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

“Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest. Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves.” – Luke 10:2, 3

      Even though it took place almost thirty years ago, the astonishment that someone had actually tried to do away with me (and a co-worker in ministry) while making it appear “accidental” remains tucked away in a corner of my memory. Nothing like that had ever happened to me before, so when it finally began to dawn on me just how really real it was, a succession of strange, new emotions began to creep through my mind. There were two attempts, and both were calculating and deliberate. The lesson learned was this: never trust dedicated and committed members of a cult with a cause. It is not only the Islamists who will shed blood to establish their “reign” and “rule,” but many so-called “Christian” cults have no problem doing the same as well.

      A friend and I had been traveling in ministry together, and after returning from wintering in Arizona where we spent time visiting her family, we rented an old rural farmhouse in central Idaho. One day our landlady introduced us to a “home fellowship” group. Ever since I was a little kid I loved meeting Christians, and this was no exception. How exciting! Meeting a group of Christians in such a sparsely populated place! My exuberance, however, was short-lived. It didn’t take more than two minutes in their cramped house to realize that something was not quite right. In fact, something was very wrong. What I didn’t know then is that we had stepped smack dab into the middle of a gathering of hard-core Manifest Sons of God. Everything inside of me was on “red alert,” and all I could think of was fleeing as soon as we could “politely” manage to leave.

      After our initial encounter with this cult, a subtle sort of “tug-of-war” began between us and the leaders (a married couple) over our “lamb-among-wolves” landlady. She came from a well-established family of wheat farmers and ranchers in the area. She lived in a notable Victorian home that included a large barn, outbuildings and so forth on hundreds of acres. It later became clear to us that they were trying to lure her into their tangled web in order to gain control over her and her holdings. (The Manifest Sons are also part of the “camp” that believes if they lay claim to something, they will somehow get it, which is witchcraft.) We, on the other hand, were dedicated to strengthening her faith and walk in the Lord.

      One day she invited my friend and me to travel with her to Montana to check out some quarter horses for sale. It would be a two-day trip, and we would go in her car which meant that my 77 Plymouth Fury and small motorhome would remain parked in an open shed at our place. No one knew about our little trip except for the leaders of the MSOG cult. A short time after returning from our little Montana jaunt, my friend and I had to travel to Washington for meetings. The weather was mild and the trip went well, until our return trip to Idaho. I began to become light-headed, nauseated, “headachy,” and dizzy so I kept turning up the ventilation for fresh air. My friend, who did most of the driving, liked to drive with the side window open, and she seemed to be fine. Every time we stopped to walk around and get fresh air, I perked up, but when once again in the car a feeling of horrible sickness overcame me. By the time we got home, I figured I had the flu. However, the next morning I was fine. A few days later I had to drive the ten miles to the nearest town. By the time I pulled into the grocery store lot I was “sicker than a dog” but after shopping for a while, it had passed. At last it began to dawn on me that there must be something wrong with the car. Could it be carbon monoxide poisoning? But, how could such a thing be when the car had worked fine for years?

      Thankfully, we had a Christian mechanic friend who was happy to check things out. After carefully examining everything under the hood, he looked at me with a puzzled expression. “I can’t believe it” he said. Then he said something to the effect of, “Somehow the fresh air intake hoses have been disconnected from the vents, and reconnected to the exhaust system.” In other words, somebody deliberately switched things around so we would be asphyxiated, or possibly pass out, or crash the car.

      In our busyness, the situation was shoved to the back of our minds. Fall would soon give way to winter, and I needed to drive the little motorhome to town to have our Christian brother check it out before we returned to Arizona. Since my friend had mentioned that she thought there was something wrong with the brakes, I asked him to check them out, which he did. As he crawled out from underneath the RV, I noticed that his face was blanketed with a strange ashen color. Again, he looked puzzled as he slowly shook his head. In an intense tone he said, “Somebody cut the brake fluid hose so that it has been leaking out. It is a deliberate cut! So, you have had two deadly things happen to both of your vehicles!”

