Recognize The Real Enemy

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Recognize The Real Enemy

Mark 8:33 “But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.”

Jesus was not implying that Peter and Satan were one-and-the-same, but was referring to the fact that Satan had inspired Peter’s statement. This type of metaphor was used elsewhere in scripture such as when God spoke to the serpent in the garden of Eden, Genesis 3:15, as though addressing Satan. The serpent was merely the vehicle of communication Satan used to tempt Adam and Eve, while Peter was the vehicle Satan used to tempt Jesus. Ephesians 6:12 reveals that our warfare isn’t with people, but against the spiritual powers who inspire and use people. Jesus recognized that Peter’s reaction to His prophecy about His death was motivated by His enemy, Satan, so He went right to the source.

Every Christian is at war. There is a perpetual struggle against Satan and his kingdom from which there are no “leaves” or “discharges.” Our enemy goes about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour, 1 Peter 5:8. Those who resist the devil will see him flee, James. 4:7.

Some of us believe that anger will put others in their place. But “the wrath of man does not work the righteousness of God”, James. 1:20. Anger against people makes us play right into the hand of the devil. The way to overcome the spiritual powers that come against us through people is to turn the other cheek, Matthew 5:39. This makes the demons flee in terror. We cannot win a spiritual battle with carnal weapons. We must realize who the real enemy is and fight with the spiritual weapons the Lord has given us. It is supposed by many that the higher echelons of the devil’s spiritual authority take more power to rebuke or remove. That’s not true. There is no demonic power, including the devil himself, that will not flee at the name of Jesus when faith is put in that name. What a wonderful name!

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God’s Will Above Ours

God’s Will Above Ours

Luke 9:23 “And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”

Self-denial is an important part of the Christian life. Jesus sacrificed His life for us and He demands that we die to ourselves that we might experience the new life He has provided. We do this first by recognizing that we can’t save ourselves by our own effort and, second, by trusting God – not self – for salvation. Then daily, we need to deny our own wisdom and seek God’s wisdom and direction for our lives.

Self-denial is only good when we are denying ourselves for the singular purpose of exalting Jesus and His will for us in some area of our life. Some have made a religion out of self-denial and find pleasure in their denial – not in Jesus’lordship. This leads to legalism and bondage, which Paul condemned as will worship, Colossians 2:23. We are told not only to deny ourselves, but to “deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus.”

The cross is what Jesus died on. There are circumstances in our lives which, like the cross of Jesus, give us the opportunity to die to ourselves each day. These are not things like sickness, poverty, etc., for which Jesus’ atonement provided redemption, but rather things like persecution (which we are not redeemed from) and the constant battle between our flesh and our born again spirit. The cross that we must bear is to take God’s Word (which is His will) and exalt it above our own will in each situation every day.

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Symptoms Of A Hard Heart

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Symptoms Of A Hard Heart

Mark 8:17 “And when Jesus knew it, he saith unto them, Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? perceive ye not yet, neither understand? have ye your heart yet hardened?”

Just a few days before this instance, hardened hearts caused Jesus’ disciples to be amazed when they saw Jesus walk on the water to them. Here, Jesus’ statements reveal some of the characteristics of someone with a hardened heart.

First, a hard heart keeps us from perceiving spiritual truths. This is why everyone in a church service hears exactly the same message yet, some will receive while others won’t. It’s not the Word that is the variable, but rather the condition of the hearts. A hard heart stops spiritual perception.

Second, a hardened heart stops us from understanding spiritual truth. When a person doesn’t understand God’s Word, Satan finds no resistance when he comes to steal it away.

Third, a hard heart keeps us from remembering. This isn’t to say that we can’t recall facts or scriptures. As related in Mark 8:19-20, the disciples remembered the facts of the two miraculous feedings, but they had forgotten any spiritual lessons they might have learned. Likewise, some people can quote scripture or remember what the sermon was about, but they can’t perceive the spiritual life in the message or retain what they did perceive.

