I admit it. When I saw the theme of this year’s Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference, I wasn’t overly enthused. Nehemiah? And I care because . . .? (Okay, I didn’t consciously think that, but I might as well have!)
And I Care Because . . .?
Despite being raised on the Bible and attending Bible college, I struggled to remember anything significant about Nehemiah.
So once I’d cleaned the house (Dad taught me well: it’s always worth it to come home to a clean house!), emptied the fridge, set up my “Out of office” messages, washed my laundry, packed my suitcase, and made it through security with minutes to spare, I bypassed my borrowed copy of Grapes of Wrath and dusted off the ancient book of Nehemiah instead.
After re-familiarizing myself with his story, I began to get excited. Still, I was skeptical. Would the speakers really be able to show us the gospel through this old book? I prayed they would.
Kathy Keller was up first, and . . . she did it! I wish I could share more, but let me give you an oh-so-brief synopsis:
I Care Because . . .
The book begins with Nehemiah receiving horrible news:
The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire” (Neh. 1:3).
Whoop-de-do, you say. But it was more than just a longing for his national homeland that made Nehemiah weep and mourn for days. Nehemiah understood what this really meant. What was really at stake.
Without a secure wall to defend themselves, there would be no permanent restoration of Israelite culture. They would be assimilated into other cultures, and there would be no more Israelite nation to bring forth God’s promised Messiah.
Nehemiah understood God’s Word. He knew the restoration of Jerusalem would one day climax in the Messiah prophesied since Genesis 3.
So, because of his understanding of and confidence in God’s Word, he took radical action.
After four months of prayer (yes, months!), He risked his own position—and even his life–by asking his employer (King Artexerxes) to reverse his decision to halt the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem.
Nehemiah decided to leave the world he’d known, the privilege and security of serving in the king’s palace, and head out on an uncomfortable, dangerous, opposed mission. But he did it based on God’s redemptive promises and plans.
If Nehemiah hadn’t left the privilege and safety of the palace for back-breaking labor, Jerusalem wouldn’t have been rebuilt. Nehemiah was God’s instrument at this period in history, but his story is submerged in the greater story.
Jesus is the greater Nehemiah who left the right hand of the King to join the blue-collar labor force as a carpenter, a builder. He came not just at the risk of death, but at the certainty of it. If he hadn’t done it, your salvation and my salvation would not have been accomplished.
So please don’t hold it against me. Turns out I do care! I care about Nehemiah, not ’cause it’s about Nehemiah, but because it’s ultimately about God’s grand redemptive plan.
Nehemiah understood God’s Word, and he acted in confidence based on God’s Word, in spite of the dismal state of current affairs. I wonder . . . Do you and I know God’s Word in such a way that we will act boldly and confidently—even when it looks like God’s purposes have been thwarted?
This morning my coworkers sat in a circle and shared a childhood adversity they had to overcome. Some were teased ’cause they were short; some were teased ’cause they were taller than the rest. More than one had to wear special orthopedic shoes that were UG-ly. One was bullied.
What do they all have in common? They were all wounded by fightin’ words.
God’s "Fightin’ Words"
But these kinds of "fightin’ words" pale compared to the power of God’s "fightin’ words":
The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Heb. 4:12).
God’s "Fightin’ Words" for You
Did you know that God’s Word is like a sword? Ephesians 6:17 tells us what the sword is:
Take . . . the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Eph. 6:17, emphasis added).
Have you been treating God’s Word like a kid’s play sword or like the sharp, living sword it really is?
For example, he says when he craves some illicit sexual pleasure, the sword-swing he often uses is Matthew 5:8: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." He remembers how great it is to see God more clearly and how oppressive the aftertaste of sin is, and with that, "God has killed the conquering power of sin."
God’s "Fightin’ Words" for Others
You can also go to battle for others with God’s "fightin’ words." I heard a true story this past Sunday from a missionary who visited my church. She told of a woman who was terrified to return home after a man put a curse on her because she didn’t accept his marriage proposal. Guess what verse the missionary had read in her Bible just that morning?
