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Spiritual Warfare

God Uses Other Christians to Comfort and Encourage Us

“For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you, that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.” (Paul speaking, in his letter to the Churches in Rome) Romans 1:11-12

It is the simple, obvious things that we sometimes take for granted and don’t recognize the full importance of them.

I mentioned in my last blog how God will comfort us in our afflictions and then leads us to comfort others, having gone through afflictions similar to what they are experiencing.  I also mentioned how this interaction between Christians, encouraging and comforting one another, was important to the building up of the body.  I want to look more closely at this and emphasize the value of this mutual encouragement.

In Paul’s second letter to the churches in Corinth he explicitly mentions how God used the coming of Titus to comfort him during his struggles in Macedonia.

“For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest but were afflicted at every turn – fighting without and fear within.  But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort with which he was comforted in you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more.” 2 Cor. 7: 5-7

Notice that Paul points out that he was comforted directly by Titus and indirectly by the Corinthians, and, of course, that it was orchestrated by God.  So we see that as we communicate and interact with others resulting in their encouragement and comfort, they then, at a later time, can communicate and interact with others, relating their interactions with us, to encourage and comfort them.  It’s like a network of comforting and encouragement that the Holy Spirit can use.

The point is that our words of encouragement to others can be used multiple times to comfort many people!  Only God knows the full extent of the usage.  This emphasizes the importance of being open and willing to be used by the Holy Spirit to comfort others.  This should be our focus and desire, just like Paul said to the churches in Rome, “I long to see you…”, or in other words, I desire to have this interaction of encouragement, to be encouraged and built up by you, and to build you up, and then you can share what I pass on to you to encourage others, as I will pass on your encouragement to my Christian friends.

I would imagine that Satan would want to stop this networking.  He would want us to be oblivious to the value of these interactions.  He would want us to be focused on other things and distracted from this important task of mutual encouragement.

Sadly, many churches, at least in my experience, seem to communicate that the comfort and encouragement comes from the pastor or church leadership.  It seems like everyone runs to the pastor for counseling, seeking comfort.  Weekly services also have changed from a high amount of interactivity between the congregation, to individuals watching the “show”.  It’s more like going to the movies, sitting in the seat and watching for an hour or so, then leaving with little interaction.  In fact, in some churches I’ve heard that they even watch a video piped in of the preacher.  How different this is to a gathering of believers who share encouraging accounts of God’s recent dealings or revelations to them, intermingled with praying for one another.  I know that this happens in some churches, some having smaller groups that meet, but I think that there is a need to emphasize and promote this interaction even more.  I believe that it should be the main focus of the church gatherings.

So God will use other Christians to encourage and comfort us, and this comfort can be spread to many, encouraging many, building up the body of Christ, and creating bonds between Christians as they interact, resulting in love.

I need to mention, though, that we should not expect to find this comfort from unbelievers.  How can they encourage us in the spirit?  They can’t.  They won’t see God’s purpose in our situation, nor will they have the understanding of the ultimate goal and hope we have in heaven.  Our attempting to comfort unbelievers, or especially to receiver comfort from unbelievers, will only cause frustration and/or confusion.

It is interesting that Paul brings up this point of not interacting with unbelievers immediately before his discussion of being comforted by the encouraging news from Titus from Corinth.  He says this:

“Do not be mismatched with unbelievers.  For what partnership have righteousness with iniquity? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?  What agreement has the temple of God with idols?  For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, ‘I will live in them and move among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  Therefore, come out from them, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch nothing unclean; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.’  Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, and make holiness perfect in the fear of God.”

Remember that the encouragement and comfort that we are talking about is rooted in true faith and a focus on our true hope.  It is a spiritual comfort that reminds us of the promise we have of eternal life in heaven that far outweighs anything that this world has to offer us.  It is encouragement that urges us to continue on our journey as aliens, or temporary residents on earth, dying to this world and living for the treasures that we store up for the next world.  This comfort and encouragement is aligned with the truth of the Gospel and it goes hand in hand with this truth.  This comfort and encouragement should also result in our cleansing and spiritual maturity.  It should result in our “making holiness perfect in the fear of God” as the above quoted Scripture suggests.

In the context of Paul’s letter, he is attempting to build up his inter-relationship with the churches in Corinth, letting them know that their success and growth encourages and comforts him, and requesting that they continue to be open to his encouragement and comfort that comes from relating his successes to them, and all of this in the light of them mutually encouraging each other in their spiritual walk of faith towards their goal of eternal life in heaven, having been successfully transformed into mature Christians and confident to stand before the Lord in the day of judgment.

