|Listen to the Bible|
Thoughts and Commentary on Today's Reading:Effective spiritual warfare is a vital part victorious Christian living. Yet, so often we prefer to only see ourselves as spiritual "sheep" following our Good Shepherd (which is certainly a valid part of being a Christian), but turn away from the idea of being a warrior, armed in the Heavenly Armor and effectively defeating the powers of Darkness. In Proverbs 24, from our reading today, there are a couple of verses about Spiritual Warfare:
“If thou be faint (too tired or weak to continue fighting) in the day of adversity (the time of temptation or demonic attack) thy strength (spiritual power in Christ) is small... For a just man falleth seven times (you may be weak and fall prey to the tempter at times), and riseth up again (but because you believe in God's Strength and Promise to give you the victory, you get up and fight again - getting the victory, in Him)..."But what gives us the motivation to get up and try again, after we have fallen? We have to know the Good News - that victory in Christ is not only possible - but PROMISED!
The most often repeated teaching throughout the Christian world is the “Good News” of the Gospel. Ask most any Christian to rattle off a definition of the Gospel message, and he or she will likely be able to comply without very much difficulty. The Gospel, by the commonly understood definition, is the powerful “Good News” of the death, burial, and resurrection of Yahshua (Jesus) Christ that provides full and free deliverance from the penalty of sin according to the grace of God through faith in Him.
Yet, in spite of the “power” advertised in this message, the number of shipwrecked lives among Christians today is staggeringly high. Church-attending Christians struggle with many ungodly situations like: adultery, substance abuse, addictions of all kinds, pregnancy out-of-wedlock, physical and emotional abuse, and destructive demonic compulsions of all kinds.
The leaders of Christian churches today are also succumbing to the devil’s enticements. In his book, Men's Secret Wars (Baker, 2006), Patrick Means reveals a confidential survey of pastors and church lay leaders. 64% of these Christian leaders admit that they are struggling with sexual addiction or sexual compulsion including, but not limited to, the use of porno-graphy or other secret, sexual activity.
In our own experience, we have learned of church elders with gambling addictions. There are church members, and even pastors, who struggle to hide the immoral behavior of their teenagers. Numerous “Christian” spouses abuse their family members, and the list goes on and on…
It is no wonder that from the outside, the worldly person can see no real difference between the professed Christians and himself. The church-goers have the same weaknesses and failings as those lost in the world. Where is the life-change? Where is the evidence in the “born-again” life revealing that the Gospel is powerful?
Most excuse these failings in Christianity as being proof that there need not be a life change. For “sinners are saved by grace” and “churches are hospitals for the spiritually sick.” But, in fact, churches today are not like spiritual “hospitals” at all, for the spiritually sick find no cure there. Rather, churches have become more like thinly veiled support groups for the spiritually dead. And all of the singing, Bible study groups, clubs, and church classes do no more to bring real life-changing vitality to these poor souls than does performing C.P.R. on a mummified corpse.
So what’s wrong with Christianity today that it has left its adherents so little help for the here and now? The problem has largely been a lack of knowledge of the full Gospel message. As it says in Hosea 4:6, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge…” The knowledge that is missing in this victory-less version of “Christianity” is the understanding of the other half of the Gospel message.
The Gospel is NOT the Good News that Yahshua (Jesus) died to save people IN their sins. The Gospel IS the Good News that Yahshua died to save us FROM our sins. Thus, it isn’t just about the fact that Christ died and rose again, the Gospel is also about how the precious Name and Blood of our dear Lamb is powerful today. It is about how through the power of Yahshua, we can walk FREE from the sins and demonic bondage that have held us enslaved.
