Category Archives: Spiritual Warfare

Remembering this Can Keep You From Sinning

“The ways of a man are before the eyes of the Lord and He watches all His steps.” Proverbs 5:21

Sin hates darkness because it hates to be seen for what it is. This is why cloudy minds are the devil’s playground. The less clearly we think about sin, the more likely we are to gladly give into its offerings.

Our interns recently read J.C. Ryle’s Thoughts for Young men, and one of them reminded me of this sobering section from the book. I pray the Lord might use it to sober your heart as He did mine.

“The sound of a footstep coming has stopped many a deed of wickedness. A knock at the door has caused many an evil work to be hastily suspended, and hurriedly laid aside. But oh, what miserable folly is all this! There is an all seeing Witness with us wherever we go. Lock the door, pull down the blind, turn out the light; it doesn’t matter, it makes no difference; God is everywhere, you cannot shut Him out, or prevent His seeing.” – J.C. Ryle – Thoughts for Young Men (pg. 48-49).

Lord, keep us sober-minded that our hearts may always be set upon pleasing you, not our sinful longings.

A Pattern Among Fallen Pastors – Lessons for Us All

normandy beach

 

During my time in seminary I took a leadership course taught by the late-great Dr. Howard Hendricks. As we studied the life of David, Prof shared a study he conducted with a group of men in full-time ministry who had fallen into a morally disqualifying sin.

At the time, I had only been a Christian for a few years, but unfortunately the subject was all too relevant. During my early days I had witnessed several men whom I loved and respected fall into serious sinful compromises. At one point in those days, the falls came so frequently I felt as if I was on the spiritual beach of Normandy watching buddies lives get blown apart all around me.

Prof’s study was of 246 men in full-time ministry who experienced moral failure within a two-year period of time. As far as he could discern, these full-time clergy were men who were born again followers of Jesus. Though they shared a common salvation, these men also shared a common feat of devastation; they had all, within 24 months of each other, been involved in an extra marital affair.

After interviewing each man, Dr. Hendricks compiled 4 common characteristics of their lives.

1. None of the men were involved in any kind of real personal accountability. 

2. Each of the men had all but ceased having a daily time of personal prayer, Bible reading, and worship. 

3. Over 80% of the men became sexually involved with the other woman after spending significant time with her, often in counseling situations.

4. Without exception, each of the 246 had been convinced that sort of fall “would never happen to me.”

As I reflect on this study, a few lessons come to mind. These are applicable for pastors, plumbers, stay at home moms, and anyone else who seeks to follow Christ.

  1.  Sin thrives in isolation.

Satan lives in the darkness and longs to keep us there as well. He does this because lies live best in the darkness. God knows this, which is why when He calls us to Himself, He calls us into the church.

God has created the church to be many things, one of which is to be a community of people who help each other fight sin and love Him. He calls us into relationships where we speak truth to one another (Ephesians 4:15, 25), confess sins to one another (James 5:16), and love each other enough to chase after each other if we stray (Matthew 18:10-20; Galatians 6:1-2; James 5:19-20).

The question I want you to ponder is this: Who knows you? I mean who really knows you? Who not only has permission, but is currently acting upon the permission to ask you penetrating questions? Are you answering those questions honestly or are you hiding details and painting up your sin to guard your image?

Do not hide from God’s gracious aid of loving relationships.

  1. If you flirt with sin, you will fall into sin.

Sin’s slope is a slippery one. The longer you walk along the edge of the abyss, the more certain that your foot will slip. The men in the study put themselves in dangerous situations again and again. They ignored the words of Solomon who warned his sons to “keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house” (Proverbs 5:8).

These men did not guard their hearts, or the hearts of the people they were supposed to be protecting. Instead, they became blinded by the deceitfulness of sin (Ephesians 4:22; Hebrews 3:13) and were led into the ditch of destruction (Matthew 15:14).

What ways are you flirting with sin? What provisions are you making for the flesh in regards to its lust (Romans 13:14)? What guards have you stepped over? What details are you hiding? What emails are you deleting? What search histories are you erasing?

Sin is crouching at your door (Genesis 4:7) and the tempter is looking for an opportunity to pounce (1 Peter 5:8). How are you making his aim easier?

Flee from sin, don’t flirt with it (Genesis 39:6-12; Proverbs 5-7, Romans 6:12-13; 2 Timothy 2:22; 1 Peter 2:11).