Let us continue to focus on encouraging and comforting one another in the spirit, under the guidance and anointing of the Holy Spirit.  Let’s not look to the world for comfort and encouragement, and recognize that the enemy would want us to be distracted by the false comfort that is offered by the world.  Let’s take Paul’s advice on how to conduct ourselves in this world:

“For though we live in the world we are not carrying on a worldly war, for the weapons of our warfare are not worldly but have divine power to destroy strongholds.  We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.”  2 Cor. 10: 3-6

And remember also that the bonding together that occurs as we encourage one another is a part of our love for one another.  The goal is love.  Jesus also commanded us to love one another.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all men will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13: 34-35

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“Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction…..” 1 Corinthians 10:11

The Enemy will Attack

Non-believers explain away the existence of God and convince themselves that His divine attributes are accredited to some impersonal “force” of nature.  Like the saying made popular by the Star Wars movies, “the force be with you”, they believe in some mysterious, unknown force that can possibly be harnessed by a select few “masters” who can train their senses to connect with this force to control it for their purposes, thus placing human beings as the highest form of life in the universe.  This lie goes back to the garden where Eve was told that if she ate the apple she would be “like God”.  Popular today is the phrase “thank the universe” as if to honor this unknown force that somehow controls our fate.

Similarly, the forces of evil are de-personalized by non-believers.  They see evil as some unknown force that battles against the forces of good.  When we are functioning in the system of this world, it is easier to block out of our minds the fact that both God and Satan are real persons who are enemies of each other.   Yes, Satan is real and I believe that he would rather that people not believe in him because it makes his work easier.  For the Christian, we must not only acknowledge his existence, but we must be aware of his tactics.

We have established in a previous post that Nehemiah’s work of rebuilding the walls surrounding the temple of Jerusalem is symbolic of God’s restoration of the internal, spiritual temple within our hearts and minds. As Nehemiah started his work, we see that there were surrounding enemies that immediately came against him.  Likewise, when we start to rebuild our spiritual relationship with God, we will be confronted by the enemy in an attempt to stop the work.  Let’s look closer at how these attacks happened and see what we can apply to our lives and situations.

The first item of interest is the fact that Nehemiah was very quiet and even secretive about his mission.  When he initially reached Jerusalem to begin the work, he went out at night with only a small group of men to examine the damage of the walls that needed repair: “So I came to Jerusalem and was there three days.  Then I arose in the night, I and a few men with me; I told no one what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem; nor was there any animal with me, except the one on which I rode. And I went out by night….and viewed the walls of Jerusalem which were broken down and its gates which were burned with fire.” Nehemiah 2:11-13.  Nehemiah didn’t make an announcement about his plans when he arrived.  He didn’t draw attention to himself.  It was as if he knew there would be opposition to his work so he waited until the latest possible moment to make known his plans.  We too should be careful not to be too open about our spiritual work when restoring our internal spiritual temple.  We should expect that the enemy will use any tactic to demoralize our efforts.  He will use others to discourage us, so we don’t need to make a broad announcement about what we are doing.  Not that we should be ashamed, but we should recognize that we will be entering into battle with the enemy.  You don’t need to open the door for arguments or for negative feedback.  When you are doing an internal rebuilding work in your life, you are not in a position to be teaching or convincing others. The focus should be on you and your work.  As Jesus advised, first take the log out your own eye before you attempt to take the splinter out of someone else’s eye.  Some of us have a tendency to want to get involved in “helping” others before straightening out our own lives.   As we mature and have the walls of our lives restored, then we will be strong enough to help others restore their lives.

As soon as the surrounding leaders of the enemies of the Jews discovered that the rebuilding was happening, they reacted.  Expect that there will be an immediate reaction to any efforts that you make to draw close to God.  Here’s what they did to Nehemiah:  They laughed at him, they despised him, and they tried to make his efforts look like something evil.

The enemy will ridicule, criticize, and attempt to diminish your efforts

“But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official, and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they laughed at us and despised us,”  Nehemiah 2: 19

One of the easiest ways to manipulate someone is to ridicule the actions that you don’t want them to be doing.  It’s a form of peer pressure targeted to pressure you to change what you are doing.  Expect that you will be ridiculed.  Nobody likes to be laughed at, but we must see this for what it is: an attempt to stop us from the work we need to do.  It’s a ploy of the enemy; the people don’t even know that they are being used by the enemy.   The ridicule is an attack on our pride, but we must resist and recognize their motive.

