Tag Archives: victory

Christ In YOUR Image

Christ In Your Image BaptismForLife.wordpress.comLast week, we began a series of posts, based on a book by Dr. Paul Brand, and Philip Yancey entitled “In His Image”. In that post, we talked about our ability to properly ‘discern’ the Body of Christ. When you and I think of the concept of what we are, and being transformed into that type of magnificent being “from glory to glory,” there is a disconnect for many of us because we feel so ‘ordinary.’ In the society around us — so driven by media hype, and adoration of those few “beautiful people” at the top — most of us feel very ‘inferior’ to those chosen few, selected from the gene pool of humanity for fame, beauty, and fortune.

Yet the entire plan of God for mankind does not focus on that top rung of human society. Rather, the “One Sent” as the representative of the Godhead to mankind purposely aimed His entire ministry at the oppressed “inferiors” of the human realm, and NOT at the rich, or famous, or powerful, or beautiful.

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified. (Isa. 61:1-3)

We might think that that, in itself, is a magnanimous thing for so great a being to do … to invest His time and effort in a ministry aimed at comforting the poor, oppressed and depressed dregs of humanity down here, but what speaks to us even more loudly than His preaching is that to better serve us, He became one of us.

But made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. (Phil. 2:7-8)

So He purposefully divested Himself of the very things human beings so earnestly covet; fame, fortune, power, glory, honor, pride, and beauty, to become … an ordinary man.

Since you and I ARE human, and we think of Him as a “perfect” being, we can still fall into the trap of thinking that He gave Himself some physical advantage, as well as the perfection of the Spirit we know He had, but there is no indication of that in the descriptions we’re given.

For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. (Isa. 53:2)

The Hebrew word for “form”  is to-ar (H8389), a masculine noun meaning form, appearance, beauty. It refers to the contours, and outward form of something. The word “comeliness” is hadar (H1926 hadar), and it means glory, splendor, majesty. Elsewhere, it is used to describe the impressive character of God, and His magnificent beauty. Christ’s human physical body did NOT have any of that to attract people to Him.  In fact, because He was “nothing special” physically, it was easy for human beings to “despise and reject Him”, and He was more fully able to identify with the human condition because of this.   He knew the sorrow and grief of being ostracized, ignored, and mocked, as “unimportant” and even “ugly” people often are.   “He bore OUR griefs, and carried OUR sorrows” vs. 4.

If you or I could choose any ‘form’ we wanted to as a human man or woman, what would it be? Well, this great Being — the greatest spiritual man to ever live in a physical body — chose to live that life in an ordinary, unimpressive body specifically so that He could truly identify with the ‘least’ of us.

Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb. 4:14-16)

This being came to earth in a lowly form … in OUR IMAGE … so that He could identify with the real human condition of you and I.  The magnificent Word, the Son of God, the One Sent, the King of Kings,  literally chose to “walk a mile in YOUR shoes”, so the He could more intimately know YOU, and serve your needs!

Who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him (Heb. 5:7-9)

In every case, Christ identified with the lowly in life — healing the paralytic, the blind, the demon-possessed, and the infirm masses. In parables, He held up Lazerus against the rich man and the grief-stricken, repentant tax collector against the self-glorified Publican. Always, “the least of these” are the ones He identifies with as “My brethren.”

However “unworthy” we might consider ourselves — and we ARE all unworthy of Him — He has made every effort to fully identify with us in the human condition, taking physical form in our unimpressive likeness, so that we could identify more fully with Him and come to believe in the “impossible” prospect that we “ordinary people” could really be created IN HIS IMAGE.

 

We Will Be “Like HIM”

With Thanksgiving approaching this week, and several dreary months of winter to follow, I gave a sermon this weekend on a subject that should literally compel us to be very thankful, AND remind us of one of the most encouraging themes of the Millennial reign of Jesus Christ as well.  I intend to present this sermon in a 3-part series of weekly  blogs.

