

I John 2:15-17: Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

2 Corinthians 4:4,5a: In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord,

The devil is the god of this world, and he wants leadership in the church to proclaim themselves rather than the Lord Jesus Christ. He wants the church to follow the model and inspiration of the world.

I Corinthians 2:12: Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 

Ephesians 2:2:  in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 

James 4:4: You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Enmity: Active hostility, opposition, hatred; Wishes: will, want, desire, choosing one thing over another, preference. Makes himself: Present (CONTINUOUS ACTION, HABITUAL ACTION, OFTEN REFLECTS A LIFESTYLE; Indicative (MOOD of CERTAINTY = simply states a thing as being a FACT. There is no doubt that the action occurred. If an action really occurs or has occurred or will occur, it will be rendered in the indicative mood.) Passive:  The passive voice conveys the idea that the SUBJECT is being ACTED UPON by an OUTSIDE force or power. If you make yourself a habitual friend of the world, Satan will bring his oppression and chaos into your life and you will be an enemy of God.

To be a friend of the world is to be idolatrous.  To be a friend of the world is to serve a god other than YHWH.  It doesn’t require debauchery, treachery or megalomania.  It only requires asserting that God’s instructions don’t matter.

1 John 5:19: “We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” The world is in the helpless snare of the evil one.

Galatians 6:14: But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

Do you want a revival, a reformation in the church? It can only start if we are crucified to the world.

Romans 12:2: Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Do not allow this world to mold you in its own image. Instead, be transformed from the inside out by renewing your mind. As a result, you will be able to discern what God wills and whatever God finds good, pleasing, and complete.

Eric Ludy: To be willing to be contra mundum, to be against the world, is not the cool thing to do, but it is the very essence of historic, Biblical Christianity. To be willing to stand like William Wilberforce against slavery when all of Parliament barks with fury to drown out your singular voice is the stuff of the bravehearted. To be willing to stand like John Knox and proclaim in the midst of the fiercest persecution, “I fear not the tyranny of man, neither what the devil can invent against me” is the type of boldness that Satan doesn’t know how to handle. To be willing to stand like Luther when Pope Leo is screaming in your face that you will be consigned to hell if you don’t recant-now that’s the manly stuff…

Tragically our rendition of Christianity makes no demands, expects no sacrifice and yields no eternal rewards. The Lion of Judah has been anesthetized, declawed and tamed. We have reduced the Almighty to a harmless icon we passively honor in our busy lives…We have inoculated Christianity to such a degree that we treat God as though He were our aging family dog who we let into church once a week, pat on the head and send him back into the yard with a dog to chew on…We cling to a form of godliness but there is no power. We honor Him with our mouths, but our hearts are from Him.

We are being fed a steady, unwholesome diet of spiritual mush in America; kosmos junk food, and we have become so satisfied with its substitute gospel that people no longer hunger for the real thing. We live on spiritual junk food and don’t think we have need of anything.    

Ludy: The world will do whatever it can to refute the idea of Jesus Christ, the idea of faith and the idea of the gospel…Our God does not seek to be cool. He does not attempt to curry favor with the world like the politicians of our day. He does not pander after the good opinion of people like an attention-starved puppy. Our God deeply longs for the people of this work to know Him and entrust their lives to Him. But He will not compromise His truth, in even the slightest way, in order to win His bride. Our God is contra mundum. He isn’t in vogue with the world, rather He is detested by it. Our God may be beautiful to those of us who know Him, but we must realize He isn’t beautiful to those in rebellion against His rule and reign…God doesn’t cry out, “Please like me!” He doesn’t offer the kings and rulers gifts to try to win their vote. He doesn’t bribe them with beer and brats on the church’s front lawn. The Bible says He that sits in the heaven shall laugh and the Lord shall hold them in derision. The bravehearted path is not about comfort and ease, but a kingdom and a glory. It’s not about capitulation, but stalwart conviction. It’s about carrying our King’s good favor while fully recognizing the fact that the world will hate us as a result. The Bible reminds us to be a friend of the world is to be an enemy of God. He would well remember to be friends with God is to be an enemy of the world. May we choose our friends wisely!

The world will suffocate and choke the word out of you. The word cannot produce fruit when we allow the world to suffocate us.

James 1:27: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” Unstained: without blemish, unspotted, free from contamination: Found in Him

Maintaining a love affair with the world is kindred to having a mistress. The modern-day church has fallen head over heels in love with the world. Christians derive far more excitement from their interaction with the world then their relationship with Christ. The spirit of this world is a powerful and cunning seductress that few seem able to discern and fewer seem able to disengage themselves. It is systematized rebellion, a national mindset unifying men and women in their rebellion against God and His Word. It has own set of guidelines determining what is right and what is acceptable. It is an alternative to the kingdom of God. The world is Satan’s unified system which lies outside the kingdom of God. The peril lies in the subtlety of the powers at work within the Church and within our individual lives. Like a cancer the spirit of the world quietly, steadily and methodically attacks one cell at a time, infiltrating our churches, our families and our lives largely supplanting God’s value system with a new hybrid. Deception: People are only vulnerable to being deceived when they want what is being offered to them. It has produced an impotent blend of Christianity and the world.

Revelation 3:14,15: “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” The world turns us lukewarm for God. 

2 Corinthians 6:14-17: Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God,  and they shall be my people.17 Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you,18 and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”

“Go out”-means to depart of your own accord, come forth, GET OUT! Separate: to mark off from others with boundaries; to exclude as disreputable. “Touch”: to fasten to, to adhere to; set on fire

Revelation 18:2-5: And he called out with a mighty voice, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has become a dwelling place for demons,a haunt for every unclean spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detestable beast.For all nations have drunk the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxurious living.” Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people,    lest you take part in her sins,
lest you share in her plagues; for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.

God is limited in His fathership of us when we embrace the darkness of this world. Our fellowship with God is tainted, distant, dead, when we allow the world to stain our soul.

Ephesians 5:11: “ Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” Take no part-means to participate, to become a partaker with, to have fellowship with. No good, spiritual fruit produced with our fellowship with the world. Expose: refute, reproof, convict, admonish

I Thessalonians 4:3a: For this is the will of God your sanctification.                                                                                                  

First key: reformation is the work of God alone. He is the prime mover, the source, the origin of all reformation.

Isaiah 43:19: Behold, I am doing a new thing;  now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

I Chronicles 29:11: Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. 

It was no secret to the Reformers. They knew that no man could produce such radical reform. It had to be the work of God himself. Luther understood this well. “The church has need of reform, but it cannot be the work of one man . . . nor of many . . . rather it must be the work of God alone.” Indeed, no one man, nor any army of men, could confront the Roman Catholic Church and the power and influence it wielded. It had to be the work of God himself. It required the will and action of the sovereign God of the universe. The gospel was at stake, and so God went to work in a radical way to reclaim his word and his authority. The same happened in the times of Joshua, Asa, Hezekiah, Ezra, Nehemiah, and the apostles. It is what God has been doing throughout history, and it is what happened during the Reformation. God intervened to reclaim what was his. The Reformation “was not a mere conflict between people and ideas, but between God and the Devil himself.” He is the true “Reformer.” Their greatness is not to be found in their intellectual brilliance nor their theological acumen. Their greatness is revealed in their humility in recognizing the greatness of God and his hand at work to change history. 

Real reformation is the work and intervention of God himself in history, in the church, and in the heart of man. Reformation dethrones man, and puts God back in his rightful place of supremacy over all things. It is a matter of affirming, and embracing, the supremacy of God. It is about pursuing a relationship with God himself made possible through the atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Jesus Christ is the true reformer and the end of all true reformation. He shared the fate of all reformers — “He was despised and rejected of men,” Your true Reformer is no demagogue; he does not flatter the people: he tells them the truth. His aim was not that of most reformers. He did not seek in the first place to make men happy, but to make them holy. Our Lord took people as He met them, singly, and got hold of their wills, and changed and converted them. This is the reform which alone can make other reforms beneficial.

Revelation 21:5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

Psalm 85:6: “Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?”

Habakkuk 3:2, “O Lord, I have heard the report of you, and your work, O Lord, do I fear. In the midst of the years revive it; in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy.”

Isaiah 57:15, “Thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.’”

To be much for God, we must be much with God. My life is His stage, not mine                                                                                                                                         

Secondly, revival delays because prayer decays. We need white-hot fervent prayer. Nothing Satan fears more than the praying person. Fire begets fire. One spark from an anvil may set a city on fire.  

“And man became a living being” Genesis 2:7: The Mishnah uses a synonym for nephesh with its root meaning prayer. The Talmud defines man as a creature who prayers. We are human only insofar as we are engaged with the Creator. What is prayer, but the essential me in contact with Him. Prayer is the necessary ingredient for being what God intended. The systems of this world are designed to remove your humanity because they are designed to remove you from a relationship with your Creator. Being human means being connected to the source of life. Being human means you are fully engaged in prayer.

Leonard Ravenhill: Poverty-stricken as the church is today in many things, she is most stricken here, in the place of prayer. We have many organizers, but few agonizers, many players and payers, but few pray-ers; many singers, but few clingers; lots of pastors, few wrestlers; many fears, few tears; much fashion, little passion; many interferers, few intercessors, many writers, but few fighters. Failing here, we fail everywhere.

James 5:16-18: Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.

Luke 6:12: In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.

When is the last time we prayed all night to God. We have to increase our 60 second a day prayer life.

Act 6:4:  But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word

Colossians 4:2: Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. 

Continue steadfastly is in the present imperative: Continually, habitually follow this command! The Present Imperative is often a call to a long-term commitment and calls for the attitude or action to be one’s continual way of life (lifestyle).

Matthew 26:37-41: Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” 37 And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” 39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” 40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

The weakness of the flesh will challenge you to pray, but we must pray in the might of the Spirit. Sleep, busyness, time management, lack of desire all arise out of the flesh to keep us from prayer. We must become prayer warriors, watching and praying diligently. All revivals in history were preceded by fervent, hourly daily prayer. The church has been called to pray and must pray, pray and pray. It cannot be a minute of a few-faint hearted prayers. Pledge to our God-start with at least one hour in undisturbed wrestling prayer. We need to pray bold audacious prayers and see what God does.

David Brainerd: Give yourself to prayer, to reading and meditation on divine truths: strive to penetrate to the bottom of them and never be content with a superficial knowledge.” “As long as I see anything to be done for God, life is worth having; but O how vain and unworthy it is to live for any lower end!”

Give yourself to prayer. It must be our number-one priority.

When you read the prayers of Paul in his letters, they read just like prayers that would be made for churches that are drifting into lifelessness. There are few prayers in the Bible that have had a reviving, challenging, awakening, renewing effect on me like Ephesians 3, where Paul prays like this:

Ephesians 3:16-20: [I pray] that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.

Verse 20 is our prayer verse-“God is able to do exceeding, abundantly above all that we ask or think.” Challenge God to bring this verse into fruition in your radical, audacious prayer life. Without prayer there is no revival.

Thirdly, revival requires radical faith.

Ludy: Christianity is built on one basic thing: faith. Without faith there isn’t much left in the whole operation, because everything in Christianity that matters operates with it…Hebrews 11:6 says that “without faith it is impossible to please God.” If faith is absent then the gospel is rendered powerless in a human life…It is a faith like the Jacob variety, the kind that says, :This is what God said He would do, so I am going to wrestle in prayer until it becomes a reality.” It is a faith that holds God to His Word and says “You promised!”…Such a faith thunders “God said it, and it will be done-I’ll stake my life on it!” Faith, in all its fullness, will persist, knock, beg, ask and wrestle through the night until the realities of the cross are fully evidenced in the natural world. Why have we become a bunch of weak-willed nerfs. And why are we rolling over and accepting such defeat. Let’s rise up with prayer and fasting and wrestle through the night until we lay hold of God and all that He has promised. According to the Bible, faith is absolute, unwavering, all-out confident, die-hard assurance, and die to prove certainty in the person of Jesus Christ and His Word. The long and short is that if God says He will do something, you can take it the bank and placed unreserved confidence that it will be done!

Faith is trusting with a radical confidence that your commander sees more clearly than you do and that he knows what is best in this and every situation…Our commander in heaven has spoken, and he did not stutter…Faith is the forsaking of my natural reasoning as the means I filter though and judge my life…It an abandonment to God’s thoughts, God’s ways, God’s agenda…This is why the first action taken by faith, as the ruing principal of the human soul, is to the hush the voice of doubt and to stick spiritual duct tape over its mouth. Doubt is the voice of the natural man-it is heavily biased towards self and its agenda, and is naturally antagonistic to the Spirit of God. Faith is wholly given to the opinion of God and trust s it implicitly. Faith has the gall to actually believe God is who He says He is and is perfectly faithful to take care of his children when we entrust ourselves to Him.  Faith is fiercely loyal to the Word of God and even at the risk of public ridicule it is will to put all its chips on God and live accordingly.   

Isaiah 7:9: If you are not firm in faith, you are not firm at all.

Romans 4:20: No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 

2 Corinthians 5:7 Walk by faith not by sight.2 Corinthians 8:7: we are to excel in faith

Ephesians 6:16: In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one;

I Timothy 1:19: We cannot allow the world to shipwreck our faith. We must hold onto our faith with tenacity.

Prayer of Ephesians for the manifestation of radical faith: Ephesians 1:19-23: and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Ezekiel 37:1-6: The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley;[a] it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath[b] to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.”

Yahweh can take the dry bones of Christianity in the world today and breathe into it new life. Only Yahweh can cause the church to live.

We cannot let the world define us; cannot let the world lead us; cannot let the world control us. If we mix with the world there will be no revival, there will be no reformation. We must come out from among the world and live sanctified in our thinking and in our actions.

Let us stand like Martin Luther against the church panting after the world. Let us come back to the authority of the Word and the truth of the Scriptures. Let us say with all boldness: “Here I stand. God help me. I can do no other.”

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Making Disciples: The Calling of the Church

Take notes. Statistics show we retain only 30% of the sermon by Sunday evening & 5% by Friday. Click to see a chart which compares the percentage of truth retained with the method by which the material is presented and received.

Robby Gallaty says ” As you study and grow, remember that you are not merely learning for your own benefit, but also for the benefit of others. Again, you must take notesHow else will you pass on the information you have learned? Guiding others in their walk with Christ is a joy many overlook. The first and foremost way to make disciples is to become a disciple, and the only way to teach others effectively is to continue as a lifelong learner. We are closest to Christ when we are doing what He has commanded us to do, and the best way to learn is to teach.” (Growing Up: How to Be a Disciple Who Makes Disciples)

To reiterate the most efficient way to maximize retention of truth is to teach truth. Therefore, take time each week to teach the truths you have gleaned in our sessions. And who should you teach? I would encourage you to teach them to your wife, your children and/or someone with whom you are meeting (cp the divine pattern in Dt 6:1-26-7). If you carry out this exercise, your retention percentage will be significantly increased! Although notes will always (usually) be provided the following week, be sure you take your own notes, for we will often discuss something in our group that is not in the notes.

Let’s begin…

Making disciples is not easy but it is the last command of Jesus. To not make disciples (in the power of Spirit) is to disobey Jesus. Renaut van der Riet (pastor Mosaic Community Church, Oakland, Florida) writes about the difficulty of making disciples – “In this fast-food, instant-access generation, we have often substituted true discipleship for a superficial community experience and a program-driven approach to faith. These require far less work and a much lower level of commitment. Our churches may grow numerically, but we are left dabbling in the shallows of God instead of diving into the depths of God. We have come a long way since the days when someone would drop everything for the honor of following their rabbi…As a young pastor charting a course through the jungle of planting a church and now shepherding that church, I’ve discovered that it is increasingly difficult to find mentors who will guide me through the ins and outs of practical, biblical discipleship.”

Max Anders writes that “evidence suggests that on the whole, the church is dramatically falling short on discipleship. As I speak with people about this subject, there seems to be a pervasive sense among church observers that we are categorically failing at this central responsibility.” (Brave New Discipleship-Cultivating Scripture-driven Christians in a Culture-driven World)

Dr Howard Hendricks, beloved professor at DTS who went home to the Lord in 2013, said that every believer should foster three relationships in their life for as Solomon said “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17):

• A PAUL —an older and wiser believer from whom you can learn (I would add one who has had time to make more mistakes).

• A Barnabas—a friend who encourages, and holds you accountable

• A Timothy—a young believer in whom you are investing

This short list begs several questions. If you are a Paul, an older man (woman) in the faith, do you have a Timothy (or Timothea)? Why not? If you are like Paul or like Timothy, do you have a Barnabas to encourage you and keep you accountable? If you are a young believer, have you prayerfully sought out an older, more mature saint to be your Paul? Why not? The “Jesus way” is to make disciples and by implication to be a disciple who will go on to make disciples (2 Ti 2:2+). Obedience to Jesus’ last command will bring lasting joy, not only in this life but in the life to come (read Jn 15:16Mt 6:19-21+2 Cor 5:10+Rev 22:12+)! You are not under law but under grace (Ro 6:14+, cf Gal 5:18+), so take this to the Lord in prayer as to how He would have you respond.

Where are the older Paul’s discipling the younger Timothy’s? 30 years ago I tried to find a Paul at the largest Bible church in Austin and could not, even after to appealing to several of the lead pastors. I was forced to find my “Paul” by reading works by other godly men, especially C H Spurgeon, John Piper, John MacArthur, Chuck Swindoll, Wayne Barber, et al. That’s why I am excited about what we are beginning. I am almost 70 and have walked seriously with Jesus for 30+ years and feel a strong urge to pass on person to person many of the things the Spirit of Jesus (Acts 16:7Php 1:19) has taught me over the years.

Steven Cole had a similar experience writing “When I was younger in the faith, I prayed about this and explored a few opportunities, but everything I tried fell flat. I couldn’t find anyone to be in the role of a Paul to me. Finally, I started reading the lives of the great men of God, such as George Muller, Charles Spurgeon, John Calvin, John Bunyan, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and a host of others. They have served as my spiritual mentors. I look forward to meeting them and sitting down for long chats in heaven! But ask God first for a living model.” (Handing Off the Truth – 2 Timothy 2:2)

My goal is that after a period of time (12-24 months) you will pass the principles I teach you to a group of younger men. Spiritual Multiplication is my goal, obeying Christ’s command to make disciples who make disciples. My time on earth is short and God has impressed on me that the highest eternal “yield” (see Jesus’ charge “to go and bear fruit–fruit that will last” forever! Jn 15:168) is to invest in a group of younger, trustworthy, reliable men who are willing and able to pass the spiritual baton to other faithful men (2 Timothy 2:2– note ).

But it will not happen by my power or so-called “adequacy” for sure –

Jesus’ words keep resonating through my mind (these words are in a different context but applicable in principle. Context = When Jesus taught that He Himself was the Bread of life)…

(1) John 6:63 “It is the Spirit Who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” (“are spirit-giving and life-producing”)

So what is our great need from Jn 6:63? – dependence on the Spirit, diving into His Word = these are “spirit-giving and life-producing.” So throughout our time together over the months to come the Holy Word illuminated/taught by the Holy Spirit will be our goal for only therein are we “adequate.”

(2) John 15:5 Jesus said “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides (active voicepresent tense = habitually, as his routine practice, as his general lifestyle, “is at home”) in Me, and I in him, (= oneness, covenant, intimacy – cp marriage covenant = man becoming one flesh with his wife – Ge 2:24 ) he bears much fruit; for (term of explanationapart from Me you can (you have power [dunamai] to) do nothing (absolutely nothing).”

(3) 2Cor 3:5-6note Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a New Covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. –

What’s the key word? Adequate.

What’s “letter”? the Law.

Comment – Note the clear, striking contrast between law and Spirit, like oil and water! And again notice that any spiritual fruit that comes from us that possesses spiritual life and eternal value is produced by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, which emphasizes the disciple’s desperate need to continually abide in and depend on His filling and His enabling if he or she is to be a fruitful follower of Christ.

Bill Hybels, Senior Pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, publicly apologized to his congregation for failing to produce disciples in his church. Hybels instructed his staff to evaluate Willow Creek’s effectiveness, and the results caused Hybels to experience the “wake-up call” of his ministerial life. After investing 30 years of ministry and tens of millions of dollars in facilities, programs, and promotions, Willow Creek was admittedly unsuccessful in producing disciples. Resources were prioritized on attracting visitors, but a step-by-step plan for personal growth was ignored. (Here is a direct quote – “When you’re three decades into leading a church as I am you think you ‘get it’ and the data proved there’s some things I don’t ‘get it’ yet!”)

David Platt author of books “Radical” and “Follow Me” writes that “In Jesus’ initial call to four men standing by the Sea of Galilee, we see that the inevitable overflow of being a disciple of Jesus is making disciples of Jesus. “Follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). This was a promise: Jesus would take His disciples and turn them into disciple-makers. And this was a command: he would call each of his disciples at the end of Matthew to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to obey him (Matthew 28:19-20). From the start, God’s simple design has been for every single disciple of Jesus to make disciples who make disciples who make disciples until the gospel spreads to all peoples on the planet. Yet we have subtly and tragically taken this costly command of Christ to go, baptize, and teach all nations and mutated it into a comfortable call for Christians to come, be baptized, and listen in one location. If you were to ask individual Christians today what it means either to be a disciple or to make disciples, you would likely get jumbled thoughts, ambiguous answers, and probably even some blank stares. In all our activity as Christians and with all our resources in the church, we are practically ignoring the commission of Christ. Evangelism is relegated to a dreaded topic, discipleship is reduced to a canned program, and the majority of the church is currently sitting sidelined in a spectator mentality that delegates disciple-making to pastors and professionals, ministers and missionaries.”

J.D. Greear author of the provocative book “Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart” writes “Scientists and theologians agree: everything that is alive grows and reproduces. How is it, then, that so many Christians are not growing and not reproducing spiritually?”

With that as a background, our primary resource for making disciples will be God’s Word.

WHO IS A DISCIPLE OF JESUS?

A key passage for us will be John 8:31b – Jesus said “If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine.”

What kind of sentence is this? If…then. A conditional sentence.

What is the condition? What is the promise? Whose disciples will we be?

So what does it mean to abide? Remain, live, be at home.

What is the “home” in Jesus’ declaration? THE WORD.

LET’S SUM IT UP – what is Jesus saying? What do you do at home? Do you just visit your home? I hope not! You don’t just visit the Word as an occasional guest. You move in and live with the WORD. You wake up WITH THE WORD and you GO TO SLEEP WITH THE WORD percolating through your heart and mind ( Ps 63:6Ps 119:55Ps 119:148; Cp importance of memorization and meditation). The Word shapes your worldview (cp Ro 12:2note ). It governs and guides your thinking, your attitudes, your speech, and your behavior. There isn’t any area of your life that is not subject to God’s Word or influenced by it (cf Col 3:16note). Continuing or abiding obviously implies time spent in the Word over the long haul.” You become Scripture Saturated. (not satiated but saturated!) But is the goal just for information? Of course not – it is for transformation. We must seek to master the Bible well, so that the Bible masters us….

our purpose together is not to make us smarter sinners,
but for us to become more like our Savior
.

2 Corinthians 3:18note – Let’s read 2Cor 3:18 – “But we all, with unveiled face beholding (present tense = continually, not just occasionally or once or twice a week!) as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed (present tense = continually signifying it is a life-long process [i.e., it is the process of progressive sanctification], passive voicemetamorphoo = “the caterpillar to butterfly word”) into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”

Here is the Amplified version – “And all of us, as with unveiled face, [because we] continued to behold [in the Word of God] as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are constantly being transfigured into His very own image in ever increasing splendor and from one degree of glory to another; [for this comes] from the Lord [Who is] the Spirit.”

So how do we behold the glory of the Lord? In the creation you might say, and that’s true (cf Ps 19:1-2 ). But for the Holy Spirit to bring about true inner changes that shows forth on the outside we need to behold Jesus in the Word of God.

Dr. H. A. Ironside told the story about an old Scot who lay suffering and, actually, dying. The physician told him he didn’t have very long to live. A friend came to spend a little time with him and said to him, “They tell me you’ll not be with us long.” That’s a nice thing to say to a man who is dying. Then he continued, “I hope you get a wee glimpse of the Savior’s blessed face as you are going through the valley of the shadow.” The dying man looked up when he gathered a little strength and answered, “Away with the glimpse, mon; it’s a full view of His blessed face I’ve had these forty years, and I’ll not be satisfied with any of your wee glimpses now.” How wonderful to behold Him today.

The goal of our time together will be for us to abide in His Word and BEHOLD THE GLORY OF JESUS and be transformed by His Spirit into CHRIST’S image, disciples becoming more like their Master, being crafted into disciples who will be prepared and passionate to pass the baton, seeking to make more disciples.

LAST WORDS ARE ALWAYS WORTH LISTENING TO
Especially if they are from Jesus

Let’s look at Jesus’ last command to His disciples and by default to all of us today who would call ourselves true followers of Jesus…

Matthew 28:18-20note (Context = Mt 28:17 = When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful.)

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. “Go therefore and make disciples (verb = matheteuo from the noun mathetes = learners = those who direct their mind to another’s teaching and follow them as their leader) of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

WHAT IS THE ONLY COMMAND IN jesus’ GREAT COMMISSIONMake Disciples. It is a command in the aorist imperative meaning to “Do this Now!” “Don’t delay!” In Greek the aorist imperative conveys a sense of urgency!

As an aside, there are over 1600 commands in the NT and none of them can be carried out in our natural strength (e.g., In Eph 5:25note “Husbands love your wives [HOW?] as Christ loved the church” is a command in the present imperative which is a charge to do this this continually! Just try to accomplish that by relying on your fallen flesh! Cp Col 3:19note ). We must continually choose to renounce self-effort and rely on the Spirit’s enablement. Yes, the Spirit is called the “Helper” (Jn 14:16 ) but a better name would be “Enabler” because to say we need just a little help implies we can do some of the supernatural work in our own power, which we can’t! Remember that every divine commandment comes “pre-packaged” with divine enablement (the indwelling Spirit)! To try to accomplish divine commands (like “make disciples“) with self effort will end up placing us under the frustrating, futile yoke of legalism, because natural strength can never carry out supernatural tasks! In summary, we commanded to make disciples, but the truth is we can only make disciples as God’s Spirit enables us to make disciples. Making disciples is a supernatural work calling for continued dependence on a supernatural Source, the Spirit of Jesus, the Master Disciple Maker! His power, our privilege!

From this passage what kind of disciples does Jesus desire? Learners of the Word who are doers, men and women who observe and obey His Word (cp James 1:22note ). In Mt 28:19 Jesus says “teaching them to observe” or obey His Word. Recall Jesus’ description in John 8:31 “If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine.” To abide in His Word in context implies that one obeys His Word. Does he or she obey perfectly? Of course not. But it is about the general direction of one’s conduct and behavior. One of my favorite sayings is that it is about direction, not perfection! Hallelujah!

WHAT ACTIVITY IS CENTRAL TO THE MAKING OF DISCIPLES? Teaching them to obey all that Jesus commanded.

How can Jesus be with us always? This is possible because every believer has the indwelling Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ (Ro 8:9note ).

How does this truth relate to ACTS 1:8note? Jesus declared to His disciples “but you shall receive power (dunamis) when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”?

If we seek to make disciples, what are the chances we will succeed according to what jesus declared? Mt 28:18 says He has all authority and Mt 28:20 promises He will be with us forever! In sum we are assured of success in making disciples if we continually rely on His power (Acts 1:8note ) and His presence. We must never forget that we are not “adequate in ourselves” to make disciples, but that the Spirit of Christ is always adequate (2Cor 3:5-6-note ).

Mt 28:18-20 is commonly called the GREAT COMMISSION but some have called it the Great Confusion. Why? Because as Bill Hull asks “Why does the church insist on trying to evangelize the world without making disciples?…Christ did not come to make Christians; He came to make disciples.” Discipleship is not one of the church’s various ministries. It is not something that the paid staff do. Discipleship is who we – as the church – are at our very core.”

does preaching THE WORD make disciples? Most everyone would agree that while preaching is commanded and is necessary for a vital, dynamic local body, preaching by itself is not the primary means for making disciples.

Avery Willis, creator of Masterlife, when asked if preaching makes disciples replied “I really don’t believe much discipling is done through preaching….Yes, you can impart information and emotion in preaching, but discipleship is more relationalmore one on one… preaching to make disciples is like going to the nursery and spraying the crying babies with milk and saying that you just fed the kids…..I am not against preaching; I do it all the time. But Jesus chose twelve and lived with them, explained to them, gave them assignments, debriefed them…to shape and mold them to be like Him. His sermons no doubt helped convey the truth, but He had to follow up most of it with what I call discipling.”

How important is discipleship to most pastors? In his recent book on making disciples Robby Gallaty writes “In study after study, pastors have repeatedly ranked discipleship at the bottom of their priority list. The average church today focuses on programs and the public worship experience. Few have any real emphasis on personal discipleship, much less any structure or instruction for performing it.” (Ibid )

TEACH SOMEONE WHAT YOU LEARNED THIS WEEK!
PRAY FOR ONE ANOTHER THIS WEEK!

The fact that the Greek word for disciple is not found after the book of Acts (Acts 21:16 = last occurrence) might suggest that after Acts there is no need for the Church to fulfill Jesus’ last command to make disciples (Mt 28:19note). Nothing could be further from the truth. While the word disciple (mathetes) or make disciples (matheteuo) is not present after Acts, the concept of discipleship is taught repeatedly, especially in the Pauline epistles. We will begin with the foremost example found in Paul’s last written communication in his second letter to the young disciple name Timothy (Paul wrote “the time of my departure has come” 2Ti 4:6note). So even as Mt 28:18-20 was Jesus’ Great Commission to His disciples, Paul’s issues his last commission to Timothy in 2Timothy 2:1-2

1 You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

2 And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able (hikanos = having attained a certain standard, fit, qualified ) to teach others also. ( 2Ti 2:1-2note )

IMPORTANCE OF OBSERVING
“CONNECTING WORDS”

(Thereforeforso that, etc)

What is the “therefore” there forTerms of conclusion like therefore should always prompt a pause to prayerfully ponder what the author is saying and will usually force you to re-read the preceding context. Practice this simple discipline and it will radically transform your “Read Through the Bible in a Year” program! This will also keep you from “speed reading” the text and give your Teacher, the Spirit, an opportunity to teach you (to illuminate the text) and speak to you (e.g., to urge you to apply the truth). Another benefit of pausing to ponder is that you in effect practice the discipline of Biblical Meditation or “chewing the cud,” a vanishing discipline in our fast paced, hi tech, low touch society, but a discipline God promises to bless (Ps 1:2notePs 1:3noteJoshua 1:8note) Remember that reading the Bible without meditating on it is like eating without chewing.

So why is the therefore there? In the present context Paul has just described the fact that all in Asia have departed (2Ti 1:15 –note), so it would be tempting for Timothy to shrink back from passing on the Gospel (2Ti 1:7note suggests he may have been a timid personality)….therefore Paul tells Timothy to be strong, be strengthened on the inside for the spiritual warfare on the outside. The last thing the Adversary wants to see is disciples who are being strengthened in the Lord and supernaturally equipped to make more disciples. If he can sidetrack the church from obeying Jesus’ last, great command to make disciples (Mt 28:19note), he has achieved a major objective to blunting the power of the Church of Jesus Christ!

IMPORTANCE OF UNDERSTANDING
BASICS OF VERB TENSE, VOICE AND MOOD

Be strong is present tense, imperative mood and passive voice. Paul is not giving a suggestion but a command and present tense calls for Timothy to continually be strengthened by grace, the clear implication being that he is going to continually need it! The passive voice indicates that the action (inner strengthening) is the result of an outside Source, the grace that is in Christ Jesus and as discussed below is “dispensed” by His Spirit. (See simple synopsis of Greek Verb Tense, Voice, Mood).

The Greek verb is endunamoo and is derived from dunamisDunamis (source of English words like DynamoDynamicDynamite) describes the inherent (supernatural) power residing within someone to enable them to accomplish a task. For example, in Romans 1:16note Paul says the Gospel has supernatural dunamis (inherent power) to save, which should take some of the pressure off of us to think we have to make a perfect presentation. In Acts 1:8note Jesus says the Spirit will give the disciples (including us) dunamis to be His witnesses (fulfilling His promise of clothing them with supernatural power in Lk 24:49). In is interesting that the same verb endunamoo is also used by Paul in Ephesians 6:10note (also in the form of a command = present passive imperative) and is clearly used in the context of spiritual warfare, which would support the premise that there will be major spiritual resistance when Timothy (and we) seek to obey Jesus and Paul and go and make disciples. Our enemy will do all that God allows him to do to prevent us from completing this vital task! Paul also uses endunamoo in this same letter in 2Ti 4:17note to speak of the Lord strengthening him in the face of spiritual attack (2Ti 4:14-16note). Paul’s example of reliance on the Lord Jesus’ power to stand firm would encourage his disciple to do the same when the opposition came as it surely would (see one of “God’s promises” we’d rather not have! = 2Ti 3:12note)!

Remember that there are over 1600 commands (imperatives) in the New Testament and we cannot keep even ONE of them in our natural strength. So even for Timothy to experience inner strengthening which Paul commands, he had to first surrender or yield his rights and to rely on the Holy Spirit in him to give him the dunamis he needed to accomplish the task Paul would call him to in verse 2, the task of making disciples. The ESV Study Bible says this section describes Paul’s “resumes the call to Spirit-empowered boldness” which began in 2Ti 1:6ffnoteAnd the same spiritual dynamic (our need, the Spirit’s sufficient supply) applies to us as we seek to obey Paul’s command to be strong. We cannot just “grit our teeth” and be strong (the world’s way), but we must continually renounce reliance on our natural ability and rely wholly on the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of grace (Heb 10:29b). He is the Lord’s “C.E.O.” if you will, the Lord’s administrator or executive, Who makes the grace that is in Christ Jesus available to His disciples.

The great Puritan writer John Owen explains how grace is in Jesus and yet the effecting Agent of that grace is the Spirit of Jesus (Acts 16:7Phil 1:19noteRo 8:9note). Owen writes

“Everything God does He does as the triune God. Each Person of the Trinity is involved in every action of God. Yet at the same time each Person has a special role to fulfill in that work….There is no good that we receive from God but it is brought to us and wrought in us by the Holy Spirit. Nor is there in us any good towards God, any faith, love, obedience to His will, but what we are enabled (Ed: Note not “helped” which implies we have some ability and just need a little “push“!) to do so by the Holy Spirit. (Pneumatologia, Or, A Discourse Concerning the Holy Spirit)

J Vernon McGee comments on Paul’s command to be strong –

“I love this—be strong in grace. My friend, if you think that you can grit your teeth and go out and live the Christian life on your own, you’re in for a great disappointment. If you feel that you can follow a few little rules or some clever gimmicks to make you a mature Christian, then you have fallen into a subtle trap of legalism. Paul gives no rules, and the Word of God has no rules to tell the child of God how to live the Christian life. We are saved by grace, and now we are to live by the grace of God and be strong in that grace….When I hear Christians say, “I don’t do this, and I don’t do that, and I am following a set of rules,” I immediately recognize that they know very little about the grace of God. They are trying to live the Christian life in their own strength. Paul says, “Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” This begs the question dear disciples of Christ, in whose strength are you living the supernatural life, yours or His?

What is the source of the power the Spirit dispenses? In context, it is the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The most common answer to the question what is the meaning of grace is “God’s unmerited favor.” Or some mention the great acrostic G.R.A.C.EGod’s Riches AChrist’s Expense. While these answers are not wrong, they fall short of the important truth that grace means so much more that unmerited favor. In the present context we see that grace connotes power, especially supernatural enablement to accomplish what God commands. You can mark it down — God’s commandment ALWAYS includes His enablement! We see this same pattern in Second Corinthians where Paul gives us insight into an event which I personally think is the “secret” of his incredible ministry for the Lord. So let’s take a quick look at that passage.

THE “SECRET” OF
PAUL’S POWERFUL MINISTRY

In 2 Corinthians 12 Paul describes an event that occurred 14 years earlier, an event in which he was “raptured” (same verb [harpazo – Latin Vulgate translates it “rapturo“] used in 1Thes 4:17note) into the Third Heaven (2Cor 12:2), to Paradise (2Cor 12:4), and because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, he was given “a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet” him (no one knows exactly how this was manifest) to keep Paul from exalting himself. (2Cor 12:7). And after praying three times for the Lord to take away the thorn (2Cor 12:8), Jesus responded by teaching us a truly life changing truth…

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for (My) power (dunamis) is perfected (made to reach its intended goal) in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (2Cor 12:9-10note)

And so we see that the Lord Jesus clearly equates the grace that is in Him (Jn 1:14noteJn 1:16-17note) with the power to live a supernatural life (cp Jn 10:10). And what is the key that unlocks the door to that abundant life? Our weaknesses (plural)! This is one of the great truths of Scripture and as with most of the profound teachings of the Bible, it is totally antithetical to the way the world thinks. The world says “up” is the way to power, but Jesus says “No, down is the way to My power!” Grace flows down, as we humbly bow at the foot of the Cross (cp James 4:6). And so why did I make the presumptive statement that this passage unlocks the secret for Paul’s dynamic ministry (and for us who are called to imitate Paul – 1Cor 11:1)? The answer requires some comparison with the chronology of the major events in Paul’s life. Recall that Second Corinthians was written about 56AD, but Paul’s being caught up to the third heaven and Paradise occurred 14 years earlier (2Cor 12:2-3), roughly 42AD, which would have been after his conversion (Acts 9:1-9) but before his 3 great missionary journeys. I will submit that Paul never shed that thorn in his side and that in a continual state of weakness he was continually in a state of supernatural strength (power) wrought by the grace with is in Christ Jesus (2Ti 2:1). Paul knew about grace and power and he knew Timothy and all disciples that would follow would need to depend on the same power source! The highly respected commentator Warren Wiersbe makes a similar statement declaring that 1Cor 15:10 was “the secret of Paul’s great ministry,” and while I totally agree (read that verse and note the repeated word!), the event which led to Paul’s utter dependence on God’s grace for ministry occurred in Second Corinthians 12. As always I encourage you to be a Berean (Acts 17:11note). I could be wrong, but I can’t wait to ask Paul in the future if this was the pivotal event (after his conversion of course) that fueled his dynamic distribution of the Gospel of Jesus throughout most of the Roman Empire. Below is an overview of the approximate chronology (Bible does not give specific dates) of Paul’s life…

32AD – Stephen’s stoning Acts 7:588:1

33AD – Persecution of church (Acts 8:1-3Phil 3:6)

34AD – Paul born again on the Road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-9) Goes to Damascus (Acts 9:10-19Acts 9:22 says “Saul kept increasing (endunamoo in the imperfect tense) in strength.”

35AD – Travels to Arabia where he spends 3 years (Gal 1:17 – most authorities say this event occurred between Acts 9:22 and Acts 9:23 – note phrase “when many days had elapsed”)

46AD – Barrnabas travels to Tarsus in order to seek Saul (Acts 11:25)

56AD – Second Corinthians Written

Respected teacher Jerry Bridges has some excellent summary comments on the relationship of power and grace in 2Timothy 2:1 writing that…

The grace in 2 Timothy 2:1 is the blessing of power. It’s the same category of grace we see in 2 Corinthians 12:9 as the Lord tells Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,” and Paul responds, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” Here God equates his grace with his power; power that can be experienced only through human weakness. So when Paul wanted Timothy to be strengthened by the same divine power he had experienced, he urged Timothy to be strengthened by grace. How is Timothy to respond to this command? By faith he’s to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit instead of his own resolutions, self-effort, or willpower. He’s to acknowledge that without Christ he can do nothing (John 15:5). Just as he must look outside himself to Christ’s righteousness for his standing before God, he must also look outside himself to the power of the Holy Spirit for his strength to live the Christian life. And the same is true for us. (Amen!) (The Bookends of the Christian Life- Jerry Bridges, Bob Bevington)

GRACE IN
THREE TENSES

Since grace is so amazing, let’s dwell just a few more minutes on God’s great grace. It is fascinating to observe that God’s grace is used in at least 3 ways in the New Testament – I like to think of grace in “three tenses“…

PAST TENSE GRACE = God’s unmerited favor in our salvation – Eph 2:8-9note. This tense corresponds to the grace that brought about our justification.

PRESENT TENSE GRACE = God’s power to produce inner transformation and which is available to us now enabling us to grow in our supernatural life in Christ. Read 1Cor 15:10note, noting the key word and also noting Paul’s responsibility and God’s provision! (Cp 2Cor 1:12). This tense corresponds to the grace necessary for our progressive sanctification.

It follows that grace does not merely accept us (justification), but it transforms us (sanctification – cp Titus 2:11note and Titus 2:12note), and we need to be careful that we do “not receive the grace of God in vain.” (2Cor 6:1) To dismiss grace in the sanctification process will lead to frustration in our spiritual lives and even to spiritual disaster!

 

Ray Ortlund adds that “if all we want out of God is acceptance without transformation, we are receiving His grace in vain and our Christianity is worthless. The power of grace is not automatic. Each of us lives out of an inner world with its own moral and conceptual and emotional topography. The obstacles to God there are formidable. Our intuitive ways of thinking, the tilt of our very desires—these powerful internal structures can hinder the advance of God.” (Preaching the Word – Isaiah)

FUTURE TENSE GRACE = God’s grace that will change us “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” (1Cor 15:52) into eternal bearers of Christ-like glory at our Lord’s return (1Jn 3:2note). Read 1Pe 1:13note. This tense corresponds to the grace that will bring about our future glorification.

ETERNAL GRACE = There is one other “chronological” aspect of grace, which we might term “eternal grace,” for Paul writes that “in the ages to come He might show (present tense = continually, forever and ever and ever) the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Eph 2:7note). God’s amazing grace transcends time!

In summary we begin our Christian race by grace (are justified), run daily by grace (are sanctified) and finish by grace (are glorified), all provided by the Spirit of grace (Heb 10:29)

See Related Discussion = Three Tenses of Salvation

What is Paul’s command in 2Ti 2:2? Timothy was commanded to entrust what he had learned from Paul in the presence of many witnesses (cp synonymous terms in 2Ti 1:13note = “sound words” ; 2Ti 1:14 = “the treasure” of the Gospel). Entrust is the verb paratithemi, which literally means to set before and described setting food before someone (Mk 6:41). I love this picture, for when we entrust the Word of the Gospel to others, we in effect set the “Bread of life” before them! In secular Greek paratithemi was a common banking term meaning to deposit something valuable (what is more valuable than the Gospel?) as a trust, for protection and safe keeping.

Who are the men Timothy was and we was to seek in order to entrust the treasure of the Gospel? Not just any men but men who are faithful, who are trustworthy, who will keep their promise to pass the treasure to the next runner. The point is clear — we are to seek men to disciple who are serious about the Gospel and unwilling to commit to passing it on to other men when they have finished their time of disciple training.

As someone has said we should seek “F.A.T. men” = Faithful, Available (will make time to be discipled a priority – men willing to set the alarm at 5AM and gather at 6AM!), Teachable (Men “who tremble at” God’s Word, Isa 66:2, who put out the “welcome mat” [verb = dechomai] welcoming the Word – 1Th 2:13note; cp James 1:21note )

Disciple-Makers International – In these days of heightened sensitivity, never refer to someone as “fat”. The “politically correct” term is “horizontally gifted”. But when it comes to deciding who to invest your time in as a disciple maker, forget protocol and look for FAT people; that is, Faithful, Available and Teachable. (Discipling “FAT” People)

As an aside how many “runners” do you observe in 2Timothy 2:2? Four, just like the 400 meter relay race! What happens in a relay race when the baton is dropped or runner disqualified? Did you see what happened to the US team in he men’s 400 meter relay at the 2015 world championships? (Go to 8 minutes to watch 2015 Men’s 4x100m Relay Final – IAAF World Championships in Beijing)

How important is the passing of the spiritual baton of the Gospel to faithful runners? It goes without saying that it is critical to pass the baton. Where would we be if Timothy had failed to obey the command to make disciples? How valuable is the process of spiritual multiplication? See the following illustrations…

Illustration of the Value of Spiritual Multiplication – Suppose that two boys had a very rich father. He made them an offer: they could choose to receive either $100,000 per day for 31 days, or one penny the first day, doubled each day for 31 days. If one boy chose the $100,000 per day, at the end of 31 days he would have $3,100,000. But the boy who chose the penny doubled each day would come out with $2,147,483,648!

