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

I Missed my chance to say goodbye… Forever

Written by Jon Zenor

This article has been a really tough one to write.  After several days of thinking about this I don’t even know how to begin, so I will just start writing…

On Sunday I got a phone call with some very bad news. My biological father had committed suicide.  This has left me with some very mixed emotions that have been hard to deal with.

My parents divorced when I was 3 or 4, and my mom then married my (step) dad who was in the Navy so we moved a lot, and my dad officially adopted me and I haven’t seen my biological father since then.  It didn’t really bother me at all.  My dad did a good job of raising me and as far as I was concerned my biological father had walked out on me so I had no real connection with him.  Growing up I didn’t hate or love him, wasn’t angry or upset or anything else, I just felt indifference; he was nothing more than a stranger on the street to me.

Two years ago God put it on my heart that I needed to contact him, so I did.  We had a couple of good emails and facebook messages back and forth, ending with him saying he wanted to catch up on what he missed.

One day after another went by and got busy with life, I fully intended to keep in touch with him and wanted to meet him one day.  But I just never got around to sending the emails that were on my mind to send.

And now it is too late.

Plague of the “What If”s

Anybody who is affected by the death of someone who committed suicide is plagued with the mental agony of asking “what if” all of the time.  Talking to his wife I heard a few of these questions.  “What if I would have done something different? Why did I not see that he was acting different? What could I have done differently to prevent this?”  Until now I never fully understood the pain caused by such questions.

What would have happened if I had contacted him recently?  How much would it have meant from him to get an email or phone call saying “happy father’s day” from his only (not-adopted) son that he has not seen in 24 years?  Would things have turned out differently if we had made plans to meet so he could meet me and his only grandson?  I can’t help but think that things would have been different… if I had just …. If I had just taken 10 seconds out of my day to send an email saying “Hey, I was thinking about you, how have you been?”

Someone told me even if I had talked to him then I would just be asking what if I had said things differently or talked more often… I guess he is right that the plague just never ends, no matter what you wish you would have said.  But as we are creatures with free will I believe we can affect our futures, and the futures of those we interact with.  Which means what I did in the past could have prevented this altogether.

Eternal Destination Reached

I do not know for sure if my biological father is spending eternity in heaven, or in hell.  But the very thought that he could be in hell right now made hell a little more real to me.

I know this is a very touchy subject, but a very real one that needs to be covered.  Our society, our own human nature, is convinced that almost everyone except the most hardened criminals are going to heaven.  When is the last time you went to a funeral service where they did not talk about the deceased person “being in a better place” or “watching from above” or some other saying which implies that the person is for sure in heaven?

We really want to believe everyone gets to heaven, especially those who have done nice things for us, those who have really touched our lives in some meaningful way, and those we love.  But that is not reality.

Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. – Matthew 7:13-14

I cannot say how much I hope my biological father had a relationship with Jesus and is now in heaven worshipping God, but my hopes do not give salvation, only him having a relationship with Christ.

The thought that he could be in hell right now, that the instant after he died he could have waken up in hades, being eternally tormented by hades itself and by the realization that he spent his life rejecting God, the one who created him. Every time we sin we are offending God, we are doing wrong to Him, hurting Him.  Even after we continuously reject God with every aspect of our lives He sent His son to die in our place so that we could be restored and have a relationship with Him.

God did all of this for us and many of us, most of us, do not care one bit. We just keep rejecting God.  Hell will be a rude and painful awakening for way too many people. And it will last for all eternity.

Do you understand how long an eternity is?  Someone who goes to hell today, will still be there in 20 years. When I reach 50 years old that person will still be there, being tortured by the agony of hell and the lake of fire, and tortured even more so by their conscious with the regret that they lived their few short years of life rejecting God and living in sin and just living for themselves.

If my biological father did not have a relationship with God then when my son is 50 years old, he will still be in hell, still be in agony, and it will just be the beginning.

I do not say this to bring shame to his name, or to tear down his character — because as I said I do not know for sure what his relationship was — but I say this because just the thought that he might be in hell brought all of this to my mind and it disturbed me.

I say it as a warning, to all of you.  You do not know how much longer you have to live.  You do not know how much longer those you know will live for.  I wanted to have a conversation with my biological father about his relationship with God.  I thought I had time.  I thought I could send off an email any day I wanted to, so there was no rush to send it off today.

I was wrong. The last possible day for me to contact him came, and passed right by without any warning, and I forever missed a great opportunity to lead a man to Christ.

That is a huge lie that Satan plants in us all.  We think we all have more time when really we are all just a vapor that could fade away at any instant.

