Spiritual Warfare And Daring To Rebuke Satan

spiritual-warfare

There’s a popular notion, particularly in Charismatic circles, that Christians possess the same authority over Satan and demons that Jesus conferred on the First Century apostles. This line of thinking ignores the key point, however, that the apostles received the ability to perform signs and wonders in order to authenticate the Gospel until the New Testament canon could be completed.

Back in November of 2016, I wrote a Bible Study series on the book of Jude for this blog. Because someone recently challenged a statement I made regarding the nature of spiritual warfare, I thought I’d adapt the study I wrote on verses 9 and 10 as a response.

My challenger objected to my remark that spiritual warfare is about resisting temptation rather than about rebuking Satan. He cited Titus 2:15 (out of context, of course) as substantiation for the practice. Um, that’s a gross misinterpretation and misapplication of Paul’s instructions to Titus. Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy!

Jude addresses the practice of rebuking the devil more directly than any other New Testament writer,so I believe we best serve this topic by looking at his words. Remember that Jude (a half-brother to Jesus) writes his epistle in order to delineate the characteristics of false teachers. We going to discuss verses 9 and 10, which I want to quote in their proper context.

Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” 10 But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively. 11 Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion. 12 These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; 13 wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever. ~~Jude 8-13 (ESV)

Instead of getting hung up on where this story came from or why Michael and the devil fought over Moses’ body, let’s give our attention to Jude’s meaning.

But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” ~~Jude 9 (ESV)

Jude’s purpose is to contrast the brashness of false teachers who dared to rail against the spiritual realm with the archangel Michael’s humility in deferring to the Lord in cursing the devil. This allusion should warn us not to think that we have the authority to rebuke the devil, since even the highest angel didn’t dare do so.

Michael surely would have had some measure of authority, given the fact that God dispatched him to fight Satan on other occasions (see Daniel 10:13 and Revelation 12:7 for examples). Yet he deemed it presumptuous to  rail against the devil on the basis of that authority. Jude’s point is that, since Michael didn’t rebuke the devil directly, false teachers greatly err in doing so. In fact, this sort of practice actually marks a person as a false teacher.

Maybe we should let that last point sink in. Instead of believing that the Lord gives all Christians the authority to hurl comments at Satan and his minions, shouldn’t we take note that false teachers perform and advocate this sort of behavior? If rebuking the devil identifies a person as a false teacher, perhaps we shouldn’t encourage it.

Jude goes on, in verse 10, to explain that the false teachers who rebuke the  devil don’t even know what they’re talking about.

But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively. (ESV)

He shows the irony of their claims of mastery over the spirit world  when all the while their carnal natures consume them. Unlike Michael, who actually is a spirit, these people have limited knowledge of Satan and his demons, and as a result they lack the qualifications to enter into confrontations with them when they really should confront their own sinfulness.

Rebuking Satan appeals to human pride while providing a distraction from the true spiritual warfare of mortifying our sin and refuting false teaching. Jude 9-10, in exposing the wrong focus of those who rebuke the devil, reminds us to maintain a proper attitude. Let’s trust the Lord to rebuke Satan while we concentrate on resisting temptation and closing our ears to Satan’s lies.

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Throwback Thursday: Sending Something You Can’t

Originally published  September 8, 2016:

lilacsMany people, in all innocence, assure their friends that they will send “good,” “positive,” or “healing” thoughts to suffering people. Occasionally, they combine these thoughts with prayers, although typically they serve as substitutes for prayer. Recently I’ve been in some online conversations with fellow evangelicals about the meaning and appropriateness of this sentiment, and those interactions have caused me to think about whether or not Christians ought to use this phraseology.

In fairness, let me begin by acknowledging that many Christians (and indeed many non-Christians) use this type of phrase simply to express the idea that they’re sympathizing with the hurting person. I get that point. Perhaps they’ve heard these phrases and figure they’re nothing more than an updated way of saying “thinking of you.” What’s wrong with keeping up with the current vernacular?

When I hear this type of phrase, however, I generally connect it with either New Age philosophy or Charismatic theology, both of which tend to promote ideas that humans possess “creative” power. New Agers would say that all people have this power, whereas Charismatics would restrict this power to those who are “baptized in the Holy Spirit.”

Back in my Charismatic days, for example, someone in leadership over me said that she  considered a good thought to be equal to a prayer. At the time, I struggled with her comment, finding it both attractive and disturbing. Attractive, because praying doesn’t come easily for me. Disturbing because Scripture nowhere supports such an idea.