See the power of discipleship groups for multiplying disciples – Compares the spiritual fruit of the Evangelist versus a Disciple maker versus a group of four. (If one man discipled 3 other men for one year and they in turn discipled 3 men for a year, etc, etc, by year 16 the number of disciples would be over 43 million (US population = 320 million)!

THE FIVE MOST IMPORTANT
VERSES IN THE BIBLE

Recall that one of the marks of a true disciple of Jesus is that he abides in His Word and then he adds that the truth of His Word will set the disciple free (Jn 8:31-32). The verb Jesus used for “shall make you free” (eleutheroo) was used literally to describe the emancipation of slaves from bondage. Jesus came to set us free from the power of sin, the fallen world and Satan. But the prerequisite is that we allow His Word to continually penetrate and permeate our heart and mind. With that in mind over the next sessions we will focus on some passages that are vital for every true disciple of Jesus to fully comprehend so that they might live out the abundant life in the freedom that His grace and His Spirit provides. Of course all Scripture is important because it is a word from God Himself (2Ti 3:16), but for our purposes we will focus on five passages which I feel are especially important in regard to growing disciples in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2Pe 3:18).

BE FILLED

1) Ephesians 5:18BE FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT

Testimonials Regarding the Importance of Ephesians 5:18

Chuck Swindoll – I don’t know of a more important verse in the New Testament for the Christian than Ephesians 5:18—honest, no exaggeration. This verse tells the believer how to live an authentic, empowered life…. I cannot be filled with the Spirit while I have unconfessed sin within me. I cannot be filled with the Spirit while at the same time conducting my life in the energy of the flesh. I cannot be filled with the Spirit while I am resisting God’s will and relying only on myself. I need to be sure that I have taken care of the sins that have emerged in my life, that I have not ignored the wrong that I have done before God and to others. I need to walk in conscious dependence on the Lord on a daily basis. Many a morning I begin my day by sitting on the side of the bed, saying:

This is your day, Lord. I want to be at Your disposal. I have no idea what these next twenty-four hours will contain. But before I sip my first cup of coffee, and even before I get dressed, I want You to know that from this moment on throughout this day, I’m Yours, Lord. Help me to lean on You, to draw strength from You, and to have You fill my mind and my thoughts. Take control of my senses so that I am literally filled with Your presence and empowered with Your energy. I want to be Your tool, Your vessel today. I can’t make it happen. And so I’m saying, Lord, fill me with Your Spirit today. (Embraced by the Spirit)

Ray Pritchard wrote that “the filling of the Spirit is the most important doctrine of the spiritual life….three common misconceptions. (1) It is an emotional experience…(2) It is reserved for special Christians….(3) It is controversial and therefore better off ignored…. (Pritchard ends his sermon declaring that) “the filling of the Spirit is the most important doctrine of the spiritual life. It is foundational to everything else. There is nothing we need more. Here is my definition of the filling of the Spirit: It is that state in which the Holy Spirit is free to do all that He came into my life to do. In a sense being filled with the Spirit is an impossibility-at least as far as it depends on us. Only God’s Spirit can fill us. We need two things-emptiness and openness. You can’t fill a jar that’s already full, and you can’t fill a jar that is not open. There must be a sense of need-“Lord, I’m empty and I need to be filled by Your Spirit.” There must be a willingness-“Lord, I’m open to You…” The filling of the Spirit is really as simple as that. As long as we are conscious of our need and as long as we are willing to yield to the Lord, we can be filled with the Lord all day long. This power is available to us all day long. (What Does it Mean to be Filled With the Spirit?)

Dr. J. Vernon McGee preached a commencement address at Dallas Theological Seminary and was then in his early 80s, near the end of a long and fruitful ministry. Ray Pritchard writes “I’ve forgotten almost everything else he said that night, but one comment has stayed with me. He said that if he were starting his ministry over again, he would give much more attention to the Person and work of the Holy Spirit. He would preach on the Spirit more frequently and attempt to lead people to depend on his power every day. The greatest preacher of the 19th century, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, said, “The grand thing the church wants in this time is God’s Holy Spirit.” More than anything else, we need to rediscover the Holy Spirit and learn anew to depend on him. ” (Ibid)

John MacArthur – If we do not obey this command (be filled with the Spirit), we cannot obey any other—simply because we cannot do any of God’s will apart from God’s Spirit. Outside of the command for unbelievers to trust in Christ for salvation, there is no more practical and necessary command in Scripture than the one for believers to be filled with the Spirit. (MacArthur, J: Ephesians. Chicago: Moody Press)

Ray Stedman writes being filled with the Spirit is “the great secret of real Christianity.” (Watch How You Walk – Ephesians 5:15-20)

Ephesians 5:18 – And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.

The original (not the revised version of the NLT of Eph 5:18 read “Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, let the Holy Spirit fill and control you.”

Remember that every believer receives all of the Holy Spirit he will ever receive at the moment of regeneration. If one does not have the Spirit, Paul says they are not a believer. Ro 8:9 = “However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.”

OBSERVATIONS AND QUESTIONS
ON EPHESIANS 5:18:

What is the contrast? Wine versus the Spirit. Drunk with wine or “drunk” with the Spirit.

What does the contrast emphasize? It points out that what fills a person will influence or control the person, especially what comes out of their mouth

What happens to the behavior of one under the influence of wine? Clearly their behavior or conduct is altered, causing one to say or do things they would not normally do.

What about filling with the Spirit? The first word in Eph 5:19 is “speaking” indicating that filling will have a direct impact on what comes out of our mouth as with Peter in Acts 4:8.

How does Peter’s action in Acts 4:8 contrast with his behavior in Mt 26:70-75?

Look also at the believers in Acts 4:31 = “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak the word of God with boldness (parrhesia).”

Now let’s look at the verb “be filled”…

The present tense, imperative mood is not a suggestion but is a command (it is absolute necessity) to be continuously filled a day–by–day, moment–by–moment submitting or yielding our “rights” to the Spirit. Filling is not optional.

The passive voice indicates that the filling is not something we do but that we allow to be done to us. Our responsibility is to allow God’s Spirit to fill us, to yield, to surrender to Him (See Pastor Swindoll’s prayer above). To recognize and acknowledge our emptiness.

The verb is plural signifying every believer, not a elite group. No one is excepted!

The filling is entirely the work of the Spirit Himself, but He works only through our willing submission. The present aspect of the command indicates that we cannot rely on a past filling nor live in expectation of future filling. We can rejoice in past fillings and hope for future fillings, but we can live only in present filling.

Pleroo (word study ) connotes more than filling something up, as when someone pours water in a glass up the rim.

(1) Pleroo was used of the wind filling a sail and carrying the ship along. (Compare 2Peter 1:21 = “men moved (being borne along) by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”) We need to “put up our sails” so to speak and allow Him to move us along throughout the day!

(2) Pleroo carries the idea of permeation, and was used of salt permeating meat to flavor and preserve. God wants His Holy Spirit to so permeate the lives of His children that everything they think, say, and do will reflect His divine presence.

(3) Pleroo conveys idea of total control. The person who is filled with anger is controlled by that emotion = Luke 6:11 (context = Lk 6:6-11 = Jesus restored a man’s withered hand on the Sabbath. Religious leaders “themselves were filled with rage, and discussed together what they might do to Jesus.” What (Who) fills you will control you!

NOTE: Being filled with the Holy Spirit doesn’t mean we have more of the Spirit, but that the Spirit has more of us.

As discussed above, the first word in the next Greek sentence (Eph 5:19) is SPEAKING. One of the ways I know when I am not submitted to the Spirit’s control and power is by noting what comes out of my mouth! (cp Jesus’ in Mt 12:34 = “For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.”)

Notice that in the following context (from Ephesians 5:19-33 and Ephesians 6:1-20) how Ephesians 5:18 depicts the Holy Spirit as the Source or the Headwaters of a mighty spiritual river coming out of our innermost being (cp Jn 7:37-39– notePr 4:23note ) flowing (with supernatural enabling power) into every area of our life….

Eph 5:19note = Worship = “with your heart to the Lord” (God is not interested in our voice or the emotion with which we sing, but the condition of our hearts – cp Ps 24:4-5)

Eph 5:20 –note = Thanksgiving = Always giving thanks for all things – no exceptions! This is another good marker in my life of whether I am filled with the Spirit or filled with self!

Eph 5:21-33 –note = Marriage = “be subject (imperative sense) to one another” = (Eph 5:21), wives to your own husbands = (Eph 5:2224 –note ), “Husbands, love (present imperative) your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her” = (Eph 5:25 –note ), “husbands ought (verb describes a sense of indebtedness = to owe something to someone – present tense) also to love their own wives as their own bodies” = (Eph 5:28 –note ), “love (present imperative) his own wife even as himself” = (Eph 5:33 –note )

Eph 6:1-3 –note = Children = obey (present imperative) your parents…honor (present imperative) your father and mother

Eph 6:4 –note = Fathers = Fathers, do not provoke (present imperative) your children to anger, but bring them up (present imperative) in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Eph 6:5-8 –note = Employees = “Slaves, be obedient (present imperative)…doing (present tense) the will of God from the heart, With good will render service (present tense);

Eph 6:9 –note = Employers = do (present imperative) the same things to them, and give up (present tense) threatening,

Eph 6:10-17 –note = Spiritual warfare = be strong (present imperative) in the Lord = (Eph 6:10 –note ); Put on (present imperative) the full armor of God, so that you will be able (dunamai in present tense = continually have the inner power) to stand firm against the schemes (methodeia) of the devil = Eph 6:11 –note , take up (present imperative) the full armor of God (Eph 6:13 –note ); stand firm (aorist imperative);

Eph 6:18 –note = Prayer = “With all prayer and petition pray (present tense) at all times in the Spirit”

Eph 6:19-20 –note = Evangelism/boldness = “to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.”

How do you recognize a true disciple of Jesus?

Jn 8:31 = He abides or is at home with His Word. He remains. He does not leave the Word. “Jesus is saying that the mark of the true disciple is lasting, enduring, persevering, keeping on in the force field of the word. Temporary tastes of the truth and beauty and value and power and grace and bread and water and brightness of the word do not make you a Christian. The mark of Christians is that we taste and we stay.” (Piper) In John 15:6 Jesus speaks of abiding in Him. So abiding in His Word is tantamount to abiding in the Word! Obviously, there is a caveat — many people read the Word. Some even memorize it, including the entire OT in some cases. But they do not believe the Word and you can tell they do not believe the Word because they do not obey the Word. And of course the only way a genuine disciple can obey the Word is by the enabling desire and power of the indwelling Spirit of Jesus (Acts 16:7). John Piper says “For me, 1 Samuel 3:21 has been tremendously helpful. It says, “The Lord revealed Himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the Lord.” Himself by the word. And the same is true for Jesus—He reveals Himself to us today “by the word of the Lord.”” (If You Abide in My Word, You Are Truly My Disciples)

I have often heard the teaching that in John 8:31 Jesus is not speaking of believers in general but of a subset that are known as disciplesJohn Piper however clarifies this erroneous idea asking

“What then is a true disciple? Or what does Jesus mean by saying in John 8:31, “you are truly my disciples”? Let’s be really clear here: For Jesus “true disciple” is the same as “true Christian” or “true believer.” Jesus is not saying that “true disciple” is a second stage in the Christian life. an important distinction… He did not say to these professing believers, “If you abide in my word, you will become truly my disciples.” In other words, he did not teach that being a true disciple was a later stage after simple belief. No. He said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.” Now that you have believed, here is how you can know what you now are. You can know if your belief is real: You are now my true disciples if you go on abiding in my word. So there is no thought here about “true discipleship” being a second stage of Christian maturity.” (Ibid)

I agree wholeheartedly with Dr Piper that every true believer is a true disciple and every true disciple is a true believer.

D A Carson explains that what Jesus is saying in essence that “perseverance is the mark of true faith, of real disciples. A genuine believer remains in Jesus’ ‘word’ (logos)… such a person obeys it, seeks to understand it better, and finds it more precious, more controlling, precisely when other forces flatly oppose it. (Pillar Commentary on John)

What two promises does Jesus make to His disciples in John 8:32?

(1) We will know (ginosko = by experience) the truth. This truth is significant because our spiritual warfare is not so much a power struggle but a truth struggle and the “battle field” in our mind. Since this knowing is experiential it speaks of fellowship and communion with Jesus, Who Himself is the Truth! So it follows that abiding in the Word is abiding in Jesus, experiencing time with Him which is never a waste of time!

(2) The Truth will set us free (eleutheroo) – The Greek verb was used to describe the emancipation of slaves. We were once slaves to Self and Sin (cp “slave of sin” – Jn 8:34) but now are free in Christ (cf “having been freed from sin” Who is our new Master? = Ro 6:18noteRo 6:22note). Remember that freedom in Christ is not the right to do as we please but the power to do as we should and thus to please God! Not freedom to sin, but freedom from sin! As Piper says “You are fully free—completely free, free indeed—when you have the desire, the ability, and the opportunity to do what will make you happy in a thousand years.”

How sure can we be of our freedom from sin and Satan from John 8:36?

When the Son makes us free we are free indeed

Ryrie writes – “Freedom given by Christ is the only true freedom. Delivered from the shackles and the bondage of sin, a Christian can do what he ought, and is no longer bound to his evil desires (cf. Ro 6:11-14note). The unsaved man indulges in sin and has no power over it. Sin is in control. Sin binds him. Christ’s offer is freedom from such bondage, and a life that wills to please God and (is enabled by the Spirit of Christ to do so).”

John Piper – Sin enslaves by making anything look more desirable than Jesus. That’s what sin is: desiring something above Jesus and then acting on it.

Why is His Word so critical in the life of a disciple?

John 6:63 “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” If the Spirit gives life and the Words of Christ are life, it follows that the Spirit uses the Word to give us life, not just the first time (justification) but daily (progressive sanctification).

2Cor 3:18note “But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” In this passage we see that beholding the Word of Christ, especially the Gospel, will be used by the Spirit to bring about spiritual transformation (growth in likeness to Jesus) from one degree of glory to another.

What is the most important verse in all of Scripture for a disciple and why?

The Eph 5:18note effects and enables every aspect of a disciple’s life (marriage, children, parenting, employees, employers, spiritual warfare and prayer – read Eph 5:18note through Eph 6:18 – notice that the Spirit is like “bookends” of the entire section!).

To quote Dr MacArthur – “If we do not obey this command (be filled with the Spirit), we cannot obey any other—simply because we cannot do any of God’s will apart from God’s Spirit. Outside of the command for unbelievers to trust in Christ for salvation, there is no more practical and necessary command in Scripture than the one for believers to be filled with the Spirit.”

ILLUSTRATION OUR DESPERATE NEED FOR FILLING BY COMPARING TO A WORK GLOVE – The glove has purpose (just as do we – Eph 2:10note) but cannot fulfill its intended purpose unless it has an “indwelling” hand to enable it, to give it the direction (desire) and the power (cp the Spirit in Phil 2:13note). Plainly put, the glove by itself can do nothing (cp Jesus’ words in John 15:5 where “nothing” in Greek is the strongest way to say “absolutely nothing”… O yes, we can even do “religious works” that look very good to others and garner their adulation, but such fleshly empowered works yield no fruit for eternity – cp Jn 15:16). The picture of a glove’s need to continually depend on the indwelling hand directly applies to our Christian life, which is not to be a natural (explicable) life, but a supernatural (marvelously inexplicable) life! We like the glove need to be continually filled with the Spirit, controlled by and empowered by the indwelling Spirit, if we are to accomplish anything supernatural. As we have repeatedly said, we CANNOT KEEP ONE COMMAND of the NT by relying on our natural, fleshly strength. We must continually, even moment by moment, deny our old self and seek the newness of the Spirit’s work. We must continually renounce self effort, self reliance, self sufficiency (do you see the “key word”?) and instead make the conscious, volitional choice (the choice of our will, even that choice mysteriously being energized by the indwelling Spirit!!) to rely wholly on the Holy Spirit. This practice is of renouncing and relying will go on all day long, all the days of our life! It’s what theologically is known as progressive sanctification. While Jesus was the basis of justification, the Spirit was His “Chief Operating Officer” applying the finished work of the Cross of Christ to our heart when we believed in Jesus. Similarly, in progressive sanctification, the Spirit is the “CEO” and gives us the desire and the power (Php 2:13NLTnote) to continually walk by the Spirit (Gal 5:16 – to be more fully discussed in our next lesson). In sum, apart from the Spirit of Christ filling us (bearing us along, permeating us so that Christ flavors all we say, do and think [cp 2Cor 2:14-16] and controlling us – like rage or anger controls us – read Luke 4:28-29Lk 6:11) we can do nothing of eternal value! Absolutely nothing! The pride of our fallen flesh chafes at that truth and will until the day we die!

How does one assure that they are continually filled with the Spirit?

Ray Pritchard sums up how we are filled – There must be a sense of need—“Lord, I’m empty and I need to be filled by your Spirit.” There must be a willingness—“Lord, I’m open to you. Let your Spirit fill me now.”

By keeping short accounts with God (1Jn 1:9note) – Remember that “confess” in this passage is present tense which speaks of ongoing confession and implies that we have need for this to be our habitual practice! As David said “Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults.” (Ps 19:12) So the truth is even if we have not committed any “big” sins the day before, we need to start our day with at least a prayer like David’s.

What is the OT version of 1John 1:9?

Pr 28:13note He who conceals (Hebrew = covers over) his transgressions will not prosper, but (a great, strategic term of contrast) he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.

Ps 32:1 is a good parallel commentary on Pr 28:13note where David acknowledges “How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered!”

How else can we assure that we are continually filled with the Spirit?

By letting the Word of Christ dwell in us richly (Col 3:16note. See the chart below where we compare Colossians 3:16-4:1 and Ephesians 5:18-6:9. Notice that the results of being filled with the Spirit and letting the Word richly dwell within are virtually identical.

So what‘s the take home message? Spend time in the Word so that the Word finds a home in you.

FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT
RICHLY INDWELT BY THE WORD

Colossians and Ephesians are parallel epistles in a number of respects and Ephesians 5:18-6:9 presents a very interesting parallel with Colossians 3:16-4:1 as summarized below. First, take a few minutes to pray (Ps 119:18noteEph 1:171819note) and read through both sections of Scripture, especially observing the similarities (Ps 119:130note). Then go through the following chart to see if you agree with the parallel comparisons.

Ask yourself, what parallel truths is God teaching us in these two great sections of Scripture? Which of my interpersonal relationships do these passages address most directly? How can we apply these truths to our personal life, our marriage, our family, our workplace, etc? What might transpire in each of those points of application? Then read the explanatory notes that follow.

Ephesians 5:18-6:9 Colossians 3:16-4:1
Be
filled

(present imperative)
Let… dwell within
you richly

(present imperative)
THE
SPIRIT
THE
WORD OF CHRIST
Speaking to
ONE ANOTHER

Eph 5:19note
Teaching & Admonishing
ONE ANOTHER
Col 3:16
note
In PSALMS
and HYMNS
and SPIRITUAL SONGS
Eph 5:19
note
With PSALMS
and HYMNS
and SPIRITUAL SONGS
Col 3:16
note
SINGING and making melody
with YOUR HEART
to the Lord
Eph 5:19
note
SINGING with thankfulness
in YOUR HEARTS
to God
Col 3:16
note
Always GIVING THANKS for ALL things
in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ
to God, even the Father
Eph 5:20
note
Do ALL in the name of the Lord Jesus,
GIVING THANKS through Him
to God the Father
Col 3:17
note
WIVES
BE SUBJECT
to your own husbands
Eph 5:22-24
note
WIVES
BE SUBJECT

to your husbands
Col 3:18note
HUSBANDS
LOVE your wives
Eph 5:25-33
note
HUSBANDS
LOVE your wives
Col 3:19
note
CHILDREN
OBEY your parents
in the Lord
Eph 6:1-3
note
CHILDREN
BE OBEDIENT
to your parents
Col 3:20
note
FATHERS
DO NOT PROVOKE
your children to anger
BRING THEM UP
in discipline & instruction of the Lord
Eph 6:4
note
FATHERS
DO NOT EXASPERATE
your children
Col 3:21
note
SLAVES
BE OBEDIENT to those
who are your masters
according to the flesh
Eph 6:5-8
note
SLAVES
in all things OBEY those
who are your masters
on earth
Col 3:22-25
note
MASTERS
DO the same thing to them (slaves)
Give up threatening
knowing that both their Master & yours
is in heaven
& there is no partiality with Him
Eph 6:9
note
MASTERS
GRANT to your slaves
justice and fairness
knowing that you too
have a Master
in heaven!
Col 4:1
note
SPIRITUAL WARFARE
Note it is also “linked”
with being filled with the Spirit!”
Eph 6:10-17note
SPIRITUAL WARFARE
Not found
in this section
PRAYER
With all prayer and petition pray
 (present tense participle used in an imperative sense) at all times in the Spirit (initiated and energized by the Holy Spirit), and with this in view, be on the alert (present tense participle used in an imperative sense) with all perseverance and petition for all the saints
Eph 6:18
note
PRAYER
DEVOTE yourselves to prayer,
keeping alert
 (present tense participle used in an imperative sense) in it
with an attitude of thanksgiving;
Col 4:2
note
WITNESSING
Pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the Gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly
 (Spirit gives boldness), as I ought (obligation, owe a debt) to speak.
Eph 6:19-20
note
WITNESSING
Praying at the same time for us as well, that God may open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ
 (Gospel), for which I have also been imprisoned; in order that I may make it clear in the way I ought (obligation, owe a debt) to speak.
Col 4:3-4
note

Note that every verb in bold red font signifies imperative mood (commands, not good suggestions) and all are in the present tense (continuous action, habitual practice, as one’s “lifestyle”, speaks of our general “direction,” not perfection!). In addition, the verbs giving thanks (Eph 5:20Col 3:17) are in the present tense – how is it possible to give thanks in everything? (cp 1Thes 5:18note)

Now stop for a moment and ask yourself – can I keep even ONE of these commands in my own strength? If you think you can, just try it the next time your spouse “verbally insults/assaults” your intelligence! None of us can keep these commands in our strength and to try to do so is to fall into the trap of self reliance and legalism. Here is the key that unlocks the door to supernatural living, supernatural warfare, supernatural praying and supernatural witnessing…

THE HUMAN SPIRIT FAILS UNLESS
THE HOLY SPIRIT FILLS

Too often we read Paul’s long list of commands and forget to examine the context, which is critical for accurate interpretation and in this case crucial for real-life practical application! The context in this case clearly gives us the answer regarding how we can carry out the commands. These “holy” actions can only be energized or enabled by the Holy Spirit Who dwells in each saint. If we are filled with or controlled by Him, yielded to Him, depending on Him, casting off any semblance of self-reliance, then, and only then, can we successfully keep these commands. And as we do so, we are in effect also fulfilling Paul’s (present imperative) command to walk by the Spirit which effectively prevents us from carrying out the desires of the flesh (cp Gal 5:16note).

Notice that Spirit of Christ filling (Word of Christ indwelling) SHOULD RADICALLY AFFECT ALL of our relationships – wives, husbands, children, fathers, slaves (“employee”), masters (“employer”)! Every vital social interaction is to be impacted by the Holy Spirit! So let me ask you a rhetorical (for effect primarily) question —

“How important is obedience to Paul’s commands that we be continually filled with/controlled by the Holy Spirit (Eph 5:18) and continually let the Word of Christ dwell within us (Col 3:16)? Can you even obey these command ( be filled, let dwell ) without the enablement of the Helper? Clearly the answer is “No!” Every moment of every day we are in desperate need for the Spirit to enable us. To say we need His help implies we just need a little “push” which is not the case to live this supernatural life. Meditate on that truth today! And then, as Ray Pritchard puts it, do what you do when you go to full service gas station (yes you younger folks, there once was such a service!) — Cry out ” Fill me up! ” expressing your deep desire for and desperate dependence on the Spirit’s enabling power to carry out God’s commands which are not burdensome (1Jn 5:3)!

As an aside, it is interesting that we see so many Christian marriages and families in various states of disturbance, dissonance (lack of agreement) and/or even imminent dissolution. Paul was written us a “prescription”, so to speak, for the “balm” (a soothing restorative agent) that can bring healing to families and marriages in dire (dismal, dreadful) straits! But like any medicine, the doctor can prescribe the best remedy, but the pill still has to be swallowed in order to effect a cure. What would happen to couples who made an intentional effort (initiated by and energized by the Spirit of Grace-Heb 10:29b) to study and meditate on Paul’s prescription in these passages and related cross references? In Psalm 107 the Spirit says that when the disobedient and distressed children of Israel “cried out to the LORD in their trouble, He saved them out of their distresses. He sent His Word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.” (Psalm 107:1920). Beloved, His Name is Jehovah Rapha (Jehovah Rophe) The LORD our Healer and He is the same yesterday, today and forever and His Word is able to bring hope and healing to hopeless and broken hearted marriages!

   Courtesy of preceptaustin.org

Posted in Bible Teachings, Inspirational Messages | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Nothing in This World Compares to the Word of God: A Study of Hebrew 4:12

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (NASB: Lockman)

Amplified: For the Word that God speaks is alive and full of power [making it active, operative, energizing, and effective]; it is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating to the dividing line of the breath of life (soul) and [the immortal] spirit, and of joints and marrow [of the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and sifting and analyzing and judging the very thoughts and purposes of the heart. (Amplified Bible – Lockman)

Barclay: For the word of God is instinct with life; it is effective; it is sharper than a two-edged sword; it pierces right through to the very division of soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it scrutinizes the desires and intentions of the heart. (Westminster Press)

NLT: For the word of God is full of living power. It is sharper than the sharpest knife, cutting deep into our innermost thoughts and desires. It exposes us for what we really are. (NLT – Tyndale House)

Phillips: For the Word that God speaks is alive and active; it cuts more keenly than any two-edged sword: it strikes through to the place where soul and spirit meet, to the innermost intimacies of a man’s being: it exposes the very thoughts and motives of a man’s heart. (Phillips: Touchstone)

Wuest: for actively alive is the word of God, and energetic, and sharper than any two-edged sword, going through even to the dividing of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a sifter and analyzer of the reflections and conceptions of the heart. (Eerdmans)

Young’s Literal: for the reckoning of God is living, and working, and sharp above every two-edged sword, and piercing unto the dividing asunder both of soul and spirit, of joints also and marrow, and a discerner of thoughts and intents of the heart

FOR THE WORD OF GOD: ho logos tou theou:

For (gar) – Always pause to prayerfully ponder and peruse this poignant term of explanation and you will often be rewarded by your Teacher the Spirit with rich spiritual insights on the text! In this case the writer is explaining why we must be diligent to enter God’s rest. Henry Alford says it this way “Such an endeavour (Heb 4:11) is well worth all our diligence—for we have One to do with, Who can discern and will punish every and even the most secret disobedience.” Marcus Dods says “In Heb 4:12-13 another reason is added for dealing sincerely and strenuously with God’s promises and especially with this offer of rest.” Peter O’Brien explains that “The long paraenetic (Pertaining to instruction, exhortation or command) section from Heb 3:1 to Heb 4:11 is concluded by a masterly literary piece that affirms the power of God’s word and the impossibility of hiding from His judgment. This affirmation about the word of God in Heb 4:12–13 is joined to the preceding paragraph by For (gar), and provides an additional reason for the exhortation to make every effort to enter God’s rest that is enjoined in Heb 4:11.”

The point is that Hebrews 4:12 is one of those passages we frequently memorize but often do so out of context. Yes, it is true the Word of God is living and active, and most of us who have walked with Jesus for a few years have experienced it’s supernatural power in various ways. But if we read Hebrews 4:12 in context (context is king for accurate interpretation! = Keep Context King), we learn that the writer was explaining something he had previously stated. I remember memorizing Hebrews 4:12 some 30 years ago, but it was not until about 20 years later when I was learning inductive Bible study, that I truly understood the meaning of this great verse. Now, don’t misunderstand — this verse is still applicable to the Word of God in general, but that was not the specific intent of the writer. He was primarily referring to the Word of God that he had just warned them with (e.g., God’s Word from Ps 95:7 quoted in Hebrews 3:71315Heb 4:7) in the long section beginning in Hebrews 3:1 through summary exhortation in Hebrews 4:11. Now in Hebrews 4:12, the writer explains why the Word of warning is effective and why they should take heed to the warning.

In the Greek sentence the emphasis is on living (it is placed first in the sentence = Zon gar o logos tou theou).

Adolph Saphir comments “RESTING by faith in Jesus, and laboring to enter into that perfect rest which remains to the people of God, the Christian, during his pilgrimage through the wilderness, is guided by the word of God, which is in his hand, and upheld and encouraged by the intercession and sympathy of the great High Priest above (Heb 7:25).

The Word of God – It is not the Word of man! When the Bible speaks, God speaks! It came down from heaven and is not from earth. The writers were merely human agents moved by the Spirit who used their own personalities (2 Pe 1:21+). When you receive the Word of God, you are in a sense receiving God. To reject the Word of God you are rejecting God! Some commentators state that this is another name for Jesus. Indeed, Jesus is called “the Word” (Jn 1:1Rev 19:13) but in context, the writer is referring to the written revelation from God and not the person of Jesus Christ (Although to be sure the living Word and the living Lord are somehow mysteriously [to me] intimately linked together in time and eternity.)

Puritan Writer Thomas Brooks said “The Word of the Lord is a light to guide you, a counselor to counsel you, a comforter to comfort you, a staff to support you, a sword to defend you, and a physician to cure you. The Word is a mine to enrich you, a robe to clothe you, and a crown to crown you.

John Flavel echoes Brooks writing that “The Scriptures teach us the best way of living, the noblest way of suffering and the most comfortable way of dying.

Frank Cooke rightly wrote that “The foundation of every reformation of the Holy Spirit is the Word of God made plain to the people.

Brian Edwards – Philosophy and religion may reform, but only the Bible can transform.

Vance Havner once quipped “There is no devil in the first two chapters of the Bible and no devil in the last two chapters. Thank God for a book that disposes of the devil!”

MacArthur explains that “The need for God’s rest is urgent. A person should diligently, with intense purpose and concern, secure it. It is not that he can work his way to salvation, but that he should diligently seek to enter God’s rest by faith—lest he, like the Israelites in the wilderness, lose the opportunity. (MacArthur, John: Hebrews. Moody Press)

Remember that the Word of God is also the Word of His grace “And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, (observe the beneficial effects) which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. (Acts 20:32)

Word of God (3056) (logos from lego = to speak with words; English = logic, logical) means something said and describes a communication whereby the mind finds expression in words. Although Lógos is most often translated word which Webster defines as “something that is said, a statement, an utterance”, the Greek understanding of lógos is somewhat more complex. To secular and philosophical Greek writers, logos did not mean merely the name of an object but was an expression of the thought behind that object’s name.

Lógos then is a general term for speaking, but always used for speaking with rational content. Lógos is a word uttered by the human voice which embodies an underlying concept or idea. When one has spoken the sum total of their thoughts concerning something, they have given to their hearer a total concept of that thing. Thus the word lógos conveys the idea of “a total concept” of anything. Lógos means the word or outward form by which the inward thought is expressed and made known. It can also refer to the inward thought or reason itself. Note then that lógos does not refer merely to a part of speech but to a concept or idea. In other words, in classical Greek, lógos never meant just a word in the grammatical sense as the mere name of a thing, but rather the thing referred to, the material, not the formal part. In fact, the Greek language has 3 other words (rhema, onoma, epos) which designate a word in its grammatical sense. Lógos refers to the total expression whereas rhema (see word study) for example is used of a part of speech in a sentence. In other words rhema, emphasizes the parts rather than the whole.

Cremer explains that logos is used of the living, spoken word,

the word not in its outward form, but with reference to the thought connected with the form,… in short, not the word of language, but of conversation, of discourse; not the word as a part of speech, but the word as part of what is uttered.

So what is the writer referring to by the word of God? This verse is frequently taken as a description of the “word of God” in general which of course is not an inappropriate application. Indeed one can make a list of at least 5 wonderful characteristics of the “word of God” from this description. But the careful reader must remember that accurate interpretation is dependent on interpreting the text in context and failure to interpret “word of God” in the context of the writers argument is to miss his main reason for inserting this description at this point in the book of Hebrews.

In the present context, Hebrews 3-4, the author has been emphasizing that it is urgent that his readers enter God’s “rest” (“today“). He emphasizes that the way in which one enters His rest is by faith, faith that obeys and perseveres and holds fast until the end (holding fast doesn’t save anyone – but it does show that such a person is saved for otherwise they would not be able to hold fast solely by their efforts).

The immediate context indicates that some of the readers were in danger of seeming to fall short of entering God’s rest and even falling back into Judaism. It is in this background that he warns the readers that the “word of God” they have just heard is alive and can pierce right down into the innermost part of the heart to see if their belief is real or not.

The word of God, the Bible, describes itself and its work in many ways

  • Isaiah 55:11 God’s word will not return to him empty, but will do what God desires and achieve the purpose for which he sent it.
  • Jeremiah 23:29 God’s word is like fire and like a hammer that can break a rock into pieces.
  • John 6:63 God’s word is spirit and life.
  • Acts 7:38 God’s word is living.
  • Ephesians 6:17 (see note) God’s word is part of the believer’s armor—the sword of the Spirit.
  • Hebrews 4:12 God’s word is living, powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword, judging people’s thoughts and intentions.
  • 1 Peter 1:23 (see note) God’s word is living and enduring, through which people are born again.

The Word is A Sword by C H Spurgeon (This is a summary in the Biblical Illustrator from his sermon on Hebrews 4:12 entitled The Word a Sword)

It may be most accurate to interpret this passage as relating both to the Word of God incarnate, and the Word of God inspired. Christ and His Word must go together. What is true of the Christ is here predicated both of Him and of His Word.

I. First let me speak CONCERNING THE QUALITIES OF THE WORD OF GOD.

It is “quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword.”

1. The Word of God is said to be “quick.” It is a living Book. Take up any other book except the Bible, and there may be a measure of power in it, but there is not that indescribable vitality in it which breathes, and speaks, and pleads, and conquers in the case of this sacred volume. It is a living and incorruptible seed. It moves, it stirs itself, it lives, it communes with living men as a living Word. That human system which was once vigorous may grow old, and lose all vitality; but the Word of God is always fresh, and new, and full of force. Here, in the Old and New Testaments, we have at once the oldest and the newest of books.

2. The Word is said to be “powerful,” or “active.” The Word of God is powerful for all sacred ends. How powerful it is to convince men of in!

How powerful it is for conversion!

3. Next, the apostle tells us that this Word is cutting, A sword with wo edges has no blunt side: it cuts both this way and that. The revelation of God given us in Holy Scripture is edge all over. It is alive in every part, and in every part keen to cut the conscience, and wound the heart. Depend upon it, there is not a superfluous verse in the Bible, nor a chapter which is useless. Doctors say of certain drugs that they are inert — they have no effect upon the system one way or the other. Now, there is not an inert passage in the Scriptures; every line has its virtues.

4. It is piercing. While, it has an edge like a sword, it has also a point like a rapier. The difficulty with some men’s hearts is to get at them. In fact, there is no spiritually penetrating the heart of any natural man except by this piercing instrument, the Word of God. Into the very marrow of the man the sacred truth will pass, and find him out in a way in which he

cannot even find himself out.

5. The Word of God is discriminating. It divides asunder soul and spirit. Nothing else could do that, for the division is difficult.

6. Once more, the Word of God is marvelously revealing to the inner self. It pierces between the joints and marrow, and marrow is a thing not to be got at very readily. The Word of God gets at the very marrow of our manhood; it lays bare the secret thoughts of the soul.

II. SOME LESSONS.

1. Let us greatly reverence the Word of God.

2. Let us, whenever we feel ourselves dead, and especially in prayer, get close to the Word, for the Word of God is alive.

3. Whenever we feel weak in our duties, let us go to the Word of God, and the Christ in the Word, for power; and this will be the best of power.

4. If you need as a minister, or a worker, anything that will cut your hearers to the heart, go to this Book for it.

5. If we want to discriminate at any time between the soul and the spirit, and the joints and marrow, let us go to the Word of God for discrimination.

6. And lastly, since this Book is meant to be a discerner or critic of the thoughts and intents of the heart, let the Book criticise us. (C. H. Spurgeon.)


Barnes observes that…

The design of this and the following verse is obvious. It is to show that we cannot escape the notice of God; that all insincerity, unbelief, hypocrisy, will be detected by Him; and that since our hearts are perfectly open before Him, we should be sincere, and should not attempt to deceive Him.

The sense is, that the truth of God is all-penetrating and searching, and that the real thoughts and intents of the heart will be brought to light; and that if there is insincerity and self-deception, there can be no hope of escape.

There has been a great variety of opinion here about the meaning of the phrase the word of God. … The word of God is that which God speaks–whether it be a promise or a threatening; whether it be law or gospel; whether it be a simple declaration or a statement of a doctrine. The idea here is, that what God had said is fitted to detect hypocrisy, and to lay open the true nature of the feelings of the soul, so that there can be no escape for the guilty. His truth is adapted to bring out the real feelings, and to show man exactly what he is. Truth always has this power –whether preached, or read, or communicated by conversation, or impressed upon the memory and conscience by the Holy Spirit. There can be no escape from the penetrating, searching application of the word of God. That truth has power to show what man is, and is like a penetrating sword that lays open the whole man. Comp. Isaiah 49:2. The phrase the word of God here may be applied, therefore, to the truth of God, however made known to the mind. In some way it will bring out the real feelings, and show what man is. (Albert Barnes. Barnes NT Commentary)

Leon Morris – The Word of God is unique. No sword can penetrate as it can. (Gaebelein, F, Editor: Expositor’s Bible Commentary )

A W Pink has a pithy challenge for the modern church…

There is grave reason to believe that much Bible reading and Bible study of the last few years has been of no spiritual profit to those who engaged in it. Yea, we go further; we greatly fear that in many instances it has proved a curse rather than a blessing. This is strong language, we are well aware, yet no stronger than the case calls for. Divine gifts may be misused, and Divine mercies abused. That this has been so in the present instance is evident by the fruits produced. Even the natural man may (and often does) take up the study of the Scriptures with the same enthusiasm and pleasure as he might of the sciences. Where this is the case, his store of knowledge is increased, and so also is his pride. Like a chemist engaged in making interesting experiments, the intellectual searcher of the Word is quite elated when he makes some discovery in it; but the joy of the latter is no more spiritual than would be that of the former. Again, just as the successes of the chemist generally increase his sense of self-importance and cause him to look with disdain upon others more ignorant than himself, so alas, is it often the case with those who have investigated Bible numerics, typology, prophecy and other such subjects.

The Word of God may be taken up from various motives. Some read it to satisfy their literary pride. In certain circles it has become both the respectable and popular thing to obtain a general acquaintance with the contents of the Bible simply because it is regarded as an educational defect to be ignorant of them. Some read it to satisfy their sense of curiosity, as they might any other book of note. Others read it to satisfy their sectarian pride. They consider it a duty to be well versed in the particular tenets of their own denomination and so search eagerly for proof-texts in support of “our doctrines.” Yet others read it for the purpose of being able to argue successfully with those who differ from them. But in all this there is no thought of God, no yearning for spiritual edification, and therefore no real benefit to the soul.

Of what, then, does a true profiting from the Word consist? Does not 2Timothy 3:16,17note furnish a clear answer to our question? There we read,

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”

Observe what is here omitted: the Holy Scriptures are given us not for intellectual gratification and carnal speculation, but to furnish unto “all good works,” and that by teaching, reproving, correcting us. Let us endeavor to amplify this by the help of other passages. (Profiting from the Word-Chapter 1 The Scriptures and Sin)

A W Pink wrote elsewhere that…

God’s design in all that He has revealed to us is to the purifying of our affections and the transforming of our characters….Everything in Scripture has in view the promotion of holiness.

Vance Havner echoes Pink writing “The storehouse of God’s Word was never meant for mere scrutiny, even primarily for study but for sustenance.

Will H. Houghton agrees writing that “The Bible calls itself food. The value of food is not in the discussion it arouses but in the nourishment it imparts.

D L Moody – The Scriptures were not given to increase our knowledge but to change our lives.

IS LIVING AND ACTIVE: Zon (PAPMSN) gar ho logos tou theou kai energes:

THE WORD OF GOD IS
LIVING IN ITS ESSENCE

This is an amazing statement which we too often read past. The Bible is living. It has a “pulse.” It has the mind of God in it. It speaks to us. It runs after us. It lays hold of us. And notice in the Greek sentence above that zon (living) is the first word in the sentence which literally would read “living for the Word of God is! This draw our attention and emphasizes this quality of the Word of God. God wants to make sure we grasp that this is not like any other book ever written. All the other books written are “dead books!” And because it is alive, it speaks to every person in every culture, in every country, addressing them where they are and telling them exactly what they need to hear. There is no book relevant for your life than the Bible! It is never empty, never lifeless, never flat, never tired, never sluggish. We may be sluggish, dull, etc, but the Bible is never dull, never boring. It is always like an electrical current is surging through it! It is dynamic. 

Martin Luther rightly declared “The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold on me.”

C H Spurgeon said “Why, the Book has wrestled with me; the Book has smitten me; the Book has comforted me; the Book has smiled on me; the Book has frowned on me; the Book has clasped my hand; the Book has warmed my heart. The Book weeps with me, and sings with me; it whispers to me, and it preaches to me; it maps my way, and holds up my goings; it is the Young Man’s Best Companion, and is still my morning and evening Chaplain.”

The living and active aspect of the Word of God is similar to the Lord’s picture of the Word as a seed, for both have life and power and both can produce spiritual fruit (Ga 5:22,23). But the seed can do nothing until it is planted (Jn 12:24). When a person hears and understands the Word, then the seed is planted in the heart. What happens after that depends on the nature of the soil (cp Lk 8:15).

Living (2198) (zao) refers to natural physical life as opposed to death. The words just spoken possess vital power in themselves to exert and impart vitality to the reader’s soul. The Word is not dead, inert, or powerless but has a living power, and is adapted to produce this effect.

Living is in the present tense describing this trait as continually true of the word of God.

Jesus alludes to the living aspect of the Word of God declaring “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” (Jn 6:63)

In his message just before being stoned to death, Stephen, a man filled with the Spirit (Acts 6:587:55) declared “This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness together with the angel who was speaking to him on Mount Sinai, and who was with our fathers and he received living (zao) oracles to pass on to you. (Acts 7:38)

Charles Simeon rightly says that “The word is not a mere dead letter, that will soon vanish away: it lives in the mind of God: it lives in the decrees of heaven: it lives and will live for ever: nor will millions of ages cause it to be forgotten, or in the least enervate its force. All besides this shall wax old, and decay: but this shall endure, without the alteration of one jot or tittle of it, to all generations

Peter writes that “you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. For, “All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls off, But the word of the Lord endures forever.” (1Pe 1:232425note)

Spurgeon – The Word of God is alive. This is a living Book. This is a mystery that only living men, quickened by the Spirit of God, will fully comprehend. Take up any other book except the Bible, and there may be a measure of power in it, but there is not that indescribable vitality in it that breathes, and speaks, and pleads, and conquers in the case of this sacred volume. It is only because Jesus is not dead that the Word becomes living and effectual, “and sharper than any double-edged sword”; for, if you leave Christ out of it, you have left out its vitality and power. As I have told you that we will not have Christ without the Word, so neither will we have the Word without Christ. If you leave Christ out of Scripture, you have left out the essential truth that it is written to declare.

Spurgeon on the Word as a living seed – Plants unknown in certain regions have suddenly sprung from the soil: the seeds have been wafted on the winds, carried by birds, or washed ashore by the waves of the sea. So vital are seeds that they live and grow wherever they are borne; and even after lying deep in the soil for centuries, when the upturning spade has brought them to the surface, they have germinated at once.Thus is it with the Word of God: it lives and abides forever, and in every soil and under all circumstances it is prepared to prove its own life by the energy with which it grows and produces fruit to the glory of God.

THE WORD OF GOD
IS ENERGETIC!

The Bible is active, effective, powerful, productive, capable of causing things to happen! The Bible is “energetic” and never just sits still, never takes a day off, is always at work, is tireless. 

