Monthly Archives: January 2016

Satan: The Great Liar

Editor’s Note: In June 2015, Rick Greenwood, one of the elders in Martinsville, IN, lost his son Ryan to cancer. The disease struck Ryan swiftly, and he died in a matter of weeks following the diagnosis. As a part of his grieving, Rick put finger to keyboard, delivered this lesson at Martinsville, and adapted it for our readers. Your editor hopes you will find the faith and resolve of this good brother in Christ encouraging.

In John 8, Jesus called Satan, “the father of lies.” Satan’s great weapons are lies and deceit. He is constantly attacking men to drown them in despair and hopelessness. 1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” We must be aware of his tactics and not fall prey to his lies. He has lied to you before and lies to you now. He has a myriad of lies to use against us, but I would like to expose what I might consider his Top 4 lies.

Lie #1 – It’s your life; do what you want!

How Satan revels when people become so selfish that they do not care how many lives they damage. Satan says you should not worry about others when you make decisions, just be happy. But God says to think of others first, as the little children’s song goes, “Jesus first, yourself last, and others in between.”

Oh, how much better this world would be if we considered the impact of our decisions on others instead of just how it affects us. How many people would have avoided bankruptcy if they would have followed this one simple principle but they listened to the lies of Satan saying be happy. How many people would be happier if they had taken the time to measure all the ramifications of picking a mate and choosing correctly instead of selfishly rushing quickly into marriage? Once in a marriage, Satan still lies to you by saying, “If you don’t like it you can always get a divorce!” God does not say that! In fact, God says in Malachi 2:16 that He hates divorce. In Genesis 2:24, scripture says, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” God’s plan for the family was always oneness.

When people make the selfish decision to get a divorce, they fail to recognize all the people that are affected by their poor choices. Divorce tears up the children of the marriage no matter how old they are. It affects them for the rest of their lives often affecting their marriages and their children. Divorce affects the family of each of the life partners. Brothers, sisters, and parents all try to figure out their relationships to the divorcing members of their family. The church family is also thrown into turmoil trying to figure out how they can help. What a terrible lie and what terrible consequences it brings not only to the family but to everyone that knows the family. You are not your own! 1 Corinthians 6:20 says, “For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

Lie #2 – You are nobody and are not capable of being saved!

Satan is not only the father of lies, but he is also the father of bullies. Bullies try to make you believe lie # 2. They do not want you to realize the power that lies within you that God gives to each human being. Like a bully, Satan will do his best to kick you while you are down. He works his best when you are going through tough times or suffering loss. He giggles at you when you begin to question your own value. He eagerly watches as he sends his minions to criticize you and condemn you.

The truth is you are very precious to God. John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Can you imagine someone loving you so much that they give something as valuable as their own son? He did.

Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” If Jesus could forgive Peter who denied him, could He not forgive you? If Jesus could have dinner with Judas who would betray him, could He not forgive you? If Jesus could ask His father to forgive those who crucified Him, could he not ask God to forgive you? Absolutely! Nothing that we do could keep us from forgiveness and eternal salvation. Romans 8:38-39 says:

“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

God has called us to be His sons and daughters. First John 3:1 says:

“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.”

The truth is God loves you and only wants the best for you. Do not fall prey to lie #2.

Lie #3 – It’s your body. You’re not hurting anyone else!

How wrong it is, but it is probably one of the most widely believed lies. Many people in many situations rationalize their poor choices with this lie. Again, selfishness is behind those that use this lie, but the truth is their body is not their own as it says in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17:

“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.”

Those that would try to convince themselves that drinking alcohol or using drugs are okay use this lie. Scientific data has confirmed that drinking and drug abuse destroys brain cells and harms the body. Both alcohol and drugs have caused many, many fatalities on our highways. Is that okay? Being involved in an accident that causes death or even severe injury could damage you for life even if you are not physically hurt.

