Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

by Jeannette Haley

It seemed to happen overnight, leaving us puzzled and somewhat amazed. It was as if some invisible “rose vampire” had literally sucked the life out of the developing stems and leaves of our two rose bushes. Instead of their usual lush dark green foliage sickly pale yellow leaves stood in sharp contrast to the older, healthier greenery.

Even more perplexing was the knowledge that these roses had been carefully fed fish fertilizer along with other substances that roses thrive on. What had gone wrong? Then we noticed that the same fate had occurred to the Weeping Cherry tree.

Then one evening we happened to catch a segment on the local evening news called “Backyard on a Budget”. The topic of conversation was on how the soil in this area lacks iron. The result? Anemic trees and plants!According to the book, PRESCRIPTION FOR NUTRITIONAL HEALING, by James F. Balch, M.D. and Phyllis A. Balch, C.N.C., millions of Americans suffer from anemia.

Anemia is a reduction in either the number of red blood cells or the amount of hemoglobin in the blood. The result of this is a decrease in the amount of oxygen that the blood is able to carry to the cells of the body. Naturally, people in this condition have less energy available to them to perform their normal functions. The important process of muscular activity and cell building and repair, slow down and become less efficient. The most common cause of this disorder in humans is the same as for trees and plants—iron deficiency.

Being anemic is no fun, as we can personally testify. But what constitutes the condition I call spiritual anemia and what are the common symptoms of this spiritually debilitating disorder?The truth is most Christians today have no solid foundation upon which to build their spiritual lives.Just as the human body is weakened by certain deficiencies, so too, is the spiritual condition of a Christian who has never been properly discipled. Sadly, countless people spend years faithfully attending church, yet their knowledge of the Bible is very limited. This is a terrible fact. Why?

The answer is because

a) Churches are not concerned with teaching people how to stand on their own, (gain a vital, living relationship with Christ) but instead emphasize the doctrines of the church in order to keep up their numbers and income;

b) Christians leave their eternal fate in the hands of their churches and leaders rather than diligently study the scriptures for themselves;

c) Believers fail to realize that unless they walk in obedience to the scriptures that they do know their spiritual growth will be stunted and they will never receive more from God or be prepared to be used by Him.

Just a few scriptural examples of this sad fact are as follows:

1) Christians tend to be respecters of persons.

2) Countless people who consider themselves good Christians show ignorance of God’s heart and disobey Him by giving to those who have no need (such as rich TV personalities and churches) while failing to give to those who are truly needy. People need to ask God where He wants them to give their money.

3) Christians overlook rather than lift the burdens of others.

4) Believers today are caught up with loving this world and the things of this world while competing to acquire the “American Dream” for themselves.

5) It is no secret that people who claim to be followers of Christ have problems with lust, greed and covetousness because they want a “feel good” religion rather than crucifying the flesh. 6) Christians disobey the scriptures concerning participating in gossip, or even worse, slander.

7) Believers are often idle and slothful rather than diligent, redeeming the time.

8) Tragically, many lack the love of Christ, thinking more highly of themselves than they ought to think. In other words, humility, which is necessary for salvation, is lacking while “self-esteem” is pursued.

9) Christians unknowingly commit idolatry by exalting churches, denominations, doctrines and creeds; worshiping worship; having faith in faith and chasing after personalities rather than Christ Jesus the Lord.

10) Believers in Christ often fail, when confronted with heresy (so prevalent in the world today) to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints.

In addition to the above, the church today cannot be distinguished from the world. Those who practice fornication shall not go unpunished by God. Unbelievably, abortion is another subject that the churches cannot agree on, but according to our Holy God, any termination of a human life, even if newly conceived, is murder.A new church in our area has spent a small fortune advertising fun, fun, fun to draw people in. Where is Jesus being lifted up? Today we have an abundance of the “fun gospel” which is not the true Gospel at all! Recently a well-known evangelist came to Boise. His extravagant ad campaign header was, “Come to my Party”. On a TV spot he boasted, “God loves skateboarding.”

