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Entries in Satan (3)

Tuesday
Aug092016

A Song of Salvation II

Isaiah 26:16-21; 27:1.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on August 7, 2016.

As this song of chapter 26 comes to a close, it focuses on a problem that is universal for people who put their trust in God.  People who trust God live with great promises that are future within a context that often seems like those promises will never come true.  Countless millions have died waiting for the complete promises of God.  Yet, God has incorporated this into His plan.  His people must simply wait for His deliverance and the time of jubilation that will follow, even in death.  This sets up the key idea that this life is not all there is.  There will come a day when all the Righteous of all times will be resurrected and see the completion of God’s promises together.  Thus, we will all experience this jubilation as a family of the Redeemed at the same time.

At the same time, this life is still incredibly important.  It is the testing ground of where we will stand in the day to come.  Will I be swept away by judgment, or will I be singing with the Righteous after the judgment has gone by?  The Resurrection is God’s plan to set everything on its head and then set all things in order.

The Dependency of the Righteous

Verse 16 continues the theme of how the righteous are dependent upon God.  In verse 13 Isaiah had mentioned that other masters had ruled over Israel.  We pointed out then that this was God’s discipline for their disobedience.  Here in verse 16 the theme of discipline is picked up again.  In the midst of “trouble” (their discipline) they turned towards the Lord in prayer.  The word “visited” here is interesting because normally the Scriptures talk about God visiting us.  Sometimes He visits in the sense He is showing up to help us (like Israel being delivered from Egypt).  Other times, He visits in the sense of bringing discipline.  You could say that though God had visited them in discipline, they were visiting God with prayers of mercy.  It is easy to get angry and retreat from God in the times of our discipline.  But that will not lead to healing and deliverance.  We need delivered from our sins and God’s discipline is intended to point us in His direction.  Thus the righteous humble themselves and seek God even in times of discipline.  They know that they are completely dependent upon Him.

Verse 17 compares their times of “chastening” to labor pains.  Israel felt like all their labor pains had been for nothing and had accomplished nothing.  In a way this is true.  If it was only up to Israel (or us for that matter) nothing would be accomplished.  But God always intervenes and does through us what we cannot do on our own, if we will trust Him.  Israel had been through many times of not trusting God, being disciplined, repenting, and turning back to God.  This cycle seemed to never end.  Imagine a woman going through 9 months of pregnancy, a day or more of labor, and then the doctor says, “I’m sorry ma’am but there isn’t a baby.  You’ve just given birth to wind.”  That is the feeling Isaiah is describing into verse 18.  In our attempts at God’s things we are unable to produce any deliverance in the earth without God.  Also, the “earth dwellers” are still ruling over the earth.  Remember they are those who live without thought for God. 

The thing to keep in mind in the midst of all this is that we are not alone.  God is with us and He is also for us.  Even when it looks like the enemy has completely won, God has promised to stand up on our behalf.  The New Testament connects this idea of labor pains to how the earth will be in the Last Days leading up to the Second Coming of Jesus.  Things will become increasingly painful and the pains will come faster and faster.  This may make us feel like serving God is for nothing.  But that is not true.  God has not abandoned us.  How can we know this?

Verse 19 is the answer.  All of this emotion and fear will be overturned by the Resurrection.  Those who have perished without seeing God’s ultimate deliverance will be resurrected.  Also, that resurrection is not just a spiritual thing; it is a physical thing (“with my dead body”).  You can read “my dead body” as referring to Isaiah, which would be true.  Isaiah could be saying that they should take comfort because they will all be resurrected.  However, all prophets speak what God tells them to speak.  Thus the “my dead body” could be a reference to God Himself.  This would be pointing forward to a time when God Himself would take on human flesh and die, only to be resurrected.  So this could be a reference to what Jesus would later do.  He told us that He was the resurrection and the life.  Ultimately the resurrection of Jesus gives us the proof of this coming reality and strengthens our faith so that we will never give up even in the face of death.

The phrase “you who dwell in the dust” refers to those who are in the grave.  Just as a physical grave is made in the dry ground, the Hebrews pictured the spiritual side of the grave as a dry and dusty place.  So we have a poetic picture of the resurrection.  The dead will awaken out of a dry and dusty place to sing in the midst of the dew of a new morning.  He is basically saying you were dead and your bones were dry.  But you will rise with green bones and sing to the Lord.  Thus the earth will cast out the dead.  Daniel 12 also points to this by saying, “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to everlasting shame and contempt.  Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the heavens and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”  All has been recorded in the earth, none will be lost.

