Tag Archives: distractions

Under The Influence, Part 4

Last week we asked the question, “How did Christ deal with the spiritual forces of darkness and wickedness that He couldn’t see with His human eyes?” Well, the first thing He did was to accept the fact that they were real enemies, out to get Him, that they were a part of daily life, and that His Father in heaven had power over them.

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” …
Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’” (Matt. 4:1-3, 5-6)

Look at what this anti-Christ begins with in his persecution of Jesus Christ. “IF you are the Son of God” … always casting a shadow of doubt about the King, His purpose, and His mission.

Throughout His life, Christ wrestled with spiritual evils everyday. He knew they were all around Him, influencing His enemies and even His disciples. He overcame them all by His total dependence upon the Father and the Word. On many occasions He said, “I can do nothing of myself” (John 5:19 is just one example).

In Christ’s John 17 prayer to the Father, He said, “As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world” (John 17:18). Christ sending us follows the same pattern as the Father sending Christ, and He expects us to view Him just the way He viewed the Father.

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)

Sifting Disciples

In John 6:70 Jesus says to His disciples, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?” He’s talking about Judas, but Judas wasn’t the only disciple that was under the influence.

From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!”
But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matt. 16:21-25)

Here, Christ calls Peter by the name Satan. He saw through the human tool being used by a clever, cunning, adversarial spirit for the trap it was. Look at the Greek word for “offense.” It’s skandalon (G4625), and it refers to the trigger in the trap on which the bait is placed, and that springs the trap when an unsuspecting animal touches it.

Comparing Luke 22 and Matthew 26, we see that when Christ was eating the Passover with His disciples and said, “behold, the hand of My betrayer is with Me on the table” (Luke 22:21), each one of them responded by asking “Lord, is it I?” (Matt. 26:22). It seems that someone was whispering thoughts of betrayal into all, or many of their ears, perhaps even on a daily basis before this night.

Then they began to question among themselves, which of them it was who would do this thing. Now there was also a dispute among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest. (Lluke 22:23-24)

Is this insanity, or what? In verse 23 they’re all asking themselves if they were the betrayer, and then in the very next verse they were arguing about who was going to “run the church organization” (to put into modern Church of God terminology) after Christ was gone. Notice what Christ has to say to them, and the to Peter next, and to us by extension.

And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’ But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves. For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves.” …
And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” (Luke 22:25-27, 31-32)

Christ basically said, “You’re under the influence, Simon Peter. I’ve prayed for you.” Satan … the very spirit of anti-Christ, wants to sift us as wheat every bit as much as he wanted to sift Peter. He wants to influence, pervert, and distort our relationship with the coming King, and our understanding of the truths of God.

Christ’s Power

Let’s remember again Ephesians 6:10: “be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.” Just what kind of strength, and power, and might are we talking about here? How much power does the King of kings, who is coming to give us the kingdom of God have? And how does He make it available to us?

Christ came here to set us an example. He lived his life as a prototype of the New Testament Christian. God the Father was His “Lord,” and He was “strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.” He lived this, brethren, and believed with every last fiber of His being that it would work for Him. And it did.

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. (Matt 28:18)
“…and you are complete IN Him, who is the head of all principality and power. … Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it. (Col. 2:10, 15)

Now that Christ has overcome and been given all power, He uses it to help us. Even “tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword” cannot separate us from His love (Rom. 8:35).

the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. (Eph 1:18-21)

Jesus Christ’s power over “principalities, and powers” includes power over the rulers of the darkness of this world mentioned in Ephesians 6. A verse in John 17:2 that might at first seem unrelated tells us the Father has “given Him authority over all flesh.” This includes power over your flesh and my flesh, and over our fleshly desires, pulls, emotions, and feelings which can make us vulnerable the the spiritual enemies. He will not leave us alone to face these wicked spirits. He will dwell with us and in us, not in weakness, but in all His power so that we have the right kind of Spirit influences to draw upon.

Power to Overcome

Not all the spirit influences in our lives are negative. We just looked at the fact that Jesus Christ dwells in us with power over our weaknesses and over wicked spirits. That’s one example of a supremely positive spiritual influence. Hebrews 1:14 describes the angels as “ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation.” We could go to many scriptures to reinforce the positive effects they have upon our lives … protecting our children, for one thing (as in Matt. 18:10).

But there are wicked versions of these angels as well. In 2 Corinthians 12:7, Paul says “a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.” The word “messenger” is translated from aggelos (G32). It is translated “angel” 179 times and “messenger” 7 times. It’s speaking of one of Satan’s “angels,” one of his followers, harassing and influencing Paul. A “thorn in the flesh” may indicate a spirit of infirmity, but it could have been a spirit of depression, or perversion, or some temptation that Paul had trouble resisting, and whenever he thought he had it licked, there was a whisper in his ear.