      Afterwards, in town one day I saw the Sheriff on the street, I told him about our vehicles, and mentioned our suspicions that perhaps the cult leaders were involved. I was surprised when said, “I have no doubt whatsoever that he wouldn’t do that. He knows how, being very mechanical.” He added that he regretted being related to them, and said something to the effect that they were “insane.” He told us that they were in the process of packing their belongings, and were relocating to northwestern Washington.

      This was a bit shocking to mentally process, but the picture was becoming clearer. The only time anyone could mess with our vehicles was when we were gone on the short trip to Montana, and only two people knew about our absence—two people who saw us as a threat to their cleverly laid plans to beguile our landlady into their evil web. They knew the nearby route we would drive with our RV to return to Arizona—a route that has one of the steepest, winding grades in the country on our way south. They had no doubt but that the brakes would fail causing us to plummet over the precipice to certain death. But God had other plans for us that trumped those of the devil. Praise the Lord for His unfailing goodness and mercy to His lambs (innocent and suspecting as they may be) who are among ravening wolves!

     But, Satan: is he really real? Or is he an exaggerated figment of someone’s imagination? Maybe Satan, Lucifer, the Serpent, Deceiver, Father of lies, angel of light, devil is merely a metaphor, or religious symbol. Many professing Christians do not believe that he is real; others consider him to be unimportant in this day and age. If they do believe Satan exists, they also believe that he isn’t a big threat or has much influence or power. Sophisticated, upbeat churches find it embarrassing to talk about Satan, demons and his devices. But, one thing believers must always keep in mind is that the realm of Satan and demons is most certainly real, as well as bizarre. In fact, encountering this unseen and evil element can be so weird as to defy any rational (or scientific) explanation. After all, we are dealing with a powerful spiritual and unseen dimension that is every bit as real, if not more so, than the material, visible world we live in. Everything involving the kingdom of darkness is surrealistic, esoteric (obscure, mysterious, secret, impenetrable), abstruse (perplexing, complex), confusing, and dangerous. Satan’s ministers are more than able to transform themselves into “ministers of light” who use beguilement and deception to entangle unwary victims, and that includes naïve and undiscerning Christians—especially post-modern Christians who are “too sophisticated,” “enlightened” and “positive” to give Satan and his devices much credence or thought. After all, we are living in the “civilized” west with all of our high-tech stuff, so why be concerned with such archaic subjects as Satan and demons anyway, right? Wrong! The Bible warns us, and we better believe it, to “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” 2 Peter 5:8.

      An interesting little incident about how people view the devil occurred in this same small town one day getting a haircut. My beautician got into an animated conversation with another woman over the reality of Satan. They bantered back and forth about the subject while I sat between them hoping the distraction wasn’t going to result in a far-out cut I’d have to live with for a number of months. Finally the beautician retorted, “Well, I don’t think he exists. He’s just a figment of people’s imagination.” At this point my silence, “Can I ask you a question?” The startled look on her face made me think she had forgotten I was even there. She said, “Sure.” So I asked, “Tell me then, if Satan doesn’t exist, who was Jesus talking to after His baptism when He was tempted in the wilderness?” The silence that followed was deafening. Finally, the other woman said, “Touché!” And, that, my friends, was the end of any conversation about the devil.

      People, for our own souls’ sake, we need to pull our heads out of the clouds and grab a hold of what God’s Word has to say about Satan. To refuse to learn all we can about this archenemy of God and man is foolish and dangerous. We have a real enemy who is determined to undermine and destroy our faith. Ignoring him is not going to make him go away and leave us alone! But, that is just what he wants us to do. Therefore, let’s put on our big boy or big girl pants, grab the bull by the horns, and become strong, seasoned soldiers of God. You can almost feel the passion of Paul’s heart as he implored the Christians at Ephesus, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” Ephesians 6:10, 11. Power and might come by way of the Holy Spirit. “But truly I am full of power by the Spirit of the Lord….” Micah 3:8; “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts” Zechariah 4:6b; “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you….” Acts 1:8a.

