Thursday, September 21, 2017

Daily Bible Reading - September 20, 2017

Today's Reading:

John 20:19-31

2 Chronicles 32

Psalm 88

Listen to the Bible

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thoughts and Commentary on Today's Reading   

Sennacherib's attack against Hezekiah and the kingdom of Judah was most insidious, as recorded in 2 Chronicles 32. It struck me how similar was his attack to a spiritual warfare battle which we face, when Sennacherib's messengers called out to God's people with words to get them to doubt the reality and delivering power of Yahweh. 

"Where is your God?" he asked. "Do you really think he can save you from me? Look what I have done to other nations! Their gods couldn't save them from me!"

What a horrible - satanic - thing to do! And how was Sennacherib's demonic doubt campaign defeated? Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah prayed - crying out to Yahweh for deliverance. And Yahweh heard their prayers and dealt with Sennacherib.

This story is much more than a historical account. It is a spiritual warfare lesson. Because the way Sennacherib attacked Judah is the way the devil attacks the people of God all the time!

So, how can we respond effectively to the words of satan, when he tries to convince us that God can't help us - and that we'd better let him have his way or he'll crush us like bugs? 
Let's look at the steps in the story from 2 Chronicles. 

Often times, when we are hit with a spiritual warfare encounter, we think we've already failed because the instant the attack comes, we don't sense peace - we are in distress. Judah, Hezekiah, and Isaiah were not peaceful about the words of Sennacherib either. They were troubled, prayerful and weeping!  