Steven Lawson says “When we are hooked up to this book in humility and repentance and faith, their is a surge of energy that enters into our soul.” 

Active (1756) (energes from en = in + érgon = work) describes that which is working, efficient, effective, operative or powerful. Energes describes activity which produces results or which is effective in causing something to happen or to come about. The somber warnings that have reverberated through Hebrews 3-4 are working and effective words which are able to accomplish their purpose.

Energes is only used three times in the NT. Paul uses to describe “a wide (megas = great, large) door for effective (energes – God opened this door) [service] (not in the original Greek) has opened to me, and there are many adversaries (literally = those lined up against me). (1Corinthians 16:9)

Gilbrant on energes – In classical Greek thought, energēs had a social or ethical sense. Thus it denoted work as a burden laid on a man. The word group in Hellenism was used of cosmic or physical forces at work in man or the world around. Man was judged by his works, which were the basis and meaning of life. His works would include his deeds and his manner of conduct as a life-style. In the papyri energēs describes objects which have been made usable. Examples of this would be tilled land or a working mill. So one can see the object as receiving the effects from another source. While energēs is not found in the Septuagint, the works (erga) of God are. The activities of God result in His glory and honor. In contrast, the works of man come out of and result in the curse, sin, and vanity. In the New Testament the verb form energeō is used almost exclusively for the work of divine or demonic powers. In 1 Corinthians 16:9 Paul implied that it is God who ultimately makes the work effectual; He was opening a “great and effectual” door of ministry. In Philemon 6 Paul prayed that Philemon would be active or zealous in sharing the faith in which God had empowered him. Hebrews 4:12 says, “The word of God is quick, and powerful (energēs).” (Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary)

Writing to Philemon Paul prays “that the fellowship of your faith may become effective (energes) through the knowledge of every good thing which is in you for Christ’s sake.

Using the related verb energeo Paul writes to the saints at Thessalonica thanking God “that when you received (took hold of) from us the word of God’s message, you accepted (put out the welcome mat so to speak) it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work (energeo – present tense = continually) in you who believe. (1Thessalonians 2:13note)

Leon Morris – “Living and active” shows that there is a dynamic quality about God’s revelation. It does things. Specifically it penetrates and, in this capacity, is likened to a “double-edged sword” (for the sword, cf. Is 49:2Ep 6:17noteRe 19:15note; and for the double-edged idea, cf. Re 1:16noteRe 2:12note). (Gaebelein, F, Editor: Expositor’s Bible Commentary)

Regarding the Word being active, Barnes writes that “Its power is seen in awakening the conscience; alarming the fears; laying bare the secret feelings of the heart; and causing the sinner to tremble with the apprehension of the coming judgment. All the great changes in the moral world for the better, have been caused by the power of truth. They are such as the truth in its own nature is fitted to effect; and, if we may judge of its power by the greatness of the revolutions produced, no words can over-estimate the might of the truth which God has revealed. (Albert Barnes. Barnes NT Commentary)

Spurgeon on active – Perhaps “energetic” is the best rendering, or almost as well, “effectual.” Holy Scripture is full of power and energy. The Word of God is that by which sin is slain, and grace is born in the heart. It is the that which brings life with it. How active and energetic it is, when the soul is convinced of sin, in bringing it forth into gospel liberty!

AND SHARPER THAN ANY TWO EDGED SWORD: kai tomoteros huper pasan machairan distomon:

THE BIBLE IS 
“RAZOR SHARP”

Note the little word “and” (kai in Greek) which couples all of these attributes together. The Word does not just have one attribute, but all of them together. As Lawson says “It’s not living for some and active for others. It’s a package deal. It’s all or nothing. 

As D. Martin Lloyd-Jones said “The first thing the Bible does is to make man take a serious view of life.”

Sharper (5114) (tomoteros from temnô = to cut) is the comparative of tomos which means sharp or cutting. It is used only here in the NT It means finer edged. “

Tomos occurs first among classical writers in the Fifth Century B.C. in the works of Sophocles. Tomōteros is found first in extant papyri dating from the Third Century B.C. In its earliest extant appearances the word is used literally of objects such as swords. 

The word can be used metaphorically also. For instance, pseudo-Phocylides (First Century A.D.) says, “Surely, a word is sharper to a man than an iron weapon” (124). The word does not appear in the Septuagint.” (Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary)

Vincent – The Word of God has an incisive and penetrating quality. It lays bare self-delusions and moral sophisms. For the comparison of the word of God or of men to a sword, see Ps. 57:459:764:3Eph. 6:17. Philo calls his Logos the cutter, as cutting chaos into distinct things, and so creating a kosmos.

George Whitefield, the great 18th-century evangelist, was hounded by a group of detractors who called themselves the “Hell-fire Club.” They derided his work and mocked him. On one occasion one of them, a man named Thorpe, was mimicking Whitefield to his cronies, delivering his sermon with brilliant accuracy, perfectly imitating his tone and facial expressions, when he himself was so pierced that he sat down and was converted on the spot.

Steve Lawson says the Bible is “the sharpest weapon of any arsenal in the world! It is sharper than any surgeon’s scalpel! It is two edged…there is no blunt side. every book in the Bible is razor sharp. Every chapter is razor sharp. Every verse is razor sharp. Every word can cut deeply. There is not a dull verse in the entire Bible! There’s not a blunt chapter in the entire Book…And because it’s two edged it cuts both ways – it both comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable. It both tears down and it builds up. It both convicts and converts. It has both bad news and good news. It both saves and it damns. It both heals and it hardens. It both makes alive and it puts to death.” 

Two-edged (1366) (distomos from dia = through + stoma = mouth), double-mouthed like a river (Polybius), branching ways (Sophocles), applied to sword (xiphos) by Homer and Euripides. Distomos occurs three times in the New Testament (Hebrews 4:12Revelation 1:162:12).

Barnes commenting on “two mouthed” sword writes that “The word mouth was given to the sword because it seemed to devour all before it. It consumed or destroyed, as a wild beast does. The comparison of the word of God to a sword, or to an arrow, is designed to show its power of penetrating the heart, Ecclesiastes 12:11. “The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies.” Comp. Isa 49:2; “And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword.” Re 1:16 (note): “And out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword;” Re 2:12 (note)Re 19:15 (note). The comparison is common in the classics, and in Arabic poetry….The idea is that of piercing, or penetrating; and the meaning here is, that the word of God reaches the heart–the very centre of action and lays open the motives and feelings of the man. It was common among the ancients to have a sword with two-edges. The Roman sword was commonly made in this manner. The fact that it had two edges made it more easy to penetrate, as well as to cut with every way. (Ibid)

Distomos occurs three times in the Septuagint

  • Jdg 3:16 = “Ehud made himself a sword which had two edges”
  • Ps 149:6 = “Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, And a two-edged sword in their hand”
  • Pr 5:4 = “But in the end she is bitter as wormwood, Sharp as a two-edged sword. “)

The Word of God is a minister of death to those who reject it, and of life to those who receive it (cp 2Cor 2:16)

Spurgeon on sharper that any two-edged sword – The revelation of God given us in Holy Scripture is edge all over. It is alive in every part, and in every part keen to cut the conscience, and wound the heart. Depend upon it, there is not a superfluous verse in the Bible, nor a chapter that is useless. The Word of God is so sharp a thing, so full of cutting power, that you may be bleeding under its wounds before you have seriously suspected the possibility of such a thing. You cannot come near the gospel without its having a measure of influence over you; and, God blessing you, it may cut down and kill your sins when you have no idea that such a work is being done. Yes, when Christ comes, He comes not to send peace on the earth, but a sword; and that sword begins at home, in our own souls, killing, cutting, hacking, breaking in pieces. Blessed is that man who knows the Word of the Lord by its exceeding sharpness, for it kills nothing but that which ought to be killed. It quickens and gives new life to all that is of God; but the old depraved life, which ought to die, it hews in pieces, as Samuel destroyed Agag before the Lord (1Sa 15:33).

A W Pink has the following chapter entitled The Power of God’s Word to Convict Men of Sin

In Hebrews 4:12 we have a Scripture which draws attention to this peculiar characteristic of the Bible—

“For the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

The writings of men may sometimes stir the emotions, search the conscience, and influence the human will, but in a manner and degree possessed by no other book the Bible convicts men of their guilt and lost estate. The Word of God is the Divine mirror, for in it man reads the secrets of his own guilty soul and sees the vileness of his own evil nature. In a way absolutely peculiar to themselves, the Scriptures discern the thoughts and intents of the heart and reveal to men the fact that they are lost sinners and in the presence of a Holy God.

Some thirty years ago there resided in one of the Temples of Tibet a Buddhist priest who had conversed with no Christian missionary, had heard nothing about the cross of Christ, and had never seen a copy of the Word of God. One day while searching for something in the temple, he came across a transcription of Matthew’s Gospel, which years before had been left there by a native who had received it from some traveling missionary. His curiosity aroused, the Buddhist priest commenced to read it, but when he reached the eighth verse in the fifth chapter he paused and pondered over it:

“Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.”

Although he knew nothing about the righteousness of his Maker, although he was quite ignorant concerning the demands of God’s holiness, yet he was there and then convicted of his sins, and a work of Divine grace commenced in his soul. Month after month went by and each day he said to himself,

“I shall never see God, for I am impure in heart.”

Slowly but surely the work of the Holy Spirit deepened within him until he saw himself as a lost sinner; vile, guilty, and undone.

After continuing for more than a year in this miserable condition the priest one day heard that a “foreign devil” was visiting a town nearby and selling books which spoke about God. The same night the Buddhist priest fled from the temple and journeyed to the town where the missionary was residing. On reaching his destination he sought out the missionary and at once said to him,

“Is it true that only those who are pure in heart will see God?”

“Yes,” replied the missionary, “but the same Book which tells you that, also tells you how you may obtain a pure heart,” and then he talked to him about our Lord’s atoning work and how that “the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.”

Quickly the light of God flooded the soul of the Buddhist priest and he found the peace which “passeth all understanding.”

Now what other book in the world outside of the Bible, contains a sentence or even a chapter which, without the aid of any human commentator, is capable of convincing and convicting a heathen that he is a lost sinner?

Does not the fact of the miraculous power of the Bible, which has been illustrated by thousands of fully authenticated cases similar to the above, declare that the Scriptures are the inspired Word of God, vested with the same might as their Omnipotent Author? (Divine Inspiration of the Bible) (Related resource: Inductive Study on the Power of God’s Word)

Sword (3162) (machaira) refers to a relatively short sword (even dagger) for cutting and stabbing. It is obviously used in the figurative sense in this verse, but is still penetrating nevertheless!

Spurgeon – The Word of God is like the sword of Goliath, which had been laid up in the sanctuary, of which David said, “There is none like it, give it me” (1Sa 21:9). Why did he like it so well? I think he liked it all the better because it had been laid up in the holy place by the priests. But I think he liked it best of all because it had stains of blood on it—the blood of Goliath. I like my own sword because it is covered with blood right up to the hilt—the blood of slaughtered sins and errors and prejudices has made it like the sword of Don Rodrigo, “of a dark and purple tint.” The slain of the Lord have been many by the old gospel.

Wiersbe – In comparing the Word of God to a sword, the writer is not suggesting that God uses His Word to slaughter the saints! It is true that the Word cuts the heart of sinners with conviction (Acts 5:337:54), and that the Word defeats Satan (Ep 6:17). The Greek word translated “sword” means “a short sword or dagger.” The emphasis is on the power of the Word to penetrate and expose the inner heart of man. The Word is a “discerner” or “critic.” (Wiersbe, W: Bible Exposition Commentary. 1989. Victor)

Spurgeon on the Word of the Lord as the sword of the Lord…

I. THE QUALITIES OF THE WORD.

1. Divine.

2. Living.

3. Effectual.

4. Cutting.

5. Piercing.

6. Discriminating.

7. Revealing.

II. THE LESSONS WHICH WE SHOULD LEARN THEREFROM.

1. That we do greatly reverence the Word, as truly spoken of God.

2. That we come to it for quickening for our own souls.

3. That we come to it for power when fighting the battles of truth.

4. That we come to it for cutting force to kill our own sins and to help us in destroying the evils of the day.

5. That we come to it, for piercing force when men’s consciences and hearts are hard to reach.

6. That we use it to the most obstinate, to arouse their consciences and convict them of sin.

7. That we discriminate by its means between truth and falsehood.

8. That we let it criticize us, and our opinions, and projects, and acts, and all about us.

PIERCING AS FAR AS THE DIVISION OF SOUL AND SPIRIT: kai diiknoumenos (PMPMSN) achri merismou psuchês kai pneumatos:

Piercing (1338) (diikneomai from diá = through + hiknéomai = to come) means to go through, to reach through, and so to penetrate, pierce, pass through (One other Scriptural use in the LXX of Ex 26:28). It was used in ancient Greek of missiles (as moving through a three dimensional space). The figurative idea is to thoroughly penetrate.

Vincent – The form of the expression is poetical, and signifies that the word penetrates to the inmost recesses of our spiritual being as a sword cuts through the joints and marrow of the body. The separation is not of one part from another, but operates in each department of the spiritual nature.

Vine adds that “the writer’s meaning is not merely that the Word of God produces conviction and distinguishes between the emotions of the soul and those of the spirit; it has power to exclude not only from Canaan but from heaven. Let him therefore who is guilty of unbelief take heed. Let him beware of seeking rest in the wilderness. (Collected writings of W. E. Vine)

Spurgeon on piercing – While it has an edge like a sword, it has also a point like a rapier, “Piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit.” The difficulty with some men’s hearts is to get at them. In fact, there is no spiritually penetrating the heart of any natural man except by this piercing instrument, the Word of God. But the rapier of revelation will go through anything.

Division (3311) (merismos from merizo = to partition, divide into parts <> meros = part) denotes primarily a division or partition. It refers to the act of distribution or apportionment as of spiritual gifts by the Holy Spirit. The word of God has an incisive and penetrating quality. It lays bare self-delusions and moral sophistries.

Gilbrant – 

F.F. Bruce says that what is meant in that verse is “the word of God probes the inmost recesses of our spiritual being and brings the subconscious motives to light” (New International Commentary on the New Testament, Hebrews, p.82). The passage is not necessarily trying to make a distinction between body components, but is perhaps saying that God’s Word can discriminate between man’s thoughts and intents. (Ibid)

Merismos is used 2 times in the NT and 2 times in the Septuagint (LXX)

Joshua 11:23 So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the LORD had spoken to Moses, and Joshua gave it for an inheritance to Israel according to their divisions by their tribes. Thus the land had rest from war.

Ezra 6:18 Then they appointed the priests to their divisions and the Levites in their orders for the service of God in Jerusalem, as it is written in the book of Moses.

Hebrews 2:4 (note) God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts (distribution, apportionment) of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Spurgeon- As you have seen hanging up in the butcher’s shop the carcasses of animals cut right down in the center, so the Word of God is “piercing to the dividing of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow.” It opens a man to himself and makes him see himself. It divides asunder soul and spirit. Nothing else could do that, for the division is difficult. In a great many ways writers have tried to describe the difference between soul and spirit; but I question whether they have succeeded. No doubt it is a very admirable definition to say, “The soul is the life of the natural man, and the spirit the life of the regenerate or spiritual man.” But it is one thing to define and quite another thing to divide.

Soul and spirit – Guthrie explains that “The New Testament use of pneuma for the human spirit focuses on the spiritual aspect of man, i.e. his life in relation to God, whereas psyche refers to man’s life irrespective of his spiritual experience, i.e. his life in relation to himself, his emotions and thought. There is a strong antithesis between the two in the theology of Paul.

How precious is the Book divine,
By inspiration given!
Bright as a lamp its doctrines shine,
To guide our souls to heaven.

-John Fawcett

Soul (5590) (psuche [word study] or psyche from psucho = to breathe, blow, English = psychology, “study of the soul”) (Click word study on psuche) is the breath, then that which breathes, the individual, animated creature. However the discerning reader must understand that psuche is one of those Greek words that can have several meanings, the exact nuance being determined by the context. It follows that one cannot simply select of the three main meanings of psuche and insert it in a given passage for it may not be appropriate to the given context. The meaning of psuche is also contingent upon whether one is a dichotomist or trichotomist. Consult Greek lexicons for more lengthy definitions of psuche as this definition is only a brief overview. (Click an excellent article on Soul in the Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology; see also ISBE article on Soul) (See also Man A Trinity = Spirit, Soul, Body)

BAGD’s lexicon makes the point that “It is often impossible to draw hard and fast lines in the use of this multivalent word. Generally it is used in reference to dematerialized existence or being… Without psuche a being, whether human or animal, consists merely of flesh and bones and without functioning capability. Speculations and views respecting the fortunes of psuche and its relation to the body find varied expression in our literature. (Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature)

Lawrence Richards adds that as “As with many biblical terms, the basic meaning of psyche is established by its OT counterpart, rather than by its meaning in Greek culture. “Soul” refers to personal life, the inner person. Of its over one hundred NT uses, psyche is rendered by the NIV as “soul(s)” only twenty-five times…While there is much overlap in the NT uses of psyche and pneuma (spirit), there seems to be some areas of distinction as well. Often the focus of contexts in which these terms appear overlaps. Thus, both are used in speaking of personal existence, of life after death, emotions, purpose, and the self. But psyche is also used of one’s physical life and of spiritual growth, while pneuma is associated distinctively with breath, worship, understanding, one’s attitude or disposition, and spiritual power (Richards, L O: Expository Dictionary of Bible Words: Regency)

(1) One meaning is reference to the principle of life generally, the vital force which animates the body which shows itself in breathing, the “life principle” (the breath of life) as found even with animals (cf Luke 12:20 “…this very night your soul is required of you…”, Acts 3:23 “every soul that does not heed that prophet shall be utterly destroyed“) . To the Greeks the psuche was the principle of physical life. Everything which had physical life had psuche. Everything which is alive has psuche; a dog, a cat, any animal has psuche, but it has not got pneuma or spirit. Psuche is that physical life which a man shares with every living thing; but pneuma or spirit is that which makes a man different from the rest of creation and kin to God.

(2) A second meaning refers to the earthly, natural life in contrast to supernatural existence (Mt 6:25 “do not be anxious for your life“, Ro 11:3 “…they are seeking my life“). This refers to So that the word denotes “life in the distinctness of individual existence” (Cremer).

(3) A third meaning of psuche is in reference to the inner nonmaterial life of man for which the physical body serves as the dwelling place often with focus on various aspects of feeling, thinking, etc and thus can refer primarily to the mind, to the heart, to desire (LK 10:27 “love the Lord…with all your soul“, Mk 14:34 “My soul is deeply grieved...”, Eph 6:6 “doing the will of God from the heart [psuche]”, Heb 12:3 “so that you may not grow weary and lose heart“). One might say this meaning refers to the inner self, the essence of life in terms of thinking, willing, and feeling. Here psuche describes the seat and center of the inner human life in its many and varied aspects.

It should be noted that there is an additional meaning of a derivative of psuche (psuchikos) which is used to described a “soulish” person, one who is still unregenerate and in Adam, and thus a person whose life is dominated by the unredeemed nature (1Cor 2:1415:4446James 3:15Jude 1:19)

Vincent offers the follows thoughts on psuche – The soul (psuche) is the principle of individuality, the seat of personal impressions. It has a side in contact with both the material and the spiritual element of humanity, and is thus the mediating organ between body and spirit. Its meaning, therefore, constantly rises above life or the living individual, and takes color from its relation to either the emotional or the spiritual side of life, from the fact of its being the seat of the feelings, desires, affections, aversions, and the bearer and manifester of the divine life-principle (pneuma). Consequently psuche is often used in our sense of heart (Lk 1:46Lk 2:35Jn 10:24Acts 14:2); and the meanings of psuche, soul, and pneuma, spirit, occasionally approach each other very closely. Compare Jn 12:27 and Jn 9:33Mt 11:29 and 1Co 16:18. Also both words in Lk 1:47. In this passage psuche, soul, expresses the soul regarded as a moral being designed for everlasting life. See Heb 6:19Heb 10:39Heb 13:171Pe 2:111Pe 4:19. John commonly uses the word to denote the principle of the natural life. See Jn 10:1115Jn 13:37Jn 15:131Jn 3:16” (Vincent, M. R. Word studies in the New Testament. Vol. 2, Page 1-400).

John MacArthur offer the following discussion on dichotomist versus trichotomist view…

There has been a significant debate over the years about the definition and usage of the terms spirit and soul. Some (historically called trichotomists) believe Paul was identifying two different, distinct categories of the nonmaterial essence of man. Those parts, along with the body, make man a three-part being. Others (historically called dichotomists) believe spirit and soul are interchangeable words denoting man’s indivisible inner nature. Those interpreters therefore view man as a two-part being, composed simply of a nonmaterial nature (spirit and soul) and a material nature (body).

No Scripture text ascribes different, distinct substance and functions to the spirit and soul. Trichotomists nevertheless usually propose that spirit is man’s Godward consciousness and soul is his earthward consciousness; however, neither the Greek usage of spirit (pneuma) nor of soul (psuche) sustains that proposition. The nonmaterial part of man does have myriad capacities to respond to God, Satan, and the world’s many stimuli, but it is untenable to arbitrarily separate the spirit from the soul. The two terms are used interchangeably in Scripture (He 6:19noteHe 10:39note1Pe 2:11note2Pe 2:8note). Spirit and soul are familiar and common synonyms that Paul used to emphasize the depth and scope of sanctification. Some suggest that an acceptable translation of this portion of Paul’s prayer could be, “May your spirit, even soul and body,” in which case “spirit” would refer to the whole person, and “soul and body” to the person’s nonmaterial and material parts. References from Paul’s other epistles provide clear evidence that he was a dichotomist (Romans 8:10note1Co 2:115:357:342Co 7:1Gal 6:18Col 2:5note2Ti 4:22note).

Some claim Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart,” supports a trichotomist view of man’s essence because it suggests splitting soul and spirit. But a careful look at the verse’s language refutes that contention. The writer did not say the sword of the Word penetrates a person’s inner being and separates his soul from his spirit. He said only that the sword cuts open the soul and the spirit of the person. He used a second metaphorical expression “piercing … both joints and marrow” to further depict the deep penetration God’s Word makes into the inner person. This verse poses no special difficulty for the dichotomist position. (MacArthur, J. 1 & 2 Thessalonians. Chicago: Moody Press.)

Spirit (4151) (pneuma from pnéo = to breathe) refers to the immaterial part of the human personality in contrast to the outward and visible aspects of flesh and body.

Leon Morris – We should not take the reference to “soul” and “spirit” as indicating a “dichotomist” over against a “trichotomist” view of man, nor the reference to “dividing” to indicate that the writer envisaged a sword as slipping between them. Nor should we think of the sword as splitting off “joints” and “marrow.” What the author is saying is that God’s Word can reach to the innermost recesses of our being. We must not think that we can bluff our way out of anything, for there are no secrets hidden from God. We cannot keep our thoughts to ourselves. There may also be the thought that the whole of man’s nature, however we divide it, physical as well as nonmaterial, is open to God. With “judges” we move to legal terminology. The Word of God passes judgment on men’s feelings (enthymeseon) and on their thoughts (ennoion). Nothing evades the scope of this Word. What man holds as most secret he finds subject to its scrutiny and judgment (Gaebelein, F, Editor: Expositor’s Bible Commentary 6-Volume New Testament)

Ryrie – The meaning is that the Word pierces to the depths of soul and spirit, not between the two. They stand for the innermost facets of our immaterial nature, just as joints and marrow the material aspect. Both soul and spirit can be involved in what pleases or displeases God. (For soul, see Mark 12:30 and 1 Peter 2:11; for spirit, see 1 Cor. 2:11 and 2 Cor. 7:1). Also see note on 1 Thess. 5:23-24. (The Ryrie Study Bible: New American Standard Translation: 1995. Moody Publishers)

Believer’s Study Bible – The capabilities of the word of God are clearly featured here. The nature of God’s word is that of life-giving communication. The word here translated “powerful” (energes) is the source of the English word ”energy.” Furthermore, God’s word is sharp and penetrating, acting as a critic of the thought-life and the motivations or purposes of the human heart. Note that the word of God has the unique ability not merely to discover the merit of men’s actions but also to reveal hidden motivations. Thus, “all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (v. 13). (Criswell, W A. Believer’s Study Bible: New King James Version. 1991. Thomas Nelson)

Richard Phillips laments that “we are living in a time when many Christians, even evangelicals who once were singularly known and even derided for their devotion to the Word, are losing confidence in the Bible’s effectiveness. Yes, it is inspired; yes, it is useful; but it must be augmented by human means or wisdom or methods. Our evangelism now relies on manipulative psychological ploys, our spiritual growth depends on techniques and programs and store-bought gimmicks, our worship reflects the glitter of Hollywood entertainment. Far different is the message of the writer of Hebrews, who says that nothing is able to escape the revealing, energetic Word of God. Therefore, it alone is sufficient for our every need. (Reformed Expository Commentary – Hebrews)

Spurgeon says this sword “divides asunder soul and spirit. Nothing else could do that, for the division is difficult. In a great many ways writers have tried to describe the difference between soul and spirit; but I question whether they have succeeded. No doubt it is a very admirable definition to say, “The soul is the life of the natural man, and the spirit the life of the regenerate or spiritual man.” But it is one thing to define and quite another thing to divide.”

OF BOTH JOINTS AND MARROW: harmôn te kai muelôn:

This is obviously a figure of speech emphasizing that all parts of the person are subject to the effects of the Word of God.

Joints (719) (harmos from arô = adjust, join properly together. Found only here in NT) refers to articulation of body = joint

Marrow (3452) (muelos from muô = shut. Found only here in NT)

This surgeon goes into and through the joints and marrow, not cleaving between them. The expressions of “joints and marrow” serve to convey effectively the notion of the extreme power of penetration of the Word of God, to the very core of man’s being.

AND ABLE TO JUDGE THE THOUGHTS AND INTENTIONS OF THE HEART: kai kritikos enthumêseôn kai ennoiôn kardias:

William S Plumer wrote that “Scripture is not only pure but purifying!”

As famous Bible teacher Henrietta Mears wrote “Hebrews 4:12 shows the power of God’s Word. Let the Word search and try you! Let God’s Word have its proper place in your life. It searches out every motive and desire and purpose of your life, and helps you in evaluating them. Christ is the living Word of God. He is alive (quick) and powerful and all wise and all knowing. (What the Bible is All – highly recommended)

God’s Word is powerful and effective which is the very reason that is Satan launches his greatest attacks against the Word of God, doing anything and everything he can to undermine the Word and derail or discourage those who preach and teach it faithfully. As a teacher I can personally testify to this truth. In the parable of the sower, our Lord describes Satan’s attack “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road. (Mt 13:19)

He snatches the seed of the living and active Word from the hearer’s heart before it has a chance to take root.

John MacArthur – Many people gladly listen to the gospel, but before their decision is made, some intrusion distracts them and the effectiveness of the witness is lost, along with the soul of that hearer. In another person’s heart the word is accepted at first with joy, but when Satan sends “affliction or persecution… because of the word, immediately he falls away” (Mt 13:2021). Many people seem to be genuine and faithful believers—until hardship, criticism, or persecution come. When the price for faithfulness becomes too high, they reveal that they never had true faith in the first place. Still another hearer also accepts the word in a superficial and temporary way, but as he trusts in his wealth the word is choked and “it becomes unfruitful” (Mt 13:22). Because he wants the world, he forsakes the word. (MacArthur, J: Ephesians. Chicago: Moody Press)

In an OT declaration of God’s ability to judge hearts Jehovah declared…

I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds. (Jeremiah 17:10)

The psalmist affirms God omniscience regarding man’s inner being…

You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. (Ps139:2)

The Word of God is like a light (Ps 119:105) and as Paul says…

all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. (Ep 5:13note)

Able to judge (2924) (kritikos = verbal adjective –ikos, from krino = to divide, separate, to judge, to sift out and analyze evidence) means related to judges, fit for judging, skilled in judging. The Word is able to discern or decide as the surgeon has to be and able to decide on the instant what to do. God’s word like His eye sees the secret lurking doubt and unbelief “of the thoughts and intents of the heart”.

Vine writes that kritikos “signifies possessed of a power to judge. The Word of God, which is God’s own voice, scans, and sits in judgment, for instance, upon, the unbelief which leads to departure from the Living God.

God’s Word is the perfect discerner, the perfect kritikos (English = critic, critical). It not only analyzes all the facts perfectly, but all motives, and intentions, and beliefs as well, which even the wisest of human judges or critics cannot do. The sword of His Word will make no mistakes in judgment or execution

We never see Israel or Moses arguing with God’s verdict of “guilty” of always going astray in your hearts leading to the sentence that they “shall not enter My rest.” All deceptions are disclosed and brought to the light by God’s Truth. God had given Israel a wonderful motivation (the promise of a Land flowing with milk and honey) and His guiding Truth (the Law) and a leader (Moses) and despite all these advantages, Israel for the most part willfully, obstinately choose grumbling, unfaithfulness and rebellion over gratitude, faithfulness and obedience. Aren’t we all a lot like Israel from time to time? We stubbornly choose our path rather than the Lord’s path which promises blessing! Such is the nature of our old sin nature, constantly seeking to drag us off the highway of holiness and into the pit of destruction.

A surgeon exposes the operating field with a bright, powerful light to illuminate every dark crevice and then with a sharp knife is able to lance the abscess to remove the infected pocket or to excise the portion of the organ that is being ravaged by cancer. Such is the power and potential of the “scalpel” of the Word of God to expose and excise the sin in our innermost being.

Spurgeon – Many and many a time have persons written to me or spoken with me and said, “Did you intend in the sermon to make a personal allusion to me?” I have said, “Yes, I most certainly did. But I never saw you in my life and never knew anything about your case; only he that sent me commanded me to say this and that, and he knew who would be there to hear it, and he took care to guide my thoughts and words, so as to suit your case exactly, so that there could be no mistake about it.”

The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery has an interesting analysis on judgment “Judgment as the Great Exposé. The popularity and success of exposé in all forms of the media may be due in part to the ability of the reader/listener to anonymously sit in judgment against the exposed. Few things can rival the protracted examination of another’s sins to quiet one’s own conscience and sense of depravity. In the final exposé, the shroud of anonymity will be stripped as each individual stands naked before the Judge of the Universe (Mt 12:36371Cor 4:5Heb 4:12-13)

Thoughts (1761) (enthumesis from en = in + thumos = strong feeling, passion, mind, thought) means an inward reasoning or deliberation and conveys the idea of pondering or thinking out. Our English word “reflection” is an accurate translation. Westcott notes that the word refers to the action of the affections and is related to the will.

Spurgeon – The Word not only lets you see what your thoughts are, but it criticizes your thoughts. The Word of God says of this thought, “it is vain,” and of that thought, “it is acceptable”; of this thought, “it is selfish,” and of that thought, “it is Christlike.” It is a judge of the thoughts of men. And the Word of God is such a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart that when men twist about, and wind, and wander, yet it tracks them. There is nothing so difficult to get at as a man. You may hunt a badger, and run down a fox, but you cannot get at a man—he has so many doublings and hiding places. Yet the Word of God will dig him out, and seize on him. When the Spirit of God works with the gospel, the man may dodge, and twist, but the preaching goes to his heart and conscience, and he is made to feel it, and to yield to its force. The Word of God gets at the very marrow of our manhood; it lays bare the secret thoughts of the soul. It is “able to judge the reflections and thoughts of the heart.” Have you not often, in hearing the Word, wondered how the preacher could so unveil that which you had concealed? He says the very things in the pulpit that you had uttered in your bedchamber. Yes, that is one of the marks of the Word of God, that it lays bare a man’s inmost secrets; indeed, it discovers to him that which he had not even himself perceived. The Christ that is in the Word sees everything.

Matthew Henry – Thoughts are words to Christ; we should therefore take heed not only what we say and do, but what we think.

There are 4 uses of enthumesis in the NT (no uses in the LXX)…

Matthew 9:4 And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, “Why are you thinking evil in your hearts?

Matthew 12:25 And knowing their thoughts He said to them, “Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself shall not stand.

Acts 17:29 “Being then the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man.

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Intentions (1771) (ennoia from en = in + noús = mind) means literally that which takes place in the mind. Ennoia describes a mental conception that follows consideration or deliberation. It is closely allied to enthumesis for both refer to the act of consideration or reflection. Like phroneo, ennoia relates to thought, especially to the development of a perspective that will provide insight and so shape our attitude and guide our actions.

Intention (The road to hell is paved with good intentions) is a determination to act in a certain way and describes what one intends to accomplish or attain. Intention represents the deliberate exercise of the will with reference to the consequences of an act attempted or performed. In Logic intentions describe conceptions formed by directing the mind towards an object.

There are 12 uses of ennoia in the Septuagint (LXX), all in Proverbs (Prov. 1:42:113:214:15:28:1216:2218:1519:723:41924:7)

Regarding the uses of ennoia in Proverbs NIDNTT writes that…

All the Hebrew equivalents mean understanding, wisdom, knowledge, and so ennoia retains its sense of reflection, insight, perception, wisdom, though not the theoretical meaning of concept. (Brown, Colin, Editor. New International Dictionary of NT Theology. 1986. Zondervan)

The only other NT use of ennoia is in 1Pe 4:1 (note)

Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose (ennoia – way of thinking, purpose describes a more settled determination), because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.

Vincent writes that ennoia “is the definite conception which follows enthumesis.”

Barclay compares enthumesis and ennoia writing that the former “is the emotional part of man, (while) intention (ennoia) is the intellectual part of man. It is as if he said: “Your emotional and intellectual life must alike be submitted to the scrutiny of God.” (Daily Study Bible)

God’s inspired Word reveals all a person is and can become. It judges every person in relationship to God’s will and way. The judgment centers on potential, plans, and attitudes, not simply on individual acts.

Heart (2588) (kardia [word study]) does not refer to the physical organ but is always used figuratively in Scripture to refer to the seat and center of human life. The heart is the center of the personality, and it controls the intellect, emotions, and will. The heart is a person’s “control center”. Just as “air traffic control” directs all inbound and out bound flights, so too the heart exercises a similar control over the “safe” flight of one’s being.

MacArthur commenting on kardia writes that “While we often relate heart to the emotions (e.g., “He has a broken heart”), the Bible relates it primarily to the intellect (e.g., “Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders,” Matt 15:19). That’s why you must “watch over your heart with all diligence” (Proverbs 4:23note). In a secondary way, however, heart relates to the will and emotions because they are influenced by the intellect. If you are committed to something, it will affect your will, which in turn will affect your emotions.” (Drawing Near. Crossway Books) MacArthur adds that “In most modern cultures, the heart is thought of as the seat of emotions and feelings. But most ancients—Hebrews, Greeks, and many others—considered the heart to be the center of knowledge, understanding, thinking, and wisdom. The New Testament also uses it in that way. The heart was considered to be the seat of the mind and will, and it could be taught what the brain could never know. Emotions and feelings were associated with the intestines, or bowels.” (MacArthur, J: Ephesians. 1986. Chicago: Moody Press)

Hughes explains that what Paul is saying here is that The heart is the wellspring of man’s spiritual life, and that is where the Roman Christians’ obedience was rooted. It was not just a formal obedience—it came from the center of their being. This is the example of slavery Paul holds up for us all: a heartfelt obedience to Christ and his Word. It is an obedience which brings liberation. (Hughes, R. K. Romans: Righteousness from heaven. Preaching the Word)

Vine writes that kardia “came to denote man’s entire mental and moral activities, and to stand figuratively for the hidden springs of the personal life, and so here signifies the seat of thought and feeling. (Collected writings of W. E. Vine)

It is notable that 6 of 12 uses of kardia or “heart” are in Hebrews 3 and 4, which are also pivotal chapters regarding the nature of true belief which allows one to enter His rest (see all uses below)

In Hebrew thinking, the heart represents the entire person and their inner motivation. Study the uses of heart in Hebrews…

Hebrews 3:8 (note) – DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS AS WHEN THEY PROVOKED ME, AS IN THE DAY OF TRIAL IN THE WILDERNESS,

Hebrews 3:10 (note) – “THEREFORE I WAS ANGRY WITH THIS GENERATION, AND SAID, ‘THEY ALWAYS GO ASTRAY IN THEIR HEART, AND THEY DID NOT KNOW MY WAYS ‘;

Hebrews 3:12 (note) – Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God.

Hebrews 3:15 (note) – while it is said, “TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS, AS WHEN THEY PROVOKED ME.”

Hebrews 4:7 (note) – He again fixes a certain day, “Today ,” saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before, “TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS .”

Hebrews 4:12 (note) – For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Hebrews 8:10 (note) – “FOR THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD: I WILL PUT MY LAWS INTO THEIR MINDS, AND I WILL WRITE THEM ON THEIR HEARTS. AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE.

Hebrews 10:16 (note) – “THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD: I WILL PUT MY LAWS UPON THEIR HEART, AND ON THEIR MIND I WILL WRITE THEM,” He then says,

Hebrews 10:22 (note) – let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

Hebrews 13:9 (note) – Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, through which those who were so occupied were not benefited.

Newell – We have known people suddenly arrested in their deepest being by reading a verse of Scripture. The thoughts, and necessarily, the intents of the heart, they found discerned, and themselves the object of an infinite Intelligence, but yet an Intelligence not like that at Siani, when the glory and power and majesty of God were openly displayed; but in the written Word of God, which, being “living and active,” had pierced them. This piercing may have resulted in their conviction of sin, and accepting Christ and salvation; or it may have been resisted. Nevertheless, the power of the Word of God is here seen, and we greatly need to meditate upon it in these days.


Ray Stedman writes that…

David asks, in Psalm 19:12, “Who can discern his errors?” The answer he gives in the psalm and that of the writer of Hebrews is the same. Only the Word of God, which is living and active and sharper than any double-edged sword, is capable of exposing the thoughts and attitudes of a single human heart! We do not know ourselves. We do not even know how to distinguish, by feelings or rationale, between that which comes from our souls (psyches) and from our spirits (pneumas). Even our bodily functions (symbolized here by joints and marrow) are beyond our full knowledge. Only the all-seeing eye of God knows us thoroughly and totally (Ps 139:1–18), and before him we will stand and ultimately give account.

The images the author employs in this marvelous passage are effective ones. Like a sharp sword which can lay open the human body with one slashing blow, so the sword of the Scripture can open our inner life and expose it to ourselves and others. Once the ugly thoughts and hidden rebellions are out in the open, we stand like criminals before a judge, ineffectually trying to explain what we have done. Yet such honest revelation is what we need to humble our stubborn pride and render us willing to look to God for forgiveness and his gracious supply.

Plainly, Scripture is the only reliable guide we have to function properly as a human in a broken world. Philosophy and psychology give partial insights, based on human experience, but they fall far short of what the Word of God can do. It is not intended to replace human knowledge or effort, but is designed to supplement and correct them. Surely the most hurtful thing pastors and leaders of churches can do to their people is to deprive them of firsthand knowledge of the Bible. The exposition of both Old and New Testaments from the pulpit, in class rooms and small group meetings is the first responsibility of church leaders. They are “stewards of the mysteries of God” and must be found faithful to the task of distribution. This uniqueness of Scripture is the reason that all true human discovery in any dimension must fit within the limits of divine disclosure. Human knowledge can never outstrip divine revelation.

The remaining verses of chapter 4 (vv. 14–16) properly belong with the subject of chapter 5 and will be considered there. Thus far we have seen that Jesus is far greater than any angel, eclipses Moses as the spokesman of God, and leads believers into a far superior rest than Joshua led Israel into. In chapter 5, we are introduced to the major theme of Hebrews: the high priesthood of Jesus. He is superior in every respect to the priesthood of Aaron, and encompasses a ministry which the Old Testament only faintly shadowed in the mysterious ministry of Melchizedek to Abraham. (Stedman, Ray: Hebrews IVP New Testament Commentary Series)

Pierced by the Word of God
A Meditation on Hebrews 4:12
John Piper

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

The term “word of God” may mean a word spoken by God without a human mouthpiece. But in the New Testament it regularly means a word or a message that a human speaks on God’s behalf. So, for example, in Heb 13:7 it says, “Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.”

So the “word of God” in Heb 4:12 probably refers to the truth of God revealed in Scripture that humans speak to each other with reliance on God’s help to understand it and apply it.

“Living and active.”

The word of God is not a dead word or an ineffective word. It has life in it. And because it has life in it, it produces effects. There is something about the Truth, as God has revealed it, that connects it to God as a source of all life and power. God loves his word. He is partial to his word. He honors his word with his presence and power. If you want your teaching or witness to have power and produce effects, stay close to the revealed word of God.

Sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow.

What does this living and effective word do? It pierces. For what purpose? To divide. To divide what? Soul and spirit. What does that mean?

The writer gives an analogy: it’s like dividing joints and marrow. Joints are the thick, hard, outer part of the bone. Marrow is the soft, tender, living, inner part of the bone. That is an analogy of “soul and spirit.” The word of God is like a sword that is sharp enough to cut right through the outer, hard, tough part of a bone to the inner, soft, living part of the bone. Some swords, less sharp, may strike a bone and glance off and not penetrate. Some swords may penetrate part way through the tough, thick joint of a bone. But a very sharp, powerful double-edged sword (sharp on each side

of the point) will penetrate the joint all the way to the marrow.

“Soul and spirit” are like “bone joint and bone marrow.” “Soul” is that invisible dimension of our life that we are by nature. “Spirit” is what we are by supernatural rebirth. Jesus said, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (Jn 3:6). Without the awakening, creative, regenerating work of the Spirit of God in us we are merely “natural” rather than “spiritual” (1Co 2:14-15). So the “spirit” is that invisible dimension of our life that we are by the regenerating work of the Spirit.

What then is the point saying that the “word of God” pierces to the “division of soul and spirit”? The point is that it’s the word of God that reveals to us our true selves. Are we spiritual or are we natural? Are we born of God and spiritually alive, or are we deceiving ourselves and spiritually dead? Are the “thoughts and intentions of our heart” spiritual thoughts and intentions or only natural thoughts and intentions. Only the “word of God” can “judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” as Heb4:12 says.

Practically speaking, when we read or hear “the word of God,” we sense ourselves pierced. The effect of this piercing is to reveal whether there is spirit or not. Is there marrow and life in our bones? Or are we only a “skeleton” with no living marrow? Is there “spirit,” or only “soul”? The word of God pierces deep enough to show us the truth of our thoughts and our motives and our selves.

Give yourselves to this word of God in the Bible. Use it to know yourself and confirm your own spiritual life. If there is life, there will be love and joy and a heart to obey the word. Give yourself to this word so that your words become the word of God for others and reveal to them their own spiritual condition. Then in the wound of the word, pour the balm of the word. (Pierced By the Word of God :Desiring God)


Sigmund Freud and the Word of God – Few thinkers in recent times have exerted so pervasive an influence as Sigmund Freud. Although he claimed to be an atheist, he continually speculated about religious issues as if subconsciously haunted by the God whom he denied.

When Freud turned 35, his father sent him a copy of the Hebrew Scriptures he had given to him when he was a boy. Sigmund had read and studied that book, at least for a while. Enclosed in that worn copy of the Scriptures was a note from the elder Freud reminding his son that “the Spirit of the Lord began to move you and spoke within you:

‘Go read in My Book that I’ve written and there will burst open for you the wellsprings of understanding, knowledge, and wisdom.’”

His father expressed the hope that Sigmund might, as a mature man, once again read and obey God’s law. We have no evidence, however, that Freud took to heart his father’s exhortation. How different his life and influence might have been if he had!


The Robber – When evangelist John Wesley (1703-1791) was returning home from a service one night, he was robbed. The thief, however, found his victim to have only a little money and some Christian literature.

As the bandit was leaving, Wesley called out,

“Stop! I have something more to give you.”

The surprised robber paused.

“My friend,” said Wesley, “you may live to regret this sort of life. If you ever do, here’s something to remember: ‘The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin!’”

The thief hurried away, and Wesley prayed that his words might bear fruit.

Years later, Wesley was greeting people after a Sunday service when he was approached by a stranger. What a surprise to learn that this visitor, now a believer in Christ as a successful businessman, was the one who had robbed him years before!

“I owe it all to you,” said the transformed man.

“Oh no, my friend,” Wesley exclaimed, “not to me, but to the precious blood of Christ that cleanses us from all sin!”

