Warring With The Word
Has it ever grabbed you as to what high marks and sterling qualities are ascribed to the infallible Word of God by the Holy Spirit-inspired penmen of both Bible Testaments? They are truly stunning! According to II Timothy 3:17 the Word of God is able to equip man for every good work. Wow! That is no small accomplishment, seeing we come into the world preprogrammed for every bad work. There is none that doeth good, no not one! (Romans 3:12) From everything bad to everything good! What a testament to the power of the Testaments!
There is not only overwhelming power in the blood, as the old song affirms, but there is awesome power in the Word of God. We read in Romans 1:16 that the Gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. Amazing, seeing we come into the world dead in sin and dead set against the Word of God. Of course! For a sinner to look into the Law of God is like a teenager covered with acne looking into a mirror. Not a pretty sight and not a pleasant experience. But the great good news of the Bible is that Jesus became that awful sin-acne for us, so that we might become the unblemished righteousness of God in Him. (II Corinthians 5:21) Powerful indeed!
According to Hebrews 4:12 the Word of God is so sharp and cuts so deep, that it reveals to us the rightness or wrongness even of the thoughts and intentions of our hearts. The powerful searching Word of God won’t allow us to get away with anything. Even if we avoid the doing of a sin, the Word of God will reveal to us if we are keeping a sinful inclination towards that evil within. Intentions! It will pierce into our very hearts, and uncover our most hidden tendencies that we thought were retired long ago. Be assured of this, that if we search the Scriptures daily, it will daily search us, and that it will always do a better job on us than we do on it.
These by way of introduction are just a few of the powers of the Word of God. Let’s together look more at length at some other powerful capabilities of God’s Holy Word.
TEACHING THE SIMPLE
Psalm 119:130 states:
“The unfolding of Thy words gives light; it gives
understanding to the simple.”
We as preachers must take that to heart big time! It isn’t our words but His Word that brings people into true spiritual light in this ever-darkening world. We must keep our people riveted on the Word of God and not on our own words. If our words become the focus, it is lights out. If God’s Word becomes the focus, it is lights on!
Too many times these days God’s Word is not being unfolded but folded, and is not being opened up but shut by the dark carnal wisdom and vain imaginations of razzle dazzle preachers coming through towns with their religious dog and pony shows.
All preachers must recognize also that the Word of God gives understanding to the simple minded. Frankly, compared to God, the simple ones are all of us and not some specialized class of spiritual retards. Compared to the God of truth, we all are simpletons. But thank God for the promise also of Psalm 19:7,
“The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise
It then becomes very clear why people so easily fall into falsehood and deception. We are simply simple! It is both a profound and all too prevalent fact that:
“IT IS AS EASY TO DECEIVE THE SIMPLE AS IT IS
DIFFICULT TO TRULY ENLIGHTEN THEM.”
“IT IS AS EASY TO ATTACH THE SIMPLE TO UNTRUTH
AS IT IS DIFFICULT TO DETACH THEM FROM IT AND
REATTACH THEM TO TRUTH.”
Especially in this day and age when people are being held hostage by their TVs and DVDs, and their Bible knowledge wanes. It is a simple fact that people are so easily these days led into heresy because of their ignorance concerning the Word.
When I was a young seminary graduate and then rookie pastor, there were many in my first church who knew the Word of God far better than I did. The church members were the editors of my sermons, which I found out very quickly and painfully. All it took was one misquote of Scripture, or one doctrinally errant statement, and I would join the Trent Lott fraternity of ex-majority leaders. (As you may recall, Trent Lott toasted a segregationist and became a piece of political burnt toast. I eventually toasted spiritually the Holy Spirit and His gifts in a Sunday evening sermon, and became a piece of denominational burnt toast myself.)
Today it is much easier to deceive the simple because of a spiritual dumbing down in the ranks, and our sermons can go completely unedited Sunday after Sunday. Many preachers today are selling out the truth to buy bigger crowds, while there are still those, thank God, who are willing for the sake of truth to preach crowds away just like Jesus did again and again. There is a huge price to pay for truth!
Jesus referred to Satan in John 8:44 by the very unflattering name, “The Father of Lies.” In other words, Satan only has lies as his offspring. If you will, He only fathers liars. Nice family, hey? And he is not only populating the earth but also the religious world with liars these days. Under Satan’s mentoring, the father of lies now has many irreligious and religious children, and in the world and in much of the modern church truth has become the orphan.