James 4 says

“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”;  whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” (James 4:13-14)

Do not delay one more day! Right now, make sure that you have repented and have a relationship with God! Make sure that you are not living the life of a hypocrite, pretending to be a Christian because you go to church every week but in your heart you deny God the throne of your heart.

Do not delay one more day in righting relationships that have been strained, do not wait to share the gospel with those God brings into your life.  Do not wait one more day to repent of those sins you know you are living in.  Start living for God today because you may not have a chance to tomorrow.  If you do not want to repent of your sin today because you do not want to give it up, then my heart breaks for you.  That you would choose to continue rejecting God, why? So you can look at pornographic pictures on the internet?  So you can keep feeding that addiction of alcohol or gambling?  Sin leaves you a broken empty shell.  Sin promises riches and pleasure but leaves you emptiness and worthless junk.

Choosing to live in sin over choosing to live for God is like denying a feast because you want this candy bar that is right here in front of you now.  It smells really good and makes your mouth water, so you say you don’t need a feast, you just have the candy bar.  So you follow the trail of candy bars that lead you farther away from the feast, further from God. Only to wake up with realization one day that what you really have been eating and enjoying is a chocolate covered dog turd.

It is at that point that you realize how nasty sin really is that you want to go dive into an ocean to clean out that nasty taste in your mouth, which you thought just a day before was delicious.

God is offering you something so much better than what sin can offer you, stop choosing your sin over God, put down the chocolate covered dog crap and run to Jesus who will clean you of all the nastiness your sin left on you, and he will happily welcome you into his banquet hall to feast.

Hell is a real place, and it is a sad truth that so many will go there, not because they deserve it more than me or any other person alive, for we, I,  fully deserve hell.  But they go because they refuse to accept the forgiveness Christ offers us when we turn our lives over to Him.

It took this tragic death to make eternity a reality for me, don’t wait for the same thing to happen to you.  Repent, today. Restore those relationships that have bridges burned down, share the gospel with those you can influence in your life.

Nothing else in all of eternity matters.

Jesus Freed You From Sin!

Written by Guest Writer Matthew Guillot

So today I realized what an integral part fear plays in temptation. The enemy will tempt you but couple that temptation with the fear of falling into the temptation, and the fear of losing control. The enemy will do whatever he can to convince you that you are incapable of controlling yourself, and once you believe that lie, he has got you right where he wants you. The enemy can continue to bombard you with tempting thoughts and emotions, and because you are convinced you don’t have control over yourself, you are much more pliable to these temptations and to give up because you have lost hope of resisting the devil (fear of the devil, or his ability). Additional thoughts of how “powerful” the enemy is (sometimes intimidation) may also be the focus of his bombardment. This is to prop himself up in your mind to also lead to fear of the enemy, and hopelessness to resist. So ultimately the goal of the enemy is to get you to forget who you are and how much self-control you truly have, and to get you to a place of hopelessness and fear.

If you give into the temptation and sin, then the enemy can accuse you of the sin, making you feel guilty and ashamed. The enemy then starts working on convincing you that you need to keep your distance from God, because God is either upset with you or you haven’t repented enough and need to jump through hoops before God accepts your repentance. The enemy will suggest by thought, hoops from the bible that Jesus said is impossible to do without Him. And because you have convinced yourself to distance yourself from God, you are hopelessly left to your own ability to try to jump through these hoops. The enemy knows this will ultimately lead to you being discouraged more. Another tactic the enemy uses if he can’t get you to try to distance yourself from God, is getting you to focus on yourself. The enemy often uses the tactic of convincing you, that you need to always be introspective and on your guard all the time. If the enemy can get you to try to defend yourself by your own effort, then he knows that eventually (most of the time very soon), he will be able to tempt you again and take you down the all too familiar path to sin. Only Christians who are afraid of the enemy’s temptation or the enemy, find it necessary to always be on their guard. Our protection is our faith in God, not our own ability to guard ourself. (Ephesians 6:16)

If the enemy is able to convince us that we have no ability to control ourselves or resist temptation, or resist him, we fall into guilt, shame, hopelessness and fear; and go down the repetitive cycle of being tempted into sin. And because our own ability to resist doesn’t cut it, the enemy is able to eventually get many people into depression, and even feelings of rejection, loneliness, or neglect from God. The enemy’s goal is either to get us into deeper and deeper depression to commit suicide, or, if he can’t get us to kill ourselves, keep us in a place where we unwittingly choose to keep parts of our hearts from God because of our perceived uncleanliness from our sin (shame) and/or the fear of coming before God.

