…in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.
2 Corinthians 2:11
We have been on the road these last two weeks, and one of the great joys of our lives is meeting Christian brothers and sisters in different places. It is like a wonderful family reunion wherever we go - the Body of Christ is indeed beautiful and doing good works in communities all over the world.
At the same time, driving such a long way across the country reveals that there is much work left to do. There is a great deal of suffering and spiritual poverty everywhere we have gone, and much opportunity to share the love and hope of Christ.
Why are we slow to share the Good News - why haven’t more people been impacted by true Christianty?
Paul wrote a wonderful second letter to the Corinthian church that still speaks to us today. In it, he spends quite a bit of time painting a picture of what real, vibrant relationship with Jesus will look like lived out as a community of believers. In it are two sentences that we dare not skip over as we read, “...in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.” The context in which he writes this is about forgiveness, and we will look at that in more depth next week. For now, let’s look at this concept of Satan scheming against us in order to outwit us - is this actually true?
In a word, yes. There really is an evil enemy of God who hates Him so passionately, and who has committed to try to hurt as many of God’s beloved children as he can in order to inflict pain on God. Thank the Lord that the great work of Jesus on the cross has broken the grip of sin and death, and has defeated Satan and his wicked plan. But in this time of God’s patience, waiting for His church to gather as many of His lost sheep as they can and will, Satan does not rest from his scheming since he knows his days are numbered.
We cannot be unaware of the enemy’s schemes, otherwise we will fall for them every time. These are his tricks and traps, and they are even worse than standard operating procedure of wickedness and evil. Standard to Satan is a hatred for God and for people because they are made in His image. So, as this era races to a close, we should not be surprised that the persecution of Christian people around the world is definitively worse than it has ever been historically. (Please research this sometime and join in prayer for the persecuted Church.) But all these 2000 years, persecution from the outside of the Church has not been able to stop the Body of Christ - it has only made us stronger overall.
But the enemy’s schemes are worse than just pure evil - they are how he worms his way into the lives and dealings of Christians to ruin real Christianity from the inside. When it comes down to it, Satan has just a few plays in his book, but they are so effective that he uses them again and again. This week and next, we will examine two schemes that threaten to devestate the Church.
First - Tampering with Truth
Our society is post-everything: post-Christian, post-modern, post-common sense. Still, the entirety of western civilization is actually based on Judeo-Christian principles and therefore remains standing, for now. It is interesting to watch the evolution of our society in the last few hundred years as the very foundational pillars of this civilization have been removed - a belief in God, a trust in God’s Word, a proper understanding and acceptance of man’s place in the world. Today, we have a culture with an odd blend of believing that nothing is true therefore everything is true, and that all rules and constraints should be cast off since all of that religion stuff is made up anyways. There is also a strange and pathetic hope that people are just going to get better somehow, when all of the evidence overwhelmingly shows this is not true. Our default setting without God is pure selfishness and all of the evil fruit that brings.
The cultural air we breath is such a complex mash of ideas and beliefs that it is quite difficult to write about succinctly - suffice it to say that our culture is trying to hold on to the safety and freedom that a Christian society yields without acknowledging God and what He asks of us. By definition, teachings and ideas that are contrary to the Word of God are called heresies, and our society is rife with them. It is one thing for our culture to embrace these heresies, but it is another thing entirely for the Church to embrace them.
Many Christians are being taken in by this old scheme of Satan. He takes wicked delight in twisting the Word of God into his own uses. He derives much satisfaction from using the words of our faith inappropriately to render us confused. So today, we in the Church are actually afraid to tell people the truth in love for fear that we are being judgmental or overbearing. We are silenced by this heresy that every path leads to the same place in the end, and that we are being ridiculous to insist that there is only one way to Heaven.
Do not be outwitted by the enemy’s schemes. Truth is not subjective or relative - Truth can be known and His name is Jesus. We Christians have gone well past the time for minding our own business. Our nation is hurting - our young people are neglected and confused, families have been utterly destroyed, hopelessness and addiction are rampant. The Church must shake off the drowsy stupor of believing the lies our culture is telling itself and shine the light and hope of Christ brightly in our communities.
“How different it is with Christianity, which knows no distinction of race or creed, but claims the world for Christ and whose messengers circle the globe. Where it comes and is faithfully practiced, sin and slavery and selfishness are banished and holiness is enthroned.”
- J. Oswald Sanders, The Incomparable Christ
Parents, Jesus is the Lord of your home and can help you thrive in your marriage and raise your children in the grace and knowledge of God. Students, you have the best thing going on your campus - never be afraid or embarrassed to invite people into Truth and Light. Businessmen, workers, educators, and politicians - you represent all that is Good to the marketplace; please do not be ashamed to stand proud as a representative of God in your community. Pastors and Church Leaders, teach the Truth. Live lives of holiness and sanctification, loving your people and helping them love their neighbors.
Let's not fall for those wicked schemes - let's change the world with the love of God.
