Human arrogance and pride is everywhere, and it’s not just the “hatetheists” who are guilty of this (again, described in this link: http://blogs.christianpost.com/confident-christian/profile-of-a-hatetheist-10298/). It resides in all of us, even those who call themselves Christians. Smart, educated people are especially prone to this pitfall precisely because they believe themselves to be smart.
While we may try to remove the more obvious signs of pride from our lives daily (particularly the socially unacceptable forms), I think a more hidden and dangerous kind threatens to destroy the possibility of salvation in many around us…even churchgoers who fully believe themselves to be saved.
This latent pride not only keeps someone from fully engaging with Almighty God in a genuine way, but it also gives people the false sense of security that they have nothing to worry about…that they are already right with God and the rest is just icing on the cake.
OK so what am I talking about? In a nutshell, it is this attitude: “I know better than God.”
Now, I know what you’re thinking…no one who calls themselves Christians would actually think or say this! Maybe not explicitly, but like love, feelings and words are not the best way to gauge whether we have the proper attitude. The best evidence is shown through actions and in the way we think.
This mindset presupposes that newer or more modern is always better. What we believe today is better than what “old-fashioned” people or societies in the past believed. “Traditional” has become a dirty word.
Why do people think this way? Because we have some evidence supporting this predisposition. Newer technology is generally faster and better. We can look into the historical past with 20/20 hindsight and see all the egregious mistakes that we have made. Since we appear to have progressed in some of these areas (e.g., slavery, racism, sexism), we conclude that we are always moving forward.
But this is a gross oversimplification, particularly when it comes to morality. Just as modern electric guitars do not beat a ’59 Gibson Les Paul, modern morality is not necessarily superior to the past overall. You cannot make blanket statements or judgments, but rather need to consider things piece by piece. As always, people love to think in ways that are convenient and neatly packaged, rather than nuanced.
For instance, yes, we can be jubilant in the abolition of slavery and that we have come to our senses that racism is wrong. We can be happy about getting closer to gender equality and laws protecting women from domestic abuse.
But as Bible-believing Christians, we should mourn the erosion of biblical and traditional marriage. We should feel immense sadness at the killing of unborn babies every day, while coming to grips with the ridiculous hypocrisy of judging China for throwing away unwanted daughters into dumpsters. “Choice” has become the ultimate good rather than right and wrong or the sanctity of life. Tolerance for all ideas has taken the place of pursuing and discerning actual truth.
We need to analyze things point by point. Not all modern things are better. If you believe Satan exists and is out to deceive the world, do you really think he’d make his acts of moral sabotage so obvious? Remember, he knows what he is doing and is smarter than the limits of our human intelligence. The only chance we have to withstand his barrage of deceptions is to be saturated in God’s Word.
Using Our Own Moral Compasses
There is supposed to be only one overriding moral compass in this world, and that is the Bible. The Holy Spirit also leads true believers, yes, but He never goes against God’s Word. There is never any contradiction, or else you are being misled by some other false spirit.
But nowadays, people regard their own feelings about moral issues as the ultimate guide for right and wrong. Nevermind what God said…this is what I feel. This is what I believe in my bones.
Again, there is just enough false evidence to lead us to conclude this is the way to go. That candy bar you stole when you were little? You sure felt that it was wrong, but you did it anyway. If only you had gone along with your trusty ol’ moral compass, surely you would have avoided breaking the law. Any time you lied to someone you care about, you felt a pang of guilty feelings. Sometimes, you have been led to do the right thing based on your conscience. All of this cumulative evidence leads you to believe that if only you are disciplined enough to follow your gut, you would do the right thing all the time.
So when your gut goes against what the Bible teaches you, without even knowing it, you trust your gut instead. Perhaps the problem is, subconsciously, you still need God and the Bible to prove themselves to you. Perhaps it’s not really your gut at all, but rather years of cultural brainwashing that have reformed your beliefs. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re immune to more advanced forms of peer pressure just because you’re out of high school now.
God may tell you that homosexuality is wrong, but then you look around and see happy gay couples…you see them on TV and they are fun and pleasant. Maybe your favorite uncle or a friend is gay and you feel ashamed that your Bible condemns their behavior when you want to be supportive.
Your gut starts to tell you that maybe the Bible is wrong on this issue or it didn’t consider things as comprehensively as you have.
At this point, maybe you should consider giving God a few pointers and bringing Him up to speed on the things you know. After all, His omniscience and timeless knowledge no longer carry as much weight as your own feelings on matters.
Again, we see Satan’s cleverness at work here. While he is able to convince some extreme people that blatantly wrong things like stealing or murder are OK, for the most part, he knows these things are an impossible battle. So what does he do? Probably what we would do in the same shoes. Go after the so-called “gray areas” where you can put up a more convincing argument to go against God (note: many of these perceived gray areas are actually quite black and white if we are properly informed). Prey on the extreme powers of human rationalization and rack up some victories there.
