The world is going to Hell in a handbasket. At least, that is the opinion of some observers.
The incidence of violent crime is increasing by quantum leaps. Abortionists advertise in the public media and young girls and women flock to their offices to take advantage of the services they provide. While working on legislation to bring crime under control, members of Congress float bad checks and misappropriate government goods and services for their private use.
Courts release murderers and rapists on their own recognizance, while remanding pro-life demonstrators to jail for six months at a time. Federal judges take control of state penal systems in order to protect the civil rights of prisoners. The legal process sometimes appears to deal more severely with crime victims than with those who prey on them.
What is going on?
Quite simply, Satan, the ruler of this world, is firmly in control of his domain. He has found willing hands to help him establish the rules of convenience and instant gratification of any desire. He has convinced us that the general guideline for modern living is: If it feels good, do it. Everywhere, people appear more interested in feeling good, than in doing good.
Oh, there are folks who resist the enemy of our souls, but many of them have been tricked into fighting him on a battleground of his choosing. These good people labor long and hard to change laws and convince others to turn aside from their sinful lifestyles, but they don't seem to make much progress.
Where is the power of the Gospel? Right where it always has been. The problem is that we fight the devil in the natural world, when we should be engaging him and his demon forces in the spirit world. The weapons God provided us were designed to work in the heavenlies, not in this world. We can successfully resist Satan, if we properly apply the tools our Lord has provided.
That is what this little study is about.
A Call to Arms
The urgent call of a bugle galvanizes men to action. Gathering up arms and equipment, they run headlong to the battlements. Then, gulping restoring breath, they stand at the ready, staring intently into the distant darkness.
Again and again, during the years of World War II, Americans saw these scenes repeated on the movie screens across the nation. Director Frank Capra made a series of films for the War Department, to explain to the nation why it had been necessary we violate our self-imposed doctrine of non-interference in global matters. As the strident notes of the "Alert" sounded, Americans knew the order to stand to arms was meant for them.
Old enmities were laid aside, factional feuding was placed on hold, and an uneasy peace was declared between organized crime and the forces of law and order. Far greater enemies than any we had hitherto known were gathered at our boundary stakes, threatening to drive on our native soil. An all-out effort was required, if the foe were to be repulsed.
We won that war. Our borders again secure, Americans returned to their former pursuits. Dissension and unrest flourished, as though there had been no disruption. To some, it appeared the undesirable and unpleasant in the American scene had used the hiatus from internal struggle to advance and consolidate their position. We had won the war, but American morality was one of the casualties of battle.
Again, the bugle calls us to arms. Again, a fearsome enemy stands poised at our gates, only waiting an opportunity to crash through and destroy us. This foe is not unknown to us; he has been around since before the fall of Adam He is an expert and powerful antagonist, and he will lead us to certain destruction, if we let him.
"Come on, now," interrupts the worldly man. "Everyone knows Satan is just a myth, a boogie-man invented to keep the masses in line. Admit it! If it weren't for the devil, all the priests and preachers would have to get a real job."
Is the devil real? Jesus knew him from his beginning; even witnessed his fall from heaven (Luke 10:18). In addressing Jews who had not believed Him, Jesus briefly described the nature of the deceiver.
You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar, and the father of lies. - John 8:44, NASB
The devil tried, without success, to destroy Christ's ministry by placing temptations before Him in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). That Jesus is aware of Satan's power is made clear in the parable of the wheat and tares (Matthew 13:24-30). In explaining the parable to His disciples, our Lord stated,
“The tares are the sons of the evil one; and the enemy who sowed them is the devil . . .” – Matthew 13:38,39 NASB
Satan is cocky. He is so sure of himself that he'll even make smart-alecky comments to God Himself. An example of the smart-mouth nature of the enemy may be found in the Book of Job, where we read:
Now there was a day when the sons of Job came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. And the Lord said to Satan, 'From where do you come?' The Satan answered the Lord and said, 'From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.' – Job 1:6,7 NASB
Satan is the bitter enemy of our souls. He was the tempter who convinced Eve, through the devious devices of the serpent, to pick the forbidden fruit. This is not to deny her responsibility, for she had heard from God's own Self that to eat of that fruit was prohibited. She was deceived, but Adam knew full well what he was doing, and that is why this first great sin is passed through the seed of Adam.
All Christians know, or should know, that Satan is a loser. They should know he will be bound in chains and thrown into an abyss, where he will languish a thousand years.
