GOSSIP. Isaiah ch 6 v 1-5.
How did gossip start? What is the basis for gossip?
What is meant by the word gossip?
What does God have to say on the matter?
What are the consequences of gossip? How serious is it?
Does a man need to repent if he gossips?
The best way the enemy can destroy a fellowship or Church is to use gossip. The dictionary definition is: “Idle (malicious) talk about other persons.” It embraces criticising another and running another down. A believer may stand to declare himself an oak of righteousness. But fungus affects even the strongest tree. The tree loses its strength and eventually it comes down. Gossip is like a fungus to an oak of righteousness. It saps the strength and eventually destroys the witness of a believer.
There is good gossip – gossiping the Gospel. Gossip is simply passing on facts about another person. It is good to pass on facts about Jesus. The essential aspect is the motive behind the words. Are they designed to inform? Will it enable the hearer to help him to pray intelligently for the person? Or are the words used designed to lower the standing of the person in the eyes of another so that the one who hears the gossip thinks less of that person than he did previously? Gossip is not limited to words. A raised eyebrow or a shrug of the shoulders communicates an opinion and can cast doubt on the motives of a person. By bending the elbow a man suggests that a person is drinking heavily. Even silence can amount to gossip, if it suggests that a lie about another person is true. The gift of speech, like all other gifts from God, is capable of being used for good or for evil. More than half of communication is by body language.
The whole World is involved in gossip. Politicians tear each other apart. The press are like sharks, when they have a politician or a public figure exposed. The media are even prepared to tell lies about a man to sell their papers, knowing that they will face a court action for defamation. The sale of papers will exceed the costs of the court action. There are even gossip columnists. Rival supporters run down the players of other teams. Even children do it. It seems to be a national pass-time. Some make cutting remarks on social media, which amount to bullying. Sadly – even some believers do it. Isaiah came to realise that he was guilty of gossip. In Isaiah chapters 1-5 he said: “woe to others.” He lived among people with unclean lips – but then he realised that his lips were unclean also.
1. Where did gossip start? Satan was the choirmaster in Heaven and was tired of praising God. He wanted someone to praise him. OUT! There was no discussion or trial. Jesus said: “I saw Satan fall like lightning from Heaven.” Adam and Eve rebelled against God. They were put out of the Garden. The rebellion in a man is not all dealt with at conversion. The fallen nature still lurks in there. Paul explains that a man needs to work out his salvation. It does not all come at once at conversion.
There are three aspects about gossip.
First. Part of the fallen nature of a man is the desire for praise. It is running down others to make the one who gossips appear in a better light, so that he gets praise as being better than others. It is like a see-saw. By putting others down, self is elevated. By comparison with Jesus all men are down.
Second. There is within gossip the element of what psychologists call transference of guilt. If a man can point out the sins of others, it eases the guilt when he thinks of his own sins. It puts him in a better light with others, if he can run down his colleagues or competitors. It is clever for a man to blame others for his sins. Adam tried that. “It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit.” At times a government will offer the people a scapegoat for their own failings – it is the fault of the Church for not teaching the children what is right and wrong. Nero did that when he burned down parts of Rome. He blamed the Christians. The common people were only too ready to believe it. Governments blame the policies of the previous governments.
Third. There is a desire for power or control over others. It is a sort of blackmail. “You cannot speak about my deeds, because I know something about you, which could put you in a lot of trouble.” Only a morally pure person can speak out without fear of being called a hypocrite. Jesus was able to do it. To a lesser extent the prophets could do it.
2. What is meant by gossip? Sin separates a man from God and a man from another man. Gossip in its more serious aspect is known as “defamation.” A famous person is one with a good reputation. Each person has a right to fame, a reputation and a place of honour. When gossip is serious and leads to financial loss, it gives rise to an action of defamation. Veritas or truth is a defence to such an action. But gossip takes away a reputation in lesser ways.
There are five categories identified.
1. Implying criminal actions.
2. Attacks on financial reputation – unable to meet debts.
3. Suggestions of unfitness for the job or occupation – useless or unqualified.
4. Insanity or disease.
5. Attacks on moral character, e.g. indecency, sexual immorality or lack of honesty.
By gossip a man may defame others, though he may never land in a court of law.
3. When is talking about another person gossip and sinful and when is it permissible? Passing on facts can be simply that. But the facts, though true, can be used to lower the person in the eyes of another. That is the basis of slander or gossip. The test is – the intention of the one who speaks. Jesus is always interested in a man’s motives and He tests the motives. What is the objective when a man passes on facts? Is it to elevate self or help the other person?
4. What does God have to say?
Mat ch 15 v 19. “Out of the heart the mouth speaks.” A man’s fallen nature desires to destroy others and elevate self.
Mark ch 7 v 22. Jesus said: “Slander defiles a person and makes that person unfit for God.”
Lev ch 19 v 16. “Do not gossip. Do not falsely accuse your neighbour of some crime, for I am God.”
Prov ch 17 v 9. “Love forgets mistakes: nagging about them parts the best of friends.”
Prov ch 11 v 9. “With his mouth the godless man would destroy his neighbour.” That is exactly what happens. The reputation of others is destroyed by slander.
Prov ch 11 v 13. “A gossip goes round spreading rumours, while a trustworthy man tries to quiet them.”
Prov ch 16 v 28. “Gossip separates the best of friends.” It is the work of the enemy to rob, kill and destroy friendships. A man feels hurt and angry, if he finds out that someone has been talking behind his back.
Prov ch 10 v 18. “To slander is to be a fool.” It is un-godlike to slander another. God honours man and seeks to bless him. It is the enemy who seeks to destroy a man. So if a man slanders another person, he is acting contrary to the intentions of God. That is what makes slander so serious.
Psalm 50 v 20. “A person will slander even his own brother.” He will also slander his parents – the very people whom God has chosen in His infinite wisdom to be a blessing to that person.
Psalm 41 v 5. “My enemies say: ‘May he soon die and be forgotten.’” The ultimate in slander is to bring about total destruction – suicide can be the result of a systematic slandering. Satan needs fertile ground in which to plant his deadly seeds. Defamation can be that ground in which to plant the seed of suicide. By gossip a man could even bring about the physical death of another person. The nation of Israel is slandered by the Muslims and the Humanists, who want her total destruction.
A man should watch what he says about others in public and even in private. Eccles ch 10 v 20. “Never curse a king, for a little bird will tell him what you have said.”
Prov ch 26 v 20. “Fire goes out for lack of fuel and tensions disappear when gossip stops.” Gossiping creates tensions.
Jesus gets right to the point in Mat ch 15 v 11. “You are not made unholy by the food you eat. It is what you say and think that makes you unclean.”
Mat ch 12 v 36. “You must give account on the day of judgement for every careless word you speak.”
James ch 4 v 11. “Do not criticise and speak evil of one another, brothers.” He is speaking to believers.
Prov ch 18 v 8. Gossip is pleasant to the ear. “What dainty morsels rumours are. They are eaten with great relish.”
If someone says: “Have you heard what so and so has done?” does a man is sit up ready to receive the gossip or does he decline to hear it? Why is it so appetising? 1 Pet ch 4 v 15. Says: “Do not let me hear of your being a busybody and prying into the affairs of other people.” Knowing about the business of other people, especially their secrets, gives a sense of power over that person. There is an opportunity to blackmail that person. The tabloid newspapers love to feed the readers titbits about other people’s private affairs. They know that the readers thrive on it.
5. What is the result of gossip? One result may be a curse, which needs to be broken. There is nothing necessarily sinister about a curse. It can be simply words spoken, which result in the wellbeing of a man being reduced. If a man said that his secretary was unreliable or careless, the prospects of her future employment are reduced and she is under a curse – she has a problem, which he has created. Criticism of a Church leader, implying wrong motive, lowers the leader in the eyes of the members and eats into the relationship between the members. It has to be dealt with in order to break the curse. Repentance by the person who made the remarks and by those who chose to receive them is essential. David said: I will not raise my hand against the Lord’s anointed. He could also have said: “I will not raise my voice against the Lord’s anointed.”
6. How serious is gossip in the sight of God?
Speech is a precious gift from God. Only humans have the gift of speech. There is an obligation to use speech in a constructive manner – as Jesus did.
Num ch 12 v 1-16. Miriam was judged by God for her slander.
Num ch 21 v 5-7. When the people spoke against Moses, the Lord sent fiery serpents amongst them. They were also judged for speaking against the Lord.
2 Sam ch ch 19 v 27. Telling a lie about another person is slander.
Rom ch 2 v 24. God’s name is blasphemed among believers because of the way believers live. They also reduce the authority of God, if they claim that there has been a word from God, which is not true. Then when it does not come to pass, the World thinks less of God than they ought. They lower the standing of God in that way.
2 Pet ch 2 v 1-2. Jesus is scoffed at when believers are hypocrites. They claim one thing and behave in another way. In that way they deny the authority of the teaching of Jesus. That is a dangerous thing to do.
Jude v 10. “By mocking and cursing whatever you do not understand, you bring about your own destruction.”
Rom ch 1 v 28-30. When people give up on God, they plunge downhill morally. God lets them go and their lives become full of every kind of evil, including gossip. Backbiting is like knifing someone in the back and giving them no chance to defend themselves. Wolves bite one another on the back.
2 Tim ch 3 v 3. Men as well as women. In the last days people will be lovers of self and slanderers. This shows that they have no love of others. To destroy the reputation of another is the very opposite of love for that person.
Psalm 109 v 2. “The wicked will slander me and tell their lies.” Those opposed to God will slander the believers and seek to destroy their credibility. It is a devilish activity. Believers must expect that to happen. It is a mark of the work of the enemy. He will imply a false motive and seek to criticise them in other areas in order to take away the spotlight of truth on the particular issue.
1 Tim ch 5 v 14. “Give the enemy no opening.” Be careful not to do or say anything, which could be wrongly interpreted, e.g. staying overnight with a member of the opposite sex. Even if nothing happens, it is easy for others to say that there is no smoke without fire and by innuendoes and insinuations imply that something happened, which did not. A Church leader might wisely avoid being alone with a female.
Acts ch 23 v 5. “You shall not speak evil of a ruler of the people.“ God has established those who rule over men. To reject them is to reject God, to whom they are accountable.
Eph ch 4 v 31. “Dislike of others should have no place in our lives.” Instead be kind to each other. Man is designed to complete others and not to compete with others.
Col ch 3 v 8. “In the transformed Christian life, put away all anger, malice and slander, etc.”
1 Pet ch 2 v 1. A positive command. “Be done with dishonesty and talking about others behind their backs.” It is something, which has to be actively worked out of a believer’s life.
1 Tim ch 3 v 11. “Wives of Church leaders must not take part in gossip.”
1 Tim ch 5 v 13. “Young widows are likely to be lazy and spend their time gossiping from house to house, prying into the business of other people.
Mat ch 15 v 4. It is a command to honour parents. They were given to a man by God when He sent the spirit into the tiny body in the womb. Eccles ch 11 v 5. To run down parents is very serious. It is rejection of God. This is a common practice of children, especially teenagers. Teenagers are tired of being told what to do. Often parents are not wise and do not accept that the youngsters are capable of looking after themselves. It is very frustrating to be treated as a child when a person is an adult. The problem has to be tackled in light of Scripture.
Psalm 15 v 3. “Who may approach God? Only those who do not slander others.” In other words, those who do slander others, do not have the ear of God. He will not listen to them. That is a very serious word form God. A man cannot praise God if he harbours a grudge in his heart against another person.
Jas ch 2 v 7. People cannot throw stones at Jesus any more, so they hurl insults at His followers. They told lies about Jesus. They will tell lies about His followers. Believers should expect it to happen.
Prov ch 20 v 19. “Do not tell your secrets to a gossip unless you want them broadcast to the World.”
Psalm 101 v 5. “I will not tolerate anyone who secretly slanders his neighbours.”
Jas ch 3 v 5-12. “Hold your tongue. With the same tongue a man blesses God and curses his neighbour and fellow believer. This ought not to be so.”
God clearly takes a serious and solemn view about gossip.
7. What is a man going to do about gossip? Repentance is simply agreeing with God that He is right and the man is wrong. Does a man agree that gossip is serious? Some might see it as harmless and part of the rich tapestry of life. Is satire entertainment? There are certain practical steps to be taken. It may take a while to establish the correct attitude and pattern of speech. There are some good tests to apply.
(a) Is a man prepared to say it in the presence of the person himself? If not, then he should not say the words behind his back.
(b) Does what a man says lower the person in the eyes of another?
(c) A man should do unto others what he wants them to do to him. If he would not like it said about him, then the man should not say it about another.
(d) If a man has nothing good to say about a person, he should say nothing. A fine lady who never said a bad word about anyone was asked if she had anything good to say about the Devil. She thought for a moment and then said: “I shall say this about him. He is always on the job.”
(e) Remember that God hates the sin but loves the sinner. A man should learn to see the person as God sees that person and give him a chance. God is not finished with that person, just as He is not finished with each person. A man should make it his concern to take the log out of his own eye, before he picks the speck out of his neighbour’s eye.
(f) Moses did not get into the Promised Land, because he misrepresented God to the people. Num ch 20 v 12.
(g) Small minds talk about people. Larger minds talk about events. Expanded minds talk about truths.
Gossiping usually means passing on information when a man is neither part of the problem nor part of the solution. It is like accepting stolen property. It makes him just as guilty of the crime. “People who gossip to you will gossip about you.” They cannot be trusted. A man who entertains gossip is a troublemaker. Prov ch 17 v 4. It is sad that in the flock of God the greatest wounds are cause by other sheep and not from wolves. Gal ch 5 v 15. Prov ch 26 v 20.
Man was designed to be driven by the Holy Spirit. When He is not in control, a man is driven by emotional forces within himself. Self-control is one of the fruits of the Spirit. Unrestrained by the Holy Spirit, a man’s sexual and other desires pull in other directions.
The whole basis of sexual activity is to be within a marriage relationship. Activity outside marriage either before it, or during it but with another person, is forbidden. This constitutes sin and one of the characteristics of sin is that it breeds – like weeds in the garden. Sin separates man from God but also man from man. The abuser and the abused will, as a result, experience a broken relationship.
Behaviour patterns are habit forming and are influenced by what a man sees. What he sees has a greater influence over him than what he reads or hears. Television is recognised as the most powerful medium to influence behaviour. This is borne out by the vast sums paid by advertisers, who know the return they will receive for the money spent by them will be worthwhile. It is a small step from Government approval for the destruction of unborn children to the physical abuse of children, who are allowed to be born. Television has given respectability to scenes, which were not acceptable 30 years ago. There is little doubt left that pornography feeds the minds of those who watch it and influences their behaviour. Soft pornography degrades women. The systematic degradation of women is accepted, while a similar degradation of ethnic or religious minorities would not be acceptable.
The Biblical penal code is more severe in respect of crimes against the person than crimes against property. Other codes in existence at the same time were less severe in respect of crimes against the person and more severe in respect of crimes against property. As Christianity lessens its influence in Britain, there will be less concern for crimes against the person and more for crimes against property.
What influence does pornography have? Pornography poisons the mind. It gets a strange grip on men and prevents the mind from working in a healthy and balanced way.
1. It deeply offends many people. It makes what is a private matter a public one. The human body is not meant for naked public exhibition. It shatters the privacy man knows to be right.
2. It isolates the consumer. Whereas music or literature encourages people to share their experience, pornography tends to keep people apart. Self-gratification involves lust, which is forbidden by God. It leaves the person with a sense of guilt. Therefore pornography is spiritually harmful, since it separates man from God.
3. It degrades women. Most pornography features women and is designed to attract men. It invites mental rape. It stresses the physical aspect of females, irrespective of their character and encourages people to live in the material realm rather than in the spiritual realm.
4. It brutalises. Those involved lose their sensitivity and their respect for personal relationships, love and marriage.
5. There is a descending spiral of demand. The disease spreads and there is a demand for ever-increasing stimulation.
6. It ruins family relationships. Many divorces are on the basis that the man’s personality has changed. It is a factor of growing importance.
7. It is linked with corruption. There is a great deal of money in the business.
8. It triggers off sexual assault. It encourages the frame of mind, which sees women as objects for sexual exploitation. The evidence is that serious sex crimes rise in countries where pornography legislation is liberalised.
9. Like any other sinful activity, it is addictive. The user of pornography wants more. Most magazines are read in private.
10. It saps the energy and moral vision of individuals. It is propaganda for promiscuity and perversion.
Sexual abuse is the same as physical abuse and psychological abuse – a desire to dominate another person and to gratify self. Sex abuse has a sexual orientation. “Our battle is not against flesh and blood but against spiritual principalities and powers.” Everything, which happens in the physical, seen World is a manifestation of what is happening in the spiritual, unseen World. There has not been a lot of overt spiritual possession in Britain for a long time. Materialism, which is one of the gods of the nation, looks only on the physical aspect and not on the spiritual dimension.