I wonder what god he was talking about! This so-called Christian leader’s “party” was complete with so-called “Christian” rock and roll music and concluded with a fireworks display. Indeed it was a party of gigantic proportions and a sensuous one at that. It grieves our spirits to even contemplate how many thousands of young lives were led astray from the true character of our sovereign, holy God by such worldliness.

Galatians 5:24 states, “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” Can it be concluded, then, that those who have not crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts do not belong to Christ?If these unscriptural ploys to build churches and rake in millions of dollars for personal gain are not offensive to you, you are most likely spiritually anemic and you definitely are in trouble.The general attitude of organized religion is this: keep the people entertained, busy and controlled.Why do the majority of Christians succumb to this man-made system? The answer is because of the decline in independent, critical thinking by believers since the Reformation. People indeed are sheep. As sheep, they need a shepherd. Once these precious believers in Jesus are convinced by man that they must go through man (whether it be pastor, prophet, priest or preacher) to somehow get to God, and adhere to man-made rules, regulations, customs, practices and beliefs, they lose sight of the true Shepherd of their souls.

In other words, modern Protestantism is very similar to the papal system in that people: 1) out of fear and/or superstition lack confidence and knowledge to seek out a personal relationship with the Lord God for themselves, or 2) They are continually brainwashed into believing that only their “educated” leaders can fully understand the scriptures, and 3) that these leaders who lord it over the laity (known as Nicolaitanism) must be submitted to without question for fear of hell fire. Forgive my saying this, but this is a bunch of crock!

Over the years it has been our experience that new Christians are left to define Christianity for themselves or, at best, required to attend a few classes relating to church membership. In other words, people are conformed into disciples of the church they attend rather than to Christ. Not having a personal relationship with Jesus based on Spirit and Truth they worship their own concept of who they think God is.The tragic result is these people may hold to some form of a limited man-made doctrine, but they lack understanding of the true nature and character of God and His ways. They do not have a clue as to the perfect will of God for their lives nor do they understand what constitutes the actual and practical Christian life.God said His people are “destroyed for lack of knowledge”, and nowhere is this knowledge more lacking than in the area of spiritual discernment and spiritual warfare.The prevailing attitude among spiritually anemic Christians today is twofold—either they are scared to death of the reality of demons and want nothing to do with spiritual warfare or they are silly and flippant about the forces of darkness. Both extremes are dangerous.Many years ago I asked a certain pastor what he would do if he encountered a witch. I shall never forget the fear in his voice as he emphatically stated, “I’d run the other way as fast as I could!” Right then and there I decided that truly “…vain is the help of man” (Psalm 60:11b) and “Through God we shall do valiantly: for he it is that shall tread down our enemies” verse 12.It is not the intent of this article to give a crash course in spiritual warfare; however, all born-again Christians must understand that we are all soldiers in God’s army. None of us are exempt from duty. Every Christian is admonished to “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” Ephesians 6:11. Likewise every follower of Christ is warned in 1 Peter 5:8-9a “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith…”. Notice that the Holy Spirit, writing through the Apostle Peter, did not say, “Have fun, be carefree, for Satan isn’t after your soul!”In 2 Timothy 2:3-4 the Apostle Paul wrote, “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.”

Notice that God didn’t lead Paul to write, “Okay everybody, now that you’ve repeated some ‘sinner’s prayer’ we’re gonna have a party! You won’t have to endure anything harsh when you become a Christian because, after all, God wants you to have fun, fun, fun while you are in this world. So go for it! Have a blast! After all, the old fogies of your church can be sober soldiers if they want to but the rest of you can rock and roll and fulfill the lusts of your flesh. Don’t bother spending time reading your Bible or praying or getting to know God…just go play, play, play.”