Don’t be fooled guys. We can’t trust our gut completely, nor can we trust societal norms. Heck, people seem more likely to trust GQ, Cosmo, or the liberal media these days rather than God.
If God actually exists, though, there is an ultimate authority on right and wrong and we are not it. Considering that people are wholly convinced about certain things—and these things differ based on time and culture—the ONLY reliable source of moral authority is the Bible.
If you go to different parts of the world, there will be countless people who are 100% convinced of opposite positions from you. Now we get into an issue of whose culture is better. You will inevitably think, “Ah, but they are a backwards culture. You can’t trust what they think.”
Do you really want to take on this kind of snobbery as well? What makes you so sure your culture is superior in every way? My opinion is that each culture has a few things right, a few things wrong. No one has it all figured out (and no one ever will).
If you don’t believe the Bible is the actual Word of God, then fine, that’s a different argument. But my point is that if you call yourself a Bible-believing Christian, you need to act like it. Don’t be a poser.
Imagine This Scenario
Imagine this. A guy sees a picture of a pretty girl on someone else’s Facebook. He decides from seeing this picture that he is meant to marry this girl. From the picture, he has constructed what he believes to be her personality. “I bet she likes taking nature walks and is reserved, but not overly shy.”
“I love her!”
He imagines what their dates would be like and the kind of parents they would be to their children. He would be the firm one to counter her nurturing hand and voice. He predicts the kinds of conversations they would have and the responses she would give to his questions.
Kind of creepy, right?
Well, now let’s say that he one day runs into her at a mutual friend’s party. He walks up and introduces himself to her, and he fully believes he accurately knows the kind of person she is.
Could he realistically expect her to fall for him immediately and agree to marry him?
Of course not! He’s more likely to get the following response than a yes to marriage: “I don’t know you, get away!”
Why is that? Because they never actually knew each other. He never met with her or developed a real relationship. Everything was according to his own imagination and was not grounded in reality.
The same goes for most “Christians” who have constructed their own image of God in their minds. They don’t read the Bible and get to know who He really is. When they do read, they change the obvious meaning to better suit their beliefs. They don’t wrestle with difficult truths and submit to His authority over their own. They don’t come to see who He really is.
Rather, they form an agreeable, politically correct, culturally relevant version of “God” in their minds. Maybe He’s a teddy bear. Forget the wrath stuff or divine judgment. “Forget what the Bible says, I’m sure God understands how things are now in America…”
But sure enough, these people are in real danger. They don’t know the true God, nor do they rely on Him as their authority. What do they think “LORD and savior” really means? It’s not “buddy and savior.”
Sadly, when these people reach the gates of heaven, they will likely be shocked to hear: “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Matthew 7:23)
But it really shouldn’t be shocking at all.
I figured I should write on this subject while the content is still somewhat fresh in my mind. We all really need to learn how to discern the truth from a wide array of information sources. I hope this will at least give people a general idea and awareness to supplement their knowledge of the Bible.
Everyone has dreams, and many people even claim to have visions or to have heard from God in some way. How are we to know if these dreams are reliable sources of information? Well, it first helps to concretely realize this fact: Dreams come from only three different sources: 1) our own subconscious, 2) God, and 3) demons. That’s it.
Most dreams probably come from within ourselves—sometimes deep within our subconscious. They are a jumble of past experiences, thoughts, and things we have sensed, felt, or feared. The next time you have a dream, try tracing its steps. When I do dream, I can often determine later why a certain person appeared in a certain setting or whatever. And don’t underestimate your own capacity for creativeness, especially when you are unrestricted in imagination. When you’re asleep, you’re not worried about things making sense or if a train of thought is strange or corny. You know how musicians claim to make better music when they’re on drugs? Well, it’s because they become unrestricted creatively. They are “freeing their minds” (although in a very dangerous and often destructive fashion). Likewise, with our conscious minds switched off, our thoughts can roam freely with fewer hindrances.
Those are dreams from a natural source. But sometimes, more rarely, dreams or visions can also come from supernatural sources. And determining where a dream came from is not as simple as people seem to think.
There seems to be a line of thought where if a person identifies him/herself as a Christian, then all those dreams must be from God. Those that receive demonic dreams must be unbelievers, they reason.
This is far from the truth, actually. As Christians, we are protected from certain kinds of demonic attack, but not all. For instance, we cannot be fully possessed and controlled by demons because we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, who is far greater in power. But we can still be tempted and deceived if we are not vigilant and on guard—equipped with truth to combat the lies. Deception is by far the #1 tool of the enemy. Satan is not called the “Father of Lies” for nothing.
While demons cannot read our minds—because they are not omniscient like God—they can implant thoughts and ideas into our heads. And knowing what they themselves have implanted, they can know what you are thinking at certain moments. They are also keen observers who have been watching mankind since our inception, so they quite literally know us better than we know ourselves. We must never take them lightly (nor should we have an inordinate amount of fear paralyzing us from possessing a bold faith). Satan is smarter than all of us, so the only way we can hope to discern the truth is to study the Word of God and stay in prayer.