  1. Pride blinds us to our weakness.

Many of us think this sort of serious sin would not happen to us, just as those fallen pastors thought. But 1 Corinthians 10:12 warns us “let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” Let us not forget that Samson—the strongest man in the Bible, Solomon—the wisest man in the Bible, and David—the man after God’s own heart, were all overcome by the temptations of sexual sin (Judges 14-16; 1 Kings 11:1-8; 2 Samuel 11-12; Psalm 51). No one is above the temptation to sin in grievous ways. If you doubt this, you are on your way to a great fall.

Brothers, beware. Proverbs 16:18 “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

  1. Purity is cultivated by loving Jesus.

Somewhere along the line, each of the men in the study began to drift. Prayers became less passionate. The promises of God in His Word grew dusty. Love for Jesus became something spoken of in the past tense.

The seduction of sin and enticement to sacrifice all to satisfy inner longings became too strong to resist.

But Christ is stronger. Hear these words of promise afresh:

Hebrews 4:14–16 “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Brothers and sisters, there is no sweeter assurance of help than Christ Jesus the Lord. He stands ready at God’s right hand to supply the grace and mercy we are in such need of.

Do not allow your hearts to grow cold toward the Lord who loves you so. Draw near to Him daily, moment by moment, in hopeful expectation that He is better than any fleeting pleasure that might entice your heart. Do not seek Him only in days of desperation, but seek Him daily. Walk with Him. Rekindle passion. Plead with Him to help you. He is able to do it, and He delights to do it.

Jude 24-25 “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”

 

Come Lord Jesus, come.

Precious and Very Great Promises: Truth for the Journey

key-to-bible

 

 

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence, by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” 2 Peter 1:3-4

During this Sunday’s sermon we considered this text and how God’s precious promises are the means by which we grow in godliness and escape the world’s corruption. You can listen to that message here if you’d like.

 

In the late 1670’s John Bunyan penned The Pilgrim’s Progress during his imprisonment in the Bedfordshire prison. For good reason, this book is the second most widely read book in history behind the Bible.

The story, which is an allegory of the Christian life, is a captivating tale about a man named Christian, who is traveling from the City of Destruction (the world) to the Celestial City (heaven). At one point in the journey, he and a friend named “Hopeful” are taken captive by the “Giant Despair.” He locks them for half a week in the dungeon of “Doubting-castle.”

During their time in the dungeon they were beaten, tempted to surrender their faith, and even commanded to take their lives by suicide. Things grew bleak for Christian and Hopeful, until they began to pray and Christian remembered…

“What a fool I have been, to lie like this in a stinking dungeon, when I could have just as well walked free. In my chest pocket I have a key called Promise that will, I am thoroughly persuaded, open any lock in Doubting-Castle.” “Then,” said Hopeful, “that is good news. My good brother, do immediately take it out of your chest pocket and try it.” Then Christian took the key from his chest and began to try the lock of the dungeon door; and as he turned the key, the bolt unlocked and the door flew open with ease, so that Christian and Hopeful immediately came out.”

Bunyan knew that God’s promises were the key that granted God’s people freedom from the slavery of sin and circumstance. Because of their power, he believed they were more valuable than any treasure in the world.

In Sighs from Hell, Bunyan says,“I tell thee, friend, there are some promises that the Lord hath helped me to lay hold of Jesus Christ through and by, that I would not have out of the Bible for as much gold and silver as can lie between York and London piled up to the stars because through them Christ is pleased by His Spirit to convey comfort to my soul.”

Do you have a precious promise like that? Do you have a promise in God’s Word that is so valuable that you would not trade it for all the money in the world?

Christians are people who live on promises. We grow by promises. We are sustained by promises. We please God by trusting His promises (Hebrews 11:6).

So I must ask you, what promises are you clinging to and trusting God to prove faithful to keep?

The Certainty of God’s Promises

We have great confidence to believe God’s promises because of what He has done for us in Jesus Christ.

The Old Testament is a sweeping story of God promising time and again to send a Savior to rescue us from judgment. God kept His promise by sending Jesus to “save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Jesus accomplished His work by dying on the cross and rising from the dead—just as He said He would.

God’s faithfulness to keep His word is seen most clearly in His faithfulness to give us Jesus. When God gave us Jesus He gave us everything!

