What is Spiritual Warfare?

Machew is a guest writer to ETM, and as such the views expressed in this article may not be the views of ETM and its staff.

It is incredibly important for the church as a whole to understand spiritual warfare.  Too often Christians delegate their struggles to their flesh not realizing that much of what you think and feel doesn’t originate from you at all.  We have a very real enemy that will stop at nothing to get you to convince yourself with his lies to undermine your walk with Jesus and to make destructive decisions in your life.  For this reason, I write this article.

Before I start with Spiritual Warfare, I need to lay down some Biblical Context:

We will start in Genesis:

Genesis 1:26-30 (NASB)(emphasis mine)

26Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.

27God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

28God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.

29Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you;

30and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so.

So what is the point I want to make in this passage? God gave Adam and Eve delegated authority to rule over the Earth. We all know how this story ends, the devil comes in the form of a serpent and Adam and Eve eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and they fall because of sin. The devil had no authority over the Earth before the fall. So how did he get his authority?

When Adam and Eve came into agreement with the devil’s assessment of reality, they sinned. And because there was no atonement for sin at the time, they were separated from God and their agreement with the devil essentially handed over their delegate authority over the Earth to the devil. (John 12:31, John 14:30, 2 Corinthians 4:4, Matthew 4:8-10)

Next I will give some basic groundwork to what spiritual warfare is.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NASB)(emphasis mine)

3For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh,

4for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.

5We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,

So according 2 Corinthians spiritual battles happen in our mind and thought life. Why is this the case?

In Matthew 4:8-10 Jesus is tempted by the devil, as the devil offers Jesus all of the kingdoms of the world if he bows down to him and worships him. The devil still had the authority and rulership over the Earth from Adam and Eve. But after the resurrection of Jesus, He says to His disciples in Matthew 28:18 “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me

If Jesus now has “all authority” over the Earth, this means that the devil now has no authority. Jesus took back Adam and Eve’s authority from Satan. He was able to do this because their sin was now completely atoned for.

So the question you probably have now is: “How then is the devil able to do so much evil on the Earth?”

The question to ask is: How did the devil gain authority in the Garden of Eden?

He hasn’t changed his strategy at all. Look at 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 again. The battle is in our mind. The weapons formed against us are thoughts and speculations that exalt themselves above the knowledge of God. Why are these weapons used? Because the devil needs your agreement in what he wants to do before he has authority to do it. Jesus gave back authority over the Earth to humans. Before Jesus dies on the cross He states the following to His disciples:

Matthew 16:19 (NASB)

19I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

So the devil is able to steal, kill, and destroy when humans come into agreement with what he says (thoughts, emotions manifested from thoughts).

This is what 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 is talking about when it says the weapons of our warfare are not carnal. The fortresses that it is referring to are areas in our thought life that we are in agreement with the devil. The devil builds on your current agreements with him, to bring in more deception into your life. Essentially the agreement with the devil (fortress) is a place where he can hide in your life and have authority in that area of your life. This fortress is what the enemy hides behind to assault you with more lies, to try to gain more ground in your life.

So to review: The devil is only able to operate on the Earth through human agreement.

So what does this mean?

The devil is only able to operate in your life through your agreements with his lies, and the agreement of lies that the people in authority over you believe (ie: parents, teachers, government authorities).

This is why it is so important to constantly be studying and filling your heart and mind with the Word of God. The Word of God is what reveals deceptions you are believing, that allow the enemy into your life, and the lives of those under you.

Hebrews 4:12 (NASB)(emphasis mine)

12For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

For this to work though, you need to be born again and filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit’s help is a necessity in understanding the Bible and to know how it applies to everyday life.  Only through the Holy Spirit does the truth of the Bible penetrate your heart and actually change you (2 Corinthians 3:6, John 16:13, John 14:16-17, Romans 8:27, Isaiah 11:2, Ephesians 1:17).

