Thou Shalt Not Covet

Lust, especially for men, can be an uncomfortable topic. Finding a woman attractive and giving her more than a passing glance is commonly understood to be sin, equivalent to adultery. As men are primarily visually oriented, it’s no surprise that men struggle here; it’s the focus of many an accountability session.

Women, on the other hand, don’t seem to find the topic troublesome at all and seldom discuss it, other than perhaps in confronting men. Evidently, most of us have bought into the lie that it’s primarily a masculine concern.

But what if, as in so many other ways, we’ve made up our own definition of lust, cherry-picking verses out of context to suit ourselves, and overlooking the heart of scripture?

God clearly defines lust in the 10th commandment – Thou shalt not covet (Ro 7:7): we’re forbidden to desire what belongs to another, such that we’d wrongly dispossess them if given opportunity.

This is different than thinking it might be nice to have what our neighbor does. Clearly, if we like our neighbor’s boat and offer him a reasonable sum — this isn’t lust, it’s basic economics: there’s nothing unholy or unloving here.

The definition of lust implies it violates the law of love in some way. (Ro 13:9) So, if a man finds a woman attractive, enjoys her beauty as he would a sunset, and seeks her welfare, where’s the harm? But in entertaining a plan to entice her, knowing she’s married, he’s crossed a forbidden line. (Pr 5:20)

We must define lust in the context of God’s Law (Ro 7:7), not in the context of common sentiment. Changing the definition of sin is harmful on so many levels. Finding a woman attractive is perfectly natural and wholesome, but seeking to use or defile her definitely is: it violates Torah. (Pr 6:29)

And we must not focus simply on sexual desire; the precept relates to any unwholesome appetite: inappropriate diet (De 14:3), worldly attention and praise (Jn 12:43), materialism, the abuse or perversion of most any good thing. (Ep 2:3)

God has created us to enjoy beauty and pleasure, designing us specifically for this, and providing Himself as our ultimate satisfaction. (Ps 16:11) Unto the pure, all things are pure, but unto the defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure, but even their mind and conscience is defiled. (Tit 1:15) Yet some are weak by design, some through a soul wound, some taken by false teaching. Torah enables us to sort out what’s lawful from what’s merely taboo, and Christ offers us the wisdom to know how to build up and encourage others in joyful living for God without becoming overly focused on mechanics. (Ro 14:17)

God has given us richly all things to enjoy (1Ti 6:17), yet it’s better to forego than to encourage others to violate their conscience (1Co 8:12), or to bring a reproach on the name of Christ.

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Eye Hath Not Seen

Is it possible for the finite mind to conceive of something or someone superior to the infinite God? To anticipate anything more majestic, more beautiful, more glorious than the Creator of the universe? Or to conceive of some blessedness or pleasure exceeding what God provides for us in Himself?

If we’re capable of imagining something greater than God, something more worthy of worship, awe and admiration in any particular aspect of His being, God would be malicious in forbidding worship of this conceptualization of another deity, for by its nature it would be worthy of worship and beneficial to us to worship. This proves (by contradiction) that it’s impossible to imagine anything superior to God in any way; it’s inconceivable.

Being Creator of our soul, mind and body, God knows what will perfectly fulfill and satisfy us, and He has designed us perfectly, such that we are perfectly satisfied only by ultimate perfection: Himself.

How satisfying is God Himself, really? Well, until we know everything there is to know about Jehovah, our view of Him, and therefore our worship and admiration of Him, can be enhanced and improved, increasing our joy and delight in Him. And since a finite mind cannot ever fully comprehend the infinitude of God, our journey into pleasure in discovering God will be eternal and infinite. There is no upper bound to how much we can enjoy Him.

As a token of Jehovah’s amazing nature, of His willingness to lavish the most extravagant gifts upon us, God has already given us His Son. If He was ever going to withhold anything good from us, if there was ever anything of which we would be unworthy, or anything too much to ask of God, it would have been His beloved Son: Jesus Christ. Yet He didn’t even hold Christ back from us, but gave Himself up freely in Christ for us. (Is 53:10) What could possibly keep God from giving us what’s optimal for us in every possible way (Ro 8:32), and to actually Himself be that which supremely satisfies us?