Thirty-one years later, I no longer feel attracted to the idea that thoughts have any  sort of metaphysical power. As I see it, the basic concept attributes abilities to man that belong exclusively to the sovereign Lord. In doing a preliminary Google search, I discovered that these types of phrases have their origin in a New Age practice known as Distance Healing.

Consider the following excerpt from a New Age blog post (which, please note, I do not endorse) entitled Sending Your Love From Afar: The Power of Distance Healing.

Visualize the person you want to heal. Feel the divine energy moving outward from you to that person. Do this from a state of mind of total relaxation and acceptance, meaning you do not doubt the effectiveness. You simply allow divine energy to do its work.

Icky-poo! Clearly, this method of “sending good thoughts” relies on the same lie that Satan told Eve in the garden:

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. ~~Genesis 3:1-7 (ESV)

Even as Spirit-filled Christians, we must take great care to remember that we are not “little christs” in the sense that we have power to heal or alleviate the suffering of others,  especially by sending positive thoughts. Only the Almighty God has that kind of power. When we claim that our thoughts can have a healing effect, we essentially commit blasphemy.

Again, I realize that many people don’t understand that phrases about sending healing, positive or even good thoughts carry connotations of New Age ideology.  I’ve written this essay, not to shame anyone who has uttered these phrases without knowing their connection to Distance Healing, but to avoid them from this point forward, lest anyone mistakenly associate us with this worldly and demonic philosophy.

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Why I See A Connection Between Charismatic Teaching And Occult Practices

Occult ChristianityGrowing up in the 1960s, I had exposure to many occult and New Age influences. My mom, although she in some respects had turned away from her Christian Science upbringing, introduced me and my sister to horoscopes, Ouija boards and yoga. The liberal Presbyterian church (PCUSA, of course) encouraged my fascination with occult and paranormal phenomena. On a youth group ski trip the pastor’s daughter read our palms.

Very soon after that ski trip, the Lord graciously brought me to Himself, and within a few months He allowed people to confront my interest in astrology. Over the next few months He helped me renounce other forms of occult and New Age practices.

But readers of my Autobiography With Purpose series will recall that I attended Pentecostal and Charismatic churches for the first 31 years of my Christian life. True, after 18 years the Lord showed me that the sign gifts ceased when the Canon of Scripture was completed, but He let me remain in the church for several more years. Throughout those 31 years, I occasionally observed random incidents that reminded me of my Continue reading

Saturday Sampler: February 17 — February 23

Artistic Swirl SamplerStephen McAlpine invites us to Imagine Waking Up Tomorrow and Only You Had Ever Heard of Jesus. He presents an interesting challenge. Perhaps we ought to take him up on it.

Writing in Possessing the Treasure, Mike Ratliff reminds us that It is the ungodly whom God justifies. Well, of course, you say — that’s basic Christian doctrine! But don’t be so quick. Might some lingering vestiges of self-righteousness linger in your heart?

Sadly, more and more evangelicals insist that God speaks to them directly.  In response, Clint Archer of The Cripplegate writes God’s Book & God’s Voice to provide a Biblical perspective on this matter.

Now that Tabletalk Magazine is online, you’ll want to read Is Boasting on Social Media a Sin? by Nathan W. Bingham. Okay, it convicted me. But if I need to be convicted, praise the Lord for His faithfulness to convict me.

On her blog, Morning By Morning, Melissa N. Williams shares How My View of Scripture Changed. A Tribute to my local pastor. She offers wonderful encouragement about studying the Bible appropriately.

Haven’t we all complained about the growing viciousness in society lately? SharaC of Into the Foolishness of God asserts that such ugliness results from years of encouragement toward self-love. Narcissistic Meanies explains how she’s arrived at her conclusion.

What is The Writer’s Responsibility? Elizabeth Prata answers that question from a Christian perspective in The End Time. If you only post on Facebook and Twitter, her counsel still applies to you.

Hopefully, most of us see though the nonsense of “Gay Christians,” but now there’s a push for equally nonsensical “Christian Witchcraft.” In an article for Abounding Grace Radio, R. Scott Clark reminds us that Not Everything Called “Christian” Is. Charismatics, his closing paragraph might interest you.

Ask your church leadership to consider Preventative Measures: 6 Steps SBC Churches Can Take to Prevent Sexual Abuse by Michelle Lesley. Her common sense and dependence on God’s Word always astound me, but this time she’s outdone herself!