Like a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow, an undeserved curse does not come to rest (Prov. 26:2).
After sharing that verse with the woman, the missionary asked, "Have you done anything wrong to deserve this curse?"
"No," the lady responded.
"Then God says the curse won’t stick," the missionary assured.
With that, the woman’s fear lifted, and she returned home.
So how about it? Have you been treating God’s Word like a kid’s play sword or like the sharp, living sword it really is?
I know I’ve not been taking it seriously enough, so I think I’m going to download the "Fighter Verses" app on my phone and begin to sharpen my sword. Join me?
Oh, and if you happen to be a part of the too-short, too-tall, ugly-shoe-wearing bullied crowd, here are some real "fightin’ words" for you to take to heart from Psalm 139:13–14:
You [God] knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Did you know there’s a story of a runaway slave in the Bible?
Here’s the backstory. Philemon once owned a slave named Onesimus. That is, until Onesimus ran away.
But in God’s sovereignty, Onesimus crossed paths with Paul and came to believe in Paul’s Jesus. Onesimus was then a huge help to Paul, but Paul didn’t feel okay partnering in the gospel with Onesimus without Philemon knowing about it. So Paul wrote Phil a letter.
In it, he asks Philemon to take Onesimus back. But not as a bondservant. He asks Philemon to consider him as "more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother." Now that Onesimus has put his faith in Jesus, they belong to the same family. God is their Father, and they are now brothers.
This would’ve been a crazy news flash for Philemon, almost too much to take in without sitting down. Paul was telling Philemon that his slave, Onesimus, was no longer a second-class citizen. Even though they ran in different circles and seemed to have almost nothing in common, and even though Philemon may have thought he was much better than Onesimus, they were actually equals at the cross. The gospel tore down every barrier that separated them. Jesus welcomed them both into the family of God, so they were now brothers in Christ—family.
Reminds me of Galatians 3:28:
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (emphasis added).
We’re not told how the story ends, only that Paul is confident Philemon will obey him and will view Onesimus as more than.
And that’s where you and I come in. I bet you don’t own slaves, but you do know misfits. People we view that way, anyway.
Maybe you view that girl at youth group—the one with the lip ring—as a misfit. Or maybe you view that girl without piercings as a misfit. But have you ever stopped and thought of her as more than a misfit . . . as your sister in Christ?
Maybe you refuse to even make eye contact with that guy who smells like he sleeps in a trash can. But do you realize he’s more than a misfit . . . he’s your brother in Christ?
Maybe you make fun of those quiet sisters with the long skirts and braids. Or maybe you look down on those girls wearing the tight skinny jeans. But do you receive them as your sisters in Christ?
Just because they look or smell or act differently than you, do you really believe God loves you more because you perceive yourself as more "normal" on the outside?
Or are you flat-out stunned that God would pick you up out of the trash heap of sin, clean you inside and out—even your heart—and open wide His arms to you? Cause He did that for you. And for them.
They are so much more than a misfit . . .
FYI: This post was inspired by a sermon Brad Neese preached. I didn’t have the privilege of hearing it, but I heard about it from those who did.
Crazy news flash for you . . . did you know you have up to 70,000 thoughts a day?! Researchers say most of us have between 45,000–51,000 thoughts a day, but it can be as many as 70,000!
Most of the battles you fight each day rage in the battleground of your mind. Here are just a few blog comments from this last week that reveal the mind battles you’re facing:
"I feel like I’m not worth as much as the pretty/skinny/athletic/cool girls." —Ella
"I had formed a habit of thinking I hate myself or I hate my life when things went badly." —Michelle
"Please pray for my stupid self." —Mist
"I struggle with lies like I’ll never be good enough, I’ll never be pretty enough, and Even if I become beautiful enough, people won’t love me for me." —Michelle
I think the apostle Paul knew what a battleground our minds are when he wrote to believers:
Take the helmet of salvation (Eph. 6:17).