The corrupt appetite may well long for something other than God (Ro 1:26), for something else than what He is and provides, which is invariably and infinitely inferior. (Ep 3:8) This is worshipping and serving the creature more than the creator (25); it’s an appetite and passion blind to the glory of God. (Ep 4:17-18)

But the transformed soul, walking in God’s perfect design, rejoices in God Himself with joy unspeakable and full of glory. (1Pe 1:8) The pleasure and ecstasy is limited only by the capability of the redeemed soul to experience it.

Truly, eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the unregenerate heart the things God has prepared for those who love Him (2Co 2:9), for such is foolishness to the world. (14) But God has revealed Himself to us who know Him by His Spirit. (10)

Yet the above is often abused to reference the glories of Heaven itself, rather than focusing on God, as if the beauty and splendor of Heaven is the prize. As a bride focused on family, friends and trinkets rather than her husband, so do many long for Heaven as a reunion with loved ones and the splendor of a sparkling city. (He 11:10) It’s the carnal mind posturing itself again in center stage, choosing over and over again anything but God Himself as an ultimate objective, and thereby missing the Pearl of great price. (Mt 13:45-46)

Whom have I in Heaven but God? What could possibly exist anywhere that I should desire more than God? (Ps 73:25) Anything or anyone that even slightly comes to mind — it’s an idol, a lie. (1Jn 5:21)

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Receive the Grace

God says that by Christ we have access by faith into grace (Ro 5:2); in other words, the power to live the Christian life becomes available to us as Christ Himself enables us to know for certain that He is empowering us to live for Him.

Though God is the source of our strength to live for Christ, God doesn’t merely cause us live for Christ apart from our will, apart from our willing engagement with and pursuit of Him; there is a cooperation with God involved, yet it’s a cooperation which God also determines and enables. This access to grace involves a supernatural knowing (faith) as well as a supernatural willingness to become and to do.

So, it’s significant that God begs us to not receive His grace in vain (2Co 6:1); He pleads with us that we should not neglect His offer to enable us with the strength we need to live for Him. He challenges us and calls us out to act on His invitation to put this divine power into motion and actually live for Him.

Even though God is the Author and Finisher of our faith (He 12:1), and though without Him we can do nothing (Jn 15:%), He expects us to engage our will to walk in this divine power based on His invitation and promise.

Yet even this practical working out of grace is itself another grace, or an additional divine enablement on a different level, such that everything we become for God and in God is also finally all from God and for God. We may only glory in Him. (1Co 1:31)

Paul illustrates this for us in his own experience: he is what he is by the grace of God (1Co 15:10a), and His grace (or enabling power) was not bestowed on Paul in vain (b) because Paul acted out this grace by laboring more prolifically than all the other apostles (c); but even this abundant laboring was not something Paul himself produced all in his own power — even this activity was due to the further enabling of God within him, equipping him to do so. (d)

So, until we both access divine power by faith, and then also act in accordance with our faith to see God’s grace working out in our life, we’re receiving the grace of God in vain. Both of these behaviors are each driven by grace, and are needed to fulfill God’s purpose in making grace available to us.

Perhaps it’s like being given a brand new cordless vacuum … exciting, but keeping it securely in the box out in the garage doesn’t clean the house. Surely, opening the box and putting it together helps, but still the house is filthy. Charging up the vacuum and turning it on, studying and admiring it — that’s moving in the right direction, but this still isn’t the point.

Amazing design and power may be at our finger tips, begging us to engage, but the vacuum still exists in vain. We may even write elaborately about the vacuum and tell all our friends how wonderful and innovative it is, but this is all still a sad waste of the vacuum. We may do all these things, and most sincerely, yet wonder to ourselves why this amazing gift isn’t working to clean our house.

It isn’t until we get off the couch, put our hand to the handle, and begin to move the empowered vacuum over the dust, actually using it per it’s design, that all the potential of the vacuum is realized and becomes practically useful. Until then the thoughtfulness of the gift, and all its power and design is in vain.