And I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he should not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things, he must be released for a short time. – Revelation 20:1-3. NASB
At the end of the millennium, during which the saints will rule with Christ over the world, Satan will be released. No sooner will he be set free, than he will organize a rebellion, gathering the nations together for war. The nations will be destroyed by fire from heaven (Revelation 20:7-9), and the devil will go to his final, and eternal, punishment.
And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. - Revelation 20:10, NASB
The devil does exist, for God says that he does, and he is going to end up in a lake of fire and brimstone, where he will be tormented for all eternity. Until that angel confines him to the abyss, however, there is every indication Satan will be busy. So long as he is able, he will seek to destroy our souls, to prevent us from entering into covenant with our Lord.
Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. - 1 Peter 5:8, NASB
Wow! Satan must be pretty tough. After all, he is not afraid to stand right up to God and make wisecracks. And it takes an angel to chain him and lock him up in the abyss. We are just human beings. What are we expected to do if Satan makes a run at us? What can we do?
Satan indeed is a powerful adversary. He is not invincible, however, and we are commanded to resist his every assault.
But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. - 1 Peter 5:9, NASB
....and do not give the devil an opportunity. - Ephesians 4:27, NASB
Resist him," you say. ''Sure, that is easy to do if you are God; but what about us regular people? What chance do we have in a fight with a supernatural enemy?"
Our Lord knows everything there is to know about His creation. He knows our powers are limited, and that we can all too easily fall in a struggle with an enemy as powerful as Satan or one of his demons. That is why He has equipped us for the fight. If we but do as we are commanded, He assures us, we will not fall before the enemy of our souls.
A good commander will make careful preparations for battle, long before the first volley is fired. He will send men to scout the terrain over which the battle will be fought. Knowledge of the battleground is imperative to effective placement of forces and the laying of fields of fire. The battle in which all Christians are engaged is not being waged over earthly terrain, but in the realm of the supernatural.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. - Ephesians 6:12, NASB
The prudent commander will also gather intelligence concerning the strength and disposition of the forces arrayed against him. This will aid him in placing his forces to exploit any weaknesses or to counter any preponderance of force in the enemy lines. We can learn all we need to know of their strengths and weaknesses in the Bible. The forces we face are powerful; they have supernatural strength, but they are not invincible.
One of these spiritual opponents was able to delay for three weeks an angel of the Lord, sent to encourage Daniel and to reveal to him what would soon befall the people of Israel. Once the angel had completed his errand for the Lord, he returned to the fight, aware that when he had overcome the prince of Persia, he would have to deal with still another demonic power.
But the prince of the kingdom of Persia was withstanding me for twenty-one days; then behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left there with the king of Persia. Then he said, "Do you understand why I came to you? But I shall now return to fight against the prince of Persia; so I am going forth, and behold, the prince of Greece is about to come. - Daniel 10:13,20, NASB
Okay. We know our battle will be fought on the spiritual level, against enemies that are not flesh and blood. What can we, the ones who must stand to arms, do to withstand the determined assault of a powerful enemy?
Before a soldier goes out to battle, he checks over his equipment. Once locked into the struggle, he knows it will be difficult to repair or replace a faulty weapon or bit of gear. God has instructed us to do likewise; to prepare ourselves to use the armor and weapons He has graciously provided.
Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm, therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the Gospel of Peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. - Ephesians 6:13-17, NASB
The full armor of God is available to us, but it isn't just lying around to be picked up by anyone. This equipment is heavy duty, and must be custom fitted. The user must grow into it, and through training and preparation, learn to use it.
"Now just you hold on one little minute," cries the professing Christian. "I know a little about this spiritual warfare stuff. I go to church every Sunday, and I even watch the television preachers now and then.
"Everywhere I turn, I get the same story. There are a lot of them and only one of you, so I reckon I'll just go along with the majority on the matter of spiritual warfare.
"I will admit Satan is a powerful adversary," continues the dissenter, "but he's already been whupped. All we have to do is just give our sins to Jesus, and it's all over between us and the devil. Shoot! I've seen Pastor lead thousands to the Lord. And I saw that foreign evangelist fellow come to town and lead hundreds more in the sinner's prayer.
"It really is easy, young fellow, to join yourself to the Lord. Just come to our church, and when Pastor gives the altar call, walk right on up front and let him lead you in a simple prayer. That's all there is to it.!”
Is it really that easy? Can it be that all we need do, in order to win our personal confrontation with the enemy, is repeat a little prayer while standing in the presence of a preacher? I'll just bet Satan would tell you that it is, were you to ask him.