Sex abuse is not new. Lot experienced it in Sodom. Genesis ch 19. The men even attacked the angels. As a result the city was destroyed. Lot’s two daughters even abused their own father in ch 19 v 30-38. The unclean spirit still influenced them, despite having seen the results of what happened in Sodom. So many pagan goddesses were sexual symbols. The purpose of sexual relations as revealed in the Bible has been distorted by sin and the enemy. God desired the man and woman to be one unit and forbade all relations outside of marriage, both before it and during it. He hates divorce. Pain in childbirth was a problem, which arose as a result of sin. God hates homosexual behaviour and refers to it in the strongest possible language – an abomination.
A god is someone or something, which fills the mind, fuels the imagination and motivates the body to move in response to the impulses of the mind. So in this way sex is a god to many people. Sexual sins, like lust, are subject to the principles, which govern all sinful activity. Sin is addictive and is a powerful motivator of behaviour. By and large the Churches in Britain, particularly those with a high profile, are generally unaware of spiritual forces at large in the land, since they have become secularised by the introduction of non-converted people. Therefore the enemy is free to unleash demonic hordes on Britain, this being one of the countries most blessed and used by God throughout the centuries and which is a prize capture for the enemy.
The female goddess in Scripture is identified as Ashtorath, Ashtoreth and Astarte (Greek). She is the goddess of sexual behaviour. Ishtar was her name in Mesopatamia i.e. Assyria and Babylon. Nina was worshipped in Nineveh when Jonah arrived to preach. Statues of her naked showing fish coming out of her belly were everywhere. Israel was guilty of accepting the ancient Canaanite gods and goddesses when she came into the land of Canaan. Eventually King Manasseh in 2 Kings ch 21 rebuilt the high places where Ashtoreth was worshipped, as Ahab had done. Ahab’s wife Jezebel was from Sidon where Ashtoreth was the female of Baal. Manesseh sacrificed his own son – by burning to death – to the goddess Ashtoreth. Therefore he introduced into the land child sacrifice. It was for this reason that the people of Israel were put out of the land of Canaan as a punishment. 2 Kings ch 21 v 10-15 and Jeremiah ch 15 v 4. It was very serious. God had reached His limit of patience and forbearance with His people. A false god had been enthroned in Israel and on the hearts of the people. In Britain the same thing happened in 1967. The passing of the Abortion Act by the British Parliament sanctioned the sacrifice of children in the incinerators of the state run hospitals so that the people could go on in their worship of sexual behaviour without the penalties of having to look after the fruit of that behaviour. Several attempts since have failed to change the heart of the nation. Was this the day of the Gentiles being fulfilled, which Jesus spoke about in Luke’s Gospel ch 21 v 24? Jerusalem came under Jewish rule for the first time since 70 A D. in 1967. Is this a mere coincidence or is it part of the purpose of God? If it was so serious for Israel to be put out of the land, how much more serious is it for Britain, who ought to have known better?
Aids would seem to fit one of the categories of the curses or problems which will arise for any people who disobey the commands of God as outlined in Deuteronomy ch 28. Verse 18 says: “cursed is the fruit of your body.” Many cannot have children after an abortion. Children are now being born with aids. v 22 speaks of infections and plagues. These are not necessarily sent by God but are rather the natural consequences of ungodly behaviour, which reaps its own rewards.
Without a turning to God in Britain, it is inevitable that the sinful behaviour of sexual abuse will increase. Many adults, afraid of catching aids from other adults, are turning to abuse of children, because the practice is “safer”. The outlook is not good, unless the Church accepts the challenge to engage in spiritual warfare with the enemy of mankind.
“You will know a tree by its fruit.” Mat ch 12 v 33. The outward signs of a tree tell what kind of fruit it will bring forth. However the type of fruit it brings forth depends on the nature of the root of the tree. The root is the part of a tree, which controls the life of the tree.
The root of the tree of the fleshly life is the nature of Satan. Man received the nature of Satan by joining Satan in his rebellion against God. When Satan rebelled against God, he was rejected by God. There was no way back for Satan into the presence of God. Satan’s desire was to spoil God’s World and His created beings. When Adam ate of the forbidden tree he received the fallen nature of Satan. When anyone loves the flesh nature, Satan will be his master, because he will be able to control his heart and life through thoughts and suggestions, which fulfil his selfish desires.
The powers of darkness will lead him to seek the selfish opportunities of the World, because he lives for himself. He is the centre of his own World. Since he loves selfishness, the powers of darkness will also begin tearing down all his relationships with suggestions and thoughts of jealousy, distrust, rejection, suspicion and un-forgiveness towards his neighbour. He will welcome these thoughts since he seeks his own self-interest rather than the interests of his neighbour. He will seek an advantage and be deceitful in all his deeds like his master, Satan, until he has a change of heart. This change of heart is called repentance.
When anyone loves the nature of Satan, he does not love his neighbour. Since God demands that he loves his neighbour, every act or word that does not show love for God or for his neighbour is sin and rebellion. A man is designed by God to complete his fellow man and not to compete with him. God made a provision through the last Adam, Jesus Christ, to restore man to fellowship by taking all of his sins and placing them on Jesus through the cross of Calvary.
If a man loves the flesh nature more than he loves God, the selfish motives of the flesh nature will fill his heart. The evidence of the fruit of the flesh nature is:
Jealousy. Envy. Rejection. Anger. Impatience. Greed. Stealing. Unmerciful.
Slander. Hatred. Criticism. Worry. Sarcasm. Malice. Retaliation. Stubbornness.
Rebellion. Revenge. Negativism. Fear. Bitterness. Scoffing. Grumbling. Irritable.
Boastful. Scoffing. Murder. Unforgiveness. Coveteousness. Approval of man.
PRIDE. If someone comes to God and does not repent and turn from pride, he is still walking in rebellion. He is really saying in his heart, “I will not give up pride, because I love pride more than I love God. When a man has a root of pride in his heart, the root becomes a mighty fortress for the powers of darkness. Satan uses pride to deceive the body of Christ and to build many strongholds of deceit. If a person has a root of pride, his motive will be to build an image for himself. He will take part of the glory due to Jesus. He will exploit relationships with others to achieve his selfish ambition. He will flatter and deceive others to look good and receive the approval of men. Pride always wants to be the centre. Pride receives glory from men. Pride is interested in image and holds up his own image. Pride is always right. It loves the approval of men rather than approval of God.
The root of pride builds an image of exaltation of self. The following characteristics manifest themselves.
Vanity. Rebelliousness. Masterful. Man-pleaser. Rude. Attention seeking. Arrogance.
Conceit. Self interest. Always right. Presumptuous. Ego. Superiority. Insensitive.
Insolence. Haughtiness. Overbearing. Unsubmissive. I, Me, My. Name for self. Boasting.
Unloving. Self-righteous. Selfishness. Self-glory Control. Self-justification. Self-love. Selfish ambition. Looking down on others.
GREED. Greed is a symptom of numerous strongholds built by Satan. Greed does not love his neighbour. Greed loves the things of the World. A man controlled by greed hoards and spends his whole life living for himself and building a fleshly kingdom for himself. Greed encourages a man to act as if he is going to last forever. He is deceitful and manipulates his neighbour to fulfil his selfish ambition. When a man loves the nature of greed, he loves the nature of Satan rather than the nature of God. A salesman who loves greed will exaggerate, withhold information, apply pressure, manipulate and intimidate his customer to make a sale. The god of this World has trained the World to love greed and to get to the top, regardless of who suffers. This is called success by the standards of the fleshly World.
If a person has a root of greed, the following characteristics will manifest themselves.
Manipulation. Flattery. Cheating. Strife. Selfishness. Lover of money. Stingy.
Discontent. Control. Jealousy. Lying. Covetousness. Exaggeration. Envy.
Possessive. Deceit. Hoarding. Pride. Material lust. Selfish ambition
When a man loves greed, he will love the thoughts and suggestions from the powers of darkness, which tell him how to deceitfully manipulate and exploit his neighbour. Greed hates and uses his neighbour.
LOVE. The man who in repentance accepts Jesus as Lord and Saviour becomes a totally different man. The Spirit of God then leads him to be perfected in love. He has seen the gospel. He has seen the judgement and destruction that is on each man who loves and walks in the ways of Satan and the flesh.
He also understands that God is demanding that he love Him with all his heart instead of loving the flesh nature of Satan. Since he now loves the Lord instead of this selfish flesh nature, his motives are changed from selfishness to love. Previously the root or motive of his heart was to please the selfish desires of the flesh. Now the root motive of his heart will be to please the Lord Jesus with all his heart.
Jesus leads a man by His Spirit to overcome the flesh, the World and the Devil in order to purify his heart and perfect him in love. The Spirit of God will lead the man to put to death the deeds of the rebellious flesh one by one, until he has a pure heart. This is how he overcomes. Because his mind will be renewed by the Word of God, he will walk and talk like Christ instead of like Satan. Since he now has the mind of Christ instead of the mind of Satan, he will bear a new kind of fruit. This fruit is the fruit of the Spirit, the fruit of a pure heart – the fruit of love. His heart believes in righteousness and he walks in holiness. He has a new heart and a new mind and no longer walks according to the flesh. Gal ch 5 v 24. Gal ch 5 v 14.
The root of the heart is the love of Jesus. The following characteristics will manifest themselves:
Peace. Purity. Honesty. Mercy. Patience. Gentleness. Sincerity. Thankfulness. Excellence.
Joy. Truth. Wisdom. Humility. Kindness. Self-control. Devotion. Faithfulness. Edification.
Love. Grace. Justice. Fairness. Compassion. Steadfastness. Diligence. Forgiveness. Goodness.
TEMPTATION. Genesis ch 3 v 1 – 7. Genesis ch 39 v 6 – 23. James ch 1 v 2 – 15.
The dictionary meaning of temptation is to persuade a man to do something, which he does not want to do or which is unwise. A man may be tempted spend money by the prospect of a prize draw, or the promise of a present of some kind. When it comes to the area of moral choice, temptation is an attempt to persuade a man to do something, which is morally wrong. So far as a believer is concerned, it is an attempt to persuade him to do something, which is either against the moral law of God or against the will of God for him. Which human being has never faced temptation?
Where does temptation come from? Does God tempt human beings? If not, is it from Satan? If so, is it always from Satan?
Firstly, James ch 1 v 13 makes it clear that God does not tempt anyone. How could He? God wants a man to obey His will for his life. Therefore God would never attempt to persuade a man to do something against that will. God wants a man to be morally perfect.
Secondly, from the story of Adam and Eve it was Satan who took the initiative and tempted Eve to break the command of God to Adam and to Eve.
Thirdly, James ch 1 v 14 implies that each man is tempted, when he is lured or enticed by his own desire. There is a war going on within each man. The old nature wars with the new nature. Temptation is the pull of a man’s own evil thoughts and desires. These thoughts, if they are allowed to dwell in the mind, will lead to action. It is the action, which is the sin, if it breaks the moral law of God or the will of God for that man. It is so easy to blame Satan for everything, when sometimes it is all a man’s own fault. Man is naturally inclined to stray off the path, without any help from Satan. There are areas of a man’s life, which have yet to be submitted to the Word of God. This is particularly so for new believers, where there are many areas of sinfulness not yet realised. There are areas of life, which are not openly evil but are still displeasing to God. As the believer matures in his walk with God, more and more areas will appear to be displeasing to God. Therefore changes will be necessary in life-style. That is all part of the ongoing process of salvation. Mark ch 14 v 8 says: “Watch and pray in case the tempter overpowers you. Though the spirit is willing, the flesh is weak.” The flesh is the word used in Scripture for the old, fallen man. It does not mean physical skin and blood. There are times when a man can identify that Satan and his demons are deliberately attempting to drive him off course in his life. However there are other occasions when he has to stand up and take responsibility for his wrong decisions. Greater is the power in believers than in the Devil.
A man cannot blame Satan, if he deliberately places himself in the place of temptation. If he chooses to associate with others, whose lives are hostile to God’s ways, then of course he will be open to greater temptation to sin. Believers are often careless and ill prepared in the matter of spiritual warfare, as a result of which they fall easily into temptation. It is vital not to give the enemy a foothold.
It is important to remember that temptation in itself is not a sin. Yielding to it is a sin. Believers should not be distressed, if they experience the temptation to sin. But they should be determined to resist. James ch 4 v 7 says: “Submit yourself to God. Resist the Devil and he will flee from you.” That is the basis of victory over temptation. Submission to God and active resistance of the Devil. That takes knowledge of God’s ways from a study of the Scriptures and active, positive turning away from temptation.
Satan’s prime target is God. Such is his arrogance that he dares to set himself up against God. He dared to tempt Jesus in the wilderness. He came at Jesus in different ways throughout His life on Earth. Through his assault on Jesus, Satan was launching an all-out attack on God. Satan attempted to cause doubt in the mind of Jesus in relation to the will of His Father. The Devil left Jesus for a season. But later he came back. If Satan dared to tempt Jesus, he will tempt all of the followers of Jesus from time to time. He knows their weak spots.
God in His mercy gives new spiritual life to believers who are adopted to be part of the family of God. Temptations increase when a person becomes a believer and Satan attacks him mercilessly in order to spoil his Christian life. For those who seek to break free from Satan’s control, difficulties are placed in their way. He would, if he could, liquidate all of God’s people. He succeeded in killing 6 million Jews in the Holocaust. He is particularly active against new believers. Moses was attacked at birth. Herod killed all boy babies under two years of age in an attempt to kill Jesus. It is important to provide angelic cover for new-born believers of whatever physical age. Too many young people show an interest in groups like S. U. but are never grafted into the body of believers. Why give a new-born baby to a dead mother?
His second line of attack is to spoil the wonderful World, which God had created for His pleasure. He is active in ways of pollution of the Earth, sea and air. He encourages tyrants who bring misery to peoples. He seeks to bring about famine, civil war, political powers and many other disasters, which have physical and spiritual consequences. Mat ch 8 v 26. Jesus calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee. He recognised that this was an attack of Satan to wipe out the Church even before it was born. In that way it was similar to the attempt to kill Moses and Jesus. Temptation shows Satan and God in their true colours. Satan is the liar and deceiver. God is the one whose love overcomes the disappointment of rebellion in mankind. Paradise lost was ultimately in the fullness of time to become paradise restored – because of God’s love.
When a man has freedom of choice, temptation is inevitable. A man’s love of God is dependant on his having free will. If it is accepted that God does not tempt man, why does He allow Satan to do so? Why does He not destroy Satan? Love and force are opposites. God loves each man and invites him to worship Him, but He will never force a man to do that. As a man resists the temptation he becomes stronger. Actually temptation is basic training in the army of God. If a man joins the army, he is subjected to physical training to make him physically fit for combat. He also gets training in warfare. That is why the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted. The question for Jesus was: “How would He handle the power of the Holy Spirit?” God had to be sure that Jesus in His humanity was capable of completing the task God was asking Him to do. If He had fallen at the first temptation, Jesus could have failed the most important task of His life, namely to lay down His life for the sins of the World. God has to be sure that His children are able to take on responsible tasks for Him. If they are unable to cope with simple temptations, then they are of little value. So while God does not tempt a man, He will allow a man to be tempted. He will never allow a man to be tempted beyond what he can handle. It is part of God’s process of sanctification. Satan is powerless, until a man says: “Yes”. Actually, temptation becomes harder to combat it every time man gives in to it. 2 Pet ch 2 v 19. The thought hardens into word, the word into deed, the deed into habit, the habit into character, and the character into destiny. When the thought or invitation comes, recognise it as from the enemy and refuse to go along with it.
Since power corrupts, Satan’s aim is to get every man, woman and child in this World to owe him allegiance. The Kingdom of God is the rule of God in the heart of man. Satan wants anything else but God to be ruling in the heart of a man. He offered to share his power with Jesus, if He would submit to him. He does not require that a person be evil. They can even be kind or generous. Satan may encourage a generous person to work his hardest for a charitable purpose. That in itself is worthwhile in humanitarian terms, but it may be out-with the will of God. This is so if it prevents the man from being obedient to the will of God for his life. There are many worthwhile causes – such as providing homes for the homeless. The idea is good but the truth is that many are homeless, because no one can face having the people to live with them in their home. Jesus would call for repentance by these homeless.
How to handle temptation. When the thought or invitation comes, recognise it as from the enemy and refuse to go along with it. James lived with Jesus in the family home. He may have worked alongside Him in the family business. James is able to say in ch 1 v 2 – 3 welcome difficulties and temptations. A man must not walk away from the problem but be steadfast – stand firm in the face of temptation – and then that man will be ready for anything, strong in character. God allows the temptations to forge a man’s character. God rejoices every time He sees a man resisting the temptation and growing in character. Then God can use that man.
Actually there is a prize for the one who overcomes temptation. Rev ch 3 v 10 – 11. If a believer is faithful in little temptations, God will protect him when the Tribulation comes. There will be a time of tremendous pressure to compromise and deny God by going against His will. If God is not for believers on that day, they will all fall away. In the last days the love of many will grow cold.
