Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! I hope today finds you happy and blessed.
When I last posted, I left with a prayer of repentance for sin and asking Christ to be lord in your heart. I earnestly hope that you prayed that prayer and have received Him as Savior. If so, I have good news: You are a child of God, and belong to Him for all eternity. But there is a bit of news that should cause you to take heed: As much as Satan hated you in your unconverted state, he hates you even more now! He is going to do all he can to get you to turn your back on Jesus and go back to your sinful ways. He hates God and anything and anyone connected to him. But you do not have to be afraid of Ol' Slewfoot. He can not do anything to you that God will not allow him to, or that YOU do not permit him too.
You see, he got his tail whipped at the cross. He thought he had gotten rid of the Son of God for good when he got the religious leaders and the Romans to crucify Him. Boy, was he stupid! The very act that Satan thought would be his greatest triumph turned out to be his greatest defeat! The grip that he had on the souls of men was forever broken, and his ultimate defeat assured.
There is a verse in the Bible that too many just read past and never stop to consider its implications. Matthew , Mark, and Luke record it: And the veil of the Temple was torn in two from the top to the bottom. Now, the veil spoken of here was not some wispy little see through gauze thing as portrayed in some Hollywood movies. The veil was a curtain about three inches thick! Noone, absolutely noone, was allowed to go behind that curtain into the Holy of Holies, where the presence of God dwelt, except for the High Priest, and he could only go in once a year. The day he was allowed to go in was on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. He had to go in carrying a special container which held the blood of a sacrificial bull. That blood represented the blood of the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ. The priest would pour the blood on the Mercy Seat, the lid of the Ark of the Covenant. God would see it and His justice would be satisfied for another year. There was a very precise order in which these things were to be done, and if the priest messed up, God would strike him dead. Before he entered the Holy of Holies his fellow priests would tie a rope around his ankle so that if God struck him down, the others could pull him out without having to go behind the veil.
That veil represented God's holiness shielding sinful man from His presence. In our sinful condition, we could never approach a holy God and live through the experience. But when Jesus died on the cross, God's justice was satisfied forever. The barrier of sin that kept God and man apart was torn down. There was no longer any need for that veil, so God reached down and tore it half from the top to the bottom! The way into His presence is open for all who come the way he has said we must come: through faith in the death of Jesus as payment for our sins, and repentance by receiving Him as Lord and Savior. For though who have done so, God ain't mad at you anymore!
We read in Hebrews 4:16: Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. That word boldly actually means with confident assurance. It does not mean arrogantly. We are to come humbly, knowing that it is not through our own merits we approach God, but by the merits of Jesus Christ and what he has done for us. We are to come with confident assurance that God, as a loving Father, will give us what we need to walk through our lives here in a manner pleasing to Him. Psalm 56:3 What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee. When, not if, we have trials and difficulties we can put our confidence and trust in God because he loves us and will always be there to help us.
Trials and difficulties come about for two main reasons: rebellion on our part, and the temptations and snares of Satan. Lets briefly look at these two reasons.
1. Our own stubborn rebellion. When we receive Christ into our lives, our old sins are purged away, and our spirits are regenerated with a desire to love and serve God. God not only forgives our sins, but he forgets we ever committed them. Our sin nature, while muzzled, is still present within us, and far too frequently we give into our sinful desires. Not even the Apostle Paul was able to completely conquer his sin nature.
In his epistle to the Romans, chapter 7, verses 14-25 we read: For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
"For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my
members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me
captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members." Herein lies the dilemma of the Christian! Our spirits want to do what God commands, having been reborn and regenerated. The fleshly sin nature however wants to continue doing what is contrary and wrong in God's sight! What we want to do, we don't do. What we don't want to do, we do. Paul was driven to such despair that he cried out "Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" The answer? Jesus Christ our Lord!
When we willfully sin, and don't repent of it but continue in it, God will bring chastisement and discipline into our lives. Who among us did not receive a well deserved swat on the buns when we were little? Our parents didn't do that because they hated us, but because we were doing wrong and needed to be disciplined. In the same way (although not a literal swat on the buns) God will bring discipline when needed "For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth." Hebrews 12:6
When we willfully continue in sin and rebellion, God will deal with it. He will do so in loving firmness, but deal with it he will. It is best if we confess our sin as soon as he makes it known to us, and to keep our sin account very short with God.