Quick history lesson—back in the day, Roman soldiers wore heavy helmets that covered their cheeks, foreheads, neck, and ears so their enemy’s battle-axe wouldn’t send their head flying off. Think of the helmet of salvation like our modern-day football or motorcycle helmet—except much more beautiful.
Now obviously, you don’t need to put on the helmet of salvation in order to be saved, ’cause Paul wrote this to people who were already Christians. But you do need to put on the helmet of salvation in order to think true thoughts that line up with who you really are now in Christ.
Your thoughts matter—big time. In Romans 12:2 we’re told, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind." Your mind was never meant to control you—you were meant to control your mind! As you do, you will be transformed from the inside out.
So how are you to get the upper hand over your thoughts?
Thinking Brand-New Thoughts
The answer is found in 2 Corinthians 10:5: "Take every thought captive to obey Christ." Warning—that’s a lot of hard, unending work! But it’s worth it, because the alternative isn’t pretty. Taking every thought captive to obey Christ means you’ll have to constantly monitor every thought to see if it passes the Philippians 4:8 test:
Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
If a thought doesn’t pass the Philippians 4:8 test, rather than letting that thought captivate you, instantly capture it in your mind and turn it over to King Jesus. Then replace that stray thought with one that is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, or praiseworthy.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t have any of those thoughts on my own. I have to borrow Christ’s thoughts by memorizing His Words so I can replace my thoughts with His.
Can I encourage you to do the same? Buy a spiral-bound, index-card notebook from Walmart, and write out verses you find most helpful. Or store them in your phone. It doesn’t matter how you do it as long as you get His words into you.
I encourage you to start with verses that talk about what all is included in the gift of salvation. Become a serious student of your salvation. (This is how you put on the helmet of salvation—by knowing and chewing on what Jesus has done for you and given to you.) What saved you? How do you know this? When God saved you, what benefits and lavish gifts did He give you? For a great place to start, read or listen to these forty-five gifts God gave you when you were saved.
If you’re in a relationship with Jesus, you now "have the mind of Christ" (1 Cor. 2:16). Obviously that doesn’t mean you’re omniscient, that you know every single thing there is to know as God does. But it does mean your mind, which used to be hostile toward Him, can now understand, accept, and think on the things of God. Incredible!
So pick up that helmet of salvation and put it on. I want to see some helmet hair!
Then come back here and tell me about a mind battle you won this week. Let me know what thought you caught yourself thinking and how you beat that thought back by putting on the helmet of salvation and taking every thought captive to Christ.
Have you ever received hand-me-downs from an older sister or cousin? I have for as long as I can remember. When I was a little girl, hand-me-downs were dropped off in garbage bags and the shirts wore barbeque residue on the front or yellow stains under the sleeves.
But a few years ago my stylish friend from New York started sharing her hand-me-downs with me. They were dropped off in Ralph Lauren bags and displayed tags like DKNY. Turns out “hand-me-downs” aren’t necessarily synonymous with junk!
Did you know God gives us His better-than-DKNY hand-me-downs? The different pieces of armor we’re told to put on in Ephesians 6 actually belong to . . . God!
Put on the whole armor of God (Eph. 6:11).
Today we’re going to look at one piece of His armor, the breastplate of righteousness:
Stand therefore . . . having put on the breastplate of righteousness (Eph. 6:14).
First, let’s check out God modeling the breastplate. Flip all the way back to Isaiah for a look:
The LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice. . . . He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak. According to their deeds, so will he repay, wrath to his adversaries, repayment to his enemies (59:15, 17–18, emphasis added).
The Lord putting on righteousness is colorful language to describe that He is righteous to His core. He always does what is right and just.
