Books of the Bible

December 2014
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Don’t Fight Satan; Stand Your Ground

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.
(Ephesians 6:13 ESV)

We who are members of God’s family through faith in Christ are engaged in spiritual warfare against Satan and his many followers. That is not an invitation. That is a fact. We learned this yesterday. Therefore we need special protection and weapons. We cannot be victorious in this battle in our own strength. Satan is much more clever and much more powerful than we are.

Because of this we are commanded to take up the whole armor of God. It is only through God’s resources that we can withstand the onslaught of attacks that are guaranteed to come to anyone who is God’s child. Notice we are to use the whole armor of God. If we fail to utilize even one of the resources that God gives us we are likely to fall.

Notice that in this verse and also in Ephesians 6:11, which is similar, that we do not attack Satan. We cannot defeat him. Rather God tells us to stand firm. We are to defend ourselves. We are not to go on the offensive. God commands us to stand and nothing more. When Satan sees that we will not succumb to his plans he will flee [James 4:7]. Of course he’ll return. And when he does it will be with a more potent strategy [Luke 11:24-27]. The Christian life is one of constant resisting of Satan’s his lies and temptations.

Many people, including some Christians and even pastors, deny the existence of Satan. But the Bible makes it clear he is very real. I’m sure Satan is delighted when people don’t believe in him. If one does not believe in him then that person will be totally susceptible to his schemes and will be useless for God. Satan has that person right where he wants him.

Not only is Satan real, but he is pure evil. The name Satan means “adversary”. The word translated “devil” in the New Testament means “slanderer”. Satan is against God and he lies to us – God’s children – in a futile attempt to thwart God’s plans. This is exactly what he did in the Garden of Eden [Genesis 3:1-5].

Satan’s temptations seem innocuous [1 Corinthians 11:14-15]. In fact, they often seem beneficial. But despite how it may appear, there is no truth in him [John 8:44]. When we fall victim to his lies we are falling right into his trap, damaging ourselves and others.

Paul makes an interesting reference to the evil day. Sometimes this New Testament phrase refers to the general evil world we live in, notably the end times when evil will be set loose. But really any temptation to sin is an “evil day”. When we are tempted to cheat on our taxes because everyone else does – that is an evil day. When we tempted to look at pornography because no one will know – that is an evil day.

Every day is an evil day. Sin is always crouching at our door [Genesis 4:7]. In heaven we will be removed from the presence of sin. Until then we are still susceptible to its enticing power. And only God’s resources can protect us.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.


People Are Not Our Enemies; Satan Is The Enemy

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
(Ephesians 6:12 ESV)

Every truly born-again child of God is engaged in spiritual warfare. Notice that God never commands us to join a fight. The fact that we are already in the fight is simply stated as a matter-of-fact. Therefore it is important to know who we are fighting against.

Our enemy is not other people who oppose God (flesh and blood). These people are human beings just like us. In fact, as we’ve read, we used to be exactly where they are now. We used to be dead in our sins, following the leadership of Satan [Ephesians 2:1-6; Colossians 1:13].

Rather, it is Satan who is our enemy. He has an army of rulersauthoritiescosmic powers, and spiritual forces of evil who are over this present darkness. We are living in a dark, sinful world over which Satan has authority [1 John 5:19].

Anyone who is not one of God’s children through faith in Jesus [John 1:12-13] is not acting of their own accord. They don’t realize it, but they are falling prey to Satan’s lies and deception [2 Corinthians 4:4]. Therefore God’s children should look at such people with tremendous compassion as we understand the eternity they are headed for if they do not see the truth, repent of their sins, and accept God’s offer of total forgiveness through His son Jesus [2 Timothy 2:26].

Christians often respond incorrectly when those who don’t know God condone and promote sin in our society. We have to remember that these people don’t understand what they are doing. They are acting out of ignorance. Looking back at when I was an atheist as a teenager and young adult I see now that I didn’t act on the truth. I acted on what I thought was the truth but which was actually a lie. So too are non-believers acting today.

The proper response to sin in our culture is not to attack the sinner but to promote the truth of Jesus as Paul did [Ephesians 3:8]. Just as importantly, we need to make sure people understand our motivation for doing so. We don’t speak up against sin for our own sake or because we hate. We speak up against sin out of love for those who don’t understand and who are being misled by Satan. At least that should be our motivation. If it isn’t then we need to do a self-evaluation and realign ourselves with God who hates no one but who cares about all people and their eternity [1 Timothy 2:3-4].