The Apostle Paul says, “all the promises of God find their ‘Yes’ in Him. That is why it is through Him that we utter our Amen to God for His glory!” 2 Corinthians 1:20. Does God promise you something? Then He says “Yes and Amen” when we ask Him to prove true to His word. How can we be so sure of this? Because Romans 8:32 reminds us that “He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?”

When Jesus died on the cross, He not only received the punishment we deserve for our sin, but He also purchased every promise that God ever made His people. This means that if we are in Christ, we can claim and cling to God’s promises because He has purchased them with His blood.

Precious and Inexhaustible Promises

As Christians, we are all part of our own “pilgrim’s progress” toward the Celestial City. As we take steps of faith toward our heavenly home, we need promises to empower our souls and unlock doors of opposition in our own Doubting Castles.

What follows are a limited list of promises that we can claim and cling to as we face trials and temptations on our way to our heavenly home. These promises do not tarnish or fade, so use them and use them again. Or as the witty Charles Spurgeon once observed, “Some say ‘You can’t have your cake and eat it too.’ It’s not so with God’s comforts. You can enjoy a promise and still have it.”

This means that when you read God’s Word, you are going hunting for invaluable and inexhaustible treasure that you can have and hold and believe for the entire journey Home.

75 Promises for the Journey Home

What follows are just a sampling of God’s glorious promises that He has given to His people. Take these, consider them, and ask God to use them to stir your faith in Him.

When your sins haunt you, remember that in Christ, God has promised to forgive and forget them…

  • “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9
  • “Whoever believes in Him is not condemned…” John 3:18
  • “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1
  • “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” Isaiah 1:18
  • “…I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” Jeremiah 31:34
  • “…as far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:13
  • “…in love You have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for You have cast all my sins behind Your back.” Isaiah 38:17

When you wonder if God will be faithful to keep you through all your trials, remember…

  • “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” John 6:37
  • “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” John 10:28
  • “He who began a good work in you will complete it unto the day of Christ” Philippians 1:6
  • “He is able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” Hebrews 7:25

When you feel dry and weary and desperately need encouragement to draw near to God, recall these invitations…

  • “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?…” Isaiah 55:1–3 (cf. Rev.22:17)
  • “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28
  • “…God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God…casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:5–7
  • “…whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:14

When you pray, you do so believing that God hears and answers your prayers…

  • “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7
  • “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” John 14:13
  • “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

When you lack wisdom to make decisions concerning the future…

  • “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5–6
  • “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.” Psalm 32:8 
  • “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” James 1:5

When you feel fearful to share the Gospel, remember that you are not alone as you go…

  • “…I am with you always until the end of the age” Matthew 28:20
  • “…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses…” Acts 1:8

When you preach or minister to people, take confidence in God’s promises…

  • “My word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11
  • “…I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18
  • “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:7–9

As you strive to serve God and grow in holiness, rest in the promise that He supplies your strength

  • “As your days so shall your strength be.” Deuteronomy 33:25
  • “Work out your own salvation…for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Philippians 2:12–13 (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:10; Colossians 1:29)
  • “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13
  • “Whoever serves, let him serve as one who serves by the strength that God supplies.” 1 Peter 4:11
  •  “My grace is sufficient for you, My power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

When you go to work and feel like what you are doing is meaningless, remember that…

  • “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” Colossians 3:23–24
  • “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

When you find yourself filled with fear and anxiety, pursue peace by remembering God’s promises…

  • “…fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
  • “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
  •  “…do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on…Look at the birds of the air…your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?…Consider the lilies of the field…if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious…your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:25-33

When you feel like the assaults of temptation are too alluring to resist, remember…

  • “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13
  • “…the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.” 2 Thessalonians 3:3
  • “…because [Jesus] has suffered when tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.” Hebrews 2:18

When your unfaithfulness leaves you despairing, remember that His faithfulness is our promised hope…

  • “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23
  • “…if we are faithless, He remains faithful— for He cannot deny Himself.” 2 Timothy 2:13

When you are overcome with anger, let promises give you strength to trust God…

  • “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” Romans 12:19
  • “The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord is avenging and wrathful; the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies. The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty. His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.” Nahum 1:2–3

When you feel tempted to fear people and their opinions, flee to God and trust in His promises…