And after we follow Pastor in that little prayer, will Lucifer leave us alone?
Sure I will," chuckles the adversary. "You just go on down front and repeat that little old prayer the pastor has been using for years, and I'll stay out of your life.”
"After all," he continues, barely able to contain his glee, "it says right in the Bible that everyone who believes in God will be saved.”
"Trust me," he pleads, with a sincere expression on his face. "I wouldn't lie to you."
The oily smile slides from his face as, turning aside to his demon companions, he softly adds, "We believe in God, and we for sure are not saved. Why should they be any better off than us?"
You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. - James 2:19, NASB >/blockquote>
The Bible tells us we are saved through faith, not by anything we can do.
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast. - Ephesians 2:8-9, NASB
"There,” shouts the faithful member of the Do it Every Sunday New Testament Fellowship. "Right there. What you just said. That is proof that all a man has to do is have faith in God and he will be okay. And," he smugly concludes, "I have got that faith."
How do you define faith? Are there different kinds, or levels, of faith? Can a person have faith, and yet not be saved?
In so much as pertains to our relationship with God, faith is a belief in things we have not seen, but which have been made known to us by the testimony of others. This testimony may be in words spoken by an intelligent witness, or may take the form of signs and wonders, or miracles, or gifts of the Holy Spirit. When a Christian says that faith is based on testimony, he means it is founded not on sense, or reason, or feeling, but on the authority of God Himself.
Charles Hodge, the nineteenth century theologian, argued that there are three levels of faith, only one of which can bring the believer to salvation. He labels them Speculative (or Dead) Faith, Temporary Faith and Saving Faith.
There are many men who believe the Bible to be the word of God, and who receive all that it teaches, and who are perfectly orthodox in their doctrinal belief. If asked why they believe, they may be at a loss to answer....They receive their faith by inheritance. They were taught in their earliest years thus to believe....Others of greater culture may say that the evidence of the divine origin of the Bible...satisfies their minds and produces a rational conviction that the Scriptures are a revelation from God, and they receive its contents on His authority. Such a faith as this....is perfectly compatible with a worldly or wicked life. This is what the Bible calls a dead faith.
Again, nothing is more common than for the gospel to produce a temporary impression....Those thus impressed believe. But, having no root in themselves, sooner or later they fall away. It is also a common experience that in times of danger, or on the near approach of death, men utterly indifferent or even skeptical are deeply convinced of the certainty of those religious truths previously known, but hitherto disregarded or rejected. This temporary faith is due to common grace; that is, to those influences of the Spirit which in a greater or lesser measure reveal the truth to the consciences of all men and operate on their souls without renewing them.
The faith which secures eternal life, which unites us to Christ as living members of His body, which makes us the sons of God, which interests us in all the benefits of redemption, which works by love and is fruitful in good works, is founded, not on the external or the moral evidence of the truth, but on the testimony of the Spirit with and by the truth to the renewed soul. This testimony of the Spirit, which is said to be the ground of saving faith....is within the mind itself....The effects of this inward testimony are (1) a "spiritual discernment" not only of the truth, but also of the holiness, excellence, and glory of the things discerned; (2) flowing necessarily from this spiritual discernment, a delight and complacency (or love); (3) the apprehension that the truths revealed in Scripture are suited to our nature and necessities; (4) the firm conviction that these things are not only true, but divine; (5) the fruits of this conviction (i.e., of the faith thus produced) -- good works and holiness of heart and life.
When, therefore, a Christian is asked why he believes the Scriptures and the doctrines therein contained, his simple answer is that he believes the Scriptures on the basis of the testimony or authority of God....If asked, further, how God testifies to the truth of the Bible, an educated man whose attention has been called to the subject will answer that God testifies in every conceivable way: by signs. wonders, and miracles, and by the divine knowledge, excellence, authority and power exhibited in the Bible. In contrast, an uneducated man may simply say, "Whereas I was blind, now I see." Such a man, and indeed every true Christian, passes from a state of unbelief to one of saving faith, not by any process of research or argument, but of inward experience. The change may, and often does, take place in a moment. - Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, © 1988, Baker Book House
I do not doubt many souls have been reached by passionate and anointed preachers and evangelists. Too often, however, the emotion-charged atmosphere of the revival meeting may generate an emotional response in a listener. He will jump up and run down to the speaker's platform, repeat the sinner's prayer, and leave feeling overjoyed to be one with Christ. How many are still riding the crest of that emotional wave the next day? Or the next week?