Our enemy is not the government. Or atheists. Or the gay community. These people are our fellow human beings. They, like all people, are eternal creatures who desperately need God’s love and forgiveness. We should care more about them than we do about ourselves. They think living apart from God brings freedom. But that only brings bondage. They need to know the truth.

Jesus is the truth [John 14:6]. Only He can set people free from Satan’s grip [John 8:31-32, 36].

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.


God Offers Protection Against Satan’s Schemes

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.
(Ephesians 6:11 ESV)

Before heading out into battle a soldier must be both mentally and physically prepared. He wouldn’t go without his gun, helmet, or body vest. Yesterday we learned that the Christian life is a war. God’s children [John 1:12-13] are soldiers while on this earth.

The opponent is the devil. The Greek word here is διαβολοσ (pronounced: dee-ab’-ol-os) which means “slanderer”. Satan attacks us by lying. In the Garden of Eden Satan tricked (i.e. schemed) Eve into disobeying God by slandering Him [Genesis 3:1-6]. He still uses that same tactic today. All sin stems from doubt about God.

When we doubt that God loves us and has only our best interests in mind we will disobey. All sin is enticing. If it weren’t we wouldn’t do it. But just like the fruit Adam & Eve ate, which looked beneficial, all sin has negative consequences. We may think there is no harm. But we are being mislead by desire [James 1:14-15].

Notice that God does not tell us to fight Satan directly. He tells us to stand against his schemes. If we resist the devil, he will leave us alone, albeit only temporarily [James 4:7]. But to be able to resist we need to be able to recognize when we are being duped.

This is where the armor of God comes in. Armor is protection. God gives us the resources we need to protect ourselves from Satan’s schemes to trip us up. If Satan can out wit us then he has won a small battle in his effort to damage our relationship with God. Once a person has been born-again she is one of God’s children forever. So our relationship with God cannot be broken. But when we sin our relationship with God is strained. Not to mention the consequences of that sin may have long lasting effects on us and others.

Paul will explain in detail what exactly this armor is over the next several verses. But for now its important to note that we need to put on the whole armor. The Greek word for “put on” is ενδυο (pronounced: en-doo’-o). This word means “to clothe”. We are to cover ourselves in the resources God gives us to protect ourselves.

Interestingly, the verb tense here is a command to do something, do it completely, and do it once and for all. Christians are commanded to put on the whole armor of God – not just some of it – and never take it off. We are to go through life wearing this protection because we will need it for the rest of our earthly lives as Satan, and his minions, will never stop trying to get us to sin.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.


The Christian Life Is Spiritual Warfare

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.
(Ephesians 6:10 ESV)

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is a general letter that was probably circulated to several churches. It contains general doctrine about a believer’s position in Christ (chapters 1-3) followed by specific examples of how we are to live in light of that truth (chapters 4-6:9).

But living such a life does not come easy. Being a believer doesn’t mean that things always go your way. In fact, it will definitely mean that things very often don’t go your way because Satan will attack you.

For example, Satan is using atheists and the gay community to attack Christians through their words and law suits. But have you noticed they never sue Muslims over their stance on religion or homosexuality? That’s because Islam is a lie and Satan isn’t going to waste his time attacking a lie. Satan will always and only attack the truth.

It is God’s goal for us to grow in our knowledge of Him and to grow in our character to be more like Jesus. One thing we can be sure of. The more we grow in this way the more Satan will attack us. If one follows the model for living that Paul has outlined in this letter he can be sure he’ll experience spiritual warfare. This next section of Paul’s letter will address this important reality.

It’s interesting that Paul places this section immediately after his discussion of relationships. Satan attacks our relationship with God primarily by attacking our human relationships. He’s been doing this since the beginning. In the Garden of Eden Satan broke Adam and Eve’s relationship with God and each other [Genesis 3:1-13].

Therefore God admonishes us to be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. We cannot fight against Satan in our own puny strength. We need God’s strength. We become strong in the Lord through prayer and the studying of God’s word. We also need to free ourselves from worldly influences such as mainstream entertainment (TV, movies, music) and by not hanging out with people who are clearly living in sin.

The Christian life is not passive. Nor is it child’s play. At the end of his life Paul said he had fought the good fight [2 Timothy 4:7]. The Christian life is a fight. Too many Christians believe God will remove every obstacle from their life. Some pastors even preach a “prosperity gospel” in which they teach nothing other than that God will make you rich. That is a great sales pitch to get people into church. But it is not even close to the truth.