So, what aspect of our lives yet lacks the grace of God? What untapped power has God given us that’s still unopened in the box? (Ep 1:18-19) Where is it that we could we become more like Christ if He but enabled us? (Ga 4:19) He will show us the next step if we but ask, seek and knock. (Mt 7:7-8)

Then, as He shows us HIs way, step by step, we seek grace from God to believe, to know, to become, and to do the will of God. (Php 3:14-15)

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Be Merciful

Mercy is that quality which finds no pleasure in pursuing justice to the full, in seeing the wicked destroyed; it doesn’t require all wrongs to be fully righted and paid for by the offender; it’s willing to forgive and let things go rather than seeking revenge. It’s a disposition of compassion, sparing a sinner the full penalty they deserve, with a view to seeing them healed and restored. (Ps 145:8) It’s grounded in benevolence, good will, and charity.

Mercy is only relevant in the context of transgression and sin, when someone has violated God’s Law. Mercy refrains from imposing the full penalty someone deserves as punishment for their crime. By definition then, mercy cannot be demanded, expected as a right: mercy is undeserved.

God delights in being merciful (Mi 7:18), especially towards those who fear Him (Ps 103:11), who are seeking Him and trying to obey Him. (Is 55:7) When one falls into sin, even against us, and then repents, we should rejoice in seeing them forgiven and restored, just as Father does. (Lk 15:10)

God commands us to be merciful (Lk 6:36), and promises mercy to the merciful. (Mt 5:7) This follows from the fact that God commands us to love our neighbor (Ja 2:8), and failing in mercy is failing in love; it’s preferring others suffer fully for their sins rather than repenting and being restored, requiring them to pay their sin-debt in full, and deriving satisfaction from their suffering.

Being unmerciful reflects a basic lack of understanding of and appreciation for how much we each need to be forgiven. (Mt 18:33) It is also a presumption of certainty in discerning what others deserve, and it is typically rooted in feeling morally superior to others, which is pride. Those who neglect mercy as a manner of life are thus revealing that they themselves are unforgiven, and shall in the end receive no mercy from God. (Ja 2:13)

God’s ultimate purpose in our lives is to reconcile us to Himself. (1Co 5:19) Whenever mercy serves that end, helps us draw nearer to Him and enjoy Him, enabling us to become more like Him, or gives us an extended opportunity to do so, we can count on His mercy. We should reflect God’s love for others in this way, and love mercy like Father does.

But those who seek mercy merely to avoid the consequences of sin, who haven’t repented and changed their minds about rebellion, who remain presumptuous and committed to their sin, who are not seeking to be restored in their relationship with God, will be sorely disappointed; such will receive ultimate justice from Him. (Ro 2:8-9)

God’s basic requirements for each of us are simple: do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him. (Mi 6:8) Mercy is central; having our lives marked with justice, a right treatment of ourselves and others, while also loving mercy, is godly maturity and wisdom. God’s calling us to be like Himself: both just and merciful.

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Diversities of Operations

When the disciples of Jesus came across someone casting out demons in Christ’s name, they tried to stop him; they simply couldn’t imagine God being in any ministry except their own. (Lk 9:49)

After all, they were the Twelve Apostles, following the Messiah literally, physically, participating directly in Christ’s work with Him. Clearly, anything less was unacceptable. How could anyone else be serving God and not directly involved in Christ’s earthly ministry, as one of Christ’s personal disciples and followers?

It’s a common temptation: we get something right, and then think ourselves superior to all those who don’t quite get it like we do. We tend to view our own particular ministry, denomination, or way of engaging with God as superior to all others, thinking everyone should do it our way. We fear that which is different and unfamiliar, and we want to diminish, control, extinguish or quarantine it.

Yet Christ Himself doesn’t view even His own ministry this way, and corrects the disciples here. (Lk 9:50) Christ wants some folk to be serving Him elsewhere; He’s working through them in a different place and venue. (Lk 8:38-39) This isn’t a problem; it’s God’s perfect plan.

