Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Overcoming Christian

“To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.” (Revelation 3:21)

I recently went to church at a truck stop chapel service in Eastern Nebraska. The people seemed nice; an older couple, who had been in the ministry for most of their lives, was ministering, and there was about seven of us in the “sanctuary.” It started off relatively well, with a few songs, and then we introduced ourselves. But what happened next was disturbing, to say the least. What was even more disturbing, however, was that the same scenario is repeating itself in many churches all over the world.

The minister began telling us that God has a “purpose” for everything, and that whatever happens in this world, He perpetrates, allows, and ordains for “His glory.” “God is in control of everything!” The preacher emphatically stated, and then continued in this vein even more passionately as the service progressed. Now I normally wouldn’t do this, but the Holy Spirit pressed me until I could take it no longer; I interrupted him and said, “Excuse me, but what you are saying is that our heavenly Father ordains and allows young children to be raped, molested and killed?” “Is this all for the glory of God?”
I then asked him if he understood what a “thief” was, and if he understood what Jesus meant when He stated that the thief comes to steal, and to kill and to destroy, but that He (Jesus) came to give life, and abundant life at that (John 10:10). I asked him if he knew who the thief actually was, if he knew who the “god of this world” was (II Corinthians 4:4), and if he knew who was actually “controlling” most of the activity in the earth.

Religion has rendered Christians ignorant and powerless, leaving them unarmed and defenseless in the face of a ruthless enemy that seeks to destroy our lives on this earth, and our eternal souls (Hosea 4:6, Mark 7:13). Religion has taught that “God has everything under control,” but this is a grievous lie. If it were true, then God is either wholly incompetent, or He is a brutal and sadistic thief, robber and murderer; it cannot be any other way, unless, of course, someone else is actually “in control.”

The truth is, because of the fall of Adam, Satan became the “god of this world” and is currently exercising authority, dominion and control throughout this world system which was given to him by Adam (Luke 4:6). He has a legal right to do so, as all of these things, and the people under his dominion all “belong to him.” Also, since he is an outlaw spirit, he will force his dominion even on those whom he has no legal right; those that have been bought and paid for by the blood of Jesus Christ, if He can get away with it.

He will exercise this dominion unless he is stopped, by force. This force is the faith of the believer, standing on the authority of God’s Word, and using the weapons of the Kingdom (II Corinthians 10:3-4, Ephesians 6:12-18). Ultimately, it is the responsibility of every man to reign in life by Christ Jesus, and to overcome (Romans 5:17, Revelation 3:21); to keep the devil off of his territory, and to establish the will and purpose of God in his own sphere of influence and authority (Matthew 6:10, 16:19, Luke 10:19, 19:13).

Most people in the civilized countries have heard the message of the gospel, and know that Jesus went to the cross, died and rose again. Even if they don’t believe the message, they have still heard it. What most people don’t know, however, is what actually took place at the cross; in other words, what was accomplished. The totality of the knowledge of most believers is “Jesus died for our sins so that we could go to heaven and not hell when we die.” While this is true, it is so much more.

Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil (I John 3:8); He destroyed Satan’s legal claim to our lives in every facet. He gave us His armor, His weapons, and His name. He gave us power of attorney and made us ambassadors of His Kingdom so that we could bind Satan’s activities and establish the purposes of the Kingdom of God in the earth (Matthew 18:18). The purposes of the Kingdom are healing, restoration and wholeness in every area of our lives, and then we are to take this message to the whole world, proclaiming the power of the Kingdom through the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ (Mark 16:15-18).

Many people will say of some tragic event, “Well, God has allowed this because He has brought good out of it!” “I never would have learned what I’ve learned if…” Yes, He may have taught you something out of it, but there is a better way to learn (Psalms 119:9, 11, Proverbs 4:1, 4-6). For example, if your child burned his hand on the stove, you would certainly take the opportunity to teach him something out of it too (Stoves are HOT; don’t touch them), but it doesn’t mean you caused it (If you did, you’re going to jail). How could your child have learned the lesson a better way? “Son, stoves are HOT!!” “DON’T TOUCH THEM!” “Ok, Mom, I won’t!” Lesson learned. This is reminiscent of another story long ago… “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat, but of the tree…” (Genesis 2:16-17)

God also speaks to His people on their level of knowledge. Speaking to a two-year old child who asks how an internal combustion engine (Automobile engine) operates, my answer would be, “It works; just trust me!” To a twenty-year old, I would explain fuel combustion, ignition, air mixture, etc. Just because you may not understand something, don’t reject it outright, and simply because you’ve heard God’s voice teaching you something out of your calamity, telling you “Trust me; I have a plan,” don’t resist going to a new level with Him. It could be the very person that walked into your church that day (and challenged your long-held theology), that God sent to give you the understanding that you need in order to fix the thing you’ve been praying about!

In the Old Testament, God mentioned very little about the devil because the people were not born-again, and therefore their ability to understand spiritual things was extremely limited (John 3:3). Because of this, God “took the blame” for many things that He was not ultimately responsible for; He still does this today. However, He expects us to mature in our understanding, and not remain infants (Hebrews 6:1-3).

An example of this principle in the Old Testament can be found in I Samuel 16:14. It is stated that an “evil spirit from the Lord” was sent to torment King Saul (I Samuel 16:14). But this is impossible, as Jesus stated that scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35), and that a house divided against a house would fall (Mark 3:22-26). God has no “evil” spirits, for one, and secondly, God sent David to play an instrument so that the evil spirit would flee (I Samuel 16:16, 23). Of course, scripturally speaking, God cannot “cast Himself out,” nor can David “cast out God.” The praises of God will still the enemy and the avenger (Psalms 8:2), not something that comes from God. This was an evil spirit that had gone forth from the presence of the Lord, after it had brought accusation against Saul (Similar to the lying spirit that went forth to deceive Ahab) (II Chronicles 18:18-22). Bible scripture becomes truth when rightly divided by the Spirit, not interpreted through natural reasoning and intellect (II Timothy 2:15, II Peter 1:20-21, 3:16). The Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul, and the devil took up residence, filling the void; this is a spiritual principle (Matthew 12:43-45).

