From the outset, I want you to know that we have an enemy, but he is a defeated foe...
For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints (the people of God),
We are part of that! God also said through Paul in Romans 16:20 that God (the God of peace) shall bruise satan beneath our feet...whose feet? Yes, yours! That word for bruise means to shatter, to crush completely and to break in pieces. Let us also see what God said about this in Colossians chapter two.
There, He states that you are complete in Him, that is Jesus, who is the head of All principality and power. He did Not say that He has forgiven you of some of your trespasses and sins and keeps a record of your failures to constantly remind you of them and taunt you about them all—He clearly stated that He has totally blotted them all out as if they had never existed. Let me show that to you and take note of my emphasis.
For in Him the whole fullness of Deity (the Godhead) continues to dwell in bodily form [giving complete expression of the divine nature].
In other words, God wiped the slate clean. When you were born again, everything in your past completely vanished. You had no past. From that day onward, you started a totally new life. Old things passed away and everything started to become new. Never, ever dig it up again or allow anyone else to remind you of your old life. This is not denying the things that happened of course. A woman having a child out of wedlock cannot give the baby back for example, but she can hold her head up high again without fear of condemnation and recrimination from God. People’s opinions may be different, but God drops the past.
We all had inherited the fallen nature of Adam. You know that so I do not need to elaborate. When we are born again, we identify with Jesus in many ways, one of which is believer’s baptism in water. Baptism in itself does nothing. What it symbolizes is what counts and believers only are baptized by total immersion in water.
When someone dies, we bury them. When we go under the water at baptism, we are indicating that we died with Jesus. God raised Jesus from the dead, so when we come up out of the water, we indicate that we rose with Him.
If we make a mistake
Id we make a mistake... admit it!
I could elaborate much more on that alone, but the bottom line is to get it right or get back onto track.
If you don’t, then it is as if you are opening a porthole in a submarine, so do not whine and complain when things start going south. Shut the door on that junk.
What John said to do is that when we do err, then fix it immediately. Do not let the sun go down on it and do not give the devil a legal basis to get on your case and start doing his thing.
The word of God tells me that if I confess my sin and seek to avoid it again, God is righteous and forgives us. John said that if any man (that means you and me) sins, we have an advocate or paraklētos.
In typology form, we indicated that the old Adam within us died and was buried. The only problem is that this old Adam believes in the resurrection. He wants to come back to life. This is where most of our battles originate. The remedy it to keep him dead, buried and forgotten and the way to do that is by learning who we are, what God has done for us and what we have inherited. We do that of course by the word of God.
Now have you ever struggled with your old nature? Of course you have. We all do. The apostle Paul wrestled with his old flesh nature all the time. He had a constant struggle with things. Like us, he wanted to do certain things that he knew he should have done, but didn’t. He also did things that he knew he should not have done, but fell into the old routine, time after time again and had major dramas. “Oh, no! I did it again” was the kind of language he had and so do we. This continued up to the day, he saw something in God’s word and revelation came.
Now if you do goof off again, here’s what to do. Start by prayerfully studying those two chapters.
Then turn to 1 John 2. John said that he wrote that just for you. He wrote it so that you do not sin (verse 1). Wow! Is it possible to live without ever sinning again? I wish! John did suggest however that is may be possible. How can that be? If we have exchanged lives with Jesus, then it sure is. Putting it into effect is the problem. Anyhow, let’s see what John said-
My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. 1 John 2:1 (a).
There is it in black and white. God has told us through John so that we will not. What does this mean? Well, the word for sin is hamartanō that means in simple terms to miss the mark and not thus share in the prize. I’ll share a little secret with you. If you are in Christ and stay there with it (abiding in Him), when God looks at you, he does not see that old you; He (wants to) sees His Son!
That’s what He is looking for. When He came to visit Adam in the garden after he ate that forbidden fruit He asked the man, “Where are you?” He was seeking Adam. He wanted Adam to own up and admit he had goofed off. I do not know what would have happened if Adam had ’fessed up and confessed everything right there and then.
The standard is Jesus. We can attain it, otherwise God would not have put it in His revealed word to us. Not convinced? Read this-
Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers.
Jesus is the standard. He is the yardstick by which we measure everything. He is the one who holds us together and wipes out our mistakes. It seems that because of His deep understand concern for us, He has made provision for aberrations. He wants us to make it, so according to John, when we do fall short of the mark, there is a remedy.