Like hyperventilating vendors hawking their wares at county fairs, screaming preacher scam-artists are retailing God’s graces for 12 easy-monthly-flex payments of $71.21, promising the “Simple” total debt freedom and instant wealth. The “Simple” are literally swarming over these heresy-hives like bees over honey, even as they did in the days preceding Martin Luther. Johann Tetzel is up to his old tricks again, as people fork over their money for what turns out to be a handful of Lawrence Welk’s bubbles.
Sola Gratia, grace alone, the great Reformation truth of the Bible, is once again falling victim to religious huckstering and the retailing of God’s graces on a massive scale. Luther came against the “BUY YOUR LOVED ONES OUT OF PURGATORY INDULGENCES.” Today we must come against the “BUY YOUR WAY OUT OF DEBT AND INTO WEALTH INDULGENCES.” What are we trafficking in, His Words or ours? A desperately critical issue in these last days of church and world history! The great Protestant Reformation is being decimated and modern Protestantism is returning to Pre-Reformation Catholicism. Horrifying!
THE WEAPONRY OF THE WORD
The potent truth about the power of God’s Word is stated in Psalm 119:11,
“Thy word I have treasured in my heart, that I may
not sin against Thee.” (ASV)
Or the more familiar version of it for us seniors:
“Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not
sin against Thee.” (KJV)
A seemingly overly energetic claim made for the Word of God – if we get God’s Word deep down inside of us we can defeat sin no matter what temptation the Devil plies us with. Wow! Overstated? Jesus proved that it isn’t, as He repelled and baffled Satan again and again and again with the Word of God that He had hid in His heart and declared with His mouth. Each time He shot back at the devil with His holy howitzer, “IT IS WRITTEN” (Matthew 4:4,7,10), and then unloaded on the Devil the precise arsenal that was needed at the moment to bring him down.
More to the point, Jesus ran Satan through with the Sword of the Spirit three times in a row in that wilderness warfare, and God only knows how many times after that. Satan never plays war games. He is always in it for real. Fix your “Bible Bayonets!” The Christian life is not for those who only want to play army. Christians are not toy soldiers with water pistols. This is eternal life and eternal death warfare!
Jesus because of the Word of God went to Heaven as the undefeated heavyweight champion of the world and reduced Satan to a tongue-tied flyweight. So can we! Jude 24 states,
“Now unto Him who is able to you from stumbling, and to
make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless
with great joy….”
MAN’S INITIAL FAILURE
Tragically, this is where Adam and Eve failed so miserably.
Remember? Satan went to Eve first, not to Adam. Sly devil isn’t he? God had forbidden Adam to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil before Eve has been formed by God from Adam’s rib. Adam then passed on the Divine prohibition to his wife.
So for Satan, Eve was by no means a side issue. She was his key to success. As he declares war on the human race, he begins his assault on Eve as he asks her in Genesis 3:1,
“…Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any
tree of the garden?’”
A loaded question indeed! Loaded with untruth! God had said nothing of the kind. The main weapon of warfare in Satan’s combat arsenal is untruth. Lies! They are the basis of all of the “Mayhem” and “Murder” that he has planned for the first human family in history.
That is what the Devil always does, namely, he messes with our minds by causing us doubt and confusion about the truth. I have experienced that in my own life, and I have seen it too many times to count in the lives of others. I recall a recent Christmas with my married siblings when one of them stated that she was coming under the conviction that God made homosexuals that way, and they are simply being and doing what God made them to be and to do. That is not what the Bible teaches period. That “Lying Devil” was at it again. So too, what God really said to Adam and Eve is found in Genesis 2:16-17,
“…From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but
from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil
you shall not eat….”
God had said, “All the trees but one are for your consumption.” Satan said, “No tree may be eaten from.” Yes the Devil is the quintessential liar, but the way he does it is so skillful and cunning. It reminds me of what the coach said to the runner in Chariots of Fire who wanted to be able to run faster , “You can’t put in what God left out.” Exactly! But that is precisely what the Devil does with the Word of God and our heads:
“SATAN ALWAYS TAKES OUT WHAT GOD PUT IN, AND
PUTS IN WHAT GOD LEFT OUT.”
This is his masterpiece, his demonic artistry in the ruining of mankind, namely, to sow seeds of error in man’s understanding of truth. He has won his biggest victories and trophies in this maneuver, and he is an old experienced thoroughbred in this ploy. We can see how craftily he sets this up in his dialogue with Eve as he begins to
Eve initially did something very right. She came against Satan’s lying and subtle interrogative with the Word of God as we read in Genesis 3:2-3,
“…From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but
from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the
garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it
or touch it, lest you die.’”