Today, I’d like to start out with a passage of scripture that it’s very easy to be inspired by, for a number of reasons. There’s at least three topics we could write about just in verse one. But today, I’d like to focus on a phrase in verse two.

Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. (1 John 3:1-2)

It’s that last phrase I want to focus on “we shall be like Him.”   What will it be like … to BE LIKE Him?

A Wonderful Future

1 John 3 isn’t the only scripture we could go to that hints at this wonderful future for those who commit themselves to following His example to the end.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Pet. 1:3-5)

And in this glorious future, we’re not going to be weak, feeble human beings anymore. We’re going to be something else, something “like Him.”

For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. (Rom. 8:19-23)

But-we-all-with-unveiledWhy does the creation eagerly await the “revealing of the sons of God?” Because there will be many beings “like Him,” many liberators speaking the truths which set men free!

If I could personally come up with one word to describe this inner groaning while “waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body,” it would be “frustration.” God needs to know the real desires of our hearts, and what better way to assess that than to subject us to a world spiraling towards self-destruction, where we are virtually powerless to do anything against the evils that are causing it all?

For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Rom. 8:24-29)

Faithful in Little

In Luke 16:10, Christ reminds us, “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much.” All of us have at least a small sphere of influence and responsibility in life, even if it’s just with friends and family. In the words of a quote I remember from the TV show Kung Fu, “Grasshopper … To do good anywhere is to do good everywhere.” Once we are “like Him,” we’ll have virtually limitless power to transform lives. To do good, and not like the “do gooders” of today, where they often cause more harm than good.

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. (Col. 3:1-4)

We could read on through this chapter and describe the, at times, painful transformation of putting “to death your members which are on the earth” and being transformed into “the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him” (Col. 3:5, 10). We don’t just become “like Him” with no effort.

And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man. (1 Cor 15:49)

So 1 John 3:2 isn’t the only place we are told we will be like Him and be with Him,  if we hold fast and stay faithful in the “little things.” In fact, it’s a promise reiterated numerous times in the Bible.

Real Life

For every one of us, to even be able to contemplate the possibility of being “like Him” is something to be greatly thankful for. But I doubt it’s something any of us would even care about if God hadn’t given us this calling we have. The carnal mind – the old man – isn’t able to value the things of God. The new man with this expectation of becoming like Him can at least begin to comprehend what Jesus Christ spoke of in this verse, for example:

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. (John 14:12)

So how will your real life begin, the one where you are “like Him”?

But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thes. 4:13-18)

This vision for the future really should be a comfort to us, as well as a great incentive to hang on no matter what. Actually being “like Him” is a glorious future to look forward to, and even being able to understand that is a great gift. So in this season of of rejoicing and Thanksgiving, what better question could we ask ourselves and meditate on during the cold winter months ahead than, “What does it mean, and what will it be like, to BE LIKE Him?”

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.

Under The Influence, Part 2

Christ said He saw Satan fall as lightning from heaven (Luke 10:18). We need only to look at the state of the planet we live on today – the insanity that surrounds us – and the evidence in scripture to see where that fall from heaven took him.

Who is “the God of this world”?

Reading Ephesians 6 describes a type of warfare going on right now, just as it was described in Revelation 12:7 (which we read in last week’s post). This war is happening on an angelic plane, in a dimension which affects us even though it is not visible to us. We need spiritual armor, for an engagement with a wily, clever adversary, and against a hierarchy of wicked spirit-beings.