Remember: A genuine dream or communication from God will never, ever contradict scripture—nor will it add to it. God does not tell or empower anyone to “fix” or “update” His word.
Aside from blatantly contradicting scripture (which is a HUGE portion of Satan’s lies), there are certain signs that a dream or a “truth” is coming from a demon rather than God. This isn’t an exact science, of course, but this list has scriptural and theological support. Feel free to replace the word “dream” with a lot of other things, like “feeling,” “conviction,” etc…
– The dream tells you what you want to hear, even though you know it’s probably wrong. Satan likes to whisper sweet nothings in people’s ears, pushing them to do wrong by easing their conscience. He also tries to inject some Christian-sounding justifications for our wrong behavior to trick our gullible minds. (Satan knows the Bible, too, but his interpretation is always twisted.) You’ll notice that many of Satan’s lies are simply variations from the original granddaddy of them all: “[Go ahead and eat that fruit]…you will surely not die!”
Example #1: “Go ahead and marry that alcoholic, non-Christian, and volatile bad boy. You can do God’s work by converting him, and love can change people!”
See 2 Corinthians 6:14, which flat-out contradicts this. True, God can change anybody’s heart, but it’s a huge risk and an exception He makes purely out of grace. Even when we disobey, God can still show us kindness—but it’s still sin. Dangerously, more often than not, the unbeliever drags the believer down.
Example #2: “Sure Christians can regularly go clubbing and live a lifestyle close to sin. After all, how else will those lost souls be reached? Don’t be so prude and legalistic!”
God tells us to run far from sin, not dabble in it or toe the line. If God wants to bring a lost soul to Him, it can be accomplished in other ways. While efforts like prison ministry are valid because of the general lack of influence prisoners have on ministers there, a “clubbing ministry” or “partying ministry” would be highly suspect.
– The dream gives the recipient a sense of power and uniqueness that puffs up pride and self-worth. Again, there’s nothing new about this; pride is the original sin. Satan knows this, so he instructs his demons to find ways to make people feel special by giving them a false sense of purpose and power.
Example #1: “You are to lead up a new religion! God has specifically chosen you out of everyone else to show the error of Christianity to the world. Those Christians will try to tell you how you are plainly wrong according to scripture, but don’t you listen. ‘God’ is on your side, chosen one!'”
(You can pretty much substitute “new religion” with “atheism” and “God” with “logic”…the lie and the appeal to pride are the same.)
Many false religions probably began like this. While it is true that the church has often been corrupt and in need of reform, God would never revise His already-completed Word. While interpretation of the Bible has been botched for man’s selfish purposes, the words themselves have remained steady and true. Check your beliefs against the Word daily.
Example#2: “I, ‘God,” am now giving you the power to tell others what to do with their lives. They will line up at conferences and retreats to hear your wisdom. You are a modern prophet!”
Any time in the Bible that miracles or prophets are used by God, it is to facilitate a great movement of some kind—whether fulfilling a grand promise of God, stirring a nation to repentance, or validating the revelation of Jesus Christ as savior and Messiah. A person is never bestowed with divine power or knowledge to simply feel useful or even just to help people. Do you ever notice how such “prophets” seem to always tell everyone else that they are chosen to do “big things” for God? Plus, there’s a lot people can tell by looking at the eyes, so it’s not all supernatural.
If I went to those people with a mean look on my face, I might get the “God is telling me that you need to pray more” response rather than the “you are going to do big things for His kingdom.” Just maybe…or am I being way too cynical here?
– The dream communicates with someone from heaven or hell. The purpose of Satan tricking people into hearing from “the beyond” is usually to spread some kind of deception or to lure them away from relying on God as their source of truth. I am hard-pressed to find a single example from the Bible where anyone on earth successfully hears from someone in heaven or hell. Why would anyone in heaven or hell be interested in earth’s affairs?
Even when Jesus told of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:14-31), that was a parable, not a real-life occurrence. There seems to be a practically impenetrable divide between our world and theirs, so be aware of this. The only one we can maybe hear from beyond is God, but that’s because He is God. Plus, He is omnipresent, so He’s present in this world anyway. (Please note: I am aware of the potentially sensitive content that is about to follow, but I think that people have shied away from this too much when people need to know the truth.)
Example #1: “Granny Smith came to me in a dream last night, and she told me that she is happy in heaven right now! That is such a relief because I was pretty sure she wasn’t even a Christian while she was living.”
I am convinced that Satan perpetrates this particular kind of lie very often to get people to alter their views on salvation and God’s standard. It tricks people into thinking that getting into heaven is easy, and all you need to do is basically be a “good person,” again contradicting the Bible and shifting the priority away from God’s sovereignty to human works.
