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

“The thief cometh not, but for to steal,
and to kill, and to destroy: I am come
that they might have life, and that they
might have it more abundantly.” – John 10:10 

      How we love to quote the last part of this verse! What a wonderful promise from the lips of our Lord. Undoubtedly the “positive confessors,” “possibility thinkers,” and “Enlightened Thinkers” from their lofty pinnacles of “illumination” would surely agree; that is before going on to disdainfully launch a defense of why anything “negative”—such as the first part of this verse—is to be ignored, avoided and, if possible either re-written or forgotten altogether. This untruthful, unrealistic, positive worldview was birthed out of the womb of self-delusion, which is itself the product of unbelief and rebellion. All of Christendom is under assault from the father of lies who has charmed his way into mainstream Christianity while most of the organized Church, like the five unprepared virgins, has fallen asleep. Jesus warned in Luke 21:34-36 “And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.”

      What are “all these things” that believers should be watching and praying that they may be accounted worthy to escape? To summarize verses 8-35 “these things” are as follows: deception, fear of wars, great earthquakes, famines, pestilences, fearful sights and great signs from heaven; persecution, betrayal by family members, hatred towards Jews and Christians, Jerusalem surrounded by armies, slaughter of Jews, signs in the sun, moon and stars, distress of nations, tsunamis, heart attacks for fear, powers of heaven shaken, worldliness, drunkenness, cares of this life. Jesus is warning His people to be alert to their own heart condition (spiritual life) so that they will be prepared for His coming. David Grabbe wrote, “The Greek word translated “watch,” at its most basic, means “to be sleepless,” implying continuous and wakeful concern, such as being on watch when a loved one is ill. It means to be intent or to exercise constant vigilance over something, as a shepherd watches over his sheep or a leader watches over his charges (Hebrews 13:17). Watching signifies a state of being untouched by any influence that may cloud the mind; one “watching” guards against drowsiness or confusion. Hand-in-hand with “pray always,” it denotes being alert for spiritual dangers and beguilements.”

      While watching for the signs of Jesus’ return, we must watch for “spiritual dangers and beguilements” and pray to escape being deceived that we may be found worthy to stand before the Son of Man. Revelation 14:12, 13 says “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them. Again, it is clear that it’s not trials and tribulation that we need to escape; rather, it is satanic deception. If you think you cannot be deceived, you are deceived already.

      In Revelation 3 we read the words of Jesus to the church in Sardis, “I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.” How does a church which once was alive and active end up coasting on their past reputation while slowly dying? The church in Sardis is a good example for us to consider. These people had lost their edge which is a result of failure to watch and pray against the enemy of their souls. Jesus told them “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee” Revelation 3:2, 3. Jesus also said, “Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy” (vs. 4). The Lord always has a remnant of overcomers. Jesus told them, “He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment: and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels” (vs. 5).

      The church in Sardis, except for a few steadfast believers, had forgotten that there was a very real enemy to watch for and overcome, and Jesus was calling for them to remember what they had received and heard, to hold it fast, and repent. If we begin to forget what we have received from the Lord, the power of His glorious salvation, the Holy Spirit, and the truth of His Word, we will fail to keep it in our hearts and minds, and fall short of the glory of God (sin.) Such negligence lulls us into a spiritual slumber that renders us helpless to stand against the enemy of our souls. The Christian’s only sword is the Word of God. If we lay it aside as irrelevant, neglect it, disbelieve parts of it, ignore it, and forget it, when the enemy comes to “steal, and to kill, and to destroy” we will find ourselves undiscerning and totally unprepared, unarmed, and helpless to overcome. “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come” Matthew 24:37-42. [Emphasis added.]

      The church in Sardis had failed to the point that Jesus said it was “dead.” The question is what makes a church “alive?” Is it loud, contemporary music, an abundance of church activities, and outlandish entertainment? Is it participation in unbiblical, ancient, mystical “spiritual experiences” that are sweeping through the churches today? I appreciate what Kenneth Butcher, author of The Church, What on Earth is it? wrote about the church, “Be it in the early church of the New Testament where God’s presence was characteristically with His people in power, or be it in more recent times of genuine divine visitation, there were recurrent themes: preceding prayer; obedience to the Lord; the confession of and putting away of sin; surrender of heart; unity of spirit; willingness to suffer for Christ; and, ongoing sanctification.” And, “The change that is now needed has to be a work of the Holy Spirit which restores the members of ‘the body of Christ’ to her Head in the passion of ‘first love’”.

      We need to be “redeeming the time,” not wasting it in useless pursuits for “…all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light. Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is” Ephesians 5:13-17. [Emphasis added.] Jesus doesn’t call sinners and saints to come follow Him for a nice little vacation. On the contrary, He not only calls us to be “fishers of men, but He is making us into soldiers in His army because we have a dangerous foe. “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” 2 Timothy 2:3, 4. Every military man or woman is trained to recognize the enemy, know the enemy’s goals, methods of warfare, and subversive tactics. In Jesus’ army there is a never a time this side of heaven when a soldier can lay aside his or her sword and spiritual armor for some time out. Satan is always on the prowl. In Job 1:7 we read, “And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.” Satan is still roaming the earth; he is not asleep, dead or gone! The Apostle Paul declared, 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” 2 Corinthians 4:3, 4.

      Right from the beginning this “thief” wasted no time in slithering into the Garden of Eden (which Adam was commanded to guard and protect) and through his lies and beguilement stole the innocence and purity of the first couple, killed their relationship with the Lord God which resulted in spiritual and physical death, and destroyed the peaceful, happy, and perfect life of all living creatures on the earth. All of nature was affected by man’s fall and sin. “For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body” Romans 8:22, 23. The truth is, all of the environmentalists, animal rights groups, tree huggers, climate control managers, and earth worshippers put together will never be able to “save” this planet. Unbeknown to them, they are ridiculed and mocked by the “god of this world,” who is merely using them as pawns in his wicked game to deceive people and to defy the Creator and ultimately wreak havoc on the earth.