While heaven will be free from problems, there is no such escape here on earth. And the more “in Christ” a person is the more problems they will encounter. I once read an interesting commentary which stated that Satan assigns his most talented demons to the strongest Christians. The more we become like Christ the more powerful Satan’s attacks with be [Luke 11:24-27].

The earthly Christian life is warfare. Over the next few days we’ll see how to prepare for and respond to it.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.


The Same Rules Apply To Employers As Employees

Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.
(Ephesians 6:9 ESV)

Yesterday Paul told slaves who were believers to work hard for their masters because they were truly working for God. Their attitude in the face of harsh conditions would be a great witness to the people they worked for. Today Paul will address masters (e.g. employers, bosses). The relevance for us today can be applied to our professional lives.

All the things Paul just wrote about how an employee should behave also applies to employers, who should do the same to them. Bosses are to act towards their employees with the same regard for the will of God and the same recognition of the authority of Christ in their lives. Both, if they are believers (and Paul is addressing believers in this letter, not unbelievers), are working for God not themselves. As such, how they treat each other will be a witness to the non-believing world around them.

To that end employers should not issue threats to motivate employees. Rather they should lead with love and should show concern for their employees’ benefit. This will illicit reciprocal good-will from the employee. God does not dismiss the idea of authority within the workplace. But He does command mutual respect as well as fair dealings between both parties.

A business owner may not have to report to an earthly authority and may, therefore, think they can get away with anything. This was certainly true 2,000 years ago as laws and culture heavily favored owners. But everyone has a Master in heaven who sees and hears all. God is watching. When Jesus returns He will give eternal rewards to His followers based on how well we obeyed His commands [Matthew 16:27].

Back in Paul’s day those in authority may have thought that they were favored by God because they were not laborers. But that is not the case. God shows no partiality [Deuteronomy 10:17; Job 34:18-19; Acts 10:34]. He demands fairness and will bring trouble upon those who bring trouble upon others [Proverbs 17:13; 2 Thessalonians 1:6].

God’s desire for employees and employers can be summed up in the Golden Rule of Matthew 7:12 “Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them”. If you are an employee be the employee you would want to have if you were an employer. If you are an employer then be the kind of employer you would want to have if you were an employee.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.


Using Our Profession To Glorify God

Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free.
(Ephesians 6:5-8 ESV)

Today we begin the third and final example given by Paul with regard to human relationships and how we – those of us who are God’s children through faith [John 1:12-13] – should submit our wills to each other. The first example was marriage. The second was families. This final example is the workplace.

Work has always been a part of God’s plan for man. Before the fall, God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden and gave him the responsibility for taking care of it [Genesis 2:15]. God is a worker. Man was created in His image so we are to be workers too as God condemns laziness [Proverbs 6:6; 2 Thessalonians 3:10 et. al].

In this passage Paul actually addresses bondservants (slaves) and masters. Slavery, some of which was voluntary, was an accepted practice in ancient Rome. Nevertheless, Paul’s comments are still applicable to our professional relationships.

Notice first off that Paul makes it clear that the masters are earthly. The people we work for have limited authority here on earth only. They are not the ultimate authority in our lives. Just like we saw with wives/husbands and children/fathers, none of us are under any obligation to obey orders from our bosses that violate God’s commands. In fact, doing so would raise their authority above God’s, sending the wrong message to them.

We should serve our employers with fear and trembling. We saw Paul use this same phrase when we studied Philippians earlier this year. These words are not telling employees to be afraid of their bosses. They are telling us to be diligent out of the realization that we are error prone. We should be careful to do a good job.

To that end we should work with a sincere heart by giving every effort just as we would do for Christ. We are not to work only when we are being watched (eye-service) or to please people. When we work we are actually serving Christ [Ecclesiastes 9:10; Colossians 3:23-25]. When we (God’s children) work hard and honestly we are a witness to those around us, which is the will of God.

Charles Spurgeon said, “we do the business of heaven while we are attending to the business of earth”. Our attitude (heart) should be such that we are rendering service to the Lord rather than to man. This reminds us that once a person is saved their life – including their profession – is no longer about them. It is about being a witness to those around us. We do that by always behaving in a manner that glorifies God. Because when God is glorified people will notice Him and be drawn to Him.

Not only will people notice our hard work but so will God. Whatever good anyone does will be paid back from the Lord. None of us would turn down a bigger salary. But we don’t work to amass earthly treasures since such rewards fade away [Matthew 6:19-20]. A reward from God is better because it lasts for eternity.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.