The current situation we face is having a whole world of people where most people are not born again, and the devil is able to wreak havoc over the Earth because people are constantly in agreement with him. But God has given believers the keys to His kingdom. God’s Kingdom is superior to this kingdom(the Earth), and Jesus tells us to model our prayer like this:

Matthew 6:9-10 (NASB)(emphasis mine)
9″Pray, then, in this way:

‘Our Father who is in heaven,

Hallowed be Your name.

10’Your kingdom come

Your will be done,

On earth as it is in heaven.

So then we are to bring the dominion of God’s Kingdom to Earth (God’s government/way of doing things), whether it be through the salvation of others, loving the unlovable, giving all of your possessions, or worshiping Him through praise. In the words of Matthew 6, His “…Kingdom Come…Will be done…On Earth As it is in Heaven.” So if it is happening in heaven it should be happening here. If it is not happening in heaven it shouldn’t be happening here. When God’s kingdom is brought to Earth it enforces what Jesus did on the cross and destroys the work of the devil in our lives, and in the lives of others. Spiritual warfare cannot be won by human strength as 2 Corinthians 10 tells us, but as indicated, only by divinely powerful weapons. And we have no divinely powerful weapons by ourselves. But we do have God’s Word; whether it is from the Bible, something God has spoken to you recently, or something God told you before. God always backs up His Word with the resources of His superior Kingdom. But just reciting God’s word isn’t enough!

His Word Becoming Who We Are:

When we read the Bible, have relationship with Him through prayer (conversation), and meditate on what He has said or is saying, it opens our hearts to receive His Word and Truth. Truth that we only believe conceptually or intellectually will falter when tested. But Truth that has become a part of us deep down in our core, our very being, and heart can never be shaken. This is why we are not only supposed to hear and read the Word but receive it implanted into our hearts (James 1:21). And as James 1 describes the Word of God given to us will be tested but proven true to us by experience through perseverance in the testing trial. Once we have God’s Word truly implanted in us, because it has proven to be true under testing and trial, no argument, emotion, or lofty thing will ever be able to get us to doubt what God has said. And we are then able to stand firm, in boldness, and in confidence against the devil’s lies. When we are able to fully believe God’s Word deep in our very being, we are finally actually fully capable to “Submit…to God” which is when God uses His divinely powerful weapons, giving us what we need to “Resist the devil” causing him to “flee from you” (James 4:7) Until we truly believe what God has said and have the faith to believe it, it is impossible to submit to God(specifically submitting to what He has said to us). As Hebrews 11:6 says it is impossible to please God without faith.

God brings every believer through this process for our benefit, that His Word would literally become a part of us, so that we would become the walking Word of God. God’s plan is that we would literally become the image of the Living God. The devil has no weapon that works against this kind of believer.

Blessings,

Machew

When I do not want Jesus to return yet… Time is still running out.

by Jon Zenor

Have you ever had the thought that you wish God would not come back anytime soon?  I have…

Not for any worldly reasons, because I want to stay and enjoy my house or my stuff or do more stuff in the world that I want to do.  Not for anything like that.  But because I want to do more for God before that time.

Well, more specifically because I do not feel like I do much now for God and I want to make my life actually mean something in the eternal realm.

If you do have these same thoughts that I do you have to realize something.  God is not delaying his return until you feel like you are ready.  Jesus is coming back at a set time, and our involvement in the kingdom is not going to hinder or speed things up.

But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left. Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

“Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing. Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods.  (Matthew 24:36-47)

The facts are this.

Jesus is coming back, could be tomorrow, could be 20 years from now, but soon.  We were saved for a purpose, to glorify God, and God wants us to help those in need, but Satan paralyzes us with every tactic he can throw at us, sin, entertainment, work.

What should we be doing?

Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. (James 1:21-22, 26-27)

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; (Matthew 28:19-20)

We have been given a job to do here, to help those in need, to spread the gospel message.  The more we make ourselves busy with the things of this world, the more we become of this world, the less we will want to do for God.