Romans 6:17-23(NASB)

“17 But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.

20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. 22 But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Notice the contrast Paul uses and the past tense verbs used to describe our past condition in sin and present tense verbs for our current freedom from sin (exception “became” describing something Jesus already did to free us).

What we need to realize is that Jesus’ death on the cross paid for all of our sin once for all. He died on the cross with all of our sin in mind, and nailed all of it to the cross. The Bible says in 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Notice that Jesus does the cleansing, not us. It also says Jesus is completely faithful and righteous to cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness, not just some of it and and leave us to deal with the rest; ALL! The Bible also states in past tense that Jesus’ death on the cross freed us from slavery to sin.  However, God will not violate your free-will if you choose to put up a wall to keep yourself from God (even just parts of your heart from God), because of your perceived “unrighteousness”. The enemy knows this, and this is why he works hard at this strategy to convince you that you can’t approach God and that you shouldn’t, that you are now unrighteous before God. The enemy’s goal is always to get us to forget the cross, and to not focus on Jesus. The enemy knows that as soon as you let God into the picture, he is toast. This is why the Bible says to first “submit to God” then if you “resist the devil…He will flee.” (James 4:7) Not the other way around.

We are no longer slaves to sin. But Jesus never intended for us to live out this reality by our own ability. Jesus went to the Father to send us a Helper, the Holy Spirit!!! (John 14:26) The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit is the one who leads us into ALL truth (John 16:13), brings into remembrance everything that God has said and is saying (John 14:26), instruct us in the way we should go (John 16:13, Acts 16:6-10), and give us His (God’s) character and attributes (fruits of the Spirit, Galatians 5:22-24). In other words He (God/Holy Spirit) empowers us to live a righteous lifestyle. Jesus said “I am the vine, you are the branches…apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:3-5) You have the ability inside of you to resist the devil every single time successfully and confidently. But it is not your own ability but the Holy Spirit inside you. What is happening when you are operating under the Holy Spirit’s ability (His fruit)? God is letting you operate in character and traits that are not your own, and with the outpouring of His Spirit inside of you they manifest as if they were your own attributes.

It is extremely beneficial over the long-term if we can learn how to operate with His fruit regularly, allowing Him to completely empower us. As we do this our thought patterns completely change because we come to the realization after multiple times that we actually can be free from sin. Once we are convinced of this, our true nature, free from sin can finally come out, without our minds being in conflict with the reality and truth of our freedom. The Bible tells us that Jesus already freed us, but this freedom won’t manifest in our lives until we truly are able to believe it. Unfortunately our carefully enemy-orchestrated experiences tend to tell us otherwise, and it is easy to be convinced that we aren’t really free. The enemy keeps us in his cycle of thought patterns, fear, hopelessness, guilt, and shame to try to ensure that we will never have the perception of ourselves that God has (the righteousness of Christ, perfect, spotless, and without blemish), so that we will never realize the freedom Jesus paid such a heavy price for. This is not to say that we will never sin, but that sin is no longer our compulsion and is supposed to be rare, abnormal, and awkward for us.

If you are saved and still feel like you have the compulsion to sin (sin nature), it is most likely because you are believing a lie about yourself, about your relation to God, or other people. Sin can seem like a viable coping mechanism to those with wounds and pain from past or present offenses. Believed lies from the enemy are always the root of what perpetuates wounds and pain, which is the cause of any Christian’s current desire to sin. Ask the Holy Spirit if you are believing a lie, and ask Him to replace this with the truth, depositing His truth deep in your heart.

Don’t let the enemy keep you in bondage and slavery to sin anymore. Jesus already paid for you to be free!

Much Love,

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.

Faith, Works, and Salvation

Have you ever been so scared by a passage in the Bible that you could not sleep at night?  This has happened to me more than once, most recently by this passage in Matthew.

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ – Matthew 7:21-23

Sometimes reading that passage makes me stop and think “Is that talking about me?”  When I die, will Jesus say to me ‘Well done good and faithful servant,’ or will He say ‘Depart from me, I never knew you?'”  This question can be scary, very scary.

For one, you do not want to be doing everything you can to serve God, only to find out you missed out on the most important thing, the treasure that God actually wanted from you.  But also you do not want to go through life thinking that everything is fine, only to reach the final moments and find out your one way ticket to heaven was nothing more than a sham, sold to you by Satan and your betraying flesh.

What it means to be “Saved”

When a Christian says he or she is “saved”, what does that mean?  What is it exactly that we are saved from?