Even if you stayed home while you participated in these harmful items, you could influence others to participate with you. Paul told us to avoid leading others into sin as it says in Romans 14:13, “Let us not therefore judge one another anymore: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling-block or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.” Even if you were not hurting your body and you could control yourself while partaking in drinking or doing drugs, what about the person who looks up to you and says “surely it must not be wrong if they do it.” The people that follow your example may not be as strong as you are and may not be able to control themselves. How would you feel if they hurt themselves while doing what you taught them? How would you feel if they became addicted and spiraled out of control spending all their money on these “False Gods”? No, the truth is our bodies belong to God and we must treat them accordingly.

Lie #4 – Judging is wrong! Who are you to judge?

There is probably no passage that has been more misused than Matthew 7:1, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” The world does not like the truth especially when it places them in a bad light, and Satan will do all he can to deflect negative reactions. When we “call it like it is” and use God’s standards for living, then those who are guilty of sin automatically go to Matthew 7:1 and say “Who are you to judge me?”

If you read the passage in context, you will see that it is speaking about judging hypocritically or self-righteously. To obey Christ’s command in this passage we MUST evaluate people’s character, whether they are a dog or a pig, to determine if they are worthy of the pearls of knowledge.

Scripture repeatedly tells us to “judge” carefully. Jesus says in John 7:24, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” He actually is telling us to judge, to make evaluations based on facts. We have to choose between good and bad people and things daily. Romans 12:9 says, “Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.” How can we follow Paul’s command without making judgment calls? We cannot. First Corinthians 5:9-13 tells us that we are to put out wicked people from among ourselves. How can we do that unless we make hard decisions based on God’s truth? How are we to stay away from false prophets (see Philippians 3:2) unless we judge? We cannot!

Today’s society has placed a new meaning on the word judge. Yes, it can be a hard word, but we must judge in the sense that we must make evaluations based on truth. God will judge eternally and thank God for that. I would not want the responsibility for eternally judging someone, but God is the righteous judge who renders to every person according to his or her work (Revelation 20:12, 13). Remember, we also will be judged according to our works which includes how we judge, so judge a “righteous judgment.”

These are just four of the lies that Satan employs in the onslught against those that trust in the name of Jesus. So when the lies of Satan whisper in your ear, remember God’s truth.

~ Rick Greenwood

What Can Man do to Me?

Because the values of societies either differ one from another or change over time, it seems that some parts of the Bible carry more relevance to some generations. For example, Ecclesiastes is particularly well suited to identify the consequences of humanistic or atheistic thought in a post-modern world. John’s gospel account bears greater weight in a generation that questions the deity of Jesus. To a generation of American Christians for whom the prospect of legal and/or physical persecution has grown increasingly more real, the book of First Peter gains a new relevance. Peter’s first epistle offers a perspective of Christian suffering that we would do well to heed.

In the third chapter, Peter asks, “And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good?” (verse 13). His question invites us to assess what harm the enemies of Christ can inflict. Can they cause physical pain? Yes. Can they separate us from our loved ones? Yes. Can they disparage our faith and blaspheme our God? Yes. Can they enact laws that are antagonistic to biblical morality? Yes. Can they alter the values of the country that we hold so dear? Yes. However, the question Peter asks remains unanswered: will these things harm us?

Jesus counsels, “do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do” (Luke 12:4). From Christ’s perspective, the damage His disciples suffer for His sake is of little consequence. Why? Because what is eternal cannot be destroyed by a dull blade in the hands of a jihadist. A body can be bruised, but a life that is hidden with Christ cannot be touched. Who then can harm you if you follow what is good?

Peter echoes both Jesus and the prophet Isaiah in 3:14, “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” Here is the original verse: “Do not say, ‘A conspiracy,’ concerning all that this people call a conspiracy, nor be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled. The Lord of hosts, Him you shall hallow; let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread.” (Isaiah 8:12-13). Neither the surrounding text nor other scriptures tell us anything about the conspiracy. However, we do not need to know the content of the rumors in order to learn from the exhortation. Isaiah and those who followed God were not to repeat the popular speculations circulating among the people. Such empty chatter pulls one’s attention from the Lord and troubles the heart.