Face it, doing what God wants us to do we know is the right and better thing to do, but it is so much harder to do.  We all really want to help out those in need, but not during the football game. Maybe after this tv show, or just let me finish this one level in this game.

We all get sucked into things we would rather be doing and it takes us away from the important task we were sent here for.

We do not have long to live

We do not have much time in this world.  Either because Jesus is going to come back soon or because we could die.  James 4 says “what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.”  Don’t waste that little amount of time we have.

I am convinced that as we get older every day passes by faster and faster.  You plan on doing something you know you should do, but you put it off just one day.  And somehow, before you know it, that one day has turned into a month, then a year is gone, then another year.

Last night I had a dream.  The tribulation was obviously starting, the world breaking out in war and natural disasters, Christianity was outlawed, and I was watching the news unfold thinking of all the stuff that I had the opportunity to do to help others, to witness to others, but now it was too late.

At work the other day we had a conversation about people some of the guys knew, who died or lost their children when they went in the hospital for a very routine procedure (such as a girl getting tubes put in her ears) and ended up dying from it.

We just never know how much longer we have left to do the things we know we should be doing.

But we do know that with every day that passes, we have one less day to do those things.

God Built: Forged by God – Book Review

I have heard a lot of good things about Steve Farrar but never personally read one of his books until now.  God Built: Forged by God, in the Bad and Good of Life is a very interesting and thought provoking book.

This book goes in depth into the life of Joseph and looks at why each event in his life happened.  From his betrayal by his brothers, to being sold into slavery, to being a chief slave, to being thrown into prison, to being handed the keys of Egypt, Joseph had a life of more downs than ups.  But Joseph acknowledged that everything in his life was orchestrated by God.  Which gets to the main point of this book, the sovereignty and providence of God.

“But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. … And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you who sent me here, but God;” Genesis 45:5,7-8

This book challenged my beliefs on how much God is in control of every detail of our life, and every event, even the bad ones.  It has challenged my views that God does not just allow bad things to happen, but He put them there.

Praising God in the storm

Many will get offended and defensive when I say that, but those are usually the same people who sing that it is “God who gives, and takes away.”  This is a belief that we have acknowledged but never really thought through the implications of.

It is God who gives and takes away; He has a purpose for everything, we just need to learn to accept it and keep following Him regardless of if we see the good in a situation or not.  God had a purpose to allow Joseph to go through what he went through, and He has a purpose for what we are going through.

Take for example the Jasper family.  One day while the father was playing around with his five year old son their go cart flipped over, killing Cooper, the five year old boy.  Along with all of the pain that goes with loosing a child they never took their eyes off of God. They knew that it happened because God wanted it to happen, and this freed them to worship God even in the darkest of moments instead of tearing their family apart with anger towards God or blaming each other.  (Check out their story made into a documentary)

Working for God

Having a better understanding of who God is and how God controls everything also helps us in our day to day life, not just during the bad times.  When working at a job, God put us in that job, if we like it or not we are still working for God so we need to give it our best.

Joseph was literally a slave, but he worked hard to serve God and he ended up becoming the top slave in the house, in control of everything.  Then he got demoted, sent to prison, but his attitude and willingness to serve God meant that he was recognized by the jailer and was put in charge over his area of the prison.

When God puts us in our own dirty jobs, even for years at a time, we need to endure it with a positive, Godly attitude.  That will help us learn the lesson that God may have for us in those situations, and it will be a good witness to those around us that God may want us to minister to.

God’s Control… and Evil

One of the questions that is often brought up when discussing this topic is if God is in control of everything, then that means He made sin and makes us sin.  Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones has an answer for this, which is explained in a bit more detail in the book.

The great problem is this: if God does govern and control everything, then what is his relationship to sin? All I can do, in answer, is to lay down a number of propositions that are clearly taught in Scripture.

