A homeless Christian refugee was recently crowned America’s newest national Chess Master after winning the Fairfield County Chess Club Championship tournament in Norwalk, Connecticut on May 1, 2021. The 10-year-old Tanitoluwa Adewumi was homeless in New York City after he and his family fled the Boko Haram terrorist group’s religious persecution in Nigeria.
Nigeria (after Iran) was listed as the 9th most difficult country to follow Jesus in the world by Open Doors in 2021. The report says, “More Christians are murdered for their faith in Nigeria than in any other country. Violent attacks by Boko Haram, Hausa-Fulani Muslim militant herdsmen, ISWAP (an affiliate of the Islamic State group) and other Islamic extremist groups are common in the north and middle belt of the country, and are becoming more common farther south.”
Adewumi Praises God After Winning Several Championships
After being asked how his new title of Chess Master compares to winning the New York State Championship, Adewumi said, “It’s better, I would say. But I thank God for everything that he’s done for our family.”
Tanitoluwa’s father, Kayode Adewumi, posted on his Facebook page and gave credit to God for his son’s success. The father posted, “Our God has done it again today. Tanitoluwa won chess club of Fairfield Connecticut championship.”
Since the wins, the Adewumi family has been able to move out of the homeless shelter. And since winning the New York State Chess Championship, Tanitoluwa has written a book about his life titled My Name Is Tani . . . and I Believe in Miracles. Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show’s” Trevor Noah is considering making a film based on the book..
In Adewumi’s favorite chess match he’s ever played, he lost to Chess Grandmaster Hikaru Makamura. When recalling that match, the young Adewumi gave this sage-like advice: “I say to myself that I never lose, that I only learn, because when you lose, you have to make a mistake to lose that game. So you learn from that mistake, and so you learn [overall]. So losing is the way of winning for yourself.”
The national Chess Master now has his eyes set on becoming the world’s youngest Grandmaster. The current record holder is Sergey Karjakin who won the title at 12 years and 7 months.
I want you to turn in your Bible to Hebrews chapter 11. And as we look through this chapter, I – I want us to not get caught up in a lot of difficult details. I think this is a chapter that is – is going to be foundational for us. There’s so many new people in our church, so many new Christians in our church, so many who – who need to understand the foundations of our faith. I don’t want to make this complicated, I don’t want to make it difficult. I’m not going to try to take you in to some kind of minute nuances of theology, but I – I want to embrace this chapter and I want you to embrace it in your thinking and in your – in your spiritual experience because it is so foundational to our life as believers.
We understand that we are saved by faith. We all understand that. “The just shall live by faith,” which is essentially foundational teaching in Scripture. It is quoted back in chapter 10 verse 38, that’s how the tenth chapter really ends. That is not the only place that that passage is quoted. That passage is taken out of Habakkuk chapter 2 in verse 4 but is repeated by the New Testament writers several other places as well because it’s so very, very foundational. So when we talk about salvation, we talk about the gospel, we’re always talking about faith and that raises the question, “What is faith? What is the essence of faith? How are we to understand faith?”
And that’s why we want to look at this chapter. This chapter has been called “The Hall of Fame.” It has been called “The Heroes of the Faith.” It has been called “The Honor Roll of Old Testament Saints,” “The Westminster Abbey of Scripture.” It’s been called, “The Faith Chapter,” and perhaps other things as well. What it presents to us is the power of faith, the power of faith, the excellency of faith.
And I think that needs some clarification in the climate in which we exist today because there is a faith movement within the framework, large framework of evangelical Christianity. It is part of the Charismatic Movement, it’s called The Faith Movement. And these people talk about the power of faith. They talk about the power of faith a lot. But when they’re talking about the power of faith, they are creating a faith that doesn’t exist. They’re taking an impotent faith and trying to empower it. When people in the Faith Movement talk about the power of faith, they’re talking about faith as if it were a personal power that we possess to create our own future, a personal power that we possess to create our own reality, to change the world, to literally define and manufacture our own future.