When the disciples asked Jesus, “Who has sinned, this man or his parents?” Jesus replied, “Neither has this man sinned, nor his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest” (John 9:1-3). What we’ve heard is, “God created this man blind so He could heal Him and get glory!” But this would be no different than you breaking your child’s arm so that you can show him love and compassion by helping to fix it! “But He’s God; He has a right to do whatever He wants!” Alright, so God has a right to beat people up, kill, rape, maim, destroy families, cause calamities, tragedies and disasters, but at the same time inspire righteous governments to pass laws against these things, condemning them. So, in other words, God is a hypocrite (Romans 13:1-4).

No, God is just; He’s not a hypocrite. The people that do these things are criminals, and are arrested and placed in mental hospitals and prisons. Jesus wasn’t saying that neither the man nor his parents had ever sinned (for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God) (Romans 3:23). Instead, He was redirecting their focus, from the curse that came as a result of Adam’s fall, back to Him where it belonged. In essence He was saying, “Listen, the curse is here because Adam sinned and brought it into the earth, but I am here to do the works of God!” What are the works of God? Healing, wholeness, and restoration (Galatians 3:13).

Our growth in the things of God can be compared to a child that grows up and learns how to operate an automobile. As he matures, he gains power, authority, responsibility and freedom; he can do more and accomplish more with a car then he could with a bicycle. However, if he refuses to learn, Mom and Dad will still love him, but he stays on the bicycle! Why? Because he’ll hurt himself or others with the car; likewise, the person that grows in the understanding of spiritual things gains power, authority and responsibility. What is the power of the gospel? (Romans 1:16)What is the victory that overcomes the world? It is our faith! (I John 5:4)

When Jesus’ disciples could not cast the devil out of a boy, they went to Him about the matter; what did Jesus say? “Well, that’s not your fault, my precious child; I allowed that devil to have more power than you so I could teach you something; it’s all for my glory and your good, you know!” NO!!! He rebuked them for their unbelief (Matthew 17:19-21), and then He cast the devil out Himself. Religious people cringe when you tell them that God couldn’t do anything about a situation, or couldn’t prevent something bad from happening in someone’s life, but why should this be a surprise? Jesus could do no mighty work in His own home town, because of their unbelief, and the hardness of their hearts. It doesn’t say that He wouldn’t; it says that He couldn’t (Mark 6:5).

When Israel was defeated in battle at Ai (Joshua 7:1-5), Joshua didn’t say, “Well, maybe it isn’t God’s will that we win every battle!” No, he knew that Israel wasn’t supposed to be smitten before its enemies. He fell on his face before God, and God told him to stop complaining and to get up off the ground, “Israel has sinned!” There was a reason for the curse, and it was something that Israel had done that opened the door for it; once it was fixed, Israel was victorious again (Joshua 7:6-26).

In the days of King David, there was a famine in the land (II Samuel 21:1), but David didn’t accept it as “God’s will.” He knew the land should be blessed according to the promise of God (Deuteronomy 28:1-14), and so he sought the Lord. God told him that the curse was a result of an atrocity committed by his predecessor, King Saul, and He told David what needed to be done to fix it. David did what God said, and the famine abated. God never brought evil on any his people to “teach them something,” Evil and curses always came as a result of sin and disobedience. The Holy Spirit, through the Apostle James, admonished us in this matter, “Do not err…” (James 1:16)

Job got into fear; he operated and spoke this fear continually, and then added works to his fear by offering continual “sacrifices” to stave off something that “might” happen (Job 1:5). It opened a door for the devil to bring exactly what he had been believing and declaring (Job 3:25), and God was unable to do anything to stop it (Job 2:3). Throughout the whole Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, God reveals His attitude towards fear and unbelief, and gives a final condemnation of these things in Revelation 21:8. He commands His people to be strong, fear not, and believe! Why? Because faith pleases God and enables Him to show Himself strong on our behalf, and to work in our lives (II Chronicles 16:9). Fear empowers the devil and allows him to steal, kill, and destroy.

Satan sifted Peter because Peter was filled with self-confidence and pride. He had something that belonged to the devil, and there was legal ground for him to challenge Peter’s pompous declaration, “Though all men forsake you, I will never…” (Matthew 26:33, Luke 22:31-34) Jesus didn’t “allow” it; in fact, He prayed for Peter, that his faith would not fail! Can you see that? Jesus prayed for Him! This also took place under Old Testament “rules,” as Jesus had not yet gone to the cross. Satan had a greater degree of authority before Jesus went to the cross (Colossians 2:15, I John 3:8). Don’t write these things off simply because your religious denomination doesn’t “believe this way;” have a humble heart before the Lord and search these things out to see if they are so (Acts 17:11). Ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten the eyes of your understanding (Ephesians 1:17-23).

Jesus told us that it is the truth that we know that will make us free, not the truth that we don’t know (John 8:32). Jesus spoke certain things that challenged the “theology” of many of His disciples, and many of them departed and walked no longer with Him (John 6:53-69). But those that truly hungered after the truth continued; let us be of those that press on to maturity, not of them who draw back into religious tradition and spiritual blindness (Hebrews 6:1-3, 10:39).