The Promise of the Lord to the Righteous

Verse 20 picks up the idea of the resurrection and gives an instruction and a promise to God’s people.  First there is the call to enter your chambers.  In the context this must be referring to the death that they fear will rob them of victory.  God is in a sense saying, “Don’t see death as a failure.  Rather, see it as a time of rest and peace from the struggle.  Let Me rise up and struggle for you.”  Of course this is not an excuse for suicide.  At the proper time, we will all come to the end of our life.  We need to be faithful to God in how we live this life.  But when the day of death comes, we can enter into it with peace instead of fear.  Is it true that death can actually be a “grace” to the believer?  Yes.  First, death keeps us from living forever in bodies that have been damaged by sin (both ours and others).  Second, death gives us rest from the oppression of a world bent on rebellion (imagine how Adam would feel if he were still alive).  Third, death was designed to be overcome by God.  It is only a temporary condition of a person.  Of course the resurrection is connected to the Rapture in the New Testament because when the dead are raised there will still be some believers alive.  They too will be transformed in the twinkling of an eye into glorified bodies and caught up to be at the Lord’s side.  So death is the refuge of the righteous until the day of deliverance.

Notice the phrase “the indignation.”  This is another way of referring to the Wrath of God.  Verse 21 makes it clear that there will be a final day of judgment for the whole earth.  God Himself will come out of the heavens and judge the earth.  In the New Testament it is revealed that this is Jesus.  Yes, Jesus loves us and died for us.  But He will also come back to judge those who have rejected His offer of grace and mercy.  The wrath of God will be poured out on all the earth.  Thus the righteous are protected not just from the wicked, but also from the wrath of God.  It says that God will “punish the earth dwellers for their iniquity.”  The word “punish” is the idea of settling accounts.  It reminds me of King Belshazzar in Daniel 5.  He is in the middle of throwing a party and using the holy cups and bowls from the Jerusalem Temple.  God tells Him, “You have been weighed in the balances and found lacking.  Your kingdom will be divided and given to the Medes and the Persians.”  Thus God will remove the kings and the armies of the earth.  They are lacking in any ability to support godliness and righteousness on the earth.  Their kingdoms will be taken away and given to the Righteous.

The last phrase is that the Earth will disclose her blood and will no more cover her slain.  We are told in the book of Revelation that the raising of the righteous will happen before Christ comes back (or at the same time.  It isn’t quite clear).  After 1,000 years of reigning with Jesus on this earth, the wicked dead will be raised up for a final judgment.  At this point God will create a new heavens and a new earth where no wickedness will ever be.  This is God’s promise to those who put their trust in Him.

I believe that the first verse of chapter 27 should really go with this chapter.  Regardless, let’s finish with looking at that verse.  We are told that the ancient serpent, Satan, will be slain.  He is called Leviathan because this is a sea creature the ancients were familiar with.  In fact many of the religions had mythologies about a sea creature that ruled the seas.  Revelation 12:9 and 20:2 tell us that the ancient serpent that the Bible references is in fact the Devil or Satan.  He is pictured as being in the sea because the sea was a metaphor for all the peoples of the earth (thrashing and tossing to and fro).  Satan has ruled the seas of mankind like a great sea serpent throughout history.  But God will come down and slay Him.  Though he is an immortal being, he will be slain as if he were mortal.  But the righteous that are mortal, will be raised up with immortal bodies.  This is the ultimate victory that God has planned for us all.  So let’s trust in God.  He will slay our enemy and redeem us from our own frailty because He loves us.

Song Salvation Audio

Friday
Feb192016

Jesus Warns His Disciples

Although the disciples are arguing over which of them should be considered the greatest, in truth they are all about to do something quite the opposite of greatness.  They are about to fail in their trust of Jesus.  Yes, they had successfully followed Jesus so far.  However, in the next 24 hours they would flee from Jesus and hide, broken and fearful.  It is this universal rejection of Jesus by enemies and friends that ought to help us understand why the Lord does not accept good works, but instead will only accept faith.  He is not looking for those who are “great” neither as the world defines it nor as his followers define it.  Instead he is looking for those who will believe in his greatness regardless of the circumstances and to the end of their life.  Even this, the disciples all fail.  Yet, the Lord isn’t looking for a faith that has never fallen, but one that has been through storms, ups and downs, and yet returns to him.  The Lord is warning us in this passage to quit looking at our greatness and pay attention to the battle that is waging all around us.