The bible is very clear that we do have an enemy.
We must be mindful at all times that Jesus did all that was necessary at Calvary. There is nothing left to do in the light of that victory and the outcome. Certain end-time prophecies are yet to be fulfilled and in the meanwhile, the Church is now designed to rule and reign on the earth having been given Jesus’ delegated authority.
We are supposed to act like Him, say what He said and do what He did.
In Mark 1:14, Jesus came preaching the Kingdom of God. This is a literal kingdom or rulership, coming from the word Baseleia. It is a kingdom in which royalty rules. It is God’s way of doing things, which includes the making of laws and enforcing them.
Some translations mix up heaven with the kingdom, but they are totally different to each other. Heaven is the place, but the kingdom is the realm in which the King rules, or, God’s way of doing things.
We are therefore designed to execute His judgments on the earth as we represent this Kingdom. That is one thing that the devil definitely does not want to happen, so whilst he is waiting fulfillment of that sentence, he is doing all he can to discredit, nullify, lull believers to sleep or try to split us up.
It is the latter, or strife, contention, division and in particular, handling offenses that I am concentrating on.
There are several tools that the enemy uses in his plans to thwart us. He will try to steal your joy. Don’t let him! The answer is as Paul said to rejoice evermore and give God thanks In everything, but not For everything. He tries to get us to fall into a religious rut and religion is a powerful wedge that can be driven between people. The leaders who were trapped by religion, religious bigotry and mindsets were constantly fighting Jesus. They are still here today. The spirit of Jezebel is still here today. The non-prodigal spirit is with us today.
To prevent succumbing to those influences, the answer is to know the truth—and apply it.
The devil doesn’t care if you read a bible. Anyone can do that, but he does care if you read the word of God—and do what the word says, because when you receive the word and act on it, faith comes and the devil hates our faith! He does not give a hoot if you are a religious person, attend church, teach Sunday School, be a song leader or even preach from a pulpit of some kind, but when we start to talk like God does by saying the same things that God has said and faith is produced, he gets stirred up.
Come with me now to Ephesians where Paul talks about the armor of God. He tells us to put on the whole armor.
Faithless preaching paints a picture of us cowering behind the armor for preservation from the enemy’s attacks, but that is so far from the truth it is not funny. Faithless preaching also tells us to make sure we put it all one and not miss putting one part on, but it is all-compete. It covers everything. Either you are wearing it or you are not.
An in-depth study or this armor will reveal that items like the shield are tailor made for each and every soldier. When he enlists, he is measured for it and one made to order.
If it is the shield of faith, we are all measured up for our measure of faith and it is The measure of faith according to Romans 121:3. That measure is the measure or standard of Jesus and I have previously said that we already have all the faith we will ever have.
Every item in the soldier’s kit fitted together perfectly. There were loops and belts and hooks and all kinds of things in place to hang everything on, or keep in place and they all interworked with each other.
That’s one reason why this armor is “whole” or complete.
The reason we are to put on the complete armor is so we can stand against the wiles of the devil (Ephesians 6:11).
Those wiles are called Methodeia. It describes trickery, or like someone hiding in ambush to put a plan of attack into action. It is a well-word trail, implying that the devil is a creature of habit, continually formulating these plans against us.
I mentioned ambushes. How about using the word trap? There are many different kinds of traps, each one designed for specific target groups, such as the little mouse trap shown.
This clever little boy must have been watching a James Bond movie. He is determined to get that piece of cheese, isn’t he? Anyhow, all traps have certain things in common. There is the bait, or something to lure the intended victim.
Then there is a catching and holding device of some kind designed to either kill the victim or take it alive but there is another part that is the actual thing that sets it all off. It is a small trigger device that the Greek calls a Skandalon.
That’s the little part that the cheese is fixed to. The cheese is the bait. It lures the mouse and once that little critter sniffs it out and wants a bit, bam! The skandalon is tripped and the mouse is caught.
By now you may realize that the devil plots and schemes continually. He sets traps for us.
The trap itself could even be secondary, because it is the bait and the skandalon that is dangerous!
His wiles are often insidious personal attacks against our character and reputation.
Accusations, gossip and slander are common tools employed.
After all, he is the accuser of the brethren.
He really cannot accuse us of a thing before God, if we are covered by the Blood! The righteous judge has declared us not guilty of a thing. Our sins are washed away (see Psalm 103:3; Isaiah 43:25; 44:22; 55:7; Colossians 2:13; 1 John 1:9) so when the devil tries to remind us of our past, we don’t have one! He is out of order.
