Bible Faith Fellowship: Substance Over Form

The Combat Zone

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Barry Johnson

The Combat Zone The Combat Zone

Date 2013-03-24
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Sub-series  
Document (PDF) BFF-20130324-TheCombatZone.pdf

Call to Worship

Ephesians 4:7-18, “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore He says, “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men. ‘ (Now this, ‘He ascended’ — what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.) And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that wwe should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head — Christ — from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart …” Thanks be to God

Message

Last Sunday, our message from the Holy Spirit was on the subject of Role Models. The Ladies Bible Study began this past Tuesday and, unbeknownst to me, the opening section of that study was on Hero Worship. Well, obviously, in the timing of the Holy Spirit, He brought us all to the same place: for Role Models and Hero Worship deal with the same question: Who do I model my life after? The clear message of both that sermon and that part of the Ladies Bible Study is the same: that humans are not perfect and will not be perfect, and that the only perfect role model, the only One deserving of hero worship is the Holy Trinity, the Godhead of God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

For our message today, the Holy Spirit has drawn me back to this same issue of Role Models, but today from the perspective of sin. Sin is the correct perspective on Role Models and Hero Worship, because their whole purpose is for our following a better example than we believe we, ourselves, are.

Since we were not without sin, are not now without sin, and will not ever, in this life, be without sin, do we just give up on fighting sin in our lives, or do we continue to deal with sin by working to reject it and to overcome it in our lives? The message of the Holy Scriptures is clearly that we learn why and how to reject sin in our lives, and how to fight against sin in our lives, including what to do when we fail yet again in our lives.

Why should we reject sin in our lives?

We should reject sin in our lives, because God is holy, righteousness and perfect, and we are not. But, we are called by God to live our lives on a journey to holiness, righteousness and perfection. None before us, except Jesus on Earth, has been perfectly holy, righteous and pure. We are not either. As John the Baptist knew that he was not worthy to untie the laces of the sandals of Jesus Christ; as Moses, even Moses, was not worthy to see the face of God; so, we are all unworthy of God the Father, of the Son Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit. But God is love, and He calls us to Him in love, and, in love, He sent Jesus to die for our sins, that in His atoning death, we might be washed clean of our sins, that our hearts might be changed forever, by accepting that measure of faith given to each of us by God, to believe in Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Savior, and to seek to make Him Lord of our lives, so that no longer is Satan the Lord of our lives, and neither is our flesh the Lord of our lives. That is God’s plan for us, His best for us.

Acknowledgement of our sin, and Repentance from our sin, together, is the first, organic step we make as Christians, and they, together, are the foundations of how God calls and instructs us to live after we have been saved through Jesus Christ.

How we conduct ourselves in life, what decisions and choices we make, determine the fruit of our lives, determine what is produced in and from our lives. This becomes a measure of how much we have allowed God to change our hearts because of our profession of faith in Jesus Christ, and because of our Godly sorrow, leading to repentance.

The Gospels record that Jesus began is earthly ministry by declaring to the people, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.”

A permanent state of repentance is the permanent state of attitude — mind and heart — of a Christian. That state of repentance enables us to walk out our lives, to make all of our remaining choices and decisions, before our time is up, with joy in the freedom of redemption of our lives, from bondage to sin and death, into the freedom of bond service to God.

In Romans 6:5-6,11-14, we have from St. Paul this one clear explanation: “For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin. … (11-14) Likewise, you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness in sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under the law, but under grace.”

Paul gives us further insight in Romans 7:4-6, “Therefore, my brethren you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another — to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.”

So, we are called, in our newness of life, after having been born again, to “present (ourselves) to God as being alive from the dead”, because we “do not let sin reign in (our) mortal (bodies)”; that because we live “under grace”, “we should serve in the newness of the Spirit”.

How do we reject sin in our lives?

This has the simplest answer and is the hardest for us to do: No. Just say “no”. Our failures in this important, constant activity are why we keep sinning — as Beth Moore says, going back, again and again, “to our agains”. She prays that we would be delivered from “our agains”. So we must also pray and defend ourselves from sin. You know, sin just does not “happen”. The opportunities for sin are always all around us. Whether we act is sin depends on our choices in the face of sinful opportunities.

As Cain so sadly learned, sin is always crouching at our door, Genesis 4:7, and our enemy, “the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour”. 1 Peter 5:8.

We know sin is always, always, lurking around us and we also know that we don’t want to be devoured by the enemy of our souls, Satan.

So how do we reject sin in our lives? It is a simple as what St. Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:27, no not “give place to the devil”.

