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Posts Tagged ‘God’s power’

Satanic Hindrances

September 21st, 2016

For we wanted to come to you (I, Paul, in fact tried again and again) but Satan thwarted us. (1 Thessalonians 2:18)

When we we teach about Satanic hindering, or spiritual warfare, we are dealing with a subject in which we must exercise care. The two extremes to be avoided are (a) to make too much of Satan and his kingdom and (b) to make too little of them. Spiritual warfare is our constant reality so long as we are on this earth – until the return of Christ and the chaining of Satan and his demons (Rev. 20:1-3). But yet spiritual warfare, just like warfare on earth between humans, varies in intensity from one situation to another.

Yet there are some principles to understand, and Paul did not hesitate to teach us of the reality of spiritual warfare. Clearly throughout the Bible there are principles to grasp and to apply to our lives.

All Satanic power is limited by God: God is greater and infinitely more powerful than Satan. Speaking of the Holy Spirit residing in the believer, John wrote, “Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). Satan is a deceiver so he regularly lies to us about his power.

Job 1:12 and 2:6-7 tell the story of Job’s suffering and give us a “behind the scenes” look at the spiritual circumstances. In simple language it presents to us the reality that God limits the power of Satan. That God does this, as He does everything, for His own purposes is the clear teaching of the Bible. Humanity must grasp the seriousness of sin and disobedience to God, and only by enduring the consequences in some degree are we able to do so.

In everything He does, God acts out of His own righteous character, and in the story of Job we are confronted with the awesome knowledge and wisdom of God and our limited knowledge. Through the story of redemption – the spiritual rebellion of Satan, the fall of humanity, the impact of sin on this earth, the sacrifice of Christ for sin, and His victorious return and Millennial kingdom – we understand the we must grasp the seriousness of our sin and the impact of spiritual rebellion. God takes redeemed humanity through the panoramic picture of the reality of evil and the fullness of our redemption.

Jesus also said, “You would have no authority over me at all, unless it was given to you from above” (John 19:11). So God curtails the power of Satan and puts barriers on what he can and cannot do. The Bible does not teach a dichotomy of spiritual powers, where Satan and God are evenly matched. Nor is Satan a brother of Christ – as some false cults teach. Satan is God’s creation that rebelled against God’s authority in heaven and leads a demonic kingdom on earth (Rev. 12:7-12). When Christ returns Satan will be chained for a thousand years (Rev. 20:1-3), then released for a short time when the thousand years are completed, and then destroyed utterly (Rev. 20:7-10).

Satan attacks us all the time: Temptations and deceptions are his normal activities among us. He seeks to take advantage of us in our thoughts through his “devices” or “schemes” (2 Cor. 2:11; 3:14). He is called the “god of this age” (2 Cor. 4:4) and the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2). His method is to appeal to our pride and lusts, or our fallen nature (James 1:14), to blind us to the truth (2 Cor. 4:4), and to ensnare us, taking us captive to do his will (2 Tim. 2:26). He attacks our minds, so we need the knowledge of God, the wisdom of the Spirit, and the transformation of our souls to resist him. When we resist him, he flees from us for a season (James 4:7).

Satan twists the words of God (Gen. 3:1-5), misquotes or misapplies scripture (Luke 4:9-12), appeals to our physical drives (Luke 4:2-4), and makes unlawful promises he cannot keep and appeals to our pride (Luke 4:5-8). The Lord Jesus responded with Scripture to each of His temptations, and we are to use the Word of God to confront his lies. The Word of God is called the “sword of the Spirit” (Eph. 6:17). It is important to note that the Greek word translated “word” in Eph. 6:17 was rema, which meant the Word of God that has become personal in our hearts through faith and knowledge. To merely quote the Bible without faith or commitment does not guarantee success against temptation.

Satan’s other ploys: In scripture Satan is attributed with causing sickness (Job 1 and 2 and Luke 13:16), and also with demonic possession of several people. I believe that demonic possession of a Christian is impossible because we are sealed with the Spirit of God and Satan is no match for Him (Eph. 1:13-14). To what degree Satan’s power is territorial is unknown to us, though there does appear to be some teaching to support this idea (Daniel 10:13, Mark 5:10, and Ephesians 6:12). Yet in some areas of the world there appear to be certain types of demonic deceptions that are not present everywhere – for example, in the West the common deception is to deny Satan’s existence, and in other places the common deception is to accredit to him too much power.