Now, I should probably interrupt myself here and mention that when Paul wrote this letter to the believers in Ephesus, they were used to seeing Roman soldiers walking around wearing breastplates. Not exactly something we see everyday in 2014! Today’s breastplate would look more like . . . a bulletproof vest.
So what do we need to do to get this breastplate/bulletproof vest of righteousness from God?
Believe God. It’s always been that way since the beginning of time:
And he [Abram] believed the LORD, and he [the LORD] counted it to him [Abram] as righteousness (Gen. 15:6).
Once a crowd asked Jesus, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” In other words, “What must we do to be righteous”?
Jesus replied, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent” (John 6:29). Who did God send? Jesus!
So I have to ask . . . have you repented of your sin and trusted in His Son, Jesus, to save you from God’s just wrath against your sin?
If so, you have been given Christ’s righteousness. Another word for that is you have been justified. God looks at you just as if you’ve never sinned and just as if you’ve always obeyed—because that’s what Jesus did for you!
But you are also being sanctified. You’re already righteous in God’s eyes, but now you’re being made more like Him in everyday life, with the help of God’s Spirit in you.
So what does putting on the breastplate of righteousness look like?
It looks like believing in Christ’s righteousness even when Satan tempts you to despair (check out the song below). When that voice in your head tells you you’re not good enough, how do you respond? Do you think, Yes, but I read my Bible regularly or Yes, but I’m the nicest girl in school or . . . Yes, but Christ is my righteousness.
It looks like acting righteously (rightly) before God and to other people. Like the guy who returned my wallet to me rather than keeping it for himself (another story for another day). Putting on the breastplate of righteousness is both about what we believe and how we live, because what we believe always impacts what we do.
I haven’t received any hand-me-downs from my stylish friend in a couple years, but I have been given God’s hand-me-downs. You have, too, if you’re in Christ. The question is . . . are the pieces stuffed in the back of the bottom drawer of your dresser, or are you putting them on every morning?
Do you think of yourself as a strong or a weak woman?
Personally, I’ve counted myself a strong one.
I was the girl who ran around flexing her biceps, challenging boys to arm-wrestling matches, and re-arranging my heavy bedroom furniture all by myself.
I was the young woman who had a scheduled activity on her calendar every night of the week. I was the woman who wrote a book on the side while continuing to work full-time. I was the woman who always, always pushed through.
But then last month I had an Isaiah 40:30 fall,
“Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted.”
My doctor said I was strong to have made it as long as I did.
I wasn’t so sure.
God, do You think of me as weak or strong? And how should I think of myself?
Taking Cues from a “Strong” Man and a “Weak” Man
I went to God’s Word for answers, starting with the strongest man I could think of: Samson. You know the beast—tearing a roaring lion to pieces with his bare hands, striking down 1,000 enemies with a donkey’s jawbone, pushing down a house killing 3,000 party-goers.
Here’s the surprising pattern I found. Just before Samson displays great strength, this is what happens just before:
“The Spirit of the LORD rushed upon him” (Judg. 14:6).
“The Spirit of the LORD rushed upon him” (Judg. 14:19).
“The Spirit of the LORD rushed upon him” (Judg. 15:14).
It was always God’s strength Samson displayed; never his own. God is the strong One. Even Samson was weak apart from God.
Then I re-read the familiar story of David and Goliath. Anyone observing the battle scene that day would’ve put their money on the intimidating war champion Goliath, not the young, inexperienced David. Goliath had complete confidence in his strength; David had complete confidence in his living God. And at the end of the short fight, David was the unlikely victor.
I Am Weak, but He Is Strong
Funny how many times I’ve gotten it mixed up. I’ve considered myself strong and believed God to be weak. Nothing could be further from the truth:
“Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable” (Isa. 40:28, emphasis added).
God’s strength will never, ever give out.
Me on the other hand, I’m weak. My strength is finite.
What freedom that realization brings.