Example #2: “An oracle told me that Uncle Bob is in heaven, and the guy was pretty nasty! I guess God’s grace really does cover all. I know the oracle was telling me the truth because she also mentioned Uncle Bob was sitting in his favorite polka-dotted couch, and how could anyone know about this??”
Again, same sort of lie, but this time it is bolstered with “evidence.” Of course, any demon who observed Uncle Bob for any amount of time on this earth could tell the oracle that. The oracle is speaking to a trickster demon, probably without even realizing it.
Example #3: “A pastor claims to be able to speak with people in the afterlife, and apparently, John Calvin is in hell pleading with us not to believe his theology!”
(A real-life pastor actually claimed to hear John Calvin warning us from hell. The person that told this to me did not necessarily believe it, but just mentioned it as an observation.)
Again, there is no reason to believe in speaking with those in the afterlife, so we can reasonably conclude that this is another demon trying to trick us. Since we know that deception is their main tool, we can pretty much believe the opposite. Calvin is almost certainly in heaven (we can only speculate, after all), and he was probably onto something that Satan didn’t like. By the way, don’t believe someone just because they hold the title of “pastor.” The world is rife with false teachers—even those who don’t realize they are misleading others; they can be nice people with good intentions. Being a pastor does not mean they have a good grasp of the Bible. Heck, Dan Barker went to seminary and he botches even basic elements of interpretation. I have a B.A. in Economics from a good university, but other than supply and demand and “sunk cost,” there’s not much else I remember.
What’s even more alarming from this example is that God explicitly mentions trying to call upon the dead as an abomination, and it was punishable by death (Deut. 18:11; 1 Chron. 10:13-14). Attempting to convene with the dead is basically inviting demons to mess with you. Believing these types of dreams can lead us dangerously astray as well. I fear for this pastor’s spiritual well-being. I might expect this from someone involved in the occult, but not a Christian.
*Please note that just because we dreamed about someone we love being in heaven, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s false or demonic. It’s possible that we are piecing that together in our own subconscious and drawing upon our own memories and hopes for that person. It’s also possible that God may be comforting us with this knowledge, but it’s pretty unlikely. I don’t think we would be directly speaking to that individual in any case. If there appears to be an unmistakable supernatural element to it, then immediately be on guard.
**It is my guess/observation that the vast majority of people fall into one of two camps: 1) They believe in the afterlife and that communication between both worlds is possible, even common; and 2) there is no afterlife, and therefore, all supposed communication between both worlds is a trick or scam. My personal stance from reading the Bible is that there is an afterlife, but no communication between both worlds. If there is spiritual communication—whether from God or demons—it is done on earth and not through some invisible portal. If there were some kind of portal, only God would have the authority to use it anyway.
I think you’re starting to get the gist, and as you can probably surmise, these kinds of deceptions are not limited to dreams only. They could come as visions or even “moments of clarity” or revelation. Sometimes, I’m tempted to think that the words I write on this blog are coming almost directly from God, but I have to quickly check my pride. While I do think God can use me, nothing I write is infallible and should be checked against scripture.
The Bible trumps all other knowledge, and not every supernatural “feel-good” experience is from God. Let’s equip ourselves by studying the Word every day. If you don’t know the Bible, then you won’t know if something is contradicting it. Always remember Jesus’ exhortation to us all: “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” — Matthew 10:16.
As always, mind and heart—not one or the other.
[Seems I’ve found a way to get into my blog while at work…instead of going directly to my site, I need to go through WordPress.com first. Hopefully, this will lead to more frequent updating. Previously, I could no longer access my blog because websites that are “uncategorized” (or in forbidden categories) would get blocked.]
Finally, another update! I think this will be the end of this topic for now, but I just wanted to address a couple more areas. Some of it overlaps with what I’ve already said, but I think more emphasis couldn’t hurt.
Worked-Based Salvation vs. “Grace”
This is a biggie. Often in churches, you will find Christians on both extremes of the spectrum. On one end, you’ll find a lot of well-meaning believers exhorting you to read your Bible every day, diligently attend bible study, pray x number of times per day, pay some percentage of your income as offering, smile, do charity work…etc. The list goes on and on. Without these things, you cannot be a true Christian.
On the other end, you’ll find people emphasizing God’s grace—as if that is His only predominant trait—and living however they want. They look like the world, act like the world, but because they “accepted Christ into their hearts” at some point in their lives, they think they’re set. In their minds, they have been vaccinated from the virus of damnation, and they’re free to wallow in whatever filth they please. Of course, not everyone is this blatant in their abuse, but the general sense is that absolute freedom has been attained. There’s no need to strive and give your full effort anymore. “It is finished,” right? Lukewarm living, while not ideal, is “OK”…except it’s really not.
So what’s the truth? Well, it’s a lot more nuanced than either of these extreme views. People love easy-to-digest absolutes, so some don’t like learning the finer points. But you could say it falls somewhere in between.