God’s Word is an arrow that never misses its mark. (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)


First In Our Lives – Actor Sylvester Stallone is applauded for his strongman movie roles as Rocky and Rambo. But what is he really like in his personal life? During an interview he honestly admitted, “If I were watching a home movie of my life, I would shake my head in despair and wonderment. It’s a comedy of errors.”

Suppose a movie were made of your life or mine. Would it reveal not only errors and poor choices but also a sinful person who doesn’t even act like a follower of Christ? Would we be ashamed of some scenes? Would we be motivated, as Stallone says he was, to shift our values and start paying attention to “relationships . . . and putting someone else first”?

Jesus wants to be the “someone else” in our lives whom we put first (Matthew 6:24noteMt 6:33note). But how do we do that? It starts with confession of any sin that is between us and Him, and then experiencing the Lord’s cleansing and forgiveness (Psalm 32:5note). Then we are gradually changed by Him through the work of the Holy Spirit and by the Word of God (Galatians 5:22noteGal 5:23noteHebrews 4:12). If we make our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ our first priority, He will make us into the kind of people He wants us to be (Philippians 2:34notePhp 2:567notePhp 2:8note). —Vernon C Grounds (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

Search me, O God, and know my heart today;
Try me, O Savior, know my thoughts, I pray.
See if there be some wicked way in me;
Cleanse me from every sin and set me free. —Orr

The Spirit of God uses the Word of God to change the people of God.


A “Dangerous” Weapon – One Sunday evening at church a short-term missionary reported on her overseas experiences and told about crossing into a communist country. At the border, the guards asked, “Do you have any guns, drugs, or Bibles?”

Although they probably hadn’t read it, those communist border guards apparently believed Hebrews 4:12. To them, the Bible was as dangerous as guns and drugs. Guns injure and kill the body. Drugs alter and distort the mind. The Bible exposes and destroys falsehood. But the Bible threatens more than their religion of atheism. It threatens their place of power and control over the people because it gives to the people what no government can. The Bible enriches lives, instills hope, and frees the human spirit, which makes it as threaten­ing to an atheistic government as guns and drugs.

In Psalm 119, the psalmist refers to some of the powerful effects of the Word of God on his life. It revives his soul (Ps 119:25note); it imparts inner strength (Ps 119:28note); it guides him into truth (Ps 119:30note); and it enlarges his heart (Ps 119:32note).

We who are blessed with both the Old and New Testaments have God’s full and final written revelation of Himself. When we meditate on the truths of this powerful book, we experience its impact on our lives by the indwelling Holy Spirit, who makes it real to us. Guns, drugs, and the Bible all wield power, but only the Bible destroys what is false and builds what is true. —D. J. De Haan (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

No weapon in Satan’s arsenal can destroy the sword of the Spirit,
which is the Word of God.


Changed By The Book -He was trouble. He lived in a home for orphans, but he didn’t like it. He was disobedient and miserable, so he ran away. When he did, he took with him the Bible his housemother had given him. Several years later, the young man returned to the home he had abandoned. He told the people that while he was gone, he had begun reading the Bible. “Now I want to accept Christ,” he told his astonished listeners.

What a remarkable book the Bible is! Read by a hurting and troubled young man, this Book was used by God’s Spirit to show him his need for salvation. We live in a world that needs what the Bible offers. People need to read its words of comfort, hope, cleansing, and joy. They need to discover in its pages the good news of salvation in Christ.

Not everyone who reads God’s Word turns to Christ. Jesus made this clear in the parable of the sower (Lk. 8:456789101112131415). We are to be sowers of God’s Word, but we don’t decide who will receive it. Our job is to scatter the seed.

Maybe you’ve been looking for a good witnessing tool and never thought that God’s Word is the answer. Why not give a Bible to those you want to reach. Then watch what happens. They can be changed by His Book. —Dave Branon (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

The world’s greatest Book is the Bible,
Its words are inspired and true;
Some may have scorned as they read it
But found their lives changed and made new. –Byer

God’s Word is an arrow that never misses its mark


Nothing Hidden

Read: Hebrews 4:12–16 

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Hebrews 4:13

In 2015 an international research company stated that there were 245 million surveillance cameras installed worldwide, and the number was growing by 15 percent every year. In addition, multiplied millions of people with smartphones capture daily images ranging from birthday parties to bank robberies. Whether we applaud the increased security or denounce the diminished privacy, we live in a global, cameras-everywhere society.

The New Testament book of Hebrews says that in our relationship with God, we experience a far greater level of exposure and accountability than anything surveillance cameras may see. His Word, like a sharp, two-edged sword, penetrates to the deepest level of our being where it “judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Heb. 4:12–13). 

Nothing is hidden from God’s sight. Nothing is greater than God’s love.

Because Jesus our Savior experienced our weaknesses and temptations but did not sin, we can “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (vv. 15–16). We don’t need to fear Him but can be assured we’ll find grace when we come to Him.

Nothing is hidden from God’s sight. Nothing is greater than God’s love. Nothing is stronger than God’s mercy and grace. Nothing is too hard for God’s power.

Discover how you can develop and maintain a meaningful prayer life. Read Jesus’ Blueprint for Prayer at discoveryseries.org/hj891.

No part of our lives is hidden from God’s grace and power.

By David C. McCasland  (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)


The Big Questions – Author Ronald B. Schwartz asked scores of well-known contemporary writers to name the books that influenced them most deeply. Their responses ranged from the novels of Dostoevsky to the popular stories of Mark Twain. The works of Dickens, Shakespeare, and Faulkner were mentioned many times. But topping the list was the Bible. Why?

Perhaps because most writers want to deal with the “big questions” of life, and the Bible is the ultimate book for life’s big questions: Who am I? Why am I here? Is there a God? Does life have any meaning or purpose?

The pages of Scripture bring us face to face with ourselves, with God, and with His grand design for our lives. The Bible, according to the late journalist Malcolm Muggeridge, is “the book that reads me.” The writer of Hebrews said, “The Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

When we read the Bible, God speaks personally and powerfully to us about the big questions that matter most in life. — David C. McCasland (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

What is the meaning of life here on earth?
What is its purpose, and what is its worth?
God has the answers in His holy book;
That is the first and the best place to look. —Hess

The Bible is God’s answer book.


Change The Word? – The Bible, God’s written Word, changes lives. Its message of salvation makes the most profound change, of course, but Scripture can also change the way we treat others. It can provide a firm foundation for society with its clear teachings on institutions such as marriage, family, and the church.

But what happens when what the Bible clearly says—as understood for centuries by learned believers and scholars alike—is rejected? Those who reject its teachings try to change the Word.

Two Greek words can help explain this: eisegesis and exegesisEisegesis is the process of reading into a passage something that is not there—inserting a meaning that flows from a personal agenda. By contrast, exegesis means drawing from the passage the clearly intended meaning, using context, other Scripture passages on the same topic, and legitimate tools of understanding such as Bible commentaries.

Instead of trying to change God’s Word to fit our own ideas, let’s allow the Word to change us. As we read His Word and obey it, the Holy Spirit will transform us into the kind of people God wants us to be.

Don’t change the Word—let it change you.—Dave Branon (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

The Lord has given man His Word,
His will He has made known;
Let man not try to change that Word
With words that are his own. —D. De Haan

The Bible—eternal truth and never-fading beauty.


Excuses – Unbelief, indifference, busyness, and laziness are some of the excuses people give for not reading the Bible. Gamaliel Bradford, a renowned American biographer who explored the lives and motives of famous individuals, candidly admitted, “I do not read the New Testament for fear of its awakening a storm of anxiety and self-reproach and doubt and dread of having taken the wrong path, of having been traitor to the plain and simple God.”

Fear of facing up to failure, guilt and sin is not a very reasonable reason to avoid reading the Bible! It’s about as irrational as refusing to see a doctor because there’s a suspicion that cancer has started to develop in one’s body.

Yes, the Bible does indeed compel us to face ourselves. It is like an x-ray machine that penetrates below the facade of goodness and shows up any spiritual malignancy. It enables us to see how God views all the worst diseases of the soul. But the Bible does more than expose a fatal condition. It introduces us to the Great Physician, who can cure our sin and bring spiritual healing.

If you read the Bible with a willingness to obey the truth, you will find life’s greatest cure. Vernon C. Grounds (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

Instill within our hearts, dear Lord,
A deep desire to know Your voice;
We need to learn to hear
Your Word That we may make
Your will our choice. – Dennis J. De Haan

Many people criticize the bible because the bible criticizes them


Hebrews 4:12 Undiscovered Country

The Word of God is living and powerful. —Hebrews 4:12

I studied the map as my husband and I drove up the east coast of Virginia. We were looking for any road that would take us to the seashore. Finally, I found one and we turned toward the sun.

In only a few minutes, we were laughing in delight when—just before the seashore—we happened upon a national wildlife refuge. All around us were dunes and marsh and beach grasses and an abundance of gulls, egrets, and blue herons. It was active and loud and wonderful! We had arrived at Chincoteague and Assateague Islands—famous for the annual pony swim from one island to the other. Others had realized its value and beauty long before, but to us it was undiscovered country.

The Scriptures are like “undiscovered country” to many. They have never discovered the valuable treasures found in the eternal words of the Bible. The Bible is alive and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, exposing our innermost thoughts and desires (Heb. 4:12). It is like a lamp to illuminate our path (Ps. 119:105), and it has been given to equip us for God’s purposes (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

Open the Bible and read it so you can find these treasures. It’s time . . . to discover!

Exhaustless store of treasured gems
Within this Book I hold;
And as I read, it comes alive,
New treasures to unfold.
—Mortenson

Rich treasures of God’s truth are waiting to be discovered by you.


Hebrews 4:12 One Verse

The Word of God is living and powerful. —Hebrews 4:12

Which of the 31,173 verses in the Bible is your favorite? And do you think that verse can make a difference in someone’s life?

God has used certain verses to make a remarkable impact on the world. For example, the author of Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan, touched the lives of thousands by preaching from John 6:37, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.”

Noted reformer Martin Luther greatly influenced the course of church history because of his understanding of Romans 1:17, “The just shall live by faith.” And missionary pioneer William Carey introduced the gospel to India after being touched by the words of Isaiah 54:2, “Enlarge the place of your tent.”

As a young person about to embark on my first overseas missionary venture, I was moved, challenged, and comforted by Jeremiah 33:3. God used this verse to remind me to call on Him because He had “great and mighty” things in store for me.

Maybe a specific verse from Scripture has touched your heart in a special way. Share that truth with others—because God’s Word will always have an impact.

May the Word of God dwell richly
In my heart from hour to hour,
So that all may see I triumph
Only through His power.
—Wilkinson

One truth from the Bible is worth more than all the wisdom of man.


Hebrews 4:12 A Question Of Motive

The Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword . . . and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. —Hebrews 4:12

Read: Hebrews 4:11-16 | Bible in a Year: 1 Chronicles 7-9; John 6:22-44

My wife and I were stopped at a railroad crossing to allow a train to pass. As we waited in the line of cars, the driver next to us suddenly darted through a nearby parking lot and headed in the direction of the next available railroad crossing.

I turned to Marlene and said, with some righteous indignation, “Look at that guy. He’s trying to get around the train instead of waiting like the rest of us.” As soon as I said those words, the man, camera in hand, hopped from his car to take pictures of the oncoming train. I had judged his motives, and I was dead wrong.

Although we can observe behavior and outward appearance, only God can see what’s in the heart. That is one reason we all need the Word of God so desperately. Hebrews 4:12 says, “The Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

When we find ourselves ready to judge another person’s motives, let’s pause and remember—only God can see the heart, and only His Word can expose its motives. Our responsibility is to let the Lord and His Word convict us about our own hearts.

The Bible is a lamp from God,
A sword of truth and light;
It searches heart and soul and mind,
And helps us know what’s right.
—Bosch

People will be judged by the way God sees them not by the way we see them.


Hebrews 4:12 A Powerful Word

The Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword. —Hebrews 4:12

Read: Hebrews 4:12-13 | Bible in a Year: Exodus 9-11; Matthew 15:21-39

When a teenager named Poh Fang learned about Jesus’ love for her and received Him as her Savior, her parents weren’t sure about the merits of Christianity. So they sent her older sister with her to church to keep an eye on her. But something happened that they didn’t expect. The powerful Word of God penetrated the heart of the older sister, and she accepted Jesus as her Savior as well.

The psalmist said of the Word of God, “Your precepts . . . have given me life” (Ps. 119:93). That’s the testimony of Poh Fang and her sister and of all who know Christ as Savior. His Word is “powerful . . . and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).

God’s Word shows us our sin and its consequences: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23); “the wages of sin is death” (6:23). It tells us of God’s love and salvation: “God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, . . . made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)” (Eph. 2:4-5). And it gives wisdom for daily living: “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps. 119:105).

Thank You, Lord, for Your powerful Word, which gives us life and direction for daily living.

Many books inform, but only one transforms— the Bible.


Hebrews 4:12 Exploratory Procedure

The Word of God is living and powerful, . . . a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. —Hebrews 4:12

Read: Hebrews 4:11-16 | Bible in a Year: Jeremiah 34-36; Hebrews 2

I have a friend who recently underwent a laryngoscopy. I winced as he explained how his doctor took a camera with a light on the end and stuck it down his throat to try to find the cause of his pain.

It reminded me that God’s Word is like a laryngoscopy. It invades the unseen areas of our lives, exposing the diseased and damaged spiritual tissue that troubles us. If you’re wincing at the thought of how uncomfortable this divine procedure might be, consider Jesus’ words: “Everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed” (John 3:20). Internal intrusions may be uncomfortable, but do you really want the disease?

Welcoming God’s Word to penetrate the deep, dark places of our hearts is the only way to find true healing and the spiritual health we long for. Believe me, the procedure will be thorough. As the writer of Hebrews assures, God’s Word is “sharper than any two-edged sword” (4:12)—piercing all the way through the external stuff of our lives, all the way down to our thoughts, intentions, and motives.

So what are you waiting for? With God’s Word you don’t need an appointment. The divine Surgeon is ready when you are!

Ever present, truest Friend,
Ever near Thine aid to lend,
Guide us as we search the Word,
Make it both our shield and sword.
—Anon.

Let God’s Word explore your inner being.


J C PhilpotFebruary 10 – “For the word of God is quick and powerful.” He 4:12 – What is meant by the word of God being “quick?” That it moves with swiftness and velocity? It is certainly said of God’s word (Ps 147:15) that “it runs very swiftly;” but that is not the meaning of the word “quick” in the text. It there means “living,” and corresponds with the expression (Acts 7:38) “living oracles.” It is an old English word signifying “living;” as in the expression, “who shall judge the quick and the dead” (2Ti 4:1), that is, the living and the dead. So we read of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram “going down quick (that is, alive) into the pit” (Nu 16:30). So the Lord is said to have “quickened (that is, made spiritually alive) those who were previously dead in trespasses and sins” (Ep 2:1). The word “quick,” then, does not mean moving with velocity, but “living”, or rather “communicating life”, and thus distinguished from the dead letter.

Truth, as it stands in the naked word of God, is lifeless and dead; and as such, has no power to communicate what it has not in itself, that is, life and power to the hearts of God’s people. It stands there in so many letters and syllables, as lifeless as the types by which they were printed. But when the incarnate Word takes of the written word, and speaks it home into the heart and conscience of a vessel of mercy, whether in letter or substance, then he endues it with divine life, and it enters into the soul, communicating to it a life that can never die. As James speaks, “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth.” And also Peter, “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which lives and abides forever” (1Pe 1:23). Eternal realities are brought into the soul, fixed and fastened by an Almighty hand. The conscience is made alive in the fear of God; and the soul is raised up from a death in sin, or a death in profession, to a life heavenly, new, and supernatural. (J. C. Philpot. Daily Words for Zion’s Wayfarers)

 The Way into the Holiest has the following chapter on Hebrews 4:12 entitled

The Word of God
and Its Edge
F B Meyer

WE all have to do with God. “Him with whom we have to do.” You cannot break the connection. You must do with him as a rebel, if not as a friend; on the ground of works, if not on the ground of grace; at the great white throne, if not in the fleeting days of time. You cannot do without God. You cannot do as you would if there were no God. You cannot avoid having to do with him; for even though you were to say there was no God, doing violence to the clearest instincts of your being, yet still you would breathe his air, eat his provender, occupy his world, and stand at last before his bar. And, if you will pardon the materialism of the reference, I will follow the suggestion of my text, and say that the God with whom we have to do has eyes. “The eyes of him with whom we have to do.” “Thou art a God that seest” was the startled exclamation of an Egyptian slave girl whose childhood had been spent amid the vast statues of gods who had eyes with far-away stony stare, but saw not. And she was right.

“The Lord looks from heaven; his eyes behold, his eyelids try, the children of men.” (Ps 33:13

Those eyes miss no one. “There is not any creature not manifest in his sight.” The truest goodness is least obtrusive of itself. It steals unnoticed through the world, filling up its days with deeds and words of gentle kindness, which are known only to heaven; and herein it finds its sufficient reward. It prays behind closed doors; it exercises a vigorous self-denial in secret; it does its work of mercy by stealth. Thus the great blatant world of men, with its trumpets and heralds and newspaper notices, knows little of it, and cannot find the nooks where God’s wild flowers bloom in inaccessible heights, for his eye alone. But the Father seeth in secret. The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous. His eyes run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is perfect toward him. Do you want guidance? Look up! those eyes wait to guide by a glance. Are you in sorrow? they will film with tears. Are you going astray? they shall beckon you back, and break your heart, as Peter’s. You will come to find your heaven in the light radiated by the eye of God, when once you have learned to meet it, clad in the righteousness of Jesus.

Unconverted reader, remember there is no screen from the eye of God. His eyes are as a flame of fire; and our strongest screens crackle up as thinnest gauze before the touch of that holy flame. Even rocks and hills are inadequate to hide from the face of him that sits upon the throne. “Whither shall I go from thy presence?” That question is unanswered, and unanswerable. It has stood upon the page of Scripture for three thousand years, and no one yet of all the myriads that have read it has been able to devise a reply. Heaven says, Not here. Hell says, Not here. It is not among angels, or the lost, or in the vast silent spaces of eternity. There is no creature anywhere not manifest to his sight. He who made vultures, able from immense heights to discern the least morsel on the desert waste, has eyes as good as they. And think how terrible are the eyes of God! When Egypt’s chivalry had pursued Israel into the depths of the sea, they suddenly turned to flee. Why? Not because of thunder or lightning or voice; but because of a look. “The Lord looked out of the cloud, and troubled the Egyptians.” Ah, sinner, how terrible will it be for thee to abide under the frown of God! “With the froward he will show himself froward.”

Those eyes miss nothing. “All things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.” It is said of the Lord Jesus, on one occasion, that he entered into Jerusalem, and into the Temple; and when he had looked round about on all things, he went out. It was his last, long, farewell look. But note its comprehensiveness. Nothing escaped it. We look only on parts of things, and often look without seeing. But the Lord sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. “Naked and opened.” This is a sacrificial phrase, indicating the priestly act of throwing the victim on its back before him, so that it lay, exposed to his gaze, helpless to recover itself, ready for the knife. Ah, how eagerly we try to hide and cloak our sin! We dare not pen a truthful diary; we dread the illness which would unlock our tongues in wholesale chatterings; we shrink from the loving gaze of our dearest. We deceive man, and sometimes ourselves; but not our great High-Priest. He sees all, that secret sin; that lurking enmity; that closed chamber; that hidden burglar; that masked assassin; that stowaway; that declension of heart; that little rift within the lute; that speck of decay in the luscious fruit. And thus it is that men are kept out of the Canaan of God’s rest, because he sees the evil heart of unbelief which departs from himself; and on account of which he swears now, as of old, “they shall not enter into my rest.”

Is it not a marvel that he who knows so much about us should love us still? It were indeed an inexplicable mystery, save for the truth of the words which so sweetly follow: “Seeing, then, that we have a great High-Priest.” He has a priest’s heart. His scrutiny is not one of morbid or idle curiosity, but of a surgeon, who intently examines the source of disease with pity and tenderness, and resolves to extirpate it as quickly and as painlessly as possible. Is it not frequently the case that fuller knowledge will beget love, which once seemed impossible? There are some people whose faces are so hard, and their eyes so cold, that we are instantly repelled; but if we knew all, how they have been pierced and wounded, and disappointed, we should begin to pity them, and pity is close kinsman to love. The Saviour has known us from all eternity, our downsittings and uprisings, our secret possibilities of evil, our unfathomed depths of waywardness and depravity; and yet he loves us, and will love us. “He knows all, But loves us better than he knows.” And out of this love, which wells up perennially in the heart of Jesus, unfrozen by the winter of our neglect, Unstanched by the demands of our fickleness, there comes the stern discipline of which this passage proceeds to speak. In majestic phrase, the Apocalyptic seer tells how he beheld the Word of God ride forth on his snow-white steed, arrayed in crimson robes, whilst the many crowns of empire flashed upon his brow. Two features are specially noted in his appearance. His eyes were as a flame of fire; this characteristic looks back over the words we have considered. Out of his mouth comes a sharp two-edged sword; this looks forward to the words which now invite us. We must never divorce these two. The eyes and the sword. Not the eyes only; for of what use would it be to see and not strike? Not the sword only; for to strike without seeing would give needless pain, this would be surgery blindfolded. But the searching tender vision, followed by the swift and decisive flash of the sword of amputation and deliverance. Oh, who will now submit to that stroke, wielded by the gentle hand that often carried healing and blessing, and was nailed to the cross; guided by unerring wisdom, and nerved by Almighty strength? Not death, but life and fruitfulness, freedom and benediction, are all awaiting that one blow of emancipation. That sword is the Word of God.

I. THE WORD OF GOD IS LIVING

The words he speaks are spirit and life (John 6:63). Wherever they fall, though into dull and lifeless soil, they begin to breed life, and produce results like themselves. They come into the heart of an abandoned woman; and straightway there follow compunction for the past, vows of amendment, and the hasty rush to become an evangelist to others. They come into the heart of a dying robber; and immediately he refrains from blasphemy, and rebukes his fellow, and announces the Messiahship, the blamelessness, the approaching glory, of the dying Saviour. They come into hearts worn out with the wild excesses of the great pagan ages, and ill-content, though enriched with the spoils of art and refinement and philosophy in the very zenith of their development; and lo! the moral waste begins to sprout with harvests of holiness, and to blossom with the roses of heaven. If only those words, spoken from the lips of Christ, be allowed to work in the conscience, there will be forthwith the stir of life.

II. THE WORD OF GOD IS ACTIVE

I.e., energetic. Beneath its spell the blind see, the deaf hear, the paralyzed are nerved with new energy, the dead stir in their graves and come forth. There are few things more energetic than life. Put a seed into the fissure of a rock, and it will split it in twain from top to bottom. Though walls and rocks and ruins impede the course of the seedling, yet it will force its way to the light and air and rain. And when the Word of God enters the heart, it is not as a piece of furniture or lumber. It asserts itself and strives for mastery, and compels men to give up sin; to make up long standing feuds; to restore ill-gotten gains; to strive to enter into the strait gate. “Now ye are pruned,” said our Lord, “through the word that I have spoken to you.” The words of Christ are his winnowing-fan, with which he is wont to purge his flour, whether in the heart or the world. We are not, therefore, surprised that a leading tradesman in a thriving commercial center said that the visit of two evangelists, who did little else than reiterate the Word of God, was as good as a revival of trade, because it led so many people to pay up debts which were reckoned as lost.

III. THE WORD OF GOD IS SHARP

Its sharpness is threefold.

(1) It is sharp to pierce.

On the day of Pentecost, as Peter wielded the sword of the Spirit, it pierced three thousand to the heart; and they fell wounded to the death before him, crying, “What shall we do?” Often since have strong men been smitten to the dust under the effect of that same sword, skillfully used. And this is the kind of preaching we need. Men are urged to accept of the gift of God, and many seem to comply with the invitation; but in the process of time they fall away. Is not the cause in this, that they have never been wounded to the death of their self-esteem, their heart has never been pierced to the letting of the blood of their own life, they have never been brought into the dust of death? Oh for Boanerges! able to pierce the armor of excuses of vain hopes, behind which men shield themselves, that many may cry with Ahab, pierced between the joints of the harness “Turn thine hand, and carry me out of the battle, for I am wounded!”

(2) It is sharp to divide.

With his sharp knife the priest was accustomed to dissect the joints of the animal, and to open to view even the marrow of the bones. Every hair was searched, every limb examined; and thus the sacred gift was passed, and permitted to be offered in worship. And God’s scrutiny is not satisfied with the external appearance and profession. It goes far deeper. It enters into those mysterious regions of the nature where soul and spirit, purpose, intention, motive, and impulse, hold their secret court, and carry on the hidden machinery of human life. Who can tread the mysterious confines where soul and spirit touch? What is the line of demarkation? Where does the one end, and the other begin? We cannot tell; but that mystic Word of God could cut the one from the other, as easily as the selvage is divided from the cloth. It is at home in distinctions which are too fine drawn and minute for human apprehension. It assumes an office like that which Jesus refused when he said, “Who made me a judge and divider over you?”

(3) It is sharp to criticize and judge.

“Quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Christ is eager about these. Because what a man thinks and intends in his heart, that he will be sooner or later in life. We must expect to have our most secret thoughts, relations, and purposes questioned, criticized, and measured by the Word of God. No court of inquiry was ever presided over by a more exact inquisitor than this. The corpses of the dead past are exhumed; the old lumber-rooms with their padlocked boxes are explored; the accounts of bygone years are audited and taxed. God is critic of all the secrets of the heart. As each thought or intention passes to and fro, he searches it. He is constantly weighing in the balance our thoughts and aims, though they be light as air. On one occasion, when Saul had spared the spoils of a doomed city, together with its monarch, the latter came to Samuel, not as a criminal, but delicately, as a pampered friend. And Samuel said, “As thy sword has made women childless, so shall thy mother be childless among women. And Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the Lord.” Thus it is that we have spared too many of our sins, at the risk of our irreparable rejection from the throne of true manhood and righteousness. How much better to let Christ do his work of amputation and excision! If we do not know ourselves, let us ask him to search us. If we cannot cut off the offending member, let us look to him to rid us of it. Do not fear him; close after these terrible words, as the peal of bells after the crash of the storm on the organ at Freiburg, we are told that “he was tempted in all points like as we are,” and that ” we have not a High Priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” “Does she sing well?” asked the trainer of a new operatic singer. “Splendidly,” was the reply; “but if I had to bring her out, I would first break her heart.” He meant that one who had not been broken by sorrow could not touch the deepest chords of human life. Ah! there is no need for this with our Lord Jesus; reproach broke his heart. He understands broken hearts, and is able to soothe and save all who come unto God by him. (From F. B. Meyer. The Way Into the Holiest)

HEART SEARCHING
WORD OF GOD
Hebrews 4:1213
Andrew Murray

THEY have been earnest words with which the writer has been warning the Hebrews against unbelief and disobedience, hardening the heart and departing from God, and coming short of the promised rest. The solemn words of God’s oath in Ps. 95. I have sworn in My wrath, they skull not enter into My rest, have been repeated more than once to urge all to give diligence lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. He is about to close his warning. He does so by reminding them of the power of the word of God as the word of the omniscient One, of Him with whom we have to do, before whose eyes all things, our hearts and lives too, are naked and open. Let each student of the Epistle make a very personal application of the words. Let us take the oath of God concerning His rest, and the command to labour that we may enter in, home to our heart, and say whether we have indeed entered in. And if not, let us all the more yield ourselves to the word to search and try us: it will without fail do its blessed work in us, and prepare us for following with profit the further teaching concerning our Lord Jesus.

For the word of God is living and active. At times it may appear as if the word effects so little. The word is like seed: everything depends on the treatment it receives. Some receive the word with the understanding: there it cannot be quickened. The word is meant for the heart, the will, the affections. The word must be submitted to, must be lived, must be acted out. When this is done it will manifest its living, quickening power. It is not we who have to make the word alive. When, in faith in the life and power there is in the word, the heart yields itself in humble submission and honest desire to its action, it will prove itself to be life and power.

And sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow. The first action of God’s word is to wound, to cut, to divide. In the soul the natural life has its seat; in the spirit the spiritual and divine. Sin has brought confusion and disorder; the spirit is under the mastery of the soul, the natural life. God’s word divides and separates; wakens the spirit to a sense of its destiny as the faculty for the unseen and eternal; brings the soul to a knowledge of itself as a captive to the power of sin. It cuts deep and sure, discovering the deep corruption of sin. As the knife of the surgeon, who seeks to heal, pierces even to the dividing of the joints and marrow, where it is needed, so the word penetrates all; there is no part of the inner being to which it does not pass.

And quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart. It is specially with the heart that God’s word deals. In Hebrews 3. we read of the hardened heart, the evil heart of unbelief, the erring heart. When the word heart occurs later in the Epistle we shall find everything changed; we shall read of a heart in which God’s law is written, of a true heart, a heart sprinkled with the blood, a heart established by grace (Hebrews 8:1010:2213:9). We have here the transition from the one to the other. God’s appeal was, To-day, if ye hear His voice, harden not your heart. The heart that will but yield itself to be searched by God’s word, to have its secret thoughts and intents discerned and judged by it, will be freed from its erring and unbelief, and quickened and cleansed, and made a living table on which the word is written by God Himself. Oh, to know how needful it is, but also how blessed, to yield our hearts to the judgment of the word.

And there is no creature that is not manifest in His sight. God’s word bears the character of God Himself. He is the all-knowing and all-pervading: nothing can hide itself from the judgment of His word. If we will not have it judge us now, it will condemn us hereafter. For all things are naked and laid open before the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. Yes, the God with whom we have to do is He of whom we later read: “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” And again: “Our God is a consuming fire.” It is this God who now pleads with us to enter into His rest.

Let each of us gladly yield ourselves to have to do with Him. If perhaps there be a secret consciousness that all is not right, that we are not giving diligence to enter into the rest, oh, let us beware of setting such thoughts aside. It is the first swelling of the living seed of the word within us. Do not regard that thought as coming from thyself, or from man who brings thee God’s word; it is God waking thee out of sleep. Have to do with Him. Be willing that the word should show thee what is wrong. Be not afraid of its discovering to thee thy sin and wretchedness. The knife of the physician wounds to heal. The light that shows thee thy sin and wrong will surely lead thee out. The word is living and will give thee life.

1. God has spoken to us in His Son. This is the keynote of the Epistle. To-day, if you hear His voice, harden not your heart: this is the keynote of this long and solemn warning. Let us hearken, let us yield to the word. As we deal with the word, so we deal with God And so will God deal with us.

2. Judge of thy life not by what thy heart says, or the Church, or the so-called Christian world–but by what the word says. Let it have its way with thee: It will greatly bless thee.

3. All things are naked before the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. Why, them, through indifference or discouragement, shut thine eyes to them? Oh, lay everything open before God, the God with whom we have to do, whether we will or not.

4. The word is living and active. Have great faith in its power. Be sure that the Holy Spirit, that the living Word, that God Himself works in it. The word ever points to the living God, who is present in it and makes it a living word in the heart that is seeking for life and for God. (Andrew Murray. The Holiest of All)

Courtesy of preceptaustin.org

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The Power of Music for Good or Evil

Music is an amazingly powerful medium to capture and transform the heart, and to push it toward good or evil. It can move the heart more quickly than any other form of art or communication on earth. Music can instantly create an emotion, a memory, a mood, or a passion. It can change the heart’s direction, focus, and purpose. It can alter behavior. It can heal or destroy the human heart. Music has the power to change an entire culture or even a nation.

In its purest form, music is a precious blessing from God, designed to uplift the thoughts to noble and godly themes, inspiring and elevating the heart. Music is also one of the major tools the Devil uses in spiritual warfare. It can turn us away from God, move us to sin, and emotionally sabotage us.

Cary Schmidt, in Music Matters: Understanding and Applying the Amazing Power of Music, writes:

Music is not only an idol in today’s culture, it is an addiction, and is the primary tool that Satan uses to indoctrinate, control and manipulate the hearts and minds of the masses … No tool in his arsenal is so powerful, so seductive and so subtle as music … I submit to you that music is the most prominent, powerful and pervasive form of communication that satanic spirits are using to control and shape our mass culture. Everywhere you turn, the world is hearing. Everywhere you listen, the voices are speaking. And everywhere you look, music is shaping the emotions, the spirit, and the hearts of people.[i]

Music is Never Morally Neutral

As Christians, we cannot be ignorant of the effects of music on the heart. We must be aware of the music we are allowing to saturate our hearts. Music is never morally neutral. It always carries a message to the heart that is either good or evil.

What is the soundtrack of your life? What music is being played on the chords of your heart? What music is at the top of the charts when it comes to your heart? There is a direct connection between the music we listen to and the spiritual health of our hearts. Music always produces and influences a lifestyle. Life, thought, mood, emotion and desire flow out of the music we listen to.

Listen to what philosophers, scientists, doctors, professors, and musicians have said about the moral and spiritual power of music.

Plato: “In order to take the spiritual temperature of an individual or a society, one must mark the music … Musical innovation is full of danger to the State for when modes of music change, the laws of the State change with them. Music is a moral law … Let me control the music for one generation and I will control Rome … Show me who writes a nation’s songs and I care not who writes its laws … Music and rhythm find their way into the secret places of the soul.”

Aristotle: “Music has a power of forming the character, and should therefore be introduced into the education of the young … From what has been said it is evident what an influence music has over the disposition of the mind and how variously it can fascinate it.”

Albert Einstein: “If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music … I get most joy in life out of music.”

Pietro Mascagni, Italian composer:Modern music is as dangerous as narcotics.”

An inscription at the Alte Opera Haus in Frankfurt, Germany:Bach gave us God’s Word. Mozart gave us God’s laughter. Beethoven gave us God’s fire. God gave us music that we might pray without words.”

Dr. Howard Hanson: “Music is a curiously subtle art with innumerable, varying emotional connotations. It is made up of many ingredients and according to the proportions of those components, it be soothing or invigorating, ennobling or vulgarizing, philosophical or orgiastic. It has the powers for evil as well as good.”[ii]

Alan P. Merriam: “There is probably no other human cultural activity which is so all-pervasive and reaches into, and shapes—and often controls—so much of human behavior.”[iii]

Dr. Adam Knieste:Music is a two-edged sword. It’s really a powerful drug. Music can poison you, lift your spirits, or make you sick without knowing why.”[iv]

Jay Grout: “Music directly affects the passions or states of the soul—gentleness, anger, courage, temperance, and their opposites … When one listens to music that imitates a certain passion, he becomes imbued with the same passion. If over a long time he habitually listens to the kind of music that arouses ignoble passions, his whole character will be shaped to that ignoble form. In short, if one listens to the wrong kind of music—he will become the wrong kind of person.”[v]

Songwriter E. Y. Harburg: “Words make you think a thought. Music makes you feel a feeling. A song makes you feel a thought.”

Frank Zappa: “The loud sounds and bright lights are tremendous indoctrination tools; it is possible to modify the human chemical structure with the right combination of frequencies. If the right kind of beat makes you tap your foot, what kind of beat makes you curl your fist and strike?”

The Beatles: “Our music is capable of causing emotional instability, disorganized behavior, rebellion and even revolution.”

Drs. Daniel and Bernadette Skubik: “A driving drum rhythm in excess of three to four beats per second will put the brain into a state of stress, regardless if the listener likes or dislikes the music. And when the brain is in this stressful state, it will release opioids—a group of natural hormones that function like morphine—to help return itself to normal equilibrium and sense of well-being. These natural opioids, if experienced often enough, can be addicting, creating in the listener the continual desire for that ‘high’ somewhat like the high runners experience.”[vi]

The Power of Music to Alter Physical and Emotional States

Music is powerful enough to produce mental and physical effects in our bodies and our brains. Music can modify brain waves, slowing them down and creating a more relaxed, content, and peaceful feeling, or speeding them up, causing more agitation, anxiety, and nervousness. Norman M. Weinberger, professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior at the University of California, Irvine: “Music can rapidly and powerfully set moods and do so in a way not as easily attained by other means.”[vii] Music not only creates positive or negative emotions, moods, or behaviors, but also can change them in an instant. Music can even affect the rhythm of respiration causing calmness and control of emotions or superficial and scattered thinking, emotional disturbance, and impulsive behavior.

Richard Wagner’s music was thought to be instrumental in the establishment of the Third Reich in Germany. Nietzsche once said, “My objections to Wagner’s music are physiological. I breathe with difficulty as soon as Wagner’s music begins to act upon me.[viii]” Wagner’s music had a strong psychological effect not only on Nietzsche, but also on Adolf Hitler. The power of music had a part in molding one of the most brutal, ruthless, and destructive dictators of all time. Never underestimate the power of music to influence, indoctrinate, and control the human heart.

Don Campbell, in The Mozart Effect, says:

The heart rate responds to musical variables such as frequency, tempo and volume and tends to speed up or slow down to match the rhythm of a sound. The faster the music, the faster the heart will beat; the slower the music, the slower the heart beats … As with breathing rates, a lower heartbeat creates less physical stress, calms the mind and helps the body to heal itself. Music is a natural pacemaker … Music can also change blood pressure … Excessive noise may raise blood pressure … Such noise may trigger the body’s fight or flight mechanism which causes adrenaline and norepinephrine, two strong hormones, to be released, speeding up the heart and straining the blood vessels.[ix]

Music also can change the body temperature, influence blood circulation, increase endorphin levels, and affect the body’s release of hormones. Music has a pulse, a life, and a flow of energy through its beat, tempo, tone, and rhythm that dramatically affects our spiritual hearts. Music is a spiritual medium where philosophies, emotions, ideas, and agendas are conveyed directly to the heart. All music has a message in both its words and its pitch, tone, and beat, and we must be wise as to who the messenger is in the music we are listening to.

The Involuntary Response to Music: Emotion by Design

One of the most amazing things about music is its ability to affect us subliminally. Rather than intruding on our conscious thought, it enters directly into our hearts. The human response to music is involuntary. One of the greatest examples involves the company Muzak, which began in the 1940s, and provides background music for all types of businesses. Cary Schmidt, in Music Matters: Understanding and Applying the Amazing Power of Music, writes:

No group on the planet has studied the power of music more than the researchers at Muzak. An article from The New Yorker magazine in April 2006 quotes, “Today, [Muzak] estimates that its daily audience is roughly a hundred million people, in more than a dozen countries, and that it supplies 60% of the commercial background music in the United States.” Muzak offers a service known as “audio architecture” to more than 350 corporations around the globe. Audio architecture is essentially the power of public influence and control—through music … Chances are, if you have been anywhere in public in recent days, you’ve been subject to Muzak’s influence without even knowing it. This is a company that owes its success to the manipulative power of music in mass culture. Muzak simply could not exist if music did not affect the attitudes and behavior of people. The New Yorkerarticle says in this story, “In the forties, Muzak introduced a trademarked concept, called Stimulus Progression, which held that most workers would be more productive if they were exposed to music gradually increasing intensity, in fifteen minute cycles. The process was said to be subliminal: Music affected you the way hypnosis did, whether you wanted it to or not. Only sanitized instrumental arrangements were used, because the absence of lyrics made the music less likely to intrude upon conscious thought … Audio architecture is a compelling concept because the human response to musical accompaniment is powerful and involuntary. “Our biggest competitor,” a member of Muzak’s marketing department told me, “is silence.” Did you catch that? “The human response to musical accompaniment is powerful and involuntary.” Are you getting the message? Are you understanding how powerful and dominant music is in our culture? Look at Muzak’s own promotional words, “Audio Architecture is emotionby design … It is the integration of music, voice and sound to create experiences that link customers with companies.” Its power lies in its subtlety. It bypasses the resistance of the mind and targets the receptiveness of the heart … These soundtracks bypass our intellectual resistance and create involuntary, heart-level emotions and responses.[x]

That is powerful! Consider this. If Muzak can do this with music, what can Satan do with music? More important, what is Satan doing with music, and what is the music of the culture doing to our hearts? If music is important for mass marketing, how much more powerful is it in the spiritual realm and in our relationship with Christ?

Can you imagine something so powerful that it can generate an emotional and behavioral response in your heart that you have no control over? Depression, anger, lust, and hatred can ride into your heart by the music you listen to as well as joy, peace, love, and inspiration. For the Devil to establish a stronghold in your mind and heart, it takes time to build ways of thinking and acting according to his subtle influences. But music can give him a free ride into your mind and your heart within a matter of seconds. Music is that powerful, and it can quickly change the composition, direction, and boundaries of the heart.

Music is emotion, music is passion, music is behavior by design, and it can subtly change our hearts without us even knowing it. It can be like a toxic vaccine that is injected into the bloodstream. We don’t see its dangerous effect on the heart until it begins to circulate throughout the entire body. Music can be a dangerous weapon to our hearts, and wisdom mandates that we are wise as to its powerful effects to influence our emotions, behavior, and lifestyle.

Music in the Spiritual Battle for the Heart

Music is intimately related to the spiritual battle that rages for the heart, because the music you listen to, the soundtrack of your life, can change you and dictate your emotions, your behavior, and your heart’s responses to circumstances in life. Music can create an emotion. Music can create an attitude. Music can create a desire. The music you listen to will affect your heart and your basic personal and spiritual mind-set, either drawing you closer to God or driving you further away. Every song is a sermon for either good or evil.

Cary Schmidt, in Music Matters: Understanding and Applying the Amazing Power of Music, writes:

The choices you make when you turn on a CD or an iPod are intricately related to your inner life. You will either be led by the flesh or by the Spirit of God. Your music is changing you. It is dictating emotions and heart responses that are either godly or ungodly … Ultimately your spiritual and emotional condition, as influenced by your music, will come out in your lifestyle. Your words, your deeds, your decisions, and your actions—the issues of your life—will be a product of your heart and what you’ve placed into it. Your music directly affects your heart. Both God and Muzak agree on this … The soundtrack of your life is closely related to the spiritual condition of your heart. You cannot separate the two. God’s Word is clear. Basic reasoning is clear. Medical and social statistics are clear. Our music always affects us personally and spiritually. God desires to grow you through music and Satan desires to destroy you through it.[xi]

Music in the Bible

In 1 Samuel 16, we see a vivid example of the effect of music on the heart. King Saul was having significant issues with envy, pride, anger, and bitterness. The Spirit of God departed from him and an evil spirit started tormenting him. When David played his harp, the music refreshed Saul’s heart and the evil spirit departed from him. The music of David facilitated the departure of evil from the heart of Saul. The right music is powerful enough to drive away demons and negative spiritual influences from the heart.

In 2 Kings 3, the prophet Elisha commanded the kings of Israel and Judah to bring him a harpist. While the harpist was playing, the hand of the Lord came upon Elisha and he received a word from the Lord. Music can calm the heart and make it more receptive to hearing the voice of the Lord. Music can bring our thoughts, emotions, and desires into the presence of the Lord, where the life and words of God can flow into our hearts.

In Exodus 32, music caused an increase in evil in the hearts of the children of Israel, plunging them into idolatry. Moses and Joshua went to Mount Sinai to commune with God and receive His instructions and laws. Aaron remained at the camp with the children of Israel. When they grew tired of waiting for Moses, they pressured Aaron into making an idol in the form of a golden calf. They had a wild revelry of pagan worship as they sacrificed and bowed down to this idol. They sang and danced in this celebration, and the music sounded like the “noise of war” (Exodus 32:17).

In this instance, music caused them to forget the awesome things God had just done for them in their deliverance from Egypt. It opened the door of their hearts to the Enemy, driving their emotions, passions, and behavior. The words of the children’s song ring true to the health of the heart: “O be careful, little ears, what you hear.”

Angelic Music

Music is a vital part of heaven and the throne of God. It has been part of the worship and praise of God since the beginning. Lucifer was created as a beautiful and wise archangel, an anointed cherub, and music was an integral part of his being.

Thou [Lucifer] hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day thou wast created. Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: Thou wast on the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. (Ezekiel 28:13–14, KJV)

Cherubim are the highest-ranking angels in God’s kingdom and are the most powerful, beautiful, and wise spirit beings God has ever created. Cherubim only do what God beckons, and they are to never turn away from it (Ezekiel 1:9,12; Ezekiel 10:11). The voice of the Almighty is always right above their heads, and they move swiftly, like lightening, to obey His commands (Ezekiel 1:14, 24-26). The fire of God burns brightly in the center of their beings, like coals of fire, and the glory of God rests upon them (Ezekiel 1:4, 13, 27-28; Ezekiel 11:22-23).