The beauty of The Way is that it isn’t bound to a single organization, race, culture or time period, or to a single protocol or structure; it transcends all temporal divisions, customs and barriers. (Ac 10:35) It doesn’t favor a certain personality type or learning style; it recognizes diversity as the gift of God, enriching, strengthening and completing spiritual community. (1Co 12:4) The principles of righteousness can be applied in any context, and godliness can look very different from one setting to the next. (5-6)

Some of us prefer more structure and ritual in our worship, others more freedom and spontaneity. (Ro 14:5) Some of us are more emotional and expressive, others more reverent and still. In matters of preference, where God has not prescribed a pattern, style or format, we ought not to impose ours, or think any less of those who approach God differently. (4) Even when motives are evidently impure, we should rejoice whenever truth is proclaimed, in whatever style or fashion it’s presented. (Php 1:18)

Bold conviction in godly principles (Ga 2:14), which are thoroughly grounded in Scripture (Mt 15:9), and deference in our preferences (1Co 9:19); this is the way of love.

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An Austere Man

In the parable of the talents, Christ suggests that God is austere, hard (Mt 25:24), severe, stern, harsh and rigid. The wicked servant makes this accusation (Lk 19:21), and his master evidently agrees with him. (22) The Greek is austeros, from which we get austere. What do we make of this?

If we happen to think of God as a doting old grandpa, a Santa figure who never gets stern or angry, who’s extremely lenient, primarily interested in our happiness, finding out that God is austere might be troublesome. The fact is, He’s not at all like a gentle old grandpa, and this turns many of us off.

It’s actually a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (He 10:31) He’s extremely strict (Ps 119:4); He won’t by any means acquit a guilty person. (Ex 34:7) We’re to serve Jehovah with fear, rejoice with trembling (Ps 2:11), and work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. (Php 2:12) He scourges all his children (He 12:6); it’s incredibly painful and grievous. (11)

Even when we’re trying our best, and doing quite well following Him, God may choose great affliction for us for a season, offering us no explanation, comfort or ease, and for no other reason than to teach us a little more about Himself and His ways, and to glorify Himself through our response. He even tells us to rejoice in this (Ja 1:2-3), and to count it a privilege to suffer for Him. (Php 1:29)

This is, in fact, exactly what God did to Job, and He didn’t apologize for it. When Job complained and challenged God, He answered Job quite roughly … out of a tornado! (Job 38:1-3) Even after Job apologized, stunned into silence (Job 40:4-5), God continued to challenge Job in the most stern, confrontational and intimidating manner. (7-8)

Christ Himself rebukes churches, even those working diligently for Him, threatening to remove them unless they repent of their coldness and return to the love they initially had for Him. (Re 2:4-5) He ordains sickness, and sometimes even death, for partaking unworthily of The Lord’s Supper (1Co 11:29-30), and commands the church to excommunicate us if we don’t peaceably and fully resolve our offences. (Mt 18:16-18)

And if one of His elect ever chooses to sin, deliberately and willfully, God becomes very angry, and sees to it that we deeply regret defying Him (He 10:26-27); He arranges punishments far worse than death. (28-29)

I’ve actually heard people say that if God’s like this, demanding obedience, rigid, stern, not primarily concerned with our happiness, austere, they don’t want anything to do with Him. This is wicked, arrogant presumption, and it’s also extremely unwise: there are no good options once we turn away from God.

We must learn to worship God both in His goodness and also in His severity (Ro 11:22), meditating on and rejoicing in all His ways. We’re either seeking God as He is, to worship Him in spirit and in truth (Jn 4:24), or fashioning idols for ourselves. Either way, we’ll all eventually face Him exactly as He is: a consuming fire. (He 12:29)

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Enmity Against God

God defines the carnal mind as enmity against God (Ro 8:7); it’s the disposition of hatred itself, being alienated from the life of God. (Ep 4:18) It’s not merely having enmity against God: the carnal mind is enmity itself. Enmity, animosity, hatred … this can’t be reconciled to God by definition, so God doesn’t try to fix this part of us: He crucifies it. (Ro 6:6)

Call it our old man (Ep 4:22), or the flesh (Ro 7:18), it’s the part of us that’s unlike Christ, in love with darkness, walking in lies, committed to sin. (1Jn 3:9) Christ isn’t redeeming this part of us; He’s delivering us from ourselves. (Ro 7:24-25)

Mt Hagan Festival, New Guinea – Eric Lafforgue

The substance of this carnal mind, this contrary disposition, the body of this death (Ro 7:24), this evil nature within us, is the holding to, clinging to and trusting in the lie that God isn’t good, that He isn’t treating us the way we ought to be treated, that we know better than God what’s good for us. (Ge 4:13)

Every single sin, from the very first one (Ge 3:5), is rooted in this same simple lie: we keep on choosing this deceit as if it were true (Ps 119:118), acting it out in innumerable ways. This is our carnal mind, our flesh, our old man; it will never change (Ps 81:15), so it must die.