But what does God really say? Here it is: “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God” Romans 8:5-8.Tragically, those with a party spirit (see Galatians 5:21 and 1 Peter 4:3) flock to the big, popular churches that love to flaunt their “spiritual muscles” at Satan and his kingdom. They flippantly sing at the top of their lungs, while jumping up and down like pagans, “I’m going up to the enemy’s camp to take back what he stole from me.” If ever there was an unscriptural and downright dangerous chorus, this one has to be it.Nowhere in the Bible are we taught by principle or example to march to the “enemy’s camp”! Rather, we are warned to be humble before God (Satan gains entrance through pride) and sober (remembering that we are sinners saved by grace). We must remember that our authority is in Christ alone because He purchased us with His own blood.The Word declares in 1 John 4:4, “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world”. Notice that it is not us who have overcome by ourselves because we are so “wonderful” and stupendously intelligent! No, Satan is overcome because of Christ dwelling in us. Obviously, this verse doesn’t tell us that we are to deliberately go out and attack the devil! Jude 9 says, “Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.”Spiritually anemic Christians are easily led astray by “every wind of doctrine”.Just as the human body is more susceptible to sickness and disease when in an anemic state, so too is the Christian who has no steady diet of the Word of God. Peter wrote, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious” 1 Peter 2:2-3. Paul wrote to the Corinthian church about the “meat” of the Word, which they, were not able to receive, being yet carnal.Jesus said, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” Matthew 4:4. Notice the word “every”. The Word of God is not a “pick and choose” smorgasbord. In our materialistic Western culture we are used to picking and choosing most of what constitutes our lives. This is not so in Communist countries or in places ruled by a dictatorship. In such dark places every crumb of the Word of God is precious! There is no picking and choosing.A few years ago a visitor to one of these countries that had been enslaved under the satanic communist system took with him 200 Bibles. He stood on a street corner and within 15 minutes all 200 Bibles had been snatched up by spitirually anemic, starving souls. People crowded around him, weeping and begging for more Bibles. Do you cherish your Bible this much? Would you weep in anguish if you could no longer own a Holy Bible?Are laymen, you ask, required to study the Word of God? Let me ask you, do you want to be approved by God? Or do you want to be ashamed at Jesus’ appearing? Do you want to know how to rightly divide the Word of truth? Then, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” 2 Timothy 2:15.Christians have a myriad of excuses why they do not study the Word of God. Some do not like to read (but they love to sit and stare at the television set or fiddle around with their computers). Some spend so much time in church-related activities that they have very little time and/or energy left for diligent study of the Word of God. Others are caught up with excessive family outings and fun, fun, fun. All of these pursuits are vain and empty.Weak Christians are easy prey for Satan. He knows that they believe they are immune from his subtle, destructive ways. This is a grave mistake. Satan comes as an angel of light. He comes as a wonderful, spiritual being. He comes through religion. He comes through seducing spirits that appeal to religious pride. He comes through worldly pursuits that have the name “Christian” tacked on to them to give the impression they are legitimate with God. He comes through intellectualism, high-mindedness and learning. He comes through “winds of doctrines” to lure spiritually anemic believers off of the solid foundation, the Rock of Jesus Christ. Need proof? Read the Bible!Spiritually anemic Christians are not willing to pay the price to follow Christ.Lastly, these Christians can be compared to the five foolish virgins in Matthew 25:1-13 who lacked enough oil in their lamps to keep them burning through the night prior to Christ’s return. We know that the five wise virgins had paid a price for their oil—and wisely refused to give it to the five who had not.Every believer is required to count the cost of following Christ. Every believer is required to pay the price. What is the price? The price is self-denial; death to the old man or old self-life; turning from the world, the flesh and the devil to God. The price is being willing to suffer for righteousness sake, to deny self-gratification and glorification. It means denying the lusts of the flesh even though it doesn’t “feel good”. Paying the price means obedience to the Word of God regardless of what anybody else says including the friends, relatives, the church, doctrines and creeds or religious leaders. In other words, Jesus must be LORD.Is there enough oil in your lamp or are you spiritually anemic?

Ask the Lord to show you. If you are spiritually anemic, pause right now and commit your life totally to God. Ask Him to cleanse you of all false doctrines, beliefs, worldly ties and self-delusions. Ask the Lord to strengthen you with His might and power in Spirit and Truth. Ask Him to refresh you with the Holy Spirit. Ask Him to give you a hunger and thirst for the Word of God and a greater revelation of and love for Jesus. Ask Him to help you to be an overcomer. Finally, ask Him to help you to be willing to pay the price so that there will be adequate oil in your lamp to burn brightly until He comes for you.

Finally, always remember when the Lord shuts the door, it is shut forever. Which side of that door will you be on?