Let’s close with Colin Smothers’ insights on the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood blog: CBMW Mailbag: Should I pursue marriage at a young age? Although this article ostensibly addresses young men, we women can learn valuable priorities as we either contemplate marriage ourselves or counsel our younger sisters in Christ.

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Saturday Sampler: April 22 — April 28

Spring Sampler

The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood reports on the disturbing Assembly Bill certain to become California law. Colin Smothers’ article, Banning Christian Orthodoxy in California, serves as a sobering warning to those who stand for Biblical principles.

Even though Steven Lawson writes Is It Necessary to Preach Divine Wrath? with his fellow pastors in mind, his article on the Ligonier blog also applies to us in our evangelism efforts. In this era of trying to make the Gospel palatable, we need this reminder to present truth in its entirety.

I always look forward to Mondays and Thursdays because I know Leslie A will be posting on Growing 4 Life. No disappointment this week! Please read How Do I Respond to My Enemies? as another example of her Biblical wisdom.

Jordan Standridge of The Cripplegate takes the pope to task in Five Reasons Why Pope Francis’ Answer Was Demonic. Standridge doesn’t conceal his anger. And he shouldn’t! Assuring anyone that an atheist gained entrance to heaven will lead countess souls to hell, all for the sake of this man’s popularity. We should all be as outraged as Standridge!

Go over to excatholic4christ for Tom’s post, Roman Catholics and Astrology: “Am I a Taurus or an Aries?” To my dismay, I’ve also heard evangelicals talk about horoscopes as if they provide nothing more than harmless entertainment. Let me be clear: astrology is strictly pagan at best, and a possible gateway to demonic activity. Stay away from it!

Why Christian Blogs Aren’t What They Used To Be by Tim Challies examines the growing trend of vanishing Christian blogs. He offers a few intriguing suggestions to explain the movement away from blogging. But his closing paragraph, typed in italics, is worth the whole article for its encouragement to continue blogging.

In her own unique style (which I absolutely love), Michelle Lesley details Scriptural evidence that God’s Not Like “Whatever, Dude,” About The Way He’s Approached in Worship. Michelle addresses some extremely important problems in contemporary church life with this article. For that reason I strongly recommend you read it.

In his most recent blog post for Parking Space 23, Greg Peterson begins his series on Reasons to Study the Book of  Revelation by introducing us to the value of eschatology. I love his perspective that the book of Revelation is essentially about Jesus Christ.

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Saturday Sampler: January 28 — February 3

penguin-sampler

For an interesting take on the escalating controversy surrounding discernment ministries, investigate Elizabeth Prata’s Speaking up for discernment ministries in The End Time. I agree with her main point that discernment and Biblical literacy go hand-in-hand. She raises other important ideas worth consideration.

Michelle Lesley writes The Mailbag: Should I correct my boss’s errant theology? for Discipleship for Christian Women. Her principles can apply to several ticklish situations, as you’ll see by the first comment following her article.

Those of you who still believe that God speaks to us directly may want to read A Review of God Calling by Two Listeners on Pastor Gabe Hughes’ blog. We need reminders that God speaks through Scripture, not through New Age practices.

On his blog,  From Scripture to Revelation, Pastor Roger Skepple asks, Does the Bible teach Generational Curses? His answer is brief, Biblical and accurate. If you’ve been taught this doctrine, I encourage you to read this blog post and study the  passages he cites.

Ezekiel 1 flipped me out when I was a baby Christian, and it still boggles my mind. Michael S. Heiser provides helpful insight with What Does the Vision in Ezekiel 1 Mean? in Logos Talk.

Writing for The Vatican Files, Leonardo De Chirico responds to the question, Why Are Younger Evangelicals Fascinated by Roman Catholicism? Not only does De Chirico suggest possible reasons for this phenomenon, but he also offers thoughts on how to encourage fidelity to Biblical Christianity.

How’s about a double dose of Michelle Lesley’s writing this week? Throwback Thursday ~ Discernment Hysteria and the God Who Wins is even more timely now than it was when Michelle originally wrote it! Oh ladies, we desperately need to adopt her perspective on this issue.

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Insisting That God Speaks Apart From His Word

God's MegaphoneStarting off the New Year with an intestinal bug that results in minor (but headache inducing) dehydration sorta makes blog post ideas fly out the window, ya know? So now I sit at my computer keyboard, scrambling to recall the great ideas I had during a couple separate but loosely related Twitter debates I engaged in over the weekend.