Is God’s grace and Jesus’ death on the cross sufficient for any person, any circumstance? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. It can save and sanctify the serial felon just as much as the nice, “wholesome” American person you work with. Christ’s blood covers anything.
But can a person be saved and live however he wants? Not really. The Bible tells us that true believers in Christ “have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness” (Romans 6:18). Colossians 3:10 tells us that as believers, we “have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” In other words, when we become Christians, we are indwelt with the Holy Spirit who begins a new work in us, transforming us from the inside-out. We are on a new path toward sanctification, and while we will never quite get there in the sinful flesh, we will continually progress in our walk.
Bottom line: If we are truly saved as Christians, our lives will begin to resemble Christ more and more. We will not read the Bible simply out of duty, but with genuine eagerness to draw closer to our Lord and learn more about Him. Just as we want to learn about people we love, we want to understand God and His character on a deeper level, so we are drawn toward Scripture. We will want to fellowship with genuine brothers and sisters in Christ, eager to edify each other and grow together. We will grow in diligence with prayer—again, out of a closeness and reliance we’re developing with God—while also becoming more compassionate and kind toward others.
The first step is becoming truly saved and being indwelt with the Holy Spirit. Let’s call that Step A. The next step that will continue to happen until we die is growing closer to God and becoming more like Christ. That’s Step B. Of course, there will be setbacks along the way and slips, but the general momentum is forward and upward.
A –> B. Simple, ain’t it?
The problem with works-based salvation is that it can be misconstrued as this: B –> A. This is impossible. We as humans cannot attain salvation through works any more than a dog can clip its own toenails and brush its own teeth. Stupid analogy, but we just got a puppy, OK? 😉
On the flip side, a person cannot be a true Christian and live, look, and think just like the rest of the world (see Romans 12:2). If a person is living like this, then you have to wonder if “Step A” ever really took place. Do we see “B” happening? If not, then chances are the Holy Spirit is nowhere to be found in that person. “A” must ALWAYS lead to B at some point (though admittedly, in varying degrees). So we all need to test ourselves as 2 Corinthians 13:5 exhorts us to do.
Now, here comes a BIG disclaimer. A lot of what I’ve said is pretty common knowledge, at least in good churches. But what often gets overlooked is that diligence and acts can increase our chances of having an encounter with God. We are not always going to “feel like” talking to God, reading the Word, or loving our neighbor. Sometimes, it takes conscious effort and discipline. And you know what? That’s fine. Sometimes, people are pumped and excited to go to the gym. Other times, they have to drag themselves to go. Either way, it’s better than not going.
How do you expect to encounter God or have a spiritual epiphany if you are never learning anything new from the Bible? How do you expect to hear God’s voice leading you in a beneficial way if you never pray? When are you ever going to feel compelled to open up your wallet and give to the Lord or help the needy if you don’t ever make the plunge? It has to become less of a leap for you. Churches would all go under if offering came only from those who were completely “on fire” each week. If you never learn how to give, don’t expect to become generous miraculously without any conscious effort on your part. (Sure, it can happen if God bestows you with that gift, but don’t count on it.)
Do your best and let God take care of the rest. Don’t sit on your couch and make God drag you everywhere.
Uninformed and Extreme Bible Interpretation: Finding the Fine Lines
Throughout our history, numerous Christians—genuine or not—have embarrassed the faith through immoral behavior that they supposedly learned from the Bible.
You’ve heard the stories. A father physically assaults his child and blames Proverbs for telling him not to “spare the rod.” Men read that wives should submit to their husbands, so they go on a chauvinistic power trip. A friend points out the wrong behavior of a fellow believer, and someone will instinctively recite: “Do not judge!”
One of Satan’s favorite tricks is to blur the fine lines between good truth and destructive evil. To our human minds, it may be hard to distinguish the real differences. Spanking and disciplining a child in love can correct behavior and lead them toward a better future with moral character. Striking a child in a temper-induced rage can escalate very quickly to abuse, which is sinful and repulsive. Discipline builds up; abuse tears down.
Wives should submit to their husbands as the head of the household, but that doesn’t mean she is less valuable or some kind of servant. In fact, if people would go beyond biblical sound bites and actually learn something, they would also come across the next few verses in Ephesians 5 where it tells husbands to love their wives as themselves—that alone should get rid of any selfish expectations from a marriage relationship. But just in case we didn’t get the message, Paul further states to care for her and give oneself up for her protection, just as Christ did. We’re talking about a savior who washed his disciples’ feet and ultimately suffered and died for us. Does this sound chauvinistic to you? If wives would respect their husbands and husbands cherished their wives, we wouldn’t be seeing the rampant unhappiness and divorce we see today.
And yes, we are not to judge others insofar as we puff ourselves up with pride and look down on them. We are also not to judge hypocritically. As Jesus humorously illustrated, it’s ridiculous to point out the speck in someone else’s eye while ignoring the plank in our own eyes.