When they talk about the power of faith they mean that we can use our faith as a power to write our own future history. We can literally believe things into being. We have the power of faith that can create a healing. We have the power of faith that can bring about a salvation. We have the power of faith that can change how people can treat us. We have the power of faith that can change our economic situation, that can take us from poverty to wealth, that can take us from having little to having much, from being deprived to being prosperous, from being a failure to being successful, from being a nobody to being a somebody, from having only ambitions and hopes and dreams to experiencing fulfillment.
The – the notion that exists in this Faith Movement, as it’s called – and they have largely tried to commandeer the concept of faith – is that faith is a power that you possess to create your own future. Nothing could be further from the truth. That is a lie, it is a deception. Faith is not a power which you possess to create your own future. Faith is a God-given ability to trust the future that God has promised you. Huge difference, huge difference.
I don’t want to write my own future, do you? I really don’t want to be responsible for laying out my future. I don’t want to be responsible for determining what my future is going to be. I’m more than happy to leave that in the hands of One who loves me perfectly and has ordained for me a future that is purposeful, fulfilling, satisfying, God-glorifying and eternally blessed. We’re talking about faith, not the false kind of faith that supposedly can create your own future, but the true kind of faith that can produce in you confident trust in the future that God has promised you. That future is laid out in Scripture.
So when we’re talking about faith, we’re talking about trusting in which God has said. Not trusting that you can create something as yet unsaid, a future unwritten, unspoken, unrevealed, but rather to believe in that promise which is laid out in Scripture in all its glory and all its detail that has been given to every true believer. In fact, from a human viewpoint, all they hear is a faith that are recorded in the eleventh chapter, and there are many of them as we will see when we go through the chapter. If from the human perspective they had perhaps the option, they might have written their story differently, differently. Because all their stories are filled with difficulties.
Certainly Abraham’s was, and certainly Moses’ was. We can start where the chapter starts with the first, “By faith, Abel.” You wouldn’t say that if Abel had a choice to write his future he would have written that he would be murdered by his brother. No, these are – these are people who died. These are people who struggled. These are people whose lives were marked with horrendous suffering and it crescendos toward the end of the chapter. So from the human perspective, if they somehow had the power to write their own future, they perhaps would have written it differently than God wrote it. But the kind of faith that we’re talking about, the faith that God gives a believer is the faith to trust the future that God has written because inherent in what God has written for us is His promise of ultimate blessing and eternal joy.
Now the readers of this book needed to understand about faith. They needed to understand it desperately. Obviously, the bulk of those who would read this epistle written to Hebrews were believers. This was written, we don’t know by whom, can’t be certain of that, but it was written by one of the apostles or an associate of the apostles to a community of Jews who had come to faith in Christ. They understood faith. They understood that they needed now to continue to live by faith and that faith would be placed in the gospel, in the person who is at the heart of the gospel, namely the Lord Jesus Christ.
This would be a new kind of life for the Jews. As I said, these are Hebrew believers and, really, for the first time in their life through the gospel and salvation, they have come to understand that their relationship with God is not dependent on works but it’s dependent on faith. That’s new and it needs to be reinforced. And that’s part and parcel of why this eleventh chapter is here so they don’t grow, to borrow Paul’s words, weary in well doing, that they hold on to a life of faith by looking at the models and the examples of all these people in the past who lived by faith and received their glorious reward.
But it’s more than just a chapter designed to encourage believers to continue to walk by faith. You will remember that through the first ten chapters the writer has been laboring to make one major point and it is this; that the New Covenant is superior to the Old Covenant, right, that Christ is superior to everything else. Jesus and His sacrifice is superior, completely superior to the sacrifices and the animals in the old system. He is a better sacrifice who made a better offering. Jesus is better than angels, the writer tells us in these chapters. He is better than the prophets. He is better than Moses, better than Aaron, better than Joshua. He is a better priest than all other priests. And he is from a better priesthood, a superior priesthood, He is the mediator of a better covenant and He is a better sacrifice.
