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Insurgency! (11.08.05--Christian Soldiers!--Revelations 12:7)
What war? That was the response that I got from a friend recently when I referred to Operation Iraqi Freedom as a war. I looked at him and asked: “How would you define a war?” His response? “A war is when freedom is at stake and our well-being as a nation is challenged. I don’t see how anyone could define what is happening in Iraq in these terms!”
Because Pearl Harbor had not been bombed by the Japanese or the Lusitania had not been sunk by the Germans, my friend simply could not equate the events in the Middle East with his understanding of what war is. Even though the Twin Towers had been attacked and thousands more had died than on the Lusitania or at Pearl Harbor, the fact that it was not a “definable” enemy made all the difference in the world to him. If he couldn’t put the face of a nation on the face of an enemy, he could not equate the struggle against international terrorism as a legitimate war.
But, what about the battle against Satan and his minions? Do Christians take a similar viewpoint on who is the enemy and who is not when it comes to the war against God and His people here on earth?
In his book which provides a statistical analysis of religious beliefs in America, George Barna cites several fascinating statistics which are based on a national survey. In chapter four he states, “The Devil, or Satan, is not a living being but is a symbol of evil.” Then asking that segment of his survey respondents who have identified themselves at being Christians, he states, “Do you agree strongly, agree somewhat, disagree somewhat, or disagree strongly with that statement?” The population reply with 32 percent agreeing strongly, 11 percent agreeing somewhat and 5 percent did not know. Thus, of the total number responding, 48 percent either agreed that Satan is only symbolic or did not know! (What Americans Believe, pp. 206-212).
What a shame that so many Christians aren’t able to put a face on the enemy when it comes to the most crucial and fearsome battle ever fought on the face of this earth--the war against God. Declared long ago when he was thrown from heaven, Satan has been waging an all-out battle against God since the beginning of time. Although Christ crushed Satan on Calvary, he is still a dangerous foe. Like the insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, He lurks waiting to bring his brand of terrorism to bear against any unsuspecting Christian unwilling or unable to see his face as that of the enemy. Now is not the time to drop the shield and sword. The Devil is for real and his war against you and I will not end until Jesus returns. Until that time it is our responsibility to know who the foe is, believe that he is powerful, and join actively in the fight.
More than anyone else Christian parents can have the most influence on their children, because when Christ died upon the Cross the veil was ripped open so they could enter into the presence of God who sits on the Throne of Grace. The call to pray is from God’s Word and we are given a sure promise, “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16b) One mother who knew this truth was Monica Augustine, the mother of St. Augustine who after a long struggle was converted to Christianity. St. Augustine was born in North Africa (Tagaste, Numidia) to a Christian mother and his father was a pagan until very late in life. Augustine’s childhood was marred by stealing pears and his ability to learn led him to one humanistic philosophy after another. He even had an obsession with the occult for a season in his life. During his period of exploration he lived a life of excessive fleshly desires causing him to become the father of a child by a mistress. After his conversion to Christ Augustine became the author of many great works writing about the “…City of God,” “On the Trinity,” “On Faith,” “Hope,” “Love” and “Christian Doctrine.” Augustine’s most widely read book is “The Confessions” which are several books that record how he felt about the Lord and his prayers to God. Studying Augustine’s life during that period of living in selfish sin shows that the Christian living he saw in his mother and the Christian teaching he received was not a waste of time. Thirteen years before his conversion he was moved in his prayers to return to God (Confessions #3:4) but he could not make himself do so. One year before his conversion Augustine was influenced by a man (Ambrose) who he knew was presenting “healthy teaching on salvation,” yet he could not return to the teaching and lifestyle he saw in his mother because of self-living. Listen to these confessions of Augustine while he struggled with sin and surrendering to Christ. “I was storm tossed and you [God] held the tiller.” “I was swept away by your beauty [Lord] and then I was torn away from you by my own weight [of sin] and fell back groaning toward these [lesser] thing [in life].” While being exposed for nearly a year to “healthy teachings of salvation” he wrote, “But salvation is far from sinners of the kind that I was then.” When Augustine was being moved to prayer to return to God he writes, “[I was] on fire to leave earthly things behind and fly back” [to God]. But there was an obstacle that kept Augustine from reaching God, he writes, “The Name of Christ was not there…” Augustine writes about how the Name of Jesus Christ was his mother’s milk and His Name touched his heart tenderly, but the fruit of his life was surrendered to self-will and not God’s will. Finally in early August 386 Augustine abandoned his teaching career and his proposed marriage and went off with some friends to live a life of contemplation. One day he heard how some men had moved to give their whole heart and life to serve the Lord. Augustine was suddenly confronted with his sin of self-living. He rushed out into the garden and flung himself under the fig tree and wept bitterly, crying out to God, “How long, how long, why should not this hour be an end to my baseness?” From a neighboring yard he heard the voice of a child say, “Take and read” Augustine went over to a bench where laid a copy of the Apostle Paul’s Epistle and he read Romans 13:13-14, “Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” (Romans 13:13-14) At that moment Augustine put on Christ, took on the Name that was missing, the only key person missing in his life that would enable him to live for God. Long before we even came into this world the grace of God confronted Augustine as dramatically as God’s grace did the Apostle Paul. At age 31 Augustine’s struggle came to an end and through him came teachings and service that laid the foundation of Western theology. Augustine has often been call “Bishop of Hippo” and “Doctor of the Church.” The opening prayer of Augustine’s “Confessions” sums up his whole experience in life. He writes, “Our hearts are restless until they can find peace with you [Lord Jesus].” Augustine and one of his friends put on Christ and they went and told Monica his mother. Fredrick S. Leahy wrote about this time in Christian history, “Over the years she had prayed for her wayward son with tears. Now her prayers were answered yes to and her heart’s wishes granted.”