The weapon Satan chooses is blindness. He blinds the minds of unbelievers. These people are not bad – they just do not see. Satan will use everything he can to prevent a person responding to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He has certain favourite stratagems. It is the responsibility of mature believers to provide a sound Church for new babies in Christ. God clearly expects this. Satan’s tactics are as follows:
1. Scepticism. He discredits the message of the Bible by means of the charade of a School Assembly or a period for religious instruction. He may point out the narrowness of mind of some believers, or even broadmindedness of other believers. He will use eulogies of Church people, who are known by all and sundry to have vices. He will use even believers who promote the ecumenical movement and claim that there are many roads to God.
2. Silence. A silent Church is ineffective. 1 Pet ch 2 v 9. “You are a chosen race that you may declare the wonderful deeds of Him who called you out of darkness into His glorious light.” Satan is very anxious to keep believers from declaring God’s word to the World. It may be fear of others and what they might think of them. It may be the lack of a carefully thought out statement of what they believe. It may be a lack of love for others. If believers really believe that non-believers are bound for Hell, surely there is a concern for their spiritual well-being. This ought to overcome their own fear of what others may think of them. There are many other ways by which Satan keeps the Church silent. Rev ch 22 v 15. Murderers and cowards are outside of God’s Heaven.
3. Disunity. Satan loves to keep believers divided. Gossip and class-consciousness in Churches. 2 Pet ch 3 v 5ff and ch 2 v 1ff. Satan’s principle line of attack against believers is false teaching – the two letters to Timothy. He highlights arguments over doctrine. Paul talks about doctrines of demons. 1 Tim ch 4 v 1. “In the end times there will be deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons.” Well- meaning believers lacking in sound teaching are often led away into false doctrines. Some who might be interested in the validity of Christianity will be put off if believers cannot agree among themselves as to what they believe. The Christian Church spends a lot of energy arguing amongst itself. If a fraction of that time was spent in spiritual warfare against the enemy, many may well be really interested in following Jesus. Believers should watch that they are not tempted to adhere to false teaching. Always test what the speaker says against Scripture in order to be sure that it is correct. The Holy Spirit makes for unity. The unholy spirit makes for disunity. It is essential to think through the consequences of each decision. Bad decisions have bad consequences.
4. Seduction. Marrying a non-believer, divorce and sexual activity outside of marriage. By putting a hook in the nose of a man’s sexuality Satan draws him away from obedience to Christ and into a compromise. This will effectively quash any witness to the Gospel.
5. Coercion. State persecution, torture, social pressures and economic disadvantage can all be applied to force a believer to be silent. The loss of a job, or home, or freedom for self or family. How many children suffer at school for the outspoken beliefs of their parents?
Fiery Arrows. Satan has many strategies to deceive a man.
1. Pride. Pride is a strange illness. It makes everyone sick except the one who has it.
2. Lust. The permissive society simply surrendered to lust. All sexual desires out-with marriage are the result of lust. It is a difficult decision for a man to follow Jesus, if he is living in a relationship outside of marriage. Lust also includes homosexuality and pornography. The sexual drive is a really powerful force within mankind. Sadly the Church regularly fails to address the subject to give wise teaching on the matter. There are casualties amongst believers and these often fail to grow due to the blight on their lives through falling to temptation.
3. Doubt. It is only by exercising faith that a man can please God. Faith is believing the Word of God and acting upon it. Watch out for people with a negative spirit, who are always casting doubt on what is being done for God. Satan will use those closest to a believer, such as family and colleagues and even other believers.
4. Disaster. Job is the classic example. “Will you still love God, if real difficulties come upon you?” A serious illness. Loss of a loved one. A man may not understand why it has happened.
5. Depression. It is highly probable that some of the supposedly depressive illnesses are caused by demonic attack. Satan is the master of discouragement. Elijah, after the great victory over the prophets of Baal, fled before Jezebel’s curse into the wilderness and wished he could die. This was the Hittite spirit of fear. It is impossible to work out the providence of God and why certain things have happened. The correct response is not to ask why did this happen but what is God showing through the experience.
6. Fear. The link between fear and Satan is very strong. Many are fearful of confessing Jesus in their home or place of work. A very real fear grips them.
7. The suit of dirty clothes. Eph ch 4 v 22ff and Col ch 3 v 5ff. There are also the secret things of the heart and mind, which no one else knows about in public. God knows, Satan knows and the individual knows. Unless a man is transparent, Satan can get to work in this area by accusing him of immoral actions and thoughts.
The lessons from the Garden of Eden story are that Satan attacks:
(a) The body. Eve was hungry. There is nothing wrong with that. Jesus was very hungry in the wilderness. Satan often attacks when a person is hungry and weak in physical ways. A great deal of evil comes through the misuse of perfectly natural bodily functions, such as the desire for food, drink, sex, sleep and strength. The overfed West pursues slimming while the Developing World is hungry. Drunkenness and gluttony always go together in the Bible. If the physical body is not in a healthy shape, it is harder to fight spiritual battles. A frustrated desire for physical companionship is often the prelude to homosexual activity. Alcoholism and now drugs are destroying vast numbers of people. Over-eating is a major problem, putting additional stress on the human body and making it a less affective weapon in the hands of God.
(b) The mind. A man is called to love the Lord his God with all his body, soul and mind. Satan caught Eve’s attention with something intriguing – a talking snake. He captured her attention and interest in something supernatural. Eve knew that man had been created in a position of authority over the animals and that she should have had nothing to do with this trick of Satan. Satan does the same today with a moving glass, a prediction as to the future, which comes true. A talking box in the house. Amazing games, which consume time. Hypnotism. A seance. Magic tricks. It does not take much to take the mind of a man off the Word of God. Satan invited Eve to doubt God’s goodness towards man. He cast doubt on the Word of God. He is doing the same thing today in casting doubt on the Bible. He cast doubt on the declared intention that those who rebel against His rule will die. He said to Eve: “You will not die.” God is not so unkind to make good His threats. All will turn out well in the end. This is the basis of Universalism. All will end up in Heaven, despite what they do on Earth. That lie – that God is no more holy than they are – had destroyed millions, who have accepted it. Their thinking has become confused. Carelessness allowed Satan to get in there with his intrigue. Christianity is the great thinking religion. A man should think through the consequences of every action and word he does or speaks. Satan appealed to a man’s rights as against his responsibilities. God had given Adam responsibility for the Earth. He should have consulted God first before giving attention to an animal. Eve had been created to be a helper to Adam. She should have sought out Adam to take his views on this strange thing without acting on her own initiative. It would have been a good “excuse” for Eve to say that she wanted to discuss it with her husband. This avoids impulse decisions.
(c) The wisdom of God. God knew that man could not handle certain hidden things and so He forbade certain activities. The occult is the word for the hidden things. Faith in Jesus is a hidden thing. A believer’s life is hidden with Christ. All other hidden things are forbidden. Faith is the only hidden thing, which is good for a man. All other hidden things are bad for a man. Satan invites a man to go through the open doors into the hidden World. There Satan ensnares the man. Speaking to the dead. In Eve’s case it was the prospect of additional knowledge. Some things a man is better not to know. God has told man all he needs to know about salvation – the process of being Holy and fit for Heaven. The New Age is flooding the markets of the mind with new information about channelling of spirits and other matters, which are harmful and are not from God. It is the same Satanic lie – you shall be like gods. Eve declared open rebellion on God. Satan had achieved his objective. Temptation had become sin. Every time a man does what he knows from the Word of God is wrong it is rebellion against the Word of God – just as it was for Eve – and the man commits sin. In the process he personally insults God.
In Genesis ch 39 it seems clear that the wife of Potiphar was the instrument of temptation to Joseph. He was probably a teenager – 17 years of age. The woman waited until Joseph was alone in the house with her. She arranged that to trap Joseph. She fancied Joseph physically but was she interested in the welfare of Joseph? He was just a plaything for a bored rich woman. Sex outside of marriage is only selfish satisfaction and not love for the other person. As soon as Joseph ran away she was angry with him and hated him, enough to have him put in prison. There is nothing in the record of that event, which indicated that Joseph was giving her the “come on” sign and opening himself up to temptation. None the less he was faced with the clear temptation to break the moral law and commit adultery with the wife of Potiphar. Joseph had had plenty time to reflect on life after being sold into slavery and exiled from his native land. He has a clear sense of duty to his new master and to God. God had His hand on Joseph. The woman transferred her guilt onto Joseph. The woman was responsible for enticing the man but God always puts the major responsibility on the man as head of the household. Joseph had settled the matter before the event. He did not have to make moral decisions on the spur of the moment. That is where regular Bible study is essential. The wise man built the house on the rock of God’s word. He also built the house while the weather was fine and not as the rains lashed down and there was pressure upon him. Joseph had built his moral house in this area of his life. Today is the time to settle moral issues.
Success is anything, which is pleasing to God. Joseph was a successful slave. Seven times the Bible says that the Lord was with Joseph. Joseph had a better understanding of sin than most of the people who live today. God allowed the temptation. A crisis in life can be a great gift from God, if it is used to strengthen character. This situation made a man of Joseph. All are tempted sexually at some time in life.
A man cannot always see the consequences of his actions. But it is true that what he does today affects his life in the future. If Joseph had succumbed to the temptation, he would have had difficulties in his marriage in later years. He would always have known that Potiphar’s wife could have brought up the incident. That in itself would have undermined the relationship with his wife and children. How many are there today with a clear conscience in this area of their life? The thing was evil and would have hurtful results. v 9. He knew it was evil. So many people today do not know what is right and wrong. They are forced to compromise. Sexual sin creates a bond with the other party, which must be broken.
Joseph ran away. Well done. Get out of this situation, whatever it is, if it is too hot to handle. Sometimes it is best to run. A man cannot have sin and Jesus. Joseph had not the benefit of Paul’s teaching in Phil ch 4 v 13. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” but he knew the one who would one day inspire Paul to write that verse. The woman was in a position to deny any word from Joseph. Who would have believed a slave against the word of Potiphar’s wife. No one believed Joseph. Lessons:
1. Joseph refused. His will was settled long before the temptation came along. A man must crucify his ego on the cross.
2. Joseph said that he would be disloyal to God and to the wife he would one day marry. A man cannot always see the future but he lives in the future with the consequences of his actions in the past.
3. Joseph’s intellect was clear. “You do not belong to me. Only one person will ever belong to me.”
4. It was evil and Joseph recognised this. Immorality hurts all sorts of people. Be holy.
5. Joseph ran away. Sometimes it is best just to run and not stay and debate.
6. To receive Christ means power over temptation. Be an over-comer over sexual temptation.
What a man does with temptations will determine his happiness. Sin shall not have dominion over him. The woman was shameless and coveted Joseph. She persisted day after day. Some men are flirting with women. She waited until there was no one else in the house. The serpent waited until Eve was alone. On his own a man is more vulnerable. Sex outside of marriage is only selfish satisfaction and not true giving of oneself. It hurts others as well as hurting the individual. As soon as Joseph ran away, she hated Joseph. She did not love him but only wanted him to satisfy her own selfish demands of power.
Before giving in to temptation there are 4 stages.
1. When a man neglects prayer and Bible reading he becomes callous and insensitive to danger. He is easily drawn to the flame like a moth.
2. A man begins to rationalise: ”Nobody knows and what harm will it do?”
3. As carnal appetite increases, conscience erodes.
4. A man surrounds himself with others of the same mind or who are willing to look the other way.
The battle is not only about a man’s future but the plan God has to use that person to bless others. Temptation always returns to the scene of its previous success. Flirting with temptation makes defeat inevitable. Yielding to temptation may not cut a believer off from God’s grace but it can limit the usefulness of the believer to God. Any weakness constantly indulged in, excused, denied or hidden can enslave a person. Ignoring a weakness makes defeat inevitable. Satan will assign certain people to feed the weakness. The weakness has an agenda – to take over the life and sabotage God’s plan for that life.
The weakness can emerge at any time and even in later years. Overcoming the weakness brings reward.
Materialism comes at a man in the form of advertising. “You need this.” This is usually a lie in that he does not need it. If a man goes shopping after eating he will spend less.
As a result of yielding to temptation, there were for Adam and Eve and there are for all human beings today seven consequences of sin.
1. Eve involved somebody else. Sin loves a companion. Children love to involve others in shoplifting. People like others to laugh at their dirty jokes. Those who gamble encourage others to do it too. Eve involved Adam and as a result she felt better for it. The relationship, which was intended to be mutually supportive, became mutually destructive. Sin not only separates a man from God but also a man from another man. A man becomes uncomfortable with his fellow men.
2. They felt dirty and guilty. Their sexuality suddenly became something of which they felt ashamed. Guilt is something, which troubles a man as he tries to get rid of his guilt. It need not be in relation to matters of sexual impurity. A dirty business trick, a lie, fiddling the income tax return, gossiping about another person or shouting at someone all lead to guilt. Why do so few people become believers? Guilt, which they cannot face up to, is one reason. Many people end up in mental hospitals because they failed to do anything about their guilt. They were insensitive to God’s presence and became ignorant of the things of God. They also lost their confidence and integrity.
3. Adam and Eve hid from God. Companionship with God lost its charm. They were unfit for God’s presence and unable to do His will. All sorts of people are hiding from God, busying themselves in other activities, some of them good in themselves.
4. Fear arose within Adam and Eve. Fear was the first emotional result of sin. Before that, fear was unknown. God had provided everything needed by Adam and Eve and they knew no fear. Perfect love casts out fear. Fear of death is the last great enemy of mankind. Man is afraid of the unknown.
5. Moral cowardice. Adam blamed someone else for his sin. He did not have the courage to admit that he had been wrong. “Eve gave the fruit to me to eat.” Adam claimed that it was not his fault. Today that is evident as a man blames others for his sins and difficulties. It was the teachers who did not teach well. The parents were poor. The Government did not provide a job. It is all the fault of the manager, the directors or the employees. A man looks for someone else to blame for his ills. Passing the buck is the oldest game in the World. A man may even blame God for some things. He calls it an act of God. Man is called to stand up and accept responsibility for his actions. God is on man’s side. Psalm 124. Repentance is accepting personal responsibility for a man’s own sin. “I did it.”
6. Spiritual death. Adam and Eve did not die physically, when they ate of the fruit, but they did die spiritually. That was the first death. They no longer had a clear conscience before God. The fellowship with God terminated at once. There was nothing they could do to restore that relationship with their Creator. They were dead in their sins. They were spiritually cut off from God, although they lived mentally and physically. Eph ch 2 v 1. Man is dead in trespass and sin. All men are born dead spiritually. It is the second death, which is vital in determining a man’s role in eternity. Eternal life is that relationship restored. Gen ch 15 v 6. That was one of the purposes of Jesus in dying for a man’s sins. Satan is determined to prevent a man being born again to new life. 1 Cor ch 1 v 30.
7. Judgement. They had brought judgement on themselves by disobeying God. They did not have to obey Satan. There was no benefit in it for them. They had everything to lose and did lose their relationship with God. When a man says: “No” to Jesus as the only one who has died for his sins, he is passing judgement on himself. He is choosing to live out-with the presence of God. That is the free choice of every man.
Had it not been for the great love of God, the story of mankind would have finished there and then in the Garden of Eden. All would have been lost for mankind. The tempter described God as being mean. In fact God has proved Himself to be unbelievably generous. He clothed Adam and Eve with skins. For all men God offers to clothe them with righteousness – the righteousness of Christ.
Jesus was tempted in the wilderness. Jesus was gnawed by hunger but refused to eat. Jesus saw what might be done by a brilliant miracle towards inaugurating His Jewish ministry but he refused to work it. Jesus saw the short Satanic path to messianic dominion but chose Gethsemane and Calvary. There was no real necessity for Adam to sin. It was sheer wanton, gratuitous, inexplicable apostasy.
Temptation is something every man has to cope with throughout his life. The question for Jesus was: “How would He handle the power of the Holy Spirit?” Sin is enjoyable. There are no miserable sinners. They enjoy their sin until convicted by the Holy Spirit that what they are doing is wrong. A man is tempted to do the things he wants to do. A non-drinker is not tempted to drink but may be tempted to eat. He tends to excuse what he does wrong. Sin is spelt with a capital I. A man is tempted to make things better but not right. The pass mark is 100 %. 1 Cor ch 10 v 13.
STRESS. Mat ch 6 v 24-34.
Jesus said: ” If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” The commandment, which Jesus gave most often (124 times) was “Fear not. Do not be anxious”. If Jesus felt that it was necessary to repeat the commandment so often, He must have realised just how much human beings were in need of this particular teaching. They certainly were in Judea when He lived on Earth. The Jewish people lived under the occupation of the Roman army. Crucifixion ensured that people did not openly criticise the Romans or disobey the law of the day. What did the future hold for the Jewish people? If the freedom fighters – the Zealots attacked the Romans, what revenge would the Roman army exact? Jesus is the greatest teacher this World has ever known. What does the commandment seek to protect a man from?
A man needs to understand the difference between “Fear” and “anxiety” and the relationship with stress. The acronym for FEAR is: false expectation appearing real. Fear and anxiety are first cousins. Together they prevent a man from realising his full potential. If there is a feeling of uneasiness, it is important to know whether it is fear of a specific event or anxiety – where life is out of control.
