A series of spiritual messages on:
THE FAITH IN CHRIST and ITS FUNCTIONING
“…The just shall live by faith.” (Rom.1:17)
- · “Verily, verily, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47)
- · “Yes, and if I be offered on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all.” (Php.2:17).
Continued from #050a – EN
Part 3c: Teachings and erroneous traditions
1. The erroneous opinion that “Satan can upset even the plans of God”
There is a belief or an incorrect conviction that Satan is so strong that he can prevent not only our own plans but also God’s plans. Theoretically, of course, we do not believe such a thing but it is that which we actually live at the bottom of our heart. We very often say: “The devil did this and that, the devil prevented me from doing that… the Devil destroyed… etc”. Lord, have pity on us!
The truth is that Satan is already a defeated enemy. The prince of this world was judged on the cross. He was thrown outside and judged (John 12:31 and 16:11). Christ “…Blotting (blotted) out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; and having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.” (Col.2:13-15). Moreover, it is written: “But the Lord is faithful, who shall establish you, and keep you from evil.” (2Th.3:3). In the same manner, it is written: “And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me to his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (2Tim.4:18).
Some of those who hold this opinion base it both on verses of the Bible and on experience: “Why we would have come to you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us.” (1Thes.2:18). Satan can provoke man’s soul (1Chr.21:1), can come and take away the word (Mark 4:15), can bind man’s body (Lu.13:16), can enter man’s heart (Lu.22:3 and John 13:27), desires to sift man as wheat (Lu.22:31), can fill man’s heart to lie (Ac.5:3), can tempt man (1Cor.7:5), can be transformed into an angel of light (2Cor.11:14) and can do, up to a certain point, “miracles”. Yes, Satan can create persecutions, hinder the free distribution of the Bible, can prevent the free establishment of churches etc. If we examine closely all these cases, we will find out that Satan can do nothing without the collaboration of man’s heart or without God’s permission. God has His own sovereign purposes. All Satan’s power lies in lies and false or erroneous doctrines.
The victory against the Wicked is not mentioned in the Word of God in a doubtful way but it is openly proclaimed from Genesis to Revelation. The Holy Spirit tries to convince us that the devil is already a defeated enemy … By faith, we put on the whole armor of God, that we may be able to stand against the wiles of Satan (Eph.6:10-18). The believer must have always in his spirit that he should not resist Satan by his own forces, by squeaking the teeth and/or by showing him his fists or by using certain curses against him but by standing on certain promises or by being based on certain statements of the Word of God, which is worthy of all acceptance… If we want to see the LORD bruise Satan under our feet shortly we must be wise to that which is good, and simple concerning evil (Rom.16:19-20). It is not written, “Bruise Satan by your imprecations or your curses.” This is also held in a similar way by Peter in his epistle: “Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brothers that are in the world. …” (1Pet.5:9).
If we believe, therefore, that Christ overcame Satan, we will see that we are able in the Name of Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit to resist him effectively. His power is in his lies and his erroneous doctrines. We should never forget what is written in the book of Revelation: “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives to the death.” (12:11). We must believe that he is defeated: “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world: and this is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcomes the world, but he that believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1Joh.5:4-5). The winner is he that believes… The cross of the Christ, which is also our cross, is the most essential point about our justification by faith, our victory against sin, passions, our bad habits and weaknesses, as well as our victory against Satan. When our faith in the redeeming sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross is intact and healthy, we will see the victory with our own eyes… “Jesus said to her, Said I not to you, that, if you would believe, you should see the glory of God?” (Joh.11:40). Amen! “I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living”, said the Psalmist (27:13). Closing this point I deem necessary to mention a couple of verses concerning the Word of God and the Christ’s church:
- · “Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even to bonds; but the word of God is not bound.” (2Tim.2:9)
- · “…I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Mat.16:18)
- · “No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against you in judgment you shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, said the LORD.” (Isa.54:17)
2. The incorrect opinion about the “thorn in the flesh”
This opinion is based on the verse: “And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.” (2Cor.12:7). God the Father, by what He allowed in the life of Paul, HE wanted to bring him to humility, to save him from any presumption and to emphasize the all sufficiency of the grace of God.