Fathers Affect Their Children’s View Of God

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
(Ephesians 6:4 ESV)

Yesterday we read that children should obey and honor their parents. Today we read about parents’ responsibility toward their children. All of this is part of a broader teaching on how believers should submit to each other in their relationships [Ephesians 5:21].

The first thing we notice about this verse is that it is addressed to fathers. The Greek word here is πάτερ (pronounced: pat-ayr’) which means “male ancestor”. While some will claim this verse is speaking to parents in general, we see from the Greek word that it clearly is meant for the father. This is consistent with what we’ve studied recently and what God says elsewhere in the Bible.

We know from the story of Adam and Eve that it was Adam who was held accountable for the spiritual development of his family [Genesis 3:6, 9-12]. And we just recently read how the husband is responsible for the spiritual development of his wife.

While child rearing should be a shared activity between husband and wife, God has appointed fathers to be the family leader and as such He gives them responsibility for ensuring that the children are taught the discipline and instruction of the Lord. With responsibility comes accountability. God will hold fathers accountable for the spiritual development of their children.

It’s interesting that, by the use of the word but, Paul presents this as the alternative to provoking children to anger. The Greek word for “provoke” here is παροργίζω (pronounced: pä-ror-gē’-zō) which means “to stimulate an unwelcome emotional reaction in someone else”. In other words, fathers should not give their children any reason to become emotional (e.g. angry, depressed) because doing so is the opposite of providing godly instruction.

A father who has temper issues or is impatient or who ignores his kids will make his kids angry. A child’s relationship with their father often affects how they view God. Children tend to grow up attributing whatever values they saw in their earthly father to God. A father who exhibits godly characteristics towards their children will, understandably, draw his children closer to God.

We know that God is love [1 John 4:8]. We also know what love looks like [1 Corinthians 13:4-8]. Love is patient. Love keeps no record of wrongs. Love is not self-seeking. Love is not easily angered. Love always protects. These words describe God perfectly. They also describe the manner in which earthly fathers should love their own children.

When a father raises his children according to God’s truth those children will stay on that path [Proverbs 22:6]. It is therefore imperative that fathers teach their children the word of God (the Bible) daily [Deuteronomy 11:19]. Doing so is the most loving thing a father can do.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.


Obeying Parents Brings Mutual Benefit

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”
(Ephesians 6:1-3 ESV)

We are currently studying a passage in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians in which he is discussing mutual submission in various relationships. This mutual submission is one of the results of being filled with the Holy Spirit [Ephesians 5:18] and is something we do out of reverence for Christ [Ephesians 5:21]. After spending quite a few verses discussing how husbands and wives should serve each other, Paul now moves on to discuss mutual submission between children and parents.

Simply put, children should obey their parents. This is the right thing for them to do. To further his point, Paul quotes from the Ten Commandments: “Honor your father and mother”, which is command number five.

Notice the phrase in the Lord. Children should obey their parents because obeying their parents means obeying God. God has established all authorities on earth. And while we may not always understand or agree with their decisions, when we practice obedience we are honoring God. But just like we learned with husbands and wives, we are under no obligation to obey authorities (including parents) who ask us to do something that goes against God’s will. This would include something that is illegal or violates one of God’s commands in the Bible.

When we consider that in their early years children are too young to read and understand this verse we see that parents have an obligation to teach their children the importance of obedience. If parents wait until their children are old enough to understand it will be too late. Obedience, and the value of obedience, need to be taught at an early age as we are all predisposed to rebel from the time we are very young.

The Greek word for “children” in this verse is τέκνον (pronounced: tek’-non) which means “offspring”. Notice that it doesn’t necessarily mean “young child”. No matter how old we are, we are all someone’s offspring as long as one of our parents is alive. Certainly as we get older we don’t have to “obey” our parents in the sense that they make our decisions for us. But we should always honor them. This would include the way we interact with them throughout our adult life regardless of how they treated us as children [Proverbs 20:20, 23:22] as well as how we live our lives once we are on our own [Proverbs 10:1, 17:25]. Adult children who lead troublesome lives dishonor their parents.

Sacrificial living in relationships – the context of these verses – is always better than living for self. God promises that one who honors her parents will experience quality of life (it may go well with you) and quantity of life (you may live long in the land). When a child submits himself to his parents he brings honor to them and benefit to himself.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.