These spirit beings were the guardians and ministers of God’s throne, as Psalm 99:1 declares that God is “enthroned above the cherubim.” Revelation 4:6 also says these cherubim have special access to God’s heavenly throne. Revelation 7:11 says the cherubim fall down in humility on their faces before the throne of God and worship Him daily, saying, “Blessing and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power be unto our God for ever and ever.” Cherubim praised and worshipped God constantly, giving great honor to the holiness and majesty of God Almighty.

The cherubim are fiercely devoted to God, and their entire purpose is to serve God with undivided loyalty. C. H. Spurgeon called them “the flaming ones who gaze upon His glory.[xii]” The dazzling light of the Lord’s presence rose from within the cherubim as they lived and ministered in the very glory and presence of God. These living spirit beings never ceased to cry out, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Revelation 4:8). Words fail miserably in describing the magnificence of these cherubim that ministered daily before the throne of God.

The tabernacle and the temple were full of images of cherubim, the most significant being on the mercy seat that was the covering for the Ark of the Covenant, where the presence and glory of God was revealed. The cherubim images had their wings spread over the Ark, symbolically guarding its holy contents and the glory of God that surrounded it.

Lucifer: The Divine Musician

Lucifer, the highest ranking of the cherubim, was the guardian of the throne of God and His glory and holiness. In Ezekiel 28:14, God called him the “anointed cherub that covers,” illustrating the supreme responsibility Lucifer held in the kingdom of God. This is the only time the word translated anointed is used in the entire Bible, and in the Hebrew it carries the meaning of expansion. It could be translated as “the expanded anointing or the anointing of expansion.” This super-anointing on Lucifer enabled him to carry out his holy duties and assignments before God.

Patrick Fairbairn, in his exposition on Ezekiel, translates the name Lucifer as “the cherub consecrated to the Lord by the anointing oil.[xiii]” How special he must have been to the heart of God to give him such an extraordinary anointing. Lucifer was the mightiest supernatural being that He had ever created, and music was an essential part of this super-anointing of God.

The Hebrew word translated covers in Ezekiel 28:14 means to cover so as to secure and protect, to defend, to weave together, and to build a hedge. Lucifer was the great protector, and guardian of the throne of God. His music, praise, and worship were to surround the heavenly throne like a hedge. He was so close to the throne and to God’s presence as to be considered intertwined as one in purpose with God’s authority, power, and glory.

God created Lucifer with supernatural abilities and talents in music, to be used daily for the glory of God. Ezekiel 28:14 says that God set him in this position, which means he consecrated, ordained, and entrusted Lucifer as the super-anointed minister of music, praise, and worship.

We must examine some of the Hebrew words in this verse from Ezekiel to get a real sense of the Devil’s relationship with music. The Hebrew word translated workmanship means occupation, business, service, and ministry. It means the service or ministry that one is employed or sent to do in life. It describes the work of the artisan, the architect, the public servant, and the ordinary laborer. It is even used in Genesis to describe God’s work of divine creation (Genesis 2:2–3).

The Hebrew word translated prepared means to be firmly established, to be ordained, and to be fitted. The primary action of this verb is to cause to stand in an upright position. The word is used in Proverbs 3:19 of God “establishing” the heavens.

God created Lucifer with an occupation, a ministry, and a service in the kingdom of God, and it involved the skillful use of tabrets and pipes to make music that glorified God in the worship of Him at His throne. God firmly established Lucifer as a chief musician and ordained Him in this ministry of music. Music was the focal part of his occupation.

Tabrets and pipes are musical instruments that were created in the very being of Lucifer. Ezekiel says the tabrets and pipes were prepared, established, and ordained in him from the very day Lucifer was created. These percussion and wind instruments were a part of him just as our arms, legs, or fingers are a part of us. He was a living musical instrument. Lucifer was fitted and framed by God to have music as an essential part of who he was and what he was appointed by God to do. Music was his domain, and this was to be his ministry forever before the throne of the Almighty.

Ezekiel says Lucifer was perfect in all his ways before he sinned. The word translated as “perfect” means whole, complete, healthful, wholesome, sound, perfect, free from blemish and undefiled. It means to be perfectly in harmony and accord with the truth, and it could be summed up in the words “to speak and sound out the truth.” Lucifer’s music was absolutely perfect and complete, without any spot or blemish of imperfection. It was a literal sounding out of the truth of God’s awesome characteristics and glory, and it promoted wholeness and peace and righteousness. His music was like a healing balm throughout the halls of heaven. His music was the living Word put to sound that was glorious perfection in every note, arrangement, pitch, and beat. He was the heavenly composer, whose music elevated the heart toward God and filled it with praise, joy, and thankfulness in a great crescendo of exuberance and awe before the throne of God. All the perfection of musical composition and performance was created in Lucifer. He was the maestro of music in the entire heavenly realm.

Tabrets

In the biblical culture, a tabret was a thin wooden rim in the shape of a circle, covered with a membrane, usually with brass bells or rattles attached. It was basically a tambourine, and it was used in dance. The Hebrew word for “tabret” emphasizes beating or striking to produce a sound. The seventeen usages of this word in the Bible show that it was meant to be an instrument of joy and celebration.

The tabret was used in the praise and worship of God. It was also used to celebrate the joy of victory in battle against Israel’s enemies. The prophets and prophetesses also played the tabret, such as Miriam did after the children of Israel passed through the Red Sea (Exodus 15:21-22).

The following verses in Psalms show the tabret being used in the praise of God.

Praise ye the Lord. Sing unto the Lord a new song, and his praise in the congregation of the saints. Let Israel rejoice in him that made him: let the children of Zion be joyful in their king. Let them praise his name in the dance: let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel [same Hebrew word for tabret] and harp. (Psalm 149:1–3, KJV)

Praise ye the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power. Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness. Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp. Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs. Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals. Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord. (Psalm 150:1–6, KJV)

The tabret accompanied songs of rejoicing, praising God for His mighty acts and breathtaking greatness. God’s intention for a musical instrument like a tabret is that it would be an extension of the heart, and its music was to reflect a heart that totally belonged to God and was overflowing with praise, adoration, and love for Him. The music and song that flowed from the musical instrument was an outward expression of the inward reality of a heart completely devoted to God. Music was to be an expression of the spiritual temperature of the heart that is on fire for God. Music was to convey the beautiful joy of knowing Him and the gratitude of being the object of His affection. Our hearts were made to sing His song.

Pipes/Flutes

The Hebrew word translated pipes refers to the grooves or holes of the instruments. It comes from a root word meaning to bore through. This Hebrew word for pipes in Ezekiel 28:13 only appears once in the Bible, which emphasizes the uniqueness of this wind instrument that was created in the very being of Lucifer. His musical abilities were in such perfection that they were far above human comprehension.

Like the tabrets, pipes were used to express great joy and celebration. In the Bible, pipes were played in celebration of the crowning of a new king. They were also played by the prophets before they prophesied and celebrated a word from the Lord. They accompanied a celebration by dance. They were played at marriage feasts and in mourning at funerals, as we see in Matthew 9. Pipes were used in the worship and praise of God as people rejoiced with songs of gladness about the Lord and His salvation.

Flutes were played in the temple on twelve special festivities, including Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles. The pipe, as with all other musical instruments, was intended to be used as an expression of a heart full of love and gratitude for its Creator.

Psalm 5 has the title “For the director of music: For flutes. A Psalm of David.” This psalm was meant to be a song of praise with a flute accompaniment. According to E. W. Bullinger in The Chief Musician, or Studies in the Psalms and their Titles, this subscription belongs at the end of Psalm 4 rather than at the beginning of Psalm 5.[xiv] Psalm 4 speaks strongly against turning God’s glory into shame and following false gods. It instructs us to not sin out of anger, but to search our hearts and be silent and offer right sacrifices to God, trusting only in Him.

Lucifer turned God’s glory into shame when he rebelled against God in heaven. In intense anger and hatred toward God, he sinned and failed to offer right sacrifices to Him. Lucifer did not search his heart to find the pride that turned his trust toward himself rather than God.

God used a wind instrument—which, like the tabret, was created in Lucifer—to accompany a psalm about the futility of worshipping any god other than the Lord. He used the flute to touch this psalm with music that encourages His children not to make the same mistake Lucifer made, which led to his tragic downfall.

Read this beautiful psalm and imagine a flute accompaniment that brings these words to life.

Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer.

How long, O men, will you turn my glory into shame? How long will you love delusions and seek false gods? Selah[xv]

In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. Selah

Know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself; the Lord will hear when I call to him. Offer right sacrifices and trust in the Lord.

Many are asking, “Who can show us any good?” Let the light of your face shine upon us, O Lord.

You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound.

I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. (Psalm 4:1–8, NIV)

This psalm is an ode of joy from David to the Lord for being his righteous, merciful, and loving God. It beautifully declares that true joy, peace, and goodness come only from the Lord. The flute helps to drive these words home to the heart.

Stringed Instruments

Isaiah links one other musical instrument to Lucifer:

Your pomp is brought down to Sheol, and the sound of your stringed instruments; the maggot is spread under you, and worms cover you. How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations! (Isaiah 14:11–12, NKJV)

Isaiah says “the sound of your string instruments” when referring to Lucifer. This phrase illustrates an extraordinary mastery of stringed instruments by Lucifer and the use of them to accomplish his wicked purposes. They must have been quite valuable to Lucifer for him to declare them as his own.

The Word of God does not say whether these stringed instruments were created in Lucifer, but it does say that he used them with “pomp.” The Hebrew word translated pomp means pride, arrogance, splendor, majesty and ornament. Music is the Devil’s original domain, and he uses music as an ornament for all to admire in order to bring glory to himself.

The Hebrew words for “stringed instruments” are translated as psaltery, lyre, and harp in various places in the Bible. The phrase refers to musical instruments in the harp family.

A portable harp was a popular instrument in the Hebrew culture. It had wonderful capacities in pitch and tone, and was believed to have ten to twelve strings. The strings were drawn over a sounding board, so this harp was like a primitive guitar. The strings were stretched over a skin soundboard, giving the lyre or harp an exotic timbre and considerable volume.

As this musical instrument advanced, its strings were stretched in high tension over woods like fir and algum. It was capable of producing loud music, as indicated in 1 Chronicles 15:26, where it was heard even among the rams’ horns, trumpets, and cymbals. It was also capable of producing musical solos.

Psalm 119:54 says, “Thy statutes have been my zemirot [songs accompanied by plucked stringed instruments],” illustrating that all Hebrew Scripture could be accompanied by this wonderful instrument. It was designed to beautifully set the Word of God to sound.

In Revelation 5:8, we read that every cherubim and every one of the twenty-four elders had a harp that they used in singing a song about the great redemption accomplished by Jesus Christ.

Corruption of Music

The Devil did not lose any of his musical abilities and talents when he rebelled against God. They just became corrupted. And now he uses his musical abilities for his own wicked purposes.

Satan fully understands musical composition, as he was originally a living musical instrument, and he still carries music as an integral part of his spiritual being. He knows how to compose and inspire music that will seduce the human heart away from God. He inspires the writing of music and lyrics that disturb, agitate, or drive the heart with passions, emotions, and thoughts that lead it into his captive snare. The Devil uses a variety of instruments to construct a sound that can fundamentally change the direction and content of the heart. The Enemy understands music better than any human who ever lived on the earth, and he hates God. That is a dangerous combination.

In Isaiah 14, the Word of God declares that Lucifer weakened the nations, caused the earth to tremble, made the world a wilderness, shook kingdoms, and turned the world into a prison house. Although the Devil has many wicked schemes and methods in accomplishing these things, music is one of the ways he has weakened nations and made the world a prison house of captivity. Music is a supernatural weapon of mass destruction in the hands of Satan.

The Hebrew word translated weaken in Isaiah 14:12 means to waste away, to overthrow, to decay, or to disable. The Devil has used music to bring nations to their knees, causing their moral and spiritual foundations to decay and waste away. Music can change the moral and cultural climate of a nation, overthrowing its stability in the hearts and minds of its people, and weakening its strength as a nation. Music can crumble the pillars of a civilization and arouse in its citizens the worst passions of its fleshly sin nature.

The Hebrew word translated tremble in Isaiah 14:16 means to quiver with violent emotion, especially anger or fear. The Devil uses music to disquiet, agitate, and enrage the heart, causing it to quiver with violent emotions, like anger and fear. Music moves the heart like no other sound on earth, and Lucifer knows exactly how to use it to move the heart away from God. It is amazing how one song can move the heart to depression, discord, and agitation. Music can truly make the inhabitants of the earth tremble in great disturbance of heart.

The Hebrew word translated shake in Isaiah 14:16 describes a confused noise, a rattling, an uproar, or a crashing. One form of this word means “noisemaker.” The Devil uses the vibration of music, turning it into a confused noise that shakes the very core of the heart. Music can cause an uproar, shaking the hearts of a nation’s people with confusion and disorientation, causing them to disconnect from God and wander away from Him. The Devil distorts the beauty of music, which God intended to fill the heart with joy, into something that rattles it with disorder.

The Devil would “not let his captives go home,” according to Isaiah 14:17. Satan does everything he can to stop a person from going home to God, where He awaits with open arms.

Christians can experience wonderful deliverance at the cross of Christ, and then allow a careless choice of music to draw them back into their old ways and lifestyles, becoming enslaved again. Music can cause the heart to become a prisoner of war in Satan’s kingdom.

Lyrics: Conveying the Message

Lyrics are a powerful medium to convey a message. Yet many people don’t pay much attention to them. The message in a song is rarely checked at the entrance to the heart. Instead, we allow the words and sounds to flow in freely. Many song lyrics promote the works of the flesh and encourage self-mutilation, suicide, lust, greed, sexual perversion, and rebellion.

Some musicians are blatant about the source of their inspiration and the purpose of their songs. They consider music to be a form of advertising, a clarion call to entice the heart and mind into ways of thinking, speaking, and acting that are not from God Almighty.

Take a moment to reflect on the lyrics in the music you listen to. Does it promote the fruit of the Spirit of God or the fruit of the flesh? A spirit of holiness or of corruption? Does it encourage obedience to God and His Word or rebellion? When you listen to it, do you feel peace or anxiety, agitation, and fear? Does your favorite music build the love of God in your heart, or the love of the world?

Music as Idolatry

Music can establish a law, creed, or lifestyle in your heart that you follow with passion, not even realizing that the prince of the power of the air is the composer of the song that is molding your heart. Music can build a nest in your mind that allows Satan to take up residence there as he gradually deadens your conscience to righteousness and holiness.

Music can be a powerful idol builder. It can drive the heart to worship love, sex, money, self, and power while leaving God out of the picture. The Devil was the first idolater, and he uses music to get people to worship anything but the one true God.

The book of Revelation states that music is an important part of the world system of evil referred to as “Babylon the great.” In the coming judgments, God will stop this music.

Then I saw another angel descending from heaven, possessing great authority, and the earth was illuminated with his radiance and splendor. And he shouted with a mighty voice, She is fallen! Mighty Babylon is fallen! She has become a resort and dwelling place for demons, a dungeon haunted by every loathsome spirit, an abode for every filthy and detestable bird.

For all nations have drunk the wine of her passionate unchastity, and the rulers and leaders of the earth have joined with her in committing fornication [idolatry], and the businessmen of the earth have become rich with the wealth of her excessive luxury and wantonness.

I then heard another voice from heaven saying, Come out from her, my people, so that you may not share in her sins, neither participate in her plagues.

Then a single powerful angel took up a boulder like a great millstone and flung it into the sea, crying, With such violence shall Babylon the great city be hurled down to destruction and shall never again be found. And the sound of harpists and minstrels and flute players and trumpeters shall never again be heard in you, and no skilled artisan of any craft shall ever again be found in you, for your businessmen were the great and prominent men of the earth, and by your magic spells and poisonous charm all nations were led astray [seduced and deluded]. (Revelation 18:1–4, 21–23, AMP)

This great world system is infested with every type of demon spirit and loathsome angel of darkness that fed on all strata of society, including music. People from all nations had drunk of its wine, driving them into idolatry and rebellion against God. Many businesspeople, companies, and musicians have become rich off this music system fueled by the spirit of Babylon. These powerful icons have led the hearts of countless people astray with the poisonous and addictive charms of their music, which is pumped into every radio station and music store around the world.

One day God will say, “I have had enough,” and silence the music borne in the heart of the great rebel. This music will never be heard or played again for all eternity. The judgment of God will come to pass, as described in the book of Revelation 18:21-23, even on the music that has been an essential part of the world system of evil that God calls Babylon.

David Wilkerson, a wonderful preacher and man of God, pulled no punches on the dangers of becoming addicted to the music of this world. In a fiery sermon from the pulpit of the Times Square Church in New York City, he said:

I have been among young people so addicted to their rock and roll, so addicted to their heavy metal, and their punk music. I tell you as I stand here that an angel from God’s heaven could come down, in fact, Jesus Christ himself could come in the flesh and they would know he was Jesus and he could preach to them and they still would not let go of their music. I have had them stand up against me and say “I don’t care what you say, God told me it was alright.”[xvi]

David Wilkerson also described a disturbing vision that God gave him at a Christian rock concert:

At first, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing on stage. I said out loud, “This can’t be happening at a Christian festival-they can’t do this to my Jesus! These people can’t be this blind-the leaders of this youth ministry can be so undiscerning! Oh God-what has happened to your church that its leaders, its people, can’t see the evil …? I sat up and took another look at the stage. I was horrified by what I saw in the Spirit. I saw demonic images rising from the stage! I heard Satan laughing! Laughing at all the blind parents-the blind shepherds-the blind youth-the backslidden church! It was an overt manifestation of Satan-worse than anything I’ve ever seen on the streets of New York.[xvii]

Don’t be ignorant of this tool of the Devil in spiritual warfare, as music, inspired from the heart of Satan, can start a revolution in your heart against God.

What is the Soundtrack of Your Life?

If Jesus Christ came down from heaven and told you that your music was harming your heart and turning it away from Him, would you change your choices? Would the soundtrack of your life be any different under Jesus’ guidance?

Music is hugely addicting and through the wonders of technology, music is more readily available now than at any time in human history. In seconds, many musical choices can be downloaded and instantly start pulsating into the heart. The church must awaken to what is pouring into their hearts through habitual listening to the music of the god of this age.

Don’t be deceived into thinking this is just a harmless song on the radio or your iPod. Music is powerful, and it can influence the spiritual temperature of your heart for God. It can either promote or destroy the awesome plans that God has envisioned for your life.

Many Christians idolize the music of this world, and their hearts have become so addicted to it that they need to have it pulsating in their ears, like a heroin junkie who needs his fix. The Bible takes a backseat to their iPod tunes, and the Devil gets to proclaim his message into their hearts through the music ringing in their ears.

Music will change the composition of your heart if you are not careful. Once we become Christians, our listening habits should not be the same as they were before we were born again. Walk by the Spirit of God when it comes to the music you listen to and practice some spiritual discernment.

Ask God if the music you are listening to is bringing your heart closer to Him or driving it further away from Him. When you bring up a tune on your iPod, ask yourself, Will this song brings the joy, love, and celebration of God into my heart, or the fleshly desires of this world? We must guard our hearts when it comes to music, just as we would guard it from anything that contaminates and pollutes.

The Beautiful Design of Music for the Heart

Music originated from God, and it has a beautiful purpose: to minister healing, peace, and inspiration to His children. The human heart needs music to function in its optimal healthy condition. We are designed to crave music that inspires us to praise and worship God with an attitude of thankfulness. We were created to have a song in our hearts for God. Psalm 144:9 says, “I will sing a new song unto thee, O God.” Spurgeon said, “When the heart is in its right state, it must praise God, it cannot be restrained; its utterances leap forth as waters forcing their way from a living spring.”[xviii]

This is where music was born: in a heart that is overflowing with praise, joy, and awe of our magnificent God. Music is meant to stir the heart into action for God. Music is the refreshing drink of water that rejuvenates our passion for God to fight the good fight of faith and finish the course that God has set for our lives. Music plays a vital role in preparing the heart to worship God in spirit and in truth. Music fills the courts of heaven with praises of the Lord God Almighty. Music was created to be an expression of celebration and reverence of the wondrous works and nature of our God.

David and all the Israelites were celebrating with all their might before God, with songs and with harps, lyres, timbrels, cymbals and trumpets. (1 Chronicles 13:8, NIV)

Hear this you kings! Listen you rulers! I will sing to the Lord, I will sing; I will make music to the Lord, God of Israel. (Judges 5:3, NIV)

Praise the Lord with the harp. Make music to him on the lyre that has ten strings. Sing a new song to him. Play with skill, and shout with joy.

What the Lord says is right and true. He is faithful in everything he does.

The Lord loves what is right and fair. The earth is full of his faithful love. The heavens were made when the Lord commanded it to happen. All of the stars were created by the breath of his mouth.

He gathers the waters of the sea together. He puts the oceans in their places. Let the whole earth have respect for the Lord. Let all of the people in the world honor him. (Psalm 33:2-8, NIRV)

Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. (Psalm 95:1–3, NIV)

God is so awesome and magnificent that the heart yearns for a way to express and proclaim His glory. Music is meant to be an outward expression of the awe-inspiring magnificence of our God. Music that blesses, inspires, and heals comes from hearts bubbling over with joy, love, and passion for their Creator. Music was intended to draw people closer to God and to place their hearts on the same pitch as God. True music is the song of a heart in love with God. Music is meant to ignite the heart with the presence of God and infuse it with the joys of His kingdom.

Revelation 4:11 says that God created all things for His pleasure, and this includes music. The beauty and splendor of music were birthed from the heart of God. God also made the human voice to praise Him. He created the musical scale, with its potential for amazing harmonies and melodies, to express the wonders of His artistic heart.

Dennis McCorkle, in The David Cipher: Unlocking the Hidden Music of the Psalms, says:

From the early chapters of Genesis through the pages of the entire Bible, music has played an integral role in the history of the Hebrew people. Not only defining and solidifying their own culture, religious beliefs, and practices; the music of the Hebrew people and the Bible have shaped the music of our day in the works that have been passed on from generation to generation since the time they were written.[xix]

The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary says:

Expression of the full range of human emotions vocally or instrumentally through music was as much a part of the lives of biblical people as it is in modern times … Indeed all of life could be touched by song. The celebrations of a community, ritual practices of worship, even the act of warfare gave rise to song.[xx]

Some of the great men of the Bible were musicians and composers.

Moses the Songwriter

Moses was a wonderful songwriter in the Bible and we see his first song in Exodus 15 after the miraculous deliverance of the children of Israel from the Egyptian army. In Deuteronomy 32 we see another song of Moses written shortly before his death. In Revelation 15, the song of Moses is sung in heaven.

Dennis McCorkle, in The David Cipher: Unlocking the Hidden Music of the Psalms, writes:

Moses and the people eventually arrive at the Sea of Reeds (Red Sea) in advance of the pursuing army and are miraculously provided an escape route through the waters. Safely reaching the far side, they witness the destruction of Pharaoh and his troops in the water. It is now we get our first glimpse of Moses, the songwriter. Now most people do not generally associate Moses with the field of music, but he was evidently well-versed in this art. We know from the biblical texts that Moses, raised apart from the general population of Israel in the house of Pharaoh during his youth, had learned to not only read and write, but as demonstrated in his later years, to read and write music.[xxi]

Yahweh is My Melody

McCorkle says that this first song of Moses has a fundamental statement of truth in its first lines that becomes the foundation of the music compositions of Israel and is echoed in the musical system of the Levites, the psalms, and the prophet Isaiah. This beautiful lyric is, “Yah [abbreviation for Yahweh-God] is my melody!” What an awesome truth that God is our melody, and that God is our song! This is the true heart of music. When music has “God is my melody” at its center, it will have a profound spiritual impact upon the heart.

God fills our hearts with melody and makes them overflow with joy. This is the love song of all love songs, as Psalms 89:1 declares, “I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever.” When our love for God is the motive for the song of our hearts, music will be an incredible healing balm to our souls because it is birthed in love and praise.

Colossians 3:16 says that our hearts should be “singing with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in our hearts for God.” Our hearts should not be singing the latest “top 40” songs on the charts, but rather a love song of thankfulness to our God. When the word of Christ dwells richly in our hearts, we cannot help but sing this song of love, for God is our melody.

Make Music in Your Heart for the Ears of God

Ephesians, one of the greatest revelations to the church, states that music and song is an important part of fellowship with God, with one another, and in the church of Jesus Christ.

Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord. (Ephesians 5:19, NASB)

Express your joy in singing among yourselves psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, making music in your hearts for the ears of God. (Ephesians 5:19, PHILLIPS)

Christians who walk by the Spirit of God will express their joy in song and melody to the Lord. We are to make music in our hearts for the ears of God. This music comes from a Spirit-filled heart that overflows in love, adoration, and devotion to God.

We are also to sing along with others in the church, in concert with our joy and love for God. A symphony of praise with our brothers and sisters in Christ should be present wherever Christians fellowship together.

The Greek word translated psalm means a sacred song sung to the accompaniment of instrumental music. The Greek word translated hymn means a sacred poetical composition whose main purpose was to praise. A spiritual song is the natural outburst of a joyous heart prompted by the indwelling Spirit of God.

God loves it when a heart is full of music for Him and sings His praises. This type of music brings us back to the light of God’s presence and focuses our attention on the wonders of God. Exuberant joy and thankfulness overflow from music dedicated to God.

All Music Originates in the Heart

All music originates in the heart, and the content of the heart determines the content of the music. The musician’s music is a reflection of his or her heart. What is in the heart will come out in the music. When the heart is devoted to God and full of love and praise for Him, the music composed will be a melody pleasing to God and a song that glorifies Him. When the heart is not devoted to God, but full of selfishness, lust, greed, and other forms of darkness, the music composed will be a song that pulls the heart away from God to idolatry.

In Exodus 15 we see the heart of Moses, the musician, in his song for God. As you read this passage, imagine Moses and all of Israel lifting up their voices and singing this magnificent song of victory. It has been estimated that as many as three million Israelites came out of Egypt in this Exodus. How awe-inspiring it must have sounded to hear the melody of God sung by millions of people!

David the Musician and Songwriter

David was a wonderfully skilled musician and songwriter. He was also an inventor of musical instruments (1 Chronicles 23:5, 2 Chronicles 7:6, Amos 6:5). He helped to reestablish the functions of the Levites in regards to music in the tabernacle and also selected singers and musicians from the non-priest Levites to participate in worship services of song and music to God. At the heart of their music was the wonderful book of Psalms.

Psalms is the hymn book of the Bible. These compositions were played and sung by the Levites in conjunction with the formal rituals of the tabernacle and later the temple. The Psalms are a compilation of 150 songs written by composers who were moved by the Holy Spirit over a period of about five hundred years. The Hebrew word translated psalm means “praises,” and it comes from the root word meaning “to make a jubilant sound.” This word included all that is worthy of praise and celebration, especially the works and ways of Yahweh. Most of the psalms were composed for public worship in Israel and praised the ways and works of God. These were songs of God, breathed into the heart of a musician to give the listener inspiration, comfort, and guidance. The book of Psalms contains some of the most beautiful passages in the Bible. The lyrics express joy, grief, wonder, faith, love, and suffering in poetic song to our amazing God.

David is believed to have written as many as forty-seven of the psalms, and they set forth the heart of this man who loved God passionately. They describe the trials and joys of walking in intimacy with his Creator. The Bible calls David a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22), so his music must have been especially important to God.

Here is one of the magnificent psalms written by David:

My heart, O God, is steadfast; I will sing and make music with all my soul. Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn. I will praise you, Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples. For great is your love, higher than the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth. Save us and help us with your right hand, that those you love may be delivered. (Psalm 108:1–6, NIV)

David’s heart was established and steadfast in God, and from this firm foundation he sang, composed music, and played instruments with every ounce of his soul. He played musical instruments, praising God for His love and faithfulness. His music exalted God.

David’s music taught people to trust God for help and deliverance. It elevated the listener’s heart to worship God. His sacred songs filled hearts with the glory and majesty of God Almighty. David had a heart full of music that filled the earth and the heavens with awesome lyrics. As with Moses, God was David’s melody and his song.

Music Igniting the Flame of God in the Heart

This is the beauty of music at its highest level and for its most noble purpose. The Spirit of God moved mightily in David’s music to lift, inspire, and ignite the flame of God in the hearts of His people. This is truly music as it was supposed to be—a divine healing balm, a divine joyous celebration, a divine song of thankfulness that rockets the heart into the presence of God and establishes it in His love. The energy, power, and glory of God flows like a rushing river into the hearts of those whose ears are tuned to the music of the musician who walks with God and is moved by the Spirit of God.

Playing the Name of God with Music

In the psalms, musicians not only sang about the name of God, some actually played the name of God.

I will be glad and rejoice in you: I will play your Name, Most High. (Psalm 9:2, KJV)

I will give thanks to Yahweh according to his righteousness, And will sing praise to the name of Yahweh Most High. (Psalm 7:17, WEB)

I will play your Name forever, that I may fulfill my vows day after day. (Psalm 61:8, KJV)

Sing to God, play His Name. Raise Him up who rides upon the desert plains by YAH, his name, and be joyful before Him. (Psalm 68:4, KJV)

Dennis McCorkle, in The Davidic Cipher: Unlocking the Hidden Music of The Psalms, explains what it means to play the name of God:

To a non-musician, the above interpretation of these verses might seem strange and you are probably asking yourself, “How can you play someone’s name?” If you are trained classically in music, you may however be familiar with the Italian phrase soggettocavato … In a musical sense, the phrase soggettocavato refers to a type of compositional device in which the letters of a word or name are mapped to specific tones of a musical alphabet or scale … For example, during the Renaissance it was common for composers to honor their patrons and rules with compositions using names as the source for the themes and melodies … King David, who was directly associated with four of the five instances in which this technique is alluded to in the Scriptures, was apparently familiar with this type of compositional device … This compositional device literally enabled the Levite musicians and singers to not only sing the Name of God, but also to play the Name of God as the Scriptures state … The Names YAH and YHWH were directly integrated in the music that was written and the instruments that were played.[xxii]

David loved God so much, and was so in wonder of His magnificent works and covenant with His people, that he designed his music to contain the name of God in both musical lyrics and notes. This music was like a sweet song in the ears of God, as every note and every word glorified Him. It was a musical masterpiece, an exquisite symphony of song that brought the listener’s heart to the throne of God Almighty, where it would ascend to joyous celebration.

The Levites as Musicians

David taught the Levites the essence of this music of worship. 1 Chronicles 23:4 declares that four thousand Levites were designated to praise the Lord with instruments that David gave them for giving praise. In 1 Chronicles 15, when the ark of the covenant was brought to Jerusalem to be placed in the tabernacle, David assembled a ceremonial marching band of Levites playing harps, cymbals, lyres, trumpets, and horns. Skilled singers raised sounds of joy and praise to God. King David was leaping, dancing, and celebrating as he led this band of musicians into Jerusalem. What a breathtaking musical demonstration of love, joy, and celebration this must have been.

Once the ark had been set in Jerusalem, David appointed some of the Levites to minister in music and praise before the ark of the Lord.

He appointed some of the Levites to minister before the ark of the Lord, to extol, thank, and praise the Lord, the God of Israel: Asaph was the chief, and next to him in rank were Zechariah, then Jaaziel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Mattithiah, Eliab, Benaiah, Obed-Edom and Jeiel. They were to play the lyres and harps, Asaph was to sound the cymbals, and Benaiah and Jahaziel the priests were to blow the trumpets regularly before the ark of the covenant of God.

That day David first appointed Asaph and his associates to give praise to the Lord in this manner:

Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done.

Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.

Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.

Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced.

He is the Lord our God; his judgments are in all the earth.

He remembers his covenant forever, the promise he made, for a thousand generations.

Sing to the Lord, all the earth; proclaim his salvation day after day.

Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples.

For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods.

For all the gods of the nations are idols; but the Lord made the heavens.

Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy are his dwelling place.

Ascribe to the Lord, all you families of nations, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him. Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.

Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let them say among the nations the Lord reigns.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.

Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Then all the people said “Amen” and “Praise the Lord.” (1 Chronicles 16:4–15, 23–29, 31, 34, 36, NIV)

What beautiful lyrics! We can worship God in the splendor of His holiness and ascribe to Him the glory, majesty, and greatness due His name. This inspiring music gave thanks to God in song for His goodness and unfailing love. Does the music you listen to glorify God with this type of awesome heart?

King David used his musical abilities to proclaim God’s name, to make Him known, and to tell all who would listen of the might, strength, and glory of the God of Israel. His music led people to seek the face of the Lord. What does the music you listen to lead people to do?

Music always leads the heart to seek something, and we must be vigilant to not allow the songs we listen to lead our hearts down a path that God has not ordained. Our music should encourage us to seek the Lord.

Biblical Kings and Music

The Bible is full of other examples of men of God who understood the importance of music in the worship of God and even in bringing great victory against the enemies of God. When King Solomon had the Ark of the Covenant brought to the temple at its dedication, he had the Levites play cymbals, harps, lyres and trumpets. Singers raised their voices to praise God with this magnificent musical accompaniment. The glory of the Lord filled the temple with a cloud after this musical display. (See 2 Chronicles 5:12–14.)

When a vast army of Moabites, Ammonites, and Meunites came against Jerusalem, King Jehoshaphat and all of Judah stood before the Lord and prayed. They received a word from the Lord to go out and face their enemies in battle, for the Lord was with them. Early in the morning, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and praise Him for the splendor of His holiness as they went out ahead of the army. As these men sang and praised the Lord, God set ambushes that caused this mighty army of the enemies of Judah to be utterly destroyed. When the Israelites returned to Jerusalem in victory, they went to the temple of the Lord with harps, lutes, and trumpets, praising God in music and song. (See 2 Chronicles 20:21–22, 28.)

In 2 Chronicles 29:25–28, we read that when King Hezekiah opened the doors of the temple and cleansed it from idolatry, one of the first things he did was reestablish music and song there. He furnished the Levites with cymbals, harps, lyres, trumpets, and all the instruments of David. As they began to sacrifice a burnt offering on the altar, they sang to the Lord, accompanied by music from all these wonderful instruments. The entire assembly bowed in worship while the singers sang and the trumpeters played.

King Hezekiah ordered the Levites to praise the Lord with the words of David and of Asaph, another psalmist. They sang these praises with gladness and bowed their heads and worshipped. After this worship service of song and music, King Hezekiah declared that the people had dedicated themselves to the Lord and that they should bring sacrifices and thank offerings to the Lord. Music can often be the catalyst to a rededication of the heart to the Lord and a commitment to follow Him with thanksgiving and love.

After rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, Nehemiah immediately established the singers in the temple. At the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, the Levites joyfully celebrated with songs of thanksgiving and with the music of cymbals, harps, and lyres. At the dedication, Nehemiah formed two large choirs to give thanks to God. They positioned themselves on top of the wall on opposite sides and were joined with the music of trumpets and all the instruments David had prescribed for the worship of God. Their joyous music and song could be heard from far away, as all Jerusalem rejoiced on this wonderful occasion in the history of Israel. (See Nehemiah 12:27–43)

The book of Nehemiah indicates in the time of David there were directors of music for the singers and songs of praise and thanks. All Israel contributed to the daily portions for the singers. (See Nehemiah 12:44–48) Nehemiah realized how important music was in the service of God in the temple and for the worship of God among the people.

Jesus Singing with His Disciples

After Jesus instituted communion as a memorial of His death, Matthew 26:30 says, “When they had sung a hymn, they went to the Mount of Olives.” Mark 14:26 states that Jesus sang this hymn along with His disciples right before He prayed in Gethsemane shortly before He was crucified. This was probably not the first time they had sung together, but this is the only time recorded in Scripture that our Lord sang. Jesus sang right before He gave His life on the cross and endured the most horrible torture and beating ever known to mankind.

This hymn is believed to be from the psalms called the “Great Hallel” or the “praise Psalms,” which were Psalms 113–118 and 136. I can only imagine how Jesus’ heart poured out to His heavenly Father in song before the most trying time of His life, realizing that He would bear the sins, sicknesses, sorrows, and punishment of the whole world. Knowing this road of rejection, persecution, and death was hours away, Jesus sang. How important this song was to the heart of our Savior! How the lyrics must have comforted and strengthened Him.

If music was so important to Jesus that He sang with His disciples on the evening He was taken to be crucified, how important should music be to us! A song can lift us into the presence of God and comfort our hearts even in life’s darkest hours. It can encourage us to follow God’s will and stand for Him even in the midst of the fiery darts that Satan is throwing at us. Our hearts should always be singing to God, because nothing in heaven or earth compares to Him.

Paul and Silas Singing in Prison

Paul and Silas were severely beaten for preaching the gospel and thrown into prison with their feet in stocks, but they sang praises to God in the midst of this seemingly hopeless situation. God moved with a great earthquake that shook the entire foundation of the prison and they were set free. The world longs for a song in the night when all seems lost, and only God can deliver this song to the depths of the heart.

Music in Church History

Throughout time, great men in church history have understood the profound effect of music on the heart and the importance of godly music in the life of a Christian.

Martin Luther: The Composer

Martin Luther, who is credited with igniting the flame of the Protestant Reformation, was a wonderful composer. He must have understood the importance of music to the Lord in the midst of relentless persecution.

Luther began singing at a young age as a soprano in the choir. He later studied music theory and composition, and learned to play flute and lute quite skillfully. He wrote thirty-seven songs. One of his greatest contributions was the return of music to the church.

For about a thousand years, congregations had not sung as music and melody to the Lord had died in the church. Some hymns were written during this period, but they were use only on special occasions outside of the church. Luther brought music back to the church and made the congregation an active participant in song.

One of his greatest hymns, which was one of my favorites growing up, is “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” The words and music are majestic and heavenly, and they never failed to motivate my heart to stand for God, no matter what the world might throw at me.

Don Cusic, in A Sound of Light: The History of Gospel Music, expounds on Luther’s heart for music:

Martin Luther had a legendary love for music. He was an accomplished lutenist and could improvise accompaniments for singing. He often played after dinner with his family and guests and composed songs for his children. Through his life, he carried his lute with him on his travels and entertained friends and guests after dinner with singing and playing. Music was not just a recreational tool for Luther—it was an integral part of his life and he found a source of strength and comfort in music.

He stated that we “should praise God with both word and music, namely by proclaiming (the Word of God) through music” and another time said “He who believes (the gospel) earnestly cannot be quiet about it. But he must gladly and willingly sing and speak about it so that others may come and hear it … Luther’s prophetic statement “I intend to make … spiritual songs so that the Word of God, even by means of song, may live among the people” became a guiding principal in his life …

Luther was well aware of the power of music and insisted that its proper use was “to the glorification of God and the edification of man.” He said, “We want the beautiful art of music to be properly used to serve her dear Creator and his Christians. He is thereby praised and honored and we are made better and stronger in faith when His holy Word is impressed on our hearts by sweet music.” Luther said of music, “Next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise.”[xxiii]

The power of Luther’s music, which came from a heart fully devoted to God, helped to fuel the Protestant Reformation and renew the beautiful worship of God and the lyrics of His mighty Word in the body of Christ.

Charles Wesley: The Inspired Man of Thousands of Hymns

Another revival in history was inspired by a man who was also a composer of music and song. During the Wesleyan Revival in the 18th Century, Charles Wesley wrote more than six thousand hymns, including some that became classics of the Christian church, like “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing,” “Jesus, Lover of My Soul,” and “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.”

A. W. Tozer: The Love of the Hymnal

Christian writer and preacher A. W. Tozer loved hymns and acquired an extensive collection of old hymnals. The Fellowship of the Burning Hearts states this about Tozer:

He longed for a “God-conscious soul”—a heart that is aflame for God. … He often used these hymnals as means for meditation and devotional reading. Often, he would counsel people to get a hymnbook—“but don’t get one less than a hundred years old.” In one the articles for the Alliance Weekly he wrote, “After the Bible, the next most valuable book for the Christian is a good hymnal.”[xxiv]

Music: Times of Refreshing from the Lord

Listening to music is not meant to replace a Christian’s time in studying and meditating on the Bible, or prayer and intimate fellowship with the heavenly Father and our Lord Jesus. This is always our first priority. However, to keep the heart spiritually tuned to the heartbeat of God, and continually renewed and refreshed, music can be of critical significance.

The soundtrack of the heart is a measuring stick to its overall health. We must never be careless about this vital truth, that music can be either a healing balm or a toxic poison to the life of the heart. Music can help us stay on the path that God has ordained for our lives, or quickly turn the heart to a path that leads to destruction. Music either pulls you into the heart of God or pulls you into the heart of the world. God is crying out to the church and to every Christian believer, “Do not be ignorant or fooled by music and think your listening choices are harmless to your walk and relationship with Me!”

Since the fall of Lucifer, music has been a major weapon in the battle for the heart. When we examine the condition of our hearts, we must ask ourselves this vital question: “Who is the great musician of my heart? Who is feeding my heart its song and melody?”

These great men in church history also illustrate that we must have a vibrant and joyful song in our heart for God. Whenever we remember God’s faithfulness, mercy, and love, a great song will come forth, praising Him for His goodness.

Music in Times of Trouble

Often our greatest songs of praise are borne in trials and temptations. Martin Luther was relentlessly persecuted and hunted for his faith in God and his belief in the Scriptures. David was hunted and hounded by King Saul and his army, who were trying to kill him at every turn. Hezekiah was attacked by hostile kingdoms at the outskirts of Jerusalem. Charles Wesley faced unbelievable persecution as he was threatened, mocked, hit, and violently opposed. Moses had to deal with a rebellious and idolatrous nation of murmurers and complainers who challenged his every move. Jesus faced the callous hearts of the religious elite, the betrayal of a disciple and a friend, the vicious beating of His body to the point where He could not even be recognized as a man, and the horrible death by crucifixion. Yet each of these men had songs in their hearts.

Many Christians today have lost the song in their hearts for God. They cry like the psalmist, “Oh, how could we ever sing God’s song in this wasteland?” (Psalm 137:4). When the heart is bitter and unforgiving, when the heart forgets God, when the heart becomes entangled with the things of this world, it loses its song. An unforeseen problem, a tragic circumstance, or a bewildering turn of events can cause Christians to question God and lose the song in their hearts for God.

In Exodus 15, the children of Israel sang the right song when they were delivered from the army of Egypt, but they sang it on the wrong side. They should have been singing this song even when they were in bondage in Egypt, not simply after a great miracle and deliverance from God. The song they sang was not really in their hearts, because just a few days later they were complaining against God and cursing Him for bringing them out of Egypt. The challenges of the wilderness took the song for God out of their hearts.

Our God will never fail us. He will deliver us from any foe. He is always faithful to His Word, and we are His children. Our God will never leave us or forsake us, and His strength is perfect in our weaknesses.

A Song in Our Hearts for God

What a song our hearts should have for God! We should always be singing and making melody to the Lord. Our hearts cannot remain silent. The song of our salvation and our love story with God should be filling our hearts with music every moment of every day.

Yes, indeed—God is my salvation. I trust, I won’t be afraid. God—yes God!—is my strength and song, best of all, my salvation! Sing praise-songs to God. He’s done it all! Let the whole earth know what he’s done! Raise the roof! Sing your hearts out … The Greatest lives among you. (Isaiah 12:2, 5–6, MSG)

Our song is never a song of anxiety, fear, or worry. The song of our hearts boldly declares that “God is.” He is everything we will ever need in this life, and He will come into any circumstance for us when we call on His name. God is our salvation. He is our strength, our defender, our provider, and our deliverer. The almighty God is our song. He is the greatest in heaven and earth, and He lives within us! We should be raising the roof with our praise-song to God.

When we begin to get a glimpse of how magnificent and glorious God is and that He cares about every detail of our lives, the song of God will rise in our hearts. We cannot keep silent about the wonder of our God and His amazing works. God is grieved when we rob Him of this song of love and praise. We lose our song when we do not completely surrender to Him, when we allow something else to be our first love, when we do not trust Him with our very lives. God cries when the song of our hearts goes silent.