If he comes knocking on your door, remind him of the Blood and tell him to shut the door on the way out. Don’t debate and argue! He is under your feet, remember! Paul told us that we are not ignorant of the devil’s devices in 2 Corinthians 2:11.
Those devices are things or plans that have been thought out and carefully plotted. He is wandering around like that roaring lion, looking for a way to trap you and if he finds a chink you your armor, sets a bait—hoping you will catch yourself!
What he tries to do often is go to someone else and start whispering in their ear about you! That is dangerous. He wants us to start thinking like he does so when a situation arrives, he wants us to think poorly about a brother or sister and then start talking about them behind their back! One you start, you have triggered the trap.
Let us see a biblical story to illustrate. In 2 Corinthians 2:6-10, Paul talked about forgiveness. He said that he sorrowed over a situation and the judgment of it in the church when a man had been put out of the church for having an adulterous affair. The whole church knew about it, so it was not done in secret, but it could have created major problems if allowed to continue without correction.
Sometimes we pastors have to deal with problems and it is not alway easy, but for the work’s sake, we have to not only do it right but be seen to be doing it right. This was a situation that was getting out of hand so the man could not remain in the church until things were straightened out. The man had to repent, but he would not and his sinful rebellion after receiving much prayerful counseling was causing much harm. Like a cancer has to be cut out to save the body, he had to go to save the body of believers.
Once genuine repentance and the like is done, what happens next is very important. What then? Tell him he is not welcome in the kingdom any more? That’s casting judgment and this can be a tricky thing to do.
I used adultery as an example, but it could be anything!
The perpetrator was wrong, but the attitude of the church was also wrong.
Satan was setting the church members up by a bait of resentment and an unforgiving attitude. Paul did not tell them to let the man go ahead and live how he jolly well wanted, but to fix his problem and get back onto track. He told them to receive the man and welcome him back, showing true brotherly love.
Instead, some people never let such a person live it down. They constantly remind him or her of their filthy past (those are their precise words) and talk about their faults.
They fell for the trap!
I know that this happens at first hand. When I left the denomination I once belonged to, they branded me!
The attitude was that if you stop coming to our church you must be backslidden. When my father passed away, no one even sent me a card or called to see if I was OK. A few other things happened around that time and although I telephoned the office to ask for prayer support, not one effort was made to contact me. It hurt!
At that point, I was vulnerable and exposed to skandalons.
Thank God, He sustained me, but I learned things from that, some of which were to never do such things to others.
If I were to be invited to minster back there, I would and I would be pleased to so do. The reason is simple. I refuse to be trapped and have my joy and blessing stolen. I want to be a blessing to everyone, even to those who mistreat me. The reason is that God commanded us to love........He did not tell us to like everyone (and some people are hard to like, really), but to love them.
I was talking to one of the pastors of that church several years later and started telling him about having a prayer closet on a tree stump on my property where I prayed in tongues often.
This pastor had judged me unrighteously.
This often happens and it is wrong. Can you see what damage can be done to others by having such attitudes?
I’d now like to show you something taken from Matthew chapter five.
Jesus was teaching the multitudes. If you look closely, you will see that He again spoke to differing groups of people. There was the general multitude and as He spoke to them, He mentioned They quite often. He was not telling them certain things and then told the Disciples other things. I think it is 9 times He mentioned Them and They and suddenly changed in verse 11 speaking directly to the disciples using the words Ye, You and Your.
The disciples’ righteousness came by grace as does ours. The scribes and Pharisees were legalistic and dogmatic. They were trusting in their religious observances and traditions and judged everyone by them. The fact was that they themselves couldn’t do what they demanded of others.
He told them that they strained at gnats and swallowed camels and placed impossible demands on the ordinary people.Think of the story He gave when He compared the prayers of the Pharisee and the publican in Luke 18:9-14. The Pharisaical people had attitude problems like that and the Lord was warning the disciples in Matthew 5 not to be like them. They focussed on the letter of the word, but omitted to apply the spiritual truth in it. They said, “Don’t kill” but He took it to a higher level telling them that if they held grudges and got angry in an unrighteous manner, they might as well have gone out and murdered the other person.
Speaking of adultery, the self-righteous leaders brought a woman to Him, reminding Him what the Law said and added that they caught her in the act! How did they know? Were they watching or plotting something? The point is that they wanted to snare him!