CHRISTLIKENESS: A PAINFUL PROCESS
The truth is that the Spirit of the living God is guaranteed to ask you to go somewhere or do something you wouldn’t normally want or choose to do. The Spirit will lead you to the way of the cross, as He led Jesus to the cross, and that is definitely not a safe or pretty or comfortable place to be. The Holy Spirit of God will mold you into the person you were made to be. This often incredibly painful process strips you of selfishness, pride, and fear.
For a powerful example of this, read in C. S. Lewis’s book The Voyage of the Dawn Treader about the boy, Eustace, who becomes a dragon. In order to become a little boy again, he must undergo a tremendous amount of pain as the dragon skin is peeled away and torn from him. Only after he endures this painful process is he truly transformed from a dragon back into a boy.
Sometimes the sin we take on becomes such a part of us that it requires this same kind of ripping and tearing to free us. The Holy Spirit does not seek to hurt us, but He does seek to make us Christlike, and this can be painful.
(Francis Chan. Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit (pp. 50-51). Kindle Edition.)
Dr. S.M. Lockridge was the Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, San Diego CA from 1953 - 1993. He entered heaven in 2000. He is well-known for a passage out of his sermon titled “He’s My King”:
“He’s enduringly strong, He’s entirely sincere, He’s eternally steadfast. He’s immortally graceful. He’s imperially powerful. He’s impartially merciful. He’s God’s Son. He’s a sinner’s savior. He’s the centerpiece of civilization. He stands alone in Himself. He’s unparalleled. He’s unprecedented. He’s supreme. He’s preeminent. He’s the loftiest idea in literature. He’s the highest idea in philosophy. He’s the fundamental truth in theology. He’s the miracle of the age. He’s the only one able to supply all of our needs simultaneously. He supplies strength for the weak. He’s available for the tempted and the tried. He sympathizes and He saves. He guards and He guides. He heals the sick, He cleans the lepers. He forgives sinners, He discharges debtors, He delivers captives, He defends the feeble, He blesses the young, He serves the unfortunate, He regards the aged, He rewards the diligent, He beautifies the meek. Do you know Him?
Well, my king is the king of knowledge, He’s the well-spring of wisdom, He’s the doorway of deliverance, He’s the pathway of peace, He’s the roadway of righteousness, He’s the highway of holiness He’s the gateway of glory, He’s the master of the mighty, He’s the captain of the conquerors, He’s the head of the heroes, He’s the leader of the legislators, He’s the overseer of the overcomers, He’s the governor of governors, He’s the prince of princes, He’s the king of Kings and the Lord of Lords.
His life is matchless. His goodness is limitless. His mercy is everlasting. His love never changes. His word is enough. His grace is sufficient. His reign is righteous. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Well. I wish I could describe Him to you. But He’s indescribable. Yes. He’s incomprehensible. He’s invincible, He’s irresistible. I’m trying to tell you, the Heavens cannot contain Him, let alone a man explain Him. You can’t get Him out of your mind. You can’t get Him off of your hands. You can’t outlive Him, and you can’t live without Him. Well. The Pharisees couldn’t stand Him, but they found out they couldn’t stop Him. Pilate coul...