But this is different from faithfully rebuking someone in love. People in the church today seem to think that fellowship is all about hanging out, eating together, sharing some laughs…but it’s really not. It’s supposed to be about building each other up in faith, and sometimes that means pointing out potential pitfalls for their brothers and sisters in Christ. Is it “loving” to not point out that someone is developing a drinking problem? Or that their moral compass seems to be getting off kilter, possibly because of surrounding worldly influences?
Again, there’s a fine line, and as flawed prideful humans, we are prone to step over that line. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, though.
Rebuking out of love is good. Judging and looking down on another person is wrong and pride-building.
Follow the Spirit’s Lead
There sure seem to be a lot of “fine lines” to walk in the Christian faith, huh? How are we ever supposed to get it all right? Well, as mentioned before, we can’t. We are destined to fail over and over again—hopefully less and less as we grow, though. In our own wisdom and flesh, it’s very hit-or-miss.
God knew this, and that’s why He sent the Holy Spirit on Pentecost to indwell true believers and guide them. Without relying on the Holy Spirit every single day, what eventually happens is that we start slipping. In my own life, I’ve seen complacency set in alarmingly fast! Whereas we might have once stood firm on some moral issue, without leaning on the Holy Spirit for long enough, we might become lax. “Maybe homosexuality isn’t so bad after all. Who are they hurting really?” “Maybe it is a woman’s ‘choice’ to abort her baby. After all, doesn’t it statistically lead to less crime?”
Human wisdom and rationalizing can get out of hand very, very quickly. We cannot trust ourselves. Left unchecked, we may look back in a few years (or even months) and find we’re so far off the path that we don’t know how to get back on. That’s why it is important to keep equipping ourselves for spiritual battle. If people would read their Bibles more, there wouldn’t be such mass confusion over simple issues. If they would pray more, they would stay more in tune with God’s wishes for their lives, rather than getting engulfed in the tides of the world.
Christianity isn’t supposed to be “easy.” The Bible tells us we are foreigners in this world, and as such, we are never going to feel completely at ease here. If we do, then something is wrong. Our citizenship is in heaven, you guys, so inform yourselves and don’t let Satan fool you. It’s so much easier for him to trick the ignorant believer than it is someone whose mind is filled with scripture. It might start out with little things, small deviations, and before you know it, you’re far gone. And I guarantee, when we see God one day, we’re going to wish with all of our might that we tried a lot harder in this life. We’re going to wish so badly that He will say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Keep up your guard, and don’t let Satan fool you so easily. May God help us all to be good soldiers in the fight!
As we’ve seen, Satan does an excellent job of tricking the world. In some cases, his work is evident in gruesome displays of immorality and wretched appearance, but in most cases, he disguises his work very well. His intent is masked with fluffy and warm exteriors, and without the right spiritual mindset (or “glasses”), we can be blind to his power.
Sadly, those in the church are not immune to his charms and tricks. In fact, you could argue that some of his most devastating victories have been won in the hearts of those who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ. Sometimes, Satan goes for the small wins and deceptions. There are a lot of those. In other cases, he methodically manages to pull off huge lies that perpetuate throughout the body of believers. I believe that many souls are lost because of this.
Generalities and vagueness aside, let’s dive into some specifics. Mind you, there’s no way I will be able to cover them all, or even a satisfactory amount. I bet I’m going to want to edit this post over and over as things come to mind. Maybe this is a work in progress…which is part of the reason why it took me so long to write it. I kept telling myself, “I know I’m going to leave out something important! I need to be prepared!” But then I realized, maybe this was a stalling tactic of some sort, paralyzing me from actually getting off my butt and doing it. Rather than tackling the whole mountain, let’s take it one upward step at a time.
(My goodness, it’s been a while. I’m babbling even more than usual.)
Satan loves to distort the concept of God’s supernatural power in the minds of believers.
You hear things like, “With God, nothing is impossible,” or “God is Almighty and All-Powerful!” These things are true, right? Right! So there’s no danger in exaggerating and stretching these things out to their limits, right?
Sometimes, we inject our own ideas and expectations on these truths, distorting them. And that’s exactly what Satan wants us to do. Remember, he is very, very clever. He knows when he can be blatant and obvious, and he knows when he has to be subtle. Because most people are bad at detecting subtleties (or don’t bother to really think), he chooses this route quite often.
“With God, nothing is impossible.” God is Almighty and All-Powerful!”
When we hear these things, we expect that it means that whatever God does, He would do it in the most spectacular and impressive way possible. This might mean that God works instantaneously and not slowly. With a quick *snap* of His fingers, His work is done. That’s the most powerful thing we can imagine, right? After all, if we can imagine a being doing something more quickly, wouldn’t that make it more powerful than God?
But notice the Bible said nothing about these other details. Since when is power always defined in speed and style?