We can be trapped on doctrinal issues by splitting hairs over things that just might not really matter. The bottom line is that we maintain a right relationship with our brother and with the Lord.
After saying all that (still in Matthew 5), Jesus continued with a little conjunction called “and”.
These little words can convey great truth. He had been talking in a series of truths, “It hath been said, but I say unto you” and when addressing marital issues dropped a bombshell right in the middle. Let us see-
And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. Matthew 5:29.
Look at the word Offend. This is now touching on the central part of this message. It is Skandalizō.
It comes from the word Skandalon that I have used before. It means to entrap or trip up.
It is figurative of something that causes one to stumble, having great displeasure or entice us to sin. Some meanings include falling or causing someone to fall into apostasy.
Part of His message in Matthew chapter five includes making sure that you don’t have anything against your brother. If you do, He said that you should not even bother trying to give a gift to God or in other words to serve God and may I add try to offer Him praise and worship. Your prayers will not go past the ceiling! The Lord said to be reconciled.
Admit you made a mistake. Seek forgiveness. If someone approaches you and tries to make amends like that, then receive it and welcome that person as if he or she were the prodigal son returning home. Act like that father.
Look at Mark 11 to the part we all like.
And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God.
The kind of of faith Jesus sspoke of is the God kind of faith as one translation puts it. In other words we have the potential to have exactly the same kind of Faith that He had and if you study this out, you will see it is true, but sadly, it is not often taught.
What He said about answered prayer is very true. It does happen like that but there are conditions.
There is another “and” there, followed by another 3-letter word “but”.
And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.
Be assured that you will have plenty of opportunities to be offended. Jesus said that they will come, but He also said that we could be in big trouble if we are the cause. When those offenses come it is like being presented with the bait in the trap. Don’t fall for it. Learn to recognize it. If necessary, walk away from it. You don’t have to prove that you are right. God will vindicate. You might win an argument, but lose a friend or miss a God-given opportunity.
If necessary, apologize even if you don’t have to in order to avert a situation. A small problem left untouched could develop into a major issue later.
If you refuse to do that, then your Father in heaven can’t act on your behalf. It is not that He won’t—He cannot!
Sometimes our pride prevents us from apologizing or accepting an apology. Pride was Lucifer’s problem. Swallow your pride. It could keep you out of Hell. You might ask how often do we have to accept an apology and rightly so. In Matthew 18, Peter asked the Lord how often should he forgive his brother who sinned against him, asking if 7 times was sufficient. Jesus told him that he should be willing to forgive 490 times! Do we take that literally or was Jesus telling us to be willing to do that for as long as necessary? Let us see what Luke said-
AND [Jesus] said to His disciples, Temptations (snares, traps set to entice to sin) are sure to come, but woe to him by or through whom they come! Luke 17:1.
See the reference to snares and traps. They are there, but Jesus said that the one who set them could be in big trouble.
It would be more profitable for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were hurled into the sea than that he should cause to sin or be a snare to one of these little ones [lowly in rank or influence].
That can be a hard thing to do and the disciples knew it. That’s why they immediately asked Him to help them asking for an increase in faith. You need that when someone is constantly causing you grief. Although Jesus spoke about being prepared to forgive for as long as necessary, He also told us to be watchful or on our guard. We should be able to see the traps and avoid them, or help warn our brother, “Watch out for the trap.” As I hopefully depicted in the cover artwork in the printed version and in the page heading, sometimes the obvious is not the real trap to avoid. The hidden one could be more dangerous than the obvious.
It is sometimes hard to forgive. Turning the other cheek is not being weak and wimpy. It takes great inner strength to do so, but there are times when we have to say, “Enough is enough.” Sometimes we have to tell the other person that they are out of line, but do so in love. Faith works by love. Warning the other person could save their life, or help get them back on track to receive God’s blessings. In so doing however, we need to qualify ourselves. Paul stated that he had to consider himself many times, because if he did not, he could be found a castaway.
For although I am free in every way from anyone's control, I have made myself a bond servant to everyone, so that I might gain the more [for Christ].
If and when we need to apply correction, to make sure that we qualify. If we do not measure up ourselves, how can we then do it right when applying correction to others. It can then become unrighteous judgment and Jesus did tell us not to do that,because such attitudes can be reciprocal.