R. David Reynolds
“Great Is thy Faithfulness” is not the result of some tragic event in Thomas Chisholm’s life but a powerful witness to his daily walk with Jesus as he experienced “morning by morning” new mercies from His Everlasting Father. Pastor Chisholm always trusted his Everlasting Father to take care of Him, sustain him, and provide for his daily needs. Just before his death in 1960 he wrote this power, personal witness:
My income has never been large at any time due to
impaired health in the earlier years which has followed me
on until now. But I must not fail to record here the
unfailing faithfulness of a covenant keeping God and that He
has given me many wonderful displays of His providing care
which have filled me with astonishing gratefulness.”
[SOURCE: Kenneth W. Osbeck, Amazing Grace: 366
Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions (Grand Rapids:
Kregel Publications, 1990), 348.]
Heaven, an Inheritance
Jesus said, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me. In My Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going... I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." (John 14:1-4, 6)
The Holy Scriptures teach clearly that heaven is a real place, a permanent place, a personal place and a holy place. It is also an inheritance for those who say "yes" to Jesus Christ.
In his gospel, the beloved John conveys a powerful truth of what one must become in order to inherit eternal salvation. "...I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." (John 3:3) And once more, "...You must be born again." (John 3:7) Twice Jesus tells Nicodemus, already a Pharisee and religious leader, "I tell you the truth..."
The truth for you is that a preacher saying nice things, nor beautiful hymns being sung at your funeral, nor the local paper announcing that you were a member of such and such church, nor even being in church nearly every Sunday will gain you entrance into heaven. Being truly born again is a necessity.
Many Scripture passages tell what God will do for a person who through repentance accepts Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Ezekiel 36: 26, 27 is one of the most clear. It has been used frequently by Dr. Billy Graham to explain what God wants to do in the hearts and lives of those coming forward to receive the forgiveness found only in Christ. The verses say, "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit in you and move you to follow My decrees and be careful to keep my laws."
A "heart of stone" is inflexible, unyielding and insensitive. It is not apt to receive from or have any devoted affection toward its Creator. A man with a heart of stone has no fellowship with the Lord. He does not do the will of God, thus, he does what seems right in his own eyes which will lead to his own destruction. God alone gives physical life and He alone can give spiritual life in what Jesus says is being "born again."
When God supernaturally gives a repentant person a "heart of flesh" and puts His Spirit in a new believer, that person becomes sensitive and alive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Only then can he determine and do the will of God. This enables him to know the joy that comes from obedience to the Word of God. Once the Holy Spirit of God has entered the heart and life of a repentant person, they are never the same! Guaranteed! The Bible says they are a new creation, the old has gone and the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Jesus made these truths very clear to Nicodemus, and He desires to make them crystal clear to all who will hear even now. In heaven there will be only those who are born again, those who have trusted Jesus Christ as both Savior and Lord.
The Holy Spirit moved the apostle Paul to write to (and about) authentic Christians, "You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ." (Romans 8:9)
Will you receive Christ today?
BE LIKE MIKE...?
Gary Thomas, in his book Authentic Faith, describes a friend of his named Mike. He met Mike when he went to college. Mike was a leader among students. He had everything: a contagious personality, athletic ability, good looks, and natural appeal. And everybody wanted to be around Mike. Everybody wanted to be Mike.
But a few years after college, Mike suffered a brain hemorrhage, and, as a result, he lost everything: his handsome appearance was gone, his voice was slurred, he couldn’t teach any more. Everything that others admired in Mike was now taken from him.
His treatment required months of grueling therapy, but eventually he was able to function again. The devastating effect on his body was paralleled by an equally powerful change in his spirit. He still attracted followers, but he was no longer focused on himself. He was focused on God. Gary Thomas says, "In college, when I was around Mike, I wanted to be like Mike. Now, after spending time with Mike, I want to be more like Jesus."
HE WAS HEALED
Tony Campolo tells a story about being in a church in Oregon where he was asked to pray for a man who had cancer. Campolo prayed boldly for the man’s healing.
That next week he got a telephone call from the man’s wife. She said, "You prayed for my husband. He had cancer." Campolo thought when he heard her use the past tense verb that his cancer had been eradicated! But before he could think much about it she said, "He died." Compolo felt terrible.
But she continued, "Don’t feel bad. When he came into that church that Sunday he was filled with anger. He knew he was going to be dead in a short period of time, and he hated God. He was 58 years old, and he wanted to see his children and grandchildren grow up. He was angry that this all-powerful God didn’t take away his sickness and heal him. He would lie in bed and curse God. The more his anger grew towards God, the more miserable he was to everybody around him. It was an awful thing to be in his presence.
But the lady told Compolo, "After you prayed for him, a peace had come over him and a joy had come into him. Tony, the last three days have been the be...