Yes Eve, your right, at least for the most part. Good for her, even though it was the Eve Amplified Version of the Word of God. The “Not Touching It” comment was hers, not God’s. I can’t help but think that this supplementing of God’s Word was the opening for the Devil that he wanted. He had just like that already done damage to her tender psyche. He then knew not only that he already had her coming over to his falsifying side, because he could tell that she was now feeling sorry for herself. Oh, oh! Hear me:
“THE MOMENT WE BEGIN TO LOOK UPON GOD AS
UNREASONABLE, SATAN BEGINS TO SOUND
REASONABLE; AND THE MOMENT WE
LOOK UPON GOD AS OUR ENEMY,
SATAN WILL APPEAR AS
Things are going very nicely for Satan. She is now talking as a poor, picked-on victim of a cruel God’s extreme and unreasonable demands. Not only may they not eat of the tree, they can’t even touch it, and if they do, their dead! Poor girl! Unfair God! She was pouting herself right into Satan’s trap.
And Satan then springs it in Genesis 3:4-5,
“…You surely shall not die! For God knows that in the
day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and
you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Gottcha! She did not come against Satan’s lies anymore with the Word of God. It was fatal! Satan now has her in his hands like putty. At this point Satan has an assault rifle in his hands, while Eve as a cap gun in hers. Game, set, match. Remember:
“THE MOMENT WE STOP CONFESSING GOD’S TRUTH,
WE START TO BELIEVE THE ENEMY’S LIES.”
And there will always be plenty more lies where the first one came from. Bite on one, and stir up your appetite for more. You shall be as God! Gottcha! The big closer! The big Kahuna! Satan always saves the best (worst) till last. Well then, at least we will be equal to God and no longer have to be subject to His mean and unfair dictatorship.
Oh yes, the ole Professor of Falseology promised her deification, when in fact he was all the while thoroughly bedeviling her. The Devil knew that if Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, they would not be like God at all, but like himself instead. Here is something that we urgently need to learn and we need to clearly teach God’s people:
“SATAN’S TEMPTATIONS NEVER BEGIN WHERE HE
INTENDS THEM TO END.”
He first has to get us coming so that then he can take us where he is going – to Hell.
And the flip side of that truth in our spiritual warfare manual is this:
“IT IS CHIEFLY BY CONFESSING GOD’S HOLY WORD
THAT WE CAN END THE UNHOLY EFFECT OF
SATAN’S WORDS BEFORE IT BEGINS.”
Listen! If the Lord Jesus used this mighty weapon to preserve His innocence, then surely we must use the same weapon to keep ourselves from further guilt. The facts are these:
“IF WE ARE TO KEEP THE DEVIL OUT OF OUR LIFE AND
ACTIONS, WE MUST GET GOD’S WORD INTO OUR
HEARTS AND MOUTHS.”
ARMING THE SAINTS
Let’s back up here for a moment. We’re getting just a bit ahead of ourselves. When are we going to fully realize that the Christian life is not a walk in the park? Rather, it is a never ending battlefield on which each one of us is in an all out war against the forces of darkness? Ephesians 6:12 states,
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against
the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces
of this darkness,against the spiritual forces of
wickedness in the heavenly places.”
To hear some preachers preach today, you would think that Christianity is just another Disneyland or Dollywood, when in fact on a daily basis it far more resembles the old Wild Wild West. This is God versus Satan, Heaven versus Hell, demons versus angels, and light verses darkness. We all must choose whose side we are on! Choose this day who you will serve! The final outcome is that we will either populate Hell as the battle trophies of Satan, or we populate Heaven as the trophies of God’s amazing grace.
But I must press the question, “When will church people start wielding the weaponry of spiritual warfare that God has given us to enable us to fight victoriously?” It is found in Ephesians 6:17,
“…the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.”
It was President Ronald Reagan who when warning about nuclear war once said:
“MAN HAS NEVER HAD A WEAPON HE DIDN’T USE.”
A sobering thought to say the least in this nuclear age. Tragically however, Christians have been given a weapon of spiritual warfare against the Devil that many have never used, or have never learned how to use. And when we don’t, the enemy can melt us like ice cream cones in the summer, and sink us quicker than the iceberg that ripped open the abdomen of the Titanic and sank her.