I think of the time when Jesus hung between heaven and earth and cried out, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Some of them knew what they were doing. They did not know the consequences of their actions and it is the consequences of our actions that are important.
Paul stated that we are not ignorant of the devil’s devices, or plots and plans to ensnare us. The way to make sure we don’t let him get something on us, is to make sure we do not give him grounds to act. He is prowling around making traps of all kinds, hoping we will fall into one. Keep your eyes and ears open. Do what James said in James 4:7-10 and that is to submit ourselves to God. Once we do that we can then resist the devil (or avoid the traps) and he will flee from us. James also said to humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord. We do that. No one else can.
Submitting ourselves to God removes the possible skandalon of pride.
I want to share a personal testimony that happened to me. The annual Christmas pageant that is held in Adelaide is a famous parade that I remember attending as a boy. It is scheduled to start at 9:30 and concludes at 11:30 but always goes longer. My wife and I arrived at 8AM to get a good vantage spot to find people had arrived much earlier to get front line viewing. We found a good place about the third from the front and waited there until the parade started.
I could have retaliated and had a big argument with her, but did not fall into that trap. The devil wanted me to lose my cool and get into the flesh.
I share that to illustrate that this is real and can happen anywhere and at any time. This is why we need to be constantly alert, listening to the Lord’s voice and wearing our armor at all times. Sometimes we do not have to do a thing, other than simply be there and the enemy gets stirred up. All Jesus did sometimes was walk down the road and evil spirits cried out, “It’s Him”! They know us! I think that they can see the Blood on us. Perhaps, as spirit beings,they sense the anointing on us and can’t handle it. Whatever the case, the outcome is the same. It reminds me of the story in Acts 19 where seven sons of a man named Sceva tried to cast evil spirits out by saying something like, “We command you, in the name of Jesus to leave”, but they were not in covenant relationship with the Lord. Those spirits knew it and replied that they knew Jesus and they knew Paul, but did not know them.
Many people talk about battles between good and evil and often times give the impression that we do not know that outcome and get involved in "spiritual warfare".
In essence, this is saying that Jesus' work was not complete or ineffecive. It almost seems to be giving the devil more credit than the Lord.
The battle is not between the Lord and the devil. That is already over and the victory achieved.
If there is a battle, it is really the one in our own lives—in the thought lives—in the imaginations of our hearts. The devil sets the traps and walks away. We can either fall into them or avoid them!
The devil wants us to start holding grudges. He wants us to get hurt and resentful. He wants us to start gossiping about each other and pointing the finger of scorn and judgment at each other.
If God has been good enough to us to cast our sins of the past away and bury them deep, don’t have and exhumation service. God has buried our sins in the sea of His forgetfulness, so let us not go scuba diving to retrieve them.
Psalm 103 states that God has not rewarded us for our sins or rewarded us for our iniquities. This does not mean that we can please ourselves and keep living as if we were not saved and that the blood of Jesus Christ did nothing. We have an accountability factor before God once we are saved and have to do things right now in a totally different light. That sin before we were saved is dealt with. It is what we do afterwards that is the issue. Psalm 103 also states that God has removed our sins from us and has dealt with them so much that they can no longer be remembered. He likened this to the separation from east and west. If you get in an airplane and start heading east, you will never reach a West! You will never find one. Think about it.
There is a judgment coming, but it is one that is righteous. God will look at us all as individuals and compare us to Jesus, but He is the righteous judge and shall not the judge of the whole earth do right. If he Is the judge, then I do not need to be one! I am not talking about that judgment however, because it will happen in the very near future. I am however talking about the way we handle things right now and how we treat each other.
In the here and now, we are going to come across situations that are going to try our patience to the limit. People are going to push us to the limit. Offenses are definitely going to come. People are going to cast judgment upon us. People are going to be motivated by the evil one to provoke us and incite us to some kind of reaction or response. The enemy is going to bait many traps for us in our walk of faith, but we do not have to be caught by them if we are watching out for the trap. Sometimes there may be more than one! The real one that the enemy wants us to fall into could be very well planned and hidden. We could see the obvious one but after avoiding that fall into the next one and that one could be the one the devil really wanted you to fall into anyhow. That’s why I used 2 traps in the cover image. You can see the obvious one, but the better one is one you might have missed if I had not pointed it out! Take another look!
I wanted you to see that we are victorious, but the enemy is constantly trying to trick and deceive you, so stay alert.
He whom the Son of man sets free.........Is Free indeed!