Satan Has Asked To Test Them

In the next 24 hours Jesus will be arrested, run through a bogus trial, and publicly executed.  Jesus knows this and is speaking in order to prepare them for their own failures.  The disciples do not understand the gravity of what is happening, but the Lord does.  It is here that we need to remind ourselves that our strength is not in what we are, but in what the Lord is building in us.  We need to remind ourselves that even in our failures (perhaps especially so) the Lord is building up our faith in him.  Satan is moving to attack Jesus and destroy all that he is trying to do.  Yet, notice that Jesus reveals that Satan has asked to do this.  Who is he asking?  Although Jesus doesn’t say, it is apparent he means the Father.  Satan must ask permission to test God’s people.  This is revealed in the first two chapters of the book of Job.  Why would God allow such tests?  He does so to prove that our faith is genuine.  So what about the times people fail?  Even this can take a faith that is either disingenuous or weak and help it to be rebuilt on a proper foundation.  No matter how difficult we are tested, we are not at the mercy of the Devil.  If God is allowing you to go through a trial, He will bring you out the other side, and there is a way for you to be stronger.  It is in letting go of you and clinging to him through faith.

Satan has asked to sift them like wheat.  This metaphor is used to picture the process of testing their faith.  When wheat is sifted it is first beat and pounded in order to break apart the hard shell that surrounds it.  This chaff is then removed in one way or another.  Here a mesh of sorts would be used that would allow the small pieces of chaff to fall through, but the good wheat would stay on top.  Humans sift wheat in order to make its cooking and eating a better experience.  However, the Devil has a different purpose in mind.

He intends to prove that they are nothing but chaff.  He is going to pound and beat their faith through the circumstances ahead and he believes that they will all turn out like Judas.  He is going to keep at it until he wins or you die.  We see this in the book of Job.  After failing to get Job to quit trusting God, Satan complains that Job is only serving God because God has protected him physically.  “Skin for skin,” Satan accusingly says to God.  He goes on to declare, “But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and flesh, and he will curse you to your face.”  He hates faith.  He wants nothing to be left for the Lord at the end of this testing.  He comes for nothing but to steal, kill, and destroy our faith.  This warning is not just for Job or Peter and the disciples.  It is for all who will try to follow Jesus.  If Satan thinks there is a chance that you have true faith in Jesus, He is going to come after you one way or another to try and destroy it.  “Be sober; be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.  Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.”  1 Peter 5:8-9 (NKJV).  You do have chaff in your life.  But, you are not all chaff.  The Lord will bring you through all your times of testing and reward your faithfulness, if you keep turning back to him.

Jesus Has Prayed To Help Their Faith

Jesus has told Peter that Satan has asked to test them all.  But then Jesus tells Peter what he has asked for them.  As opposed to Satan, Jesus is not asking the Father to test us.  Instead, he is asking in prayer for our souls to endure all the tests that Satan brings our way.  He is asking that we will not fail even though we may have times of falling.

In this passage Jesus specifically tells Peter that he has prayed for him.  However, in John 17:9-11 we see that Jesus has and will pray for all of his disciples, including us.  Yet, here he zeros in on Peter.  Why?  Most likely because Peter has been the most vociferous in defending his own greatness.  Let me emphasize that this is speculation.  But, one cannot avoid the clear rebuke that is given to all the disciples, but especially to Peter.  Yes, Satan has asked for Peter by name so that he can test him.  But, Jesus has prayed for Peter by name.  We may not have Satan personally trying to test us (remember he is not omnipresent).  However, we do have evil spirits that are in league with him and do his bidding.    More than this, Jesus Christ is able to pray for every single one of His disciples, even now interceding on your behalf before the Father.  He is praying for your faith to endure.  As it says in Hebrews 7:25, “Therefore, He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”

Clearly Peter’s faith is going to fail, but it will be for only a short time.  Jesus is not praying that our faith will be an invincible, superman-like faith that never even blinks.  I am not saying that Jesus could care less if we fail.  Yet, he knows that we will all have our times of doubt and fear in this flesh.  In fact, it will be in his failure that Peter learns to trust in the power of God rather than in the power of Peter.  We cannot give mere lip service to this.  We are made stronger when we listen to the words of Jesus and repel the attacks on our faith.  However, we are also made stronger when after failure, we humbly cast ourselves on the mercy of the Lord.  Jesus lets Peter know he will fail.  But then gives him the task of strengthening his brothers when he returns (back in faith).  Jesus know that Peter will return and even has a job for him.  The word “return” is connected to repentance and conversion.  Peter will turn from the Lord out of doubt during the crucifixion.  But he will also return to him in faith after the resurrection.  His brothers are going to go through the same tragic failure.  They will need to encourage each other.  Not make comparisons among them in order to determine who is greatest.  We need to help each other overcome the world by strengthening each other’s faith in Jesus.  Our times of failing the Lord and returning to him can be helpful to others.  Do not hide your failures in shame.  Rather, boldly declare to others that the Lord brought you through your failures.  Peter’s pride still resists what Jesus is trying to teach us all, and most likely so does mine.