The message of the first ten chapters is, “Put your faith in Jesus Christ, He is in every sense superior.” Now this reinforces for the believers who are receiving this letter, the superiority of Christ to which they have already asserted their will by the power of God. They already know that. They have trusted in that reality. But at periodic points through the opening ten chapters, familiar to anyone who studies the book of Hebrews, there are warnings. There are at least four of them by the time you get to this chapter and this chapter constitutes, if you will, another warning. And these warnings are given to non-Christian Jews who are attending this fellowship. They’re sitting on the fringe, if you will.
They’re apparently intellectually convinced of the gospel, they understand the truth of the gospel in their minds, they understand the power of the proof of that truth by the miracles and signs and wonders which were wrought by Christ. So we could say they’re intellectually convinced. They are hanging on the fringes of this fellowship of Christian Jews but they never really have come all the way to Christ. And there are these periodic warnings not to fall back, not to go back into Judaism. There’s one in – one of them in chapter 2, there are more in chapter 3 and 4, another in chapter 6, another in chapter 10. Don’t go on sinning willfully after you have the knowledge of the truth, says chapter 10, or you will bring upon yourself a far more severe eternal judgment.
So the warning is, “Come all the way to the New Covenant. Come all the way to Christ. Come all the way to faith.” This is a big change, a big change because we know that the Judaism that existed in the time of our Lord and thus in the time of the New Testament was a system of salvation by what? By works, by merit. The Jew attempted to earn salvation. This is all the Jews knew. This is what they had been told. This is what they had been taught. This had been ingrained into them from generations by their parents and their religious leaders. And a simple study of the four gospels reveals the fact that the Judaism of the first century was not the supernatural system given by God whereby the sinner knew that he couldn’t keep the Law of God and thus was penitent and prayed to God, like David did in Psalm 51, pleading for mercy and grace by faith in a God who was willing to forgive and thus receive salvation as a gift of grace, not earned by works.
The system had long forgotten that salvation was by grace, that Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord, that Abraham believed and it was accounted to him for righteousness, and they had created a religious cult built on ethics, built on morality, built on religious ceremony. Salvation came to those who observed all those ethical standards, all those moral oughts and all those ceremonies.
It was necessary then to teach these people the reality of salvation by faith. They had a lot of other things that they could look at in terms of New Testament literature to be taught that. Jesus said that salvation was by faith – that was clear – and not by works. The apostle Paul made it abundantly clear, Ephesians 2:8 and 9, “For by grace are you saved through faith.” Romans chapter 3, chapter 4, and all the way through indicates that salvation comes by faith alone. Scripture is replete with that emphasis. But the Jews are having a hard time being deprogrammed. Can we put it that way? They’re having a hard time being deprogrammed. So you’re going to have to show them something other than the New Testament.
They would like to be able to accept this reality of salvation by faith – rather than what, by works – coming from Christ, coming from the apostles, coming from Paul, coming from the New Testament writers. But isn’t it possible that there could be some other illustrations of salvation by faith from the Old Testament? This might get them across that barrier that seems to be so formidable for them and that is why the eleventh chapter of Hebrews is written. It is written because it is a necessity to prove to the Jews who are intellectually convinced that Jesus is the Messiah, that salvation is by faith and that people not only after Jesus but even before Jesus were saved by faith, by faith.
So in verse 38 of chapter 10, the writer of Hebrews states the key. “My righteous ones shall live by faith. My righteous ones shall live by faith.” That is a direct quote from Habakkuk chapter 2 verse 4, “The just, or the righteous one shall live by faith.” And Habakkuk is an Old Covenant prophet and you can’t shrink back from that. If he shrinks back, “My soul has no pleasure in him,” says the prophet. Verse 39, “But we are not of those who shrink back.” We don’t shrink back from this salvation by faith in Christ.