      The whole armour of God is what enables us to stand against the wiles of the devil—not our own wisdom, education, associations, accomplishments, church attendance, good works, or experiences—“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” Ephesians 6:12. Paul tells us a second time to “take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” And again we see the word “stand” (which means to maintain) in verse 14, Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness.” Without truth and righteousness we are exposed and vulnerable to lethal attack from the enemy. Too many Christians assume that they know all there is to know about the Bible, about God, about Jesus, about how to get to heaven when they die. Their heads are stuffed full of church tradition, creeds, doctrines, formulas along with a hodgepodge of religious ideas they have picked up along the way, but none of these things will stand when confronted with the wiles of the devil. Satan loves to get ahold of such a person and tie them into a pretzel.

      The only way to stand, wrestle, withstand, and keep standing is to know your God, know the Word of God, and the power of His might through the Holy Ghost. You have to seek the Lord, draw nigh to Him, and worship Him “in Spirit and in truth” (John 4:24) You must have your own personal encounter with Him as Moses did on the mount when he cried out, “I beseech thee, shew me thy glory” Exodus 33:1. You must desire Him as did Isaiah when he said, “With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early: for when thy judgments are in the earth the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness” Isaiah 26:9. You must hunger and thirst for Him as did David, “My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God? O God, thou art my God: early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; I stretch forth my hands unto thee: my soul thirsteth after thee, as a thirsty land; My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the LORD: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God” Psalm 42:2, 63:1, 84:2, 143:6. Our hearts need to plea, “Draw me, we will run after thee….we will be glad and rejoice in thee, we will remember thy love more than wine: the upright love thee” Song of Solomon 1:4a, c. Jesus said, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled” Matthew 5:6. The question is are you hungry and thirsty for more of God, to know Him, to be filled with His Spirit, to be established in Christ through the power of the Living Word, or are you content to remain right where you are?

      Then we read in Ephesians that our feet must be shod with the “preparation of the gospel of peace” Ephesians 6:15. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is what gives us sure footing in all things. Paul wrote, “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. [Emphasis added.]

      Having our feet shod with the “preparation of the gospel” means that we are not only maintaining, but advancing forward. This is not the time to sit back in our comfort zone and exchange our gospel footwear for a pair of fuzzy slippers. Jesus is still commanding us to “Go… and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” Matthew 28:19, 20. “Go” means “go.” But, how can we “go?” Do we hop out of easy chair, grab coat and hat, and run out the door? Not hardly! If we turn to the Book of Acts, we read a principle about “going” after the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the believers waiting for the promise from on high. Before He ascended into heaven, Jesus told His disciples to “wait for the promise of the Father, which ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost…” Acts 1:4b, 5. As His disciples, we are to likewise wait on God in obedience, faith and prayer for the Holy Spirit to endue us with power from on high, confirm our calling to us, reveal His will for us, and to guide us in all things. The Holy Spirit is our Teacher, and He must prepare us to carry out the specific “go” He has for each of our lives. Now, here is the principle of “going” according to Jesus, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” Acts 1:8.

      What this shows us is that there is a fourfold process involved. This process may be of a long duration, or a short one, depending on the will and purpose of the Lord of the harvest. The first mission field is right where you live. For these early disciples, that was Jerusalem. Preaching the Gospel among those who know you and witnessing to your neighbors is easier said than done, but that is where the Lord had them begin. Next they were to go out from their hometown to the surrounding countryside. After that they were to go to Samaria. The Jews were very prejudiced against the Samaritans, but now their Lord was telling them that He died for them as well, and that it was His will that they hear the Gospel. After that, they were to go into the whole world—a world of Gentile pagans. This was only made possible by the infilling, empowering, teaching, and leading of the Holy Ghost, and this is true for us as well. Nothing can be accomplished apart from the working of the Holy Spirit in and through our lives. Of course, much of our “going” can be accomplished by supporting missions, evangelists (hard to find a true evangelist these days, by the way), and trustworthy ministries who are able to “go.” Be available, be prepared, be “instant in season and out of season,” and with Paul declare, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” Romans 1:16a,b.

