Tuesday, September 2, 2008

08.31.08 Light done right

Question? What one event that has happened in your life can you now look back on and say with complete confidence that it was a "God thing?" I am asking about the one time that something came through, a prayer was answered, a need met, an illness healed in your life that you know without a shadow of a doubt that it was the hand of God on your life?

What about those times when you were defeated? Hurt? Ashamed? Condemned? How do you explain those?

Why doesn’t life come easy to us? Why does everything have to be so hard? Why do bad things happen to good people and why do good things happen to bad people?

Jesus said in John 10:10 “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

How many of you are really living an abundant life today? Really? How many feel defeated? Can’t get any momentum going? It’s always one step forward two steps back?

If you read all of John 10:10 it looks like this, “10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

The reality is that you and I are caught in the middle of an epic war taking place. Yet unlike the visible wars of history fought on the battlefields across the globe this war takes place in the invisible.

In his book Waking the Dead, John Eldredge states it this way,

“There is something set against us. We are at war. How I’ve missed this for so long is a mystery to me. Maybe I’ve overlooked it; maybe I’ve chosen not to see. We are at war. I don’t like that fact any more than you do, but the sooner we come to terms with it, the better hope we have of making it through to the life we do want. This is no Eden. You probably figured that out. This is not Mayberry; this is not Seinfeld’s world; this is not Survivor. The world in which we live is a combat zone, a violent clash of kingdoms a bitter struggle unto the death. I’m sorry if I’m the one to brake this news to you; you were born into a world at war, and you will live all your days in the midst of a great battle involving all the forces of heaven and hell and played out here on earth.”

In the movie The Usual Suspects, Kevin Spacey plays Verbal Kent, a two bit con artist brought into jail for questioning about a drug bust that went south. A majority of the action takes place in the scenes between Verbal Kent and the detective. The plot of the movie unfolds as the detective interrogates Verbal trying to uncover exactly what happened that night on the wharf. At one point the detective gets disgusted with Verbal’s answers and throws his hands up in disbelief at which Verbal replies….”The greatest trick the devil ever played was convincing people he doesn’t exist.”

I think too often we forget this aspect of our spiritual lives. We too easily dismiss decisions as our own, listen to lies as just the way things are, and are condemned too easily in our hearts mistaking it for conscience or conviction.

The war that wages against us and around us is invisible as Paul states in Ephesians 6:12

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

The war is Satan against God, angels against demons, good vs. evil and the battles are over the crowing jewels of God’s creative powers, you and I created in the image of the eternal Trinitarian God and loved dearly by Father God our creator.

We are attacked in our minds: flooded with false information, conflicting information, and information saturation.

We are attacked in our hearts: desires, dreams, wants, wishes, conflicting feelings, chasing after who and what we love and an ever increasing constant incessant distractions

We are attacked in our souls: The ultimate goal is to keep us away from God, away from the Gospel, away from Jesus, salvation, freedom and to continue a life of bondage and captivity in sin

We are attacked in our strength: As the battle is a continual wearing down of our reserves, our will power, as the onslaught continues day in and day out wearing us down and wearing us out with the only promise being that it will continue until we die or until Jesus returns.

#1 – The first line of defense is to realize that we are in a world at war.

John’s letter to us has show us the dualities in life, light and darkness, this world and God’s kingdom, love and hate, and now in Chapter 4:1-6 he teaches us how to discern truth from error.

“1Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. 4Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 6We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.”

#2 Second line of defense: Don’t believe every thing you hear.

What is the one urban legend you really believed? How many of you really believed that Bill Gates would send you one million dollars?

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. “

We are continually bombarded with preaching day in a day out, mini sermons if you will from billboards, newspaper and magazine ads, radio and TV commercials, half-truths wrapped in shiny packages all intended to distract us, to get us off track, and away from Jesus. Not only that be we are continually being preached false sermons in our own minds that condemn us – you’re not good enough, not holy enough, don’t know enough, can’t do that, who do you think you are? You’re no better than…..Is it true? Is it conviction? Is it conscience? Where do you think these come from?

Romans 8:1 says…. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Jesus said He didn’t come to “judge the world but to save it.”

This is the good news of the gospel. When we take Jesus at His word, when we put our lives into His hands, when we give Him all of ourselves, every dark nook and cranny of our hearts He saves us. Save us from our sins, our past, our upbringing, and our hang-ups. Jesus saves us from our old selves and we walk in newness of life.

#3 Third line of defense: “test the spirits to see whether they are from God”

Not only are we to not believe every thing we hear, see, and read but we are commanded to test everything to see if they are truth or error. How do we know which is which?

"2By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.”

Everything that points to Jesus, testifies to Jesus, confesses that Jesus did indeed come in the flesh is from God. Everything else is Antichrist. Instead of pointing to Jesus it points us to ourselves to others or to other things.

Question? What would you no, what would you try, what would you undertake if you knew you could not fail?

#4 Fourth line of defense: Know that the war has already been won through Jesus.

“4Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”

Our enemy will condemn us every step every day of our lives and if we are not careful to understand that we are in a war, if we do not filter and test everything we hear and take in we are prone to defeat at the work of our own hands and our own minds as we begin to believe the lies poured into our hearts.

The truth is that the battle of good vs. evil has already been won one at Golgotha, the place of the skulls, where Jesus hung between two thieves as He died in our place for our sins and the war was eternally won at the empty tomb as God the Father resurrected Jesus from the grave. You don’t have to be hostage to your mind any more, you don’t have to live in fear any more, and you don’t have to be held captive to your past any more.

If you have asked Jesus into your life, if you daily die to yourself and live for Him, if you are washed in the blood of the lamb with a new heart as a new creature then you never need fear of anything “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7”

“5 They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 6We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.”

The spirit of truth confesses that Jesus has come in the flesh, as the God/Man, both fully God and fully human and anyone or anything that denies this is the spirit of error, is wrong, and is not of God.

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