To shrink back is to end up in “destruction, but of those who have faith to the persevering of the soul.” The plea all the way along in these warning sections is don’t come all the way to Christ, sit on the edge and then reject salvation by faith and fall back into your old works/righteousness system. If you fall back, God has no pleasure in that and you will fall back into eternal destruction. Come all the way to faith in Christ for the eternal preserving of your soul.
Now how is he going to get this case across? How is he going to penetrate their sort of Old Testament thinking? The answer in chapter 11, by giving us a list of Old Testament saints whose lives were marked by faith. The true people of God through all the ages have become the true people of God by faith. Chapter 11 is loaded with illustrations. Just looking at verse 4, “By faith, Abel.” At verse 5, “By faith, Enoch.” At verse 7, “By faith, Noah.” Verse 8, “By faith Abraham.” And again in verse 17, “By faith Abraham.”
And in verse 20, “By faith, Isaac.” In verse 21, “By faith, Jacob.” Verse 22, “By faith, Joseph.” Twenty-three, “By faith, Moses,” and again in verse 24. Going down further, in verse 31, “By faith, Rahab.” And then in verse 32, “There’s Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, the prophets, who by faith did all these amazing things.” Verse 39 sums it up, “All these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they would not be made perfect.”
They didn’t receive what was promised, they trusted that it would come as it had been promised. And that’s exactly what I said is the definition of faith you want to work with. Faith is confident trust in the future God has promised. Faith is not some kind of power by which you create your future. It is the power of God given to you to trust in the promises God has made in Scripture. These people hadn’t received the promise and they trusted in the promise and thus they live by faith. It’s a great, great, monumental, powerful, powerful lesson.
Now we’re just going to kind of look at the opening three verses and then we’ll – we’ll do some character studies over the next Sunday evenings. But let’s just consider a few things. First is the nature of faith, and this is good because the writer gives us a sort of starting point, a kind of basic definition. It’s not really a formal definition of – of faith rather than a – rather it is a description of faith, kind of the basic elements or features that describe faith. And it’s very, very simple, look at verse 1. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
So the first thing we learn about faith is that it is trusting in what isn’t visible. It is trusting in what isn’t received. It is trusting in what isn’t experienced. It is trusting in something not yet manifest. Faith, belief, that’s a noun, the Greek word pistis. It is a noun, it means belief, trust, confidence, faith. And I love the fact that he uses a noun because it emphasizes the settled reality of this. It is a commodity that is possessed.
Certainly believing can be a verb, but we’re talking here not about some act of faith but we’re talking about the reality of a settled faith. It exists as a commodity. It is a gift of God, Ephesians 2:8 says, “not of works.” It comes from God. And when God gives this commodity of faith, it is the assurance of things hoped for. That’s what it means to live by faith. It doesn’t mean that – that we see something we want and bring it into existence. It means that we put our confidence in something not seen, convictions of things not seen.
Some of your translations will say, “Faith is the substance of things not seen.” That’s a great translation, I love that translation. Faith is the substance of things not seen. Substance is a word that has substance, doesn’t it? It does. It’s a word that you can take to the bank. It’s a word that you can sort of cash in on. It’s a word that basically can be legitimately translated substance, essence. That gives it reality. Faith is substantial confidence in the reality of something not realized. Faith gives present substance to something that is future.
As this chapter will show us, when it unfolds, in Old Testament times there were – well, all the saints, men and women who had nothing but the promises of God., nothing but the promises of God to rest on, nothing but the promises of God to hope for. No visible evidence that messianic promise would come true, no visible evidence that kingdom promise will come true. Yet the promises were so real and the revelation of those promises in Scripture so reliable that people built their entire hope on them. All the Old Testament promises related to the future.