Similarly, when you are in a spiritual warfare attack, do not expect to start with peace. When you get troubled or upset, when attacks come, do not try to start with making your heart feel at peace. This is a mistake many people make. They try to conjure up some kind of feeling of peace within and succeed only in upsetting themselves more. Do not start with peace. Start with truth. Work your way back down through truth and righteousness and you will come out at peace. This is the way to begin.
Now let u s take a closer look at this battle. If we remind ourselves of these great truths, they ought to set our hearts at rest. But we all know that even though these truths often will set our hearts at rest, there are times when they do not. We are still depressed and filled with doubts.
Perhaps there is no good reason for us to feel this way. We may wake up in a blue mood even though we were happy when we went to bed the night before. There may be no good reason for our depression. There is nothing wrong physically (the physical elements of our lives can have a very great bearing on our feelings), but still we feel depressed.
Well, what is happening? We are experiencing What Paul calls here "the flaming darts of the evil one." These stratagems of Satan come to us in various forms. Sometimes they are evil thoughts and imaginations which intrude suddenly upon our thinking, often at the most incongruous times. We may be reading the Bible; we may be bowed in prayer; we may be thinking about something else entirely when all of a sudden filthy, lewd thought flashes into our mind. What is this? One of the fiery darts of the evil one. We ought to recognize it as such.
Sometimes these darts come as doubts and even blasphemies--sudden feelings that perhaps this business of Christianity is nothing after all but a big hoax or a dream. Perhaps we feel that it can all be explained psychologically or that Jesus Christ was a victim of self-delusion. Perhaps the world is not the way we have been taught to believe it is, and things are not the way the Bible says. You have doubtless experienced these times of doubt. All Christians have had this sudden feeling that perhaps it is all a fantasy. Again, these fiery darts may come in the form of sudden fears, anxieties, fleeting sensations that things are all wrong. We cannot seem to shake them off.
The Devil's Whispers
These feelings, in whatever form they may take, are always from the same source. They are the fiery darts of the wicked one. We are the biggest fools on earth if we do not see them in that light and deal with them as such. And in whatever form they may come to us, they always have two characteristics. First, they seem to rise out of our own thoughts. They seem to come right from our inner selves. We feel, "This is something I am thinking," and oftentimes it is a shocking thing.
But the Devil is really whispering to us. He is influencing us. Ah yes, but it doesn't seem like that to us. In our ignorance and innocence we blame ourselves: "How can I think a think like this if I am a Christian? Can a Christian have such a lewd and filthy thought as this? Can I really be a Christian if I think like this? I must not be one after all."
This, of course, is exactly why the Devil sent those thoughts to you. He wants you to think that way. If it is doubt (and we are always exposed to doubts, these sudden attacks upon faith, these sudden feelings that Christianity is not as sure and certain as it once seemed to us), we say to ourselves', "I must have already lost my faith or I would not think like this." What is the matter with me? How can I be a Christian and even have such a bought?" So we try to repress the thought. We think, There must be something wrong; we should not feel like this," and we push the thought down in-to our subconscious. But it is still there, lurking underneath, and we feel dishonest because we are not even willing to look at it and face it. This takes its toll on us in physical ways as well s in mental and emotional strain and tension.
We feel uncertain and confused because we are convinced that the opposite of faith is doubt. We think if we have doubts we cannot have faith and if we have faith we do not have doubts. Therefore, if we have doubts, we cannot be men and women of faith. We fail to recognize this as the lie of the Devil.
The second characteristic is that doubts are always an attack upon our position in Christ as the truth--as our righteousness and our peace. These darts are always an insinuation of doubt about those matters-never about anything else. They are an attack upon those areas of faith.
This is always the way of the Devil. He said to Eve in the garden, "Has God said unto thee--did God say that?" There is the implication of doubt. He said to Yahshua in the temptation in the wilderness, "If thou be the Son of God, then turn these stones into bread." If! There is the insinuation that these things are not true. This is the way he raises doubts, creates guilt, arouses fear. These are the attacks of the evil one.
The Quenching Process
Now, what are we to do? How are we to combat these attacks successfully? Well, the Apostle says, "Take the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts, of the evil one." Notice that he did not say the "shield of belief." We have already reminded ourselves of our belief when we have put on the girdle of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, and--the equipment of the gospel of peace. That is our belief in what Christ is to us.
But faith is more than that. This is very important to see. Faith is acting upon belief in Christ and in His Word. Faith is decision, action, resolution. Faith is saying, "Yes, I believe the Word of God is the truth. Yahshua is my Righteousness, He is my peace. Therefore this, and this, and this, must follow." Faith is working out, the implications of belief. When you say "therefore" you move from belief into faith. Faith is particularizing; it is taking the general truth and applying it to the specific situation and saying, "If this be true, then this must follow." That is the shield of faith.
Now, have you learned how to take the shield of faith when doubts come? Do you say, "Christ is the truth. He is the basic revelation of things which really are. He has demonstrated it. Therefore, I cannot accept the thought that the Word of God is a hoax. I cannot believe that the Bible is the truth and that my doubts are true, too. I have committed myself to Christ because I have been persuaded that He has demonstrated truth fully. I stand on that ground. Therefore. I must reject this insinuation."
Do you reason that "the Word is the truth? Therefore I cannot believe this subtle philosophy which exalts man and makes God unnecessary in human affairs. I must reject it. Since I have found Christ true, I cannot believe this sudden feeling I have of unreality. I must regard it as what Christ says it is: from the Devil. God's Word says he is a liar from the beginning. Therefore this is a lie and I reject it."
Is this the way you think it through? Our problem is, that we have become so accustomed to believing our feelings as though they were facts. We never examine them. We never take them and look at them and ask, "Is this true?" We simply I say, "I feel this way. Therefore it must be true." This is why so many are constantly defeated; they accept their feelings as facts.
Rather, we are to say, "Christ is my righteousness. I am linked with Him. I am one with Him. His Life is my life and my life is His Life. I stand upon the Foundation of His Word. Therefore, I cannot believe this lie that these evil thoughts are my thoughts. They are not my thoughts at all. They are thoughts which come because of another force. It is not my thinking at all. No, it is the Devil again. I do not want these thoughts. I do not believe them. I reject them. I do not want them in my thinking; therefore the are not mine!" With this, we are using the shield of faith.
Using the shield of faith means refusal to feel condemned or to feel guilty. "God loves me. He says so. He says nothing will change that. Nothing will separate us! All right, then I will believe that, and I will not believe the thought that God does not love me and want me." You see, you cannot entertain both thoughts. "No man can serve two masters."
Christ is the ground of my peace. Therefore it is his responsibility to take me through every situation. So I cannot, I will not believe this fear, this sudden anxiety which grips my heart. I will not believe that it is from me. It is simply sent to shake my confidence in Christ. It is an attempt to destroy my peace. But Christ is adequate for even this, and I refuse to change.
Proof of Faith's Reality
This is what James calls "resisting the devil." This is the shield of faith. It is refusing to believe the lie that if you have doubts you cannot have faith. Because that is a lie. Doubt is always an attack on faith. The fact that you have doubts proves that you have faith. They are not opposites at all. Doubt is the proof of the reality of faith. Therefore reexamine the ground of your faith and reassert it. Remember that feelings are not necessarily facts at all.
And James says further that if you keep on resisting the Devil he will flee from you (James 4:7). Think of that! He will flee from you. Resist the Devil again and again every time an evil thought or doubt comes back. Refuse to give up your position. And, sooner or later, inevitably, the doubts will clear, your feelings will change, the attacks cease, and you will be back again in the sunshine of faith and the experience of the love and joy of God.
That is what Paul is talking about when he says, "Take the shield of faith. It is able to quench every fiery dart of the evil one."   (adapted from on online article by Ray Stedman)
So when the devil comes to you with the insidious doubt tactics of Sennacherib, remember the stand up on the Word of God - and resist him. Pray! And believe God's Promises. The fiery darts of the wicked one can only burn, defeat, and destroy if you let them in! So, instead, use the shield of faith in God - and in His Word.