  • “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.” Proverbs 29:25
  • “Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord…Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord.” Jeremiah 17:5–7
  • “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation…Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God…” Psalm 146:3–5
  • “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” Psalm 34:8

When lust promises you sensual satisfaction, fight its lies with faithful promises of a better fulfillment…

  • “You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11
  • “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Matthew 5:6
  • “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Matthew 5:8

Have you fallen into great sin?…then fall upon the promises about our great Savior…

  • “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate w/ the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” 1 John 2:1
  • “Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” Romans 8:34
  • “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” Hebrews 7:25 

Are you broken over your sin or circumstances?…God promises His healing presence

  • “the Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18
  • “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” Psalm 51:17
  • “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3

Are you struggling to be content with what God has given you?…He promises perfect provision…

  • “…be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5
  • “…the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.” Psalm 84:11
  • “…God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19

As you look toward the day of your death, take encouragement from these certain words…

  • “Even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.” Isaiah 46:4
  • “…if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also…I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” John 14:3, 18
  • “absent from body is present w/ the Lord” 2 Corinthians 2:5
  • “He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.” Isaiah 25:8
  • “When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”…thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:54-58

God promises that the suffering and persecution we face in this life will one day be eclipsed by glory…

  • “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:11-12
  • “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Romans 8:18
  • “…this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:17
  • “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

If the Lord calls you to face trial or martyrdom for His Name, He gives you promises to carry with you…

  • “…when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” Luke 12:11–12
  • “do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:28 (cf. Isaiah 51:12-16)
  • “…If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:31-39

When you become tempted to think that persevering in faith isn’t possible, take heart in these promises…

  • “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23–24
  • “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” Jude 24–25

As you take each stride in faith toward heaven, be moved by the promised eternal day that awaits you…

  • “according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” 2 Peter 3:13
  • “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Matthew 25:34
  • “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 5And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”  Revelation 21:1–5

 

Thanks to John Piper for his biography on John Bunyan and his book Future Grace. Both have blessed my life and this post. 

Want Some More Promises?

Five Promises for Your Bible Reading and Prayer – John Piper

How to Find Strength in the Strength of God – John Piper

Which Promises Are For Me? – Jen Wilkin

Future Grace (book) – John Piper

Using God’s Truth to Battle the Tempter’s Lies – Garrett Kell

Is Jeremiah 29:11 a Promise for Christians? – John Piper

Do Promises in the Psalms Apply to Me? – John Piper

When I Feel Afraid – Leeann Stiles

A Summary of How to Kill Sin (sermon) – Tim Conway

Purity Among God’s People – Fighting Sexual Sin with God’s Promises (sermon) – Garrett Kell

 

Rebel Roll Call – Should We Publicly Call Out False Teachers?

wolf-in-sheeps-clothingJoel Osteen. Creflo Dollar. Benny Hinn. T.D. Jakes. Joyce Meyer. Paula White. Fred Price. Kenneth Copeland. Robert Tilton. Eddie Long. Juanita Bynum. Paul Crouch.

“I know they popular but don’t let them deceive ya” – Shai Linne

Track 10 on Shai Linne’s album Lyrical Theology has drawn much attention over the past year because in it he publicly calls out some household names as being false teachers. Shai also put out a brief video explaining why he chose to write the song and how he prepared to write it. I encourage you to check out the song and the video if you haven’t already.

I am currently preaching through 2 Peter 2 and have chosen to publicly mention the names of people our elders feel could be dangerous influences on our flock.

What I’d like us to consider is should I, should Shai Linne, or should any of us, ever publicly point out someone we believe to be a “false teacher?” To help us answer this, let’s consider a few questions about Model, Method, Motive, and Message.

Is There a Biblical Model for Name Dropping?

Yes. In the Old Testament God regularly warns Israel that the lies of false teachers defame His name and defile His people (Num. 12:6; Deut.18; Jeremiah 23:18-22; Lam. 2:14-15; etc.). Though there aren’t many false teachers listed by name in the Old Testament Scriptures, Jannes and Jambres (Exod. 7:11; 2 Tim. 3:7) and Baalam are later exposed as being deceivers (Num. 22-23, 31:16; 2 Peter 2:15; Jude 11; Rev. 2:14).