In Romans 7:14, Paul writes, “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin.” I’ve heard it said that Paul had been 25 years in Christ when he came to this point. Reading on into the next chapter, he says,

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Rom. 8:2-4)

Why should we want this power? So we can overcome. So we can make it to the kingdom of God where we will have the right, and skills to serve, and to rule … but not for any kind of self-gratification now, in this life. The reward – our time to reign and rule – is not yet, except in the small microcosm of our own little family, and to a small degree to influence others around us by example!

till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ (Eph 4:13-15)

These verses in Ephesians describe a maturing process through which we can come out of deception … out from under the influence, and under the powers and protection of the great king. Let us all pray that we’ll be enabled to be strong in the Lord and the power of His might, and we’ll find ourselves one fine day seated with Christ on His throne with all those who have overcome being “under the influence.”

Under The Influence, Part 3

EDIT: Oops, this one was supposed to be posted last week. Apologies for the mix-up in scheduling. Part 4 will now be posted next Monday instead of today.

I asked earlier (click to read previous post) how well we knew the true King of the coming kingdom, and now I’ll ask another question. How well do we know the imposters who are working to undermine the King and His kingdom? Such imposters are out there, and we must be able to recognize them.

For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. (2 Cor 11:13)

If we read the first verses of this chapter, we see Paul is talking about false ministers who are preaching “another Jesus” (2 Cor. 11:4). Keep in mind that Paul is writing to the church of God at Corinth in the first century … while the apostles and other eyewitnesses of Christ’s life were still alive. Even at that point in time, deceptions about Christ were already being preached.

They Despise Christ as King

But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber. … the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment, and especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority. They are presumptuous, self-willed. They are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries. (2 Pet. 2:1-3, 9-10)

Notice in verse one these people are described as “denying the Lord” and in verse 10 it says they “despise authority.” This word translated “authority” is kuriotes (G2963), which is derived from kurios (G2962), which is the word used to refer to Jesus as Lord. In this context, “authority” denotes the kingly glory of Christ.

Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons (1 Tim. 4:1)

In the churches today, we see such an emotional commitment over pet doctrines and cloudy issues. When is the barley ripe in Israel? Whose calendar should we follow?   Should we ever eat in a restaurant on the Sabbath?   How exactly should the ‘sacred names’ of God be pronounced?

Spiritual Distractions

Many of these petty “doctrinal issues,” I’m convinced, are no more than spirit-inspired distractions intended to muddy the waters … to make it harder for us to know and relate to God and Christ. Most are inspired by intellectual pride and vanity, and fueled by anger, greed, and a lust for power in the churches. In John 17:3 Christ defined eternal life in this way, to know Him and the Father, not that you know ripe barley, or are adept at spotting the first crescent of the moon. Oh, that’s too simple isn’t it? We better look into the Hebrew or Greek and find a way to complicate this.

Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the Head (knowing Him), from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God. (Col 2:18-19)

“Not holding fast to the Head” … remember in Eph 1:22, it says that the Father glorified Christ and “gave Him to be head over all things to the church.” Could we allow ourselves to be influenced to hold on to something or someone else?

We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. (1 John 4:6)

With God’s help, we can discern between a spirit of error and the spirit of truth. We can avoid time wasting distractions that can take us away from John 17:3, and eternal life. Some of these distractions might even masquerade as Bible study, like “foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and striving about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless,” which Titus 3:9 warns us to avoid. I know individuals who spend all of their Bible study hours, and much of their fellowship time with this, and it’s useless.

Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. … But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. (2 Tim 2:14-16, 23)

Battling Darkness

For whom have we learned what we know about the Godhead? Was it to gain approval in God’s eyes, or to show-off to our fellow human beings? Are we sharing our faith the way Jesus would have us teach, or are we arguing pet doctrines and causing strife in the churches?

If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself. (1 Tim. 6:3-5)

Romans 11:8 talks about “a spirit of stupor” that fell upon Israel. Could the same thing happen to us? All of the turmoil and confusion among the churches of God has a tendency to wear on us and we can become spiritually depressed.

Brethren, how can we do battle against the spiritual forces of the darkness of this world? Against the spirit of anti-Christ, the spirit of slumber, the spirits of perversion and adultery, the spirit of error, deception, seducing spirits, and doctrines of demons? How can you do battle with an enemy you can’t see, who is much more powerful than you are, who exerts influences on the minds of everyone around you, and even on your own mind?

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. (Eph 6:10)

Notice the power comes only from one source. We can’t humanly work it up, control it, package it or sell it, and it can’t be institutionalized by a corporation. It is asked for and granted on an individual basis. We have to believe that the King of the coming kingdom can and will do battle for the subjects of His kingdom, His called out ones in the churches of God.

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” Jesus said in Matthew 11:28. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me,” He continues. If we come to Him and follow His example in meekness and gentleness of heart, He says, “you will find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:29). And so we ask the question, how did He deal with the spiritual forces of darkness and wickedness that He couldn’t see with His human eyes? That’s the question we’ll answer in next week’s post.