Fear is that emotion, which rises within a man’s heart when his well-being is threatened. It is a reaction to an immediately threatening situation. For example, if a man was in a bank and one of the customers pulled out a gun and shouted: “This is a hold up” he would experience fear. His life would be under threat. But not all fears are harmful e.g. the fear of fire, of being burned, is built into man in order to protect him. Healthy fear has preserved society and is part of God’s preventative medicine. Jesus’ teaching was designed to help people be free from unhealthy fears.
Anxiety on the other hand is that emotion, which a man experiences when his well-being is threatened by unspecific events and there is a sense of apprehension or foreboding, dread or uneasiness that his life is out of control or there is a feeling that he cannot cope with the events, which surround his life at that particular time.
All face anxiety at times. Man lives in an age of anxiety, due to the pressures of the twenty first century. An anxiety complex is a constant feeling of gloom and depression of dread and worry, which stays with a person all the waking day. It leaves people with a sense of dread or foreboding with no clear cause. A bad environment in childhood with no sense of security leaves a sense of insecurity. This produces a negative reaction and builds up a sense of anxiety i.e. by a constant pattern rather than a one off situation. No genuine cause is obvious. There is a feeling left. Believers tend to sweep problems under the carpet. They think that they are not supposed to have problems, especially spiritual ones.
The meaning of anxiety in Greek is “to draw in different directions, to pull apart or divide.” Anxiety about the future allows a man’s thoughts to dwell on what might happen. The end result is that a man’s personality is pulled in a number of different directions. It places a man under sustained and relentless pressure in both his thinking and his emotions. Anxiety causes a revolution in the emotions. It stirs up the mind and heart in such a way that a man is no longer master of himself. Luke ch 12 v 22-27. Consider the birds of the air. This means to perceive clearly or understand fully. Jesus invites a man to learn thoroughly that God is in control. Anxiety thrives on the false believe that a man’s life is under his own control. There is another power at work seeking to steal his peace. Those who are anxious may well suffer a greater degree of ill health than others. When anxiety infects a man’s mind his forward thinking becomes nervous apprehension and calm consideration is replaced by foreboding.
Anxiety is rooted in separation. It is a manifestation of the orphan spirit. Its origin lies in isolation. Anxiety is appropriate for a man who has to do everything by himself and for himself. Anxiety is an outward expression of mental agitation. Eventually a man becomes worried because he has nothing to be anxious about. Anxiety is frighteningly addictive in its ability to become habit forming. It is often said that a man is a born worrier. Deut ch 28 v 65-67. A man may end up in indecision in a distracted state of mind. Anxiety is a curse whose origin lies in disobedience. It finds its source in the rebellion of mankind. Anxiety is one of many evil consequences, which have come about from a man’s stubborn determination to go his own way.
Anxiety is a thief. A burglar will only steal what is valuable. Anxiety (Satan) steals things, which are valuable to a man. Anxiety will eventually eat away at a man’s resources. It will steal a man’s time, his creativity, his hope and his joy. Above all it will steal his peace. Divine peace is the first thing to go. It will steal what is rightfully his. An anxious heart weighs a man down. Confining a man’s thinking exclusively to the level of the World will prevent him from making contact with God. Anxiety will dominate a man’s thoughts. Anxiety makes a man sensitive only to himself and not sensitive to the Holy Spirit. It prevents spiritual growth. Almost every decision in life involves a degree of risk.
Difficulties plus insecurity leads to anxiety. Difficulties plus prayer leads to peace. Prayer is the preventative medicine that keeps a man free from the disease of anxiety.
Anxiety can be caused by a number of circumstances.
1. It may be the result of physical problems, such as a hormone imbalance.
2. It may be the result of a difficult home environment in early childhood. Children, starved of love, can develop feelings of anxiety, which are carried over into adult life.
3. It can arise from bad modelling. Very anxious parents invariably produce very anxious children.
4. It regularly arises from wrong patterns of thinking. A man’s feelings for the most part are a response to the way that he thinks.
5. It may be due to exceptional demands on a man’s time and abilities, leaving him feeling that he is unable to cope with the pressures upon him.
6. It may be the consequence of serious personal circumstances like impending debt or imprisonment.
It is without question that the twentieth century was the most anxiety ridden century since the Middle Ages – inflation, unemployment, disease, terrorism, crime, weapons of war, aids etc. The current century is little better. It is hardly surprising that many people suffer from anxious feelings. Not only has man lived through a century of stress in the twentieth century but the signs are that the stress will grow in the present century as Godlessness and lawlessness increase in the World. As minerals and resources run out, so the greed of man will bring greater stress to life for everybody. The Bible speaks of the End Times as being a time of tribulation such as the World has never known. At times on the news from other parts of the World there are glimpses of such hate, lawlessness and bitterness as to imagine that the time of Tribulation may not be far ahead. It will be a stressful time.
God designed the human being to cope with a certain level of stress. The nervous system is brilliantly tuned to cope with pressures but there is a limit. It is beyond that limit that the nervous system is overloaded and begins to break down. This is what is commonly called a nervous breakdown.
Selwyn Hughes – a Christian psychologist – suggests that God designed the human being with a nervous system to cope with a certain level of stress. The nervous system is brilliantly tuned to cope with pressures but there is a limit. It is beyond that limit that the nervous system is overloaded and breaks down. This is what is commonly called a nervous breakdown. The average units might be say 2,000 units. The average person can cope at that level. A bereavement might add a further 300 units of stress – an unhappy marriage, 500 units – a failing business, 600 units – a car accident, 400 units – and so on. So, if two or more events occur at the same time, danger signals are evident – a loss of memory – a lack of confidence – sleeplessness and so on as the pressure mounts. These are all problems with which people consult their doctor. One of the other contributing factors is if a man brings tomorrow’s problems into today. Then he is sunk. A man has enough nervous energy to meet today’s problems. Tomorrow he will receive enough nervous energy to meet tomorrow’s problems. But if he brings tomorrow’s problems into today, he simply overloads the nervous system. It is just like a surge of demand on the central electricity system. In Mat ch 6 v 34 Jesus said: ” Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own troubles be sufficient for the day.” How many men have a wife who worries about what the children are going to do when they leave school – and they are still only at primary school?
Stress is made up of any pressure from the outside World, which can cause a man to feel an inward sense of strain. A delayed reaction of a physical or nervous collapse is common. Even without such a collapse there may often be a period of inability to do these things at home and work, which would usually be done without effort. Certain changes in our pattern of life produce stress. They may be called Life Change Units. Growing up, puberty, marriage, birth of a child, a child in trouble, a new job, sickness, a new house, a court appearance, a new house, a mother in law coming to live in the home or a domestic problem or an accident. Starting a new job imposes on the nervous system a new loading. Tiredness is usually experienced during the first few weeks of a new job.
Everyone has the capacity – to some degree – to live his life in different compartments. At times hysterical response takes on epidemic forms. An obsessional thought is a common problem. For most forms of anxiety, a big step to learning to cope with it is to understand how it affects each one. Stress may be an accumulation of an excessive amount of small problems. There may be a final straw, which breaks the camel’s back. It may not be very serious in itself. A combination of increased workload with decreased processing efficiency of the nervous system greatly increases the possibility of stress breakdown. There are several questions to be considered.
1. “Have I taken on too much responsibility?”
2. “Am I asking my nervous system to do something too difficult”
3. “Have I had enough sleep?” The nervous system needs sleep. The inhibitory neurones need sleep.
4. “What is the state of my nutrition?” When the level of glucose in the blood drops, brain function is impaired.
5. “Am I suffering from withdrawal of sedative drugs, such as alcohol or caffeine?”
Anxiety is a sin. When a man considers that the events of his life are out of control, he is denying the fact that God is in total control of the affairs of the World and that nothing is out-with His control. This is an insult to God, who created the Universe. He designed the whole of nature, including a man’s incredible bodies with three trillion cells. When a man is anxious, he is in effect saying to God: “You cannot help me. The problem is too big for even you.” Rev ch 1 v 18. Dan ch 2 v 21. “World events are under God’s control.” Anxious feelings are often the symptom of a deeper problem – unbelief. The word of God says to man: “Seek first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be yours as well.” God has promised to be responsible for His children. God says in Philippians ch 4 v 6-7: “Have no anxiety about anything but in everything let your requests be made known to God.”
When it comes to death itself, God has promised His children that He will change their lowly body to be like the glorious body of the Lord Jesus by the power, which enables Him even to subject all things to Himself. There is no point in saying that God does not know man’s experience. Jesus knows all about stress. He experienced disappointment, abuse, hostility and rejection of His teaching, and when He calls a person to follow Him, He warns of the stress, which will follow. “If they hated me, they will hate you. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you. If they killed me, they may try to kill you.” Jesus does not promise an easy life. When Jesus walked this Earth in bodily form, some people picked up stones to throw at Him. People today cannot throw stones at Jesus literally, but they can throw them at His followers. Being a believer can be a stressful calling. Believers can be bruised by gossip, lies and insults.
Believers are not exempt from any of the stresses, which affect everyone else. Elijah had a typical depressive experience. So did Jonah. Faith needs a crisis to walk on. A crisis is a very stressful situation. Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness are seen today in different guises. Other believers sometimes suggest that believers should never have such difficulties and that if they do it must be due to some secret sin. Careful studies reveal that 93% of those who have committed suicide showed clear evidence of mental illness in the months before they killed themselves. This is the fertile ground in which Satan can plant his deadly invitation in the mind to commit suicide.
Evangelicals have strongly emphasised the three R’s of the Gospel: ruin, redemption and regeneration. But they have largely jettisoned community concern, concentrating on the inner life. They have also rejected the whole movement of theraputic psychology regarding it with suspicion and denouncing it as worldly. Yet many leading believers have admitted to suffering from depression. Indeed believers experience extra stress in life just because they are believers. It is important to preserve a balance in life, if the mind is not to suffer harm. Those who are not affected ought to be prepared to help those who are affected. The time of tribulation may not be far ahead.
A breakdown means that a person is suffering symptoms of anxiety, distress or depression. These are so severe that they cannot work, or even function at home and they withdraw from the normal demands of life. The most serious case, where contact with reality is lost, is a psychosis. A breakdown may be seen as a temporary loss of emotional balance. Man walks along a very narrow path and it is easy to slip off and sometimes to fall precipitously. Man needs a balance in mind and heart and will. Belief must be held in tension with experience.
Why do believers break down? Some are more vulnerable than others. The workaholic is especially vulnerable. He is praised for his commitment to work and no one notices that he is paying the price of avoiding leisure, recreation and proper rest. For some their Sunday is busier than most other days. Believers are involved in special areas of stress. They promise to fight against the World, the flesh and the Devil. This brings added stress and anxiety.
1. The believer trying to hold to a new nature finds himself in conflict with the World at every turn. This creates a tension in his life.
2. To fight against the flesh means those things in his human nature, which are alien to a man’s best interests. Romans ch 7 v 24.
3. The believer is chosen to engage in a battle of spiritual warfare. Jesus did not promise an easy life – quite the contrary.
A man’s temperament may make a very large contribution to the stresses, which he faces. Personality is what makes a man function. A man thinks, feels and responds to a given situation on the basis of his personality. A man’s personality is partly inherited and partly shaped by the people around him and the situations he finds himself in. Who is man? He is the total of the experiences in his life and his responses to them. There are basically four types: the sanguine, the phlegmatic, the choleric and the melancholic. There are those who are extrovert and those who are introvert. The extrovert has as many bad as good points. Most people are not so clearly one or the other but are a mixture. The introvert, when his brain activity is measured, has a high level of activity, excitation and arousal, and so prefers low levels of outside stimulation. If the situation is stimulating he will tend to isolate himself. He prefers to be alone or on a one to one situation. The extrovert, however, is easily bored and seeks activities, which will increase his mental activity and arousal. He feels better for company. Each group has different talents and gifts. The introvert has a more stable pattern of thought, although he may be remote from his friends. The extrovert may be more exciting as a leader but less reliable and more inclined to break the rules when it suits him. Therefore in leadership there is a need for a balance. This adds stress since it is difficult for the two to work together. The introvert tends to be too self-critical, while the extrovert tends to be careless of the consequences of his actions on others.
All believers need to guard against over-sensitivity. There is a need to cope with change. Most people do not like change since it makes them feel threatened. They also need a slightly thicker skin, since those who are too sensitive are too easily hurt, often without foundation. There is also a need for coherence i.e. the need for doctrine to hold the facts together in their mind as to who they are and what God is doing in the World as well as in their lives. For man wisdom is the knowledge of God and himself. Then no stress or strain can separate believers from the love of God. To find and keep a balance in life is extremely difficult but yet absolutely essential to survival. The need for a day of rest in a busy World is greater then ever before and yet is less widely practised than ever before.
In order to treat the whole person it is necessary to listen to him. A modern approach does not despise the role of medication and proper drug treatment. A team approach is usually needed. There are two opposite errors. One is to spiritualise everything, saying that there is no problem in the physical realm. The other is to deny the spiritual realm. There is a danger of being too spiritual. God permits trials and tests. God’s common grace includes such as law, order, education, medicine, the arts, science, family life etc.
Marriage brings its own stress. Adjusting to living in close proximity with another person, is stressful. Each spouse needs fellowship with others of the same sex. If the basic compatibility tests are not met, stress will occur. 1. Culture. 2. Financial. 3. Intellectual. 4. Sexual. 5. Age. 6. Social. 7. Vision for the future. 8. Emotional. 9. Sexual drive. 10. Family panning. There is peer and parental pressure to separate, as soon as there are difficulties. The role of the male in the marriage is under threat by working wives, especially if she earns more than he does. Refusal of sexual relations by one partner starts off a feeling of rejection. Sexual relationship is like oil to a working engine. It lubricates the parts. The particular intimacy can smooth out the tensions between the spouses.
Sexual behaviour causes stress. The sexual drive is a powerful one and, unless the spiritual drive is in control, the physical or emotional drives can put considerable stress on the married person. There is great pressure to conform to the ways of the World, which today present fornication as quite permissible. One partner may not leave parents and cleave to his or her spouse. A dominating mother-in-law is not unknown. Often parents are loathe to let a child go and place obligations on that child towards the parents, which conflict with the obligations to the spouse. Marriage, like friendship, must be kept in constant repair. Social pressures put marriages under strain. Both the bond of affection and of pleasure need special attention. Easy divorce and abortion also put pressure on couples, especially if they are not at one on these matters.
Growing old causes stress. Loss of memory troubles the elderly and those who have to share their lives. It is important to remain curious and to be willing to explore by reading, radio or watching television. New interests and fresh enthusiasm may prevent entrenchment in old attitudes or retreating behind barricades of man’s own making.
A man’s body tells him that he is anxious by any of the following symptoms: tension headache, thumping heart, sweating, feeling sick, a churning stomach, a dry mouth, a weaker voice. Tension may cause frowning, backache, weak legs, clenched jaw and hands, hunched shoulders and a stiff neck. Trembling, fidgeting, some problems with swallowing or breathing may all be other physical effects of anxiety. If anxiety cannot be handled it may lead to 5 kinds of problem 1. Phobias. 2. Obsession. 3. Hysterical symptoms. 4. Withdrawal into oneself. 5. Depression.
Relaxation is essential. A man must come apart and rest awhile to get stresses into proportion. Jesus told the Disciples to do that at one point. A man has to learn to assert himself. This helps counteract the consequences of an inferiority complex and bearing hurts privately. Assertion means a man standing up and expressing himself in direct, honest and appropriate ways – trying to say: “This is how I see it. This is what I feel about the situation.” Being assertive is to relate to another person in this way without wishing to dominate, humiliate or degrade the other person involved. A man seeks to respect his own rights and those of the other person in a mutual way. If he does not learn to assert himself, he will be left feeling hurt, anxious and angry. The alternative is to be aggressive. Then the directness is expressed at the expense of the other person, who usually ends up hurt or offended. Paul asserted himself when faced with the mob in Acts ch 22 v 25.
How does a man cope and what does it mean to cope? How should a man cope with fear and anxiety?
1. To tackle any problem it is essential to identify and face the problem. “Why am I anxious?” Assess the situation.
2. Coping is concerned with facing difficulties and encountering obstacles. Coping is about being in a contest on terms, which are equal. A man needs to think and see and perceive life-events and changes in a clearer way. This is a process of appraisal and perspective. Otherwise the trivial can assume an importance it just does not have. There is a need to keep things in perspective and in proportion. Many matters, which seem urgent can wait and are not so important. Who cares or is affected, if they are never done? Man’s primary appraisal should never dictate his actions. Sleep on it. It never seems so bad the next day.
3. Bring it into Biblical perspective. If a man is not sure just why he is anxious he should ask God to show him. Perhaps it is a childhood experience thrust into the subconscious. Listen to what God says: “For I the Lord your God hold your right hand.” This is a promise of God. When a man comes to terms with just how much God cares for him, it helps to put things in perspective. When a person becomes a child of God, he becomes His personal responsibility to take care of him. For the believer God is responsible for him and will not let anything happen to him, which is not for his good. Each man has a place in God’s affections. He is the child God has always wanted to have. God enjoys a man’s friendship and wants to be with him more than he realises In light of eternity most events are bordering on the trivial. Biographies can show how others have come through similar trials. The message of Revelation is that no matter how bad things are, God is in control.