2. Direct trials and temptations from Satan.Satan does, on occasion, directly attack a believer. This is rare but does happen. A few examples I think of are Job, when Satan attacked him to try to get him to curse God. Another example is Judas, when Satan entered into him to get him to betray Jesus. And probably the most familiar account is when Satan tempted Jesus after Jesus had fasted in the wilderness forty days. Satan also uses other people to try to get us to stumble and fall in our walk with God. He can send his fallen angels to torment us, as he did with King Saul. We are engaged in spiritual warfare, whether we like it or not. There is no getting out of it. It is a fact of life.
Would any of us (in our right minds) go out to do earthly warfare or combat all by ourselves? We probably wouldn't get very far before being blown out of our socks! Why then do we think we can engage in spiritual warfare all by ourselves? Particularly if one is a new believer in the faith, which is primarily to whom this post is addressed. We must have an army with us, and supporting troops in the background. So let's examine some things a new believer should do to prepare for combat.
1. Become part of an army. By this I mean find a good local congregation of Christians who truly love Jesus and join them. Do not be afraid to let them know you are new to the faith. They will take delight in helping disciple and train you. They long to see you grow in the faith and knowledge of Jesus Christ. Visit several churches in your area. Ask the pastor if you can schedule a one on one visit with him to find out just what he and his church believe. There are many incidentals that vary among congregations, but a good Bible believing fundamentalist (and NO, that is NOT a bad word) chruch will hold fast to the basic truths of the faith, such as:
a. The Inspiration of Scripture. If the church does not believe that every single word of the original manuscript texts of Scripture is divinely inspired by God and without error, keep looking. The Bible says all Scripture is literally God breathed.
b. The sinfulness of man. If the church does not believe that man is basically sinful and in desperate need of a Savior, keep looking. There are many so called churches today that have denied mans lost and sinful condition. Man is basically good they say. Well, if he isn't lost, he doesn't need a savior. Well, he IS lost and he DOES need a savior. Just llok around at all the horror and depravity in the world, THEN tell me man isn't sinful!
c. The Deity of Christ. There are so many false churches and cults around now that keeping track of them all is an impossible task. No matter what the name on the building is, however, they all have one thing in common: They all deny that Jesus Christ is the second member of the Trinity, equal in substance and authority to God the Father himself. The Mormons declare that Jesus is a created being, a spirit brother to Lucifer. The Jehovah's Witnesses have him as a created being, also known as the Archangel Michael. The Way International denies the existence of the Trinity, therefore Jesus cannot be God. Some claim that God the Father manifests himself as the Father, OR the Son, OR the Holy Spirit. No matter what the group may call themselves, if they deny the Deity of Jesus as the second member of the Trinity, GET OUT OF THERE!!! The health of your soul depends on it!
d. Salvation by grace through faith alone. Many so called churches may tell you that yes, salvation is by grace. Ask them to carefully define what they mean. Do they mean by grace, after you have done all you can do, such as the Mormons teach? Do they mean "You do your best, he'll do the rest?" What do they mean by grace? Grace has been defined as God's Riches At Christ's Expense. I like that. It sums it up well. If they do not teach that salvation is by grace alone, through faith in the sacrificial atonement of Christ for our sins, keep looking.
e. The Atonement of Christ on the cross for our sins. Many groups nowadays totally deny that Jesus death on the cross purchased our forgiveness from sins. They deny that the cross has any real relevance to our Christian faith. Some state that it was just an accident or misfortune that Jesus died on the cross. They don't know that 1Corinthians 1:18 speaks of them: For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
How can they be saved when they deny the only means in all the universe to save them?
f. The Resurrection of Jesus from the dead. This is another cardinal doctrine of true Christian faith that is denied by modernists and liberals. The Bible says in 1Corinthians 15:17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Without the Resurrection there can be no forgiveness of sins, because it is the resurrection that assures us that Christs sacrificial death on our behalf was accepted as sufficient by God the Father. If the prospective church denies the resurrection, they have no concept of what real Christian faith even is! So keep looking. After my conversion it took me several months of prayer and visiting churches before finding a good Bible believing fellowship.
Make finding a good church home a matter of earnest prayer. Be open to the leading of the Lord in this matter. Much depends on it. If you go to a church, and you just feel that the Lord is telling you "This is not the place", do not feel bad about never going back there. God will lead you to the place you should be. Be open to his leading.
Have you ever seen a picture of a large herd of zebras peacefully eating grass on the African savannah? Unknown to them a lion lies crouching in the grass, hoping for a meal. But which one to go after? Usually, the lion waits until one of the zebras wanders away from the herd. That is the one the lion will go after. The Bible says that our adversary, the devil wanders about as a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1Peter 5:8
Don't be that lone zebra. Find yourself a good herd and join it. You're much less likely to get eaten that way!
More to come................