Verses 33-34, puts the period on this lesson.  Peter tries one last attempt to declare how great his faith is.  Perhaps here we see why Jesus focuses on Peter.  His flesh is truly great.  But it is not that kind of greatness Jesus is seeking.  Peter has to quit clinging to the greatness that he wants to see in himself, and surrender to the greatness that the Lord wants to make in him.  None of the disciples wanted to follow a messiah who was going to be crucified.  They did not want to be the inner circle of a messiah who left the earth.  They did not want to be men who would travel the world teaching people to believe in a crucified Lord.  But this is his call.

Jesus puts the death nail in Peter’s pride by declaring that he will deny Christ within the next few hours.  Reality versus fantasy.  Perhaps you too cling to a fantasy that somehow you are different.  Let it go.  Hear the warning of the Lord.  Today the Gospel is being tested in our society and Jesus along with it.  Our Lord and His way of living is being crucified publicly by our culture and many others around the world.  Some are falling away from the Lord.  Others retreat from the real Jesus and create a fake Jesus so that they can feel strong in their faith.  However, our strength is not in our inability to fall.  Our strength is in the mercy and grace of our Lord.  We can repent and turn to him and he will receive us.  This is the type of Lord that we serve, and this is what we must hold out to a lost and dying world.

Jesus Warns His Disciples audio

Tuesday
Jan262016

The Betrayal of Jesus

Luke 22:1-13.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on January 24, 2016.

Today we are going to return to our study through Luke of the True Jesus.  We left off at the beginning of Luke 22 and the last week of Jesus before his crucifixion.  Here we have a passage that begins to set up the betrayal of Jesus.

The Leaders Betrayed the Messiah

Although it is important to recognize the involvement of the Romans in the death of Jesus, it is the religious and political leaders of Israel that betrayed him.  Thus Jesus was betrayed by his own people.  This is not a statement against the Israeli people, but recognition of a horrible act.  Both Israelis and Gentiles are pronounced as sinners in need of salvation by the Law of Moses.  Just as the nations of the world had betrayed God by casting off the truth and embracing deceptions, so we see the nation of Israel officially betraying the messiah for whom they were waiting.  It should be no surprise to us today that these things are still true.  All nations insist that God bless their plans, but none have leadership that are totally submitted to God.

In verse 2 we are shown part of the source to their betrayal.  The leaders “feared the people.”  These leaders were playing politics.  They wanted to kill Jesus and yet his popularity made such a proposition particularly sensitive.  They wanted to figure out how they could get what they want and still have the people on their side.  This is at the heart of all wicked politics.  It is a manipulation that diminishes the people to being only a means to an end.  This is why ethics and morality are so important in our leaders.  If those who seek to be our leaders have betrayed people in their lives that they were supposed to love or were close to, then how much more will they betray the rest of the nation?  John 12:42 tells us that “even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue.”  This fear of people exists not just towards the populace, but also within the group of leaders itself.  When we treat our decisions as a type of scientific endeavor to get what I want without upsetting the applecart, we set ourselves and our nation up for disaster.  It was fear of one another that kept many good men from speaking up.  Instead they went along with a horrible travesty of justice as the Lord Jesus was crucified.

They also feared losing the power and authority that they held over the people.  We see this in John 11:48, “If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation.”  You should take notice which comes first, “our place,” and then “nation.”  When we operate out of a fear of people we allow ourselves to become a tool of Satan.  However, the answer is not simply to refrain from fearing people.  If we only quit fearing people then we can become a tyrant who does not care for them.  Rather, we are to fear God in our dealings with those under our leadership.  We operate for their good, but not at their whim.  It is the fear of God’s judgment of our leadership that is a guardrail to a leader.  Even better than that is to love God’s ways.  When a leader loves the ways of God, they will lay themselves and their designs down in order to better serve the people.