Strength comes when we first own up to our own weakness. (That’s ’cause we don’t rely on God when we consider ourselves strong.) But in our weakness, as we depend on our strong God, His strength flows through to us. Catch Paul’s personal testimony of this:
“We were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again” (2 Cor. 1:8–10).
And then there’s my favorite passage from this past month,
“He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint” (Isa. 40:29–31).
How is this strength-for-weakness exchange possible?
Strong Made Weak; Weak Made Strong
It’s all because the Strong One was made weak so we, the weak, could be made strong.
Check out this baffling verse:
“The foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor. 1:25, emphasis added).
The weakness of God? But God isn’t weak!
Study the context, and you’ll see this verse refers to the cross. The world judges Jesus weak and pathetic, hanging there exposed and bleeding. “Weakness,” they spit.
But to us who are being saved, we gaze at the cross and celebrate. “Strength!” we shout.
God refuses to save Himself so He might save us. The Strong One is made weak so we, the weak, can be made strong.
What weakness can you boast about today? How might God want to showcase His strength through your particular weakness?
Hey, girls, I’ve missed you! Now you’ll know why I disappeared for a month—and why I’m so glad to be back with you.
This series on spiritual armor just got real personal.
I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been writing about how to fight our spiritual enemies or if it’s because I’ve been asking God to root out every bit of pride in me, but either way-this past month I felt shot at from every side.
A big part of the "attack" had to do with my health, including a visit to the emergency room, a terrible full-body rash (I’d share a picture, but then you’d never visit this blog again!), and terrifying insomnia (how is my body supposed to heal if I can’t sleep, I anxiously wondered as I tossed and turned night after night).
Satan really will use whatever circumstances he can to discourage and defeat us—even our health. A man named Job knows that even better than I do. It all started when Satan asked God for permission to attack Job’s health, swearing that Job would curse God if his health was compromised. But instead Job worshiped God.
In physical misery but tangible faith Job said, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him" (Job 13:15). And for the record, God didn’t kill Job; just the opposite! Read the end of Job’s story here.
There were times this past month I felt like Job and wondered if I would survive.
So rather than writing a theoretical post about the different pieces of the armor of God, I’m going to focus on one piece I used a lot this past month—the shield of faith. Turns out the armor of God isn’t just an interesting concept to toss around on the blog; it’s intensely personal and necessary for normal, everyday life. Ephesians 6:16 urges us:
In all circumstances take up the shield of FAITH, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one (emphasis added).
Taking up the shield of faith is just a fancy, colorful way to say trust God.
For me it started with a choice to thank God for the hives, the trip to the emergency room, and the itchiness, even when I didn’t like or understand it. Lifting the shield of faith meant thanking Him—and believing—that this was His best for me. This was how I would learn to trust Him more, to depend on Him more, to experience His peace.
It meant thinking about His names as I lay in bed and asking Him to be that to me:
My Wonderful Counselor when I didn’t know which doctors to believe and which medical advice to take.
My Mighty God who is able to heal me.
My Everlasting Father who delights in me and protects me.
My Prince of Peace who can give peace even in the most frightening situations.
As I’d take medication or eat, I’d remind God that He’s my Healer (Ex. 15:26). I’d acknowledge that my trust was not ultimately in this medicine or food; I needed Him to heal me.
Five weeks later, I’m happy to report that my rash has now almost completely disappeared, and I’m sleeping some every night. And while Satan wanted to take me out through this difficult ordeal, God has used it to rescue me in ways I never dreamed possible. I could fill pages with how He has used it for good (well, I already have in my journal!), and I may share some of that with you in the future.
For now, though, I want to encourage you in your own difficult circumstances to lift up the shield of faith. Lean into God; rest your full weight on Him. This will protect you from the temptation to doubt His goodness, listen to Satan’s lies, and walk away from the One who has your back, who has your very best in mind.
God is for you. He is with you in the darkest, blackest night. Lift up your shield of faith, and lean into Him with a heart full of trust. He will not fail you. I promise. (Well actually, He promises.)