Carter Conlan, in The 180 Degree Christian; Serving Jesus in a Culture of Excess, says:

What I believe grieves God most is we have robbed Him of our hearts. It is as if He would say to us, “You have robbed Me of the full heart of surrender that I was looking for that would have allowed Me to fill you from the crown of your head to the soles of your feet. If only you would have turned to Me! I would have caused you to live such a profound life that you would have stood out as a light shining in a darkened world.”[xxv]

Don’t lose your love song for God by turning away from Him when things get tough. If you sing praises to God in all circumstances, your heart will rest firmly in His presence and you will experience the faithfulness of our God.

God Sings Over You: You are His Love Song

Did you know God sings? Did you know that the song of His heart is about you? The Creator of the heavens and the earth has blazed in His heart a joyful song that He loves to sing just for you. The song that is constantly in His heart is a love ballad dedicated to you. He is singing this song to you right now, even as you are reading this book. He will sing this song to you in all your tomorrows, and He will sing it to you throughout eternity.

The Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs. (Zephaniah 3:17, NLT)

The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. (ESV)

Yahweh your God is there with you, the warrior-Savior. He will rejoice over you with happy song, he will renew you by his love; he will dance with shout of joy for you. (NJB)

Can you imagine how beautiful it must be when God sings? It has to be simply breathtaking to hear God’s voice in song. The even more astounding truth is that is He is singing to you. The song bursting forth from His heart is about you. The Creator of every living thing, and the maker of every mountain on earth and every star in the universe, has a song that is constantly on His mind and it concerns you. You are His song! You are His melody! You are His music! God is rejoicing over you with a song that deeply expresses the joy and love He has for you. God calms our hearts with a lullaby of His love, like a mother singing sweetly to her child as she gently rocks him to sleep. God even dances over us with shouts of joy!

This song of God is a hymn of deliverance, victory, and salvation. Psalm 32:7 says that God “surrounds us with songs of deliverance.” He wants His songs of victory to fill our hearts with rejoicing and thankfulness for His mighty salvation. God sings because He knows that He has made you in Christ and that He has given you a name and a divine destiny.

The world will rarely sing over you in triumphant song. But God says, “No matter what anyone says, you are My beloved, My treasure, My pearl of great price, My heart’s desire. I have made you beautiful, precious, and more valuable than all the treasures of the earth. Let our hearts rejoice in song together, for you are My song and I passionately desire to be your song. Let our hearts make music together, for My song never fails, fades, or disappoints. My heart is always singing for you. Never forget My love song and My songs of deliverance for you.”

The music that is born of above, with its sweet melody, sounds out from every corner of our hearts. God sings to us. We sing to God. We are God’s melody and He is our melody. This is the music that can fill our hearts and transform us into the image of our glorious God and Redeemer.


[i] Cary Schmidt, Music Matters: Understanding and Applying the Amazing Power of Music (Lancaster: Striving Together Publications, 2007), Kindle Edition, 24.

[ii] Dr. Howard Hanson, “A Musician’s Point of View Toward Emotional Expression,” The American Journal of Psychiatry, Volume 99, (1942), 317.

[iii] Alan P. Merriam, The Anthropology of Music, (1964): 218..

[iv] Dr. Adam Knieste, quoted by David Chagall, in Family Weekly, January 30, 1983, 14.

[v] Jay Grout, A History of Western Music (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2009).

[vi] Daniel and Bernadette Skubik, The Neurophysiology of Rock, published separately as an appendix in John Blanchard, Pop Goes the Gospel: Rock in the Church (Durham, England 1991), 191.

[vii] Norman M. Weinberger, The Nonmusical Outcomes of Music Education (University of California Board of Regents, 1995). 

[viii] Freidrich Nietzsche, The Joyful Wisdom (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1924), 343.

[ix] Don Campbell, The Mozart Effect (New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2001), 67.

[x] Cary Schmidt, Music Matters: Understanding and Applying the Amazing Power of Music (Lancaster: Striving Together Publications, 2007), Kindle Edition, 24, 25.

[xi] Cary Schmidt, Music Matters: Understanding and Applying the Amazing Power of Music (Lancaster: Striving Together Publications, 2007), Kindle Edition, 41, 42.

[xii] Charles Spurgeon, Treasury of David: Volume 4, Study of the Psalms, (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1976), Psalm 99, Kindle Edition, 51882.

[xiii] Patrick Fairbairn, Exposition of Ezekiel (Mount Joliet: Sovereign Grace Publishers, Inc., 2001), 312.

[xiv] E. W. Bullinger, The Chief Musician, or Studies in the Psalms and their Titles (New York: Cosimo, Inc., 2007), 7.

[xv] Selah means to pause and carefully consider these words, and lift our hearts to God as we reflect on His magnificent truth.

[xvi] David Wilkerson, Sermon: “Counterfeit Christianity,” May 22, 2010.

[xvii] David Wilkerson, World Challenge Pulpit Series, “Driven to Darkness,” August 3, 1987.

[xviii] Charles Spurgeon, Treasury of David: Volume 4, Study of the Psalms, (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1976), Psalm 144, Kindle Edition, 87898.

[xix] Dennis McCorkle, The David Cipher: Unlocking the Hidden Music of the Psalms (Denver: Outskirts Press, 2010), Kindle Edition, 294. 

[xx] Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 1159.

[xxi] Dennis McCorkle, The David Cipher: Unlocking the Hidden Music of the Psalms (Denver: Outskirts Press, 2010), Kindle Edition, 329, 330.

[xxii]Ibid., Kindle Edition 662.

[xxiii] Don Cusic, A Sound of Light: The History of Gospel Music (Milwaukee: Hal Leonard Corporation, 2002), 15, 16, 18, 19.

[xxiv] A.W. Tozer, Fellowship of the Burning Heart: A Collection of Sermons by A.W. Tozer (Alachua: Bridge-Logos Publishers, 2006), 10.

[xxv] Carter Conlan, The 180 Degree Christian; Serving Jesus in a Culture of Excess (Ventura: Regal Books, 2012), 68.

Excerpt from “The Heart: The Key to Everything in the Christian Life”  

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The Methodology of your Spiritual Enemy

Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. – Ephesians 6:11

SATAN IS
A “SCHEMER”

The English definitions of SCHEME are found below. Don’t just passively read them, in one ear and out the other! Think about how these definitions relate to demonic activity in your life as a follower of Christ. Try to put some of these definitions in the description of schemes in Ephesians 6:11 to help you meditate on important truth.

Definition = a plan of action, an elaborate and systematic plan for a course of action designed to achieve a major or overall aim; a strategy (art of planning and directing overall military operations and movements in a war or battle); a secret or underhanded plan; a plot or a plan to achieve some action; a carefully arranged and systematic program of action for attaining some object or end; a particular ordered system or arrangement; a large-scale systematic plan or arrangement for attaining some particular object or putting a particular idea into effect. Synonyms: plan, project, plan of action, program, strategy, stratagem, tactic, game plan, master plan, course/line of action. 

Etymology of scheme – It is from Medieval Latin schema which means shape, figure, form, appearance and is from Greek schema which refers to appearance, as opposed to reality. This is a good description of the devil, the master deceiver.

Related Resources:

Schemes of the devil – Here we encounter the commander in chief of the invisible army arrayed against us. He is our sworn, mortal enemy. This is not a video game or a fairy tale but a very real war with a very real, deceptive foe.

Paul had warned about the devil’s schemes to disrupt the unity of the body writing that “As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming.” (Ep 4:14note)

The schemes of the devil – Note Paul’s use of the definite article in Greek (“THE schemes“) which defines these as specific schemes, not just general schemes. It suggests that the devil and his minions have specific schemes, “tailor made” for each person, for he is aware of the sin that so easily entangles each of us (Hebrews 12:1+)! Note that these schemes involve shrewdly devious and intriguing methods that entail following an orderly, technical procedure in the handling of a subject. Schemes is used to describe a wild animal cunningly stalking and unexpectedly pouncing on prey (cp 1Pe 5:8note). Satan’s schemes to destroy us and do us harm are built around stealth and deception but as Paul writes to the Corinthians “we are not ignorant of his schemes.” (2 Corinthians 2:11) In 2 Corinthians 2:11 the word schemes is not methodeia but noema [from nous = mind] and refers to the content of thinking and reasoning.

Samuel Rutherford reminds us that “Satan is only God’s master fencer to teach us to use our weapons.”

Schemes (3180) (methodeia from methodeuo = to work by method in turn from meta = with, after + hodos = a way) refers to an orderly, logical, effective arrangement, usually in steps followed to achieve an end. It describes deliberate planning or a systematic approach and can have a positive or negative connotation. The negative meaning of methodeia implies the use of clever methods or strategies to attain the desired end. The Scripture always uses methodeia with a negative connotation.

Methodeia has reference to planned, subtle, systematized error. Error organizes. It has its systems and its logic. Be alert! Be mature! Satan’s scheming, crafty actions and artful designs have ‘method’ and purpose, for his aim is to mislead the immature who are not grounded on apostolic doctrine. Behind the evil men and women who seek to expound false teaching, there is also a supernatural evil power who seeks to deceive unwary saints with his “devilish” cunning.

Think about this simple definition in the context of spiritual warfare. Satan is orderly and logical in his steps employed against you to achieve his nefarious purposes. This realization should prompt each of us to be even more appreciative of the fact that we cannot stand against our invisible enemy in our own intelligence, our own strength or our own human “methods” or “schemes”. We must put on the full armor that God supplies in Christ.

As alluded to above, the negative connotation of methodeia implies the use of cleverness, craftiness, cunning and deception. The “deceiver” uses specific, subtle, stealthy plans to target each individual, his goal being to defeatdiscourage and dishearten. Stated another way, Satan’s attacks are “tailor made” (“the schemes“), carefully and methodically selected to attack each person’s specific weaknesses and vulnerabilities. His wiles and methods are usually attractive, always deceptive, and often ensnaring. Stay sober and alert!

Spurgeon has the following cautions regarding our Adversary, the devil writing that “He will attack you sometimes by force and sometimes by fraud. By might or by sleight he will seek to overcome you, and no unarmed man can stand against him. Never go out without all your armor on, for you can never tell where you may meet the devil. He is not omnipresent, but nobody can tell where he is not, for he and his troops of devils appear to be found everywhere on this earth.”

Puritan Thomas Watson wrote that “Satan tempts after some discoveries of God’s love. As a pirate sets on a ship that is richly laden, so when a soul hath been laden with spiritual comforts the devil will be shooting at him, to rob him of all. The devil envies to see a soul feasted with spiritual joy.”

David Jeremiah has an interesting thought on Satan’s methodeia writing that…

If you could sneak into Satan’s office, wherever that might be (he’s not in hell yet), and take a peek into his files, you might be surprised to find a file folder with your name on it. I’m not exaggerating. He keeps a file on you, and inside that file are all the strategies he’s tried on you—the ones that have worked and the ones that have failed. He doesn’t waste his time with the ones that don’t work anymore. Instead, he uses variations on the strategies that have caused you to stumble in the past. As long as they keep working, he keeps using them. Somewhere in that file cabinet there’s a file labeled: Jeremiah, David. In this file, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if there was a notation that reads something like this: Subject may be prone to discouragement, especially if he becomes overly weary. This has worked several times before and seems a promising method of attack. Suggestion: Make sure he stays very busy, overcommitted, and physically tired. At all costs, keep him from extended times of Bible reading and prayer.

So what is Satan’s strategy for me? He looks for ways to discourage me, and if possible, cause me some depression. He will use whatever people, means, or circumstances it takes to achieve his goal.

It’s the same for you. Maybe your file says, “Frequently tempted to gossip,” or “quick temper,” or “prone to coveting and jealousy,” or “weak in the area of lust.”

Don’t kid yourself, he knows very well where your vulnerabilities lie. It’s all in his file. You’ve heard, perhaps, that God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. That’s very good news, but it is also true that Satan hates you and has a plan and strategy to destroy your walk with Jesus Christ.

That’s one big reason why you experience struggle and discouragement in your Christian experience. Sometimes I hear people say,

“Well, if you’re a Christian, you shouldn’t have any struggles. You shouldn’t ever feel discouraged. All is peace and joy and love and happiness.”

I don’t think so. I personally think that description fits better with life before you found salvation in Christ. Do you know why? Because you only had one influence in your life at that time. There was no contest for your heart. There was no tug-of-war for your soul. (Jeremiah, D. . God In You: Releasing the Power of the Holy Spirit in Your Life. Multnomah Publishers)

Methodeia is translated with a number of words as shown in the list below with each word followed by a definition. As you read through this list think about how each describes your mortal foe, the devil.

  1. Craftiness – adept in the use of subtlety and cunning. No place in Scripture reveals Satan’s schemes better than Genesis 3, which records Satan’s initial contact with man.
  2. Cunning – characterized by wiliness and trickery. It describes the faculty of executing well what one has devised.
  3. Scheming – given to making plots; shrewdly devious and intriguing. Synonyms include artful, calculating, conniving, cunning, deceitful, designing, duplicitous, foxy, Machiavellian, slippery, sly, tricky, underhand, wily.
  4. Strategies – careful plans or methods. Strategy can also refer to the art or science of the planning and conduct of a war. The Columbia Encyclopedia notes that “strategy and tactics, in warfare are related terms referring, respectively, to large-scale and small-scale planning to achieve military success. Strategy may be defined as the general scheme of the conduct of a war, tactics as the planning of means to achieve strategic objectives. Synonyms for strategy include: blueprint, design, game plan, project, scheme.
  5. Stratagems – an artifice or trick in war for deceiving and outwitting the enemy. A cleverly contrived trick or scheme for gaining an end. Stratagem implies a ruse used to entrap, outwit, circumvent, or surprise an opponent or enemy.
  6. Tactics – The derivation of the word tactic is very interesting and gives us some insight into the meaning of the devil’s methods. The word “tactics” is from the Greek word taktikos which means “of order, of tactics, fit for arranging” and which in turn is derived from “tassein” which means to arrange or place in battle formation. Tactics is defined then as the science and art of disposing and maneuvering forces in combat. It refers to the art or skill of employing available means to accomplish an end. In short, the tactics of the devil are calculated plans specifically designed to bring the downfall of God’s people and His kingdom.
  7. Trickery – the practice of crafty underhanded ingenuity to deceive or cheat. It implies ingenious acts intended to dupe or cheat.
  8. Wiles – tricks or strategy carried out with the intent to entice, ensnare or deceive. Wiles suggests an attempt to entrap or deceive with false allurements. In short they are attractive!

Friberg states that methodeia can have a neutral or positive meaning referring simply to a “method or procedure (but) in the NT (is used) in a bad sense, (and refers to) scheming to deceive, craftiness, cunning, deception (see notes Ephesians 4:14); In the plural (as used in Ephesians 6:11) methodeia can refer to stratagems, cunning attacks, tricks” (Adapted from Friberg, T. Analytical lexicon of the Greek New Testament. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books)

John MacArthur writes that methodeia (“wiles”) conveys ‘the idea of cleverness, crafty methods, cunning, and deception. Satan’s schemes are propagated through the evil world system over which he rules, and are carried out by his demon hosts. “Wiles” is all-inclusive, encompassing every sin, immoral practice, false theology, false religion, and worldly enticement.” (MacArthur Study Bible Nashville: Word Pub)

The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament has the following note on methodeia specifically commenting on its use in Ephesians 6:11 “The reference is to machinations or (in military terms) attacks against which one must be armed. The nature of the attacks (the plural suggests that they are constantly repeated or are of incalculable variety) constitutes their great danger, against which the armour of God is the only defence. They are distinguished not so much by technique or strategy as by refinement and insidiousness (Vulgate translates insidiae, Luther “cunning attacks,” A.V. “wiles”)” (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Eerdmans)

The only other use of methodeia is in Ephesians 4:14 where as a result of being equipped and growing in maturity, the saints “are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness (methodeia) in deceitful scheming.” (See notes Ephesians 4:14)

The KJV has a picturesque rendering of Ephesians 4:14 stating that “they lie in wait (methodeia) to deceive.”

Kenneth Wuest writes that “methodeia” is derived “from the verbal form methodeuo “to follow up or investigate by method and settled plan, to follow craftily, frame devices, deceive.” Methodeia was used to describe a wild animal who cunningly stalked and unexpectedly pounced on its prey, a vivid depiction of the Adversary’s “methods” against believers. Satan’s schemes are propagated through the evil world system over which he rules, and are carried out by his demon hosts. “Wiles” is all-inclusive, encompassing every sin, immoral practice, false theology, false religion, and worldly enticement. Methodeia is a Greek word that denotes a path or roadway that is traveled over. This is because the devil continuously attempts to secure a foothold so that he may begin construction of a roadway to your mind.”

Marvin Vincent adds that “methodeia means a deliberate planning or system.”

Albert Barnes writes that “methodeia means properly that which is traced out with “method;” that which is “methodized;” and then that which is well laid – art, skill, cunning.” (Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible)

Ray Stedman in his excellent book “Spiritual Warfare” has this note regarding “methodeia”:

“What are the tactics the devil employs? He destroys by deceiving, by lying, by distorting, by counterfeiting, by masquerading, by clouding human minds with illusion and fantasy. This is what Paul calls “the devil’s schemes,” or as some translations put it, “the wiles of the devil” Read through the Bible and see how many times the work of the devil is referred to in that manner – the snares and the traps of the devil, the lies and illusions, the stratagems and the wiles. That is why we must look closely at the tactics the devil uses against us so that we can be strong and well-defended when he comes to us to defeat us, weaken us, and ruin our lives….

By far, the majority of attacks of the devil against Christians are not direct but indirect. That is why they are called the “schemes” of the devil. Schemes suggest deviousness or acting in a way that is subtle, secretive, and treacherous.

We need to examine this more thoroughly, for the major attack of the devil and his powers against human life is not by direct means, but indirectly by satanic suggestions through the natural and commonplace situations of life (Click for more in depth discussion)…

So we have an enormous responsibility before God and before the entire world to give ourselves, body and soul, to this great battle against the schemes of the evil one. We have a responsibility to battle the schemes of the devil in this world, and to point the way to the peace and security that lies ahead of us in the world to come…most often the devil comes in disguise, through the channel of “the flesh” our inner selves with silken, subtle, suggestive schemes. That is the avenue of satanic attack the apostle Paul warns us most strenuously about: the subtle schemes of the devil.” (Spiritual Warfare. Revised edition, 1999 — highly recommended) (Bolding added)

Stedman goes on to write “Friend, in Christ there is nothing that more clearly indicates that we have succumbed to the schemes of the devil than to complain about our lot in life. Again and again, the Word of God shows that the mark of a Christian who has learned how to be a Christian is that he rejoices in everything and gives thanks in all things.” (Ed: Only possible for one continually filled with the Spirit Eph 5:18+) (Ibid) (Bolding added)

Murphy writes that “The idea behind methodeia is deception. The apostle is warning us that the devil’s entire system of warfare against us is based on deception. He fights not on a pitched field, but by sudden assault and secret and cunning onslaught.” (Murphy, E. F. Handbook for Spiritual Warfare. Nashville: Thomas Nelson)

Eadie in his classic commentary on Ephesians adds that “The great enemy of man, a veteran fierce and malignant, has a method of warfare peculiar to himself, for it consists of “wiles.” His battles are the rush of a sudden ambuscade (ambush). He fights not on a pitched field, but by sudden assault and secret and cunning onslaught. Vigilance, self-possession, and promptitude are therefore indispensable to meet him: and as his aim is to throw his opponents off their guard and then to surprise them, so there is need to be ever clothed in this complete armour of God. His “wiles” are seen in unsettling the mind of Eve by representing God as jealous of the first man and woman; in stirring up the warlike aspirations of David to take a military census and force a conscription as the basis of a standing army; in inflaming the avaricious and sordid spirit of Judas; and in his assaults on our Lord by an appeal to appetite, piety, and ambition.” (John Eadie, D., LL.D. The Epistle of St Paul to the Ephesians)

Oswald Chambers has a good word about the methodeia of the devil writing that “We cannot stand against the wiles of the devil by our wits. The devil only comes along the line that God understands, not along the lines we understand, and the only way we can be prepared for him is to do what God tells us, stand complete in his armor, indwelt by His Spirit, in complete obedience to Him.” (Oswald Chambers 1874–1917)

Jonathan Edwards wrote that “the best protection one can have from the devil and his schemes is a humble heart.”

James Burns writes that “The danger of listening to the voice of the Tempter, and the subtlety by which he accomplishes his wiles, is illustrated by R. Spencer Stanhope in a picture in the Manchester Art Gallery, entitled “Eve.” In it he represents the Serpent whispering in her ear while she listening, plays with the sin within her mind. At the same time, unseen by her, he bends a branch of the tree with a coil of his body, and lo! as she dallies with the sin in her mind, an apple drops into her open hand. When the temptation has once been permitted to enter, the means of gratifying it is at hand.” (Tan, P. L. Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations)

MacDonald warns that “the devil has various stratagems—discouragement, frustration, confusion, moral failure and doctrinal error. He knows our weakest point and aims for it. If he cannot disable us by one method, he will try for another….Most serious of all is the danger of deception. Those who are babes are unskillful in the word of righteousness, their senses are not exercised to discern between good and evil (Heb. 5:1314). They inevitably meet some false cultist who impresses them by his zeal and apparent sincerity. Because he uses religious words, they think he must be a true Christian. If they had studied the Bible for themselves, they would be able to see through his deceitful juggling of words. But now they are carried about by his wind of doctrine and led by unprincipled cunning into a form of systematized error. (Believer’s Bible Commentary)

The Open Bible defines our Adversary’s “schemes” as “superhuman craftiness, capable of drawing careless Christians into sin.”

Warren Wiersbe writes that “The danger on the battlefield is that we do not take the enemy seriously and therefore fail to put on all of the armor. By faith, you put on the armor through prayer, which must be done at the beginning of every day. Never underestimate the strategy and strength of the devil.” (With the Word : The Chapter-by-Chapter Bible Handbook)

Seldom does Satan ever attack openly with an overt frontal assault (and by the way most of us will probably never be attacked by Satan himself as he is a finite not omnipresent being. But he does command a host of fallen angels who share his evil design for mankind). In contrast, Satan’s Schemes are nearly always unseen, shrewd, and perfectly tailored to ensnare his victim like a fowler camouflaging his net to trap a bird (“methodical”). “Schemes, wiles and methods” speak of the trickery and subterfuge by which evil and temptation present themselves in our lives. Evil rarely looks evil until it accomplishes its goal. It gains entrance by appearing attractive, desirable, and perfectly legitimate. But to reiterate it is a baited and camouflaged trap. As Paul puts it in 2 Corinthians 11:14, Satan masquerades as an angel of light.

A SUMMARY OF THE “METHODEIA”
OF
 SATAN, OUR ADVERSARY, THE DEVIL

God’s Word teaches that Satan, our relentless, determined Adversary, the Devil, carries out the following with great craft and cunning (and even this long list is not exhaustive!)

(1) ACCUSES

Job 1:6-11 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. 7 And the LORD said to Satan, “From where do you come?” Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.” 8 And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.” 9 Then Satan answered the LORD, “Does Job fear God for nothing? 10 “Hast Thou not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.11 “But put forth Thy hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse Thee to Thy face.”

Job 2:1-7 Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the LORD. 2 And the LORD said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “From roaming about on the earth, and walking around on it.” 3 And the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man fearing God and turning away from evil. And he still holds fast his integrity, although you incited Me against him, to ruin him without cause.” 4 And Satan answered the LORD and said, “Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. 5 “However, put forth Thy hand, now, and touch his bone and his flesh; he will curse Thee to Thy face.” 6 So the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your power, only spare his life.” 7 Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.

Zechariah 3:1-2 Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse (Hebrew = satan!) him. 2 And the LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, Satan! Indeed, the LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?”

Revelation 12:10-11 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser (kategoros – one who speaks openly against, to condemn or accuse mainly in a legal sense) of our brethren has been thrown down, who accuses them before our God day and night. 11 “And they overcame (nikao = get the victory, conquer, prevail, “Nike missile”) him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even to death. (See notes Revelation 12:10Revelation 12:11)

(2) AFFLICTS

Job 1:12-19 Then the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.” So Satan departed from the presence of the LORD. 13 Now it happened on the day when his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, 14 that a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, 15 and the Sabeans attacked and took them. They also slew the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 16 While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 17 While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three bands and made a raid on the camels and took them and slew the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 18 While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “Your sons and your daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, 19 and behold, a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people and they died; and I alone have escaped to tell you.”

Job 2:6-7 So the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your power, only spare his life.”7 Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head.

Luke 13:16 “And this woman, a daughter of Abraham as she is, whom Satan has bound for eighteen long years, should she not have been released from this bond on the Sabbath day?”

Revelation 2:10 ‘Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. (See notes Revelation 2:10)

(3) CONQUERS

Note: Remember that “in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him Who loved us.” (NKJV, Ro 8:37)

Acts 10:38 “You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good, and healing all who were oppressed (katadunasteuo = to tyrannize, rule over as a potentate, oppress harshly, exercise dominion against) by the devil; for God was with Him.

Ephesians 6:16; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one.

2Timothy 2:2526 (The Lord’s bondservant) with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will. (Comment: Note what sets the captive free – The Truth. The struggle is not a power struggle but a truth struggle!) (See notes 2 Timothy 2:252:26)

(4) DECEIVES

Genesis 3:1-6,13 Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; 3 but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, lest you die.'” 4 And the serpent said to the woman, “You surely shall not die! 5 “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate…13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived (beguiled, led astray, deluded, seduced) me, and I ate.” (cf 1Ti 2:14 And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being quite deceived (seduced into error, enticed into sin), fell into transgression.)

John 8:44 “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning (see Genesis 3:1-6,13+), and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar, and the father of lies. (Comment: Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote, “Sin has many tools, but a lie is the handle which fits them all.”)

Acts 13:10 (Saul known as Paul filled with the Holy Spirit spoke to Elymas the magician who was opposing the apostles) and said, “You who are full of all deceit (dolos = deliberate attempt to mislead other people by telling lies, duplicity, deliberate dishonesty, deceitful cunning) and fraud (recklessness, malignity, mischief, intrigue, unscrupulousness), you son of the devil, (in Acts 13:6 he is called “Bar-Jesus” = son of Jesus or son of Joshua! cf 2Cor 11:13-15 below) you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to make crooked the straight ways of the Lord?

2Cor 4:3-4 And even if our gospel is veiled (kalupto = covered over and hence not visible), it is veiled to those who are perishing (apollumi = pertains to destruction but not annihilation, to that which is ruined and is no longer usable for its intended purpose), 4 in whose case the god of this world (aion) (cf 1John 5:19) has blinded (tuphloo – cf use in 1John 2:11) the minds of the unbelieving (note that this speaks of their rejection of the light of the gospel which leaves only one alternative, the darkness of unbelief!), that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, Who is the image of God.

2Cor 11:13-15 For such men (those who were boasting that their work was like Paul’s and the real apostles) are false apostles (pseudapostolos), deceitful (dolios – guile filled, from dolos = one who deliberately attempt to mislead by telling lies with desire to gain advantage or preserve position) workers, disguising (metaschematizo from metá = change of place or condition + schematízo = change outward form without a change in the internal character as in metamorphoo = transfigure, transform, the outward here being truly representative of the inward nature) themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their deeds.

2Thess 2:8-10 And then that lawless one (Anti-Christ, man of lawlessness, son of destruction in 2Thess 2:3-4, the “little horn” of Da 7) will be revealed (apokalupto – he will be caused to be fully known, this “revelation” corresponding to the midpoint [3.5 years, time, times, half a time, 42 months, 1260 days] of Daniel’s Seventieth Week) whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth (cf Rev 19:1520) and bring to an end by the appearance (epiphaneia – literally His “shining forth” or upon with the idea of sudden and unexpected!) of His coming (parousia – the Second Coming of Christ); 9 that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity (energeia – operative power) of Satan, with all power and signs and false (pseudos = lying) wonders, 10 and with all the deception (apate = that which gives a false impression, whether by appearance, statement or influence; causes one to have misleading or erroneous views concerning the Truth) of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. 11 And for this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence (this is a Divine judicial decree, a reaping of their sowing, a consequence of their refusal to readily and deliberately make the choice to accept the Truth by which they could have been delivered and born again) so that they might believe what is false.

Revelation 2:9 ‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. (See notes Revelation 2:9)

Revelation 3:9 ‘Behold, I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews, and are not, but lie– behold, I will make them to come and bow down at your feet, and to know that I have loved you. (See notes Revelation 3:9)

(5) HINDERS

1Thessalonians 2:18 For we wanted to come to you– I, Paul, more than once– and yet Satan thwarted (egkopto from en = in + kopto = cut down, strike. To hinder, impede, detain. In classic Greek a military metaphor = to cut in on, throw obstacles in the way of or cut up the road so that normal movement is impossible!) us.

(6) MURDERS

John 8:44 (See #4 above)

(7) PERVERTS

Acts 13:10 (See #4 above)

2Th 2:9-10 (See #4 above)

(8) PROMPTS

1Chr 21:1 Then Satan stood up against Israel and moved David to number Israel. (Note: Actually God permitted Satan to prompt David to take a census of the people, and David insisted on doing it, contrary to Joab’s advice. 2 Sa 24:1 “Now again the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and it incited David against them to say, “Go, number Israel and Judah.” The point is that Satan can only do what God allows! God here is said to have caused the action in the sense of permitting Satan to put David to the test. Be careful when you commit sins, for you are entering into Satan’s domain of darkness!)

John 13:2,26-2730 And during supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him… 26 Jesus therefore answered, “That is the one for whom I shall dip the morsel and give it to him.” So when He had dipped the morsel, He took and gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27 And after the morsel, Satan then entered into him. Jesus therefore said to him, “What you do, do quickly.”…30 And so after receiving the morsel he went out immediately; and it was night (an appropriate time for Judas who was now fully controlled by darkness, cf Luke 22:53 “While I was with you daily in the temple, you did not lay hands on Me; but this hour and the power [exousia] of darkness are yours.”).

Acts 5:39 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit, and to keep back some of the price of the land?…9 Then Peter said to her, “Why is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they shall carry you out as well.”

(9) SCHEMES

2Cor 2:11+ (repent of an unforgiving spirit) in order that no advantage be taken of us by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his schemes. (Comment: When we sin and fail to repent we give the devil an opportunity. In this verse the sin is unforgiveness and it allows Satan to take advantage, to exploit, to cheat or to defraud. We need to get out of the darkness and walk in the light, where Satan cannot gain an advantage. If the church family—or any person in the family—carries an unforgiving spirit, then Satan will use that attitude as a beachhead for new assaults against the church.

As someone has well said an unforgiving spirit is the devil’s playground, and before long it becomes the Christian’s battleground. If somebody hurts us, either deliberately or unintentionally, and we do not forgive them, then the potential is for us to develop bitterness, which hardens the heart. We should be tenderhearted and kind, but instead we are hardhearted and bitter. Actually, we are not hurting the person who hurt us but are only hurting ourselves. Bitterness in the heart makes us treat others the way Satan treats them, when we should treat others the way God has treated us. In His gracious kindness, God has forgiven us, and we should forgive others. God Himself is infinitely kind, tender–hearted, and forgiving, and we show those virtues by imitating their Source. We do not forgive for our sake or even for their sake, but for Jesus’ sake. Learning how to forgive is one of the secrets of a happy Christian life and allows one to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.

Ephesians 6:11 (see notes)

1Timothy 3:7 And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he may not fall into reproach and the snare (pagis – a trap which is fixed or fastened by a noose or notch and which can fall unexpectedly or suddenly so that wild animals and birds are caught by surprise) of the devil.

(10) STALKS

1Peter 5:8-9 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 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. (See notes 1 Peter 5:81 Peter 5:9)

(11) STEALS

Mt 13:19+ “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road.

Luke 8:12+ “And those beside the road are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their heart, so that they may not believe and be saved.

(12) TEMPTS

Mark 1:12-13+ And immediately the Spirit impelled Him to go out into the wilderness. 13 And He was in the wilderness forty days being tempted (peirazo) by Satan; and He was with the wild beasts, and the angels were ministering to Him.

Luke 4:1-13+ And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led about by the Spirit in the wilderness 2 for forty days, being tempted (peirazo) by the devil. And He ate nothing during those days; and when they had ended, He became hungry. 3 And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”4 And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE.'” 5 And he led Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 And the devil said to Him, “I will give You all this domain (exousia) and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish (Jesus did not correct Satan – the world system indeed had been given to him as John wrote “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies [asleep like a baby in a cradle!] in the power of the evil one” 1John 5:19). 7 “Therefore if You worship before me, it shall all be Yours.” 8 And Jesus answered and said to him, “It is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD AND SERVE HIM ONLY.'” 9 And he led Him to Jerusalem and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here; 10 for it is written, ‘HE WILL GIVE HIS ANGELS CHARGE CONCERNING YOU TO GUARD YOU,’ 11 and, ‘ON their HANDS THEY WILL BEAR YOU UP, LEST YOU STRIKE YOUR FOOT AGAINST A STONE.'” (Here the devil misquotes Scripture to his advantage – this promise applies only to those whose ways are in God’s will and Satan left that critical detail out of the verse when he quoted Ps 92:11-12) 12 And Jesus answered and said to him, “It is said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.'” 13 And when the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time (see study of kairos).

1Cor 7:5+ Stop depriving (present imperative = with negative implies this practice was already ongoing) one another, except (1) by agreement (2) for a time (kairos – a specified aliquot of time) (3) that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again lest Satan tempt (peirazo) you because of your lack of self-control. (Comment: The general rule is that neither husband nor wife has the right to refuse the physical relationship of marriage. Here Paul presents a possible exception that applies if all three conditions are fulfilled = sexual abstinence is permissible if the couple agrees in advance, set a specific time limit, and does so for the purpose of prayer. The KJV adds “fasting and prayer”. Sexual abstinence can become a tool of Satan and is never to be used as pretense for spiritual superiority or as a means of intimidating or manipulating one’s spouse. Physical love is to be a normal and regular experience shared by both marriage partners and avoids “the schemes of the devil“!)

1Thess 3:5 For this reason (knowing they were going to suffer affliction which might have made them vulnerable to the schemes of the devil), when I could endure it no longer, I also sent to find out about your faith, for fear that the tempter (peirazo) might have tempted you, and our labor should be in vain (empty, fruitless, without success).

(13) THREATENS

Heb 2:14-15 Since then the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil; 15 and might deliver those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. (Comment: The wages of sin are death, spiritually and eternally. Christ died as a satisfactory sacrifice [see Heb 2:16-17] and paid the price for our sins, the wages of which were death [Ro 6:23+] so that the devil no longer holds the power of death over believers and we no longer are held in bondage to that fear). (See notes Hebrews 2:142:152:162:17)

This list (which is not exhaustive) of the “wiles of the devil” should thoroughly convince each of us of our need to be totally dependent on the full of armor of God and His Spirit’s strengthening of our inner man, causing us not to hesitate for even a moment to put on the whole armor! What are you waiting for dear Christian friend? Are any of the “pieces” missing or in disrepair. Then return and confess and repent and go forth into battle as more than a conqueror through Him Who loved us.

Repent (aorist imperative = urgent. Do it now!) therefore and return (aorist imperative = urgent. Don’t procrastinate!), that your sins may be wiped away (blotted out, erased, obliterated), in order that times of refreshing (literally recovery of breath and so revival) may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19) (Comment: This verse in context was Peter’s call to the Jewish audience to be saved, but is still applicable in principle to believer’s who have chosen momentarily to walk in darkness instead of the light.)

Men don’t believe in a devil now
As their fathers used to do,
They reject one creed because it is old
For another because it is new.

But who dogs the steps of the toiling saint?
Who spreads the net for his feet?
Who sows the tares in the world’s broad fields,
Where the Savior sows His wheat?

They may say the devil has never lived,
They may say the devil has gone,
But simple people would like to know
Who carries the business on?
Gem Cyclopedia

A. T. Robertson warns that the devil “is a crafty foe and knows the weak spots in the Christian’s armor.”

Expositor’s Bible Commentary writes that “In the second century A.D. the church interpreted these (schemes or methodeia) as torture inflicted on the martyrs. But in the context of Ephesians they are more likely to have been deliberate attempts to destroy the unity of Christ’s body (Eph 3:14-224:1-1627) through the invasion of false doctrine and the fomenting of dissension (Eph 4:22131325:6). (Expositor’s Bible Commentary 6-Volume New Testament. Zondervan Publishing)

A few of the Devil’s schemes…

A. Makes us think money is more important than living sincerely before God.

B. Defames God’s character by accusing him of impure motives.

C. Opposes the necessity of Christ’s death for our salvation.

D. Tries to cripple spiritual leaders.

E. Prevents believers from meeting together in fellowship.

F. Prevents non-Christians from understanding and believing the gospel.

G. Sends his evil supporters to infiltrate the ranks of true Christians. (Discipleship Journal. Issue 2. Mar/Apr 1981)

Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus
(Play)
“Stand up, stand up for Jesus,
Stand in His strength alone;
The arm of flesh will fail you,
You dare not trust your own.

Put on the gospel armor,
Each piece put on with prayer;
Where duty calls or danger,
Be never wanting there.”
—–George Duffield

The devil (1228)(diabolos from diá = through, between + ballo = to cast, throw) means a false accuserslanderer (one who utters false charges or misrepresentations which defame and damage another’s reputation), backbiting (malicious comment about one not present), one given to malicious gossip or a calumniator (one who utters maliciously false statements, charges, or imputations about, this term imputes malice to the speaker and falsity to the assertions). See the discussion on the background on spiritual warfare (Click Ephesians 6:12)

The New York Times, in reporting on a survey by the Barna Group, noted that two-thirds of Americans do not believe in the devil as a living entity. The Times called it “a result of fundamental, long-term shifts in the nation’s religious culture.”

Ray Stedman writes that “The devil is real, he is active, he is working day and night, trying to subvert and undo and defeat God’s plan in human history. The devil is our enemy. And this is war. There is a spiritual war going on behind the scenes of history, and that spiritual war in the unseen world is driving events in our own visible world. There is no peace in the material world because there is a war now raging in the spiritual world. There is nothing more meaningful, more relevant, more real that we could be involved in than the cause of God in this vast spiritual war. The biblical teaching of spiritual warfare shines a spotlight of truth on the basic problem of human existence and human history. (Stedman, Ray. Spiritual Warfare)

Wuest has an interesting comment that the literal meaning of “to throw through” means “to riddle one with accusations.” (Golden Nuggets from the Greek New Testament: p.104. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans)

Warren Wiersbe makes an important point about dealing with the devil…

I was watching an electrician install a complex control panel. I said to the man, “It just amazes me how you fellows can calmly work on those lines with all of that power there. How do you do it?” The electrician smiled and said, “Well, the first thing you have to do is respect it. Then you can handle it.”

Satan is a dangerous enemy. He is a serpent who can bite us when we least expect it. He is a destroyer (Rev 12:11; Abaddon and Apollyon both mean “destruction”) and an accuser (Zech. 3:12345Rev. 12:91011). He has great power and intelligence, and a host of demons who assist him in his attacks against God’s people (Eph 6:10ff). He is a formidable enemy; we must never joke about him, ignore him, or underestimate his ability. We must “be sober” and have our minds under control when it comes to our conflict with Satan.

A part of this soberness includes not blaming everything on the devil. Some people see a demon behind every bush and blame Satan for their headaches, flat tires, and high rent. While it is true that Satan can inflict physical sickness and pain (Luke 13:16Job 1:8910111213141516,1 718192021 – see especially Job 1:22!), we have no biblical authority for casting out “demons of headache” or “demons of backache.” One lady phoned me long distance to inform me that Satan had caused her to shrink seven and a half inches. While I have great respect for the wiles and powers of the devil, I still feel we must get our information about him from the Bible and not from our own interpretation of experiences. (Wiersbe, W: Bible Exposition Commentary. 1989. Victor)

In warfare knowledge of one’s enemy is vital in order to assure victory in battle. General Erwin Rommel was known as the “Desert Fox” because of his military prowess, especially in the North African desert in WWII. It is said that one of the keys that eventually led to his defeat was the fact that the Allied command was able to “get inside his head” and gain a sense of how he would strategize. How did they do this? They studied his detailed memoirs which had been published and thus began to gain insights into his personality, and thus his methods! In the same way, although believers are not to focus on Satanology, they are called to be aware of his schemes. Paul emphasized the importance of forgiveness to the church at Corinth…

in order that no advantage (pleonekteo = from pleion = more + echo = have > the idea is to outwit, get the better of, cheat, exploit or defraud) be taken of us by Satan (literally = Adversary); for we are not ignorant (unaware, uninformed about) of his schemes (KJV = devices = noema = purposes conceived by thinking = designs, intentions, schemes, plots, stratagems). (2 Cor 2:11)

The works of the devil are defined as “schemes” (Ephesians 6:11), “devices” (KJV) (2Cor 2:11), “snares” (2Ti 2:26note). Our adversary beguiles, seduces, opposes, resists, deceives, sows tares, hinders, buffets, tempts, persecutes, blasphemes. Our adversary is personal, aggressive, intelligent, cunning and destructive, and is to be reckoned with seriously, vigilantly and intelligently.

Be careful to avoid one of two extremes in regard to the devil. First, do not think that Satan causes everything and is everywhere. Satan is a created being and a controlled being (cf. see especially Job 1-2; Zech. 3:12345) and is neither omnipresent nor omniscient. The other extreme is justly as dangerous and that is to think that there is no such being as the devil, but that he is imaginary or myth. He is very real and very wily believers need to be very wary (not frightened). As stated elsewhere in the notes the spiritual struggle believers face with the devil and his demonic henchmen is not a power struggle as much as it is a truth struggle and the primary battlefield is therefore our minds.

In Ephesians 2:12:2 (see notes) we are introduced to him. 

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience” (Ep 2:12notes)

Comment: Satan occupies a twofold in the earth and in the air; ruling over both evil men and evil spirits. Christ never acknowledged Satan as king, but three times he calls him “the prince of this world,” thereby acknowledging his governmental authority. Ephesians teaches that he is the ruling spirit over “the sons of disobedience,” which includes all unregenerate mankind.

In John 8:44 Jesus said “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar, and the father of lies.” (Comment: Because he is a liar and a murderer, the devil’s work is to deceive and to destroy. There you have the explanation for all the misery, hatred, murder, war, and other evils that have taken place in human history. Whom the devil cannot deceive, he tries to destroy, and whom he cannot destroy, he attempts to deceive. That is the working of the devil)

The devil was once an angel in heaven, the most beautiful angel in heaven. He led a rebellion against God and, as a result, was cast into the lower heavens. He walks on this earth, but he still has access into heaven to accuse the brethren both day and night.

In Genesis 3 we read that “the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1+)

The devil deceived the woman and caused the man to sin. By getting Adam to sin, sin entered the world and something else happened. Paul writes “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned– (Ro 5:12note)

As a result of the sin of Adam, the depravity of man, the authority of this earth, its inhabitants and its lower atmosphere became Satan’s legally in the just system of God. When man sinned, it was like the world was turned over to the authority (exousia = now Satan had the right and might) of darkness, legally, because man chose to disobey his God. Death, the result of the curse of sin, was his weapon. His kingdom is a kingdom of darkness and deceit. Every person is born into his kingdom.

Wayne Barber writes that…

Before the cross and the substitutionary death of Jesus on the cross, man lived in fear of the devil and death. But Jesus conquered them both. In Ephesians 1:20 it says that He, Jesus, was seated far above all principality and powers. As a matter of fact, look at verse 20:

which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come. (See notes Ephesians 1:201:21)

He didn’t say He seated Him above, he said He seated Him “far above“. Let me explain to you what that means. If you could take the power of Satan and put it on a scale next to the power of God, his doesn’t even show up. God’s is far above all principalities and powers. I want you to know that warfare is not a struggle against power. It is a struggle to maintain truth. We will see that as we walk through this. Satan is no equal to God. He is a creation. God is the Creator!

SPIRITUAL WARFARE
is not a struggle against
POWER.

It is a struggle to maintain
the TRUTH.

Well, the believer needs to be aware that Satan is around. We are told that by Peter in his epistle. We need to be aware of the demonic. We need to be aware of darkness. We need to be aware that it has infected a world system and is in our face daily. We need to be aware of that, however, our focus is not to be on that. Our focus is to be on the resurrected, ascended, glorified Lord Jesus Christ and on His resurrection power in each individual life.