In the New Testament, name dropping becomes a bit more regular. Jesus called out the Pharisees and Sadducees throughout His ministry (Matt. 5:20, 16:6, etc.) as well as other false teachers when He speaks to John about the 7 churches of Revelation (Rev. 2-3). Paul publicly named Hymenaeus twice (1 Tim. 1:20; 2 Tim. 2:17), Alexander (1 Tim. 1:20), Philetus (2 Tim. 2:17), and the formerly faithful Demas (Col. 4:14; Philemon 24; 2 Timothy 4:10) as having abandoned the truth. The Apostle John also mentions Diotrephes (3 John 9). This brief survey shows that there certainly is a biblical model of outing false teachers by publicly stating their names.

Is Our Method Dignified?

Though there is a biblical model for name dropping, we should make sure that if we choose to call people out, that we have a dignified method in doing so. Because we are each made in God’s image, we must strive to aim attacks at what people say rather than how they say it, what they look like, or anything else we might be tempted to focus on. We want to guard against mocking people or using them as props to make a point. Our goal must always be to make the Gospel clear, not make ourselves look good at the cost of others.

I have been a poor model of this at times in my own ministry. I once imitated Joel Osteen in a sermon and another time poked fun at Mormon missionaries’ bikes and badges during a seminar on the Gospel. These were ungodly and unloving decisions of which I’ve repented. I was helped in seeing my sin by a gracious couple who told me that they had almost brought a Mormon friend to the seminar I was teaching and were thankful they hadn’t because I might have driven them further from Christ because of my mocking. It was a hard lesson to learn, but I’m eternally grateful for the couple who pointed out my sin.

When we name drop, we must strive to uphold the dignity of those we publicly expose. So if you name names, keep the focus on the teaching as much as possible and treat them as you’d want to be treated if you were being called out (Matt. 7:12). One way of doing this is being slow to speak about people’s motives. God certainly knows the motive of false teachers (Mic. 3:11; Ezek. 22:25; Titus 1:10-11; 1 Tim. 6:3-5; 2 Tim. 3:1-9; 2 Pet. 2:2-14) but we should be slow to speak about people’s motives because, in the end, only the Lord knows the heart (Jer. 17:10; 1 Cor. 4:3-5).

What Are Our Motives?

As with anything we do, we must always examine our motives (Matt. 5:28; Acts 8:22; Heb. 4:12). If we’re going to publicly accuse someone of being a false teacher, we should ask some close friends to help us examine our heart by asking questions like:

Is it necessary to expose this person?

Am I sure that they are a false teacher?

What am I hoping to gain from doing this?

Is there a chance I can speak with them personally first?

Do my fellow pastors think I should do this?

These are good questions to ask as we pray the prayer of David in Psalm 139:23-24 “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”

If after prayer and wise counsel we trust that our motive is to uphold the truth of the Gospel (Jude 3) and to make sure that people are not led astray into error (James 5:19-20), then we should feel free to name drop for the glory of God and the good of His people. If you need help discerning whether someone is indeed a false teacher, Colin Smith’s article (here) is a great read.

What is the True Message?

Calling out false teachers is certainly necessary to guard the flock from following after their teachings. It is even more necessary for us to make the true Gospel clear. Tearing down false gospels is only good if people are able to see the true Gospel for what it is.

This is clear throughout the New Testament and, I am thankful to say, is abundantly clear in the music ministry of Shai Linne. We must first and foremost be people who are about the Gospel because it is the power of God for salvation to all who believe, even those who were once formerly false teachers.

So if we are going to call out people who teach falsely, we must make sure to clearly show what it means to trust in the true Christ. Show clearly where the false teachers are wrong and display clearly how much infinitely greater the true Christ is. May we be a people who love Christ publicly with both grace and truth  that,  as Shai says “Jesus is not a means to an end, [but] the Gospel is He came to redeem us from sin.” Amen and Amen.

Photo courtesy of: Ex-Charisma.com

 

Overcoming the Devil’s Onslaught – Using God’s Truths to Battle the Tempter’s Lies

flaming_arrowWilliam was facing the most excruciating season of his life.

He and his wife were finalizing a divorce. He’d lost his job. He was potentially going to lose his son in a custody battle. His financial foundation was dissolving. He couldn’t sleep. He wouldn’t eat. He could barely breathe.