Not only are there enemies against you out there (Satan and the world), there’s an enemy within you—your very Self or “flesh.”
Self is made up of your passions and desires that are opposed to God and His ways. At one time, all of us were slaves to Self, willingly bowing to its every whim and demand:
We all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind (Eph. 2:3).
You can hear the defeat in this message I received from someone recently who’s experiencing slavery to Self:
I read some of your recent posts, and it sounds like you’re able to do the one thing I struggle with most—filling my time with heavenly thoughts instead of thinking of my sexual needs! The worst part about it is that I sometimes feed those needs! We’re all sinners! AAAAAGGGHHH!
What this person doesn’t realize is that they’re not sexual needs; they’re sexual desires. And Self’s desires can be beat. How? Not by self-effort! As Andrew Murray says, “Self can never cast out self.”
You can’t rescue yourself from Self, but there’s a Savior who can! God wants to save you—not only from His wrath against your sin—but from slavery to your sinful desires. If and when you put all your faith and trust and hope in Jesus’ sacrifice for your sin, your old self was put to death with Jesus:
We know that our old self was crucified with him [Jesus] in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin (Rom. 6:6).
Galatians 5:24 tells us,
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Do you belong to Jesus Christ? If so, consider yourself dead to sin and dead to Self. Then rely on the powerful Spirit of Jesus Christ who lives in you in order to defeat Self on a moment-by-moment basis.
You used to have just one way of living—it was always and only life in the flesh. Life controlled by your natural, sinful desires and drives. Now, though, if Jesus has made you a brand-new person with brand-new desires and power to do right, you can “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16). Each day, each moment, you have two choices. You can either:
1. Operate in the flesh.
2. Operate in the Spirit
At any given point, only the flesh or the Spirit will be in charge. Just as you can’t run backward and forward at the same time, you can’t live in the flesh and the Spirit. Galatians 5:17 says:
The desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other.
Until God gives you an eternal, sinless body, you are going to experience an ongoing fight between the flesh and the Spirit. You will decide whom you allow to gain the upper hand by the choices you make. Which is more evident in your life, the works of the flesh or the fruit of the Spirit?
We’re profiling our enemies in this blog series (click here for your first enemy). Your next enemy might come as a surprise to you. It’s . . . the world.
When you think of the world, you might think of exploring Paris and New Zealand and the Ivory Coast (how exciting does that sound?!). The world seems like a neutral space full of endless possibilities for adventure. It is . . . right?
It all depends on what you mean by “world.”
The World as It First Was I love the poem in Proverbs 8:22–31 where Wisdom is personified as a woman remembering the time long ago when she had a front-row seat as God handcrafted the physical world. I can just hear her excitement as she leans forward, a sparkle in her eye, and recounts,
“I was beside him, like a master workman, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the children of man” (v. 31).
After Wisdom watched God create the first dust of the world and the earth with its fields and the first man and the first woman, she saw Him put them in a beautiful garden. Then she watched as He talked and walked with the man and his wife (Gen. 3:8).
Unfortunately, she was also there when our first parents turned their backs on Wisdom and chose instead to rebel against God. The whole world was placed under a curse (Rom. 8:20–22).
The World as It Now Is
The sad fact is, you’re not living in an environment that’s for you, like a tomato plant in a sunny greenhouse. Your life in this world is more like a tomato plant that’s been thrown into a pitch-black furnace room in the bowels of a factory.
Satan is the major influence on the ideals, opinions, goals, hopes, and views of the majority of people. His influence also encompasses the world’s philosophies, education, and commerce. The thoughts, ideas, speculations, and false religions of the world are under his control and have sprung from his lies and deceptions.
So while God’s created world is still good, the whole world system is not. First John 2:16 warns us,
All that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.