FOCUS ON THE LIGHT

Our FOCUS is to be on the resurrected, ascended, glorified Lord Jesus Christ and on His resurrection power in each individual life. That is our focus. We do not focus on darkness. We focus on light. The Prince and the power of light is the Lord Jesus Himself.

1John 5:18-19 says “We know that no one who is born of God [transformed, delivered, made into a new creature] sins [habitually = present tense] but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him. We know that we are of God, and that the whole world (kosmos) lies (present tense = continually) in [the power of] the evil one.” (Comment: Note that “touch him” means touch to do harm.)

J Vernon McGee has an interesting comment on “lies” in 1John 5:19 “This is the text of a sermon which I have preached on several occasions entitled “When the Devil Puts the Baby to Sleep.” “And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth [actually, lies asleep – e.g., see Lk 2:12,16] in wickedness [or, in the arms of the wicked one].” In other words, the Devil has the world asleep. The Devil is saying to Vernon McGee, “Sh-h-h. Hush! You’re waking people up, and we don’t want to do that! They are very comfortable. Many people in churches are dead in trespasses and sins, and we don’t want to wake them up. Let’s leave them alone.” The Devil is concerned when people are awakened. You and I are living in a world that is asleep in the arms of the wicked one—if you look around today, you must agree with that statement. (McGee, J V: Thru the Bible Commentary: Thomas Nelson)

Paul had warned about the wiles of the devil earlier writing “and do not give (stop giving = present imperative with a negative) the devil an opportunity. (Ep 4:27note) (See Dwight Pentecost’s comment)

The KJV Commentary warns that “Men dream of a devil that is a hideous, horned, and hoofed monster who haunts the vice dens of the world; but God says he fashions himself into an angel of light and fashions his ministers as ministers of righteousness (2Cor 11:14,15). He is the champion of liberalism, ritualism, rationalism, and every other “ism” that seeks to displace Christ. His aim is to substitute something else and something different for the grace and truth of Christ. Never underestimate the enemy. (Dobson, E G, Charles Feinberg, E Hindson, Woodrow Kroll, H L. Wilmington: KJV Bible Commentary: Nelson)

John Eadie writes that “The great enemy of man, a veteran fierce and malignant, has a method of warfare peculiar to himself, for it consists of “wiles.” His battles are the rush of a sudden ambuscade. He fights not on a pitched field, but by sudden assault and secret and cunning onslaught. Vigilance, self-possession, and promptitude are therefore indispensable to meet him: and as his aim is to throw his opponents off their guard and then to surprise them, so there is need to be ever clothed in this complete armour of God. His “wiles” are seen in unsettling the mind of Eve by representing God as jealous of the first man and woman; in stirring up the warlike aspirations of David to take a military census and force a conscription as the basis of a standing army; in inflaming the avaricious and sordid spirit of Judas; and in his assaults on our Lord by an appeal to appetite, piety, and ambition. (Ephesians 6 Commentary)

Diabolos is the noun form of the verb diaballo which describes not only those who bring a false charge against one, but also those who disseminate the truth concerning a man, and do so maliciously, insidiously and with hostility.

Notice how the root words (diá = through + ballo = throw) picture what the devil does. He constantly throws between seeking to divide whether it be between a husband and wife, a child and parent, a church, etc. Resist his divisive, condemnatory accusations firm in your faith. Wuest has an interesting comment that the literal meaning of “to throw through” means “to riddle one with accusations.”

Diabolos is applied some 34 times to Satan, the god of this world, and in each case has the definite article in the Greek (“the” = defining a specific entity) and is never in the plural (the three uses below in the pastoral epistles are all plural) as when applied to men who, by opposing the cause of God, may be said to act the part of the devil or to side with him.

Diabolos is coupled with the word “Satan” (transliteration of Hebrew word meaning “adversary”) in the Revelation, John recording that an angel from heaven “laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years (Re 20:2note)

Diabolos is used of one who makes accusations and presses charges. In Revelation 12:9-10+, we read that “the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser (kategor) of our brethren has been thrown down, who accuses (kategoreo – present tense = describes the devil’s continual activity) them before our God day and night.” How grateful saints can be that “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Ro 8:1+)

Are you safe and protected from the devil’s accusations “in Christ Jesus” dear reader? If not, cry out this very moment to the Most High God for Him to give you His grace that you might this moment experience eternal security in Christ through your exercising of personal faith in Christ’s life, death, burial, resurrection and sure, soon return. God is faithful.

Constable has an excellent summary of Satan’s schemes – Satan has consistently aimed his personal attacks at getting people to doubt, to deny, to disregard, and to disobey the revealed will of God (cf. Gen. 3Matt. 4). The world system seeks to get people to believe that they do not need God but can get along very well without Him (1 John 2). The flesh tempts us to think that we can find satisfaction, joy, and fulfillment on the physical, material level of life alone (Ro 7). (Ephesians Expository Notes) (Boding added)

Wiersbe gives us “A word of caution here: never discuss things with Satan or his associates. Eve made this mistake, and we all know the sad consequences. Also, never try to fight Satan in your own way. Resist him the way Jesus did, with the Word of God (Mt 4:1-11EdLk 4:1-1114+ – note that Jesus as fully man was giving us an example to follow and fended off the Devil’s attacks by being filled with the Spirit and filled with the Word! See Filled with His Spirit/Richly Indwelt with His Word  – If you are not memorizing the Word of God [see also Memory Verses by Topic], you are disregarding and discarding one of your primary weapons against the Devil, the “sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” – Eph 6:17+). (Bible Exposition Commentary. 1989. Victor)

William Evans wrote that it is popular in some circles to day to spell the word devil with the letter “d” left off thus reducing the idea of an actual person called the devil to a mere influence called evil. The devil may be out of fashion, but he’s not out of business and as Evans adds “If the devil can’t mislead people that way, he would have them think of him as a horrible, monstrous-looking creature with a forked tail, dressed in a fiery red suit, and with horns protruding from his head. If the devil can get folks to think of him like that, then when he comes as an ‘angel of light’, he will not be recognized, and so find it easier to beguile his unsuspecting victims.”


Dr. Robert Thomas, professor of New Testament at The Master’s Seminary, warns: People don’t often go heretical all at once. It is gradual. And they do not do so intentionally most of the time. They slip into it through shoddiness and laziness in handling the word of truth.… All it takes to start the road to heresy is a craving for something new and different, a flashy new idea, along with a little laziness or carelessness or lack of precision in handling the truth of God. (2Ti 2:15) All around us today are startling reminders of doctrinal slippage and outright failure. (2Ti 4:3) In case after case someone who should have known the truth of God better failed in upholding that truth.


Vincent has an interesting note: “Temptation is thus represented as impelled from a distance. Satan attacks by indirection—through good things from which no evil is suspected. There is a hint of its propagating power: one sin draws another in its track: the flame of the fire-tipped dart spreads. Temptation acts on susceptible material. Self-confidence is combustible. Faith, in doing away with dependence on self, takes away fuel for the dart. It creates sensitiveness to holy influences by which the power of temptation is neutralized. It enlists the direct aid of God.”


QuestionWhat are the wiles of the devil in Ephesians 6:11? | GotQuestions.org

Answer: Wiles are tricks or manipulations designed to deceive someone. The tongue-in-cheek phrase a woman’s wiles refers to the seductiveness of femme fatales in using charm or sex appeal to elicit a desired response from men. Wiles of the devil are those clever schemes used by Satan to ensnare us through temptation, threat, or intimidation. Ephesians 6:11 warns us to “put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (KJV). Other Bible versions speak of the “devil’s schemes,” “strategies,” or “evil tricks” rather than “wiles.” Scripture gives us insight into our enemy’s tactics: “We are not unaware of his schemes” (2 Corinthians 2:11), and we are wise to heed its warnings.

Here are some of the devil’s wiles we see in Scripture:

1. Challenging God’s Word. 

Genesis 3 gives us a detailed look into this tactic of our enemy. It led to the first human sin, and Satan still uses it because it works so well. The first recorded words of the devil, through the serpent, were these: “Did God really say?” (Genesis 3:1). With those words, the devil invited the woman to reconsider what she understood God to have said. By adding her human interpretation, she convinced herself that God’s Word was far too restrictive.

By suggesting that we should reexamine the clear teaching of God’s Word, Satan invites us to add our own interpretation and thereby nullify God’s stated will. Entire church denominations are falling prey to these wiles of the devil. “Did God really say that homosexuality is wrong?” he hisses, and churches crumble. “Did God really say there are only two genders?” he suggests, inviting us to put our own spin on reality, making ourselves gods in place of the Lord. Ephesians 6:11 says that we need to be clothed in the whole armor of God to withstand such wiles.

2. Challenging our identity. 

Luke 4:1–13 gives insight into several of the devil’s wiles. Satan came against Jesus to tempt Him in the wilderness. On two different occasions, Satan began his temptations with these words: “If you are the Son of God.” Satan knew exactly who Jesus was (Mark 1:34). Jesus was there when Satan fell “like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18). Significantly, the devil chose a time when Jesus was physically weak and hungry to attack His identity.

Satan does the same with us. To make his wiles more effective, he hits us during a crisis or a spiritual struggle and suggests, “If you were a child of God, this wouldn’t happen. If you were actually a Christian, God would help you right now.” Again, we need the “helmet of salvation” firmly in place to withstand such attacks against our identity and God’s character (Ephesians 6:17).

3. Twisting Scripture.

Another of the wiles the devil used against Jesus was to quote Scripture, but with a twist. In Luke 4:10–11, Satan quotes Psalm 91:11–12 in an effort to persuade Jesus to act in the flesh rather than follow the Spirit (see Galatians 5:1625). But Satan failed to complete the thought of the psalm. The next verse, Psalm 91:13, says, “You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.” Those animal references are metaphors for fierce and dangerous enemies—and the devil is likened to both a lion and a serpent in Scripture (Genesis 3:15Revelation 20:21 Peter 5:8; cf. Romans 16:20). The true meaning of the passage in Psalm 91 is that God will protect and empower His servants as they overcome the enemy, Satan. One of the wiles of the devil is to leave out key parts of Scripture in order to twist its meaning to fit his agenda.

We see these wiles of the devil in action today, as prosperity teachers and false prophets quote Scripture in selfish and misleading ways. They use enough of God’s Word to sound authoritative, but they twist it to fit their personal agendas. Cherry-picking the Bible for verses that affirm whatever we want to believe or do is a widespread problem, and most participants have no idea they have fallen victim to one of the wiles of the devil.

4. Offering a tempting alternative to obedience.

Another scheme or wile of the devil used in the temptation of Jesus was to suggest another path, avoiding strict obedience to God’s will. Cunningly, Satan knew better than to suggest that Jesus forget the whole salvation plan and go back to heaven. Instead, he offered an alternative. In Luke 4:5–7, “the devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, ‘I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.’” This temptation was aimed at the humanity of the Son of Man. Jesus now knew what it felt like to be in the flesh. He knew what spikes would feel like in His hands and feet. He knew what rejection and mockery would feel like when He was stripped naked and paraded before the crowds. Satan was offering Him a compromise. What if Jesus could “save the world” without having to suffer crucifixion? What if He could take a shortcut and possess all the world’s kingdoms now?

One of the most sinister wiles of the devil involves his ability to offer a religiously tainted compromise. He knows he can’t come at mature believers with a frontal attack on their values and convictions. So he slides in the back door, posing as a friend with a reasonable alternative: “Well, yes, technically it might be wrong for someone to move in with a boyfriend, but you can witness to him better as he watches you live out your faith.” Or this: “You don’t need to go to church to be spiritual. You connect better with God alone in the woods. Those people are all hypocrites anyway, and you are too righteous to associate with them.” We must beware of the devil’s wiles when he offers something other than total obedience to God’s will.

The New Testament writers often pointed out the wiles of the devil to those in the church who were falling for them, and we should take note. The presence of false prophets (1 Timothy 6:3–5), busybodies (1 Peter 4:15), adulterers (1 Timothy 1:9–10), and seducers (Revelation 2:20) are all part of Satan’s masterplan to undermine the church from within.

To combat the wiles of the devil, followers of Christ must stay clothed in the armor of God. We must stay immersed in His Word so that we recognize deception. And when we realize we have been caught in the wiles of the devil, we must quickly repent and seek godly accountability. Psalm 37:23–24 encourages those who desire to live godly lives: “The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the LORD upholds his hand.” When the Lord holds our hand, the devil’s wiles cannot harm us.

Related Resources: 


Brian Harbour – In Ephesians 6:11, Paul made reference to the “schemes of the devil.” Think of some of his schemes by which he tempts us to succumb to evil.

Scheme # 1: The devil searches out our basic character flaws and comes with a design to ruin us at the point of our weakness.
    • To the sensual, he comes in skirts.
    • To the bold, he bids us live by nerve and sensation.
    • To the timid, he speaks about quietly withdrawing and playing it safe.
    • To the intelligent, he tantalizes with the prospect of knowing good and evil.
    • To the ambitious, he offers power.
    • To the lazy, he whispers, “Why don’t you do that tomorrow!”

Satan attacks us at the point of our weakness.

Scheme #2: The devil points us to acceptable goals and then he tempts us to reach those goals in unacceptable ways.

A prime example of this was Satan’s approach to Jesus in the wilderness temptations recorded in Matthew 4. Satan held out before Jesus the very things Jesus had come to the earth to accomplish, but Satan tempted Jesus to accomplish these things in the wrong way. The conception that “the ends justifies the means” has been one of Satan’s most effective ploys since the beginning of our history.

Scheme # 3: The devil tempts us to be satisfied with less than our best. One man described this as “the lure of a lesser loyalty.”

“Don’t be a fanatic,” the devil whispers in our ear.
It’s okay to be religious; just don’t get too carried away with it.
It’s okay to be a Christian; just don’t make it your life.
Do just enough to get by but not enough to interfere with your own plans. Sometimes that is the devil’s approach.

Scheme #4: The devil urges us to make an exception.

“I know what you believe,” he says. “I know you have strong convictions, and that’s all right. I respect you for that. But just this one time-what can one little exception possibly hurt?” C. S. Lewis in the Screwtape Letters captured the essence of what I am saying when he wrote: “The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid ‘dens of crime’ that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed, and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voice.” Many through the centuries have been deceived by the work of Satan and have been persuaded to identify themselves with evil. Evil is present in our world, and it is deceptive.  (Harbour Verse by Verse)


Ray Pritchard – Satan does not observe the traditional rules of warfare. He uses anything and everything that he can to bring us down. This is part of what Paul meant when he spoke about the “schemes of the devil” in Ephesians 6:11. The word “schemes” might also be translated as “traps” or “tricks” or “tactics.” I am reminded of a certain Texas politician who was asked by a certain candidate had lost an election. “It happened because he forgot the first rule of knife fighting. There are no rules.” Satan doesn’t fight fair. He’s not going to give you an even break. He is a liar, a deceiver, a diabolical “angel of light” who comes to you in a thousand guises, tempting you to disobey the Lord. And he’s a lot smarter than you are. He knows your weak points better than you do. And because he is invisible, he can attack you any time of the day or night. (Read the full sermon Asymmetric Spiritual Warfare)


Ray Pritchard – Satan Doesn’t Fight Fair. In thinking about spiritual warfare from this perspective, keep two things in mind:

1) Satan’s goal is to discourage you so that you feel like giving up.
2) Satan doesn’t fight fair.

He does not observe the traditional rules of warfare. He uses anything and everything that he can to bring us down. This is part of what Paul meant when he spoke about the “schemes of the devil” in Ephesians 6:11. The word “schemes” might also be translated as “traps” or “tricks” or “tactics.” I am reminded of a Texas politician who was asked why a certain candidate had lost an election. “It happened because he forgot the first rule of knife fighting. There are no rules.” Satan doesn’t fight fair. He’s not going to give you an even break. He is a liar, a deceiver, a diabolical “angel of light” who comes to you in a thousand guises, tempting you to disobey the Lord. And he’s a lot smarter than you are. He knows your weak points better than you do. And he can attack you any time of the day or night.

Satan doesn’t fight fair. What is the mark of his diabolical work? We face opposition from the devil when there are . . .

  1. Unusual or repeated temptations,
  2. Attacks from an unexpected quarter,
  3. Delays that hinder us from obeying God,
  4. Inducements to doubt God’s Word,
  5. Circumstances that produce unusual pressure upon us,
  6. Temptations to sin in areas that never troubled us before,
  7. Prolonged bouts of discouragement,
  8. Worries that seem to consume us,
  9. Seductive appeals to sinful compromise,
  10. Bitterness toward others,
  11. Desires to give up on the Christian life,
  12. Enticements to turn away from the means of grace,
  13. Excuses made for lack of spiritual growth,
  14. Critical comments about other believers,
  15. Attempts to hide your behavior from others

From his message How to Meet the Enemy


Not Ignorant – General George Patton of World War II fame was seldom at a loss for words. What he said during a battle in North Africa may be legend, but it typifies the man. Patton’s troops and tanks were engaged in a successful counterattack of German forces under General Erwin Rommel. Patton is reported to have shouted in the thick of the battle, “I read your book, Rommel! I read your book!” And that he did. In Rommel’s book Infantry Attacks, the famed “Desert Fox” carefully detailed his military strategy. And Patton, having read it and knowing what to expect, planned his moves accordingly.

Satan has authored no book. God, however, has exposed our enemy’s tactics in His Holy Word. Here are but a few of his subtle strategies:

Here are but a few of his subtle strategies:

Study these passages and plan your defense. Be always on the alert. Submit to God and resist the devil. Victory can be yours, but first you must know your enemy so you can recognize his strategy. – D J DeHaan (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. — Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)


Enemy Tactics

We are not ignorant of [Satan’s] devices. —2 Corinthians 2:11

Today’s Scripture: Acts 6:1-15

Satan uses many methods to hinder the work of the Lord. Chapters 6 through 8 of Acts contain three illustrations of how he does his evil work through people and circumstances.

1. Satan creates dissension within the church. “In those days . . . there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists” (Acts 6:1). When a church becomes known for its bickering and backbiting, its witness in the community will be damaged.

2. The enemy tries to divert ministers and teachers from their main purpose of preaching the gospel. The apostles were feeling pressured to “leave the Word of God and serve tables” (6:2). Satan employs a similar tactic today by getting a pastor so involved in church programs that he has little time for prayer and the study of the Word.

3. In every age Satan seeks to destroy God’s people. In Acts 7 and 8 we read that Stephen was martyred, and that Saul “made havoc of the church” (8:3).

We need to be aware of Satan’s tactics and be on guard against his attacks. We don’t want to be a cause of dissension and diversion in the church. Instead, let’s prayerfully focus on Christ’s purpose for our lives. By:  Richard DeHaan (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. — Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

I want to live above the world,
Though Satan’s darts at me are hurled;
For faith has caught the joyful sound,
The song of saints on higher ground. —Oatman

Know satan’s strategy to avoid sin’s tragedy.


Matthew Henry – Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. Ephesians 6:11
Make use of all the proper defenses and weapons for repelling the temptations and stratagems of Satan – get and exercise all the Christian graces, the whole armor, that no part be naked and exposed to the enemy. Those who would approve themselves to have true grace must aim at all grace, the whole armor. It is called the armor of God, because he both prepares and bestows it. We have no armor of our own that will be armor of proof in a trying time … Faith, as relying on unseen objects, receiving Christ and the benefits of redemption, and so deriving grace from him, is like a shield, a defense every way. The devil is the wicked one. Violent temptations, by which the soul is set on the fire of hell, are darts Satan shoots at us, as are hard or difficult thoughts of God and as to ourselves. Faith applying the word of God and the grace of Christ quenches the darts of temptation. Salvation must be our helmet. A good hope of salvation, a Scriptural expectation of victory, will purify the soul, and keep it from being defiled by Satan. To the Christian armed for defense in battle, the apostle recommends only one weapon of attack; but it is enough, the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. It subdues and mortifies evil desires and blasphemous thoughts as they rise within; and answers unbelief and error as they assault from without. A single text, well understood, and rightly applied, at once destroys a temptation or an objection, and subdues the most formidable adversary. Prayer must fasten all the other parts of our Christian armor


Master Life – An awareness of spiritual warfare helps you identify major schemes of the devil, such as accusation, deception, and manipulation. You can recognize when Satan attacks churches through division, distraction, and heresy, or when he controls individuals through confusion, discouragement, and despair. It prompts you to study the Scriptures to understand and overcome Satan’s temptations, persecutions, and occult practices, and it helps you depend on God for victory.


Discipleship Journal asked its readers to rank the areas of greatest spiritual challenge to them. The results came back in this order:

1. Materialism

2. Pride

3. Self-centeredness

4. Laziness

5. (Tie) Anger/Bitterness and Sexual lust

6. Envy

7. Gluttony

8. Lying

The respondents also noted that temptations were more potent when they had neglected their time with God (81 percent) and when they were physically tired (57 percent). Resisting temptation was accomplished by prayer (84 percent), avoiding compromising situations (76 percent), Bible study (66 percent), and being accountable to someone else (52 percent).


Spurgeon said…:

Where he cannot destroy, there is no doubt that Satan’s object is to worry. He does not like to see God’s people happy. Martin Luther used to say, “Let us sing psalms and spite the devil,” and I have no doubt Martin Luther was pretty nearly right; for that lover of discord hates harmonious, joyous praise.

As the worker in metals knows that one metal is to be worked at such a heat, and another at a different temperature; as those who have to deal with chemicals know that at a certain heat one fluid will boil, while another reaches the boiling-point much earlier, so Satan knows exactly the temperature at which to work us to his purpose. Small pots boil directly when they are put on the fire, and so little men of quick temper are soon in a passion; larger vessels require more time and coal before they will boil, but when they do boil, it is a boil indeed, not soon forgotten or abated. The enemy, like a fisherman, watches his fish, adapts his bait to his prey; and knows in what seasons and times the fish are most likely to bite.


Grant Richison warns us that…

“The Devil uses stealth. He stalks every Christian. He is now on the loose. He is on the prowl looking to trap you in his devices. The Devil always seeks opportunities to undermine our Christian walk. He is constantly on the prowl. He is not omnipresent for he can only be in one place at a time. However, he has a massive infrastructure of emissaries (demons) who do his bidding. They seek to seduce every one of us. The Devil says, “I am looking for the spiritually naive. I’m patrolling the earth for simple souls who think that I am not real.” The idea that the Devil walks about in a red union suit, having a forked tail and cloven hoofs and carries a pitch fork is a religious fairy tale. He camouflages himself with this idea.” (The Devil)


One of the Devil’s most effective schemes or stratagems is to instill doubts about God’s goodness. These seeds of “doubt” can grow into an ungrateful spirit that refuses to thank God at all times for all things. Doubts about God was one of Satan’s greatest tools against Martin Luther. After the frightful Anfechtung (Contestation) of 1527 Luther wrote that “For more than a week I was close to the gates of death and hell.” It is therefore no surprise that Luther’s great hymn A Mighty Fortress Is Our God has such great stanzas on “spiritual warfare. Roland Bainton, Luther’s biographer, writes: “The content of his depressions was always the same, the loss of faith that God is good and that He is good to me.”

A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
by Martin Luther

A mighty fortress is our God,
A bulwark never failing;
Our helper he, amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe
Doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great,
And, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide,
Our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side,
The Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that might be?
Christ Jesus, it is he;
Lord Sabaoth, his name,
From age to age the same,
And he must win the battle.

And tho this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
His truth to triumph thro’ us:
The Prince of Darkness grim,
We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure.
For lo, his doom is sure,
One little word will fail him.

That word above all earthly pow’rs,
No thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
Thro’ him who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindreds go,
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill:
God’s truth abidest still,
His kingdom is forever.


The following devotional illustrations are all from Our Daily Bread (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

Shrike System  Ephesians 6:10-18  April 4, 2006

The ancient sport of falconry used trained hawks or falcons in the pursuit of wild game. When the “educated predator” was allowed to fly, however, it often rose too high for human eyes to see. So a hunter often carried a small caged bird called a shrike. By watching the antics of the little bird, the man could always tell where his hawk was, for the shrike instinctively feared the predator and cocked its head to keep it in view.

Christians desperately need an alert perception similar to that of the shrike to detect their spiritual enemy. Our adversary, Satan, “walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Our responsibility, according to the apostle Peter, is to be sober and vigilant. In other words, we’re to be always on the alert.

It would be nice if God had giant sirens to warn us of an attack by the devil. But He doesn’t operate that way. Instead, we must read the Bible regularly, meditate on its truths, maintain a prayerful attitude throughout the day, and be filled with the Holy Spirit. Only then will we be sensitive to an imminent assault by the evil one, and be armed by grace to meet it. —Mart De Haan

The devil is clever, deceiving us all,
He cunningly causes the strongest to fall;
But we his sly methods are sure to discern
By making God’s warnings our daily concern. —D. De Haan

He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. —1John 4:4


The Angel Of Music  Ephesians 6:10-18 May 28, 2006

In Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical The Phantom of the Opera, a young chorus girl named Christine Daae receives voice training from a mysterious musician she calls the “Angel of Music.” Christine believes this is the angel her dying father had promised to send to complete her musical training.

As the plot thickens, we find that her mysterious mentor is really a demented man who wants to carry her away into a bizarre underworld beneath the opera house. What the girl thinks is a supernatural agent sent by her beloved father is really a madman who wants to possess her for his own ends. The “Angel of Music” is evil masquerading as good.

The believer in Christ also faces an evil one who masquerades. One of Satan’s key strategies is to look like someone who is good. Paul told us, “Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light” (2Corinthians 11:14). The Greek word translated as “transforms” means “to change appearance, masquerade, or disguise oneself.”

In preparing us to face the evil strategies of the devil, God has provided all the equipment we need to stand our ground. Protecting ourselves with the armor of God unmasks the evil that opposes us and stabilizes our spiritual walk (Ephesians 6:10-18). —Dennis Fisher

When you’re making a decision,
Evil sometimes wears a mask;
Trust the Lord for true discernment—
He’ll give wisdom if you ask. —Hess

God’s armor is tailor-made for us, but we must put it on.


Blackbeard  March 22, 2006  Ephesians 6:10-18

As a young man in the late 1600s, Edward Teach joined the crew of a British ship that was headed to the Caribbean. Much later in his nautical career, he managed to capture a merchant vessel and turn it into a 40-gun warship. Teach soon became known as Blackbeard—the most feared pirate in the hemisphere.

Blackbeard had some success as a pirate, but his “career” abruptly ended when he encountered a contingent of the British Royal Navy. In a desperate battle, he and his fellow pirates were killed, putting an end to their terrorizing exploits.

Long ago in the heavenly places, an angel fell into spiritual piracy. Lucifer was a cherub who stood in the radiant glory of God (Ezekiel 28:1112131415). But his own self-love replaced love for his Creator. Desiring to be like the Most High, he led a rebellion and was cast out of heaven (Isaiah 14:12131415). Today he and his henchmen are doing whatever they can to commandeer the lives of human beings (Luke 8:122Cor 4:4).

Even so, we don’t need to be afraid. Satan is a dangerous enemy, but Jesus sealed his ultimate fate when He rose from the dead. And He has given us everything we need to withstand the devil’s attacks (Ephesians 6:10-18). —Dennis Fisher

And though this world with devils filled
Should threaten to undo us;
We will not fear, for God has willed
His truth to triumph through us. —Luther

He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. —1John 4:4


My Achilles Heel  Ephesians 6:10-18  July 17, 2001

Nobody is temptation-proof. Even mature Christians have weaknesses in their spiritual armor that make them vulnerable to a wounding attack by the enemy of their souls. Our pride can provide the very opening needed for the sharp thrust of a satanic dart. So can the love of money, a quick temper, a critical tongue, or chronic impatience.

What, after all, is temptation? It’s any enticement to think, say, or do something contrary to God’s holy will. It may be a weak impulse or a powerful urge. It’s anything that’s against what God approves or desires for us.

The ancient Greeks told a story of a warrior named Achilles. His mother had been warned that he would die of a wound, so she dipped him as an infant in the river Styx. That was supposed to make him invincible. But she held him by one heel which the protective waters didn’t cover. And it was through that heel that he received his fatal wound.

Each of us must ask: What is my Achilles heel? We need to know our weaknesses, where we could easily be wounded spiritually. Then, as we rely on the Lord for His help, we will be protected from “the fiery darts of the wicked one” (Ephesians 6:16). —V C Grounds

Leave no unguarded place,
No weakness of the soul;
Take every virtue, every grace,
And fortify the whole. —Wesley

Our greatest weakness may be our failure to ask for God’s strength.

Courtesy of preceptaustin.org

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The Rewards at the Bema of Christ: The Motivation to Live Life with the Intensity of an Athlete

Do you remember when you were a child, how wonderful and proud you felt when your parents gave you a reward for something you had done?  Do you remember how you cherished the moment of a reward that was well-deserved and well-earned? Often you would work tirelessly just to receive a reward of money, ice-cream, or some other delightful thing . What about our Heavenly Father? Can you imagine how awesome the future rewards must be that He has promised for his children who love and serve Him? How awe-inspiring these rewards must be! How perfect they must be! How wonderful they must be! How good they must be! They must be beyond anything our human heart can imagine. These heavenly rewards will last forever for all for God’s people to see.  God’s rewards will not fade, diminish or run out.

How good is God to recognize our labor for Him by giving us rewards in such a measure that they must be a thousand times greater than any sacrifice we have made for Him. God does not forget what we have done for Him. God does not have a memory lapse when it comes to the blood, sweat, and tears we have poured into our service for the gospel. God remembers every good work. God remembers every act of love and kindness. God remembers every gentle and encouraging word spoken. God simply does not forget. Long after the good work may have faded in our memory, God has stored such acts of goodness in His heart and will abundantly reward us at the appropriate time.  

I Corinthians 3:5,6,8,10-15 (NIV):

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is

Paul? Only servants, through whom you

came to believe-as the Lord has assigned

to each his task.

I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but

God made it grow.

The man who plants and the man who

waters have one purpose, and each will be

rewarded according to his own labor.

By the grace God has given me, I lay a

foundation as an expert builder, and

someone else is building on it. But each

one should be careful how he builds.

For no one can lay any foundation other

than the one already laid, which is Jesus

Christ.

If any man builds on this foundation

using gold, silver, costly stones, wood,

hay or straw,

His work will be shown for what it is,

because the Day will bring it to light.

It will be revealed by fire, and the fire

will test the quality of each man’s work.

If what he has built survives, he will

receive his reward.

If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he

himself will be saved, but only as one

escaping through the flames.

II Corinthians 5:10 (Amplified):

For we must all appear and be revealed

as we are before the judgment seat (bema)

of Christ, so that each one may receive his

pay according to what he has done in the

the body, whether good or evil [considering

what his purpose and motive have been,

and what he has achieved, been busy with,

and given himself and his attention to

accomplishing].

Revised English Bible:

For we must all have our lives laid open

before the tribunal of Christ…

Moffitt:

For we have all to appear without disguise

before the tribunal of Christ…

Romans 14:12 (NASB):

So then each one of us will give an account

of himself to God. 

I Corinthians 4:5 (NIV):

Therefore judge nothing before the appointed

time, wait till the Lord comes. He will bring

to light what is hidden in darkness and will

expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that

each will receive his praise from God.

The glorious rewards for Christian service and good works will be given at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Every born again son or daughter of God will give an account of their character, their conduct, their words, their actions and their motives of heart, in the service of Christ. Our lives will be openly revealed and made completely visible as to full and true reality of our character. Jesus Christ will uncover the motives and passions of our heart, as he will not simply look at what we did, but will examine the motivations of our heart as to why we did it.

The Judgment Seat of Christ should not be confused with the Great White Throne Judgment of the Book of Revelation, as they are two different judgments. No one before the Judgment Seat of Christ will be cast into the Lake of Fire and receive the sentence of the second death mentioned in Revelation 20. The Judgment Seat of Christ has nothing to do with obtaining salvation, as we are saved by grace because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and not by works. Jesus Christ paid the price for our salvation, and we have eternal life as a gift of God’s grace. The Christian believers will already be in heaven with their glorious new bodies after the Rapture when they stand before Christ’s Judgment Seat. This judgment is to determine our eternal rewards and our position of responsibility in His kingdom. God will examine the fruitfulness of our lives and the total pattern of our conduct while Christians upon the earth. God will bring to the light the plans, purposes, and motives of our heart  and give amazing rewards for those works of goodness that pass His test.

The Judgment Seat of Christ will issue forth the final verdict as to our eternal rewards and destiny in His kingdom. Will we be decorated with rewards and victor crowns and given great responsibility before God and His Son Jesus Christ in the future kingdom, or will we barely get into the door and that only by the grace of God? What will be our destiny before the Judgment Seat of Christ? Our lives are the testing ground for eternity, as each day we are either making or marring a destiny, winning or losing a reward, and securing or losing a crown.  Will our motives, our heart, our plans, our purposes, and our works withstand the test of fire at the Judgment Seat of Christ? We need to set our heart on eternity as Christians and adjust our motives and heart accordingly. It is never too late to begin to accumulate and earn future rewards in the service of our Lord. God has equipped us with everything we need to walk in obedience to His Word and serve Him. God is ready to help us in anyway He can to secure these wonderful future rewards. God earnestly desires us to be abundantly awarded at the Judgment Seat of Christ and has given us the power, strength, courage, and love to accomplish His plans for our lives. God’s purpose and plan for our lives will not only result in a bumper crop of spiritual fruit, but also a  decorated awards ceremony for our faithfulness to Him.

The words “judgment seat” are the translation of the Greek word bema,which means “a raised place or platform reached by steps.” It literally means the step forward made by a foot. In ancient Greek culture, it referred to both a seat of judgment and a platform where athletes were awarded for their performance in the games. It was also used of a platform where the Roman magistrate or Emperor would address a public assembly, conduct official business, make speeches to the people, and administer justice.  A judge or jury would also pronounce their verdict from the bema, or raised platform, in both Greek and Roman culture. The city of Corinth had a bema on its main street, where the authorities rewarded citizens and rendered justice.

When the bema was used as a platform to give rewards for athletes in the various Greek games, the judges would observe and evaluate the actions of the athletes in the contests. If any athlete broke a rule, one or more judges would point to him and cry out “disqualified!” This contestant would miss the prize regardless of how he placed in the competition. The victor’s wreath would be lost because he was disqualified for not following the rules of the games. Also, once the particular event in the game was completed,  the athletes stood before the bema to hear the judges’ announcement of the results and to receive any prize they won because of their performance in the games. This was an awesome awards ceremony from the bema,giving great honor and recognition to those contestants who distinguished themselves in the competition. 

The Judgment Seat of Christ will be an awards ceremony that will take your breath away. Nothing on Earth can ever match it. I remember watching in awe many Olympic games and the amazing opening and closing ceremonies, along with the emotion of the medal ceremonies. Although these events are truly awe-inspiring, nothing will compare to the magnificent honor and privilege of receiving eternal rewards at the bema, personally given to us by Jesus Christ himself. Do you think a life of Christian service, a life of trusting and loving God with your whole heart and walking in obedience is worth the sacrifice and commitment?  How about when Jesus Christ smiles at you, hugs you, and announces from the bema the wonderful everlasting rewards you earned because of your commitment to Christ. I can’t express in words just how tremendous, glorious, and awesome this event will be for the faithful in Christ Jesus.

According to I Corinthians 3, every born-again Christian believer is an expert builder, which from the Greek means “architect, skilled craftsman, and master worker.” By our works, we are constructing a building on the foundation of Jesus Christ. This building is the sum total of the quality and character of our deeds, words, and actions throughout our Christian life. We can build good works on this foundation by using the good materials of gold, silver, and precious stones, or we can build selfish works using materials of wood, hay, and straw. At the Judgment Seat of Christ, the quality of our workmanship will be tested and we will be rewarded according to how the building passes the inspection. A wise master builder does not throw together the building haphazardly, but contemplates every detail, and works tirelessly to bring about the best, quality product.

God is our co-worker, our fellow-laborer, and our building partner, and He will help us build a beautiful structure of good works that is unmatched in quality if we only let Him. God has magnificent architectural plans and drawings for your beautiful house and is so excited to help you build it. God has all the right contacts, knows all the right people, and knows all the proper building techniques to construct the best home that perfectly suits your life. Whose architectural blueprints are we going to follow? God’s or the world’s? Our new creation in Christ’s plans or our sin nature’s plans? Isn’t God the best suited to help us build a quality Christian life that glorifies Him in word and action? God is the ultimate wise master builder, and without His help our building will not pass the inspection.

Every Christians building will go through a complete and thorough testing process at the bema. The word “test”  in I Corinthians 3 in the Greek means “ to put to the test for the purpose of approving.” It is a critical examination of something to determine its genuineness. The word was used in secular Greek literature to describe the action of the examining board putting its stamp of approval on those individuals who passed the examination for the degree of Doctor of Medicine. It was also used of a candidate who passed the test as fit for public office. This Greek word describes a process of approval, not condemnation or punishment. You either passed or failed, as the testing was not done to determine how much good or evil was in the product or person being tested.  The testing was done to determine whether the thing tested passed the examination according to specifications.  It was also used in classic Greek to describe the testing of precious metals, usually by fire, to determine if they were truly authentic and measured up to their stated worth. The word also implies that the testing was done with the expectation and hope that the person or thing being tested would pass the test with flying colors.

God fervently desires that our building will pass the inspection at the bema and we receive abundant rewards. God has given us the gift of holy spirit, the revelation of His written Word, and a restored relationship with Him. He fully expects us to utilize these tools to construct our house of life. He will guide us, counsel us, comfort us, and strengthen us in this journey of building a quality, good, holy life for the service of our Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  The whole quality of our life and character will be tested at the Judgment Seat of Christ to see if God puts His stamp of approval on it and finds it worthy of a reward, or rejects it as unfit for any type of recompense.

Both I and II Corinthians state that if our works pass the test, we will be recompensed, or receive a reward. The word “reward” in the Greek means “wages or pay.” It is pay that is due for labor or service performed. This will not be minimum wage or a paltry pay for our labor. Who will even be able to measure the greatness of this reward that will be mingled with praise and love? Who can value the depth and vastness of these wages? By the grace and love of our wonderful God, these rewards will be a million times greater than the work that was performed, and they will last forever. These magnificent rewards will reflect the essence of God’s goodness. When we make His goodness our lifestyle and practice good day after day, God will reward us at the bema with good rewards that for eternity will radiate the brilliance of His goodness.

The first usage of this word “reward” in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, is in Genesis 15:1, when God is referred to as Abram’s (soon to be Abraham) exceeding great reward. Isn’t it amazing that God Almighty calls Himself “the exceeding great reward?”  Abraham, the father of all of us who believe, understood that above all else that life had to offer, God was his great reward. That should be our mindset as Christians-God is our reward. For many, money, fame, material possessions, and  praise are the rewards that they seek after. Some people’s reward is in their looks, their clothes, their car, their image, and their job. These rewards are temporal and will ultimately disappoint and discourage. It is like cleaving to and embracing a fleeting shadow and a journey of nothingness. But how can anything compare to God as our reward? Isn’t it time that we seek, pursue, and follow after God and the abundant rewards He promises? Isn’t God the reward that we should seek with all our heart and soul? Not only will God reward us in this life with peace, joy, goodness, and strength, but He will eternally reward us at the bema for our quality of service for Him.

C.H. Spurgeon in his sermon titled “Abraham’s Great Reward,”  proclaims:

I do not think the human mind can ever grasp

the fullness of meaning of these four words.

“I am your reward.” God Himself the reward

of His faithful people! This I feel sure of-that

although I can enjoy the sweetness of this text

for myself, my feeble lips can never tell even

the hundredth part of the precious meaning of

it…. Have you, dear Friend made any sacrifices

for Christ? Have you lately been called to

imperil your own interests by pursuing a right

course? Have you been steadfast even though

you lost friendships? Have you been so firm

in your adherence to principal that you have

been judged to be obstinate? Well, if so, you

shall be no loser through your faithfulness! As

certainly as God is in Heaven, you shall prove…

that in keeping His commandments there is      

great reward…Is not this an “exceeding great

reward”-to know God, to love Him and to be

loved by Him? What more can we desire than

this? Yet we have even more than this, for

loving God we come to realize that we have

possession of Him, so that we can say, “This    

God is our God forever and ever.” We say of

Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, “My Beloved

is mine, and I am His.”…Just think, for a minute,

dear Friends, what the possession of God means.

God is yours in everything that He is. His

Omnipotence is pledged to strengthen you. His

Omniscience is engaged to direct you. All His

attributes are employed on your behalf. He is

everywhere present and, therefore, He will show

Himself everywhere strong for your defense! He

is Immutable so He changes not in His love to

you.He is Eternal so His mercy endures forever…

When we have God as our possession, we have

an “exceeding great reward!”you should also

rejoice that…when He shall appear, in whom

your life is hid, you shall be like He is, for you

shall see Him like He is. Oh, it is worthwhile to

have lived, is it not, when this is to be the end

of it all?

If we hold on to God as our exceeding great reward in this life, we will receive exceeding great rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ. God does not want us to receive a small or partial reward at the bema, but He wants us to receive a full reward.

Ruth 2:12 (English Standard Version):

The Lord repay you for what you have done,

and a full reward be given you by the Lord,

the God of Israel, under whose wings you

have come to take refuge.

II John 8 (NIV):

Watch out that you do not lose what you have

worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. 

What can we do as Christians to assure a full reward at the bema? Jim Cymbala, in You Were Made for More, sets forth some wisdom in this regard:

I love the fact that no matter how ungodly the

world becomes, some people still maintain their

devotion to God and one another. No matter

how much betrayal and debauchery we see on

every side, some people still believe duty, love

and honor…What the world calls great is often

an abomination to God. And what the world laughs

at-devotion, consecration, faith-is what God calls

great. Greatness should not be measured by

whether you get your name in The New York Times.

What heaven is registering has little to do with what

happens in the stock market, on the Broadway stage,

or at the next Olympic Games. Heaven is more

interested in those who live for God every single

day, doing the right thing in ordinary circumstances.

Those who show gentleness, kindness, and trust…

The everyday decisions of life-how we act on the

job, how we pay our bills on time, how we give to

God’s work, how we treat our children, how we care

care for our relatives, how we respond to adversity-

these are the God is watching. The longer we walk

with God, the more we realize that greatness lies in

the small aspects of life. It is perfectly all right for

us to be ordinary and unacclaimed in the world.

God knows what is truly going on, and he values

the common person of integrity…Ordinary people

can make an extraordinary mark when they yield

themselves to the purposes of God. They don’t need

to try to pump themselves up. They simply live and

serve with honor and diligence, letting God

accomplish what he called them to be, whether

small or great…God’s plans for his people are not to                                        

be compared with the passing rewards of this world.

What he has in mind for those who love him

wholeheartedly is more than you will ever dream.

We will receive a full reward when we have a heart that is devoted to pleasing the Lord in everything we do. Our aim, our purpose, and our passion is to please God. As the Apostle Paul exhorted the believers in the Book of Colossians:

Colossians 3:23,24 (Revised English Bible):

Whatever you are doing, put your whole heart

into it, as if you were doing it for the Lord and

not for men.

Knowing that there is a master who will give

you an inheritance as a reward for your service.

Christ is the master you must serve.

I Thessalonians 4:1 (New Living Translation):

Finally, dear brother and sisters, we urge you

in the name of the Lord Jesus to live in a way

that pleases God, as we have taught you. You

live this already, and we encourage you to do

so even more.                                                 

The Bible gives us some glimpse into the magnificent nature of these rewards by setting forth five crowns that are the ultimate and highest awards for Christian service. The Greek word for “crown” is stephanos,  and Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament explains the meaning of this word:

It was the crown given to the victor in the Greek

athletic games, the runner who first crossed the

goal, the athlete who hurled the discus farthest,

the wrestler who pinned the opponent to the mat.

It was given to the servant of the State whose

work deserved to be honored. It was worn at

marriage feasts. A stephanos was therefore a

symbol of victory, of deserved honor, and of

festive gladness. The crown was woven of oak

leaves, of ivy, of parsley, of myrtle, of olive, of

violets, of roses.