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Eph. 6:11-12)

Of these adversaries, Matthew Henry says, “we struggle with the opposition of the powers of darkness, and with many enemies who would keep us from God and heaven. We have enemies to fight against, a captain to fight for, a banner to fight under, and certain rules of war by which we are to govern ourselves.” He continues to say,

“The devil is a spirit, a wicked spirit; and our danger is the greater from our enemies because they are unseen, and assault us ere we are aware of them. The devils are wicked spirits, and they chiefly annoy the saints with, and provoke them to, spiritual wickednesses, pride, envy, malice, etc. These enemies are said to be in high places, or in heavenly places, so the word is, taking heaven (as one says) for the whole expansum, or spreading out of the air between the earth and the stars, the air being the place from which the devils assault us. Or the meaning may be, “We wrestle about heavenly places or heavenly things;” so some of the ancients interpret it. Our enemies strive to prevent our ascent to heaven, to deprive us of heavenly blessings and to obstruct our communion with heaven. They assault us in the things that belong to our souls, and labour to deface the heavenly image in our hearts; and therefore we have need to be upon our guard against them. We have need of faith in our Christian warfare, because we have spiritual enemies to grapple with, as well as of faith in our Christian work, because we have spiritual strength to fetch in. Thus you see your danger.”

In many places, the word of God gives us evidence of an unseen army of enemies under the command of “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience” (Eph 2:2). It speaks of familiar spirits, evil spirits, lying spirits, dumb spirits, foul spirits, seducing spirits, spirits of perversion and whoredom, and spirits of divination, just to name a few.

Seeing Invisible Enemies

How can you and I recognize these invisible enemies and come out from “under their influence? A short answer is that the Spirit of God gives us the ability to recognize both good and bad spirit influences and choose which we will become involved with.

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. (1 Cor. 2:12-13)

One of the spiritual gifts is “discerning of spirits” (1 Cor. 12:10). This ability to discern spirits means to recognize them, and respond to their influences. Let’s look at the types of spiritual warriors arrayed against us in our quest for the throne of the king of kings, and remember that they have a personal stake in destroying the image of Jesus the Christ in our eyes.

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. (1 John 4:1-3)

There are spirits behind men, brethren, and we are to try them – to test them to see whether they are of God and in line with what we know of God through this Book. Here, we see that the focus of the test is how these “spirits,” fronted by human “prophets” view the King of the coming kingdom. Turning back to chapter 2, we see much the same focus.

Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.
But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth. Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. (1 John 2:18- 22)

Spirit of Antichrist

The spirit of antichrist is one that has particularly intrigued me over the years. Have you noticed the progression of antichrist doctrine even within the church over the last 10-15 years? It began (in my church at least) with an effort to distance ourselves from “Protestantism,” because they were teaching of a “sweet baby Jesus in a manger,” “a dead savior on a pewter cross you can hang around your neck as an idol,” “or a lawless Jesus who did away with His Father’s commandments and gave us license to sin.” It has progressed through the years to the point where some are teaching that the name Jesus means “son of Zeus” and should not be used at all … should be replaced with Yashuah, Yaweh, the Messiah, the Anointed, ect. Many question His divinity, and teach a variety of doctrines about His origins. Many teach what most worldly PhDs believe, that the New Testament wasn’t canonized until the 4th century A.D., and question the validity and authenticity of the NT and even the existence of Jesus, the Christ. I’ve personally lost some of my closest friends to these heresies … and we were warned of these very things in scripture. You’d think someone who’s spent 20 + years in the churches of God, 4 years at Ambassador College, and 10 years as an elder in the church would know a doctrine of the anti-Christ when they see it, but even people with these credentials can run after error.

Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. (Matt 24:3-5)

Christ is saying the same thing here that 1John 4:1 said, “watch out for men led by this antichrist spirit, who preach in My very name and still deceive.” He touches on it again in verses 11–13, and again in verses 23–26. And I would submit to you brethren that in order to deceive the very elect, these antichrists would have to insinuate themselves into the churches where the very elect are worshipping.

In Exodus 3:14, the Lord – the Eternal One who became Jesus, the Christ – introduced Himself to Moses, and Israel as ““I AM WHO I AM.” Have you noticed the number of leading ministers in the various churches today claiming great titles for themselves? They say “I am … the anointed … the apostle … the messenger … the watchman.” I would submit to you, brethren, that anyone who makes such claims bears some very close watching … because he’s under the influence! This is where we’ll pick up in next week’s post, with how to recognize imposters perpetuating deceptions about Christ.