Marriage Is A Mystery To Those Who Don’t Know God

This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
(Ephesians 5:32-33 ESV)

For the past nine days we’ve been studying this passage in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians regarding marriage. As we learned on day one, knowing and understanding the context is required in order to understand the text itself. The context of these passages is mutual submission to one another, with marriage being the first of three examples [Ephesians 5:21].

In the Bible God does not state, or even imply, that marriage is a one-way street. It clearly states that both husband and wife should sacrifice themselves for each other as they committed to do on the altar the day they got married. This concept is not understood by the world – it is a mystery understood only by those who study the Bible and who therefore understand what marriage is.

Marriage refers to Christ and the church. It is an earthly picture to the world of the unconditional love Jesus has for those who are a part of His family [John 1:12-13]. It is therefore imperative that both the husband and wife play their parts. Doing so is a great witness to the world around them.

However, even though the world doesn’t understand marriage each husband is commanded to love his wife as himself. It doesn’t matter what the world does or says. God wants His children to view marriage in this light. By living the way God commands, a married couple will proclaim Christ to a world that desperately needs Him.

On a related note, when we redefine marriage to be between anyone other than a heterosexual male and female we remove this witness from society. Those who promote same-sex marriage are confusing lust with love. The think they are helping, but the reality is they are hurting society by making it harder for the next generations to come to know God. Jesus told us that anyone who prevents others from knowing Him would be better off dead [Luke 17:2]. Ouch.

Notice that there are no exceptions. The Greek word for “each” is ηεκαστοσ (pronounced: hek’-as-tos). It is the superlative of “one”. A superlative is “the highest degree”. God is telling every husband to love his wife even when he doesn’t feel like it. Her behavior is not relevant. Hopefully she will obey God and respect her husband. But even if she does not God commands the husband to love her.

This is, afterall, how Jesus loves us. He loves us and died for us even though we don’t deserve His love [Romans 5:8].

When we started to study these passages on marriage I stated that we would discover that these verses don’t say what many people claim they say. It should now be obvious that the Bible is not misogynistic. The Bible does not reduce women to peons. Nor does it exalt men. It calls on husbands and wives to be a witness to the world by recognizing they are one just as Jesus and the church are one.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.


A Husband And Wife Are One Flesh

In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”
(Ephesians 5:28-31 ESV)

Previously we read that Jesus and believers are one. Paul used the metaphor of a human body to explain this idea with Jesus being the head and us as members of His body [Ephesians 5:23]. Marriage is meant to be a symbol of this relationship; a man and woman become one flesh once they are married [Genesis 2:24].

Husbands should, therefore, love their wives in the same way that Jesus loves us – as their own bodies A husband should love His wife because the two of them are one in the same. When a man treats his wife well he is treating himself well. When he mistreats his wife he is mistreating himself. No one would mistreat his own flesh. Instead we nourish it and cherish it.

The word “nourish” means “to feed” and implies meeting physical needs. No sane person would starve their own body. Likewise, since the wife and husband are one body, any husband who does not provide basic necessities such as food, shelter, and clothing for his wife is not only neglecting her, but is also neglecting himself.

The word “cherish” has its roots in the verb “to warm”. When our hands our cold we put them in our pockets – we hold them close to ourselves to give them warmth. The word picture here is of a husband concerning himself with the emotional needs of his wife. When she is hurting, he is hurting. Husbands are to keep their wives warm, emotionally speaking.

This is exactly how Christ treats those who belong to Him (the church). We are members of His body and when we are in need, He provides for us. When we are hurting, He is hurting. He cares for us because we are one with Him [1 Corinthians 6:15]. We are eternally inseparable from Him.

This is why God wants marriage to be permanent and disapproves of divorce. A married couple are a picture of the permanent union between Jesus and believers. We can never be separated from Him. When things go bad, He is there for us. He will not quit on us. Similarly, husbands and wives should never quit on each other.

When a husband nourishes and cherishes his wife he is testifying to the world of the love Jesus has for those who are a part of Him. On the other hand, when a husband does not nourish and cherish his wife he is proclaiming a false witness to the world that Jesus does not take care of His people.

As we can see, marriage is a very important part of God’s design for life. While it does provide happiness and security for the husband and wife, it is so much more than that. It is the ultimate witness to God’s love for us. This is why any distortion of marriage such as same-sex marriage and polygamy are an abomination. They do not, and cannot, accurately portray Jesus’ love for believers.

Just as Christ, who is one body with His church, cares for His church, so the husband, who is one body with his wife, should care for his wife.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post.



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