Paul, by the expression of the “thorn in the flesh”, made allusion to some infirmity or perhaps chronic body disease which reoccurred from time to time. Perhaps, there was an anomaly in the eyes and or of vision of which he was affected. We have a mention of it in Galatians 6:11: “You see how large a letter I have written to you with my own hand.” (great letters in the ancient Greek texts) ! Nothing is specified concerning the nature of this infirmity. In addition, it is necessary to take seriously into account what is written in Galatians 4:13-15: “You know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel to you at the first. And my temptation which was in my flesh you despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. Where is then the blessedness you spoke of? for I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, you would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me.” ……… It is not a proof but it is a good indication… Another serious indication is the fact, while he was judged by the Council, he did not discern that the man who commanded them that stood by him to smite him on the mouth was the high priest Ananias … (Acts 23:2, 5)
Very probably this was why he had the habit or the need to dictate his letters. In the case of the epistle to Galatians, Paul was obliged – perhaps because of a lack of a secretary or for reasons of safety, so that his letter could not be considered as falsified by malevolent people – to write this epistle with his own hand with large letters. Some suppose that his eyes were terribly irritated… red, because of a chronic inflammation, appeared periodically or they were even swollen… and consequently disgusting! Who knows?
We have a similar or parallel case in the testing of Job: The Word of God says that Job was a man “…perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil” and “there is (was) none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that fears God, and eschews evil” (Job 1:1, 8). In the case of Paul there was a possibility to fall into arrogance on account of the holiness of his life, the excellence of his work and because of the above measure through the abundance of the revelations. In the case of Job, there was an intense tendency of self justification (Job 33:9) because of his perfect character and the blessings with which God had surrounded him. They both were in danger of being trapped in a spirit of arrogance and fall under judgment. God, because of His love and protection, allowed Satan to buffet them and impose on them torments in their body so that they are kept humble and be prevented from falling into the horrible sin of pride. Let us pay attention to the fact that in both cases, source of their affliction was Satan whose aim is to buffet, to torture and to destroy. It is good to always remember what is written in the book of Job: “That he may withdraw man from his purpose, and hide pride from man (remove pride from man – Gr).” (Job 33:17). Let us also mention what the Holy Spirit expressed through David: “Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins (arrogance – Gr.); let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.” (Ps.19:13). The enmity or the scorn from their enemies or from their friends was faced, by both Job and Paul, with courage, boldness and power. Job had not seized the cause of his humiliating testing but Paul understood it because of the light he had received from above and particularly through God’s refusal to exempt him from his thorn in the flesh. So, Paul accepted gladly to transform his weakness into a challenge for more blessings and for God’s glory. Job arrived at this point when God reproved him and put him in his place. His murmurings and his protests were changed into Job’s humiliation and in God’s glory. Both of them were protected and were blessed and became precious examples to be imitated.
I remember the case of a dear brother, how often he felt humiliated when he could not take part in the discussions because of his partial deafness… I remember vaguely a phrase that he had used: “I do not manage to follow what they say and I feel like an imbecile”. It was as if Satan “buffeted” and humiliated him… The disease or rather the diseases do not come from God. They come either from Satan (the Bible testifies) or as a result of our own sins (for example: aphrodisiac diseases) or because of hereditary defects…
It should not be forgotten that because of the sin of the man the ground is cursed; yes, because of us! The earth is sick! “For we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.” (Rom.8:22-23).
Many believers have adopted the incorrect belief that it is useless to cry to God because they believe that God does not want to deliver their life from their disease or from other problems. They say that everything comes from God; thus they accept all passively, calling their problems, their diseases or afflictions “a thorn in the flesh”, identifying or confusing, in many cases, the problem of Paul with theirs. Let us clarify some things:
- · The word of God says that Christ came not only to forgive our sins but to also heal our diseases and to comfort us in our afflictions… Isaiah says, “…Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was on him; and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isa.53:1-5). We see application of this principle in Mat.8.13-17 in the case of the centurion, the mother-in-law of Peter who was sick and confined to bed with fever, in the delivery of a man who was possessed by demons and in many others who were sick: “…He took our infirmities, and bore our sicknesses. He took Himself our infirmities and carried our diseases.” (Mat.8:17)
- · We are exhorted to call upon God on the day of distress to deliver us, and we in our turn, to give glory only to God in words and acts, because glory belongs to Him, with Him. If things are so, then there can be no excuse that, when we are visited by disease or tribulations or afflictions or sadness, we should not accept them passively or without any kind of resistance. The first thing that we must do is to ask God, with reverence, why He allowed the “visitation” of such a crisis in our life.
