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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It Should Happen Rarely, But It Shouldn’t Be Ignored

Bible Turning Pages

I’ve written several articles warning against seeing discernment merely as the identification of false teachers. When we limit our definition of discernment to that one function, we run the risk of degenerating into gossips and scandal-mongers. I could easily write several more articles explaining why a single focus on exposing false teachers dishonors the Lord.

In standing against this truncated understanding of discernment, however, I’m keenly aware that Christians can go to the opposite extreme of never mentioning false teachers. They insist that knowing Scripture well will protect a person from falling prey to doctrinal error.

In many respects, I agree with their position. In fact, just last evening I Continue reading

Of Course God Speaks To Christians Today — But He Chooses The Bible As His Medium

Bible Speaking

More and more evangelicals have come to expect personal words from God. Even thirty years ago, such expectations were limited to Charismatic circles, but Baptist teachers like Henry Blackaby, Rick Warren and (yes)  Beth Moore have convinced more conservative Christians that all believers ought to experience God to speak to them apart from the Bible.

Thirty years ago people who  claimed that God spoke to them were considered mentally ill. Now, however, those of us who deny extra-biblical revelations receive sideways glances.  Most believers see us as abnormal and spiritually Continue reading

Refuting False Teaching By Keeping Christ In Focus

Flowering trees 01

Colossians is one of my favorite books of the Bible.

Okay, I lied — it’s definitely my favorite. John’s gospel is a close second, and I love it for the same reason that I love Colossians: both books center on showing us Who Christ is. I know, of course, that the entire Bible reveals Him, but these two books paint particularly clear pictures of Him. Therefore, I go back to them as often as I can without neglecting the rest of God’s Word.

So I’m currently working through Colossians during my personal time with the Lord, making preliminary notes before I go back over it using commentaries. What a rich, satisfying experience! I feel as if I’m dining at one of Boston’s finest restaurants!

This morning I came across a verse in Chapter 2 that absolutely thrilled me, as well as encouraging me in developing better discernment skills. In fact, I believe everyone in discernment ministry ought to Continue reading

Flashback Friday — Doctrine: The Key To Worship

Bible And WorshipHaving begun my Christian life in Charismatic circles, I learned to think of worship in terms of my emotional responses to praise music or to my private prayer and Bible reading. If I felt fluttery feelings, I believed I’d experienced good worship. If such feelings eluded me, I concluded that I’d failed in worship.

Emotions certainly play a part in worshiping the Lord. I love Him, which naturally means  a level of emotional engagement with Him. I’d go so far as to argue that an absence of passion in  prayer, praise and Bible reading amounts to nothing more than dead orthodoxy. Such dispassionate religion hardly exemplifies the sort of worship that Jesus described as pleasing to God.

23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” ~~John 4:23-24 (ESV)

Yes, by all means worshiping the Lord Jesus Christ in spirit should (and in fact, must involve our emotions! But unless something informs those emotions, we have no ability to worship Him correctly. Even worse, we have no assurance that we’re actually worshiping the true God. Therefore, in order to worship Him in spirit and in truth, we need to make doctrine the key to our worship.

I  care about doctrine because it helps me know the Lord. Not a Jesus fashioned as I think he should be, or one who adapts himself to current culture…though I admit that believing in such a compliant and flexible Jesus appeals to me. Truthfully, I wouldn’t mind tweaking the Bible here and there, making it just a little more comfortable, nor would I object to receiving extra-biblical revelations. But Scripture, studied in context and with a dependence on the Holy Spirit leads me to see Jesus as He actually is.

Do I  claim to know Him perfectly? No. In fact, I have only begun understanding the great doctrines of the Christian faith, partly because I  spent years in Christian groups that emphasized  experiential spirituality, partly because the days before the Internet made study materials less accessible to me (due to my disability and my finances), and mostly because I didn’t mind “going with the flow” of whatever my church went after at any given season. The fluttery feelings satisfied me.

Following the crowd and swallowing the Kool-Aid proved easier than learning to distinguish good doctrine from bad. Also, the non-resistance ensured my acceptance with peers and those in leadership. Quite often, people commented on my raised hand and heavenward gaze with admiration. My emotionally charged worship showed them an impressive example of spirituality.

Sadly, it also demonstrated that I worshiped the acclaim of my church more than I worshiped the Lord.

Now, as I read and study the Bible in context  (rather than scanning through it until something gave me spiritual goose bumps), the Lord reveals Himself. I watch His holiness in dealing with Israel, and His humility during His Incarnation. Currently, He teaches me the interrelationship between keeping His  commandments and loving other believers as I study 1 John.The doctrine of human depravity keeps me dependent on  Him, and the doctrine of His sovereignty strengthens my trust in Him. Scripture’s great doctrines show me His perspectives on relationships, sin, faith, money and just about everything else in life.

Most importantly, Scripture teaches me (for the word “doctrine” means nothing more than “teaching”) of Christ’s preeminence in all creation. He is not a god who suits himself to my fancy. Quite the contrary, He is the holy yet gracious King Who allows me the privilege of serving Him for all eternity. The doctrines of the Bible display His  majesty, drawing me to praise and worship Him in thrilled anticipation of being physically in His glorious presence.

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Correction Must Come From God’s Word

baaa1-stainedglass03I got a little pushback on yesterday’s blog post. That’s fine.  Because I’m human, and therefore fallen, I certainly can get things wrong. May God give me the humility to accept correction when I publish articles that misrepresent His character and/or violate the teachings of Scripture. In fact, I beg my readers to show me any doctrinal errors in my writing!

31 The ear that listens to life-giving reproof
    will dwell among the wise.
32 Whoever ignores instruction despises himself,
    but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence.
33 The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom,
    and humility comes before honor. ~~Proverbs 15:31-33 (ESV)

You should worry about me if I show a resistance to receiving correction that’s grounded in God’s Word. The Lord does not permit anyone to exalt human wisdom over the authority of Scripture, least of all a housewife with a blog! If I make the mistake of thinking that I am somehow above the ability to insert error into my writing, I definitely need godly people to rebuke me from Scripture.

Notice, please, my emphasis on the Word of God as the standard for correcting me. The challenges I received to yesterday’s post (both on my Comments Section and on social media) appealed to personal experience, misapplied Bible verses (at least that person tried — initially — to reason from Scripture), ad hominem attacks and worldly philosophies.

Colossians warns Christians to be careful about worldly philosophies.

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. ~~Colossians 2:6-10 (ESV)

We receive faith through the Word of God, according to Romans 10:17. From there, Scripture fully equips us in all spiritual matters, as we see in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and 2 Peter 1:3-5. Rather than being persuaded by the philosophies invented by human wisdom and subjective experience, Christians cling to God’s Word as our ultimate authority.

Furthermore, we don’t add to His Word by observing religious regulations or spiritual practices. Going back to Colossians, we see the folly of depending on human wisdom and tradition for godliness.

16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.

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 2:16-23 (ESV)

So, while I welcome correction and will happily retract any and all blog posts when I’m shown that I’ve distorted or contradicted clear Biblical teaching, I reject arguments that don’t come from Scripture. As a Christian, I have a responsibility to maintain a humble and teachable attitude, but I have an even greater responsibility to keep God’s Word as the standard for distinguishing truth from error.

Please don’t hesitate to correct me using the Comments Section at the end of each blog post I write. Public error demands public rebuke. But make certain that, in offering correction, you appeal to His Word as your basis for correcting me. Anything less dishonors Christ.

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