This is a point of great practical importance. If faith, or our persuasion of the truths of the Bible, rests on philosophical grounds, then the door is opened for rationalism; if it rests on feeling, then it is open to mysticism. The only sure and satisfying foundation is the testimony of God, who cannot err and who will not deceive. – Ibid.
Still aren't convinced there is anything but saving faith? Would you believe, if you heard it from the mouth of Christ Himself? Remember the parable about the sower who scattered seeds all over the place? Some of those seeds fell on good ground, and grew to bear good fruit; but others fell on less hospitable soil and failed to produce.
And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying, "Behold, the sower went out to sow; and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. And others fell upon rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. And others fell on the good soil, and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. - Matthew 13:3-8, NASB
What's the matter? Is that parable maybe a little difficult to grasp? Don't feel too badly. The disciples spent every hour of every day with Jesus, and they had to ask Him what He meant by this parable. His answer speaks to the question of whether there is more than one level of faith
Hear then the parable of the sower.
When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road. And the one on whom seed was sown in the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word, and immediately receives it with joy; Yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word and it becomes unfruitful. And the one on whom the seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit, and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. - Matthew 13:18-23 NASB
And there you have it, straight from the mouth of God. Dare you now deny that not all faith is saving faith?
Let's get back to that pre-battle equipment check. If the soldier of God has grown into his armor, he has girded his loins with the truth, planted his feet firmly on the Gospel, and covered himself in righteousness. Taking up the shield of faith, which will protect him from anything the adversary throws, he is just about ready to take to the field. Putting on his helmet of salvation, he steps to the sally port.
Secure in the defensive armor provided by his Lord, the soldier of God knows the enemy cannot harm him in his spirit; no missile launched by Satan will penetrate to his soul.
The Lord will deliver me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen. – 2 Timothy 4:18 NASB
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies – Psalm 18:2-3 NASB
Now that is pretty solid protection! How wonderful to go forward into battle knowing that you cannot be harmed. A soldier so protected can engage the foe with wild abandon. Will God keep His promise to protect our souls? In our faith, we know that He is not a liar. As we study our Bible, we see again and again that He stood by His people as they fought against superior forces.
Recall, if you will, the words of Jehovah when He commissioned Joshua to lead the Hebrew nation across the Jordan River into the promised land:
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. – Joshua 1:9 NASB
So, dressed in God's defensive armor, and taking shelter in Him, our rock and our fortress, we can safely sit out the enemy's most determined assaults. Even as the battle rages around us, we need not fear for our souls for we are safe in God's own hand.
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow me, and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than them all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one. – John 10:27-30 NASB
We are safe, but a defensive war can be very costly. As we sit behind our barricades, the enemy moves freely around us, seizing territory from those who are unable to defend themselves. While the timid Christian sips his mint julep and thanks God for his safety, Satan flashes about consolidating his territory.
I cannot but wonder what the “safety conscious Christian” will think when his works, or lack of them, are judged. Will he be surprised that only ashes remain after the flames die out? Will he be bothered that no one stands up to testify in his behalf? How will he react when no soul says, “There, that is the man who first spoke to me of Jesus and the Gospel of Salvation. How good it is to see him here.”
“Wait a minute,” cries the earnest seeker after God. “You forgot something. What about the Sword of the Spirit?”
Now you're talking war! With the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, firmly in his hand our spiritual warrior is able to take the battle to the enemy. No longer must he languish behind safe walls, yielding territory and souls to the enemy. Now he can go forth and conquer in God's name.
And how are we to go into spiritual battle? Determined to win, confident in the strength of God's mighty arm. That's how.
Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted. This day the Lord will deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down and remove your head from you. And I will give the dead bodies of the army of the Philistines this day to the birds of the sky and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth might know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord does not deliver by sword or by spear' for the battle is the Lord's and He will give you into our hands.” Then it happened when the Philistine rose and came down and drew near to meet David, that David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. – 1 Samuel 17:45-48 NASB
The well equipped spiritual warrior will find that Satan is not as tough as he would have us believe. Like the schoolyard bully, he does his best work against those who are frightened of him. Just as the bully runs when his intended victim's father comes to the aid of his threatened child, so does Satan flee when faced with the power of the Almighty. We must remember that, as Holy Spirit lives in us, so we bring Him to the battle with us.