The first is that sinful acts are under divine control, and occur only by God’s permission and according to his ultimate purpose (Genesis 45:8).

The second is that God restrains and controls sin (Psalm 76:10).

The third is that God overrules sin for good (Genesis 50:20).

My last proposition is that God never causes sin, nor approves of it, He only permits, directs, restrains, limits, and overrules it.  People alone are responsible for their sin (James 1:13-15).

You are built by God

All of this is meant to show you that you are built by God, the way you are and the plans He has for you in the future.  It is about us being men, manning up to our responsibilities and living how God wants us to live, because He built us for a purpose.

Your past mistakes and hardships were not mistakes, they were engineered by God to make you who you are.

I would recommend this book to most people, and at only $8 for the hard back at Amazon it is in a price range for most people as well.  So pick it up!

God is in charge of every situation

“ For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. – Isaiah 55:8

God works in some strange ways sometimes.  At least strange by our standards.  Take for instance God sending Saul to meet Samuel.

Now the LORD had told Samuel in his ear the day before Saul came, saying, “Tomorrow about this time I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him commander over My people Israel, that he may save My people from the hand of the Philistines; for I have looked upon My people, because their cry has come to Me.”  – 1 Samuel 9:15-16

We see that it is God who sent Saul to Samuel, not an accident or chance, but God who sent him.  How did God send Saul?  Did a light from heaven come forth and a deep voice say “Saul, go meet Samuel in the land of Zuph” or did he find a burning bush that spoke to him?

Often times this is the way we want, or expect, God to speak to us.  We want an angel to appear before us with clear directions or a letter from God to appear in our mailbox.  But that is not how God works.

Let’s look at how God called Saul.

Now the donkeys of Kish, Saul’s father, were lost. And Kish said to his son Saul, “Please take one of the servants with you, and arise, go and look for the donkeys.” So he passed through the mountains of Ephraim and through the land of Shalisha, but they did not find them. Then they passed through the land of Shaalim, and they were not there. Then he passed through the land of the Benjamites, but they did not find them.
When they had come to the land of Zuph, Saul said to his servant who was with him, “Come, let us return, lest my father cease caring about the donkeys and become worried about us.”
And he said to him, “Look now, there is in this city a man of God, and he is an honorable man; all that he says surely comes to pass. So let us go there; perhaps he can show us the way that we should go.”  – 1 Samuel 9:3-6

This is how God led Saul to seek after Samuel, by a few donkeys running off and then Saul being told to go find them.

This shows how much different God’s ways are from our own ways, and shows us how God has complete and total control over all of creation.  He will use any means at His disposal to lead us in the direction He wants us to go, even missing donkeys.

How many times have you run into a situation you think is a coincidence, but in reality it is God setting up the circumstances.

A coincidental meeting in Columbia

In 2004 I was on a deployment with the Navy to Columbia.  After being deployed for several weeks I started craving Christian fellowship.  For weeks the only people I spent any time with were other guys in the Navy, which as you can imagine, are not really focused on God.  After such a long time without any Christian fellowship and no way to get that Christian fellowship I prayed for God to send me someone. anyone.

My expectation was that someone in the military, maybe a chaplain or a Bible study leader would find me and just randomly start talking about the Bible with me.  Instead, the next night around midnight I got a craving for pie. So I went to the hotel’s restaurant, sat outside reading the Bible, and ordered some pie.

After the waiter took my order he asked me if I was a Christian because he saw me sitting at the table reading my Bible.  It turns out he was a Christian and had some really cool things to say which to this day I have not forgotten.  I went down there every night after that and had an awesome time of fellowship.  This only came about because of a strange craving at midnight one night.

God is not limited to the supernatural

Many times we only want to see God work in miraculous, supernatural ways.  Then we get disappointed when He decides to work outside of our perception of how he should work.  Or worse, we disbelieve it is God at all.  If we would just take the time to reflect on the events that happen in our lives we would likely find dozens of ways God has worked things out in every day, coincidental ways.