4. Talk it over with God and with a fellow believer. Isaiah ch 1 v 18.
5. When man faces up to a problem in light of God’s wonderful love and power, the problem always seems so trivial and so much smaller than it was. Let God work to heal the anxieties and hurts, which the years have left within the personality. Mark ch 11 v 23.
6. There must be complete forgiveness of those who have brought the problem in order for healing to take place.
7. Learn to live one day at a time. Do not live on past memories or future hope of deliverance. To live realistically a man must live it today. There is only grace for today.
8. God accepts believers as they are and not as they should be. God loves them despite their disabilities. He loves His child because of what he is and not because of what he can do.
9. The believer has to surrender to the Holy Spirit and let His power flow into his being.
10. Psalm 55 v 22. Cast all the cares on God as if they are so much rubbish, fit only to be discarded.
11. Anxiety was defeated on the Cross. God Himself provided the answer. Jesus came to set men free from anxiety
The teaching of Jesus is so practical and helpful and, if taken to heart, can save man endless problems.
Doctors show that guilt and problems of the conscience are very much part of life today. Conscience could be described as an umpire of the mind. If man allows it, conscience is like a mirror reflecting on the moral quality of his actions. It reflects the law of God. Often those who attempt suicide are those who have an overactive conscience, which accuses them of offences, which are not really serious. Often a person cannot distinguish between real guilt and a sense of guilt induced by a parent’s wrong approach.
Valium has a small but definite risk of creating a dependence problem. There are those who would avoid any medication for stress-induced symptoms of a nervous kind. Where there is a broken bone it is necessary to apply plaster and allow the physical healing of the bone before any physiotherapy is applied to strengthen the muscles. So it is that drugs have to be applied to correct an imbalance of the physical illness in the body affecting the mind before counselling can begin. Medicine is part of the common grace of God, whereby He provides for man without a special miracle on each occasion. God may allow a man to go through a period of struggle in order to shape his character. Just as Jacob wrestled with God, a man may have to wrestle with God from time to time. An instant cure would not achieve the growth in spiritual character, which a period of illness and disease would achieve. One immediate benefit of disease is to enable a man to appreciate the health, which God gives him. There was a price for Jacob to pay and there may be for all who strive with God in this way. In many areas of life a man cannot escape from conflicting demands, pressures and tensions.
Anxiety often leads to overeating. Eating is used as a comfort zone. If a person is living at heightened levels of stress over a prolonged period of time, the body’s nervous system does not have an opportunity to restore the damage with sleep and relaxation. If due to bitterness or un-forgiveness the right toxins and nourishment is not being allowed to flow though the body, disease will result. If the body is restored to a peaceful relationship with God, the toxins begin to flow again and healing can take place over a period of time.
A man has to care for himself as well as being willing to deny himself. He must not neglect his mind and body, for they are the vessels in which his spiritual lives are lived out. Care is best on a one to one basis where a man can be his brother’s keeper. Bearing one another’s burdens takes many forms. A man must find what he can do to help the burdened. There is always a danger of imposing group rules, which imply that some are second-class believers. This applies stress to those who feel marginalised in the Christian family.
Depression makes a man feel like giving up; everything seems hopeless; he feels inadequate and unable to do anything about it. Sometimes the feelings last a short time but they can last for years. The suffering is real. It is often through physical sensations that man registers mental pain. The physical symptoms may be the result of anxiety in the mind when he feels affected by bad feelings of a sorrowful kind e.g. separation. The pain of rejection is perhaps the hardest of all to bear. About 80% of attempted suicides have tried to harm themselves because of a disrupted personal relationship. Often pent-up anger can cause anxiety. It is dangerous to bottle up emotions rather than to express them. A feeling of failure, real or imaginary also creates tension within a person if not expressed in public. Para-suicide is an attempt to commit suicide purely to draw attention to the person and such act is a cry for hope and help.
Depression. There are physical aspects. There are in the body amines, which is rather like adrenaline and affect many feelings such as anger and anxiety. These amines form neurotransmitters in the brain and nervous system. They enable the brain’s computers to work properly. In a time of depression they become low and need to be restored by use of antidepressants. There is a need to tackle the physical deficiencies first. Depression often runs in families. What a man inherits is a tendency or predisposition. He cannot hide behind the genes. He is good at hiding depression and putting a brave face on things. Factors, which give it away, are loss of appetite, broken sleep pattern, weight loss, feelings of dread and memory loss. Serious depression makes a person feel a total failure. This affects faith and confidence in God. To avoid a depressed person is the worst thing for him. He already feels alienated. Women are much more liable to depression than men. The role of a confiding, intimate friend is also important in protecting against depression.
An estimated 17 million suffer from schizophrenia throughout the World. This can be brought on by a monastic life style where fantasies arise to meet basic needs, which are not met in the new life. Many psychiatric patients released from homes to live in normal society end up in prisons, which are a worse type of asylum for them. Community care is a great challenge. Eccentricity arises where a person has an over-valued idea, which dominates his thinking. This leads to an imbalance in his life as he constantly expresses his pet views. He can usually cope as long as he can devote all his spare time to his special interest.
Many have today fallen into the trap of a morbid unhealthy interest in demons, which titillates a general interest in the occult. Great spiritual discernment is needed to decide whether demonic possession is present or not.
Breakdowns tend to take place in stages. It is important to recognise the stages and act before the person moves on to another and more damaging stage. The word “stress” is used to refer to burden, load, pressure, distress or emphasis. In effect it means that there is too much load on the nervous system. A breakdown means disruption to normal human behaviour interfering with the ability to carry on normal daily activities. Basically there is an inability to function normally. It may start with a sense of anxiety – an unpleasant feeling of impending doom or disaster, that there is something wrong somewhere. Anxiety is the alarm reaction of the nervous system, which is triggered off when the nervous system is unable to process efficiently the information being presented to it. It is like a warning light on the dashboard of a car to tell the driver that something is overloaded. The system seeks to shut down to protect itself. Anxiety may manifest itself with physical pains, sickness, palpitations, tiredness or inability to sleep.
Stage two. In this stage there are two additional symptoms. Failure of emotional control and failure of self-motivation. This is recognised as a signal of serious disturbance. The ability to keep the emotions under control is a necessary pre-condition for any organised, civilised society. There is a danger of exercising will power to overcome and suppress a display of emotions. The warnings are ignored but the danger still exists. There is a danger of confusing the signs and making a diagnosis of depression, instead of stress breakdown. In depression the problem is one of loss – loss of energy, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of the will to live. In stress the emphasis is one of load. Stress is also experienced if a person is under threat to his integrity or role in life. The brain seems to be able to switch off in times of excessive stress – news of a serious accident or serious illness, e. g. cancer. Under stress people may become intolerant to things they previously accepted.
Firstly, unload some of the responsibilities from the person suffering from stress. Leave aside the non-essential matters or delegate them to others. A lot of the things people are concerned about never happen. Secondly, remove imaginary fears. It is better not to sue or challenge another person, if the cost of doing so will exceed the benefit in mental energy. In Mat ch 5 v 40 Jesus advised: “If a man sues you for his coat, give him your jacket also.” Thirdly, if there is an unavoidable period of stress at work or an accident, make sure that there is time set aside to relax and unwind. Even witnessing or preaching brings its own tensions and stress, especially if the power of the Holy Spirit has been flowing through the believer.
Fourthly, Teenagers experience their own problems with hormone change and growing out of their own World into an adult World, especially if at the same time there is stress over exams.
Fifthly, avoid making important decisions at the time, since these bring their own degree of stress. Keep a diary and do not commit too much to memory.
No man is indispensable. The graveyards are full of indispensable people.
Psalm 94 v 19. God is a help in times of turmoil.
1 Cor ch 7 v 32. Flee from worry
Luke ch 10 v 41. Martha.
1 Pet ch 5 v 7. Cast your troubles on the Lord.
Psalm 37 v 8. It does no good to worry.
Phil ch 4 v 6. Do not worry – a command.
Mat ch 10 v 19. Relax. Do not worry about what to say.
Mat ch 6 v 27. Worry shortens and does not lengthen life.
Mat ch 13 v 22. Worry about life chokes out the Word of God.
Luke ch 21 v 34. Occupied with the problems of life.
John ch 14 v 1. Do not worry.
Luke ch 12 v 29. Anxiety over food.
Proverbs ch 12 v 25. Heavy-hearted.
Mark ch 4 v 19. Broken-hearted.
Ezekiel ch 12 v 18-19.
Psalm 37 v 1-7. Commit it to God.
Mat ch 6 v 34. God is in control.
LAZARUS. John ch 11. The Dance of the Seven Veils.
How did the statue of David reach its perfection? Michelangelo kept chipping away at the bits that were not David until he had finished the statue and it was perfect. God does the same with each of His children. He chips away at His child to get rid of all the parts that are not like Jesus. In order to get God in perspective consider this statement. God plays with planets as a boy would play with his marbles. Our Earth, this huge ball with its 6 billion inhabitants, was hung by God upon nothing. If God had hung it on a thick cable made of steel, the cable would long since have broken. But “nothing” is a resistant material.
In the story of Lazarus Jesus did not rush to the graveside but He waited two days. It does not say but perhaps Jesus had a matter, which required His attention. In Jewish belief the spirit hovered over the body for three days after death and then left. In v 1 Jesus clearly knew that He would raise Lazarus from death. How did He know that? He said on another occasion: “I only do what is see my Father doing.” How did Jesus know that He would raise Lazarus from death? Did His Father speak to Jesus from Daniel ch 12 v 2? “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the Earth shall awake, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Perhaps the word to the spirit of Jesus was from the story in 1 Kings ch 17 and v 24 when Elijah raised from death the widow’s son. The Bible does not say but Jesus certainly knew by faith that He would do that. By the time Jesus arrived Lazarus had been in the grave for four days. He was well and truly dead and the body would have begun the process of decomposing. Jesus asked people to roll the stone away. In v 16 who are “they”? Thomas had said to the rest of the Disciples: “Let us go also.” Almost certainly “they” refers to the Disciples. Jesus could have called on angels to do that. After all an angel rolled the stone away from the tomb where Jesus lay. However Jesus involved others to do that work.
Jesus could have transported Lazarus from the tomb without removing the stone. He could have removed the grave clothes from Lazarus Himself. Why did He not do so? If Lazarus had come out of the grave without the grave clothes or if Jesus had removed them when he came out, Lazarus would have been naked. It was a great shame for a Jewish man to be seen naked. This would have caused him a great deal of humiliation and shame from being exposed. Jesus came to take our shame on the cross and He could never have put shame on Lazarus. By having people around Lazarus Jesus used them to remove the grave clothes so that Lazarus would not lose his dignity. When a footballer’s shorts are torn during a match and need to be replaced his team mates gather round to give him some privacy from the prying eyes of the television cameras and the crowd. Likewise those in the body of Christ need to help one another get free from the spiritual and emotional grave clothes. It is a delicate and sensitive process. God the Holy Spirit gives spiritual life but God uses believers to be evangelists, pastors, teachers and preachers to pronounce His message and to carry out His purposes. In the same way Jesus came to set the captives free but uses preachers, pastors, teachers and counsellors to minister to the people who are being set free. It is a delicate and tender operation. If we are to be truly free, we will need the sensitive help of other believers. That is why it is almost certainly the Disciples. Nehemiah ch 2 v 20. Nehemiah said that non-believers were to have no part in the works of God. So Jesus would have used the Disciples and not bystanders to roll the stone away.
In this story Jesus had a purpose. Only Jesus can bring life to a dead Church or to a spiritually dead person. Once there is spiritual life there is still the matter of the various grave clothes to come off – grave clothes of shame, self-righteousness, painful memories, fear, rejection, jealousy, inferiority complex, false understanding, broken relationships, unhealthy relationships – they all need to come off – and the sooner the better. All manner of matters require to be changed and Jesus involves others in that process. Like Michelangelo, God chips away at all the things in the life of a believer, which prevent growth and the development of a mature personality. The Church needs to be the safe place where we begin to peel away the grave clothes that keep re-born people from being able to enjoy the fullness of life. That is the job of the Church – to set the people free. The illustration of grave clothes can be likened to veils – these are things, which cover up what a person does not want exposed. For all believers born of the Spirit of God there are various veils, which need to be removed. Some have more than others but all have some veils. Jesus was completely free. He was able to speak the truth because He was free to do so. Satan had nothing on Jesus. Physically a man could not move freely, if he was wearing 7 cloaks or coats. In the same way he is not free to move spiritually, if he is wearing a number of veils. In order to be the people God wants us to be we have to take off the seven veils, which conceal our real identity to the World.
VEIL 1. Self-centredness. What is your biggest problem in life? The answer is – yourself. What does a man do with this person he is? He does not really understand himself or know enough about himself. What is in his body? How does it work? Why does he behave in a certain way? What controls the future? What effect does a man’s past have on his life right now? What lies ahead when a man dies? If man does not know all the answers, who does? There is no shortage of advice. There are many knowledgeable people in the World. What advice do they have for man? Different people tell man what he should do about himself. They may say: “Express yourself. Know yourself. Control yourself. Adjust yourself. Assert yourself. Deny yourself. Enjoy yourself. Promote yourself. Suppress yourself.”
Jesus says: “forget about yourself.” It is the exact opposite of loving yourself. A group of self-centred people will not last 24 hours. The twenty first century is a me-centred culture. Everyone does what is right in his own eyes. It has happened before. Judges ch 21 v 25. What does Jesus mean in Luke ch 9 v 23-25? Jesus is in effect saying: “Your death is long overdue.” You can do nothing for God until you die to yourself. The whole culture in Britain teaches self-confidence. But it is in a man’s weakness that he is strong. In 1 Cor ch 1 v 26 Paul says: “Few of you who follow Christ have big names or power or wealth.” Self-centredness is the first veil to be removed before any others can be removed. As long as self rules there will be no desire to strip off any of the remaining veils and no desire to wash the feet of others in a life of service to others. Are you prepared to strip of the veil of self-centredness?
VEIL 2. Superiority. As you know, knowledge and wisdom are not the same thing. The Babylonian Mystery religion, the Gnostics, Freemasonry and the Illuminati are all based on those who have secret knowledge. They are the ones who consider themselves superior to the ordinary members of the group. In the days of Paul and John the ones who considered themselves superior were the Gnostics. Much of the writing of Paul and Peter is directed against the teaching of the Gnostics.
The word Gnostics in Greek means “Knowing ones.” The Gnostics believed that there were 36 steps, which they needed to climb before they could come into union with God. Their motto was this: “The more we know, the closer we will get to God.” But Gnosticism was an attempt to find God through the mind rather than through the heart. John in his Gospel counters this by stating categorically that we know God not through the efforts of the mind but through opening our hearts to His love. Paul underlines this very same point when writing to the Corinthians: “We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. The man who thinks that he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. But the man who loves God is known by God.”
The Gnostics taught that it was not necessary to go through Jesus in order to God. Initiates who had the key – mysterious passwords and formulae – could know God immediately. They also claimed that the spirit was good but the flesh was evil. They said: “Man’s spirit is a divine being imprisoned, contrary to its nature, in the body – a divine seed sown in hostile matter.” The idea that Jesus was incarnate in a body of flesh was repugnant to them. They regarded Jesus not as God who became man, but as a one who reveals the secrets of Gnosticism. John states that the incarnation of Jesus was not a fantasy but a fact. Redemption for man takes place while he is in the flesh.
The elite in Freemasonry know things about the organisation, which are denied to the members at the lower level. New members think that they have joined a worthy organisation to do good works for their fellow men. They do not know that those in the highest positions of the movement are worshipping the Devil himself. Their thinking becomes futile. Rom ch 12 v 3. “Be honest in your estimate of yourselves, measuring your value by how much faith God has given you.” Most colleges teach education and knowledge but there is no college, which teaches truth, wisdom and how to love. There is the mask or veil of intellectual superiority – otherwise known as pride. Superiority leads to pride. Pride is the one thing, which makes everyone sick except the one who has it. The spiritual man has to feed his mind on the Word of God. Moses was the meakest man who ever lived. It took God 40 years to break the superiority he had as a prince of Egypt. Peter said to Jesus: “You are not going to wash my feet.” Jesus replied: “If I do not wash your feet you have no part in me.” Will you strip off the veil of feeling superior?