That’s what it says at the end, at the end of the chapter. Those people who exercised this faith, exercised faith in what was promised that they did not receive. What would that be? Eternal life, heaven, everlasting bliss, reward, joy, reunion which is promised in the Old Testament of the saints in the presence of God? The very presence of God? The very likeness of God? I will – David says, “I look for the day when I will awake in Thy likeness.” The glories of eternal bliss…they didn’t see any of it here. They never even saw the ultimate sacrifice. They never knew who the Messiah was. They were people of faith but their faith was anchored in a reliable revelation from a God who cannot lie and so their faith gave substance to the future hope.
Now we’re on this side of the cross. But, folks, we understand this, don’t we? None of you has seen heaven and you don’t know anyone who’s been there and back except the Lord Himself. And yet, you have basically put your entire eternal destiny on the foundation, on the fact that the Scripture is reliable and what God has promised you can trust, right? And what that has done is created substance in the present tense for a future promise.
This is better than the best retirement plan you have ever heard of and we’ve lived long enough to know that they don’t provide what they promise, right? Faith is so strong, it is a gift of God, it is the gift of God that allows us to – listen – trust the Scripture. And in trusting the Scripture, to trust the gospel in the Scripture and thus trust Christ as Savior. That’s a package. I think we – we need to understand that. It wouldn’t do any good to trust in Christ as your savior unless you could trust the Scripture for everything that Him being your Savior means. Do you understand that?
You say, “Oh, I need to put my faith in Jesus as my Savior. What’s that going to bring me? What’s that going to deliver to me?” It’s going to deliver to you everything that the Bible promises it will deliver to you. And the Scripture is reliable and you believe it and I believe it because we have been given the faith to believe it. It is a gift from God. “Yeah, well that,” you say, “doesn’t –does that mean that Scripture can’t be proven to be true?” No, the Scripture can be proven to be true, which just strengthens our assurance, doesn’t it? But we know this to be a reliable Scripture and the promises of God are reliable, and so we put our trust in Christ because the things that come with trusting Christ can be trusted.
Faith then is that assurance, or that substance in the present tense of things hoped for. So, literally, what we hope for by way of revealed promise has substance right now and that substance is strong, I want you to know it’s strong. You – you stood there along with me tonight and you sang all those songs, right? You sang from the heart and you loved everything you were singing and you believed it, didn’t you? And it’s all about what is yet in the future. It’s all about your future.
But it has substance now. It has weight now. It provides assurance now so that you sing and you pray and you praise and you act and you live and you obey and you minister and you witness because this hoped for reality gives present weight to your life, substance. And frankly, this is against the grain of all the things that work in a fallen world, is it not? First of all, it’s against the grain of your own flesh. Is that not true?
So now that you believe these things and have put your trust in Christ and are now living a life based upon promises for the future that you haven’t seen that have so much weight that they control your life, what do you do? You live your life as a Christian battling against the flesh that is your natural expression. Wouldn’t it be a lot easier to just say, “Forget it, I’m just going to go with whatever I feel.” It would be a lot easier, right? It’s the way you used to live, like the godless Gentiles live, in the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life, what happened, whatever happens.
But you don’t live that way. You restrain the flesh. You restrict the flesh. You limit the pleasures. You fight against your fallenness. You resist sin, you run from it, you flee it. Why? Because you understand that there is a future reward and a future desire to come before the Lord and bring honor to His name by the life you’ve lived. So you, literally, have brought substance into your life by the things you hoped for in the future. Why do you have this kind of hope that’s so strong that it can change the way you live your life and that you live your life against the grain of your own fallen flesh? Because you believe in the truth of God’s revelation.
Why do you believe that? Because God has given you the faith to believe in that revealed Word and everything you ever study in that Word and all the evidences that come around that Word indicate that it, in fact, is true. You not only have such substance to this hope, that you live against the grain of your flesh, you live against the grain of the world. Everybody in the world is living a certain way and what are you trying to do? You’re trying to live in a completely opposite way.