Among the many relevant exhortations in First Peter, the previous paragraph concerns me the most. Far too many of us share or retweet or repeat the opinions of men and women who, in some cases, claim to be advocates of faith. I am sure that there are noble and well-intentioned people of integrity within the American media complex. However, do not be deceived my beloved brethren. Invoking the name of God does not legitimize either what they say or the organization for which they speak. Every time they use the words God, Jesus, and/or Christian to support any worldly ideology or agenda, the subject at hand becomes a spiritual matter. A skeptical eye must measure these claims against the word of God.

Jesus says we will know false teachers by their fruits. In his second epistle, Peter says that false teachers have “a heart trained in covetous practices” (2:14). Jude describes them as “grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage” (verse 16). Though righteous voices may indeed rise out of the confusion, let us not forget that the talking heads are cogs in a worldly machine, churning out dollars for a handful of media conglomerates. Unsubstantiated “facts,” outright lies, and misinterpretations season their commentary and reporting. They engage in character assassination and dishonor our leaders with ungodly criticism. Phrases like “true patriots” and “great Americans” flatter us. Revisionist narratives of American history stir our emotions. Our blood pressure rises as we view images or videos of Christians kneeling in the sand surrounded by malevolent, hooded figures. Then they repeat all of this again, and again, and again.

Can you not see what is happening? Slaves of corruption promise us liberty, and we tune in repeatedly because our eyes are on man and not on the Lord. These merchants of fear prey upon our naiveté, and we keep coming back for more, lining their pockets with subscription and advertising dollars. However, the real travesty is the fruit harvested from this tree. Can a good tree bring forth the rage, fear, complaints, despair, and discontent voiced by too many Christians? We quench the joy and peace of the Spirit. We allow a spirit of fear to captivate us rather than the Spirit of power, and of love, and of a sound mind given to us by God (2 Timothy 1:7). Beware my brethren.

What if the swelling tide of antagonism toward Christianity carries us to the rocky shores of physical persecution? What then? Peter says that those who suffer for righteousness’ sake are blessed (3:14). Eighty-six words into this letter, the apostle recognizes what his audience had already suffered for the sake of Christ. To help them cope, he describes these trials as a fire purifying their faith. Such genuine faith, Peter says, is worthy of praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Those who suffer anticipate His return with inexpressible joy. In the second chapter, Peter says that though people may call our good works evil, those good works will compel them to “glorify God in the day of visitation” (verse 12). This handful of verses tells us why we find blessings in suffering for the name of Christ. Persecution purifies our faith. A genuine faith glorifies God and compels the enemy of Christ to do likewise. The one who endures rejoices in hope. The faithful Christian receives blessings when suffering for the Lord.

If fear and worry over what may happen troubles you, fix your eyes upon the author of our salvation. Jesus did good and suffered. Yet He joyfully endured the cross and sits glorified on the right hand of God. Turn your ears and eyes away from the merchants of fear and trust in the Lord. Rediscover the living hope that Peter eloquently celebrates at the beginning of his epistle. With all of this, learn to say with boldness, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6).

~ Wade Stanley

Creator, Redeemer, and Judge

In the Bible God has revealed himself to humanity in numerous ways, including three distinct roles that belong uniquely to him, defining God, each one a position of power and authority, each one meriting gratitude, obedience, respect, honor and praise. One of several places we find these three great attributes and works of God described in sequence is Isaiah 45:18-25, where the Lord identifies himself through the prophet as Creator, Redeemer, and Judge.

In Isaiah 45:18, and in the Bible as a whole, God reveals himself first of all as Creator, “For this is what the Lord says — he who created the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it…” (Isaiah 45:18-20). Because God is creator, mankind owes him, our maker, obedience, gratitude and honor. Instead though, humanity persistently chooses to honor and serve the products of human thought and imagination, and refuses to obey and honor the Creator (see also Romans 1:18-25).