      The assault on the Church, and God’s Word, is so massive, so deeply pervasive and so widely accepted it’s hard to know where to begin. Do you grab the monster by the tail (symptoms) or go straight to the heart of the matter (cause) in order to inflict a lethal blow with the sword of truth? Someone might ask, “Just what is truth since everybody has their own truth?” The answer is the same, past, present and future, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” John 17:17. Without truth, there is no standard by which to test (discern) the spirit of error. 2 Thessalonians 10, 11 warn “And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”

      In the parable of the tares, Jesus explained, “He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels” Matthew 37-40. We are living on the breaking edge of that day.

      Nevertheless, the fun-loving, seeker-friendly, purpose-driven, worldly, positive-confessing, man-centered, humanistic, slumbering church seems to have bought one of Satan’s most powerful lies, and that lie is this: Satan doesn’t really exist. He is just a figment of people’s imagination, a mythical figure from ancient times, a meaningless metaphor, a harmless entity, etc.  If Satan doesn’t exist, then my question is who was Jesus talking to in the wilderness? (Matthew 4). Himself? Or, perhaps he was hallucinating? If this is true, and the Bible isn’t true, then Jesus was not God in the flesh, which means He could not save us, and we are without hope. But, praise the Lord, it IS true, and He WAS talking to Satan, and we need to remember His rebuke to the enemy when the enemy tempts us, “Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” Matthew 4:10.

      The truth is Jesus spoke more about Satan and hell than He did about heaven; yet, the post-modern churches have decided to ignore what the Bible plainly tells us about Satan, or redefine him as a non-essential, insignificant, harmless entity, or disbelieve he exists altogether. Some Universalists believe even Satan will be “saved” in the end, which is clearly the opposite of what Scripture teaches. “And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever” Revelation 20:10.

      Not everything is “positive” no matter how much you want to believe it is.

      The Apostle Peter warned “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. . . .” 2 Peter 5:8, 9a. I have heard preachers mock this warning from God’s Word by telling their adoring fans that Satan doesn’t have any “teeth” and he can only “gum” his victims; that Satan is harmless and only makes a lot of noise “roaring” because he is like an “old lion that can only roar.” NONSENSE! Concerning Satan, William Schnoebelen writes in his book Lucifer Dethroned, “our culture will not tolerate such a concept, because it is too close to those infamous taboo words, ‘sin’ and ‘hell.’ It even upsets the theological apple-carts of many Christians who prefer to think of Christianity as an institution where you get saved, join a ‘Bless-me’ club, then attend multiple ‘how-to’ seminars and sermons on ways to improve your parenting, your wallet and your self-esteem. They forget that the world’s foremost example of self-esteem is Satan.

      “They forget that Christianity should have a prophetic voice in the culture – and not simply surrender to the culture’s values. It is well and good for Christian preachers to rail against abortion or the homosexual rights movement. However, many of those same preachers have bought into the more subtle and dangerous values of the culture in ways that are far more insidious.

      “They have bought into a secularist, marketing-oriented, media-centered, psychologically-based view of the church and its function. This view does not protect them or their flocks when the brimstone-laden winds of Satan begin to wail through their carpeted, air-conditioned sanctuaries and whip their sheep into despair.

      “Thus, we must be careful that our world-view and our expectations are Bible-based. We need to re-examine some of our presuppositions about the way the universe works. Above all else, we need to stop genuflecting before the false gods of secularism and ‘…science falsely so called.’ (1 Tim. 6:20).”

      Church, we need to wake up. The night is coming when no man can work. Let us not be like the children of Israel of whom it is written, “…this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD: Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits” Isaiah 30:9, 10. Jonathan Edwards said, “We cannot believe that the church of God is already possessed of all that light which God intends to give it; nor that all Satan’s lurking places have already been found out.” Woe to the church that forgets that “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh” 2 Corinthians 104a. Remember what Jesus said to the Apostle Paul, “Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me” Acts 26:17, 18.

      The Bible makes no apologies for warning and instructing the Church about Satan, sin, hell and repentance, but the smooth talking prophets of today fly under the radar of truth in order to be well accepted by the worldly-minded, “churched,” “politically correct,” “good” people in the post-modern church. As Christians, it’s easier to forget that the Church has a foe. We all want to be non-offensive. We all want to make and keep friendships. None of us wants to be rude or crude, and most of us, as God’s children, want to serve Him with a loving, kind and generous spirit. Sometimes we become so focused on always being upbeat and encouraging that we ignore, overlook or dismiss what another person really needs to hear for the purpose of “doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” 2 Timothy 3:17. If we really love the brethren, and desire to edify souls and see captives set free, then we need to obey the admonitions of Scripture concerning confrontation, and not opt to become “men pleasers” more than pleasers of God. Let’s face it, confrontation, even for the sake of love and truth, is not pleasant. Paul wrote, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted” Galatians 6:1. In Jude 21-23 we read, “Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.” These Scriptures are clear that we all, as members of the Body of Christ, (and not just the pastor) have a responsibility to others, both believers and non-believers alike. We are all called to be “fishers of men.” We are all called to “fight the good fight of faith” 1 Timothy 6:12a. We are all called to “overcome” (See Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 26, 3:5, 12, 21; 1 John 2:13; 4:4; 5:5.)

      The question is have you forgotten there is a foe?