As I wrote Kingdom Minded, I hoped to create a format that would be useful to you not only as an individual, but also for your small group or Sunday School class - order your copy today!
Faith Like A Child
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.
Matthew 18: 1-5
We have been on the road this week, seeing some wonderful people and experiencing some of the most beautiful places in the nation. I love long drives in the country - the many miles of rural scenery are so peaceful and refreshing to the spirit, and there is so much time to think. I mentioned last time that this is a bit of a watershed season in my life, as our nest is now officially empty. That, coupled with the fact that 30 years ago this fall was our first semester at University of the Pacific, where Eli and I would meet each other and Jesus and have our lives and futures transformed, has made me even more sentimental than I usually am.
I am so grateful for the life God has given to us. What a gift it is to love and serve Him, and to raise our children to do the same. What a blessing to realize that my family is such a treasure - not just our children and grandchildren, but our parents and grandparents as well. God has allowed us to have such a rich history of godly, kind, faithful people, and that kind of foundation in life is a rare gift.
Looking back on my childhood includes nothing but pleasant memories. We lived much of my young life in seaboard Connecticut, which is a storybook place, full of fascinating history, architecture and scenery. My thoughts of childhood include rejoicing when the morning news announced school was cancelled due to heavy snow, then spending the entire day sledding or ice skating. We would come back home and hang our wet jackets and socks by the fire, and it felt so awful and wonderful at the same time to let our hands and feet thaw out by the fire while we sipped some hot cocoa. I think of summertime swimming at the lake, drinking fresh apple cider at the orchard in autumn, and beautiful springtime flowers blooming after a long winter.
Absent from my idyllic memories of my youth are nights spent worrying about anything. I had nothing to worry about. My parents loved each other and they loved us, in both word and deed. I never worried about what I would do if one of them left because that never seemed to be an option in our house. I never worried about where we would live, what we would eat, or if we would have clothes - my parents always gave us everything we needed and then some. I never wondered if we would have enough money to pay the bills, or if we would be safe from harm; I had no reason to doubt that my parents would do everything they could to keep us healthy in every way. Having worked with young people with very difficult childhoods for so many years, I realize that my own experience is truly a gift, and sadly the exception rather than the norm.
My childhood helps me understand what Jesus means when He says, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”
Many people have a very difficult time believing that God truly is good and faithful. So many have experienced terrible and traumatic events in their younger years - it has been truly heartbreaking to hear so many awful stories throughout our tenure in the ministry. Children are exposed to horrendous violence and exploitation, abuse of every kind, and float from home to home as families shatter into ever-greater disfunction. They have no good or wholesome concept of what “normal” is as they enter adulthood. Terrible patterns of behavior and abuse are passed down from generation to generation. When a person with a history like that is introduced to the reality of a great God of love, faithfulness and hope, it seems much too good to be true.
But it is true. God's promises are not empty words. His character is not unsteady or untrustworthy. HIs Kingdom is not coming someday, it is already here.
Even with my wonderful childhood and my extensive adult studies of the nature and character of God, I have found myself slipping many times into the habit of worry. Sadly, I can no longer say that I have never lost sleep, wondering what would happen with this situation or that person, fretting over every potential terrible outcome. I have struggled with doubts and with a lack of faith more times than I care to admit. What happened?
I am the one who changed. As I entered adulthood, I saw and experienced some of the storms and uncertainties of life, in my own life and in the lives of people I loved. When the ground suddenly seemed to be unsteady, I took my eyes off of what the Bible tells me to be true, and worried instead that maybe God wasn't quite as good or powerful or faithful as we hoped. When circumstances did not meet my expectations, my faith faltered. When seasons were difficult to walk through, I trusted my eyes and not the greater reality of the Kingdom of God.
I changed, but Jesus says plainly, "change back." Take action against your doubt, and stop trying to make it through on your own. Remind yourself of truth. Relax and trust God like you did when you were a child. Rest easy like you did when you were small. You don't have to worry about any of those people or things, what you will eat or what you will wear; you don't have to be knocked off balance by the uncertainties of life. God is looking after all of those things for you, and He is much more capable anyhow.
Further, if we won't change and trust like a child, we will miss so much of the goodness of the Kingdom of God. We will entirely miss the rich and satisfying life of living like sons and daughters of the King - people who hold so much power and authority and resource because of Who their Father is.
In John 16:33, Jesus said, "“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble...." Life is certain to be uncertain. But just as certain is the fact that God is good and trustworthy - Jesus continued, "but take heart! I have overcome the world." Let's live like children, and trust our Father whole-heartedly. Let's believe Him when He says that He has overcome the world. Let's live as people full of faith in the goodness and steadfastness of our King, so that others can see how much better it is to live in His Kingdom - both forever and for today.
The book is here! Here are Tara (a delight to work with from Wisdom House) and I at the book launch party last weekend. Order your copy today!
Hi! I'm Mary - mother to two wonderful grown daughters, wife to an incredible husband, and loving our life in the piney woods of Texas... (read more!)
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