Similarly, people will criticize what you are doing. After being ridiculed and criticized, Nehemiah prayed, “Hear, Oh God, for we are despised; turn their reproach on their own heads, and give them as plunder to a land of captivity!” The word “despise” means “to regard with contempt, distaste, disgust or disdain” according to dictionary.com.  This is just another attempt to pressure you to stop your work.

Satan can influence people’s minds and use them to attach you.  Be prepared and be strong against this attack.  Don’t be caught off guard, but expect it and be mentally ready when it comes.

Nehemiah’s enemies even tried to promote a lie that the work he was doing was the equivalent to rebelling against the king.  This is another tactic, to make something good look like something evil.  During the ministry of Jesus, the Jewish leaders suggested that His work was a rebellion against Caesar and the Roman Empire who was controlling that region at the time.  They suggested that Jesus was promoting Himself as King and therefore usurping the authority of Caesar.  They even rationalized that by killing Jesus they would be saving the Jewish nation from being destroyed by the Romans.   These type of lies are intended to confuse people and turn others against you.  Don’t be fooled.  When we draw closer to God we may be accused of alienating our friends or causing problems with our spouse or whatever other lie the enemy can conjure up.  There are always some negative consequences associated with any good action.  The enemy will try to highlight the negative and elevate it to a false position in an attempt to negatively impact your good efforts.

Nehemiah’s response was powerful: “The God of heaven Himself will prosper us; therefore we His servants will arise and build, but you have no heritage or right or memorial in Jerusalem.” Nehemiah 2:20.  He essentially said that God is on his side and this is none of their business.  He simply stated the truth; the truth will always kill the lies.  We need to ask God for the wisdom to see the simple truth in our situation, and then make the simple statement of truth to those who are being used by the enemy.  They will have no retort.

Next Attack: Anger, Mocking and Inciting Others

But it so happened, when Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, that he was furious and very indignant, and mocked the Jews”  Nehemiah 4:1

The enemy doesn’t give up easily.  If they see that their initial tactics are not working and your efforts are moving forward anyway, they will take things to the next level.  Nehemiah’s enemies were accustomed to abusing the Jews of Jerusalem whenever they felt like it.  They could pillage their homes and stop any attempt that the Jews would make at establishing their honoring and worshiping of their God.  They knew that they had power and control over the Jews and that they were losing that power.  Similarly, our enemies had power over us.  When we were apart from God and in the world, Satan could control our thoughts and steal away any seed of truth that God was planting in our hearts.  He doesn’t want to lose this power.  He wants to keep us in bondage.  Matthew 12:43-45 Jesus teaches this:  “When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came,’ and when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order.  Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.” I don’t believe that everyone has unclean spirits living in them, but we must recognize that there is demonic activity that can be escalated during our rebuilding efforts. We can’t let down our guard but rather we should recognize that there is likely to be a long battle.

This next level of attack by the enemy is more intense, but it has the same goal: to manipulate us and stop our efforts.  Anger directed towards us and/or mocking us are just more extreme forms of manipulation.  In Nehemiah’s case, his enemy even attempted to get more people included in the manipulation by talking to their brethren, or other family members, as well as the army of Samaria.  There’s power in numbers and the enemy will attempt to get more people involved to try to persuade you to change.

This time Nehemiah did not respond to the enemy.  He ignored them, and rather he prayed that God would turn their reproach back on their own heads.  When someone is furious and indignant it is better not to respond and engage with them.  It would only worsen the situation.  They most likely will not change, so don’t give them more ammunition to use against you by responding.

Be aware that doing the right thing spiritually will never make you popular.  Actually, being popular is more likely a sign that you are doing the wrong thing spiritually.  Jesus told us that we would be hated just like He was hated.  He was betrayed, arrested, mocked, beaten, ridiculed and finally crucified, and He was the perfect Son of God sent as the Messiah.  We should expect the same treatment if we follow in His footsteps.  It’s not an easy road: Mark 8:34-38 “When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, ‘Whoever 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 and the gospel’s will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?  Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?  For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.’”  The battle against the enemy is well worth the effort.  We must remain strong and steadfast in our fight and allow the Holy Spirit to bring about in us the changes needed to totally free us from the enemy’s influence.  This brings us to the next level.