The darkness of William’s days turned into the Tempter’s paradise. Every waking hour brought with it a call to turn from the Lord. The flaming darts of the evil one sailed in without mercy and his heart became a pincushion for his lies. Everything he believed was being called into question, down to whether God was even there anymore.

William said that one of the things that God used to pull him through the deep valley was a journal that became a lifeline for him. On the left hand side of the journal William wrote down how he was feeling and the lies that he was being called to believe. On the other side of the page he countered the lie with what God said was true. Line after line of lies combated by line after line of truth. William was in a battle for his soul and he learned that his only hope was to fight fire with fire.

As Christians, we all must learn to fight fire with fire. The evil one is relentless with his calls to believe lies and we must be equally relentless to cling to the truths of God’s Word. Jesus modeled this perfectly for us when He returned each of the evil one’s offers in the wilderness with a bold “it is written” rebuke (Matt. 4:1-11).

What follows are some of the most common lies we face as believers and some helpful truths that expose those lies and put them to death.

 

The liar says…God isn’t there and God doesn’t care.

The Lord says…“Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.” Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me” (Isaiah 49:14-16).

 

The liar says…You have nowhere to turn to, no one loves you.

The Lord says…“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest….I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” Matthew 11:28-29 (see also: Hebrews 4:16).

 

The liar says…you are unlovable, unworthy, undesirable, and good for nothing.

The Lord says…“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing” (Zephaniah 3:17). This amazing love is seen supremely in the fact that “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses…raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus…” (Ephesians 2:4-6).

 

The liar says…This sin will satisfy you.

The Lord says…“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6).

 

The liar says…Just give in this time, you can just ask for forgiveness later.

The Lord says…“Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:1–2) which should lead us to pray “keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression” (Psalm 19:13).

 

The liar says…you’ve already sinned a little, you might as well sin some more.

The Lord says…“Today, if you hear His voice do not harden your hearts” (Hebrews 3:15). “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19-20). Return to Christ quickly because “the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry” (1 Peter 4:3). On top of that, remember this question “what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death” (Romans 6:21). Sin lies and kills. Run home to Christ now!

 

The liar says…You must give into this temptation, you don’t have any other options.

The Lord says…“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). There’s always a way out.

 

The liar says…God’s holding out on you. Fun and freedom and real life are found apart from him.

The Lord says…“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).

 

The liar says…if you give up this sin you’ll be missing out on real fun. God’s ways are boring and unsatisfying.

The Lord says…“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11). True joy is only found in Jesus.

 

The liar says…God’s never going to give you direction in your life because He doesn’t care about you.

The Lord says“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you” (Psalm 32:8).

 

The liar says…God is just toying with your heart, stop trusting Him.

The Lord says…“the word of the Lord is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness” (Psalm 33:4).

 

The liar says…God is not pleased with you and because of that He will never give you your deepest desires.

The Lord says…“Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).

 

The liar says…You’ll never get married because you are waiting on and trusting the Lord. You look like a fool.

The Lord says… “those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces shall never be put to shame” (Psalm 34:5).

 

The liar says…you must worry, you must be anxious, this situation will consume you!

The Lord says…“do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

 

The liar says…You will never get any better. You are stuck where you are, you will die in your own failures.

The Lord says…“we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18) and ultimately we know that “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).

 

The liar says…You can’t be sad and walk in faith at the same time.

The Lord says…“You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?” (Psalm 56:8)

 

The liar says…God is not pleased with you, so your life will always be a way of misery.

The Lord says…“The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him” (Psalm 103:8-11)

 

The liar says…this is who you are, you aren’t going to change, all your struggles and trials are in vain.

The Lord says…“we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5). God wastes no trial or pain, He sovereignly works them all for our gain.

 

The liar says…You’re not worthy of God’s love and no one else will ever love you either.

The Lord says…“For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you…” (Deuteronomy 7:6-8). This love God has for us helps us to “be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).

 

The liar says…taking intentional, practical, radical steps to fight sin is just glorified legalism.

The Lord says…“If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell” (Matthew 5:29-30 – see also: 1 Corinthians 9:27; 1 Timothy 4:7).

 

The liar says…waiting on God is a waste of time because He is hardened toward your needs.

The Lord says…“the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him” (Isaiah 30:18).

 

The liar says…You are not a good parent. You are not a good spouse. You are worthless. You are condemned.