A hardned heart blinds us to any spiritual perception and keeps us thinking only in the natural realm. Small faith and a hardened heart are the same. Hebrews 3:12-13 parallels an evil heart of unbelief to a hardened heart. It takes great faith to keep our heart sensitive to God. Seek Him with your whole heart today.

Jesus Tried Her Faith

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Jesus Tried Her Faith

Matthew 15:26 “But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and cast it to dogs.”

It is very clear in scripture that Jesus was sent to fulfill God’s covenant to the Jews. However, it was equally clear that Jesus would open up faith unto the Gentiles. Jesus certainly knew this, and had already ministered to numerous Gentiles without the apparent disdain that we see here with the Syro-Phoenician woman. Jesus could not have been forced into ministering to this woman’s daughter if it was not His will to do so. Therefore, His silence and rough answer to this woman must have been designed to accomplish a positive result.

Humility is an important ingredient of faith. This woman was a stranger to the covenants of promise and had no right to demand anything. Jesus’ silence and then comparison of her to a dog would certainly have offended an arrogant person, and it is possible that for this very reason, Jesus tried her faith. Jesus didn’t need to do this with the centurion in Luke 7:6-7 because the centurion had already humbled himself.

An integral part of faith is seeking God alone with your whole heart. If we are concerned about what people think and gaining their approval (or honor), we will never take a stand in faith for anything. After all we might be criticized for it. This one thing has probably stopped as many people from receiving from God as anything else. You cannot be a “man-pleaser” and please God at the same time. Satan uses persecutions to steal away God’s Word and, thereby, stop our faith. To see faith work, we must say with Paul, “…let God be true, but every man a liar;…”, Romans 3:4.

The Spirit And The Word Are One

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The Spirit And The Word Are One

John 6:63 “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.”

Jesus is stating that our spirit, not our flesh, is where our life comes from. These people were so dominated by their physical lives that they were missing all the spiritual significance of His words. Although God’s Word does benefit our physical man, the Word is spiritual and must be understood through the spirit. God’s Word is spirit and it takes our spirit to illuminate its truths to our minds.

The Word of God is not paper and ink. Jesus is the Word, and He existed in spiritual form long before any words were inspired to be written down by the Holy Ghost. The Bible is simply a physical representation of Jesus and spiritual truth. It is inspired of God and therefore, totally accurate and reliable, and yet, until we receive the Spirit expressed in these words the Bible will not profit us. This is why many people have read the Word, maybe even memorized it, and yet aren’t reaping its benefits.

Just as our physical man receives life from the food he eats, so our spiritual man receives life as we partake of Jesus, the “bread of life. Jesus plainly stated that the words He spoke were spiritual – not physical.

If we want to know what spiritual truth is, we must believe the Bible, for it is spirit and life. If we want to be led by the Spirit, then we must follow God’s Word. If we want to hear from the Spirit of God, then we must listen to what God says in His Word. The Spirit (Holy Spirit) and the Word (Jesus – John 1:1) are one.

Bread Of Heaven

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Bread Of Heaven

John 6:34 “Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread.”

It is probable that these Jews were expecting Jesus to rain down manna on them the way God did before in the wilderness. After all, anyone who could feed five thousand men with one small lunch should be able to produce manna. They were still thinking of physical food.

The word “manna” means literally “what is it?” The children of Israel said, “It is manna: for they wist (or knew) not what it was.”, Exodus 16:15. Manna was a nutritious food which appeared on the ground every morning shortly after the children of Israel left Egypt and began their 40-year wandering in the wilderness. Moses called it “bread which the Lord hath given you to eat.”

The Lord, in speaking to Moses, called it “bread from heaven.” It was small and round, like coriander seed, and was white in color or yellowish, like bdellium. The people, after gathering it, ground it in mills or beat it in a mortar, baked it in pans and made cakes of it. It tasted like wafers made with honey or fresh oil. It was gathered every morning and had to be used up that day or it would stink and have worms. An exception was on the sixth day. It could be gathered for the Sabbath and wouldn’t spoil, Exodus 16:22-26.