VEIL 3. Superficiality. How do we decide what really matters in life? We are born with some masks or veils, which are put on us either by our parents or by the circumstances of life. Parents naturally want their children to be like them in their values and outlook on life. But if the parents are worldly in their thinking then in all probability their children will become like them. An increasing number of people today are not born in love and protected by their parents and brought up in a loving environment and trained by their father for adulthood? Some are left with an inferiority complex and busy themselves with the trivial things in life. Others develop the mask of a hard man, hiding their inadequacy and lack of love. We acquire other masks by choice. There are masks of materialism – where by parading our material possessions we present an image of success so that people will think well of us. There are sexual masks – where, by the way we dress, we present an image to attract the opposite sex. There are masks of religion – where by traditions and clothing we present an image that we are Christians and can be trusted. There are others masks, which cover broken lives and inferiority. Some are thrust upon us by the actions of others. The soldier and the policeman is given a uniform and presented in his mask as one who is brave and competent. Out of his uniform the soldier and policeman are just like other men. There is a real fear in the heart of many a man that, if he takes off all his masks and people do not like him as he is, then he is finished. So he keeps his masks in place either to get sympathy or to gain respect and adulation from others. A couple may be experiencing tension in their married relationship but when they go out together visiting they put their masks of respectability firmly in place so that no one knows the fragility of their relationship. God sees behind the masks as to what the people are and what the people might be one day. God’s measure of success is the extent to which we have learned how to love deeply. Small minds engage if talk about people. Larger minds talk about events. Greater minds focus on principles and issues. When Jesus teaches in the Sermon on the Mount about fasting, prayer and giving He makes it clear that those who parade their devotion before other men will receive no reward in Heaven. Jesus concludes: “They have received all the reward they will ever get.” Are you hiding behind a mask of superficiality?
VEIL 4. Slavery. Slavery is sin and sin is slavery. It was for freedom that Christ came to set man free from the slavery of sin. There is a need to move into freedom. It does not really matter what anyone thinks of you but God. Many attend Church carrying the weight of burdens, which have never been dealt with in their Christian life – shame-– rejection – painful memories – jealousy – fear – broken relationships – abortion either male or female – lost opportunities. These burdens in life are hidden behind a veil of being able to cope. Jesus came to set people free. He longs for His brothers to be free from things, which have been an obstacle to their spiritual and emotional growth. The veils behind which so many have been hiding need to be torn off. The process may be painful for some. Gal ch 5 v 1. Paul warns of the dangers of departing from living by faith in Jesus and returning to be religious again. It is an ever-present danger. Are you needing to remove a veil of being able to cope and willing to have a burden lifted from your life?
VEIL 5. False security. How can we live well while others live in abject poverty? The rich rest in the security of their money and position. God has told us in advance what questions He will ask on judgement day. Mat ch 25. “Did you clothe the naked? Did you feed the hungry? Did you visit those in prison? Did you help someone get access to drinking water? Did you welcome a stranger? Did you spend time with the sick?” Brothers need to share what they have with one another. The MacKellaigs. How will we answer these simple but penetrating questions? There will be no opportunity to present excuses to Jesus. God does not love us despite our sinfulness. If sin was so serious that Jesus died to deal with it, how serious is it for believers who, knowing that, continue to sin? The Church in Moldova – a really poor country – expects each of its members to do some practical work to build the Church in Moldova – putting words into action.
Is God sometimes ashamed of His children? There is a need to develop a radical economic relationship with one another. The lack of love between brothers and sisters drives people away from the Church. Arguments between denominations bring shame on the body of Christ. Micah ch 6 v 8 tells us how to walk through life. Do justice. Love kindness. Walk humbly with God. We know it but are we doing it? The only real security is in Christ. Are you hiding behind the mask of false security?
VEIL 6. Sameness. Every person is unique in body, in personality and in spirit and should not be treated in the same way as others. Religion tends to make people dress and behave in the same way and have the same beliefs. There is a danger of putting people into categories or classes and assuming that they all think alike. Each believer has been selected by God and each has a different story to tell about God’ grace – the facts concerning his being born again and his walk thorough life led by the Spirit of God. Rev ch 12 v 11. “Believers overcome the Devil by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” Unity is quite a different thing from uniformity. The ecumenical movement seeks uniformity in a one World religion. The true Church of Jesus is called to be working together in unity yet each person remains unique. The veil of tradition and religiosity needs to be removed to free the believer to be the person God wants him to be and to fulfil the plan, which God as for his life. Jer ch 29 v 11. Death seemed to have brought Lazarus’ life to an end but God knew that Lazarus still had further things to do for the glory of God and Jesus raised him back to life. God wants believers to remove the veil of uniformity or sameness so that they can accomplish all that God has for them in their lives and thereby give glory to God. The advice to any preacher is: “Be yourself. Do not try to copy another preacher. Just be yourself.” Are you stepping forth to do what God wants you to do or are you hiding behind the veil of being like others?
VEIL 7. Some veils can only be taken off in private. In James ch 5 v 16 James urges believers to confess their sins to one another. There is real power in doing as the Word of God says. Satan operates in darkness and secrecy. God operates in the light. If a believer brings the secret sin out of the darkness into the light then the power of darkness loses its grip on the life of that person. When there is a private sin, where no other human being knows about it, there are three who do know. God, Satan and the individual. Guilt lies heavily on the conscience of the sinner. Satan prods the guilty conscience and the individual loses his freedom and confidence before God and men. Jesus expanded the Ten Commandments to include thoughts about lust, anger with a brother and unforgiveness. No one but the Lord knows these thoughts. But they need to be removed by confession. Many of the private sins relate to sexual activity. In order to confess private sin to another person there must be absolute trust that the person to whom it is confessed will not talk and pass on the details to others. A pastor has to be absolutely trustworthy in this area of his life. If not and if he talks, then others will get to know and then the individual will be exposed. He will also lose his trust in the one to whom he has confessed and may also lose his trust in God. In the present day when pornography is tightening its grip on society there may be far more people than we would believe who are falling into this category. Abortions are on the increase. How many are there who have carried the guilt of the death of a young life and never had the matter dealt with? With pressure on young people to be promiscuous and to engage in homosexual practices this is a major barrier for many wanting to become free to serve the Lord. Are there things in your life that no one else but you know about and which need to be stripped away? Maybe this should actually be the first veil to be stripped off. Until it is removed there will be little progress with the others veils.
Maybe there are other veils, which need to come off. Maybe there are things in life, which cling to you, which have been covered. You know. You may have wrestled with the matter for many years but now you know for sure that you have to deal with the matter, if you are going to grow to be like Jesus. Today is the day of salvation. In Scripture there is always a note of urgency. Of course there is an enemy whispering in your ear to leave the matter until another more suitable day. It is your call. Only you know and only you can initiate the decision to remove the veils, which need to come off. God wants you to do it today. He wants you to be like Jesus. What is your decision?
Many people have a shadow over their life. A shadow is anything, which comes between man and God and prevents man from keeping in touch with God. It may be a slight shadow or a deep one. When a storm approaches the first thing to blot out the sun is a film of high cloud. At first there is no realisation that the sun will soon disappear and people continue as normal. Then the cloud is thicker and the sun loses its strength and brightness. Still it is a good day and there is no concern that there might be heavy rain. Then the sun slips behind thicker cloud and there is no direct sight of it. Then gradually the storm clouds gather and all awareness of the sun has gone. Then the rains come. This is a physical picture of a person losing sight of God and gradually the storms of life can overwhelm that person.
The shadow might be due to sin. If so, repentance and confession are called for. If a believer is less close to Jesus than before, only one person has moved and that is the believer. The shadow may be something from early childhood – a curse or spiritual problem from parents. It may be disease or an attack of an evil spirit, which overshadows the person bringing darkness. It may be guilt of fears, real or imaginary. It may arise from bereavement. There is godly sorrow and ungodly sorrow. It is right to grieve when a close relative or friend passes onto the next life. But God gives and God takes away and life must carry on. It may be frustration from a lack of a vision. Without a vision the people perish. It may be difficult circumstances. The believer should be living above the circumstances and not under them. The believer should be reigning with Christ now. Whatever is the cause of the shadow, the life of the believer is not as good as it should be. Jesus came that believers might enjoy life in all its fullness.
“Is my house in order if I should die tomorrow? Are there things undone? Am I in the place where God wants me to be? Am I the person God wants me to be?” We should not want our physical house to be in a mess, if there was an accident and others had to come into the house.
The challenge of verse one is this: Is my house in order, if I should die tomorrow? Are there things undone in my life? Are there people to whom I should apologise? Is there anyone who should receive recompense for what I have done? Am I in the place where God wants me to be? Am I the person God wants me to be? We should not want our physical house to be in a mess, if there was an accident and others had to come into the house. Are we living the life of the righteous man?
The prophetic word from Isaiah provoked a crisis. The Word of God always causes man to stop in his tracks and consider his position. But Hezekiah refused to surrender to the word. He took the situation to God and prayed a real prayer in tears. Man cannot change his circumstances but prayer is the only answer. Left to himself man has to accept what is coming to him, but in prayer he can change the situation. Faith needs a crisis to walk on. Hezekiah had a crisis. He was going to die and did not want to die. He cried to God: “Remember me!” In his case there was much worth remembering. A man can only say that, if there is a history of things done worth remembering. God will not forget the work done for Him. He is not in man’s debt but does promise to listen to him.
The enemy will attack two things in a man’s life.
1. His confidence. 2 Kings ch 18 v 19. “No one can save you from my power.” The Jebusite spirit
will be used to put a man down. What is the basis of man’s confidence? If it is in himself, then there is little there. The real attack will be in his confidence in God. The enemy will whisper: “God does not care for you”. “You have made a mistake.”
2. Your strategy or way forward. Doubts will creep in, as the demon whispers: “Is it real? Did God really say? Has He really called you to this work or is it just in your imagination? You will not be able to cope. It will not work. It will all fall apart.” The enemy is specific in his attack. There will be real threats. But God! He is more powerful. He may allow Satan to attack in order to test a man to see if he is as serious as God is about the task in hand.
A prayer from the heart changes things. 2 Sam ch 14. The third day is significant. v 8. On the third day things happened. Jesus rose on the third day.
For the believer God adds to life – or multiplies it. He expands a man’s horizons and opportunities and leads into situations he had never dreamed of being possible. Satan comes to steal and destroy it. It is a Satanic lie that if a man become a believer he must give up things and that life is narrower.
Healing. Isaiah applied a poultice. v 7. He did what he could. If a person is sick, it is right to go to the doctor for help, rather than sitting around waiting for a miracle. God has a higher purpose than man’s physical health. It is his spiritual character. He may allow or use disease to further His primary purpose for a man’s life – to be like Jesus. God calls on man to be sensible.
Sadly Hezekiah did not go on from there. He lapsed into sin during the 15 years, which he was promised so graciously by God. Man is just like Hezekiah in that respect. Pride got a hold of him and he was pleased with himself. Satan seeks to sit on the throne of man’s heart, which is where Jesus wants to be. Satan seeks by any means at all to claim the affection of man’s heart and to rob him of his full place in the Kingdom of God. Anything, – even loyalty to the Church – which fills man’s mind, words and actions can be an idol, if it is not Jesus. As that happens, the darkness increases and shadows creep over man’s life.
If a man bends his will to God and takes one step towards God’s purpose for his life, God will take the other ninety nine steps. The shadow will withdraw slowly, steadily and decisively. There is a battle in the unseen between the forces of darkness and light. Gal ch 5 v 17. The two forces are at work in man’s life. As in all matters it is a decision of the will. Does man want the shadow turned back? How badly does he want it? Enough to repent? Enough to go public and ask for help? Enough to admit his ignorance and need of help? Or is man too proud to ask for help from another believer, whom he considers less knowledgeable than he is?
Even though he had a word from God through the prophet and practical help in the poultice, Hezekiah asked for a sign. Was he being doubtful or over demanding? God does not give wonders as cheap entertainment. It is right to ask for a sign to confirm the situation. Gideon asked for a sign when he knew very well what he had to do. The task was enormous and he had to be 100% sure that this was of the Lord. It is a serious business. Signs and wonders follow those who believe. Was Gideon being doubtful or over demanding? God’s ultimate purpose is to change the spiritual character of a believer to be like that of Jesus. He may allow or use disease to further His primary purpose for his life – to be like Jesus.
One reason why a person does not grow and develop as a Christian is that there is a shadow or area of darkness over that person’s life which has still to be removed. It may not be enough to advise a believer to fulfil the requirements for spiritual growth, if there is something specific which is preventing that growth. Leaving aside the obvious ones of un-repented sin and un-forgiveness, there are several barriers or obstacles to personal spiritual growth. Some are the personal responsibilities of the believers. Others may not be their fault. They may not be responsible for bringing the shadows into their life, but they are responsible for not taking steps to remove them. Once it has been explained how these shadows can be removed, then it is up to the believer to tale the appropriate steps to get rid of them.
NICOTINE. Luis Palau claimed that he had never known any believer grow spiritually in Christ as long as he was still smoking. Nicotine not only hampers the physical health of a person but also affects spiritual growth. It is a drug and the word for drugs in the Scriptures is the word for sorcery. It is absolutely forbidden.
JEALOUSY. Jealousy is the feeling of coldness and resentment, which sometimes stirs in our heart when another is praised – somebody with whom we matched ourselves in thought and to whom we imagined ourselves to be superior. Jealousy keeps us silent when we hear people unfairly criticised. Jealousy makes us feel glad when they stumble or fall. Jealousy is unmitigated misery. It is poison. Jealousy is normally directed against those who are in our immediate circle or those who just outstrip our best. It is like a boomerang. When we throw it at someone it comes to frustrate us. Jealousy in the heart usually leads to murder, if not physical, then emotional. Inferiority is a breeding ground for jealousy. The main cause is an insecure self. Jealousy emerges out of insecurity. An awareness that God is watching over us ensures that jealousy has no ground for growth. Jealousy has to be rooted out but it can creep in at any time, when a person meets a big disappointment in life.
ABORTION. This is applicable for both the mother and the father of the child. I killed my wife by insisting that she had the baby. She died in childbirth. It is a sin, which has to be repented of by both parents. Perhaps there needs to be forgiveness asked by one parent of the other and also of the wider family. Otherwise the guilt will linger there separating man from God. That is one of the consequences of sin. God is the one who is insulted by the parents terminating the life gifted to them by God.
FAILED MARRIAGE. If a marriage fails and the parties who once loved one another and vowed to commit their lives to one another separate, there is no way that we can avoid the word failure. Children, if there are any, other family members and the parties themselves are affected. There are legal, moral and physical consequences. There has to be guilt on the part of both parties and even on the part of the parents who allowed their children to marry without proper guidance and advice. The person who conducted the marriage may also feel a degree of responsibility. What counselling did the parties have before the marriage? Did hey realise that they were making a commitment before God and taking an oath in His presence? It is a serious business. Marriage is at the very essence of faithfulness and commitment. How do you continue to grow spiritually after breaking an oath like that? With difficulty. The same is rue for any broken relationship. There is always an area of guilt where parties who were once in a close relationship are now strangers. There is a place where Satan can get a foothold in our lives.
LOST OPPORTUNITY, disappointment or personal injury. Satan’s favourite words are “if only.”
Daniel. If only Babylon had not invaded. This can easily lead to bitterness, if we let Satan get a foothold in our lives. Business failure. What caused the failure? Was it circumstances, which were unforeseen at the time? Was it a competitor who forced the business to close? Was it carelessness or negligence? If there are debts unpaid, restitution applies. Injustice can leave a real hurt to the personality. Bitterness so easily slips into the heart almost unnoticed. Failure to respond to God’s will in an earlier time of life can lead to accusations by the enemy that the person has failed God and is now useless. A good preacher passed over in favour of a poorer one can cause frustration and resentment.
IDOLATRY. What is an idol? The dictionary definition is: an image of a deity as an object of worship -an object of excessive devotion. An idolater is one who worships an idol. Mat ch 6 v 31-33. Whatever comes first in man’s life – that is an idol. Whatever is most in man’s thoughts. Whatever consumes most of man’s mental energy. Whatever consumes most of man’s money or time. That is an idol. The subject he talks about most. An idol is utterly useless. Isaiah ch 44 v 9-20. “With one piece of wood you cook the meat for the dinner and then you bow to the other piece of wood.” This is sarcasm. For many people their family is their idol. It is what they talk about most. The family is a wholesome thing, as is the Church. But God must come first.
Why does a man need an idol? God designed men to worship Him. Fallen creatures need someone or something bigger then themselves to give significance to their existence. When a man looks at the stars he feels tiny. Man is insignificant, except to God. When a man is controlled by the Holy Spirit, his drive belt is in the right gear. When he is not controlled by the Holy Spirit, his drive belt is out of control and he is driven by his emotions and his bodily desires. Believers long to feel worth something. When they know God personally and know that they are precious in His sight and that He cares for every moment of their existence, then life takes on a new meaning. But if not they want to associate with or identify with someone or something, which is successful to give meaning to their life. It might be a house or a job. The modern baals – footbaal and the automobaal.
FAMILY LIFE. Where a believer is living in family situation and his wife or husband is not a believer that person has special difficulties. The person cannot spend as much time as others at Church. He has obligations to his wife or husband in terms of the marriage vows. In particular a young person whose parents are not believers has obligations to his parents. These obligations may hinder growth, especially if he is young.
HIDDEN SINS. They may be secret to any other human being but three people know – God, Satan and the person himself. Un-confessed guilt. Un-repented sins. Sin is specific. It is not a case of not being the persons we should be. Each sin is a personal insult to God. If there is a particular area of your life, which the Holy Spirit has brought to light, and there has been no repentance, then there is a blockage to growth. Repentance is an ongoing process. It is not a great theological matter. Repentance is simply agreeing with God that He is right and we are wrong.