How do we participate in and cooperate with our own deliverance, in destroying this body of sin? (Ro 6:6) We come to know, believe, trust and obey God, acting in truth — only this sets us free. (Jn 8:32) We’re transformed by the renewing of our minds, how and what we think (Ro 12:2), continually realigning ourselves with the goodness and love of God. (Ep 3:17-19) We do this by humbly an prayerfully continuing in God’s Word. (Jn 8:31)

In other words, we relentlessly pursue the truth, we buy the truth, at any price required, and we never sell it (Pr 23:23), never settling for the lie, never preferring it, and we obey the truth we know, all of it. All truth is rooted in God, in Christ (Jn 14:6): there’s no darkness at all in Him. (1Jn 1:5)

The primary source of truth we have is Scripture, particularly Torah: God’s Law — this is God’s plumb line (Is 8:20), identifying, revealing and exposing the carnal mind. Just as Christ is the perfect incarnation of God (Jn 14:9), Torah is the consummate written embodiment of God’s nature and character. (Ps 119:18)

Both the carnal mind and the spiritual mind are identified in particular by their response to Torah: the carnal mind cannot be subject to Torah (Ro 8:7) and the spiritual mind delights in Torah. (Ro 7:22) It’s that simple: two natures at war within us. (23)

When we believe the lie that God isn’t good we act this out by distrusting His commands and insisting on doing things our own way, deciding what’s right and wrong for ourselves apart from God. (Ge 3:22) This brings us into captivity to the law of sin operating within (23), taken captive by Satan at his will. (2Ti 2:26)

The part of us that does this is the body of lies we’re harboring within us, all manifestations of this same, basic concept that God isn’t good. Whenever we find a law in Torah that we don’t love and obey as well as we can, we’re walking in the lie. Finding this within us, in any way shape or form, is to spot the carnal mind, to identify it.

When we find darkness within the protocol is straightforward; start obeying the truth as well as we can, walking out the truth of God’s goodness, holiness, justice and faithfulness with whatever will we find within to do so, asking God to quicken us with His Word (Ps 119:50), replacing the lies with truth (Ps 119:29), giving us repentance to acknowledge the truth (2Ti 2:25) that God is good, that His judgements are right (Ps 119:75), aligning our hearts with His Commandments (Ps 119:32), and with Himself.

All lies are malignant cancers, but feeling distant from God, alienated from Him, mistrustful of Him, bored with Him, doubting He loves us, that He’s faithful and just and good — this is ground zero, the fountain from which all other sin springs. This is violating the law of love, not loving God with all our might. With laser focus we ought to level the light of scripture on this darkness, meditating in the truth until the lies disperse and vanish. (Ep 3:19)

This isn’t a one-time thing: it’s a life-journey, one hour at a time, and God is always ready to show us the next step, whenever we’re ready to take it (Php 3:15) as His love is perfected in us. (1Jn 4:12)

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The Whole Armor

To resist the devil, to succeed in spiritual warfare, we need spiritual equipment, so God has provided His very own armor for us: the armor of God, and He tells us to put it on — all of it. (Ep 6:11)

This is necessary because our enemies are mightier than we are, more insidious and clever, more committed and experienced than we are; we’re fighting against principalities and powers, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (12) So we’re to take up all of God’s armor, not neglecting a single piece of it, so we can survive the battle and be standing when the dust clears. (13)

There are seven pieces in this suit of armor: a belt of truth and a breastplate of righteousness (14), the shin-plates and shoes of the preparation of the gospel of peace (15), the shield of faith (16), the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit, the word of God (17) and prayer (18) – that constant communion with God which empowers the armor and helps it all work together.

Taking this armor, wearing and using it, is more than imagining that we’re putting on physical equipment and calling each piece by name, or fantasizing ourselves in virtual reality overcoming the dragon — much more than this.