If God created the world as we know it in six days, people who buy into these concepts might wonder why He didn’t do it in six seconds…or one second…or an instant. After all, if God is maximally powerful, why couldn’t He do it quicker? Certainly, a universe that is billions of years old is completely out of the question. MY God would never take that long.
Oh really? Then why did it take 150 days for the waters to recede after the great flood with Noah and his family waiting in the ark? Why did God require animals on the ark instead of just creating them all over again after it was over? Why did it take God more than an instant to create the universe? Why did Joseph have to endure so many trials and setbacks before he finally rose to power in Egypt? Why did Jesus have to reach the age of 30 before he began his earthly ministry? Why did Jesus rise from the dead on the third day rather than the second? Why did God allow the enemies of Israel to dominate and rule over them for so long? Why did it take almost 1,900 years before the Jews were given back their homeland of Israel?
The list of examples could go on and on, but you get the point. For whatever reasons, God chooses to take His time on things so that they end up just right. Remember what Peter said in 2 Peter 3:9a: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise as some understand slowness.”
With my lowly human brain, I can think of a lot of reasons explaining the examples above. And that’s with my limited perspective and knowledge. Surely, God has much more knowledge in doing what He does.
From what I’ve observed and noted, God seems to prefer directing natural processes to meet His ends. This is not lazy nor does it diminish His power; remember who created and put into place those natural processes in the first place! You think gravity and other forces just existed by themselves? There is something glorious in the way that God can manipulate His complex creation to do the job rather than going *poof, it’s done* like some kind of magic trick. Sometimes it helps to think of God more as the ultimate chess master (seeing an infinite number of moves ahead) rather than a magician pulling rabbits out of a hat.
Consider two hypothetical artists. They are both able to create the same exact masterpiece painting, but Artist A takes 10 days and Artist B can get it done in 10 minutes. Surely, Artist B is better, right? I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. If I knew he did it in 10 minutes, I would think, “Wow, that’s amazing that he is able to physically create something like that so quickly!” But if I only knew of Artist A, I would appreciate his work on a different level. “I wonder what he was thinking as he was carefully and deliberately painting those strokes. What life experience was he drawing upon to create such a beautiful painting? What was he feeling, and what was he trying to communicate?” There would be a deeper level of appreciation and glory for Artist A, I believe, all other things equal. Maybe it’s something like that with God as well.
Maybe during those 150 days of water receding, God was putting into place a new system of condensation and rain cycles. Remember, it didn’t rain the way we know it today before the flood. Water was largely in the ground up until that point, not suspended in the sky. He was changing the entire ecosystem and inventing a new precipitation method. Plus, it naturally takes time for water to soak into the ground, evaporate into the air, etc. There was a lot going on. Noah and his family were perhaps left in the ark to praise and worship God without any earthly distractions. No fields to tend to, no work to be done…just waiting and focusing on God.
Maybe God created the world in six days then rested on the seventh to model a full week for us. In fact, this isn’t really a “maybe” (Genesis 2:3 makes it pretty obvious). By the way, God didn’t rest because He was “tired”…I’ve heard that one jokingly said before by atheists. Think about it. He rested not only to model behavior for us, but because He was DONE. There was nothing left to do. And when you’re done working, you rest whether you’re tired or not. (Good grief.)
In other cases, it seems people need to go through a lengthy development process where their character will be more in line with God’s purposes for them. Or in Israel’s case, they needed time to repent and to be punished for their wayward tendencies. People are stubborn, but especially the Jews in the Bible. You’ll notice (e.g., in Judges) that there was an endless cycle of the Jews messing up, God forgiving them, and restoring their blessing…but each time this would happen, God would delay the restoration more and more. Eventually, I guess it took 1,900 years for the Jews to take back their homeland (1948), and it really only could happen after great suffering first (Holocaust, which ended in 1945). Satan might whisper, “Why didn’t God snap His fingers and move the hearts of the nations to give the Jews back their land? Maybe God is just cruel, or doesn’t exist at all!”
But God never works that way. Reading the Bible should make that obvious, and we have a ton of precedent to inform us. God puts events in history into motion to produce the desired outcome. His plans supersede all of Satan’s (and therefore the rest of the world’s) hate for the Jews. There are a myriad of other details that we cannot possibly see or comprehend.
As for Jesus rising on the third day, I’ve heard a number of theories. I think the main reason is timing…falling on a certain day of the week, or even lining up with the traditional Jewish feasts (which is very significant in prophecy). I’ve also heard that it would take that amount of time to confirm with certainty that he was actually dead—or if he wasn’t, being trapped in that tomb with no food, water, or medical treatment after being severely tortured would finish the job. The point is, we don’t always know the “why” reasons. God does things according to His own schedule and methods. His greatness and power are not subject to our expectations or imaginations.
Satan loves to stretch the meaning of “God’s love.”
You’ll hear it over and over again in many modern churches. “God is love, God is love”…”God wants the best for everybody’s life!”