You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who lives in you that he who is in the world. – 1 John 4:4 NASB
Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. – James 4:7 NASB
The effective spiritual warrior is also a prayer warrior, one who continually offers prayers and thanksgiving to his God. As we draw near to God in prayer, He hears us and moves nearer yet to us. With the lines of communication open between us, we are more easily able to draw upon His limitless power as we confront the enemy of our souls. (James 2:8)
Not only should we pray for strength and courage for ourselves; we also should constantly lift up our weaker brethren in prayer, that God might pour out His grace more abundantly upon them who are in need. We must pray that those who have been led to join the enemy host might repent of their evil ways and reach out to God instead. Those who are numbered among God's elect, and who have yet to call upon His name, must be prayed for often, that they might open their hearts to the clarion call of His love.
We must pray for our political leaders, asking God to guide them that they might perform their functions with godliness and honesty. Again and again, we must pray that our leaders remember always the plight of the poor and helpless and be especially merciful toward them.
We should pray for revival, beginning in the True Church and then spreading across the land. Ask the Lord to speak to the hearts of those He has called to ministry, that they might again preach and teach His word, as it was written. Implore the Mighty One of Israel to send legions of angels to drive off those demons and foul spirits who would corrupt our children and set them on paths of destruction.
In total humility, prostrate before the throne of Jehovah, each soldier must ask that he be provided the means to lead just one more sheep into the fold before each day ends.
First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. - 1 Timothy 2:1-4 NASB
No matter how the battle rages around us; no matter how we are beset by trials, we must never cease to pray for each other, and for the ultimate victory. That God will hear us is certain, for
...The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. - James 5: 16 NASB
But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not. 2 Peter 2:1-3 NASB
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. - I John 4:1 NASB
In other words, we should not believe everything that we hear preached, simply because the preacher claims to be anointed of God. We should listen to his words, and then compare them against the one infallible standard, the Holy Bible. If preacher does not confess Christ as Lord, with all that entails, and if his message is not in agreement with Scripture, shun him.
For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, that you might not lose what we have accomplished, but that you receive a full reward. Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds. – 2 John 7-11 NASB
"Come on," disputes the- churchman. "There are a thousand denominations and sects of Christianity, maybe more. You are not saying that only one, the one you promote I imagine, is godly." -
There is only one Bible, and it should set the standard for all religious practice. Men have studied Scripture for centuries and, as is to be expected, many different religious schemes developed. How could that happen?
Charles Hodge suggests one answer:
Almost all false theories in science and false doctrines in theology are due in a great degree to mistakes as to matters of fact . . . Science cannot make facts; it must take them as they are. In like manner, if the Bible asserts that Christ's death was a satisfaction to justice, the theologian is not allowed to merge justice into benevolence in order to suit his theory of the atonement. If the Scriptures teach that men are born in sin, we cannot change the nature of sin, and make it a tendency to evil and not really sin, in order to get rid of a difficulty. . . We must take the facts of the Bible as they are and construct our system so as to embrace them all in their integrity. . .It is plain that complete havoc will be made of the whole system of revealed truth, unless we consent to derive our philosophy from the Bible instead of explaining the Bible by our philosophy. . .The Bible not only gives us the facts concerning God, Christ, ourselves, and our relations to our Maker and Redeemer, but also records the legitimate effects of those truths on the minds of believers. So that we cannot appeal to our own feelings or inward experience as a ground or guide unless we can show that it agrees with the experience of holy men as recorded in the Scripture. – Charles Hodge, Op. cit.
Does this mean that what Pastor Feelzgud teaches in the Do It Every Sunday New Testament Fellowship is not in line with Scripture? I don't know, but if what he teaches cannot be supported by Scripture, it is a good bet that it is the product of somebody's personal interpretation. There should be no room for private interpretations of God's Word. What He said centuries ago should be understood today just as when it was originally penned
But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke for God. - 2 Peter 1:20-21 NASB
How many things have men added to or taken from the Gospel? One could argue that no great harm is done, so long as the vital elements of the Gospel are left intact. Who is to decide which of God's own words are of less value than others? Rather than modify, add to or delete from Scripture, would not the most prudent, and the most reasonable, approach be to leave things as written?
"What have we done that is so wrong? In my church," claims the churchman, "we do everything just the way Jesus did. We have just improved efficiency a bit. Why, on any given Sunday, I will bring a dozen or more souls to Christ."
I imagine that just about everyone who claims the title of Christian has witnessed an altar call. You know what I'm talking about. The preacher or evangelist starts out by inviting sinners who wish to yield to Christ to come forward for prayer. Soon, he begins to plead for people to step forward, and then he threatens and cajoles until enough have walked the aisle, for whatever motive, to satisfy his quota for that day.