Although the Bible does not tell us the exact nature of these crowns, these rewards must be simply breathtaking in their beauty and represent an eternal symbol of victory, deserved honor, and overflowing gladness. It will be a more magnificent crown than any victor’s wreath that ever graced the head of a Greek athlete. It will be more splendid then a thousand gold medals at the Olympic Games. It will be more superb than all the Nobel Peace Prizes ever given in the history of the world. Imagine what a privilege it would be to be handed a glorious crown by the Lord Jesus Christ! What an inspiring moment that would be! What an awesome recognition for a job well done. How remarkable would it be to wear a crown throughout all eternity that sends forth the brilliant message of our love and commitment to Him? Nothing can match the exceeding greatness and honor of these five crowns.

The first crown is the incorruptible or imperishable crown (I Corinthians 9:25)  that is given to the Christian who has given his all in winning the spiritual race that God has marked out for each believer. It is given to the Christian who exercised self-control in everything and with great discipline gave all of their heart, soul, mind, and strength to do their best for the Lord. It is given to the Christian who excelled in their walk with God, keeping their body, mind and heart under control, directing it to the service of God and the good works He has planned for us to accomplish. 

The second crown is the crown of rejoicing (I Thessalonians 2:19) that is given to those who have diligently won others to Christ. The crown represents every single person whom they have led to the Lord Jesus Christ and ministered the saving grace of His Word.  It is given to those Christians who with great joy witnessed about the Lord Jesus Christ and the good news of salvation, righteousness, justification, and all the  wonderful things Jesus Christ accomplished through his death and resurrection. It is given to those who stand against all the hindrance and obstructions of Satan and still hold forth the Word of Life and its wonderful message of deliverance. This crown is the glory of soul-winners.

The third crown is the crown of righteousness (II Timothy 4:8)thatis given to those who long for Christ’s return and love His appearing as the exalted head of the Body of Christ and King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  It is given to those Christians who have fought the good fight of faith with their eyes riveted to the hope of Christ’s coming as the anchor of their soul. It is given to those Christians who have a deep yearning to see the Lord they love face to face and rejoice in his glorious presence. 

The fourth crown is the crown of life (James 1:12) that is given to those Christians who endured and persevered through trials and temptations, remaining faithful to the Lord. The Christian who receives this crown has stood faithfully in their love and obedience to God, despite attempts by the devil to storm the depths of their heart and cause agitation, fear, and unbelief. The crown of life is given to those who are steadfast in their stand for the truth, regardless of the afflictions, pressures, pleasures, persecutions, and troubles that are thrown against them.

The fifth crown is the crown of glory that is given to leaders in the church who willing and eagerly shepherd God’s people, as these leaders shine forth as great examples of heart, service, lifestyle, and conduct for the Lord. It is given to those who follow the heart and example of the Chief Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ, as they lovingly serve and take care of God’s precious children. The motive of these spiritual leaders is not money, fame, or pride, but love and passion to do God’s will as they carry forth their responsibilities in the ministry of the gospel.

Surely these five magnificent crowns should provide us great motivation for a lifetime of Christian service. Nothing could compare in this life to the thrill and honor of receiving the ultimate reward of a crown or crowns at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Perfect justice will be decreed from the bema, as each Christian believer will be  compensated and rewarded for their works, words, and actions they accomplished for the Lord. The final verdict as to rewards will be absolutely perfect, fair, and good. Not one Christian will be cheated, overlooked, ripped off, or passed by when it comes to the proclamation of their eternal rewards.

The Bible describes a range of emotions that will be present at the Judgment Seat of Christ, as we stand face to face with Jesus Christ to give an account of our Christian lives. There will be confidence for some because of their devotion and faithfulness to the Lord. There will be shame for some, as the quality of their building and works did not measure up to the test. There will be cheerful courage and assurance for some, because of their intimate closeness and fellowship with the Lord as they carried out His work. There will be disappointment for some, who know in their hearts they failed to live up to the great purposes and plans of God for their lives. There will be unspeakable joy for some, whose heart will thrill at seeing their loving Lord face to face. There will be fear for some, because they dedicated their words and deeds to the service of their selfish sin nature and turned their backs on serving the Lord. There will be loss and sorrow for some, as they received little or no rewards because their works did not reflect God’s goodness, love, and grace.  There will be guilt for some, as their eyes are opened to see that their character really missed the mark of quality God expects for His children. There will be humility and praise, as every knee shall bow to Jesus Christ and confess him as Lord to the glory of God our Father. There will be amazement and awe at the magnificent nature of this event as we stand in our new bodies in the presence of Jesus Christ. There will be love for the Lord and extreme gratitude for his sacrifice for each one of us.

What a day that will be, and we can make the decision now to live our lives in such a way that we stand at the bema before the Lord in confidence, courage, love, and joy.How we live from this day forward will determine to a great extent what emotions we will have before the Judgment Seat of Christ. In that day, we will see that it was worth the sacrifice and it was worth the effort to give our all to labor for the Lord doing His good work upon the earth.

But after the final verdict for rewards is given at the bema, I Corinthians 4:5 declares that every single Christian will receive praise from God.  The word “praise” in the Greek means “praise upon, applause, commendation, and worthy of praise.” Detzler, in New Testament Words in Today’s Language, says, “the basic meaning of this word is ‘applause’. It speaks of expressed approval or public recognition.” God will stand and with great love in His heart give us applause as we enter into His kingdom. Even if the only thing we ever did with our life was to get saved, God will still give us applause and praise at the bema for that one great decision to come to the Lord Jesus Christ for our salvation. That wonderful moment gave us everlasting life and the finished, glorious work of Jesus Christ is so big, so enormous, and so complete for us that it merits the applause of God. We are the praise of the glory of His grace, according to Ephesians, and

He has bestowed upon us the greatest gift to be called and accepted as His beloved. One person who was lost and now is found by the Great Shepherd causes waves of joy to  flood the depths of heaven, for this was God’s great purpose for the ages. God will give you recognition at the bema for simply making that momentous decision of accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. But don’t we want more? Don’t we want an even greater level of praise andapplause because we faithfully loved God with all our heart and soul in the midst of the darkness of this world? Don’t we want the honor and recognition from our Lord for boldly standing for the truth of the gospel, regardless of the opposition from the kingdom of darkness? As a mighty warrior and superior spiritual athlete, don’t we want the thrill of eternal victory to burst forth from our heart? This makes life a mighty adventure with our Lord, as we give everything we are to bring His goodness into the hearts of men, women, and children. No sacrifice is too great and no work is too hard when it comes to serving the Lord.

Paul used the imagery of an athlete when describing the intensity of commitment and devotion of heart that a Christian should have in doing God’s work.

II Timothy 4:7 (NIV):

I have fought the good fight, I  have finished

the race, I have kept the faith.

(Wuest):

The desperate, straining, agonizing contest

marked by its beauty of technique, I like a

wrestler have fought to the finish, and at

present am resting in victory. My race, I like

a runner have finished, and at present am

resting at the goal. The Faith committed to

my care, I like a soldier have kept safely

through eternal vigilance, and have

delivered it again to my Captain.

I Corinthians 9:24-27 (Message):

You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the

athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run

to win.

All good athletes train hard. They do it for a

gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re

after one that’s gold eternally.

I don’t know about you but I’m running hard

to the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve

got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert

and in top condition.

I’m not going to get caught napping, telling

everyone else all about it and then missing out

myself.

New Living Translation:

Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs,

but only one person gets the prize? So run to

win! 

All athletes are disciplined in their training.

They do it to win a prize that will fade away,

but we do it for an eternal prize.

So I run with purpose in every step, I am not

just shadowboxing.

I discipline my body like an athlete, training

it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that

after preaching to others I myself might be

disqualified.

Philippians 3:13,14 (New Living Translation):

No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not

achieved it, but I focus on this one thing:

Forgetting the past and looking forward to

what lies ahead,

I press on to reach the end of the race and

receive the heavenly prize for which God,

through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

Ephesians 6:12 (The Message):

This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll

walk away from and forget about in a couple

of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight                                                

to the finish against the devil and his angels.

As Christians, we are in an intense battle with our spiritual enemy, the devil and his kingdom, and God wants us to fight the good fight with the discipline, intensity, and effort of an athlete. The word “fight” in the Greek means: to contend in the Greek games for a prize with great physical exertion and intensity in an enormous struggle against an adversary; to labor fervently with persistent effort and to exert oneself as an athlete with every ounce of discipline, conviction, strength, and ability in a strenuous conflict; and to contend with adversaries with strenuous zeal. It means an all out push for victory with every ounce of physical and mental strength striving for the honor and reward of triumph. Nothing is left on the sidelines. The root of this word comes into English as the word “agony.” These Greek athletes were engaged in the intense competition of the games even to the point of physical agony. To understand some of the intensity and motivation of the Greek games, we need to know that the Greek boxer wore fur-lined gloves covered with cowhide that had lead and iron sewed into it, and the loser of a Greek wrestling match had his eyes gouged out. Do you see the intense motivation and physical struggle of these athletes to the point of agony in these games? Everything was on the line, and it demanded their full and complete effort.

Should we have any less intensity, motivation, discipline, and passion to do the good works of God than the Greek athlete had to win a prize? Should we labor any less fervently for Christ than the Greek athlete labored in the games? We should make it our aim as Christians to fight the good fight and finish the race God has called us to run with everything we have. No half-hearted, weak effort is acceptable. Fight the good fight! This is not a fight against our jobs, our spouses, our families, or opposing political views, but this is a fight for good and against evil. This is a fight for Christ and against Satan. This is a fight to stand up for God and proclaim His goodness with every ounce of our being. It is the biggest spiritual Super Bowl on the face of the planet, and it is the forces of good against the forces of evil. We are at war! This is your destiny, and God has given us everything we need to fight the good fight. God is our team captain, and He urges us to get in the spiritual arena and compete and fight for His will and purposes. We should accept nothing less than an all effort in this fight.

For too long Christianity has been too weak, too entangled, too preoccupied, too half-hearted, and too soft to fight for the truth of the gospel with an intensity of an athlete. Are we willing to lay everything we have on the line for the Lord Jesus Christ? Or is our Christianity a convenient Sunday show for an hour that does little to wake up the world to Christ or transform us into His likeness? You are in a fight, the ultimate contest, the supreme event, and you can either get into the ring and fight or stay on the sidelines of life, never adventuring to take the hand of God as your team captain and give it every fiber of your being to finish the race. It takes courage, it takes fortitude, it takes energy, it takes conviction, it takes passion, it takes commitment, and it takes tenacity to stand for Christ in this world. Are we willing to make the sacrifice to do the good works that God has prepared for us to walk in as Christians? Are you prepared to make the sacrifice to accomplish His glorious purpose for your life upon this earth? Are you prepared to push yourself to the point of physical and mental exhaustion for the cause of Christ?

When you really shed all the layers and the subterfuge, what else is there in life worth living for? Beauty fades; power corrupts; fame diminishes; money destroys; ego hardens; and people disappoint. Evil always fascinates and lures. but it will ultimately crush, steal, and destroy everything about you and leads only to misery. Don’t sell out to serve evil, because it only leads to destruction of character, destruction of life, and destruction of heart.

Romans 12:21 (Phillips):

Don’t allow yourself to be overpowered with

evil. Take the offensive-overcome evil by good.

New Living Translation:

Don’t let evil get the best of you, but conquer

evil by doing good.

NIV:

Do not be overcome of evil, but overcome evil

with good.

We need to take the offensive and overcome evil with the goodness of God in our words and actions. We no longer need to let evil get the best of us, because we have God’s goodness to combat evil. We need to sell out to God and proclaim the goodness of God from every mountaintop and every valley. Give your life to do good, not evil. Give your life to love, not hate. Give your life to serve. Let people see our good Savior in your words and actions. The character of our lives should inspire people to want to love the Lord with their whole heart. We desperately need to excel in all the good works He has called us to do.

God’s goodness will transform your heart, your character, and your works. We need Christians to wake up to the goodness of God. Now is the time for Christians to wake up and heed God’s call to get into the spiritual arena and fight. Run to win! Train hard! Live with gusto for God! Do good! Discipline your mind and thoughts to track with your Heavenly Master, Teacher, and Guide. Refuse to be a mediocre Christian anymore. Refuse to sit on the sidelines anymore. Refuse to accept anything less than God’s ordained purpose and calling for your life.

Jesus Christ endured extreme physical agony on the cross for you and me. Our names were engraved in the stripes on his back. Our names were engraved in the whelps on his head and face. Our names were engraved in the nail holes in his hands and feet. He suffered more than any human has ever suffered for you and me. We were worth the sacrifice. We were worth the pain. We were worth the suffering. Don’t we want to have the same intensity of commitment to him? Don’t we want to do something worthy and noble for our Lord because he paid such a high price for our salvation? Don’t we want to give our heart to him all of our days? We need to shine with the brilliance of Christ in us and reach out and help someone with the mighty message of His love and goodness. Each day should have the intensity of commitment for our Lord of the two minute drill in football; the final winning shot in basketball; the bases loaded hit to win the World Series; the final sprint of the thoroughbred horse to triumph in the Kentucky Derby; the intense push of the swimmer to win the gold in world record time; and the winning goal in overtime to win in hockey. All athletes are willing to make the sacrifice to win the prize.           

The Tour de France is a grueling bicycle race for twenty three days covering over 2200 miles. It is arguably the most physiologically demanding of any athletic event. There are 21 stages and only two days of rest allowed for the event. Often the countryside is rugged, and mountainous with the climbs compared to climbing three Mount Everests. One of the participants said that he rode his bicycle for 22,000 miles a year to train, riding 5 to 7 hours a day with only one day of rest a week. Some ride even more, averaging 500 to 700 miles a week. Some of the riding is very intense with sprints and hill climbing, leading to extreme pressure on the demands of the human body.  Diet is strictly watched, and it takes an all out commitment to strict training to even have a chance to compete. The intensity of their commitment to this event is amazing. Yet, as great as this sporting event is, it is still done for a temporal prize.

Do we have the same intensity of these athletes to do the work of the Lord for an eternal reward? Do we approach training and discipline with the same commitment as these athletes? Are we absolutely dedicated and devoted to grow in the Lord and do what God tells us to do? Or do we have the commitment and intensity of the arm chair quarterback who sits in a chair, drinks a beer, and watches a game that he will never participate in?  Don’t you want to get in the game?

How is our spiritual health for the Lord? Are we toned spiritually and robust in thoughts, mind, and heart for the service of the Lord, or are we spiritually flabby and lazy, not wanting to go to the trouble of standing up and doing something for Christ? It is time for Christians to get in shape spiritually for the great vision and purpose God has for each one of us for our generation.

Acts 13:22,36 (NIV):

After removing Saul, he made David their

king. He testified concerning him: ‘I have

found David son of Jesse a man after my

own heart; he will do everything I want him

to do.’

For when David had served God’s purpose

for his generation, he fell asleep; he was

buried with his fathers and his body decayed.

David was a man after God’s own heart and accomplished the purpose God had given him for his generation. David had a heart to do everything God wanted him to do. Where is our heart concerning the good works that God has called us to accomplish for our generation? Will we follow God’s heart with the intensity of an athlete and the heart of a warrior? God has called us for a purpose, a reason to do something great for him in this generation. Do we dare follow Him above all else with a do or die commitment of soul? Are we committed to the goodness of God and to tell the world about His wonderful love, goodness, and character? Are we committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ above everything else in life? Or has it been a decision in life that has not carried much significance in our daily living?  Are we just going through the motions, or is passion for

God directing and motivating our lives?

Matthew West, in his wonderful song “The Motions,” describes his heart that he does not want to go through life asking, “What if I had given everything instead of going through the motions?” Let these words of this song speak to your heart, as “just okay” is not enough; we should want to go all the way for the Lord.           

This might hurt, it’s not safe
But I know that I’ve gotta make a change
I don’t care if I break,
At least I’ll be feeling something
‘Cause just okay is not enough
Help me fight through the nothingness of life

I don’t wanna go through the motions
I don’t wanna go one more day
without Your all consuming passion inside of me
I don’t wanna spend my whole life asking,
“What if I had given everything,
instead of going through the motions?”

No regrets, not this time
I’m gonna let my heart defeat my mind
Let Your love make me whole
I think I’m finally feeling something
‘Cause just okay is not enough
Help me fight through the nothingness of this life

‘Cause I don’t wanna go through the motions
I don’t wanna go one more day
without Your all consuming passion inside of me
I don’t wanna spend my whole life asking,
“What if I had given everything,
instead of going through the motions?”

Take me all the way (take me all the way),
Take me all the way (’cause I don’t wanna go through the motions)
Take me all the way (I know I’m finally feeling something real)
Take me all the way

What if we really gave everything? How would our lives be transformed? How would our hearts be healed? How would Satan’s kingdom shudder? How we would impact our families, our neighborhoods, our cities, our country, and the world if we sold out to Christ? God does not want a flash of emotion or commitment that fizzles out. God does not want a sudden burst of concern or love that fades away.  God wants our hearts.

God wants our devotion. We have to realize we are headed for eternity and must live for Him like there is no tomorrow.  We need to start pushing back at Satan’s kingdom with the goodness and power of God. The devil wants to take the fight out of you. The devil wants to take the passion out of you. The devil wants to brand your heart with apathy for the things of God. Don’t let him do it. Fight back and resist with a heart of a warrior for God.  God has a great need for hearts that are on fire for Him. God needs us to accomplish His great good work upon the earth. Our work is never in vain for the Lord. Our labor is never forgotten by God. Our work is never worthless for Christ, because there are eternal rewards for our faithfulness to Him.

I Corinthians 15:58 (NIV):

Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let

nothing move you. Always give yourselves

fully to the work of the Lord, because you

know your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Amplified:

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be firm

(steadfast), immovable, always abounding in

the work of the Lord [always being superior,

excelling, doing more than enough in the

service of the Lord], knowing and being

continually aware that your labor in the Lord

is not futile [it is never wasted or to no purpose]

The word “vain” in the Greek means: empty, hollow, fruitless and without effect or reward.  Nothing is more tragic than an empty, wasted life. No feeling is worse than emptiness and hollowness. No condition of the heart is more devastating than an overwhelming sense of worthlessness. Everyone wants their life to mean something.  No one wants to have lived in vain. No one wants to live a meaningless existence. Jesus Christ is the answer to the empty life. Our labor for the Lord will never turn out to be empty, worthless, futile, hollow, or without return. Each good work accomplished for the Lord will yield a return a thousand times greater than our heart can even imagine.

Isn’t it worth dedicating our lives to something that is not empty or hollow, but has eternal implications? We will never be wasting one day, one hour, or one minute when our words and deeds are done in the service of our Lord. Each good work will be remembered and treasured throughout all eternity. What a joy to know that our life is not empty, hollow, or worthless but has enormous value to God and the Lord Jesus Christ.                                            

I love the website braveheartedgospel.com, as it contains some amazing, soul-stirring sermons that convict your heart to do more for Christ. I have shared below parts of a sermon from K. P. Yohannan that inspired me to push myself as an athlete to live for Christ.  Some of the sermons on this website may not be popular with some Christians, but the truth of these words should resound into the depth of our souls.         

The reason why we in America with all the teaching,

all the music, all the stuff going on; our lives are

shallow – still struggling with sin, and struggle in our

private thought life, with things you know that are not

pleasing God. And a lack of victory in your life, a lack

of authority of God in your life, seeking to please men

rather than God. Ever so busy we can’t be quiet – in

the car, in the shower, in the room, everywhere we go,

we  have to be kept busy because we are a restless people.

Why is it? Why is it? It is simply because we do not want

to accept the cross of Christ into our lives. The cross

means self-denial, giving up our own wishes and dreams

for the sake of the cross. For the sake of  Calvary. And

that is what we are missing here. That  is the reason with

all the stuff, we miss so much of reality. When will we

learn – what does it take for us to learn – the call of Christ

for us is as the Father has sent Me, so send I you. You are

my hands, you are my legs, you are my eyes, you are my

ears, you are my tears, you are Mine! Go into the world

and touch the poor, the needy, the lepers, the dying and

the hurting and the ones going to hell and grab them and

rescue them. That is the call of Christ! The call of Christ

is to die not to live. You must by the grace of God make

a decision – that Lord I want approval from You and no

one else. So much of Christian work originates in the

flesh and carnality. “Lord I only want your approval.” I

know those are strong words – unless you are sensitive to

the Lord, you can easily misunderstand. We have a

problem in America, in our church – we misunderstand

obedience for legalism and bondage. I’m telling you,

I’m telling you – the day is soon coming you will regret

and repent – too late will it be over the debased life we

spent for ourselves here. The world out there that do not

know Jesus and our priority number one, number one

must be – “Lord I love you and out of that I give all to

touch the lost world.”

In the book, The Bravehearted Gospel, Eric Ludy, states:

In the early days of the first century A.D., 12 men

picked up this gauntlet when thousands of others

shook their heads and walked away. They followed

their Master fully. They loved the lost with His

passion, they spoke the truth with His thunder, and

though often persecuted and oppressed, their lives

sparkled with His light. Almost everyone of them

within a few decades, had followed Jesus to their

deaths at the hands of a world that still loved

darkness rather than light. But their sacrifice was

not in vain, and by the time the last apostle had

breathed his final breath, it was commonly said,

“These were the men who turned the world upside

down.” (Acts 17:6). Twelve against the world.

Twelve who chose the gritty bravehearted path.

Twelve was enough. May it be so today…..

illuminating a path trod by the greatest men and

women in history-the path of the Bravehearted

Gospel. To many, at first glance, this path seems

too hard, too straight, or too narrow. But I encourage

you to press on, for the testimony of those who have

walked this sacred corridor before us is that its fruit

is sweet, its air clean, its company is unequaled, and

its destination is unmatched-and all with the smile of

God warm upon the soul. So press on to the mark!

Lay hold of the prize! The King has called. Who will

answer? The race has been set. Who will run? The

bravehearted path is the path of our Master; it is a

way of thorns and it is a road of glory, and those who

run it must run it with all their might.

Are you ready to do what God has called you to do? Are you ready to turn the world upside down with the goodness of God? God’s goodness is radical; God’s goodness is life-changing; God’s goodness is revolutionary; God’s goodness is transforming. God wants to reproduce His good character, His good words, His good works, and His good nature within you and me. Are you ready to be transformed? Are you ready to fight the good fight? Are you ready to run the good race?  Are you ready to excel in good works for your loving Master?

We are the voice, the touch, the light, and the representation of God’s goodness to the world. Are you ready to deliver the message of His goodness that will revolutionizethe hearts of men and women? God is waiting for daring men and women who want to stand up for His goodness and show the world His awesome characteristics and heart.  God needs us to throw back evil and stand up for the good. God needs to us to reject evil and cleave to His goodness with all our might. Once you have tasted of the goodness of God, nothing else can ever take its place. We must be the patriots of His goodness to the world. Our times cry out for the goodness of God to touch our generation. Our times need the good works of Christ to shine as light in the darkness. Our times need an unwavering trust and faith in our good God and His message of deliverance. Will we answer the call? A lost world is desperately awaiting the tender touch of the goodness of God. 

            My heartfelt prayer for you is contained in two wonderful sections of Scripture in Thessalonians and Hebrews.

II Thessalonians 2:16,17 (English Standard Version):

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself,                   

and God our Father, who loved us and

gave us eternal comfort and good hope

through grace,     

Comfort your hearts and establish them in

every good work and word.

Hebrews 13:20,21 (English Standard Version):

Now may the God of peace, who brought again

from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd

of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant,

Equip you with everything good that you may do

his will, working in us, that which is pleasing in

his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory

forever and forever. Amen.

            I am so thankful that our God is good. My fervent desire is that your heart has been forever touched and transformed by the goodness of God.  

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When Your Prayers Have No More Words

Have you ever come to the point when your prayers have no more words? I certainly have been there. You feel as if all that is left inside of you is a whisper coming from the dust. Although you have an inner groaning for something that only God can give, you are so tired that you cannot even make any more appeals to God over it.

In the book of First Samuel, we see that Hannah found herself in such a state. “Now Hannah spoke in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard” (1 Samuel 1:13). It was a wordless prayer! She longed for a child, but the Lord had closed her womb. Every year, Hannah went to the temple of God during what was supposed to be a time of thanksgiving, yet she felt utterly empty inside. To make matters worse, “Her rival also provoked her severely, to make her miserable, because the Lord had closed her womb” (1 Samuel 1:6). This is a type of you and me going to prayer and the enemy saying, “Is God really faithful to you? Look how empty you are. Look how little life you have produced. You are not doing anything that is giving glory to His name. Your whole purpose on the earth is not going to be fulfilled!”

Hannah’s adversary was provoking her, in a sense, to believe that perhaps God had found some secret displeasure with her that caused Him to close His hands of generosity over her life. The Scripture says that she wept and did not eat.

Her husband, Elkanah, said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep? Why do you not eat? And why is your heart grieved? Am I not better to you than ten sons?” (1:8). But Hannah had come to a place where she was not pacified with such comforts. It is like when you have an inner desire for something God has promised you or destined your life to be, but people all around are urging you, “Just cheer up.” Nevertheless, an inner sorrow remains because you know in your heart that your life is not amounting to the fullness it was intended to be. Hannah knew the life that was supposed to come through her had not been conceived, and she could not be comforted.

The passage continues, “Hannah arose after they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat by the doorpost of the tabernacle of the Lord. And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the Lord and wept in anguish” (1:9—10). Interestingly, Hannah’s day was somewhat similar to ours. The nation of Israel at that time was on the very edge of defeat; in fact, just a short season later, the Ark of the Covenant would be captured by the Philistines. In the natural, everything looked hopeless. A backslidden priest was leading the nation, deaf and dull to the moment in which they were living. His two sons were greedy and immoral. The only thing left to do at this moment is what Hannah did–she prayed as much as she could.

You see, this has always been God’s remedy for critical times throughout history. He looks for that person–the one who, in the natural, would appear to be the least usable in the Kingdom of God. In a moment such as this, Hannah was just a barren woman full of disappointment and bitter in soul. She was in such anguish that there were no more words to her prayer.

THE TURNING POINT

However, there came a turning point for Hannah that changed everything and allowed God to do something that only He could do. “Then she made a vow and said, ‘O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head’” (1:11). This was the moment when barrenness gave way to conception!

The scriptures tell us that afterward, Hannah “went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad. Then they rose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord, and returned and came to their house at Ramah. And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her. So it came to pass in the process of time that Hannah conceived and bore a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, ‘Because I have asked for him from the Lord’” (1:18—20). Hannah literally put it all into the hands of God and said, “Lord, if You will do something supernatural and give life to me, here is the promise I make to You: I will not use it for myself, but I will bring it back to You for Your glory.” And by the end of her prayer, she walked away and was no longer sad!

You see, this is the moment that changes everything. It is when you and I say, “God, if You will do something in my life, I will bring it back to You for Your glory. I will not be silent about it. It will be a testimony of Your mercy and grace all the days of my life!”

I believe that is the moment God is often waiting for. I am sure there were a lot of prayers offered up in the temple when Hannah was there. Prayers of “give me this” and “I want that.” The Scripture does say that God is good and that He delights in giving us good things. But, as it says in the book of James, there are prayers that are prayed so that we can “consume it upon ourselves” (see James 4:3). We ask, but sometimes God says “no” to those prayers until we finally get to the point where we have no more words left. All that remains is a groan that says, “God, if You will, then I will.”

MY SURRENDER

I remember the day I prayed such a prayer. I had so many issues and struggles in my life when I first came to Christ. I had a horribly bad temper; I was extremely selfish; and I was hurting everybody around me. I finally got so fed up that one day I went into my kitchen and prayed, “God, if You will touch my life and set me free, I will live for You all of my days.”

Suddenly, I had an encounter with God right there in the kitchen that I will never forget for as long as I live. The presence of God literally came into that room. Pastor Teresa was there and witnessed it. The Lord touched me in a way that I still cannot fully explain. He miraculously released me from these issues of character that had held me for almost my entire life up until that point. Sure, I could have gone to counselors for the rest of my life, but I probably would still not be free. I could have tried to encourage myself with all the words that people could offer me or whatever my own heart could muster, but I would most likely still be the same man today that I was then.

But you see, the Word of God came, and I believed Jesus when He said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). I allowed the Word of God to touch my heart, and as the Spirit of God came, the darkness in my life had to give way to the light of God. The prison doors were commanded to open; the blindness in my eyes was washed away by His presence. Suddenly, I began to see a future. And just like Hannah, I walked out of that kitchen no longer sad but instead filled with hope. I was confident that the God who had touched my life in such a powerful way was now going to lead me into something that would give Him glory. Since that time, I have been practically all over the world. I cannot count all the people who have heard the testimony of what God has done for me!

And so here is my message to you today: God is no respecter of persons. What He did for me, He will do for you if you will simply yield to Him. Let His Word touch you in your barren place–anywhere you do not have any hope of bearing life or ever going forward.

Simply pray a prayer of surrender, saying, “Lord, if You will touch me, I will bring the freedom, the blessing, the life that You birth through my life all back to You for Your glory!”

Of course, it must be a genuine prayer. Hannah did exactly what she had promised the Lord she would do. When God granted her a son, Samuel, she brought him back to the temple after she had weaned him. Consider how costly that must have been to her. This son was the desire of her heart, and she was bringing him to Eli, a backslidden priest–into a temple that looked like it was going to fall apart, as a season of captivity was encroaching upon the nation. Yet Hannah still chose to bring the most precious thing in her life and give it to God for His glory.

The rest, of course, is history. Samuel was probably the greatest judge ever raised up in Israel, and he remained a righteous man all the days of his life. He turned the nation back from the brink of judgment to the service and worship of the one true God. Isn’t it amazing that all of this came about from a prayer that had no words?

I encourage you today to take heart! If you have a prayer that no longer has any words to it, you are actually in a good place. You are positioned for God to do a miracle. You are in a place where you finally understand that it has to be all God and none of you. All the Lord is asking of you is, “Bring it back to Me.” And as you genuinely yield the answer to Him, you will be astounded at what He will do in and through you to bring glory to His name!

Carter Conlan

Times Square Church

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I Talk Back to the Devil

By A.W. Tozer

The devil makes it his business to keep Christians in bondage, bound and gagged, actually imprisoned in their own grave clothes!”

Why doesn’t the old devil, Satan, give up and bow out of the picture when a person becomes a believing Christian? Although he is a dark and sinister foe dedicated to the damnation of humans, I think he knows that it is no use trying to damn a forgiven and justified child of God who is in the Lord’s hands.

So, it becomes the devils business to keep the Christian’s spirit imprisoned. He knows that the believing and justified Christian has been raised up out of the grave of his sins and trespasses. From that point on, Satan works that much harder to keep us bound and gagged, actually imprisoned in our own grave clothes.

He knows that if we continue in this kind of bondage, we will never be able to claim our rightful spiritual heritage. He knows also that while we continue bound in this kind of enslavement we are not much better off than when we were spiritually dead. This is one reason why the Christians in today’s churches are behaving like a flock of frightened sheep – so intimidated by the devil that we cant even say “Amen”!

I admit that occasionally you find a few who are just childishly happy about everything, but that is not what I mean. Often these are just like children playing in the market places, having never been seriously engaged in the conflict on the spiritual battlefield. Show me an individual or a congregation committed to spiritual progress with the Lord, interested in what the Bible teaches about spiritual perfection and victory, and I will show you where there is strong and immediate defiance by the devil!

Satan loves to intimidate

Satan has been in this business of intimidating and silencing and oppressing the people of God for a long, long time. The armies of Israel experienced this kind of fright in the valley of Elah when Goliath and the Philistines were camped on the opposite mountain. King Saul was leading Israel, but he was sour, fearful, intimidated because of Goliath, that giant of a man who daily shouted his taunts, “This day I defy the ranks of Israel!” (1 Samuel 17:10). So the army cowered in fear.

But a little fellow by the name of David came along, and he was in right fellowship with the Lord. We are told that the spirit of the Lord came upon David, who said to the Israelites, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight with him!” (1 Samuel 17:32). This was the first word of encouragement to come to these ranks of soldiers who had been able only to gaze in fascinated fear at that great giant who taunted them daily. David was confident and serene because he knew and trusted the Source of all strength. The recorded result was one of the great, miraculous “turn-arounds” of history, David and his sling disposing of Goliath in a way that brought glory to the God of Israel as well as victory to the armies of Israel.

I am sure that it is not glorifying to our God that Christian’s should be so intimidated and silenced in our day. It was Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, who took our human body for Himself. He was a man, born of a woman, a man wearing our own nature. He went to the cross and they sacrificed Him there. The Father, God Almighty, accepted His sacrifice as the one, last, final fulfillment and consummation of all the sacrifices ever made on Jewish altars. After He had been dead three days, He came forth – raised from the dead and out of the grave. After a few days He ascended as Victor over all the forces of death and hell and sat down amid the acclamations of the heavenly hosts!

There He sits at God’s right hand – a living man, our representative and advocate and great, high priest. Believing this, we ought to be the most fearless, the most relaxed, the happiest and most God-assured people in the whole world! But Satan is an old dragon who defies us to this hour. He is saying to Christians, “I defy you – what can you do about it?”

We must get free!

I think we had better get free! We must face up to the issues and attitudes and doubts which constitute our fears, that keep us from being happy and victorious Christians with the true liberty of the children of God. We seem to quake about many things. In the first place, are you still afraid of your past sins? God knows that sin is a terrible thing?and the devil knows it, too. So he follows us around and as long as we will permit it, he will taunt us about our past sins.

As for myself, I have learned to talk back to him on this score. I say, “Yes, Devil, sin is terrible-but I remind you that I got it from you! And I remind you, Devil, that everything good -forgiveness and cleansing and blessing ?everything that is good I have freely received from Jesus Christ!” Everything that is bad and that is against me I got from the devil -so why should he have the effrontery and the brass to argue with me about it? Yet he will do it because he is the devil, and he is committed to keeping God’s children shut up in a little cage, their wings clipped so that they can never fly!

In our churches we often sing, “Arise, my soul, arise; shake off thy guilty fears.” But nothing happens and we keep our fears. Why do we claim on one hand that our sins are gone and on the other act just as though they are not gone? Brethren, we have been declared “Not Guilty!” by the highest court in all the universe. Still there are honest Christians, earnestly seeking the face of God, who cannot seem to break loose and find real freedom. The grave clothes trip them up every time they try to move on a little faster. Satan uses their past sins to terrify them.

Now, on the basis of grace as taught in the Word of God, when God forgives a man, He trusts him as though he had never sinned. God did not have mental reservations about any of us when we became His children by faith. When God forgives a man, He doesn’t think, I will have to watch this fellow because he has a bad record ” No, He starts with him again as though he had just been created and as if there had been no past at all! That is the basis of our Christian assurance-and God wants us to be happy in it.

Satan magnifies memories

Next, are you allowing Satan to magnify the memories of your spiritual failures? He will always keep them before you unless you take your stand and move up in faith. The devil will whisper, “You didn’t get – very far along toward the deeper life, did you?”

He will say, “You made a big ‘to-do’ about wanting to be filled with the Spirit and you really flopped, didn’t you?” He will taunt you with the fact that you may have stumbled in the faith – and perhaps more than once! The devil wants you to live in a state of discouraged chagrin and remorse. Remember, the Bible does not teach that if a man falls down, he can never rise again. The fact that he falls is not the most important thing-but rather that he is forgiven and allows God to lift him up!

Perhaps you have read of the saintly Fletcher, whose holy life became so recognized that he was called “the seraphic Fletcher.” His testimony reveals that he stumbled and miserably failed God seven times. But after the seventh failure he went to a room and did not come out until he was able to rest his case completely in the strength of God’s hands, He came out of the room saying, “Dear Lord, I believe that I am delivered from the bondage of my sin. If you will keep me and help me I win never cease telling the world what you can do for a man!” For the rest of his life Fletcher exhibited to the world God’s power to bless and to keep His transformed children on earth.

If our failures are going to hinder us forever, we might just as well never have taken the first step. But God knew all about us and He still loved us and desired His eternal best for us.

God knows humans

The Bible tells us often that God knows humans better than they know themselves – He doesn’t have to wait for the information to come from the accuser, the devil. God has said,

Well do I know how treacherous you are; you were called a rebel from birth. For my own name’s sake I delay my wrath; for the sake of my praise I hold it back from you, so as not to cut you off. See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this. (Isaiah 48:8b-11a)

God does have a stake in each of us -and it is for His own sake that He will lift us up. He is not going to bless us for our own sake ?He is going to bless us for Jesus’ sake and for the sake of His own name! If you think that there is anyone in the world so good that God could do something for that person’s sake, you don’t know sin; and if you think there is anything that God will not do for you for His sake and for His name, you don’t know God!

If you have failed, remember that you are not responsible to men in this regard. You stand responsible before your heavenly Father and Jesus Christ at the right hand of God. Let us be encouraged by this good news! In the third place, some are fearful that they will lose their reputation as sober and conservative and traditional Christians. In other words, they have never been willing to be a fool for Jesus’ sake!

It is amazing that genuine Christians are not willing to stand up wherever they are and give a good word for the Lord. There are great political ideologies sweeping the world now whose members will make double-eyed, long-eared donkeys of themselves for the sake of the party and the cause. There are religious sects whose witnesses are willing to go to jail, to be pushed around, to be lampooned for the sake of a miserable, twisted doctrine! But in our Christian ranks, we prefer to be respectable and smooth, and we have a reputation for being very solemn Christian believers.

I can only conclude from my experience that many solemn, professing Christians will never make any spiritual progress and will never really be happy in the Lord until God finds some way to shake them out of their deadly respectability! Charles G. Finney, the great American evangelist, knew this experience of becoming God’s man and God’s mouthpiece in such a way and with such unusual blessing and results that many just stood as critics and tried to frown him down.

Have to lose reputations

So it has been with all of God’s saints who have pleased Him and praised Him through the centuries. At some time in their witness and expression of the living Christ they have had to lose their reputations among those who have been traditionally pious and somber, dogmatic and cautious. This is still happening in our day, and with glorious results.

A young man who is director of one of our American Bible conferences has given me his testimony of great and radical things which the Lord has done for him in recent months.

I realize now that in my service for God I was one of the most self-assured, conceited and horrid young fellows you could ever meet” he told me frankly. “I could raise money, I could put on a great program, and I figured I was a great success in the Lord’s work. But recently on a trip to Wales, I had the opportunity of talking to some older folks who remembered Evan Roberts and the great Welsh revival. They told me about the true working Of the Holy Spirit in Christian renewal and revival – and I didn’t really know what they were talking about. Somehow, and they did not realize it, it was just as though they were burying me under a great load of crushing bricks, and God spoke to me about my own great spiritual lack.

He told me that he made his way to the little cottage where he was staying and got down on his knees and began to sweat it out before God. Do you know what this was? It was the act of dying! It was the end of self. That man died to reputation, ability, presumption, success, conceit, personality – all of that stuff!

He said to me, “Mr. Tozer, I was filled with the Holy Spirit and my whole life has been transformed. Now I only want this cheated and betrayed generation to see the glory of God once more!” I said to him then, “Brother, do you realize that if you carry through with this message and this blessing that you will lose some of your best fundamentalist friends? You will be described as having gone off your rocker.”

“I am not worried any more about my reputation” he replied. “I am perfectly willing because I am going to let the Lord have His way in the whole operation.” The interesting thing is that he hasn’t had to switch or change his doctrines around at all-he just found out that he needed the fire of God on his doctrine, and he got it!

Fear of fanaticism

Also related to reputation is the fear of many Christians that they will be considered fanatical or extreme for their Christian faith. I think it is ironic that the devil gives the world all of its extremists in every realm -entertainment, politics, society, education, anarchy, intrigue-you name it! Yet it is the same devil that frightens believers about the great danger of becoming “extreme”

I passed an auditorium recently where one of the young crowd of singing stars was appearing. Police were having great trouble with the crowds and in the erotic fury of that concert, girls began to tear off their clothes; many were weeping and screaming. Those who had fainted were being carried out. It is the same devil, but he uses different tactics in dealing with Christians. Should a Christian get blessed and say, ‘Amen,” the devil quickly intervenes and whispers, “Don’t be a fanatic-you ought to stay quiet and stable in the faith!”

Oh, what a devil the devil is! He frightens us first and then sells us a bill of goods about caution, caution, caution in the church. Some Christians also are greatly awed by the fear of ostracism. The devil says to them, “Be careful about religion – you will be lonely. You will have to go it alone!”

I have heard one of our preachers tell about the experience he had years ago in coming to a decision concerning the claims of Christ on his life. It was at the close of a service, and he was standing with the rest of the congregation while an invitation was being given to come forward in submission to the will of God. There was a struggle going on in his own soul, and he knew that the Spirit of God was pressing him to make the decision to sell out completely and to become a real Christian in commitment to the Lord.

But the devil knows how to join in these arguments, and he whispered, “Charlie, you must be careful at this point. You know how easy it would be to break up your marriage and break up your home. You know how staid and strait-laced and conservative your wife is about religion. Don’t do anything that would break up your home, Charlie!”

But the Spirit of God persisted, and Charlie found himself answering the call. He went forward and knelt at the altar for heart-searching and prayer. Suddenly he thought he heard someone weeping at his side. Then he was sure that it sounded like his wife. Turning, he found that it was his wife, for she had been just a few feet behind him when he made his way to the altar. Together they made their commitment to Christ and to His service.

For a long time, you see, Satan had been telling Charlie that his wife would never be willing to yield to joyful Christian dedication. But the devil is a liar and the father of lies! He never tells the truth unless he can use it to whip you and embarrass you ? unless he can use it in his attempts to ruin you and you!

Fear of holy enthusiasm

There also seems to be a chilling fear of holy enthusiasm among the people of God. We try to happy we are-but we remain so well-controlled that there are very few waves of glory experienced in our midst.

Some of you go to the ball game and you come whispering because you are hoarse from ting and cheering. But no one in our day ever home from church with a voice hoarse from shouts brought about by a manifestation of the glory of God among us. Actually our apathy about praise in worship is like an inward chill in our beings. We are under a shadow and we are still wearing the grave clothes. You can sense this in much of our singing in the contemporary church. Perhaps you will agree that in most cases it is a kind of plodding along, without the inward life of blessing and victory and resurrection joy and overcoming in Jesus’ name.

Why is this? It is largely because we are looking at what we are, rather than responding to who Jesus Christ is! We have often failed and have not been overcomers because our trying and striving have been in our own strength. That leaves us very little to sing about!

Dr. A.B. Simpson wrote:

Fainting soldier of the Lord, Hear His sweet, inspiring word;

I have conquered all thy foes, I have suffered all thy woes.

Struggling soldier, trust in Me, I have Overcome for thee!”

This has to be the secret of our praise and enthusiasm-Jesus Christ is our Overcomer! In our own strength we cannot overcome anyone or anything.

Fear not though thy foes be strong, Fear not though the strife be long;

Trust thy glorious Captain’s power, Watch with Him one little hour.

Hear Him calling,  “Follow Me, I have overcome for thee!

Brethren, human activity and human sweat and tears work not the victory of Christ! It took the sweat and tears and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. It took the painful dying and the victorious resurrection and ascension to bring us the victory!     

We must trust

It is for us to trust, to trust wholly in the Lord Jesus. This is the only way in which we can conquer fear and live in blessed victory.

I have had times in my life and ministry when the burdens and the pressures seemed to be too much. Sometimes physical weariness adds to our problems and our temptation to give in to discouragement and doubt. At these times it seems that even in prayer it is impossible to rise above the load. More than once, by faith that seemed to have been imparted directly from heaven, the Word has enabled me to claim all that I needed for body, soul and spirit. On my knees I have been given freedom and strength to pray, “Now, Lord, I have had enough of this – I refuse to take any more of this heaviness and oppression! This does not come from God?this comes from my enemy, the devil! Lord, in Jesus’ name, I will not take it any longer – through Jesus Christ I am victor!” At these times, great burdens have just melted and rolled away all at once!

Brethren, God never meant for us to be kicked around like a football. He wants us to be humble and let Him do the chastening when necessary. But when the devil starts tampering with you, dare to resist him! I stand for believing in God and defying the devil – and our God loves that kind of courage among His people.

If you are still wrapped in grave clothes and great fears lie upon you, it is time for you to dare to rise and in sweet faith in the risen Jesus Christ declare: “I will not take this any longer. I am a child of God ?why should I go mourning all the day?”

Will God answer?

“All right, My child He will answer as the burden rolls away, “I have waited long to hear you say that. Jesus is Victor and in Him you overcome!”

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