I know — arguing on Twitter accomplishes little. The utter frustration probably lowered my resistance to the stomach ailment that decimated my yesterday, and I certainly didn’t persuade either of my opponents to rethink their positions.

Both conversations centered on the sufficiency of Scripture, with my opponents vigorously objecting to the proposition that God now speaks exclusively through the Bible. Both people claim to be Christians. And maybe they are, just as I was during the years I subscribed to Charismatic theology. I don’t  believe I can judge the genuineness of their salvation based on brief Twitter exchanges. But I do find it disturbing that people who profess to be Christians demonstrate such hostility to the statement that God speaks exclusively through the pages of the Bible.

One of them admitted that she wanted more than God’s Word offers.

Certainly, Scripture does seem limited sometimes. When we face major decisions or suffer heart rending tragedy, we want God to whip out His megaphone and speak directly to us. After all, He spoke personally to people in the Bible. Just this morning, as a matter of fact, I read several conversations He had with Abraham. If He spoke directly to Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles, why shouldn’t He speak directly to us?

Answering that question would require multiple blog posts. And writing even one such post when I still feel tired from yesterday’s tussle with whatever bug assailed me really doesn’t appeal to me at the moment. It’s a valid question that deserves a thoughtful answer. I’d prefer to approach it when I feel healthier.

I would, however, like to address my dismay that so many evangelicals in our day do expect direct revelations from God. This expectation no longer confines itself to Charismatic circles, which further distresses me. We’ve forgotten that the Holy Spirit gives us everything we need through His Word.

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. ~~2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV)

“That the man of God may be complete,” it says. Doesn’t that phrase imply that we don’t need mystical experiences or extrabiblical words from God?

Although the Church faces threats from those outside its walls, it faces even greater threat from false teachings within those walls. And every one of those false teachings in some sense challenge the sufficiency of Scripture. Consequently, we have a responsibility to stand firmly on the knowledge that we have everything we need in the Word of God. Applying His Word to our individual circumstances admittedly takes patient study, but the Lord will faithfully use it to teach, rebuke, correct and train us in righteousness. What more could we possibly need?

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Welch Revivals, Bondage And Actual Obedience To The Lord

Bible Mask MedievalFor years, John and I have been getting DVDs from Netflix. For reasons that would distract from the point of this blog post, we’ll be closing our account soon, so we’re watching the last few movies on our queue.

A few nights ago, we watched a documentary about Evan Roberts, an evangelist during the Welch revivals in the early 1900s. I knew very little about either Roberts or the Welch revivals,  but I thought the movie might be interesting. And okay, I hoped to glimpse places I’d seen during my three months in Wales.

The movie definitely brought back memories (including memories of Wales), but not exactly the memories of lush green hills dotted with sheep or ruins of medieval castles that I’d anticipated. Instead, watching Roberts agony as he sought God through one spiritual experience after another while he burdened himself with the legalism of fearing to step outside of God’s  will reminded me of the Bible college I attended in Wales. And of Charismatic teaching in general.

I’d never really seen the connection between legalism and the dependence on spiritual experiences until I watched that movie, but the relationship struck me powerfully. Certainly we see it in 21st Century evangelicals (even those who don’t consider themselves to be Charismatics) as they urge us to expect personal revelation from God and warn us against “stepping out of God’s will.” I remembered the desperation to receive personal guidance, which caused me to wrench fragments of Scripture out of context, and pleading with God to speak to me lest I make a mistake and foil His plan.

What a sad way to go through life!

And what an affront to the sovereignty of God, as well as to His love! Yes, the Lord commands our obedience, but He calls us to obey what He clearly commands in His Word, not impressions or voices in our head telling us whom to marry or what job to accept. God’s principles outline what characteristics to look for in a husband. Marry whomever you please, as long as he possesses those characteristics and proposes to you. Take the job as long as the employer doesn’t ask you to violate Scripture. Don’t agonize unnecessarily, straining for some  mystical experience to offer confirmation.

People like Evan Roberts may appear quite spiritual, but their gnosticism never allows them to walk in the Spirit. Consider Paul’s words to the Colossians:

20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. ~~Colossians 2:20-23 (ESV)

Although I don’t recommend the documentary (which is why I won’t give the title), I’m glad I watched it because it clarified some of the dangers in Charismatic teaching. I certainly praise God for mercifully rescuing me from that bondage.