Sermon Central Staff
INVALIDS' PRAYERS BRING REVIVAL
Max Lucado told of a church in Scotland back in the 1940s that was struggling to keep the doors open. A couple of its members were two older ladies who were invalids and couldn’t get out for worship any longer. But these ladies refused to allow their infirmities to get in the way of serving their God. They became convinced that their community needed Jesus desperately and they were going to do something about it. They were going to pray.
They determined to make their house a house of prayer.
Around the clock they prayed for God do something powerful.
Then one day, one of the ladies became convinced that God wanted a revivalist by the name of Campbell to come and hold meetings at their church. They talked to their preacher and he contacted Campbell...but Campbell was unavailable. He was booked up.
The women refused to give up in their prayers however...and it wasn’t long before--oddly enough--some of Campbell’s other revivals became cancelled and he decided to accept the invitation of that small church. He arrived and held 5 weeks of meetings.
The Revival was so well received that hundreds showed up each night. And lives were so changed that many of the local taverns had to close up because they lacked patrons.
One might think it was because of the powerful preaching of a renowned revivalist. But in reality it was because of the faithfulness of two invalid older ladies who dedicated themselves to prayer.
(From a sermon by Jeff Strite, God’s Idea of Church, 5/2/2011)
THE WEAK WILL SHAME THE WISE
We have to come to the realization that life is much more than brokenness. According to God’s word, we are vessels of honor which contain the power and glory of the Christ. I, too, have had a problem with such thinking throughout the years. How can I, a vessel of honor for God, be fractured and imperfect?
But then I recall biblical characters such as King David. Truly he was a vessel of honor. He was a man after God’s own heart. He embodied the tenacity and fortitude to lift honorable praise and adoration to his fortress and shelter, God. But yet I can also recall that even David had his failures and his times of disgrace. He, too, was known for his immorality in the forms of adultery, conspiracy, murder and concealment of the facts. Even so, God still used David for his glory and honor by allowing him to pen such beautiful words as the Psalms. Beyond that, after seeking forgiveness and repenting openly, God permitted him to continue as Israel’s greatest leader of all times.
Then there was Moses, a mighty man of valor. A man that took great thought towards his leadership capabilities and the responsibility he had as a caretaker. So overwhelmed with his job that he, too, overstep his bounds and crossed the line. Through a moment of anger he slew the life of a fellow human being and then ran to hide from his crime. Yet, God saw fit, after years of softening his heart in the fields of shepherding, to call him forth as a powerful deliverer of his own people, Israel.
Even during that journey from Egypt to Canaan, along with those he was leading, was disobedient to a gracious God and still had to suffer a few consequences for those choices. Yet, God never left them helpless and alone.
There is also the Saul who thought that he was confident he was doing God justice by persecuting the early church and its leadership; sometimes even leading to stoning to the death those who called themselves “Christians,” followers of the Christ. He felt warranted to do such inhumane mistreatment by God’s mandate to sustain his cases of harassment against these so called “perverters of the Law of God.”
But once blinded by the light of the Christ on the road to Damascus and a definite change of heart, Saul became Paul, one of the greatest apostles of all times. He was encouraged to found numerous churches throughout Asia Minor and credited for such, even in Spain. He also was granted the right to author several letters that made their way into the canon of writings that now make up the New Testament.
And we certainly can’t overlook the ladies either. Mary Magdalene, even though her life apparently started out on the wrong foot and she most likely had chosen a questionable livelihood, she still became one of the most prominent disciples of Jesus. She was so thankful for his life-giving and life-changing teachings, that she relinquished her past and became a new person in and through him. And then she finally was privileged to be one of the first evangelists that early Easter morning after speaking to her Lord in the garden.
Listen carefully again to a portion of our text for today: “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen.”
Yes God has always used worn, broken clay vessels for his honor and glory and still does. God has not changed, he still takes what we given him, our imperfections and flaws and remakes us into useful earthen pots that contain the precious gospel on the Christ. He then grants you and me the tenacity and fortitude to lift honorable praise and adoration to his fortress and shelter, God. He has given to us the call to be deliverers of those bound in the chains of sinfulness through the use of the message of salvation entrusted to us. In His fullest of intentions, God also wants you and me to be great messengers of the faith, telling all those about us of the justifying acts of God through his own Son, Jesus, the Christ. He has privileged us with the ability to become evangelists beginning in our own homes, families and neighborhoods, sharing the Good News that Jesus is alive and well and that he still wants to be their and our friend, no matter where we may have come from or what kind of life we have lived.
Remember, God is still using our foolish lives to discredit those who are pretentious and haughty. He has selected those who think of themselves ineffectual and inadequate to amaze those who believe they are immovable and invincible. He elects to use those the world often classifies as infamous and unlovable.