You know, you’re like a – you’re – you’re like a – a person trying to fight your way through a massive crowd of millions of people who are all going in one direction and you’re going the other way. And yet – I mean, you’re getting trampled in the process. You may be trampled by your family, you may be trampled by the people at your school, at your work, you may be mistreated here and there. You’re going in to collision after collision after collision and to just make it more complicated, you have a responsibility in the process of trying to work your way through this mass of humanity going in the opposite direction of grabbing them here and there and trying to turn them around, bring them to the knowledge of Christ and get them on your side. What power this faith has. Wow!
This faith is so powerful, it gives such substance to your life that you live against the grain of your own fallenness and you live against the grain against the world of which you are a part. There’s a real sense in which you live against the grain of your own senses, your own senses because you can’t do what your natural senses tell you to do. If left to your own natural senses, you’d be out of control in every aspect of your life, would you not? Because those senses are never satisfied. You never have enough of anything cause if you see something else you want it, right? You want it.
This is what it means to have substance in the present based upon promises for the future. This is how we live our lives as Christians. This is what it means to live by faith. Faith furnishes the heart with firm support in the revealed promises of God. Faith believes God. It believes God as revealed in Scripture and that faith, Scripture says, is an anchor. Here we see it as an anchor, laid out in the experience of believers. Real faith gives us a confident substance in the present.
But I want to go beyond that. It is not just the assurance of the substance, or you could even translate it the evidence, elegchos, but it is also the conviction. That’s the word “evidence.” It’s the conviction, elegchos, of things not seen. This takes it a step further. It is the substance that becomes conviction. Maybe I should have picked that up a little bit earlier because it’s conviction that can – that basically defines how you live, okay? You can know something to be true, but until it becomes a conviction, you don’t put it really into action. So we have substance that has led to conviction.
What would make you live against the grain of your fallenness? What would make you live against the grain of the world? What would make you live against the grain of your own senses? What would – what would cause you to abandon everything for something you can’t see, for promises that have never been fulfilled? What would cause you to live this kind of life? A conviction, conviction. And implied in that conviction is a strong, strong commitment.
For example, borrowing from the chapter, what would make you build a boat in a desert because you were told it was going to rain when it had never rained in the history of the world? A conviction? Well, it would have to be more than just some kind of hope because you would have to spend 120 years building the boat. Can you imagine building a boat as Noah did for 120 years in the desert and dealing with the mockery of his neighbors? Some of you being mocked by your neighbors for a few days perhaps is more than you can handle.
What put his faith into action? There was such substance to what he had been told, he was so confident in the revelation of God to him that it became a conviction that he could literally live his life on. That’s what puts faith into action. He acted on it. And we’re going to see that’s really the story of the chapter, how all these people acted on faith. Because of revelation came action, because of substance came conviction.
Now we understand that in the human realm and we talk about this a lot. You know, we understand that we all live by faith. We drink water. We eat in restaurants. We go to the pharmacy and we drink whatever the pharmacist gives us, we are clueless what is in the bottle. We fly along the freeway at a furious pace and we expect that when the arrow goes this way, there’s an off ramp there and not a precipice. We trust the sign. We trust the people who put the signs up. Some parts of the world they don’t, for good reason. We trust the surgeon. That’s natural faith.
But that’s faith in things seen, isn’t it? Because we have, we have evidence, we have past history. All this has already been proven to be trustworthy. But when we’re talking about eternity, we’re talking about the unseen. When we talk about the future and heaven and all that is there for us in the promises of God, we’re talking about something that no one has experienced. There isn’t one person on the planet today that you can go to and say, “You’ve been to heaven and back, tell me about it.” Not one. But there are lots of folks who have been to the doctor and been to the pharmacy.
This is a supernatural gift. This is another kind of faith altogether, altogether. This is the way we live. We live on the promise given to us in the Scripture because we believe the Scripture is reliable. We believe it’s reliable because the evidence tells us it’s reliable and because the Spirit of God has planted in us a faith to believe in its trustworthiness. So that’s the nature of faith. A word about the testimony of faith, verse 2, and here the writer sort of introduces us to what is going to be the emphasis of the chapter. “For by it, the men of old gained approval.” Literally some translations, I think the King James says, “The elders,” meaning the Old Testament saints.