The first piece, the belt of truth, is the foundation anchoring the breastplate and sword. We gird ourselves with truth, enveloping the core of our being, never tolerating any lying way within. We buy the truth and sell it not (Pr 23:23), not for any price, not ever. Without the love of truth we have no armor at all (2Th 2:10); walking in the lie we’re prisoners of war. (2Ti 2:25-26)

The breastplate of righteousness is our primary defensive armor, covering the vital organs; it’s the life pattern of obedience to Torah and springs from walking in light, obeying the truth. It comprises not merely positional righteousness; it’s faith in action, practical righteousness, loving in deed as well as in word. (1Jn 3:18) This is life-saving protection when the enemy strikes past our sword and shield; the good conscience of living in truth helps us abound in hope, glorying in trial (Ro 5:3), counting it all joy (Ja 1:2), not withering in shame. (1Jn 2:28)

The preparation of the gospel of peace is a second defensive covering; being rooted and grounded in the basics of the gospel, equipped to continually remind ourselves as well as share with others, this orients us properly in the world. This protects our feet and legs, for this is how we stand, how we journey. There is no standing outside of Christ, so we carefully defend our dependence on Christ: He is our peace (Ep 2:14), made to be sin on our behalf (1Co 5:21), reconciling us to God. (2Co 5:18) We glory only in Jesus Christ. (1Co 1:31)

The shield of faith, supernatural confidence in God, is the mobile defensive piece –  the rest of the armor is fixed in place. We maneuver and position this shield to intercept the lies projected into us, which tempt us to fear, bitterness, strife and envy. We hold faith strategically, anticipating the lies, applying the promises of God in context to address each one.

The helmet of salvation is assurance of eternal salvation and security in Christ. (2Co 13:5) Failing to keep and maintain assurance of salvation destabilizes and incapacitates our souls, leaving us vulnerable to attack. (2Pe 1:10) We cannot joyfully serve Christ while we’re unsure if we even belong to Him. (9)

The word of God is the sword of the Spirit, our only offensive weapon. Without this we aren’t really in the fight at all, just a target waiting to be taken down. Taking up this sword requires hiding it in our hearts and meditating on it regularly, training ourselves so the Spirit can wield it as we quote when presented with any lie or temptation. This is the example of Christ (Mt 4:4, 7, 10); we follow His steps. (1Pe 2:21) There’s no other way to win.

The final piece is prayer, a weapon empowering all the other components to work together in the might of God. (2Co 10:4) In asking anything according to His will, He hears us (1Jn 5:14), engaging omnipotence in overcoming evil. (Ep 1:19)

We’re to take the whole armor of God, every single piece, because none of the individual pieces work properly without all the others working together. We might think of God’s armor as a single piece with many interconnected parts which all stand or fall together, a single living organism, energized by the life of God and infusing us with divine power. Take away one piece, and you’ve nothing worth having.

This spiritual armor is the very life of Christ in us, overcoming the evil one, each piece a way of portraying Christ Himself, the Word of Life (1Jn 1:1), the Way, the Truth, and the Life (Jn 14:6), our righteousness (1Co 1:30), our peace (Ep 2:14), our life (Col 3:4), standing with us and in us to overcome the world. (Jn 16:33)

Taking up the whole armor of God is, in a very real sense, bringing God Himself into the battle to fight within us, through us, and for us. (De 20:4) For without Him, we can do nothing. (Jn 15:5)

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Resist the Devil

God tells us to resist the Devil so he will flee from us. (Ja 4:7b) What does this mean, and how do we do it?

If we’re ignorant of the basics of spiritual warfare we might fall into Pentecostal witchcraft, white magic, employing rituals and techniques such as pleading the blood of Christ over our homes or places of worship, or reciting specially formulated prayers hoping to bind Satan and control him.

Or we might fall into simplistically imagining that we’re putting on spiritual armor (Ep 6:11), dressing up for battle like a gladiator in some virtual arena, giving spiritual labels to our helmet and breastplate, sword and shield. But in the end such deception only adds confusion to our suffering — it isn’t the way of the Word.