The Lord says…“there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

 

The liar says…you aren’t really a Christian, you’ve lost your salvation.

The Lord says…“I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28). God loses none who are His. Rest in His sovereign and ever-faithful love.

 

The liar says…you’ve messed up too much this time and God’s love for you has faded.

The Lord says… “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:31-39).

 

We will face lies from the evil one every day that we follow Christ. These lies are designed to lure us away from God’s care and into the arms of sin. We must not be easily swayed by the tempter’s lies. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” Plead with God to help you detest the liar’s voice and to delight in the voice of our Good Shepherd who is leading us home to Him.

Special thanks to John Piper’s work in Future Grace and also to the members of Del Ray Baptist who graciously shared their own battles for joy with me as I wrote this post.

 

Satan’s Strategy to Destroy Your Marriage Before it Begins

chess board      Tim and Jess had only been married for 8 months, but the honeymoon was most certainly over. The sweet conversations that once marked their relationship had been replaced with constant bickering. Their laughter had dulled and their distance had grown. Their sexual intimacy had almost ceased.

      What had gone wrong? How had Satan slipped into this young couple’s marriage? As we unpacked some of their history, I discovered that he hadn’t sabotaged them on their honeymoon or in the early months of figuring out married life. Instead, he’d begun his work before they even made it to the altar. You see, though Tim and Jess are Christians, their dating and engagement was marked with sexual impurity.

      The early days of their relationship had been fine, but over time, they made consistent compromises that developed into a deeper pattern of sexual sin. When they’d sin, they confessed to each other and, made oaths to not let it happen again. But it did. Because of the shame, they never truly let anyone else in on what was happening, and in hindsight they admitted that their courtship had been a big cover-up of deceit.

      Unfortunately, Tim and Jess’s story is all too familiar. Many unmarried Christian couples struggle with sexual sin. And this should be no surprise, we have an enemy who is set against us and set against our impending marriage (1 Pt. 5:8). This enemy hates God and he hates marriage because marriage itself is a portrayal of the Gospel (Eph. 5:32). And Satan wants to do whatever he can to undermine marriage.

      One of Satan’s most effective strategies to corrupt the Gospel portraying union of marriage is to attack couples before they say “I do” through sexual sin. What follows are several of Satan’s most common ploys to attacking marriages before they begin. (Eph. 6:11; 1 Pt. 5:8)

 

1.  Satan wants us to make a pattern of obeying our desires instead of God’s direction.

      God’s ways are good, but Satan wants us to believe they are not. This has been his plan from the first call to compromise in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:1-6). His end goal is for us to develop a consistent pattern of resisting the Spirit and following our sinful desires once we get into marriage. He wants us to learn to resist service and to pursue selfishness.

      If we learn to do what we want to do when we want to do it before we get married, we’ll carry that pattern into the days that follow our wedding. This is deadly because service and sacrifice is essential to a healthy, Christ-honoring marriage. Love in marriage is shown by a thousand daily decisions to do the dishes when you don’t want to or change a diaper when you don’t want to or watch a movie instead of a basketball game. If your relationship before marriage is characterized by giving into urges of the immediate desire, you’ll most certainly struggle when you get into the nitty-gritty of married life.

 

2.  Satan wants us to underestimate how susceptible we are to temptation.

      Satan wants us to think that we won’t take our sin to the next level. He wants us to think that we’re stronger than we really are. He wants to make us think that we’ll never go “that far.” This is a powerful trick because it plays upon our well-intended desire to honor God and our pride at the same time. Trust me, you’re weaker than you think you are. You can go where you think you won’t go. Sin is like an undercurrent in the ocean, if you play in it, you will be overpowered and carried away into certain destruction.

      One of the ways Satan works this angle is to tempt you to think that purity is a line rather than a posture of the heart. He wants you to think that purity before God is not kissing or not taking off clothes or not having oral sex or not “going all the way.” He wants you to think that if you don’t cross a certain line, you’re “staying pure.” The problem with this kind of thinking is that Jesus says if we lust in our heart, we’ve sinned and are condemned before God (Mt. 5:27-30).

      Purity is much more about the posture of our heart than about the position of our body. The age old question of “how far is too far” may be revealing a desire to get as close to sin as possible rather than a desire to “flee” as God calls us to (1 Cor. 6:18). So I ask you, what’s the posture of your heart? Are you seeking to find ways to flee from lust or getting as close as you can? Be careful to not underestimate your vulnerability, or as Paul said, “let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12).