The Next Level: Physical Attack

When these tactics failed for Nehemiah’s enemies, their next move was to plan a direct physical attack on the men building the wall.  Nehemiah learned of their plans and prepared his men, removing any element of surprise. When the enemy learned that Nehemiah was aware of their plot and had made preparation, they canceled their plans and never attacked.  “And it happened when our enemies heard that it was known to us, and that God had brought their plot to nothing, that all of us returned to the wall, everyone to his work.”  Nehemiah 4:15

What does this mean to us?  Will the enemy attack us physically?  I think he does through sickness or injury, but God will expose his plot and bring it to nothing.  This is another ploy of the enemy to scare us.  Many times it’s just the threat of attack, and not a real attack.  It could be a doctor’s report that turns out to be nothing.  Or a suspected problem or physical threat like losing your home or vehicle or job, but it never happens, or if it does, God takes you through unharmed.  Whatever the enemy throws at us, we must recognize that God is greater and He is able to deliver us without being harmed.  I like the encouragement expressed in Isaiah 43: 1-3 towards His people: “But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you.  For I am the Lord you God, the Holy One of Israel, Your Savior.”

Even when Nehemiah learned that the attack of the enemy was cancelled, he still kept his men prepared.  The workers kept their weapons handy or even wore their weapons while they worked. The guards remained in place with their weapons.  We too need to be not only building up our faith and relationship with God, but we also need to continuously be on guard against false teaching and lies from the enemy.  In the letters to the young churches in the scriptures I find both of these two themes.  There is a clear warning about false teaching and also there is an encouragement about increasing in the faith.

The Final Attempt: An Invitation to Join Together

Now it happened when Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies heard that I had rebuilt the wall, and that there were no breaks left in it (although at that time I had not hung the doors in the gates), that Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, ‘Come let us meet together among the villages in the plain of Ono.’ But they thought to do me harm. So I sent messengers to them, saying, ‘I am doing a great work so that I cannot come down.  Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” Nehemiah 6: 1-3

When the enemy saw that the work was all but done, their final tactic was to invite Nehemiah to meet with them. Nehemiah saw through their plot and recognized that they just wanted to hurt him so he refused their invitation.  Later, the enemy sent Nehemiah another invitation to consult together about some rumors that they had heard.  Again Nehemiah refused to meet with them and saw this as an attempt to spreading fear and weakening their efforts.

As we mature in our walk with the Lord and strengthen our relationship with Him, and we allow the Holy Spirit to build up the walls of our internal temple, the enemy will attempt to get us to compromise. The enemy will approach us in a non-threatening way.  “Come meet with us” was an attempt to lore Nehemiah out where they could harm him.  We may be tempted to think we can compromise and meet the enemy half way.  In the past, I was tricked into thinking that I could hang out on occasion at the bar with heavy alcohol drinkers that I worked with and not be affected.  I ended up being harmed by it.  Whatever the compromise, be very careful and recognize that the enemy only wants to harm you.

Final Warning

Satan is real.  He is an evil person and he has an army of fallen angels or demons who work with him.  He is the prince of this world and God has allowed him to have some power for a limited time.  Please be aware that he wants to destroy you and keep you from entering the kingdom of God.  I hope that this writing has alerted you to some of his tactics and prepares you before they come.  If you are a new Christian or a mature one, you will still be confronted by the enemy.  Be strong and fight the good fight.  Jesus has defeated the enemy already by His death and resurrection.  God is more powerful than Satan.  We know the end of the story: Satan will be destroyed in the lake of fire!

This is what Nehemiah said to encourage his people to fight: “And I looked and arose and said to the nobles, to the leaders, and to the rest of the people, ‘Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and you houses.’” We too must fight not only for ourselves, but for the many other people who we have an influence on and who are looking to our lives as examples.

Spiritual Armor

We know that the Christian’s goal is to love: True, godly, biblical love as defined in 1 Corinthians 13; Unselfish love, fulfilling all the law and the prophets, loving God and others as we love ourselves.  We know that God is love, and God is spirit, and that the Law is spiritual.  We know that to walk in true love, we must be spiritual; we must walk in the Spirit.