As it says in John 8:34-36
“Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin… If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”
That really IS Good News! Presenting only part of the Gospel, as much of Christianity does, is really far more serious than it may sound at first. For telling only a partial truth is really leaving one to believe a lie. Thus, in sharing only part of the Gospel, Christianity has largely failed to share the true Good News at all, rather what is being taught is a perverted teaching—it is, in fact, the false Gospel the Apostle Paul warned us against in Galatians 1:3-8
“Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, Who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the Will of God and our Father… I marvel that ye are so soon removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel. Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed…”
Here, in Paul’s warning against this false gospel, that had begun to be shared even in his day, is a key point: the false gospel is really a “perversion” of the true Gospel message. To “pervert” in this Scripture is from the Greek word metastrepho (from which we get metastasis) meaning: “to turn… transmute or corrupt…” In other words, to “pervert” the Gospel truth is to mix it with error, causing what was once good to become corrupted.
Not only does Paul warn against the false gospel, he also gives us keys to identifying the perversion in the false gospel teaching. They are found in 2 Timothy 3:1-7.
“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded,lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away... Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
Let us take a moment to look carefully at this important description of false Christianity as detailed by Paul in the above text. There are several characteristics which deserve our attention, as they are fruits of the false gospel.
1. The above text refers to professed Christians, because it states that these people “have a form of godliness,” or claim to be and look like Christians; “but deny the power thereof,” meaning they do not have a transformed life to accompany the claim.
2. This Scripture is discussing a condition of professed followers of God at the end of time, because it states that this will take place in the “last days”.
The identifying mark in the false gospel is its lack of life-changing power. As it points out in 2 Timothy, those caught up in its teachings will find they are still just as selfishly motivated as they were before being “saved.” They are still disobedient, unthankful, and unholy. And while they do have some affection for God, the truth is that they love pleasure more. It is this sick sort of pseudo-Christianity that is giving Jesus (Yahshua) a weak image, rendering the life-changing power and Person of Christ virtually impotent.
But the real Good News is that this is a FALSE teaching! Yahshua is our mighty Deliverer! He has come to set the captives free. He not only forgives us our past sins, but He also provides the power now to deliver us from every demonic tendency and every satanic enslavement. As it says so beautifully in Isaiah,
“Shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captive delivered? But thus saith the LORD, Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered: for I will contend with him that contendeth with thee, and I will save thy children” (Isaiah 49:24-25).
The victorious Christian life isn’t about human weakness. It’s about our Heavenly Father’s strength. The Good News is that Christians aren’t supposed to be conquered by satanic suggestion and sinful inherited tendencies. “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us” (Romans 8:37). Our Heavenly Father expects us to overcome against every demonic downfall! As Paul put it, “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).
This Heavenly expectation of weak and sinful beings should not serve to discourage us. Rather, it should be taken as a great comfort, because our Heavenly Father never expects anything of us that His power isn’t present to accomplish. The very presence of the command to overcome is evidence of His promise to enable us to do so.
This is the other half of the Gospel message. Not only does the Gospel truth encompass justification (being made just as if we had not sinned), it also includes sanctification (being set free from sin and devoted to a Heavenly purpose). All of Heaven is committed to working out this wonderful plan in you. As it says in Jude 1:24
“Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.”
What does this mean to the worried Christian parent of a rebellious teen? What does this mean to the secretly addicted churchgoer? What does this mean to the church leader eaten up inside with bitterness and resentment? It means that the Saviour has the power to restore your life and home in righteousness. He can produce the beautiful Fruit of the Spirit in you while shattering these sinful chains that bind your soul.
Ultimately, the incredible Good News about the Gospel is that we can overcome through the power of Christ. Once we grasp the personal reality of Christ’s ministry on our behalf, we never need fall prey to another temptation again! We are forever changed through what He accomplished here as our Example of victorious living, through what He did for us on the Cross as our substitutionary Sacrifice, and through what He is now doing for us as our great Heavenly High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-16). This is the vital missing other half to the Good News of the Gospel. And understanding it gives us the motivation and courage we need to arise, if we have fallen, instead of fainting in the day of adversity (Excerpted from the book Keys to Living Like You've Been Saved, by Mark and Shauna Manfredine).