 

3.      Satan wants couples to weaken their trust for each other.

When we compromise sexually we’re showing the other person that we’re willing to use and abuse them to get what makes you happy. Every time we push the boundaries with our fiancée or lead each other into sin we are communicating, even though we don’t mean to, “you can’t trust me because I’m willing to use you and disregard you to get what I want.”

And even worse than that, we show that we care more about our desires than about what God wants from us. 1 Thessalonians 4:3 says “this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality” and that v8 “whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.” So when you sin sexually against each other before marriage you are saying, “You can’t trust me because I’m willing to sacrifice both of our relationships with God to do what I want.”

This is certainly one of the most deadly of all his strategies and the one I suspect hurt Tim and Jess the most. They didn’t trust each other. They never really did. So much of their dating relationship was wrapped up in the cycle of sin, shame, start-over that they never developed a deep mature battle-tested trust for each other.

It is important to point out however that when we resist sexual sin, God blesses a relationship with the exact opposite effect. Every time we say “no” to sexual sin and turn to prayer and tell each other that we value them and their walk with God too much to go one step further, God uses that to strengthen trust between couples. My wife regularly tells dating couples that one of the reasons she trusts me is because I literally ran from compromising situations before we were married. We weren’t perfect in our courtship, but the Lord used that season to build trust in each other.

 

 

4.      Satan wants to deceive you with the forbidden fruit of lust.

There is a world of difference between pre-marital sex and sex within marriage. One of the reasons for this is that in pre-marital sex the forbidden fruit of lust portrays sex as something that it isn’t always in marriage. Most normally, pre-marital sexual activity is like gas on fire. The passion is high, the feelings are intense, and the drive to go further is fueled by the fact that you know you shouldn’t (Rom. 7:8).

Sex in marriage is different. There’s still passion and there’s still intense feelings and emotions—but sex in marriage is based primarily on the hot coals of trust, devotion, and sacrifice (1 Cor. 7:1-5). Couples who built their sexual expectations on the passion that the forbidden fruit provided are often disappointed and confused about why sex is so different in marriage.

Now, to be candid, my wife and I laughed at this idea when our pre-marital counselor told us. We were sure that we were gonna be the exception to the rule. But the reality is, that almost 6 years and 3 children later, he was right. Couples like us can have a strong sex life, but it is fueled by deeper characteristics than fleeting passion. Satan wants couples to get used to running on the caffeine and sugar of lust rather than mature love of service and sacrifice.

 

A few concluding thoughts…

1.      Wait in Faith. The Christian posture is always one of waiting. We wait for Christ’s return. We wait for an eternity with Him. And people who aren’t married wait for the blessings of marriage. Say no to sin’s promises by faith in God’s promises. Renew your mind with God’s Word and keep waiting in faith.

2.      Dude, you’ve gotta lead. While both people in the relationship are responsible before God, the man in the relationship must set the pace for purity. Too often our ladies are forced to draw lines and say no. That’s just wrong and cowardly.  It’s the dude’s responsibility to care for his future wife by leading her toward Jesus and away from sin—and not into the darkness and pain of evil.  If he sets the wrong pattern here, he’ll be digging out for years afterward—and may never regain the ground he loses apart from God’s grace.

3.      Involve others every step of the way. Don’t allow your relationship to remain unexamined by other godly Christians. Both of you should have a godly couple or faithful friends who keep you accountable. Encourage them to ask you tough questions and always give honest answers. God uses transparency to give spiritual strength.

4.      If you sin, go to the Gospel. The Apostle John said “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One” (1 John 2:1-2). If you sin, flee to the cross. Flee to the empty tomb. Look to Christ, confess your sin deeply, and repent. God blesses this kind of posture (Prov. 28:13).

Sexual sin doesn’t need to be dagger in the heart of your courting relationship, engagement, or marriage. God is a merciful God who delights in restoring what sin seeks to destroy (Joel 2:25-27). He will not however bless on-going disobedience and presumption upon His mercy. If you have fallen into sexual sin, today is the day to plead for mercy and turn from it to Christ in faith. May God give us mercy to pursue purity for His glory and our good.