There are no random or chance defeats or victories in this war to end all wars. We either learn how to fight the enemy with the Sword of the Spirit, or we will perish everlastingly. It is as cut and dried as that. Otherwise it is like fighting the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars with model airplanes, toy humvees and firecrackers. What good is that? Without basic training in the use of the Sword of the Spirit, all we are is toy soldiers with rubber knives.
It would be well to say,some Sunday morning soon to the congregation in which you are pastor, “Okay then, you are in Christ’s army now, so grab the Sword of the Spirit and learn how to fight and win with it or die.” How many battles with Satan are lost before they even get started? Why? Because Christians did not have ready the Almighty force of the Divine penetrating Word of God against that relentless enemy of our souls! And the reason that they didn’t is because most of them want spiritual victory with a minimal mental expense.
As we have already noted, and in fact it is known by us all too well, Jesus Christ had the exact, dead-center, bull’s-eye Scripture for each and every temptation that the Devil plied him with, and with the Sword of the Spirit He cut Satan to shreds. Each word from God spoken was another thrust into the Devil’s fiercely cold and calculating heart. Jesus Christ was armed and ready at all points and on every battle-front to fight victoriously. He won His “Desert Storm,” but the Bible makes sure to mention that though Satan slithered away bloodied and beaten, he would be back another time in Jesus’ life. (Luke 4:13) Count on it!
As the most vital part of basic training, give your church armies one or two Scriptures that come against common and not so common sins. Have them memorize the following couplets at a realistic but persistent pace. This was they will not longer be shooting rubber bands at fiery demons. In so doing you will be giving them a full armament, if you will, a full magazine of bullets against the attacks of the enemy.
At the same time you will be enabling them to strengthen their faith and convictions as well as come against doubt and unbelief. What follows is in no intended order and not a complete list by any means, but only as they came to me:
1. LOVE-Mt. 5:44 attacks HATE-I Jn. 3:15
2. FORGIVENESS-Mt. 6:14 attacks UNFORGIVENESS-Mt. 6:15
3. FAITH-I Tim. 6:12 attacks UNBELIEF-Rom. 4:20
4. COURAGE-Josh. 1:9 attacks FEAR-Deut. 31:6
5. KINDNESS-Eph. 4:32attacks CRUELTY-Prov. 11:17
6. PURITY-I Jn. 3:3 attacks FILTHINESS-Jas. 1:21
7. TRUTH-Prov. 12:17 attacks FALSEHOOD-Eph. 4:25
8. PATIENCE-I Thess. 5:14 attacks IMPATIENCE-Prov. 14:29
9. LIFE-Job 33:4 attacks MURDER-I Jn. 3:15
10. MARRIAGE-Gen. 2:24attacks DIVORCE-Matt. 19:6
11. FAITHFULNESS-I Cor. 7:2 attacks ADULTERY-Hebrews 13:4
12. PEACE-Is. 26:3attacks ANXIETY-Phil. 4:6-7
13. JOYFULNESS-Psalm 16:11 attacks SADNESS-Is. 61:3
14. HETEROSEXUALITY-Gen 2:22 attacks HOMOSEXUALITY-LEV. 18:22
15. SOBERNESS-Eph. 5:18 attacks DRUNKENNESS-Rom. 13:13
16. QUIET SPIRIT-I Pt. 3:4 attacks ANGRY SPIRIT-Prov. 29:22
17. SELF-RESPECT-Eph. 5:29 attacks SUICIDE-Acts 16:28
The Word of God must get into the heart and be declared from the mouth. Otherwise, speaking it has no heart in it, and it is then as lifeless and powerless as swinging a sword with no edges. But it is the memory that must get it into the heart. For:
“THE HEART CAN ONLY KEEP HOLD OF IT WHEN THE
MEMORY DOES NOT LET GO OF IT.”
As in all training it must be practiced and rehearsed and rehearsed again and again to be effective. For where there is a blank mind, there the Devil will write his own words instead, and the mind and heart will be deceived. If Christians spent as much time sharpening their swords as they do fifth wheeling their lives, Satan would be a hurting devil. But the truth is in this modern recreating religiosity, the souls’ play days have become Satan’s pay days.
SCREWTAPE’S NUMBER ONE STRATEGY
Allow me to enlarge upon the wielding of the Sword of the Spirit by this illustration of C.S. Lewis’ infamous Screwtape. Screwtape is the head Devil in Lewis’ Screwtape Letters. One day Screwtape (Satan-Numero Uno) was walking down the street with a little devil trainee. Screwtape was giving the little bugger a bag of tools to use against Christians and instructing him how to use them.