Rejecting sin is as simple as what St. James wrote in James 4:7-8, 9b, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded… . Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up.” Our life is a container of power; power will not stand a vacuum, an emptiness. So, when our life is full of sin, we have not made room for God. But when we fill our life with God, by drawing near to Him, then the darkness of sin and evil is driven out by the light of God. They cannot coexist, and we must constantly choose and act to empower our lives with the true strength of God in Christ, instead of drifting along the “feel good” path of the power of sin.

Rejecting sin is as simple as what Jesus said, Matthew 16:23, when Peter had begun to rebuke Jesus for telling the disciples that He would be killed and raised up the third day, as Jesus recognized that Peter was allowing Satan to speak through him, through Peter: “But He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.’”

What Jesus was describing to Satan and to Peter is the fundamental reason why we have such difficulty resisting and rejecting sin in our lives, why we have so many patterns of returning, in our “agains”, to the vomit of our sins: It is double-mindedness. Jesus, there in Matthew 16:23 defined double-mindedness as where we are so mindful of the things of men that we can’t keep ourselves mindful of the things of God. James simply called it double-minded. The way that Paul describes it in Ephesians 4:27 suggests that we are double-minded to the extent that we give any place to the devil in our decisions and choices in life. All of them, Jesus, Paul, James, make it clear that we will be able to resist and reject sin in our lives only by making and keeping ourselves mindful of the things of God instead of the things of men.

That is empowering ourselves with God, by drawing near to Him, and allowing His light to extinguish the darkness in us. Thus it is, that in James 4, that we read today, James urges us Christians to cleanse our hands and purify our minds. James asks us this serious question: have you washed your hands of sin, washed them in the blood of Jesus, so that sin’s hold on you, with its griminess and dirtiness and deathliness — like MERSA, a flesh-eating bacteria — is sanitized by the blood of Jesus and really gone from you. That is what repentance looks like: you no more wash your hands once, early in your life when you learn its importance and then never do so again, than you should consider your hands spiritually clean from the initial repentance at your conversion and first confession. You must keep washing your physical hands throughout life, by soap, and you must keep washing your spiritual hands throughout life, by confession and repentance. The goal of both is less and less dirtiness.

It is easy to wash hands, but it is impossible to resist sin and reject sin while you are double-minded. That is the hard part, purifying your mind of double-mindedness, as James wrote about. That is the hard part, as Jesus said, making your mind “mindful of the things of God” instead of “the things of men.” That is the hard part, as Paul wrote about, in disciplining your mind so that you do not “give place to the devil”.

So, how do you get this mental purification done? It gets back to your personal decisions and choices. You make your own answer to this question, you can measure whether or not you ever get your mind purified from its double-mindedness, by the fruit of your life. That fruit, good or bad, will express whether you delighted yourself in yourself (i.e., in your own flesh and its satisfactions) or in your own sins, or in God. That fruit, good or bad, will express whether you trusted God or yourself. You don’t have to wait until the Judgment Day, standing in uncertainty before the Great White Throne to figure out who you trusted in your life. Do it now! Figure it out now!

Learn Psalm 37, and commit yourself to its teaching, and you will purify your minds of double-mindedness. Read, Psalm 37:3-7a, 8, 16-17, 21, 23-34, 39-40, “Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord. Trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass. He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him… . (8) Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; do not fret — it only causes harm… . (16-17) A little that a righteous man has is better than the riches of many wicked, for the arms of the wicked shall be broken. But the Lord upholds the righteous… . (21) The wicked borrows and does not repay, but the righteous shows mercy and gives… . (23-34) The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the Lord upholds him with His hand. I have been young and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread. He is ever merciful, and lends, and His descendants are blessed. Depart from evil, and do good; and dwell forevermore. For the Lord loves justice, and does not forsake His saints; they are preserved forever, but the descendants of the wicked shall be cut off. The righteous shall inherit the land and dwell in it forever. The mouth of the righteous speaks wisdom, and his tongue talks of justice. The law of his God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide. The wicked watches the righteous, and seeks to slay him. The Lord will not leave him in his hand, nor condemn him when he is judged. Wait on the Lord, and keep His way, and He shall exalt you to inherit the land; when the wicked are cut off, you shall see it… . (39-40) But the salvation of the righteous is from the Lord; He is their strength in time of trouble. And the Lord shall help them and deliver them; He shall deliver them from the wicked, and save them, because they trust in Him.”