Almost from the beginning, rather than happily serving the Creator, mankind willfully has parted company with God, refusing to be thankful or to obey him. Because of this rebellion and its terrible consequences, God presents himself to man as Redeemer or savior, communicating the message of how to be saved and providing salvation. From Isaiah 45:

… Who foretold this long ago, who declared it from the distant past? Was it not I, the Lord? And there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but me. ‘Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other (Isaiah 45:21-22).

God, the rejected Creator, nevertheless presents himself as Redeemer, savior to all who will accept his invitation and turn to him to be saved. Both as Creator and as Redeemer God deserves praise and gratitude, worship and obedience, and gladly rewards those who turn to him to be saved.

Third and finally, truly finally, God shows himself to man as Judge, and all men must face him in this final way. Continuing in Isaiah, the Lord says in 45:23-25:

By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear. They will say of me, ‘In the Lord alone are righteousness and strength.’ All who have raged against him will come to him and be put to shame. But in the Lord all the descendants of Israel will be found righteous and will exult.

The Lord thus spoke of everyone coming before himself in judgment, every knee bowing, every tongue confessing who God is, what he has done, and then everyone getting what they deserve, whether the shame of rebellion, or the exultation of being one of God’s people, one of the redeemed. (See also Philippians 2:9-11 where Paul applies these statements to Jesus Christ, exalted to the highest place, and honored in judgment by every knee bowing, every tongue confessing). God should be thanked as Creator, and obeyed as Redeemer, and definitely will be honored as Judge.

The triune description of God found in Isaiah 45:18-25 is found repeatedly in stories and teachings throughout the Bible. In Genesis, we have God the Creator making everything good (chapters 1-2), and then mankind’s rebellion and increasing wickedness (chapters 3-5), followed by the Redeemer saving Noah and his family with the ark (Genesis 6). Once the redeemed were safe in the ark, God the Judge destroyed the world and its inhabitants in righteous judgment in the tumult of the great flood (Genesis 7-9). Later, when God gave the 10 Commandments to Israel at Mt. Sinai, the order shifted for emphasis, but God reminded his people again that he was their Creator (Exodus 20:8-11), and their Redeemer (Exodus 20:2) and their Judge (Exodus 20:4-7).

In the New Testament, when the apostle Peter briefly used the events of Noah’s time as an illustration of the coming divine judgment of the world, he also highlighted that God created everything (2 Peter 3:5) and then executed judgment on the ungodly in the flood (2 Peter 3:6), and so the Creator who sustains the cosmos will also bring judgment by fire on the world at the time of his choosing. Yet for now, before God acts as Judge for the final time, condemning the ungodly and saving the redeemed (2 Peter 3:10-13), he will fulfill his own times and purposes as Redeemer, biding his time to save as many as possible, “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:7-9).

When John wrote his testimony of Jesus, the Lamb of God, he emphasized that Jesus is the Son of God who became a man in the flesh, and that Jesus too must be understood and honored as Creator (John 1:1-3), Redeemer (John 3:14-21) and Judge (John 5:22-27).

In Isaiah 45:18ff, when God described himself through the prophet as Creator, Redeemer, and Judge, he emphasized the idea that he had revealed himself in these ways for a purpose, that he had spoken and provided evidence that his words were trustworthy and true so that mankind might turn to him and be saved. Having this divine testimony, the very words of God about himself, if humans will not obey their awesome Creator or surrender to the loving Redeemer, they will still necessarily answer to the righteous Judge. One way or another, sooner or later, men will deal with God, and acknowledge him as God. He forestalls judgment when he can, as long as he can, not wanting any to perish, willing to give men generous opportunities to be saved, but finally, God will deal with man as Judge, to the shame and dismay of many who have rebelled against him.

~ Charles Fry