It is not regret, which is focused on self. A man regrets doing it.
It is not remorse, which is focused on others. A criminal may have remorse for the victim.
Repentance is focusing on God. God is the one who has been affected by a man’s sin. A believer needs to going on being saved and needs to go on repenting. As he grows in Christ he learns of things, which he then realises are sins, which before he did not think were offensive to God. There are 4 steps:
1. Identify the sins. 2. Agreeing with God that it is wrong. 3. Deciding in the will not to do it again. 4. Taking whatever steps are necessary to eliminate it from life. Each sin has to be brought to God in repentance in this way. Repentance is taking personal responsibility for a man’s own actions and not blaming others. The question, which confronts believers, is this: “If you live tomorrow, will you live in your sins or out of your sins?”
POOR LEADERSHIP. If Church leaders do not encourage members to seek the gifts of the Spirit they hold back growth. If they do not teach the deeper things of God and a balanced diet, the members will be starved of spiritual food for their growth. Poor leadership plays a part in poor teaching and ignorance of what God expects for His children.
TEMPTATION. The believer is constantly open to temptation from the enemy. Which believer has not fallen to temptation at one time or another? Pride is used to discourage the believer from admitting it. We cannot blame Satan for temptation, if we deliberately place ourselves in its path by the company we keep. Christians who are careless or ignorant in the matter of spiritual warfare are open to temptation. Television is one of Stan’s greatest weapons. There are the same number of demons there were in the first century and now there are far more human beings than there were. The attacks seem to be greater than ever before. Television allows the small number of demons a far greater sphere of influence on million of people all at the same time through adverts, films and football and other sports. Businessmen know that television is the most powerful medium to change behaviour. They spend millions of pounds to do just that.
Temptation is used by God. As a believer resists it he becomes stronger. Temptation is the basic training in the army of God. God the Father allowed Jesus – God the Son – to be tempted in the wilderness to see if He could handle the really big job, which lay ahead – death on the cross. Jesus was perfect in His holiness but was made perfect in His suffering. His life had to be lived in perfect submission to the will of His Father. Many believers find that temptation can be a shadow over their lives. Some are tempted to marry an unbeliever or to commit sexual immorality. The sexual drive is a really powerful force within mankind. Sadly the Church regularly fails to address the subject to give wise teaching on the matter. The permissive society in the World has simply surrendered to lust. There are casualties amongst believers and these often fail to grow due to the blight on their lives through falling to temptation.
FEARS. Man was created by God who intended man’s personality to run on love. When Adam rebelled against God, fear entered his personality. “I was afraid of you.” Satan has used fear to rob, steal and destroy man ever since. When sin came in fear followed. It is one of Satan’s chief weapons. What kinds of fears affect mankind? Far of dying, especially the uncertainty of it. Fear of failure. Fear of being exposed as worthless. Fear of pain. Fear of embarrassment. What others think of us. Fear of insecurity. Fear of unemployment. Fear of disease. Fear of rejection by others. Fear of men. Fear of what to eat. There are many instances of people in the Bible showing fear.
There are consequences of fear.
Firstly, fear has physical consequences. Goose pimples appear on a man’s body. A man can feel fear coursing through his body. Hair stands on end. A boy was going blind, because he was being bullied at school. The muscles of the eye tightened up to cause blindness. Fear of going into court can make a man physically sick. It can trigger off all kinds of physical diseases. It may well be the cause of cancer in those who fear getting cancer. The very fear of it brings it about. Job ch 3 v 25. “That which I feared has come upon me.” Jesus speaks about men fainting with fear at the time of His second coming. Luke ch 21 v 26. Dan ch 5 v 5. Belshazzar saw the writing on the wall and fear gripped him. His face went white and his knees knocked and his legs gave way beneath him. Phobias can hold people back from going out. Phobias are the focal points of fears within the human personality. A phobia is like a boil, which is the point where the poison in the body tries to get out. In this way fear brings about a lack of peace and security. By accepting fears, a man allows Satan to rob him and destroy his wellbeing.
Secondly, fear has emotional consequences. Fear of failure can paralyse a person from achieving his full potential. No one is at his best unless he is free from unhealthy fear. Fear puts a man behind closed doors. It can lead to an introvert and ingrown person. What caused the woman with the flow of blood to be sick for 12 years? Was it tension due to fear? “We never have any failures – only learning experiences.” God does not mind if a man tries his best and falls flat on his face. That is how children learn to walk. It is a man’s attitude that the Lord is watching, rather than what is achieved. Acts ch 22 v 29. The Roman commander was filled with fear, having ordered Paul to be whipped, when he found out that Paul was a Roman citizen. Fear of being found out or failing in duty can cause a threat of being disciplined and exposed as a failure. Saul was filled with fear when Goliath challenged his army. 1 Sam ch 17 v 11. David met the situation with faith in God. His zeal for God overcame natural fear of one so much bigger than himself. This was not a situation of Saul’s choosing nor to his liking. He buried himself in his tent through fear.
Thirdly, it has a spiritual side as well. While fear affects the emotions, there are instances of demonic activity. Demons have names. One of the demons is called fear. Demons need fertile soil in which to operate. If there is a person with a personality deprived of love in an earlier life, there is the fertile soil on which to operate. That is why, if there are fears in a man’s life, they ought to be dealt with, so as not to give the enemy a foothold. The Hittite spirit is the spirit of fear. Fear is one of man’s deadliest enemies. It comes to rob, steal and destroy. If a man has a road accident or experiences a fire or abuse, there is fertile soil for the enemy to plant a spirit of fear, which can grip a man for years.
Romans ch 1 v 18-28. Ezekiel ch 8. Exodus ch 20 v 3.
Exodus ch 20 v 3. “You shall have no other gods before me.” That is a commandment from God. It carries weight as a word from God. Isaiah ch 48 v 11. “I shall not share my glory with any man.” There seems to be a desire to bring in things, which aid worship, like bowing, statues, crossing, special clothing etc. Any such thing is an abomination to God. John ch 4 v 24. Man is to worship the Lord in spirit and truth. He comes to God in faith. He believes God is present, because God says so.
4 Questions. 1. What is an idol?
2. Why do human beings have an idol?
3. What kinds of idols do human beings have?
4. Can a believer have an idol as well as God?
1. What is an idol? The dictionary definition is; an image of a deity as an object of worship. An object of excessive devotion. An idolater is one who worships an idol. Matthew ch 6 v 31 – 33. Whatever comes first in a man’s life – that is an idol. Whatever is most in his thoughts – that is an idol. Whatever consumes most of his energy – that is an idol. Whatever consumes most of his money – that is an idol. The subject he talks about most – that is an idol. In Isaiah ch 44 v 9 – 20 Isaiah uses sarcasm to show that it is utterly useless. “With one piece of wood you cook the meat and then you bow down to the other piece.” The purpose of Satan is to dethrone God in the heart of man. The Kingdom of God is the rule of God in the heart of man. Satan will use any means to replace God’s rightful place in the heart of man.
Deut ch 7. When the Israelites entered the Land they were told to wipe out the seven peoples in the land, who were guilty of idolatrous practices. God said that, if they did not do so, the people would be a snare to them and lead them astray. That is exactly what happened, and is happening to this very day.
2. Why does man need an idol? God designed man to worship Him. The chief end of man is to worship God and enjoy Him forever. Fallen creatures need someone or something bigger than themselves in order to give significance to their existence. They feel so small and insignificant in such a vast World. This feeling has been increased by the population explosion – now approaching 7 billion and the awareness of the vast World. When a man looks at the stars, he realises how insignificant he is. Before people lived in small communities but now they largely live in cities. 80% live in cities. That increases a feeling of helplessness and a lack of control over their own destiny. Cities are a foreign environment. God told the people to spread abroad over the face of the Earth. Nimrod defied God and built a city. God confused their language and scattered the people over the face of the Earth. There is such injustice and godlessness that people look for meaning in life and a sense of worth. This allows for competition. So that, if a man can perform better than others in any one area of life, he thinks that he is worth more than them. If he has better appearance than others, he is worth more than them. If he has more possessions than others, he is more important than them. If he has a better job than others, he is worth more than them. The more he is thought of by other people, the more praise he receives from men. That is one of the ways of the World. When a man is controlled by the Holy Spirit, he is in harmony with God. When he is not controlled by the Holy Spirit he is out of gear and out of control and is driven by his emotions and his bodily appetites and bodily desires.
It may be thought that the passage in Ezekiel ch 8 relates to pagans worshipping idols and has nothing to do with believers. Believers used to worship idols but that is all in the past. This passage could be of academic interest. This is not true! The passage is not speaking about pagans, but about the people of God – people who once worshipped the true, living God and who are now worshipping idols. They have back-slidden to some effect. Perhaps it could happen to any believer! Why do believers fall away and fall into apostasy? It is because they take their eyes off the Lord and turn them onto false gods. False gods are all around and beckoning for attention. A believer can become enslaved to an idol. The whole thrust of Scripture is of people, who once worshipped the living God and who fell away and ended up worshipping the creature, rather than the Creator. Therefore it is relevant.
Ezekiel ch 8. The nation of Judah had ignored the warning of the prophets and the experience of Israel – the Northern Kingdom – and been led off into captivity in Babylon. Ezekiel was in Babylon. Ezekiel knew all about the Temple of the Lord. He had been trained to be a priest, having been carried off into captivity. He had hoped and planned to be a priest at the Temple in Jerusalem and knew all about the worship there. A priest did not take up his priestly duties until the age of 30. Otherwise he would be immature and might make serious mistakes. Jesus did not start preaching until He was 30, because He was to fulfil the role of the High Priest. Ezekiel could be forgiven for being disappointed. His life’s training had gone. Disappointments can lead to bitterness and resentment. The enemy can play on them and nurture the disappointment. Believers will face disappointments in life. Jesus did. Believers have to learn to turn the disappointments over to God. Tell Him about it. “Our disappointments are God’s appointments.” The situation can be used for the glory of the Lord. Joseph knew disappointment in his life – he was sold into slavery. However, the Lord used him to feed the hungry and bring great comfort to many people. Joseph could say to his enemy: “You meant this for evil but God has used it for good.” Gen ch 50 v 20.
The Lord had His hand on Ezekiel. The Spirit of the Lord brought Ezekiel in some strange way into the capital city of Jerusalem to show him what was happening there. Was it a trance-like experience? Was it a case that Ezekiel was translated? It is not clear. The city was full of idolatry. There seems to be a progression of seriousness in the idolatry.
Firstly, it was out in the open in full view of the people. Secondly, it was in the dark behind closed doors. Every man was doing what was in his imagination. Thirdly, it was worship of a specific false god. Fourthly, the men had turned their backs on God and were facing to the east to worship the sun. The result of all these abominations was to drive the Lord from His own Temple. He was about to forsake His own nation. Later in ch 10 Ezekiel has a vision of God aboard like a space ship taking off from the Temple and moving away. This happens every time a Church dies. The Holy Spirit moves away, to work elsewhere.
First. There was an idol to jealousy. It may be that they were coveting material possessions. It is the sin of many nations, which have put their trust in materialism. There was no shame. Materialism is a false god. Advertising tells man that he needs things, which he does not really need. It provokes a desire to have. Want, want, want! Television tells the people: ” You need that!” It provokes desire to have it. It appeals to the emotions. I want it! It was a public statement that the people wanted materialism. Or it may have been the god of sex in the form of an Asherah pole, such as the one constructed by King Manasseh. It was respectable. Everyone was doing it. Sex is an idol in the land. It is used to sell just about everything. There is great stress on the physical relationship between people rather than the spiritual relationship of real concern for another person. So when the physical attraction dies, as it tends to do, there is nothing left. This contributes so often to divorce. Real love cares for the individual as a person, regardless of physical attraction. But there was worse.
Second. In the privacy of their own homes, where they thought the Lord could not see them, they were giving vent to their secret desires. The things they would be ashamed to do in public, they were doing in private – watching television or the internet. Now children have access to pornography. They were making drawings of unclean things. There were thoughts in the mind, which no one could see. But God saw it. He knows the thoughts of our minds. Gen ch 6 v 5. This is a key verse. The thoughts and imaginations were only evil continuously. There were no worthwhile thoughts. They were making drawings of unclean things on the walls of their rooms. In prison, and in offices there are pin-ups and all sorts of perversions. Surveyors can tell of things they see in cupboards, when inspecting a house – “Public interest” magazines. Satan came to Eve when she was alone. That is a time when man is vulnerable to temptation. The man named Jaazaniah was the son of a prominent family. Even the most important people were at it. Jesus says in Mat ch 6 v 4 to go into a secret place to pray to God – not in public but in secret. What a man does in secret is the real test of his love for God, when there is no praise from man, when no one knows the sacrifice he is making. It is one thing to worship God in public but another thing to worship Him when man is alone. God knows not only every action but every secret thought. What a man does in the secret place (where no ones knows) determines his destiny. All will be brought out into the open at the end of man’s life. God saw what these men were doing and showed Ezekiel. There was worse still.
Third. The women sat weeping for Tammuz. This was a fertility god. They thought that it was Tammuz who blessed the land and made the crops to grow. In Deut ch 28 v 11 God promised that He would do that, if the people worshipped Him. Tammuz was the son of Nimrod and Semiramis and claimed to be the one born of woman in Gen ch 3 v 15 – in other words the messiah. There are many superstitions alive today. Which false gods do people turn to today, when they want good weather or favourable circumstances? Gad and Meni, the twin gods worshipped as false gods for centuries. They are known as Luck and Fate. Isaiah ch 65 v 11. The omens were with man. People cross their fingers and trust in fortune-tellers, the stars, prize draws, and so on. What could be worse than that?
Fourth. The leading men in the community had physically turned their back on God and were worshipping the sun. Romans ch 1 v 24-25. How many people will say: ” I used to go to Church but no longer.” Most people do not violently reject God. They just quietly walk away, until they are so far away that they no longer have any thought for Him. They were worshipping the creature rather than the Creator. They put the branch to their nose – probably means that they created a stench in God’s nostrils. The whole business stinks! Punishment had to follow. Punishment follows sin like night follows day. It is interesting that they faced the East. Today many in New Age are interested in Eastern religion and the worship of nature. The leaders were leading the people astray.
History shows that countries can also reject God and impose an idol in His place.
Russia rejected its Christian revelation of God and His Messiah Jesus Christ and replaced them with Communism and its messiah Lenin – and tens of millions died.
Germany rejected its Christian revelation of God and His Messiah Jesus Christ and replaced them with National Socialism and its messiah Hitler – and tens of millions died in World War II.
China rejected its revelation of God and His Messiah Jesus Christ and replaced them with Communism and its messiah Mao Tse-Tung – and tens of millions died.
If the West continues to reject its revelation of God and His Messiah Jesus Christ, it will ultimately replace them with something else and its messiah – and tens of millions of people will die. Is that happening right now? In what way is it happening? What are the false gods, which are replacing the revelation of God and His Messiah Jesus Christ and claiming the allegiance of millions in the West? The three biggest are
1. Sport. 2. Sex . 3. Money. If a man were on Satan’s staff, what idols would he target to draw believers away from their worship of God? These three would be top of the list.
The thrust of Scripture is of people, who once worshipped the living God. They fell away and ended up worshipping the creature, rather than the Creator. History shows that countries can also reject God and impose an idol in His place.
Praise of men is not part of God’s plan. Competition is not part of God’s plan. Jesus chided the Disciples for arguing amongst themselves as to which one was the greatest. Mark ch 9 v 35. In Mark ch 10 v 35 the same thing is found. v 43. Whoever would be the greatest must be the servant of the others. Satan tempted Jesus by offering Him the kingdoms of the whole World. Deut ch 6 v 13. “You shall not go after others gods.” The fallen nature desires the praise of men, rather than God. That was Satan’s desire, when he was thrown out of Heaven. It is his purpose to dethrone God in the hearts of men and replace the throne with anything else, which is available. Competition is the basis of society in the West – from education – to business – to personal standing. The only reference to competing in the Scriptures is when Paul talks about running the race. There he is using the illustration to show how man should be pressing on to the goal of holiness with the same determination, which the athlete shows when competing against another athlete. Holiness and integrity should be the only goals of man’s life. Seeking to please the Lord is the objective of life – not outdoing other human beings. God did not design man to compete with one another but to complete one another.
There is nothing inherently wrong in sport, sex and money. It is good to relax and exercise the body. God gave that instruction. Sex was designed by God for companionship and procreation. It was His idea. Money is simply the control of resources. God gave the resources to man to steward the Earth for Him. Money is not evil. It is the love of it, which is the root of evil. What matters is how a man gains wealth and what he does with it.
1. Sport. Who is dying? Those who worship the false gods of sport are dying spiritually. Vast sums of money are paid by people to watch sport and as a result the poor are getting poorer. The money spent on sport could be spent on other things to eradicate poverty. Who cares for the undernourished children? The stars are earning vast sums of money, which can only come from the young and vulnerable. They are looking for a saviour to lift them out of their mediocre life – to save them from the boredom and anonymity of their life.