The problem is that we are born carnal, and from the day we are born we walk in the flesh, not in the spirit.  We are trained by this world to think carnally and to see things from a carnal perspective. We become an integral part of this world system.  Our hopes and longings are focused on this world.  It is this carnal walk that traps us in a cycle of sin and death.  This carnal walk produces fear, anxiety, stress, envy, jealousy, and it arouses all kinds of desires for the material things of this world to satisfy the desires of the flesh.  Since the flesh is never satisfied, we become vulnerable to what this world presents to us to feed our flesh. Ultimately, the result is sin and death.

Jesus came to free us from this cycle of sin and death.  Jesus has made a way for us to put an end to our carnality and to become truly spiritual.  When we place our hope in the promises that Jesus has made available to us through His death on the cross, and we put to death the hopes and desires that we had placed in this world, we begin our spiritual walk.  We die with Jesus to this world and place our affections and desires in heaven, and in the living hope of having a glorified, resurrected, eternal body, like Jesus.  We store up our treasures in heaven and eagerly await the return of the King of Kings to establish the permanent heaven and earth, after He destroys this current earth with fire.

When this transformation takes place, we begin to think and act differently.  Our view of this world and the situations that we encounter take on a new perspective.  We see things in the light of eternity.  We consider the purpose of God and His view and values.  This changes everything!

I can recall years ago when I was unexpectedly laid off from a company for whom I had worked for many years.  My reaction was at first a carnal one:  I thought it was unfair.  I suspected that someone in upper management had targeted me unjustly.  I even thought that my previous manager, who was a friend of mine, had betrayed me.  I began to fear the future, worrying about getting another job that paid as well, and was as good a fit for me.  I was worried about my bills, and caring for my family.

Now, you may be thinking that this is all a normal, acceptable reaction to these types of circumstances; it may be a normal reaction for an unbeliever, but it is not a spiritual reaction, and it should not be the reaction of a Christian.  As I turned my attention towards the Lord, and considered the truth of the situation in the light of His word, and encouraged myself in this truth, my thoughts turned to a spiritual perspective:  God was in control.  He knew all about this.  All things work together for the good (Romans 8:28).  This was not a coincidence or something brought about by man; this was the hand of God in my life.  God had a purpose for me in this.  God wanted to teach me to trust in Him.  God would take care of me as He has promised in His word.  He could be moving me to a better place.  He knows the future.  He has the hairs on my head numbered.  I should be rejoicing in this opportunity to trust Him through whatever trials I would face since this has eternal value.

To the man of faith, there is great value and power in this spiritual perspective; to the man absent of faith, this view is foolishness.

Walking in the Spirit is a way of thinking.  This thinking includes an eternal view; it includes God’s purpose and perspective; it recognizes that we are humble servants of the Lord who is in control of our lives.

As we live our lives here on this earth, living as aliens and exiles, living by faith and walking in the spirit, we face many challenges.  We must face various trials and tribulations.  We continue in our well doing and remain faithful to our Lord and consistent in our thinking.  Our flesh and the influences of this world are at constant odds with our spiritual man, and there is also an enemy that would like to cause us to fail.

In Ephesians chapter 6, starting at verse 10 we are taught that we must wear the Armor of God, or  the Spiritual Armor that God has supplied for us, so that we can walk victoriously in the Spirit:  “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.  Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded you loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace.  Besides all these, taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one.  And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplications.”

There are 7 items that are presented as spiritual armor:  Truth, Righteousness, The Gospel of Peace, Faith, Salvation, The Word of God, and Prayer.  Let’s look closer at each of these.

Truth

There is an evil one who is a liar, who wants to destroy us with his lies.  We must constantly be asking ourselves and convincing ourselves about what is true.  The truths of the scriptures need to be reinforced in our minds daily.  We need to break down and remove the lies that are being presented to us every day.  The TV, the news, our co-workers, teachers, salesmen, politicians, and many other sources are bombarding us with subtle lies to shift our focus from God’s truth to the lies of this world and this world system.  The intent is to shift our focus from heaven and the promises, to this world and the hopes offered here.  Remember the parable of the sower where the thorns and thistles grow up and choke out the fruit.  These are the concerns of this world, the delight in riches, and the desire for other things, that distract our focus.  These are lies that pervert the truth and render us fruitless.  But if we hold fast to the truth from a pure heart, we will bear much fruit.  Be aware of the evil one’s motives and devices.