Psalm 37 teaches us that, to be mindful of the things of God instead of the things of men, we must make choices for the things of God, which at each cross-roads of decision, will include the things of God and exclude the things of men: Choose to commit your way to the Lord, trust and delight in Him; choose to wait patiently on the Lord; choose to do good, to depart from evil, and not to sin; choose not to live in anger, wrath or fretfulness; choose to be satisfied with what God has provided to you; choose to be merciful and giving, not selfish, with others; choose to obey the Lord as He orders your steps; choose to know and believe that you will fall down, but because of your faithful obedience, He will uphold you when you fall; choose to learn the wisdom and justice of the Lord and to speak it, the truth, in love; choose to know and keep the law of the Lord in your heart; choose to trust the Lord to be your strength --- as you wait patiently --- in time of trouble, knowing that the Lord will help you each time and deliver you each time.

That is how you defeat double-mindedness and purify your mind from it.

How do we fight against sin in our lives, including what to do when we fail?

There are three essential points here: (1) Know the law of God so you can keep it in your heart and mind, and therefore can apply it and live it out in your body; (2) spiritual warfare; (3) what to do when you fail and sin.

First, Jesus gave us the best example of knowing the law of God so as to be empowered to apply it in His life. When Jesus came from the journey of fasting and praying in the desert, in preparation for the ordeals of His earthly ministry, Satan came to Jesus in His physical weakness and found, instead of weakness, the spiritual strength of Jesus expressed in the laws of God. See Matthew 4:1-11, where Satan tempted Jesus three times and each time the response of Jesus was with the words and law of God, as expressed in Scripture, saying in each case, “It is written”: (1) “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (quoting Deuteronomy 8:3); (2) “You shall not tempt the Lord your God” (quoting Deuteronomy 6:16); and (3) “You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only you shall serve” (quoting Deuteronomy 6:13). If you study the Bible, the Holy Scripture, knowing that every word is inspired by God, Himself, and if you do so with daily diligence, then you will have an arsenal of weapons from the Word and Laws of God with which to resist and reject sin, just like Jesus did. Use the Word and Laws of God whenever Satan crouches deceptively at your door, or roars like a devouring lion, threatening you with worldly non-acceptance or mere physical harm. Go back to the example of Jesus and the instruction of Psalm 37, to start with. Daily, renew your minds, Romans 12:2, by your knowledge of the Word and Laws of God, and your choices to obey them, so that you are no longer conformed to the ways and things of this world, but that you are, and continue to be, transformed by the continuous renewing of your mind, so that you might prove — to yourself, people around you, and to Satan — what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God for you, in your life, all day, every day!

Second, understand and live in the combat zone of spiritual warfare. Find your peace in that combat zone, which is a Christian life, as you commit everything, there, in your life in that combat zone, to our Lord, with thanksgiving, expecting as you purify your mind from the poison of double-mindedness, that He will grant you peace that passes by, and leaves behind, the understanding of your mind.

To do this, you must first join the church (not a denomination or sect, as such, but the true church universal), Ephesians 3:10, in making known the manifold wisdom of God to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places. You see, Satan knows of God’s power: God threw Satan and his legion of angels right out of heaven. Satan gets that. What Satan and God are battling over is us, over our souls. When we join the rest of the church in this supernatural fight, in the heavenly places, we prove to Satan that God is right for us, that God has won us over, and that we are committed to God, no matter what Satan, or our flesh, has to offer.

Then, we must really revel in the battle, even tersely smile in the fight, knowing, Ephesians 6:12, that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

And we must know how to fight spiritually (see Spiritual Warfare prayer booklets). Spiritual armor, Ephesians 6:13-18, “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit… .”

And we must know when to stand in faith spiritually, having reached our limits other than to stand. When we get there, to the place of standing, we need not to be Lone Rangers, fighting all the evil of the times of our lives, all by ourselves. We need each other; we need the church. When the battle rages, and we are at the point of the spear, we need our supporting prayer warriers, our encouragers, like Moses and his helpers, we need fellow believers to know our struggles, and to be part of them, to share them with us, and to pray with and for us, and to lift up our arms in our times of standing in weakness. And we need to do the same for them, bearing up with them in their part of this combat, spiritual combat, standing in the armor of God with all the saints in the supernatural battle of the combat zone which is our lives.

Third, we need to have confidence that when we fail, 1 John 1: 9, and confess our sins, God is faithful to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness, just like the promise of Psalm 37:23-24, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the Lord upholds him with His hand.”!

Conclusion

You can’t deal with the problem of sin in your life without: (1) knowing the Word and Law of God — READ YOUR BIBLES; and (2) purifying your mind of double-mindedness; (3) living obediently, humbly and repentantly, in faith in Jesus, before God and man; (3) engaging in the supernatural combat zone of spiritual warfare, in unceasing prayer, unceasing clothing in the armor of God, unceasing firmness to stand in faith on the Word and Laws of God; and (4) unity with the church of believers of knowledge and faith in Jesus Christ, Ephesians 4:13, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.

God bless you and amen+