Why has there been an explosion of sport in the twenty first century? Insignificance opens the door to competition in order to feel worth something. As a result of the teaching of evolution and the increase of numbering people, where a man’s number is more important that his name, man looked for a meaning to life. God loves each man and can answer the feeling of worthlessness. Sport first appeared with the Olympic games in the days of the Greek Empire. There the thought pattern was Hellenism. Today the thought pattern is the same – only it is called humanism. It is a rejection of God and His Messiah and replacement of it with glory to man and a worship of the created thing – man – rather than the Creator. A man needs to have a sense of worth. The child of God should know that he is precious to God. He is worth so much that Jesus died for him. Non-believers are looking in all directions for a sense that they are worth something. Whether a man plays sport or watches it, the better he performs or the better his team performs, the more worthwhile he feels. Competition has expanded to cooking, gardening, league tables in schools and hospitals with the fewest fatalities. This is all to do with being better than others. It is good to have a time of rest and exercise the body. But at the heart of sport, especially organised sport, is competition. If a man can defeat the other competitors, he is better than them and is therefore worth more.
When a man supports a team it is better to worship the best team. In that way he feels a sense of being part of the success of the team. That is why winning is more important than taking part. That is why players are taught to cheat. Win at all costs. That is why countries allocate resources to its athletes. If they can win, the country gets the acclaim. Sponsors will put up money to help the best player, because if he is a success, their product is associated with the success. Their customers will think of them as a success and buy their product. Sponsors want to be linked with success in the sporting arena. Football imagery is increasingly being used to sell products. Football started it in the early part of the twentieth century. At least it is a spectator sport. There is a degree of activity. It has now reached the situation where millions spend hours watching darts and golf and snooker, which are not spectator sports. There is even a whole channel on television devoted to sports. During the last World Cup some people just wanted to touch the cup and kiss it. The losing team cried in public. It had been their life for a long time back.
2. Sex. There is a sexual explosion in the West. There is nothing new. Jer ch 2 v 24-25. Who dies? For a start the 7 million babies who have been sacrificed in the incinerators of the hospitals of Britain, so that people can enjoy their sexual life style without the responsibility of bringing up the children, who are conceived as a result of their sexual activity. The Abortion Act in 1967. A similar act was passed in America. Was this when the days of the Gentiles are fulfilled? The sin of Manasseh was the sin, which drove the Jews into Babylon. Jer ch v 15 v 4. He brought in child sacrifice to the god Molech and made the people to sin. The goddess of sex has several names in the Bible – Astarte, Astorath, Nina in Assyria and the Queen of the South.
Homosexuals tend to die in their forties. Aids will continue to claim millions of lives, if there is not a change of attitude. It takes 8 years for the symptoms to show up in the body. There can be no cure for sin. God has provided only one cure for sin – the man Jesus. Despite vast sums of money trying to educate the public to take care, there is little sign that the incidence of sexual activity is being reduced. On occasions explicit sexual material may be shown on all four channels on British television at the same time. Nudity has always been associated with sin from the time of Noah and his sons. Anorexia – the desire to be slim and sexually attractive leads to death and misery for many and blights the life of others as they grow older, by being unable to reproduce and by having brittle bones and starvation of the brain through lack of a good diet. Sex used to be boys using girls as play things. Now the girls are using the boys as play things. Girls flock to see male strippers. Images of male bodies are used to sell products.
Sexual exploitation has as its basis personal attention. The sexual drive was intended by God to be subject to the control of the Holy Spirit. When man rejects God and His control over his life, the power of the Holy Spirit is lost and the drive belt runs free. Part of the fruit of the spirit is self-control – the ability to say “No” to self. The sexual act was intended to be one of giving to one’s mate the ultimate in affection and privacy. Now it is reduced to self-gratification.
A vast sum of money is spent on clothes, make up, hair and body shape. The cost of it all is enormous. Britain spends more on slimming pills than it does on overseas aid.
There are underlying reasons for the fascination with sex.
1. Wherever they turn, sex is thrust upon young people – long before there is a natural inclination to be interested. There is a sex-saturated culture. The constant impression is that fornication and adultery are normal and unless man is actively involved, he is not normal. The media does not give the accurate picture. People want sensationalism and will pay for it. There are vested interests for inflaming the passions of the watching population. Satan is interested in undermining marriage. Even very young are clothes conscious – image conscious. Many are not sure of love at home and seek to prove their importance in looks and how they perform.
2. Peer pressure especially on the young is enormous. It is almost an irresistible force. The peers put down all those who think differently. They are saying: “Conform or get lost.” In an age when young people are alienated from their elders, who is left for companionship? Given the environment of an unhappy home or an unsatisfied hunger for love and popularity, a girl may decide that anything is better than the limbo in which she lives. All young people yearn for recognition as an individual. A girl might well be reacting to neglect, over-discipline or over-protection. Whereas girls are looking for emotional love, boys are looking for satisfaction for their urges. She wants love and plays at sex. He wants sex and plays at love. Now both are involved in sexting.
Sex. Statistics prove that marriages are much more likely to last if the couple have never practised premarital sex. Self-restraint is not a popular concept in the World today. The overwhelming message is – if it feels good, do it. Real love is the willingness to put someone else’s happiness and welfare before personal desires. Passion has no morals, no standards, no control, and no compassion. It seeks immediate satisfaction. In its worst instances it leads to reprobation. These are totally depraved people. They have lost the ability to discern between good and evil. They have a seared conscience.
3. Money. Who is dying when this god is worshipped? The poor. Lack of resources to tackle famine and health care is diverted into the hands of the rich. There is enough food in the World to feed every human being 1 1/4 times over. That is official. There need be no hunger or poverty in the World. The love of money is the root of all evil. Money can bring a degree of happiness and relief from poverty. Wealth is worshipped and respected in the West as a god. People go into debt to acquire more possessions. It gives them a sense of worth. The whole of the banking system is based on people borrowing and paying interest to the banks regardless of the needs of the people. The borrower is in debt to the creditor. Insurance premiums for young drivers are so great – because of the level of accidents. Gambling is a part of the desire to acquire money, especially the lottery. It is said to be a tax on the poor. While there is no obligation on the poor to take part, many see it as the only hope of getting out of their poverty in a World, which worships wealth and despises poverty. The poor spend a greater percentage of their income on gambling than the rich and so the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. In that sense it is a tax on the poor. God does not want man to be poor. Poverty is a curse. Deut ch 28 v 15 – 67. The gap between the rich and the poor is increasing. The rich countries give economic aid but charge interest on the aid, which the poor countries cannot afford to repay. The Lottery has become the god of many nations. It is talked about. It consumes time. It eats up income.
Money gives personal power over another – the master and the slave – the employer and the employee. The saddest thing is that people, who have spent their whole life acquiring their wealth, find it most difficult to give it away. It goes against a lifetime of habit. Now people are going to great lengths to secure the benefits, even when they do not need them. The Lottery has become the god of the nation. It is talked about. It consumes time. It eats up income. The desire for more money leads many into gambling and dishonourable activities. Coveting is a major sin.
When fame is the aim of a man he becomes competitive lest others upstage him, which makes him envious. When money is his objective, he lives in fear of losing it, which makes him suspicious. When possessions are his god, he becomes greedy, because he never has enough. When power and influence drive him, he becomes self-willed and arrogant. All these go against the command to be content. By working hard in whatever sphere, to prove that he is worthy a man is accepting the hidden message that he can be righteous by his own efforts without needing a saviour.
Can a believer have an idol as well as Jesus? Whatever was the false god before conversion is like his achiles heel. Satan will work on his weak spot to draw him back into bondage and former idol worship. Jer ch 2 v 24. One of Israel’s idols was sex. It is a powerful weapon in the hands of the enemy.
What other idols do people have? What do they talk about? What do they spend their money on?
Family. Many worship their family. Women in particular can grow so attached to their children, that the children become the very centre of their life. They talk about them all the time. Some mothers become possessive of their children. Their lives revolve round the children to such an extent that they cannot bear to let them go.
Food. Does a man live to eat or eat to live? Gluttony and drunkenness are always together in the Bible.
Holidays. Some live from one holiday to the next. As soon as one is over they plan the next one. The caravan, chalet or time-share.
Shopping. Window-shopping is the worship of material things.
Motor car (automobaal) or some other material symbol of wealth. Gladstone said: “Show me where your young men are on a Sunday and I shall show you the strength of the nation.” Many young men are at D. I. Y. stores.
Clothes. “Are you a fashion freak, who spends all your money on clothes and jewellery?” That can become an idol. Some people admit to being addicted to shopping. They even like to window shop.
A person, such as a pop star or a sporting star. Pictures on the wall. Hero worship.
Politics. Religion. The garden, hobbies. Walking. Orienteering. When it comes to Sunday, that is where they are. That is what has filled the minds all week.
Even Christian activities can become an idol – Gideons, S.U. Preaching, The Church, The Fellowship.
An idol is whatever claims the loyalty, which is due to Jesus alone.
Work. The shop, the office, the garage and the school. Talking shop. That is what they like to talk about. That is their god.
False gods. 1 Chr ch 16 v 23-36. They are gods of the imagination. “I think god is like this!” God reveals Himself to man through the Bible and in Jesus. “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” Allah is a demonic being. So is Buddha. Buddha said: “Don’t worship me.” Buddhist monks say: ” We have to worship someone, so it might as well be Buddha.” The difference is that those who worship false gods, do so on their own terms. The error of religion is that it scales down its gods, so that they pose no threat to the people. The people are left to make their own decisions as they see fit. They are as gods. Gen ch 3 v 5. This was the original lie by Satan.
A picture of Jesus. What is wrong with that? Nowhere in the Scriptures is man told about the physical characteristics of Jesus. He may have been not too tall, since Zacchaeus could not see Him over the crowd. He had a beard. That was customary in the land. The soldiers pulled it. The body is but a vehicle to contain the soul and the spirit. It is character, which is of concern to God. The body returns to the grave dust to dust and the spirit returns to God. In the West the body is worshipped. It is given undue attention. People are concerned more with what they look like physically than where they are in relation to God. Magazines encourage worship of the body. At the same time they are sliding into moral and spiritual bankruptcy. Mat ch 6 v 31-33. What man sees with his eyes registers in his mind. A picture of Jesus hanging on the cross speaks of a defeated man. The empty cross speaks of one who has risen. That is why countries want a strong image e.g. a lion or a bear or an eagle. It conveys the idea of strength. God chose a lamb as His symbol. What about the film: Jesus of Nazareth? Is it acceptable. After the film – The Ten Commandments, Moses appears as Charlton Heston. The conclusion is that the film showing a face of an actor as Jesus is an image, which is forbidden. It may be acceptable, if only the back of His body is seen.
There is a very real temptation for a believer to transfer his allegiance away from Jesus to other gods. He who perseveres to the end shall be saved. Was this what Jesus had in mind when He said that? Salvation is a process and anything, which interferes with that process, will bring the process to a halt. Ezekiel ch 8 is there as a warning to all believers. Solomon epitomises a man of God, greatly blessed in his early years and chosen to write a significant part of the Scriptures, yet who fell into idol worship and ended up a disaster. As soon as he agreed to worship false gods to placate his wives, he lost his love for God. The people with whom a man spends time will lead him to worship of their idols. Choose friends carefully. People become like their idols – unfaithful and unreliable. An idol dishonours God and takes away His greatness. Idol worship soaks up time and energy.
4. 1 Cor ch 10 v 14. “Carefully avoid idol-worship of every kind.” That is a negative command. There is a positive command in 2 Chr ch 15 v 8 and v 16. If something is keeping you away from worshipping the Lord, get rid of it. That is the advice from God. It is stealing love from the heart. It has serious consequences. Psalm 106 v 34-42. 1 Thes ch 1 v 9. These Christians had turned away from idols to worship God.
Esau worshipped his life style. He was a hunter who loved shooting and fishing. He despised the more serious aspects of life, such as leading the family worship. He regarded it lightly. Pilate put his career before Jesus. “You are not Caesar’s friend.”
In Ecclesiastes it says: “I tried, building, gardening, etc.” A man may fill his mind with anything but the Word of God.
Throughout the Bible there is teaching of a history of people falling into idolatry. Something or someone comes along and captures the heart or imagination of the man, who used to worship God. When the thoughts are turned away from God, there is a vacuum to be filled. The enemy rushes in to fill it. Man was designed to worship and focus on God.
Isaiah ch 46 v 1-2. God holds the worship of wood or metal images in derision. Most would agree. Logically, they have no power. Some say: “Where’s the harm in it?” But there is power. There is power in the name of Jesus. Demons flee before that name. People get very upset, if a man keeps talking about Jesus. There is a spiritual reality. There is power in baptism and confession. Jer ch 2 v 5. Hosea ch 9 v 10.
There is a very real temptation to transfer allegiance away from the Lord Jesus to other gods. Salvation is a process and not a once and for all event. Idolatry of any kind interferes with the process. The process grinds to a halt. The passage in Ezekiel is a warning. It could happen to any believer. This is a passage of Scripture for today and one to be taken very seriously at all stages of the walk through life as an adopted child of God.
Verses relating to this topic.
Romans ch 1 v 18-28.
Ezekiel ch 8.
Exodus ch 20 v 3.
John ch 4 v 24.
Matthew ch 6 v 31 – 33.
Isaiah ch 44 v 9-20.
Gen ch 50 v 20.
Gen ch 6 v 5.
Deut ch 28 v 11.
Isaiah ch 65 v 11.
Romans ch 1 v 24-25.
Mark ch 9 v 35.
Mark ch 10 v 35.
Deut ch 6 v 13.
Jer ch 2 v 23-24.
Jer ch v 15 v 4.
Deut ch 28 v 15 – 67.
Jer ch 2 v 24.
1 Chr ch 16 v 23-36.
Matthew ch 6 v 31-33.
1 Cor ch 10 v 14.
2 Chr ch 15 v 8 and v 16.
Psalm 106 34-42.
1 Thes ch 1 v 9.
Jer ch 2 v 5.
Hosea ch 9 v 10.
Isaiah ch 46 v 1-2.
God is truth. The Holy Spirit will lead a man into all truth. Therefore God will never deceive a man. When it says that God sends a delusion, it is the same use of grammar when it speaks of God hardening Pharaoh’s heart. He allowed it to happen but did not specifically bring it to pass. Satan is very active in the area of deception but the following Scriptures make it clear that in certain areas a man deceives himself.
(a) When a man hears the Word of God and does not do it, he deceives himself. Jas ch 1 v 22. 1 Pet ch 1v 13. Man tends to condemn in others what he has in himself. Many preachers preach against the very sins, which are in their heart. Believers are called to be doers of the Word and not just hearers of the Word. Man can marvel at a truth in the Bible and tell others about it without taking it into his own heart and putting it into practice in his own life. A man deceives himself, if he thinks that he does not have to obey the truth.
(b) If a man says that he has no sin, he deceives himself. 1 John ch 1 v 8. When a man fails to repent of sins he is preparing for a big fall due to pride. Paul was addressing the situation where some mature Christians felt that they had achieved perfection and that they had arrived. Phil ch 3. Paul made it clear that he was still pressing on to the goal of being like Jesus. Man will not reach perfection in this life.
(c) When a man thinks that he is better than he is, he deceives himself. Rom ch 12 v 3. Gal ch 6 v 3. There is a danger of a man taking credit for his achievements and attributing them to himself. Believers are special to God but are only what they are by the grace of God. They can take pleasure in accomplishing certain worthwhile deeds for God. However, they must realise who they are in the same way as John the Baptist did. Jesus must increase while the believer decreases.
(d) When a man thinks that he is wise, he deceives himself. 1 Cor ch 3 v 18-19. Rom ch 1 v 22. New Age. If a believer thinks that he can outsmart Satan on his own without help he is foolish. When a man parades his knowledge before others, he is denying that all he knows is by the grace of God. A man cannot take credit for studying God’s Word. He is obliged to do that.
(e) When a man thinks that he is a believer but does not control his tongue, he deceives himself. Jas ch 1 v 26. The Amorite Spirit leads to gossip, criticism and defamation. Out of the heart the mouth speaks. A man has to watch what he says and has to give account to Jesus for every careless word spoken in his lifetime. Mat ch 12 v 36-37. Too many people talk too much.
(f) When a man thinks that he will not reap what he has sown, he deceives himself. Gal ch 6 v 7. This is the message of Obadiah. “As you do to others, so it will be done to you.” 2 Cor ch 5 v 10. This principle of God applies to believers as well as unbelievers.
(g) When a man thinks that the unrighteous will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, he deceives himself. The righteous man does the right thing. 1 Cor ch 6 v 9-10. Universalism. The unsaved members of the family of a believer will not get to Heaven. They are good people but then they are meant to be good people. A man’s life style must match what he believes. An ungodly person may be morally good but does not have God at the centre of his life.
(h) When a man thinks that he can keep bad company and not be affected, he deceives himself. 1 Cor ch 15 v 33. Believers are in the World but must not be part of it. One bad apple will spoil the whole barrel of apples. What a man watches and reads and hears all has an effect on him. Phil ch 4 v 8. Whatever is pure etc look on that thing. David tarried in Jerusalem and found himself in trouble with Bathsheba.