Righteousness

No man can boast before God that they have lived a completely righteous life and there God must accept them as righteous.  On the contrary, all men have fallen short and our acceptance by God is a result of His mercy towards us and is based on our faith (more on this faith later).  But once accepted, we are expected to repent and turn from our unrighteous behavior to now walk in true righteousness as a new creation.  We are admonished to be holy as God is holy.  This righteousness is a result of our becoming spiritual.  Our mind is transformed and renewed so that our desires are now pure and focused on spiritual things, not carnal things.  This frees us from the cycle of sin that is rooted in earthly desires that develop, or give birth to, sin and ultimately lead to death.

As we walk in this righteousness, we sow good seeds and reap accordingly.  The enemy has no stronghold, as Jesus once said, “any man who sins, he is a slave to that sin.” Jesus also said, “I am the…. Truth…” “the truth shall set you free.”  “he who the Son sets free is free indeed.”

The Gospel of Peace

The good news of the Gospel is the crucial element of truth that must be at the forefront of our understanding of reality.  It should establish our world view.  It is the purpose of our lives and the reason for our existence.  God sent His Messiah to offer to all mankind the opportunity to become true children of God who inherit God’s kingdom, who escape His wrath, escape the judgment of the second death, and take on a glorified, resurrected, immortal, spiritual body to replace our fleshly shell. As the reality of this truth takes hold of our every thought, we are unaffected by the trials that life brings our way, nor are we damaged by the evil one’s attacks.

Faith

At the root of our thought life is the exercise of our faith.  Unfortunately, most Christians today have directed their faith towards the things of this life.  What a huge mistake.  True faith, the faith that our father Abraham had, is focused on the hope that has been promised to us at the cross through the sacrifice of Jesus.  Faith is the “assurance of things hoped for”, that is, knowing assuredly that what God has promised, and now is our living hope, is certain to be delivered by Him.  And we wait patiently for it, enduring whatever circumstances we encounter in this world, as unpleasant as they may be.  This is the faith that saves us.  This is the faith that pleases the father.

Instead, the evil one would like us to focus on the things of this world, the material things.  The lie is that we can use our faith to obtain these earthly treasures.  In fact, (the lie says), we have a right to them as God’s children.  As long as these things are not evil, why would it be a problem?  The problem is that we become focused on these earthly treasures rather than heavenly treasures, and as the Lord has stated, where our treasure is, that is where our heart will be also.  Where are heart, and mind, is focused is of critical importance, and is the key to our victory as Christians.  This is why the enemy wants to divert our hearts and minds from a heavenly focus to an earthly one.

The modern church has been duped by the so called “prosperity faith” that is nothing more than an excuse for covetousness.  A true living faith will keep our hopes, desires, passions, longing, affections and most of our thoughts, on the things of heaven, not on earthly things.

Salvation

This world is cursed.  This generation is wicked.  The evil one is in control of this world.  Most are deceived.  This world is under the judgment of God.  His wrath is directed at this wickedness.  But God has sent Jesus as the Savior.  He has saved us from this judgment and wickedness.  Securing this truth in our minds is an important weapon against the enemy.  Recognizing the reality of this truth gives us the wisdom to navigate through life with the proper understanding of circumstances and priorities.

The Word of God

The scriptures are the ultimate authority of God’s revealed truth.  They are intended to remind us of how men of faith in the past gained victory in their lives, and encourage us to follow their example.  As we “wash” our minds in the truth of God’s word, we are not fooled by the lies of the enemy.  Our faith is built up.  We gain encouragement and strength by these clear examples of God’s truths regarding the world that surrounds us, both seen and unseen.

The enemy wants to immerse us in the physical world around us and the events and drama that surrounds us, distracting us from the spiritual world.  But these physical things are temporary and have no lasting value.  All this passes away and doesn’t stay with us when we leave this world and go to heaven.  The word of God reminds us of the true unseen reality, and gives us examples of how to properly function with this truth in mind.

In addition, the scriptures show us how to please God, and what he requires of us.  We see the personage of God as displayed in Jesus.  All of these are lessons for us to absorb into our minds that will guard us from the lies of the enemy, which are intended to cause us to stumble.

Prayer

Not only is there the written word of God (Logos), but there is also the spoken word of God (Rhema) that can establish truth in our hearts.  Of course, when the Lord speaks to our hearts with His “still, small voice” we must check what is said against the scriptures and there should not be a contradiction.  Often there is need for this direct communication from the Holy Spirit to strengthen our resolve or give us further guidance.