Next time something bad goes on in your life, your car breaks down or you lose something important, remember that God is in control of every little situation instead of getting mad about it.  What happens to us happens for a reason.  We likely will not be crowned king while on our way to the mechanic, or told to go free the slaves of Egypt while searching the couch cushions for the tv remote, but God has a reason for it.

Either there is some sort of divine appointment God has for you (Acts 8:26-40, 1 Samuel 9), or He wants to teach you a lesson such as patience (James 1:2-4).

How has God worked in your life that at first glance appeared to be nothing more than a coincidence?  Leave a comment with your story!

Are you being controlled by the subtlety of sin?

“Then let it see the Crystal Shard and destroy it,” Entreri remarked, and he felt a twinge then as Crenshinibon (the Crystal Shard) cried out.

“Why?” Jarlaxle asked suddenly, and Entreri recognized that his ever-opportunistic friend had heard that silent call.

“Why?” the assassin (Entreri) echoed, turning to regard Jarlaxle fully.

“Perhaps we are being premature in our planning,” Jarlaxle explained. “We know how to destroy the Crystal Shard now – likely that will be enough for us to use against the artifact to bend it continually to our will.”

Entreri started to laugh.

“There is truth in what I say, and a gain to be had in following my reasoning,” Jarlaxle insisted. “Crenshinibon began to manipulate me, no doubt, but now that we have determined that you, and not the artifact, are truly the master of your relationship, why must we rush ahead to destroy it? Why not determine first if you might control the item enough for our own gain?”

“Because if you know, beyond doubt, that you can destroy it, and the Crystal Shard knows that, as well, there may be no need to destroy it,” Entreri played along.

“Exactly!” said the now-excited dark elf.

“Because if you know you can destroy the crystalline tower, then there is no possible way that you will wind up with two crystalline towers,” Entreri replied sarcastically, and the eager grin disappeared from Jarlaxle’s black-skinned face in the blink of an astonished eye.

“It did it again.,” the drow remarked dryly.

“Same bait on the hook, and the Jarlaxle fish chomps even harder,” Entreri replied.

This is a scene from a fantasy book “Servant of the Shard” by R. A. Salvatore.  (Hang on with me, I promise I am going somewhere redeeming with this!)

There is a magical item, called Crenshinibon, or the Crystal Shard.  This is an evil item of great magical power, and a mind of its own.  Whoever possesses the item can use its power, but the Crystal Shard uses the promises of power and fame or whatever other weakness the wielder has to manipulate that person and bring him or her under its own control.

Earlier in the book it tried to work through Jarlaxle, making him do things he normally would not do because of the influence of the Crystal Shard.  Eventually he ends up making a crystalline tower, a powerful tower the Crystal Shard needs to make it stronger.

Jarlaxle, determined to be ruled by anything finally regains control, and goes to destroy the tower.  And he starts to succeed.  As the tower starts to fall he feels victorious over the object and then starts to think things.  “Now that I am in control I can destroy the tower whenever I want, so really there is no need to destroy it right this second.  In fact, two towers would be nice.”  Suddenly a second tower appears.

How temptation deceives us

These two events in the book, where Jarlaxle is wanting to destroy the tower and ends up with two towers, and then later on the way to destroy the Crystal Shard decides that you don’t really need to destroy it if you know you can destroy it, both remind me of temptations that we face.

How often have you been trapped in a sin, yet you believe that you have control of it?  You get to the point where you convince yourself that you can quit at any time, and of course since you are in control of when you can quit you decide not to quit.  Who is really in control there?

Just this once

Often times this appearance of control comes in the form of “just this once.”  You will compromise and commit this sin, just this one time.  How often has just this once turned into just one more time?