The most obvious answer that comes to mind is that we are saved from hell, to heaven (John 3:16).  But more than that, we are saved from sin, to righteousness – to good and righteous works God has called us to do (Romans 6:18, 22, 2 Timothy 1:9, Ephesians 2:10).  But one of the most important things we are saved for, is for the glory of God. That’s right, we are saved so that God can get glory (Romans 15:7, 1 Corinthians 10:31, Philippians 2:9-11).

How many people will be saved?  Not many.

Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. – Matthew 7:13-14

Examine Your faith

Salvation is important. It brings God glory, empowers us to do the good work God has for us, and it saves us from the damnation we deserve.  But it is clear that only a few will find it, and many will think they have found it but will be deceived (Matthew 7:21-23).

For this reason Paul tells us to examine ourselves to make sure that we are saved.

Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified. But I trust that you will know that we are not disqualified. – 2 Corinthians 13:5-6

What Faith is Not

This brings us to a crucial point. The few passages we have looked at so far makes it seem like faith and works are the same thing.  But they are not.

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

This passage shows us there is a difference between faith and works. Faith saves us, not works.  Remember the first passage we looked at, Jesus rebuked people who were doing good works, but lacked faith, lacked a relationship with Jesus.  Jesus said “I never knew you” which shows us that it is the relationship God wants from us, not our works of healing, casting out demons, building churches, or giving to the poor.

Works themselves mean nothing.  Isaiah 64:6 says that our good works are worthless, that “all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags.”

Are Works Meaningless?

Those passages make it clear that it is only by faith that we are saved, our works mean nothing.  So are works not important?

Actually, works are crucial to a Christian’s faith.  “Wait a second” you are thinking, “You just said works mean nothing, we are not saved by works and all our good works of righteousness are as filthy rags, how can they, at the same time, be crucial to a Christian?”  It does seem a bit contradictory at first, but dig deeper in to scriptures.

What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? – James 2:14-20

So we are saved by faith, not by works, yet faith without works is dead and such a faith does not save you… confused yet? Just hang on a little bit longer.

Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.  He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.  But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked. – 1 John 2:3-6

This is a cause and effect situation here. What came first, the chicken or the egg?  Which comes first, the faith or the works?

You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. – Matthew 7:16-18

And there Matthew sums this all up so nicely for us.  When we accept Christ, when we put faith in Him, something real happens, we are literally changed, transformed, the old person has passed away and a new being is created (2 Corinthians 5:17).  This does not mean that we never sin (that topic will be covered in another article).  The only way we can be sin free is to be in a new body, as long as we are trapped in these earthly bodies we will sin (Romans 7).

But our spirit is made new and the Holy Spirit indwells within us.  It is this which gives us the desires to do good works and gives us the ability to do good works.  Good works do not save us but they are the evidence that we are saved.

Just as a good tree only produces good fruit, a Christian, someone who is saved by faith, produces good works. Not because the works are required for salvation or give us merit at all, but because our nature changes completely.  It is something we can not help.

When I was in college – several years ago – I was a math major. In High school I could do math without a calculator.  I could solve the most complex calculations in my math class with nothing more than an occasional scratch piece of paper, but I could not write to save my life.

Just recently I took an algebra class and struggled through it.  I could not comprehend the math. I barely got a B in Algebra and Trig, and ended up getting a C in my pre-calculus class.  But I aced every one of my English and writing  classes and (so I am told) I write fairly well.

This is an example of my nature changing.  I went from being a math wiz to being a writer.  No amount of work on my part can change what I am.  I can practice and get by at math, but it will not come as naturally as writing does to me now.

In the same way a Christian cannot defy his or her nature.  When we are still stuck in sin we cannot do good works except by our effort, it was a struggle, but now, after salvation, the good works are a natural response, just like breathing.

This shows how it is possible that works are important to our faith and salvation but do not save us, because they have nothing to do with the salvation part, they are just an example of that salvation.

How do I examine myself?

So how then, do we go about examining ourselves?  The only thing I can say is to pray and read the Bible.  Examine your life, your actions, your check book (where you spend your money), your thoughts, everything, against scripture.  Are you living in sin that needs to be repented of?  Are you doing works in the church on a daily basis but missing that relationship with God?  Are you doing good works but feel that it is a burden to you?

Examine yourself, see what is keeping you from having a relationship with God, what is keeping you from the Bible.  Use natural works, the ones you enjoy and are not a pain to perform to see if it is a natural response or something you are (subconsciously) trying to fake.

Romans 10:17 says that “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” I cannot stress enough how important the word of God is in our seeking God.  Read it every day, even more often in times of examining yourself spiritually.