Is this not true? Of course it is, but not in the way they’re thinking. Because of God’s love, His greatest desire is for everyone to come into a closer relationship with Him. Why? Because He knows that’s best for us, whether we agree or can see it or not. Anything else we seek in this life will only end in dissatisfaction or even spiritual (and eternal) ruin.
What this does NOT mean, however, is that God wants everyone to be “happy,” rich, or comfortable in this world. God does care about our temporary earthly happiness somewhat, but it’s a very distant #2 (or #200) to our eternal position.
Also, His “love” does not equate to full acceptance of everything we do and are. His love sometimes necessitates punishment to get us on the right path. His justice and righteousness sometimes mandate destruction.
A parent who truly loves his child would punish her if she were to lie or steal. A parent who leaves the child alone to her errant ways is only setting her up for future failure and misery. How is that love?
In the same way, God’s love means that He cannot accept our sinful ways and leave us alone. I was reading some of the comments for an article about Washington (the state) legalizing same-sex marriages, and I was disturbed (but not all that surprised) to see a number of “Christians” chiming in to chastise the church for opposing homosexuality. They would say things like, “Jesus is love, but sadly, the church seems to think that discriminating and hating is the right way. They are distorting Jesus’ message.”
No, misinformed Christian, you are distorting Jesus’ message by implying that He would be “accepting” of homosexuality to begin with. How could anyone who claims to know the Bible think that this is some sort of gray area? God hates homosexuality, period. It was often the last (and worst) thing God would tolerate before He destroyed entire cities and populations. That doesn’t sound like warm and fuzzy acceptance to me. In fact, I wish the whole Disney-movie expectations of God would be done away with once and for all…love is not about butterflies and roses. The Bible is far from being “G”-rated.
The truth is, God loves people and therefore desires that all turn away from this sin. If they do not, then He is left with no choice but to severely punish with His wrath (people love to forget about His justice and law). Is it “loving” to say to a person, “It’s OK to keep on lying and stealing. I love you!”? Or, “I love you my son, and therefore I don’t care if you go out and live recklessly, impregnating women and destroying yourself with drugs”? Of course not. Then why do we think God is up there saying, “It’s OK to live a homosexual life. It’s just who you are!”
If who I am is wrong, then I need to fix myself, simple as that. If a man naturally wants to lust after every attractive woman he meets, he needs to keep that in check rather than saying, “But that’s who I am!” Since when is what we want (or even “need”) to do some kind of reliable gauge for right behavior?
You get the point.
This is getting a bit long and I’m running out of time, so I will have to continue at a later point. I hope this has given you enough to chew on for now. =)
First, let me start by clarifying that when I say “Rapture” here, I am referring to the idea of a pre-Tribulation Rapture. That is, that all believers on earth—including those who have passed away—will be swept up into heaven before the seven-year Tribulation begins.
Now, assuming this is correct, it leads me to wonder how the rest of the world that is left behind could possibly account for the disappearance of millions “in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Corinthians 15:52). Will some kooky scientists come out of their basements and affirm the reality of spontaneous combustion? Or will people speculate about some massive government conspiracy?
Some people believe that the world will actually try to explain this great disappearance as a worldwide alien abduction act. Here’s one example of a video on this view: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4_5cG1dOutY.
According to this person, the “Satanic lie” has been cultivated by the devil himself for many years. Random sightings here and there, people claiming to have been abducted, persistent rumors of “Area 51,” the depictions of aliens as having large, bulbous heads and black eyes (which surprisingly can be found in even some ancient drawings…Satan must have gotten a head start)…heck, even Hollywood has played its part in making it imaginable and graspable in our minds.
Perhaps this verse is even referring to the alien deception:
Revelation 16:13: “Then I saw three evil spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet.”
(From John’s perspective, he was limited in his ability to describe certain things he saw in his vision because he had never seen such things before. So he had to do his best with what he knew.)
“Came out of the mouth” could figuratively mean that the dragon (Satan), the beast (Antichrist), and the false prophet spoke about this, telling the world. Since there will be no other plausible explanation—at least to those who adamantly leave God out of the picture—people will be drawn to this possibility.
Not only that, but 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 says this: “The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.”
Basically, this is where God sends the judgment of delusion upon those who rejected Him for so long. His patience finally runs out and He says, “Fine, you didn’t want to accept me, so I’ll let you believe whatever you want.”
Is it so hard to believe that the world could be deceived into believing that aliens abducted millions of people? How else are they going to explain it?
Heck, Francis Crick—co-discoverer of the DNA molecule—couldn’t get over science’s inability to explain the origins of life, so he theorized that extraterrestrials could have implanted earth with the first living molecules. Even Richard Dawkins, Mr. Head-Honcho New Atheist, seems open to the possibility:
Don’t believe the lie. If we do indeed get Raptured up pre-Tribulation, the rest of you remaining here hold fast to the truth.