Anytime it comes to sin and temptation there is no room for compromise, no room for control at all.  The more you think you have control over your sin the more it really controls you.  You say you have control while it has you in chains preventing you from exercising that apparent control.

Joseph gives us the best example of how to deal with such temptation.  Flee.

But it happened about this time, when Joseph went into the house to do his work, and none of the men of the house was inside, that she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside – Genesis 39:11-12

Sin has no place in the life of a Christian, no matter how small it may seem.  Finding ways to get away with sin, small or large, will end with sin sinking its hooks deeper into you.

Sure you quit looking at pornography for a day, so you can quit at any time, you convince yourself as you bring up more pictures on your computer.

Or one that has hit close to me, reading your Bible every day.

It is amazing the thoughts that go through my mind regarding the time I know I should spend in the Bible and praying.  I do great reading the Bible every day and then one day I miss it.  The next day I think to myself that I can start reading again at any time, but today is busy, so I will do it tomorrow instead.

The next thing I know a month has gone bye and my Bible has done nothing but collect dust.

You will come up with any excuse to not read your Bible and convince yourself that it is okay because you can start again at any time, yet you don’t.  Your mind will work over time to come up with excuses why it is okay to keep sinning, to keep speeding, look at pictures of pornography, curse, watch a movie you know you shouldn’t – just this once.  Yet if you were really in control of the situation you would have done the right thing in the first place.

Imagine a roller coaster, you are sitting in the car going along the track, with a steering wheel attached. You turn left just as the track turns left and the car goes left, so you think you are in control.  It is not until you try to turn right when the track turns left that you realize you have no control.

The BIble tells us that we cannot have two masters (Matthew 6:24), so we must choose.  Choose now to follow God and to repent of your sin. Do not play games to tempt yourself.  Flee all temptation, God will always give you a way out.

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. – James 1:13-15

Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. – 1 Corinthians 10:12-13

The next time you are debating not reading the Bible, thinking it is because you are choosing not to but can start again after lunch or tomorrow, think about how subtlety the sin will try to control you.

The next time you are thinking of continuing in that sin, whatever it may be, remember that you are not in control of it, but you can flee it.

The link between wealth and salvation

Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.”

And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham.

“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” – Luke 19:8-10

Both this passage and Luke 18:18-27 mention a link between wealth, what you do with that wealth, and your salvation. What is this link, and what does it tell us about our salvation?

Two noticeable events take place in this passage. The first is Zaccheus declaring that he is giving away over half his money, and the other is that Jesus announces that he is saved. At first glance appears like a cause and effect, the cause being that Zaccheus gives away his wealth, and the effect is that Jesus declares that he is saved.

This idea also looks to be backed up by the passage in Luke 18 where a rich man asks Jesus how he can have salvation and Jesus replies saying to give away all of his wealth. The rich man then walks away sad and Jesus says to his disciples that it is impossible for the rich to get into heaven.

There is something you have to remember about reading the Bible though. You cannot take certain passages in the Bible and base doctrines on those passages, you have to take the Bible as a whole. A lot of times concepts are explained and then later on they are refined or more detail is given.

So then how do we reconcile this with verses such as Ephesians 2:8-9?

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. – Ephesians 2:8-9

The passage in James 2 ties these two concepts together perfectly and clears any cloud of confusion that some may have. James says “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? … Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:14,17)

A person is not saved by any work they do, no matter what it is, because our sin is so great to God that no amount of our “good works” could make up for it. It is only through our faith in Jesus Christ that we can have salvation, and by nothing else. But when you have faith, you will have good works as a response to your faith. It is not something you have to make yourself do, it is out of an act of love.

I love my wife, and because I love her I do things for her, help her out around the house when she isn’t feeling well, or buy her her favorite chocolate as a surprise when I am at the store.  These acts do not make her love, the acts do not make her my wife, they are just acts of kindness that I do in response to my love for her.  Faith in Christ works the same way.

Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God.You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.

Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?