Oh! What promises the preacher makes, as he coaxes and wheedles "just one more sinner" to come forward. He promises a real good deal; just give your sins to Jesus and He will come into your life and take away all your cares. And, if that is not enough, why just stake your claim in the Faith Sweepstakes, and God Himself will make your every dream come true. Admit it, isn't that basically what a lot of preachers offer?
If he can't get people to pray that cursed sinner's prayer by threats or coercion, preacher will go after them with pot-luck suppers, singles or golden age groups and teen clubs These days, a well-run church has a little something for just about everyone.
Sit back in your chair, get comfortable and close your eyes as you try to picture Jesus standing on hillside near the Sea of Tiberias. A large group is standing around Him, listening as He tells them of the Kingdom of God. Try to imagine our Master saying, "Ah, come on now. There has to be someone else ready to give himself to Me. We're going to be here all day, if that person does not come forward so I can lead him in a sinner's prayer. Don't let your pride hold you back, and don't be afraid; just stand up and move to the front so we can all see you. All right!!! Here comes a sinner now!"
Imagine, as our Lord continues, "If you still haven't made the decision to come to Me, why don't you come forward so I can pray with you. If enough of us stand around you and pray long enough, you will see the light and yield to Me. We call that 'breaking through".
"For the rest of you, there is going to be a pot-luck supper over at Cephas' boat. The youth group will have a rock band there for your dancing pleasure, and members of the golden age club are going to put on a jitterbug demonstration. It will really be a fun time! That's what belonging to a church is all about; having a good time in Me."
You could argue that such an image is ludicrous, and you would be correct. However, isn't that exactly what many preachers do these days? There is talk about social functions, almost always talk about the church's financial condition, and at the end of a service in which the Lord was only a minor consideration, Pastor prepares to carve another notch on his Bible for each soul he claims to have guided to make a decision for Christ.
How did the Master do it? He told them about the Kingdom, and He let his listeners know that what He proclaimed included a demand as well as an offer. Sure, a sinner could find forgiveness and salvation in Christ, but he had to yield to Him completely. Christ made no effort to encourage those who casually sought discipleship. There was no element of coercion in His approach; He brought no pressure to bear on any inquirer. His approach was, and remains, "Here is what I offer, if you are willing to bear the cost, I will accept you as Mine own." (Luke 14:25-35)
John R.W. Stott, Rector Emeritus of All Souls Church in London, writes:
…thousands of people still ignore Christ's warning [to count the cost] and undertake to follow Him without first pausing to reflect on the cost of doing so. The result is the great scandal of Christendom today, so-called 'nominal Christianity.' In countries to which Christian civilization has spread, large numbers of people have covered themselves with a decent, but thin, veneer of Christianity. They have allowed themselves to become somewhat involved; enough to be respectable but not enough to be uncomfortable. Their religion is a great, soft cushion. It protects them from the hard unpleasantness of life, while changing its place and shape to suit their convenience. No wonder the cynics speak of hypocrites in the church and dismiss religion as escapism. - John R. W. Stott, >i>Basic Christianity
As you plan your strategy for the next engagement in this spiritual war of ours, give a thought to your local church. When you talk with others, and try to set their feet back on the path of righteousness, bear in mind the words penned by Paul,
And the Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been made captive by him to do his will. - 2 Timothy 2:24-26 NASB
Some people, perhaps even your pastor, are going to become upset with you. If you persist, even though you are gentle in your approach, some may turn away from you. There will be times when the cost of doing spiritual battle almost unbearable, but you must persevere, for the prize is worth the game.
And who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet -with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is' right rather than for doing what is wrong. - I Peter 3:13-17 NASB
Why. suffer at all? Why not just let things continue as they are? After all, you are assured of your salvation.
We must wage war against the forces of sin, because we are called to do so. We, each of us, dare not claim, as did Cain, that we are not our brother's keeper. Besides, how can a true Christian stand by and watch as a brother sinks into apostasy?
My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth, and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death, and will cover a multitude of sins. - James 5:19-20
Can you do it? Sure, you can. Remember, you are in Christ, and no longer a 97-pound weakling. No demon from hell is going to kick sand in your face:
For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. - 2 Timothy 1:7 NASB
Join the battle, do the best you can. Remember, God rewards obedience, not success. Do everything you can to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Stand toe-to-toe with the adversary and, when you are called home, you may say, as did Paul:
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith. – 2 Timothy 4:7 NASB