- · Many are those who have swallowed these incorrect doctrines believing that their disease or problem is a “thorn in the flesh” which was given to them, just like that of the apostle Paul (2Cor.12:7). “The thorn” of Paul brought glory to God because the power of Christ could rest on him. And while in the case of Paul “the thorn in the flesh” was to protect him from pride or arrogance due to the excessively great revelations, on the contrary, in a considerable number of Christians, the so-called “thorn in the flesh” is due to the abundance of darkness, sins, weaknesses, disobedience and lukewarm spirit that we have in our life! God is obliged to raise His stick of punishment and to take measures of correction! Some Christians do not understand the Word of God! And some of them do not read His Word or if they read it, they do it sporadically! If we distinguish ourselves, God would cease to chastise us severely: “For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.” (1Cor.11:30-32). If we become zealous and repent, God, in his mercy, will remove our affliction. He will give us the Great Interpreter, the Holy Spirit and the unction, which are planned for each child of God and would allow us to get rid of our covetousnesses, sins or weaknesses and to live a holy life, pious and worthy of His call. We cannot, naturally, exclude the case of pious Christians who, in spite of their testing, tribulations, diseases and the blowing by Satan, bring glory to God because of their patience, tenacity, perseverance and faithfulness; in a word, because of their attachment to God.
- · Let us believe, brothers and sisters, that many are the afflictions of the just but let us not remain only in that. Let us also believe the continuation of the verse, which indicates that God will deliver us from all our troubles… (Ps.50:15). Our Lord Jesus-Christ, the Man of sorrows, came to give us life and that one abundantly (Joh.10:10). He came to bear our griefs and carry our sorrows, to renew our force, to do us good and to deliver us from the bonds of sin and Satan’s slavery! The goal of Satan is to afflict the children of God in their heart and their body. The goal of Satan is to bind the body and the soul. On the contrary, the goal of God is to untie our body and our soul in order to be able to appreciate the blessings and His astonishing grace. We should never believe that the chastisement of God has a permanent character in the life of His children. If it is so – and it could be so – let God say it to us, as he did to Paul about his thorn in the flesh. Let us not hasten to say it ourself. As for us, let us pay attention not to leave in us a sin or a weakness or bad habits, which would oblige God to chastise us. Let us never forget that our heavenly Father is afflicted in all our afflictions, and the angel of His presence saves us. In His love and in His pity he redeems us and He bears us and carries us all our days (Isa.63:9). He is afflicted with us and His Spirit seeks the depths of our heart in order to help us to come to the repentance so that He can bless us. He is ‘after us’ to bless us. Let us learn our lesson and we will see how the things of our life will change! Let us put our life and our behavior in order and we will see that God will show us and to bring itself to the plenitude of our salvation and deliverance (Ps.50:23; 91:14-16).
3. The erroneous opinion concerning the acquisition “Christian virtues”
Faith accepts and faith obtains! Faith receives the great and invaluable promises of God by which the believer becomes partaker of divine nature. Moreover, faith adds virtues, one after the other. From the moment man becomes a child of God, he becomes also heir to God and co-heir with Jesus-Christ! Then all God’s promises are deposited into the spiritual bank account of the believer. And some of the promises of God can be received in the twinkle of an eye but for other promises it is required to await them patiently. God’s promises are inherited by faith and perseverance (Heb.6:12). With regard to the remission of our sins, it is given to us as soon as we repent sincerely and reject our sins (1Jean 1:9). In the case of certain virtues, things are a little different. By faith, we add virtues, as it is written: “…add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.” (2Pet.1:5-7). Each one of these spiritual virtues is added ONLY if we admit their lack or their inexistence and ask for it with all our heart by faith to the Father, in the name of Jesus-Christ. God adds each virtue in one moment, in the twinkle of an eye, but their increase takes place gradually by our exercise, obeying to them and by facing the circumstances of life by faith… Thus, the word of God is accomplished that, “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” (Rom.1:17). This great truth is confirmed and corroborated by the verse Mark 11:24: “Therefore I say to you, What things soever you desire, when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you shall have them.”
Some of these virtues are the product of other virtues: Meekness, for example, is the product of wisdom as it is written in Jacques 3:13. Take, as example, the case of Moses who was very meek, above all men – who were on the face of the earth – because of his wisdom (Nu.12:3).