For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. – James 2:21-26

Abraham was not saved because of his actions. Abraham took action because of his faith, they work hand in hand. If Abraham did not have faith, then he would not have acted.

Zaccheus was saved that day, but not because he gave away his wealth, but because he had faith in Christ. Once Zaccheus had faith his wealth was meaningless to him because he had Jesus. Zaccheus acted out of response to his faith in Christ. Jesus then announced that he was saved because Zaccheus had faith, and he also had evidence of faith in his works.

The rich ruler in Luke 18 wanted Jesus, but he wanted his riches more. He did not have faith or he would not have cared about his riches.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. – Matthew 13:44

When you are saved through your faith in Christ you have a heart for God, and a heart for others. At that point the things of this world should seem meaningless as you pursue Christ and the kingdom.

Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. – James 1:27

If you have wealth, how are you using that for the kingdom of God? Are you just spoiling yourself? Are you staying “unspotted from the world”? As a professing follower of Christ you should be pursuing the things God wants you to pursue, and if you are not then why not? Do you put Christ before your family even? (Luke 14:26)

Are you really putting Christ first in your life?

If Jesus confronted you today, would he say “today salvation has come to this house” or would he say “how hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God”?

The choice is yours.

Removing my idols

The Lancer Evolution VIII is an absolute beautiful and powerful machine. This is the car I have wanted for a long time for a lot of useful reasons as well as a lot of personal fun reasons (I wanted to learn how to drift at the local race track). Every time I see one on the road I cannot help to stare and wish I had one.

Last summer i saw one for sale, used, for $24,000 which is not a bad price when the car is normally $32k for the base model. I could not get it though. I have blown and waisted my money and I have too many other bills to be able to afford a second car. So I was beating myself up over it. If I had just managed my money better I could get it, if I had not spent money on useless things I would have been able to get my dream car. It led me to a new resolve, to get out of debt and spend less money.  To help encourage me to do this I printed out the add for the car, with a picture of it along with the price, and I stuck it in my wallet.

This I used as a reminder and as motivation. It was right by my debit and credit card so I would see it anytime anytime I would spend money.   I would look at the picture and remember what I am saving up for which I was hoping would prevent me from blowing my money.

Last week while I was in prayer God brought that picture to my mind, and I was shown exactly how disgusting that act was. The car had become my idol. I was thinking about it every time I opened my wallet, I was sacrificing for it. The Lancer had evolved from just coveting (which is itself a sin) and it became an idol, like most things we covet tend to become.

That day while in prayer I took that image out of my wallet and ripped it to pieces, and with it my resolve to ever buy the car. How could I let a meaningless machine take such a high priority in my life? I have since filled that space in my wallet with a picture of Franco, a child I sponsor through Potter’s Field ministries. If ever there was a reason to save your money, that is it. Jesus told us to give to the poor (James 1:27), to store up treasure in heaven (Matthew 6:20), not to acquire nice things on earth!

Which would you rather be known for, having a nice car, or helping the poor? Living to impress others, or living for Jesus? Which way of living truly shows that you get it and that you actually follow Jesus? Feeding the hungry is feeding Jesus (Matthew 25:40), having a nice car serves nothing but yourself.

How Should Christians Deal With Suffering?

WHY WE AS CHRISTIANS MUST SUFFER

John 16:33 – This world is full of suffering, we are not exempt. Suffering is a sign that we are alive.
1 Peter 1:7 – Tests our faith to prove it is strong and real faith that gives glory to Jesus.
James 1:3 – When faith is tested Endurance can grow.
Proverbs 3:11-12 – God, being our Father must discipline us to show his love for us. Discipline is a sign of his love.
Hebrews 12:7-8 – God disciplines his children, we are his children.

WHAT SUFFERING DOES TO US
James 1:4 – Develops perseverance.
Perseverance – perseverance = makes one steadfast.
Steadfast = firm in belief, determination, or adherence : LOYAL.