Now the leaders of Israel are a warning to us and a picture of what we are like.  This is not about an us versus them, Gentile versus Jew, issue.  All humans have the same sinful nature.  No matter how much knowledge of God we have or how little, we are still corruptible.  Yet, the good news is that we are also still redeemable.  Picture if Jesus were to come to America today as the savior of America and the world.  Would our leaders really lay down their positions at his feet and invite him to rule?  Hardly!  He would be attacked in the press and legal system until he was removed from the situation.  Christ is the supreme challenge from heaven to all men and all nations.  He is also the sublime offer of grace to them as well.

Judas Betrayed Jesus

Within the larger betrayal of the nation’s leaders, is the individual betrayal of one of the close disciples of Jesus.  Judas is one of the top 12 disciples and was clearly picked by Jesus.  Yet, we see in verse 3 that Satan was involved in what Judas did.  Judas was not the real enemy of Jesus.  It was Satan all along.  Satan was working through the mind and heart of Judas.  Judas had somehow become a puppet under the manipulation of a spiritual enemy.  How had this happened?

It says that Satan entered Judas.  This isn’t the normal language of demonic possession.  However, Judas had left the door open for Satan to enter his mind and heart.  It is questionable whether Judas ever had a moment of repentance and true desire to be a disciple of the way of Jesus.  Most likely he saw Jesus as a means of getting into a powerful position.  Much like investing in a new company brings the ability to strike it rich, so he most likely saw Jesus as an investment.  If I get in early then I will have a powerful position later.  We are also told that Judas was put in charge of the money bag and that he would often steal money from it.  Clearly this was told to them by Jesus later.  Giving in to such fleshly appetites as power and money will open the door for spiritual forces to manipulate us.  Ephesians 4:26-27 warns, “Be angry, and do not sin.  Do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.”  Notice that anger and our giving in to sin can “give place” or open the door to the devil.  Some versions translate it as giving a foothold to the devil.  When we reject the way of Jesus and instead think and act in ways to satisfy what our flesh wants, we will end up becoming a tool of Satan.  Don’t give him any space or a foothold in your life.

It was Matthew Henry, a Presbyterian minister of the late 1600’s who said that “it is hard to say whether more mischief is done by the power and policy of open enemies, or by the treachery and self-seeking of pretended friends.”  Here we see both, open enemies and a pretended friend, colluding together in order to take down Jesus the messiah, all along professing a desire for the messiah to come.  This is critical to see.  We often crucify the real Jesus while professing to want Jesus.  That is because the Jesus we want is false, a figment of our imagination.  These same dynamics continue today.  There are those who parade themselves as disciples of Christ, but they are enemies of the cross.  They only serve an idol of their own making and slap a “Jesus” label on it.  It is only those who stick with the true Jesus who will come out the other side of such betrayals.

The Betrayed Jesus Is Still in Control

In the midst of all this betrayal Jesus is still in control.  Verses 7-13 show us that Jesus has a plan that is not afraid of such betrayals.  He lays out exact details for his disciples to follow in order to prepare for his last supper with them.  Notice the phrase that they found it “just as he had said to them.”  Everything was just as Jesus had told them.  Jesus didn’t give them instructions on snuffing out Judas, or going public about the collusion of the leaders.  Rather, Jesus has an agenda for His disciples that has nothing to do with these betrayers.  This is a real challenge for us today.

We should not be surprised that things are just as our Lord told us they would be.  Chapter 21 of Luke involved the prophecies of our Lord regarding what the Church would experience in the first century, the centuries since, and at His Second Coming.  He told us that we would be hated by ALL nations for His sake.  He told us that all of mankind would betray the Lord.  The leaders of the world are following the script of Psalm 2 as they betray the one to whom all leadership belongs.  All the while, many professing Christians have betrayed the Lord.  This is not a question.  What is a question is what will you do?  Will you join the betrayal?  Or, will you be doing what Jesus has told you to do?  The world today is under the influence of Satan.  He has manipulated leaders by fear of people and fear of one another.  Christians are under great stresses that are intended to open doors for the devil in our hearts and mind.  We can only stand against such attacks and keep from giving entrance to Satan by trusting our Lord and keeping focused on what He has told us to do.  Let us proclaim the good news of the Kingdom.  And, let us grow in learning to love one another with the true love that is submitted to the ways of Jesus, as opposed to the false love that is submitted to the ways of the world.  Take heart.  The Lord Jesus is in control.  Those who betray Him will end up with nothing and those who remain faithful to Him will be brought through the fire that lies ahead.

Betrayal of Jesus Audio