Although they were looking for pieces of bread to materialize, which would have been a great miracle, it would have been insignificant compared to the miracle of God being manifested in the flesh, 1 Timothy 3:16. They were talking to the greatest miracle that God had ever performed, but they were blind to it. Many times, we get so intent on seeking God in one area that we forget the greatest miracle of all, which is the love and redemption given to us from God through His Son.

Dead Works

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Dead Works

John 6:28 “Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?”

All throughout history, mankind has been seeking ways to do the works of God. Everyone has a knowledge within them of the reality of God, Romans 1:18-20, and a desire to be right with Him. However, just as with these Jews, few agree with the Lord as to how to do it. These Jews were willing to do something to obtain salvation, but they were not willing to commit themselves to Jesus and accept His gift.

This is one of the major differences between Christianity and the religions of the world. Religion is willing to make sacrifices to obtain right standing with God, but Christianity recognizes our complete inability to ever do enough to save ourselves and calls for total faith and reliance on what Jesus did for us.

No one deserves salvation. It cannot be earned by what the Bible calls “dead works”, Hebrews 6:1; 9:14. Dead works include all religious activities, good deeds, or charity that one may do as a means of being justified before God.

Faith towards God and what He has done through Christ Jesus is the only means of receiving His free gift of salvation. He only asks us to believe.

Self Seeking Not God Seeking

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 Self Seeking Not God Seeking

John 6:26 “Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.”

 Jesus knew the hearts of all men and therefore, He did not commit Himself to this crowd. Just the day before, these same people tried to take Him by force and make Him their king, but He withdrew and spent the night in prayer.

This crowd looked like they were seeking Jesus, but they were actually trying to use Jesus to seek their own end. It is true that there are many personal benefits to be reaped through serving the Lord, but the benefits are never to become our object. In all things, Christ must have the preeminence, Colossians 1:18.

Jesus exposed the true intentions of the people’s hearts by preaching a strong message of commitment. Those who were self-centered were offended and left while those who were willing to lay down their lives to experience God’s abundant life remained. Commitment to God Himself (not what He can produce) is what always separates the true worshippers of God from the false.

As Jesus began to explain in these verses that He was the only way to the Father, John 14:6, and that they would have to come through Him, the people grew angry. It always angers the flesh to think that all our righteous acts can’t save us, but Jesus made it clear that our only part in salvation is to believe. Believe what? Believe on Jesus and His sacrifice – not ours. Salvation is a gift and cannot be purchased, Romans 10:2-3.

Many times, we get so intent on seeking God in one area that we forget the greatest miracle of all, which is the love and redemption given to us from God through His Son. God loves us so much!

Salvation: A Relationship

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Salvation: A Relationship

Mark 6:54 “And when they were come out of the ship, straightway they knew him,”

The word “know” can mean many things from as little as “to perceive with the senses or the mind” to a much deeper meaning of “a thorough experience with.”

This knowing, then, is not just intellectual, but a personal, intimate understanding. Jesus defines eternal life as knowing God the Father and Jesus Christ. Eternal life is having an intimate, personal relationship with God the Father and Jesus the Son. This intimacy with God is what salvation is all about. Forgiveness of our sins is not the point of salvation. This intimacy with the Father is. Of course, Jesus did die to purchase forgiveness for our sins because unforgiven sins block us from intimacy with God. Sin was an obstacle that stood between God and us. It had to be dealt, with and it was. But anyone who views salvation as only forgiveness of sins and stops there is missing out on eternal life.

Salvation was intended to be presented as the way to come back into harmony with God. Instead, it has often been presented as the way to escape the problems of this life and later the judgment of hell. It is possible to get born again with that kind of thinking, but more often than not, people who get saved through that type of ministry view the Lord as someone to help them through times of crisis and not someone to know in an intimate way. Jesus died for us out of love, John 3:16; – a love that longed to have intimate communion with man.

Most non-believers are so occupied with their “hell on earth” that they don’t really think or care about their eternal future. They are fed up with religion. They are looking for something that will fill the emptiness inside. Only an intimate relationship (eternal life) with our Father can do that. We need to tell them.