Although it doesn’t always make sense to us, God’s direction is for us to make requests to Him through prayer.  We must obey this directive.  For whatever reason God has, this is how things are done in the spiritual world.  We make our request to God (even though He already knows what we need and even what we will ask for) and then spiritual powers are set in motion to answer our requests, if God decides to answer, that is.  Our job is to make the requests, and to repeat these requests until they are resolved or we feel that the Holy Spirit directs us differently.

Conclusion

We must learn to walk in the spirit.  Most of what we need to learn has to do with our thoughts and perspective.  We need faith and hope to make this transformation of thinking.  Prayer and Bible reading reinforce this way of thinking, give us the strength to endure both the trials we face and the attacks of the enemy.  The scripture section in Ephesians 6 clearly defines our methods of spiritual protection using the analogy of battle armor.

This short post is to get you started or to remind you how to use this armor.  The rest is up to you.  Seek God to further teach you how to do battle with the enemy and be victorious.

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The book of Zechariah was written during the reign of King Darius, when the Israelites were rebuilding the city of Jerusalem, as well as the temple, that had been destroyed by the Babylonians.  Zechariah was a prophet who God used to encourage, comfort, instruct and warn His people.

Verse 3 of chapter 1:  “Therefore say to them, Thus says the Lord of hosts: Return to me, says the Lord of hosts, and I will return to you…”

What is interesting about this verse is the truth that God had removed Himself to some degree from the people because they had removed themselves from Him.  God didn’t forsake them, but He had “pulled back” His Presence from them.  What this means I am not exactly sure, but I can surmise that some part of God’s Spirit was not present in their lives so that prayers were not answered as expected, or healing did not occur, etc.

We experience this same situation today, for God is the same today as He was back then.  We say “where are the miracles, healings, revivals, and mighty moving of God’s Spirit?”  We then think that the problem is that we aren’t using the right formulas to make them happen, or the wrong methodology for revivals, or not enough determination in our faith.  Like the world, we think if we could just figure out the right pieces needed to attract people to the Gospel, or if we could just get the people of God better organized to make things happen, or if we could just get a group of believers to be open to miracles and bold enough to be used by God to pray for the sick to be healed, then these things would begin to happen in our midst.

But God says, “Return to me, and I will return to you.”

Perhaps the question now is what exactly does it means to “Return to Him.”  We may be thinking (presuming) that we have already returned to Him or that we have never left Him.  The next verse says “Be not like your fathers, to whom the former prophets cried out, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, Return from your evil ways and from your evil deeds’, but they did not hear or heed me…”  To be more clear, in chapter 7: 7&8, “….were not these the words which the Lord proclaimed by the former prophets?   ….Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy each to his brother, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against his brother in your heart.  But they refused to hearken….”

Our focus should be on the things pertaining to the Spirit and pertaining to our hearts.  These are the things that will impact our behaviors and result in holiness.  We should not focus on the things pertaining to this carnal world system, like our methods, our organizational skills, or our gadgets used to attract people to our meetings.    Have we spent the time to examine our hearts and to keep them clean and pure before the Lord?

I believe that if we have our hearts in the right place before Him, and we are walking after the Spirit and not after the flesh, we will be in a position for the hand of God to move in a mighty way in our midst.  It will be a matter of course, and we will not have to seek after it or work hard to make it happen.

Remember also that God is a sovereign God who moves and acts according to His will and not ours.  He knows what is best and when to manifest His power.  It’s not like tapping into some neutral force of power that is available to us to meet our needs.  God is a person, our loving Father who knows what is best for us.

It pleases Him to bring His blessings to His people. Chapter 8: “I am jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I am jealous for her with great wrath.  This says the Lord: I will return to Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem, and Jerusalem shall be called the faithful city, and the mountain of the Lord of hosts, the holy mountain.”   It goes on to say that this is marvelous in God’s eyes.  Jerusalem represents God’s presence in the midst of His people.  His presence brings power, peace, joy and blessing.

Ultimately, we must recognize that the power is His.  It’s His work, His purpose, His will, His plan, completely His doing.  We are just vessels that He uses to accomplish His will. Consider the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel, who was leading the effort to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem at the time: (Chap 4 vs. 6-8) “…Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.  What are you O great mountain?  Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain, and he will bring forward the top stone amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’”

Wait for the Lord.  Keep your heart humble and submitted to Him.  Store up your treasures in heaven.  In due time, God will raise you up and use you for His good pleasure to accomplish His will.

Amen.