      Concerning Satan and his work, we also need to consider what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 4:3, 4, “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” How many people do you know whose minds are blinded to the glorious gospel of Christ? Unbelieving and lost, they blindly stumble through great spiritual darkness that only the light of the glorious gospel of Christ can dispel. As soldiers of the cross, our warfare is not with these blinded souls, but is instead with the satanic powers of darkness. “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” 2 Corinthians 10: 3-5. How the church needs discernment in this area, and the power of the Spirit to wage spiritual warfare against the enemy of our souls!

      Concerning the power of the Holy Spirit, A. W. Tozer wrote, “The Holy Spirit is not something we can argue about or somebody about whom we can say, ‘Well, you believe your way and I’ll believe mine.’ The Holy Spirit is an absolute necessity in the Church. There is a power in the Spirit, which can expose sin and revolutionize and convert and create holy men and women, and nothing else can do it. Words will not do it. Instructions will not do it. Line upon line and precept upon precept will not do it; it takes power to do it. This power is a persuasive power to convince, persuade and break down resistance. It is also a worship power creating reverence and ecstasy….the Holy Spirit brings the magnetic power to draw us to Christ, exalting Him above all else and above all others. We must demand more than correct doctrine, though we dare not have less than correct doctrine. More than right living, though we dare not have less than right living; more than a friendly atmosphere, though we dare not have less than a friendly atmosphere. We must demand that the Word of God be preached in power, and that we hear it in power.” (Reclaiming Christianity, pgs. 114, 115)

      Finally, in Ephesians 6:16-18 we read, “Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.” The “fiery darts of the wicked” can come in the form of words, curses, claims, or psychic prayer. The latter occurs when someone visualizes what they want to see happen in the life of another. Here is a basic explanation of psychic prayer from Hegewisch Baptist Church: “Psychic prayer attempts to influence the Lord to cause someone to move in a certain direction. Whether or not the direction desired is God’s will for the person makes no difference. Praying with wrong motivations to pressure others to act, think or feel a certain way constitutes psychic prayer. Because this is a disguised form of witchcraft . . . manipulation, it is dangerous.

      “Soulish prayer enlists the human spirit attempting to pressure the spirit and mind of the other person to come around to the desired way of thinking. Attempting to play God and force decisions on others is a form of manipulation which can have hurtful effect, especially when the parties are open to each other.” This is what the Manifest Sons of God cult mentioned in the beginning of this article was practicing on our landlady.

      Are we to fear these “fiery darts?” The answer is no, but we do need discernment in order to know what we are up against. We must have the shield of faith, and our head covered with the helmet of salvation. Someone may ask, “How do you know if someone is praying their will on you?” Our response: Does your head feel as if there is a tight band around it? Do you suddenly feel confused, or depressed? Do you feel “pushed” into some decision or form of action that is out of the norm for you? Has fear unexpectedly slammed against you? Do you sense that “something” is agitating you that you can’t explain, or that there is a “presence” coming against you? If so, it is time to stop and do spiritual warfare, commanding it to go back to where it came from in the Name of Jesus. Jesus said, “Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, [demons, familiar spirits, etc.] and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven” Luke 10:19, 20. [Addition mine.]

      The importance of knowing God’s Word cannot be overemphasized. “The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17b) is our twoedged sword with which to defeat the attacks, lies, accusations, and wiles of the devil. Praise the Lord for giving us His Word—the written Word, and the Living Word, the LORD Jesus Christ! Amen.