And this is where he sort of tips his approach here. He’s going to help these Jews who maybe are struggling a little bit with this idea of salvation by faith because they’ve come out of a works system, by pointing to the fact that this is in fact how the saints of old gained approval. The approval means praise, approbation. Why would we identify them as heroes of the faith? Why did the Jews identify them as heroes of the faith? Why did they look at Abel as nobler than Cain? Why did they look at Enoch as noble? Why did they look at Abraham as noble? Why did they look at Sarah as noble? Why did they look at the others, Isaac, Joseph, Jacob, Joseph and all the rest? Because of their faith and that’s what he’s going to show throughout this chapter.
This is not a new concept. The great heroes of the faith, the saints of old lived by faith. Abel believed God regarding sacrifice, acted on faith that what God said was true and what God expected was the path of blessing. He did what God told him because God told him this is what to do and I’ll bless you. And he did it and was, of course, received and approved. Enoch believed God so much so that he didn’t die. God was so pleased with him that one day he took a walk and walked right into the presence of God and skipped the dying part. Noah believed God and because of it God granted to him righteousness and God vindicated him, brought about what God had promised but spared him and his family. Abraham and
Sarah believed God for a child and God fulfilled the promise. We’ll learn about Isaac and Jacob and Joseph and everybody else, all who believed God and were approved by all who knew them. The record of the Old Testament stands as testimony to their faith. They trusted in what they couldn’t see. They lived their lives based upon promises God made to them, and certainly God approved of that and they were rightfully honored by the people of the past and even remained the heroes of the faith. God’s Word made their hope real. And based upon what God had told them, they lived obediently by faith and are rightly honored as heroes.
In Acts chapter 7 in verse 54, it says, “When they heard this, they were cut to the quick,” – this is the preaching of Stephen – “they began gnashing their teeth at him. Being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God;” – that’s the first glimpse of heaven by a saint – “and he said, ‘I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’” I’m glad he saw that, aren’t you? I’m glad he recorded that in his sermon and I’m glad the Spirit of God let Luke put it down in holy Scripture because that’s eyewitness evidence of who is standing and waiting for us when it’s our time to enter into heaven. But this is new. This is a whole new experience.
“They cried out with a loud voice,” – the people did – “covered their ears and rushed at him with one impulse. When they had driven him out of the city, began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul.” – later known as Paul – “went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!’ Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, Lord, do not hold this sin against them!’ Having said this, he fell asleep.”
Every one of the saints of old who lived in hope perhaps would love to have had that moment experience and maybe some of them did. It’s not recorded. But I’m so glad for the testimony of Stephen that what he anticipated to be true was in fact true. Heaven was reality. The glory of God was there and Jesus was waiting for the faithful to come into His presence. Every one of us, every saint of old who has ever lived by faith would find great comfort in the testimony of Stephen.
So, the nature of faith. It is confident trust in the future promised by God in Scripture. The testimony of faith, it has always been the testimony of the saints, Old Testament and beyond. It was by faith that the men of old gained approval, not only from God but they became the heroes of the faith because of their faith, believing in what they had not yet seen or experienced.
And then there is, finally, an illustration of faith, the first one that he gives. And he gathers us all into the illustration in verse 3. “By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.” Now this is a wonderful little illustration. We could spend an awful lot of time on this. And by the way, the whole creation conference on the weekend really will draw from the reality of this verse.
But understand this, the point being made here is something critical to us. We live in faith that looks forward to what God has promised, okay? This illustration takes us back and gives us a foundation for faith looking forward. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the Word of God so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible. That looks back at creation. Creation is things seen in the universe, made out of things unseen. That’s creation. Creation is ex nihilo, God made the whole universe out of what? Nothing. What is seen was not made out of anything that was visible. So out of the invisible came the visible, out of nothing came everything. We understand that by faith.