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Saturday Sampler: August 27 — September 2

Star Sampler

 

In The Mailbag: What’s your take on White-Howse/Charlottesville/Trump? Michelle Lesley shifts our attention back to the Bible. Her perspective on how Christians should evaluate such controversies humbles me, which is always a good thing for someone as opinionated as I am. Keep her outlook in mind when the next social media firestorm hits.

Along that same vein, Jennifer at One Hired Late In The Day asks us to consider The overlooked gift of kindness. Great advice!

Mark Ward, in his intriguing article for Logos Talk, brings out The Twist in the Sermon on the Mount That You Probably Missed. Because I struggle with the sin of anger, Ward’s insight into the Lord’s use of a small conjunction gives me a lot to think about. Maybe you’ll appreciate his exploration of Jesus’ reasoning as much as I do.

Look at Prince on Preaching to read Anca Martin’s marvelous essay, The Rest Of Titus and Why It Matters For Women. I  haven’t investigated this website enough to actually endorse it, and a couple minor remarks in this piece make me slightly uncomfortable. That said, I still recommend this piece because it supports my objective in the Perspectives In Titus Bible Study that I feature on this blog each Monday. I hope her thoughts will interest you enough that you’ll join me next Monday.

Erin Benziger, author of Do Not Be Surprised, inaugurates a new series (comprised of devotions she’s previously written) on one of my favorite topics. Unshakeable Joy will both challenge and encourage you to rejoice in your Savior. I look forward to the rest of her posts on this topic.

Have you followed the series Jessica Pickowicz has been doing on Beautiful Thing? If not, her concluding article, Portraits of Superstition: The Christian Neapolitan, supplies links to the previous six installments along with suggestions for using the series as a women’s Bible Study. Then she writes her final portrait, which is probably the most pervasive problem in evangelical circles today.

Kim Whitten, in a post for Biblical Woman that had me crying one minute and laughing the next, writes How I Learned About Rejoicing in the Sock Aisle at Target.

Rethinking “God Hates the Sin but Loves the Sinner” by Alan Shlemon on the Stand to Reason blog holds a popular cliche up to both practical and theological considerations. Maybe it isn’t something Bible-believing Christians should say in conversations with LBGTQ people after all.

And while we’re on the subject of Biblical responses to LBGTQ matters, here’s the link to the Nashville Statement that the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood released this past week. Personally, I like its balance of firm commitment to Scripture’s standards for human sexuality and hope for those entrapped by sexual sin.

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Saturday Sampler: August 20 — August 26

Tulips01For those of you going back to school, Ryan Higginbottom’s post, Above All Earthly Textbooks in Knowable Word encourages you not to allow the pressures of school to crowd out your devotional life. Looking back on my own college years, I can attest to each of his points.

Scrolling though Twitter, I found Worldview Changes Everything, which Leslie A published in Growing 4 Life back in July 2014. I normally don’t like including throwback blog posts in Saturday Sampler, but this one deserves attention. The closing paragraphs especially call Christians to healthy self-examination.

Everybody has an opinion, or so the saying goes. Answering that maxim, Elizabeth Prata asserts that You (I) don’t have to say everything in The End Time. Her humility here sets a godly example, especially in this culture of social media.

Beautiful Thing writer Jessica Pickowicz resumes her probing series on superstitions with Portraits of Superstition: The Princess Charming. She writes with a balance that I wish I’d had back in high school when I destroyed a memento from a family vacation thinking it was an idol with demonic powers.

We can find the Gospel even in this earliest chapters of Genesis, as Narrow Minded Woman shows us in Eve: “Mother of All the Living”.

Leave it to Michelle Lesley, a mother of five, to come up with a title like Watch Your Language! 10 Christian Terms that Need to be Cleared Up. Her reasoning on each term grounds itself in God’s Word, forcing us to carefully consider how our words represent the Lord. Are you guilty of saying any of these things?

The Rise of Digital Technologies and the Decline of Reading by Tim Challies may surprise you. His perspectives don’t follow popular wisdom on this topic, but maybe popular wisdom could use a challenge once in a while.

If you doubt my repeated assertions that Christians depend way too much on feelings, go to  excatholic4christ and read Tom’s piece, Emotional feelings and religious rituals no substitute for genuine faith in Christ and His finished work. He presents a sad but fascinating story of a woman who obviously needs discernment  (not to mention true salvation).

Amy Byrd of Housewife Theologian examines the historical context that may help us understand why God honored Rahab’s Lie. Like Amy, I’m not completely sold on this explanation, but it certainly does make sense.

 

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