Much to their devilish delight, they spotted a Christian, Screwtape’s favorite prey. Said Screwtape to the little devil, “Okay then, he is all yours, and if all else fails, remember, use discouragement as I have instructed you.Save it until last, for it never fails. Go get him!”
So the impish devil trainee scurries away to the Christian, crawls up onto the Christian’s shoulder, and began immediately to try all sorts of temptations from his bag of tricks. Doubts about the existence of God! It didn’t work, for the Christian combated him with Psalm 14:1 by saying:
“It is written, ‘The fool has said in his heart, there
is no God….’”
Then the little rascal tried to inject lustful thoughts into the Christian’s fantasies. It again didn’t work, for the Christian swung his sword by quoting from Galatians 5:24,
“It is written, ‘Now those who belong to Christ Jesus
have crucified the flesh with its passions
So the little devil tried tempting Christian with jealousy. Nice try, but no success whatsoever , for Christian cut him with his sword a third time by quoting from Philippians 4:11,
“It is written, ‘…I have learned to be content in
whatever circumstances I am.’”
The demon-student in training was about to give up when he remembered his instructor’s counsel, “If all else fails, try discouragement.” So he whispered in Christian’s ear, “You don’t look like your feeling very well. And did you notice after church Sunday this morning when you passed by that group of folks how they looked at you strangely?” Said Christian, “Yes, you are right, I have not been feeling well lately, and I did notice those people looking weird at me now that you mention it.” Said the little devil, “I hate to tell you this, but they were talking negatively about you! I know that this must be discouraging to you. I feel sorry for you too.”
Continuing his discouraging onslaught, the persistent devil then said to Christian, “Last night in prayer meeting, you really messed up your testimony. Your words got all mixed up and the people snickered.” Said Christian, “Yah, I do feel bad about that!”
The devil went on, “Man, you even look worse now. Looks like you could go any minute.” Christian agreed, “You’re right, I’ve been having an upset stomach and it’s back again, along with headaches which I feel coming on right now, and I am not sleeping well.”
“Also,” said the devil, “You fell into that sin again the other day which has been your nemesis, and even though you have had some success you failed again! To bad! What a bummer! Why even try!”
Finally, poor Christian, head hanging down, feeling that no one loves him, not even God, gets involved deeply in suffocating introspection, and walks away totally defeated. What’s the use? What good does all of this Christian service do anyway? Might just as well chuck the whole thing!
The little devil trainee runs back to his instructor, and says to him, “You are so right, discouragement got him, and it looks like it is just a matter of time, and Christian will be one of us again.” Screwtape snapped back, “Oh, quit your bragging. I taught you everything you know. You are nothing without me. There is another Christian over there, go get him.”
The little liar crawls up on the shoulder of his next would-be victim. He goes for the kill immediately and says, “You sure look beat! I’ll bet you are overworked and terribly under slept! You look like a wreck.” Christian responded to him by quoting Isaiah 40:29,
“It is written, ‘God gives strength to the weary, and to
him who lacks might He increases power.’”
Continued the Christian, “Surprising how good I feel in spite of the hard work and little sleep! And as to how I look, deal with it! God made me this way and I praise Him for it.”
The devil then said, “You probably don’t know this, but people, including your best friends, are talking about you, and none of it is in the least complimentary!” Christian responded by quoting from Romans 8:31,
“It is written, ‘…If God is for us, who is against us?’”
“Oh but your sins,” said the devil-excavator, “All of that garbage back there in your life! Man oh man, that is enough to discourage anyone.” Christian swung his sword powerfully again by quoting from Hebrews 10:17,
“It is written, ‘And their sins and their lawless deeds I
will remember no more.’”
The Christian went on, “Seeing God forgives and forgets my sins, I choose to do the same. What else do you have? Bring it on!”
The little imp, cut again and again by the Sword of the Spirit, fell down and crawled his way back to Screwtape. He reported to his mentor that it didn’t go well this time at all, and that he took an awful beating. Screwtape asked, “Did you try discouragement?” Said his student, “Yes, but that sword he had! He kept on cutting me with some awful blows.” Screwtape persisted, “Well, did you tell him that he was discouraged?” The bloodied and beaten imp said, “Yes I did, but he called me a liar and said:
“It is written, ‘Let God be true and everyone
else a liar.’”
Screwtape snapped back, “Quit that pouting and feeling sorry for yourself. Go back to him and try again.” The little demon said, “No way!” “Why?” asked Screwtape. The little bugger said, “I’m too discouraged!” Amen!