Satan can become God’s teacher: Satan is NOT a willing servant of God; he seeks to destroy the work of God. But nonetheless God has recorded instances in His word where He used Satan to teach Christians some truth. Paul said that he turned two rebellious servants over to Satan so that they would be taught not to blaspheme God (1 Tim. 1:20). This is the pattern of the book of Judges in the Old Testament, that the people of God rebelled against His authority, and God allowed an unbelieving nation to oppress them to bring them to repentance. And God used the messenger from Satan that gave Paul his thorn in the flesh to show Paul how sufficient God’s grace was for Paul (2 Cor. 12:7-10).

Satan also seeks to hinder us in our service: Here is the matter in the text above. Satan does often seek to hinder or thwart us in our ministry and witness for Christ. Paul does not tell us how Satan did this, but we assume, as with his many types of deceptions, he has more than one means to do so. He may make us ill (2 Cor. 12:7), he may trouble us with many interruptions of minor things (Neh. 6:3), distract us with worries, and the list is practically endless. A common way is to tempt spiritual leaders – attacking their marriages, destroying their reputations, feeding their egos – and all spiritual leaders need to be on our guard. We must all remain humble for this is on of the main ways Satan brings us down – appealing to our lusts or to our pride.

Yet in this situation with Paul, it was not temptation so much as it seemed to be just distractions. I have personally found that Satan is a great noise-maker. When we try to pray, that is when the phone rings, when other matters seem to overwhelm us, when something breaks, etc. When we seek to do good, to do the right thing for Christ, then it is that some carnal member of the church demands something inconsequential from us. Often I have been hindered from doing the more important things in ministry by someone who was suddenly demanding me to focus my attention on a matter of almost no consequence at all.

I believe we need to develop the discipline to constantly focus on the major matters of the Christian life and witness. We can be sure that when we seek to make reaching the lost a priority there will also be someone who will be Satan’s representative to hinder us in this endeavor. We will find that the world and the devil and our flesh (our sinful nature) will never cooperate fully with the priorities of God. We must make sure we put these main things before us constantly as a priority. It will never be convenient to have a quiet time. It will never be convenient to do evangelism. It will never be convenient to tithe to God. It will never be convenient to grow in our faith. Satan will always throw up roadblocks, diversions, and frustrations.

We must determine, as the Spirit empowers us, to follow Christ everyday. You and I must decide to make the work of Christ our priority in life. The world will not make this decision for us.

1 Thessalonians , , ,

Immeasurable Power

September 18th, 2013

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you…

Acts 1:8

Do we live in the realm of the power of the Spirit or in the realm of the capabilities of humanity?

In this modern era we have downplayed the mystical view of life, lessened our dependence on spiritual help, even the help of God. We have confused faith in Him with the superstitious view of life and placed our focus on the importance of what we can do, instead of what He can do. Even while professing that through Him we can do all things and without Him we can do nothing, we go about our lives and ministries with little thought of His power exercised by His Spirit.

We are better off if we reverse this thinking, and place our faith in Him rather than in ourselves – we should live in the realm of the Spirit of God, and not just in the realm of the capabilities of humanity.

The disparity between chapters 1 and 2 of Acts showcases this point. In chapter one the fledgling church said good bye to their Savior who ascended on high, and they sought to find a suitable replacement for Judas – they did what they knew to do. “They all joined together constantly in prayer” (Acts 1:14), so this was not a mere human-focused group. They anticipated some special day was coming, just as Christ had foretold. But their vision and their work was limited, their numbers were few, and even they seemed well aware that something new must happen to the church if they were to go forward.

Then in Acts 2 is the record of the coming of the Spirit, who descended upon His people in presence and power. From that point on the Church is living in the realm of the power of the Spirit. At the end of that first day they had grown from a group of about 120 to 3,000, with new people added every day (Acts 1:15 and 2:41). They met together daily in joyful celebration of their God and within twenty years had started churches all over the known world.

Comparing the two chapters we can see clearly the difference. Focusing on man’s capabilities we consider positions of church leadership overly important, we are overly concerned with processes, and we exert efforts to make sure everyone is happy – even good people will do this. Focusing on God’s capabilities every believer is empowered to witness and worship, we are concerned with the salvation of others, and our chief desire is to please Him, not ourselves. We find God at work in us to build up our faith and our numbers.

Not all of this is mysterious to us – though the greater matters are beyond our being able to understand for they deal with the mystery of God Himself. But even we can see clearly the greater advantage of being God-focused rather than human-focused. We would all prefer to join a group that is excited about the vision of God, rather than one that argues over petty things such as who is the greatest in the kingdom of God.

The focus of God is on the lost sheep, and if we are empowered by His Spirit our hearts will be drawn to the lost and the needy, and not to lust over positions in the church.

The Core