*Photo by Jon Zenor, Copyright 2010 Jon Zenor Photography.*

When everything goes wrong: Is the Devil against you, or God?

Pride is a funny sin. Not funny in a laughing sort of way, but funny in the way it acts. Or more accurately how we react to it.

As sinful humans still stuck in the flesh we always find a way to justify our sin. Sometimes it is obvious but we want to ignore it, and other times, especially with pride, it is extremely hard to acknowledge the sin.  You can be stuck in pride and not even realize it. What is worth, God hates pride, and if you are being prideful then God will resist you.

God resists the proud,But gives grace to the humble – James 4:6

There are times in our life when everything seems to be going wrong. Because of our pride and our arrogance we automatically assume that it is the Devil that brings these trials to us, so we seek God to overcome the trials.

But what we fail to recognize is that sometimes it is God bringing us the trials. God may allow or bring trials in your life for any reason at all, because He is sovereign and wants to prove a point (read the book of Job) or to rebuke.

Do not despise the chastening of the LORD,Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him. – Hebrews 12:5

If it is to rebuke us, then we had better repent and listen.  I am currently reading the book “The Light and the Glory” by Peter Marshall and David Manuel. The basics of the book is digging into history and personal journals of people who had a hand in founding this nation, from Christopher Columbus and his crew to George Washington and showing how God had a hand in the creation of this nation. (Look for our review of the book soon)

I noticed something interesting as I read about Christopher Columbus. He was a man of God, who served God and felt called to go on this mission to bring Christ to the Indies. Not everything went right, it took him 8 years of petitions and being rejected before he was finally approved for the mission. Getting there was not an easy trip and he ran into trouble, but continuously in his life he prayed and sought God.  By seeking God doors were opened that reassured Christopher that his journey was a call from God.

But something happened when Christopher Columbus first discovered the isles. Pride started to kick in, along with greed. These two forces worked to tear down what God was doing, not only in the life of Christopher Columbus but in the lives of all of the travelers who went to settle.

Gold became the new motivating factor, replacing the original mission of bringing the gospel to the new land. One of the ships was lost when it took off in search for gold (of the three that set for, and reach the Americas), and when they were about a week from home the largest storm that any sailor of the time had ever seen wrecked havoc on the ship.

Columbus’ response was to turn to God, but not to repent of his own greed or pride. No, the thing about Pride is that it, by definition, prevents us from seeing it; until it is too late. Instead they cast lots to make bargains to try and appease God. Promising to go on pilgrimages or promising to go to mass and praise God as soon as they reached shore. (sound familiar?)  They made it home, but broken, but that didn’t matter because Columbus was the new hero! Given the title “Admiral of the Ocean Sea” (at Christopher Columbus’ request) he showed the fruits of this new land. A few natives they brought back to translate, animals, fruits, and of course, the gold. So of course Admiral Columbus was sanctioned to return.

The settlement he returned to had been killed, attacked by the Indians after the settlers had raped and robbed and murdered many of the locals. Instead of this leading them all, especial Columbus, to repentance, this led to war, or more like genocide. After several more outbreaks a new governor was sent to take charge. But, being full of pride Christopher Columbus would not have his authority taken away, and ended up being arrested, sent back to Spain in chains, then after nearly a year was permitted to return to the new found land, but told never to return the colony he had already established.

Determined to make his own way Christopher Columbus fought to go where the gold was. Fighting such strong storms and winds that it took them 38 days to make a 3 day journey. 2 of the ships were torn apart by worms and Admiral Columbus was sick with the fever. He found his gold, and more bloodshed. He made it home, rich, but according to his journal, regretful for how he failed in his original mission, to bring the light to the lost.

Pride, turned a man who was on a mission by God into a man of greed, causing bloodshed instead of bringing salvation.  When opposed by every force imaginable, storms, winds or lack of winds, sickness, loss of food and water, it only brought them to cry to God for help, not to repent of their own sin. Why? Pride, they were sure they were on the right course, being hindered by Satan. They couldn’t imagine that it was God trying to get their attention, trying to get them to repent.

What should I do?

If you are struggling right now, and it seems that everything is going against you, do not just assume that this is Satan trying to stop you on your “God given” (or possibly selfish) mission.

First you need to seek God. Repent, ask God to show you anything in your life that is hindering you from serving God. If you are honest with God, he will show you your honest self, like it or not. God will show you what needs to go.

If you are not caught in pride or sinning, seeking God will still show you how God wants you to proceed, even if the problems in your life are caused by Satan.

So the bottom line, seek God, humble yourself, and repent.

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.