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Knowing the Joyful Sound

December 18th, 2018

Blessed are those who know the joyful sound, who walk, O LORD, in the light of Your presence. (Psalm 89:15 BSB)

Do you know the joyful sound of God?

The phrase “joyful sound” is one single word in Hebrew – teruah – and it was used in the Bible in two distinct ways: (1) the trumpet blast of a call to battle; and (2) the sound of victory and praise after the battle. In that context it was often used for the worship, faith, and praise from God’s people. If we will know the joyful sound of God we need to know both of these meanings: the call to conflict and the call to victory over the enemy.

When we face obstacles to our Christian walk – temptations, rejections, discouragements, struggles – we are to face them confidently. The one who knows the joyful sound of God is the spiritual soldier who is confident in spiritual warfare of the ultimate and complete victory of God. He shouts no less enthusiastically and confidently at the beginning of the struggle than he will at the end. The victor starts and ends each battle with the joyful sound of victory.

We have victory in our Lord Jesus Christ. He who was born at Bethlehem and who died on Calvary is risen and reigning and coming again. And Christ calls us to “do battle” for Him. The spiritual conflict we are engaged in is called warfare. We stand firm against the onslaught of temptation and discouragements. We do not fight alone, rather we fight in the strength of the Lord Jesus. “The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace” (Exodus 14:14). That which was physical warfare in the Old Testament is spiritual warfare in the New.

We are to put on the whole armor of God and to stand in His strength against the enemy:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can make your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this world’s darkness, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Therefore take up the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you will be able to stand your ground, and having done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth fastened around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness arrayed, and with your feet fitted with the readiness of the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Eph 6:10-17)

This battle shout or trumpet battle blast was done in faith, in confidence of the Lord’s victory through His people. It was said of kings in that day that they never entered a battle unconfident of victory, rather the king’s belief in his army’s victory was contagious and buoyed up their confidence and hopes as well.

For us, we have more reasons to be confident in the ultimate victory of Christ – for He has already conquered death and has enabled us to stand in faith in Him. He is our victory and our confidence, and we can do nothing without Him (John 15:5). But through John God also said that faith is our victory.

By this we know that we love the children of God: when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome, because everyone born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world: our faith. Who then overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. (1 John 5:1-5)

Greater is he who is in us that he who is in the world, and we can live through faith in victory and spiritual peace. Each of us has many failings in our past, and many temptations around us, but if we will live in faith in God, in the ultimate and complete victory in Christ, then we can also live in constant victory.

Enter each battle of temptation and trial in the confident victory shout of Christ, and He will bring you through.

 

Psalms, temptation

The Aftermath of Temptation

February 21st, 2017

Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him. (Matthew 4:11 ESV)

Today’s typical portrayal of Jesus facing the temptations presents Him as a good man dragged along by the questionings of his soul to face an awesome tempter. The good man emerges shaken, humbled by the dark thoughts of his soul, but victorious – and not always because he had resisted temptation but that he learned something about himself.

This is the type of unbiblical nonsense that too often passes for modern religious thought. It is humanistic in its origins, debasing Christ and, by so doing, attempting to make us look better to ourselves. Certainly our own experiences with temptations, which are marked by so much failure, should leave us humbled, shaken, and more aware of our inner weaknesses. But with Christ it is different, for He is the One who came to destroy the works of the devil. Christ was fully human, and so He was tempted as a human, but He had no evil in His heart to which the devil could appeal.

The biblical account is quite different. Christ met Satan in the wilderness and the showdown between the two revealed that Christ was more than a match for him. It was Satan that left the meeting defeated and aware of his soon coming end. The best tricks that Satan could devise to tempt and derail Christ’s mission were powerless against Him.

1 John 2:15-17 says:

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

Christ’s character was directed entirely toward pure love for the Father, pure devotion to His cause, and pure commitment to fulfill His mission. He loved the world as its Redeemer, but not as its worshiper. The desires of the flesh did not corrupt Him, did not give Him confusing thoughts that might lead Him astray, off-course from God’s will or from the pure worship and love of God.

Pride also did not trip Him up, as it does to us so often. Even when we resist giving into the lust of the flesh, the devil needs merely to send us a compliment or two and immediately our ego swells – “You are such a good Christian,” he says, and then on his way out of the door of temptation he trips us up with pride. “Yes, I am such a good Christian, much better than others…” and the trap snaps around us. While rejecting lust’s lures, pride has trapped us. This is typical with us, but this is not what happened to Jesus.

Christ’s sympathy with us is not the sympathy of failure, it is the sympathy of one who was also tried and tempted without failure – it is the sympathy of power and compassion and love.

Neither did Christ give into the lust of the eyes. Satan in particular appealed to Jesus through His eyes – showing Him the stones He could turn to bread, the crowds gathered in the temple grounds, and the nations of the world. The eyes are the sense that we humans are most dependent on, yet Christ revealed the inner eye of the spirit that communed with God.

Many have analyzed the three temptations in these three categories: (1) the lust of the flesh – the stone to bread, (2) the lust of the eyes – the leap from the temple, and (3) the pride of life – the wealth of the nations. But, as it is with us, it is best not to over-analyze the temptations, but rather to simply be aware that all three elements were in each of them to some degree.

The end result was complete defeat of the devil, total resistance. No crack in His character or thoughts that Satan could return later to use against Him. The defense was total and the defeat complete. Satan was routed by Christ and he left Him as a defeated foe.

But afterwards, it says, Jesus was ministered to by angels. The word in the original is diakoneo, the common word for ministering or serving, the word from which we get our word “deacon” or “diakonie” in German. Whatever else this means – and there appears to be a depth to this experience that we are not able to fathom – it means that the Father supplied by the angels what was lacking for Christ among human contacts.

We are social creatures and need friendship. We often face loneliness even when among Christian fellowship. We need others, and we should not fall into the pride of believing that we are too good for others. We ought to be open to the gifts and experiences that Christian fellowship brings. Yet we can also expect that there will be times and places where the Christian fellowship we need is lacking. Here is an example of the divine supply of devoted friendship.

The last words that we have from the pen of Paul are the closing verses of 2 Timothy. In them he wrote of the loneliness he had experienced toward the end of his life, toward the end of his mission for Christ. One by one he mentioned where his companion had gone – Demas had deserted the cause for Christ, Crescens, Titus, and Tychicus had gone to serve elsewhere, only Luke had remained with him. His words tell us how precious Christian fellowship is. Then he spoke of his first trial, where he was released:

At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen. (2 Tim. 4:16-18)

We should take these words to heart, that though we need one another as Christian to Christian, the case may be in each of our lives that for different reasons we may feel alone – some will desert Christ, and some will be led elsewhere by Christ to serve Him there – but the Lord will stand by us and strengthen us.

If you are facing loneliness today, this verse is a wonderful promise to you. The Lord will strengthen us all who call on the name of Christ, even if we are left alone by others.

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