The immediate context illuminates: we resist the devil by submitting to God. (7a) Satan’s ultimate objective is always to alienate us from God; this is the only direction he ever pushes us, never towards God. So, as we pursue God and seek His face we’re going upstream in the satanic current, fighting into the headwinds of his tempests – resisting his temptations and intent in our lives.

So, we resist the Devil by drawing nigh to God (8a), as we start obeying Him more carefully, focusing our hearts more toward Him and His Word, putting off our carnal mind, rooting out our doublemindedness. (8b) We grieve and mourn and weep over our sin, afflicting ourselves (9) and calling upon God to heal us, quicken us, waiting on Him to help us. We see our sin more as it truly is, ourselves more as we truly are, and humble ourselves (10a), esteeming others better (Php 2:3), acknowledging that we’d be unspeakably worse without His aid, rejoicing in God alone (2Co 10:17), and then God lifts us up. (10b)

Another way of saying this is that God resists us to the degree we allow any trace of pride in our hearts, as we exalt ourselves before Him. (6) So, Satan’s constant strategy is to pit us against God by deceiving us into pride in any way that he can. He lies through both pain and pleasure, poverty and wealth, friend and foe — he is relentless in trying to bring us down and destroy us by separating us from God through our selfishness and disobedience.

It is essentially by definition then: the only way to resist the Devil is to be constantly pursuing God, drawing ever closer to Him through every trial and temptation. Whenever we lapse here, become complacent or negligent in pressing toward the mark (Php 3:14), we begin to yield, to succumb to the enemy.

When Satan discovers that everything he’s throwing at us is only bringing us closer to God, that God is working all things together for our good (Ro 8:28) as we faithfully resist him, he will eventually leave us alone; he will flee from us, and only then. (Ja 4:7b)

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Faith Toward God

Faith toward God is foundational in spiritual life, along with it’s twin and counterpart: repentance from dead works. (He 6:1) Faith is belief and trust, what we rely upon; it reflects our basic understanding of the universe, what’s trustworthy and what isn’t, and orients our thoughts and actions on every level.

As a child, we start out trusting; it’s instinctive because we must at first – utterly dependent. As we grow up observing our environment, our expanding experience begins to show us what we can truly count on, what’s stable, consistent, reliable and trustworthy.

As life unfolds and our trust is consistently violated, we become skeptical — what seems reliable on the surface generally isn’t in the long run. People are selfish, fickle and weak, sometimes even malicious and evil. Personal strength and intelligence fail us, our stuff breaks and our wealth bleeds away.

Finding what’s ultimately and perfectly reliable, if anything at all, becomes a journey in itself, one few undertake. Yet we remain vulnerable and dependent, controlling so very little, so we become cynical, anxious and depressed, acting out a belief that nothing and no one is ultimately trustworthy — violating our basic design — our instinct to trust.

To find rest, we must look beyond the physical, beyond personal relationships, beyond health, wealth and power. (Ps 62:10) God Himself is our only possible option here: if He isn’t both utterly sovereign, and also completely trustworthy, reliable, faithful and good, then there’s nowhere else to turn. (11) Our journey ends here, either way. (De 4:39)

The first step is coming to understand God’s utter sovereignty: all things work out according to His own perfect timing and will (Ep 1:11), everything in both Heaven and Earth. (Da 4:35) Yet the fact that His will permits evil and suffering moves us to question His goodness, and we fall short of faith toward God.

We may place our trust in powerful people (Ps 20:7), or turn to our wealth (1Ti 6:17), but it’s empty in a world where God’s ultimately in charge. (Ps 62:9)

Faith toward God is turning to face Him honestly as He is, and as we are; it’s taking that final step: submitting to Him, getting off the throne of the universe, humbling ourselves and admitting we don’t have either the right or the ability to ever doubt the goodness of God. (Ps 62:8) He permits evil and suffering according to a glorious, eternal purpose (Ro 8:28), which we may well not understand for a very long time. (De 29:29)

It’s OK, to not understand; but we can still trust Him, obey Him, love Him, and we should — we must. To come to God, to find peace and rest in Him, we must believe and act out the fact that He’s both sovereign, and also perfectly good: a rewarder of all who diligently seek Him. (He 11:6) This faith itself is the gift of God (Ep 2:8), enabling us to quench the fiery lies of the evil one. (Ep 6:16)

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