The problem still, even for a good number of believers, is the insistence of man to see in order to believe! Some want to see or feel the Christian virtues in their life in order to believe them. This behavior, however, is a behavior which is not compatible with faith but with sight… God, nevertheless, has put another order. Here it is: “…Jesus said to her (to Martha), Said I not to you, that, if you would believe, you should see the glory of God?” (Joh.11:40). Thus, man cannot see, feel and appreciate the salvation of God as well as His virtues and His promises being realized in his life unless he believes in the first place God’s words and unless he honors God for His love and faithfulness. God will not conform to our manner of thought and with our mentality. Naturally, there are cases in the Bible where God, in order to encourage humble and good willed men to believe, He condescended to give them some signs, as in the cases of Gideon (Judges Ch.6) and Abraham (Gen.15:8). However, Jesus always refused to give signs to the haughty and arrogant men who required signs because of curiosity or because of a provocative spirit…
Allow me to insist on this point: The believer looks for feelings to believe that he has already received the virtue that was missing in his life and that he had requested from God. It is a serious error due to the weakness of our flesh, which wants to see and feel in order to believe. Religious people can be easily imprisoned in the error to put sight and feeling before faith. “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2Cor.5:7). He had the same believer, most probably the same problem, when he faced the problem of salvation… He wanted to feel something before believing. For example: He prays to God for self-control and waits to feel something to believe that God has heard his prayer. But things are not so.
Suppose that you receive an official document from the government announcing to you that there was an error about your wages during a certain number of years and that the government owes you a considerable amount of money! When are you going to rejoice? Only when you put the money in your pocket or from the moment that you received the official document? Naturally, from the moment you received the official document! The certainty and the joy which you feel encourage you to start making plans how to spend or invest this money! The Bible is the official letter of God, the official document! It means what is written inside! The certainty and the feelings which are created in you put your will and feelings in action!
If you open my “old and used” Greek Bible, you will see certain dates on the margins. For example, 10/6/1959, 3/8/1988 etc. On those days, I beseeched God to remove, for example, the spirit of impatience and to give me the spirit of patience. I believed that God heard me. I did not feel anything at that time. After some time, and without having seen any miracle or having felt anything, I discovered that the impatience of which I suffered and I was fighting for did not exist anymore. It was replaced by patience and my heart started to bless God!
The Bible says:
- · “Therefore I say to you, What things soever you desire, when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you shall have them.” (Mrc.11:24)
- · “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he hears us: And if we know that he hear us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.” (1Jean 5:14-15). May God bless us abundantly!
The goal of this series of studies aims at the spiritual deepening of us all!
At this point, we must add that the promises are inherited “through faith and patience” and not little by little.
I repeat: There are cases when man is called to wait patiently until he enjoys the accomplishment of a promise of God. Then, he must consider the promise as already accomplished and wait patiently it in order to see it accomplished. Perhaps, this promise will take a certain time to become obvious. At this point in time, he must resist the vultures of doubt as Abraham drove away the fowls that came down on the carcasses that he was going to sacrifice (Ge.15:11). Man must drive them out by the power of the Word and the Spirit of God. Our hearts are not always alert or vigilant or patient until their accomplishment. The promises of God are inherited by faith and patience (Heb.6:12). Abraham believed the promise of God but he waited 25 years to see the promise of God being accomplished to have a son! In many cases, we do not await them because we are not actually interested in them. We wish them but, actually, we do not await them or worse we do not want them.
Allow me to mention a personal example. When I was about to finish high school, a friend of mine and I decided to learn English all by ourselves by using a self-teaching method. We started studying it together. I learned English, but he did not. Why? Because he simply wished to learn English, but I desired and wanted to learn it. There is a world of difference between wishing and desiring something and wanting (or willing) it. There is a world of difference between desiring or wishing the will of God and to be decided at any cost to see the will of God to be realized in our life…
It is by faith in God that we receive all we need from God for the spiritual warfare of our life (Job 7:1). Our faith in God gives Him the possibility of rendering us active so that He can act through us. And when God acts through us, then all is possible for us… This is why all is possible to him that believes. “Only believe”! And elsewhere it is written: “If you know these things, happy are you if you do them.” (Jean 13:17), our Lord said!