If you want to learn more about what this means, check out John Piper’s sermon on this verse. Here’s a little taste:
Love for the world pushes out love for God, and love for God pushes out love for the world. . . . If your love for God is cool this morning it’s because love for the world has begun to take over your heart and choke your love for God. The love of the world and the love of the Father cannot coexist.
The World as It Soon Will Be The next verse in 1 John gives us another reason not to love the world:
The world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever (2:17).
Did you catch that? This world that feels so solid is really just temporary. It’s going out of fashion. God is going to judge the world (Acts 17:31), and then He’s going to make it brand-sparkling new!
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:1–4).
How can you be sure that you won’t be judged with this present world but will live in the new world with God? John 1:9–13 explains:
The true light, which gives light to everyone [Jesus], was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
Have you “received” Jesus? Or is your love for this present world keeping you from loving Him? Will you repent and ask God to help you love Him more than this world system?
Over the next few weeks, I’d like to give you the scoop on your greatest enemies, beginning with Satan. I realize most people laugh at the idea that he even exists. Maybe they sport a pair of red horns and a tail for Halloween, but they certainly don’t take him seriously.
I hope you do.
To understand why Satan is such a threat to you today, you need to understand his backstory.
When God created Satan, he was one of God’s most beautiful angels. Outwardly, that is. Inwardly, he was far from content to worship and serve and enjoy God; he wanted to be God.
“You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till unrighteousness was found in you” (Ezek. 28:15).
“‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high . . . I will make myself like the Most High'” (Isa. 14:13–14).
His rebellion against God’s authority didn’t go exactly as planned. Instead of kicking God off His throne, Satan was kicked out of heaven (Luke 10:18). And when he fell to earth, he brought his rebellion against God with him.
Satan’s First Appearance on the Scene Satan sure didn’t waste any time. Open any Bible, turn just a few pages, and there he is, inviting the first woman who ever lived to join his rebellion against God. Oh, he didn’t put it in those words! He’s too crafty for that. He went about the whole ugly ordeal by doing what he does best: deceiving and tempting. Just as he’d experienced a great fall from heaven, he coaxed and pulled off the great “fall” of mankind.
While Satan played a crucial role in man’s fall, God played an even more crucial role in man’s rescue. In Genesis 3, as God is cursing Satan for his role in this rebellion, He offers this cryptic, hope-filled hint of what’s to come:
“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (v. 15).
Satan’s Sure Defeat
And that’s just how it happened. Satan bruised Jesus’ heel when Jesus suffered and died on the cross. It looked like a victory for Satan, but not for long. Through His death and resurrection, Jesus crushed Satan’s head. Colossians 2:13–15 puts it this way:
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him (emphasis added).
Satan knows he’s beat; he knows his time is short. In fact, God’s Word spells out his final demise in Revelation 20 for anyone to read:
The devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever (v. 10).
Satan’s Short-Lived But All-Out War
For now, Satan is busy making the most of his short-lived freedom. As “the god of this world,” he’s busy blinding the minds of unbelievers “to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4).
He’s also relentless in targeting believers in Jesus. First Peter 5:8–9 warns us,
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.
If you’re anything like me, you don’t want to be in a war. But when does anyone ever want war? They just do their best when they face it to conquer rather than to be conquered.
How to Stand Against Satan
So how can we stand against Satan?
Acknowledge his very real presence. (It’s hard to beat an enemy you don’t believe in or fear, don’t you think?)
It’s impossible to conquer Satan if you still belong to his dark kingdom. (All of us did at one time, you know.) Pray that if Satan has blinded your eyes and deceived you, God would give you sight and transfer you from Satan’s kingdom of darkness to Jesus’ kingdom of light (Col. 1:13).
Realize that Satan has already been defeated by Jesus on the cross. Don’t try to conquer Satan in your own strength; be strong in Jesus’ strength (Eph. 6:10).
Check back next week to learn more about your second enemy. And in the meantime, I’d love to hear from you. Have you considered Satan a serious threat in your life? Any new thoughts after reading this post?