You say, “Why – why do we understand that by faith?” Because we weren’t there, right? You say, “Well I can’t live by faith. I can’t – I can’t conduct my life by faith.” Well try this on. The world exists, the universe exists. By faith we understand that God created it by His Word. Now where do we place our faith? In the revelation of God written in Genesis chapter 1 and 2 which tells us that God created the universe by His Word, right? “Let there be light, and there was light.” He spoke everything into existence and the record is in Genesis 1.
So we have an opportunity to place our faith in something in the past as a foundation to place our faith in something in the future. We can look at the effect which is he universe; we understand that it exists. Anybody with half a brain has to understand that it had to have been created out of nothing, there – there had to be a starting point, there had to be a time when there was nothing. That time then ended when God created the universe. By faith we understand how that happened. Our faith is in the revelation of Scripture. By faith you understand that it happened, anybody, any – really, any person who doesn’t just hate God and hate Christianity has to say somebody did this. You say that when you look at a watch, don’t you? Why not a universe? I mean, how obvious.
But the person who just understands that it happened doesn’t know how. Only the person who puts his faith in the Scripture understands how. By the Word of God. So by faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the Word of God. Why? Because that’s what the Scripture says and that’s a reality, isn’t it? Scripture says – now follow the thought. Scripture says God created it, we live in it and we can see the evidences of His creation. So the fact that we can look back and see that God described His creation, told us how He made it and has left His imprint on it and we are now living in that creation gives us the opportunity to have a foundation for believing in the future.
What God said in Genesis brought about the universe and we now live in it and experience it and know its reality. And we can trust that the same God who spoke this into existence by His Word has said that He has spoken another world into existence which awaits us and that we will one day experience that world. We experience this world which God spoke into existence, we will experience the world which He has spoken into existence in the glory of the supernatural realm.
We can trust Him for that as He is the source of that in the same way He’s the source of this. It’s not really a stretch. There’s really no other way to explain the universe than to say that God created it. No other way. And here we live in a world created by the Word of God, described in detail in Genesis 1 and 2. All true science confirms the creative hand of God in the complexity of this universe.
So we live now in a universe created by the Word of God, we see His imprint on it and that is the foundation by which we trust that God will, in the future, have waiting for us another universe in the glory of His presence, also promised by His creative power. Well there’s more that could be said about verse 3 but maybe that’s enough to get us there. We all live by faith. All of us who are believers, we trust God. We trust God as Creator of this world and we trust Him as the Creator of the world to come for those who know Him and love Him.
Father, we thank You that as we think about beginning to look at the concept of faith, the essence of faith, the power of faith, it all really begins with You and we don’t need to wonder and grasp and hope for some illustration that Your Word can be trusted. Rather we have the revelation of Scripture, a revelation that is true, trustworthy, tested for centuries and centuries and centuries.
We have the great evidence of Your power revealed in this temporal physical creation as evidence of your power to create that eternal spiritual creation in the glory of the heaven that is to come. Grant us, Lord, ever – ever-growing faith, ever-strengthened faith and may we not doubt but grow strong in faith. Giving glory to You, we pray. Amen.
A school is facing a lawsuit for singling out one student’s “Jesus Loves Me” face mask during COVID because it created the “policy” against religious words only after it already had punished the student for wearing it.
That, and the fact the practice appears to violate the law.
Mississippi mother Jennifer Booth has explained the war she is in with Simpson County School District in a podcast with the Daily Signal.
The case, according to the Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing the mother and her daughter, Lydia Booth, charges the school has abandoned its duty to “respect the free expression of students that the First Amendment guarantees to them.”
“No public school student should be singled out for peacefully sharing her religious beliefs with fellow students,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer. “Today’s students will be tomorrow’s legislators, judges, educators, and voters. That’s why it’s so important that public schools demonstrate the First Amendment values they are supposed to be teaching to students.”
In the podcast, Booth explained she was a little surprised when the school notified her that her daughter was banned from wearing a face mask during COVID that said “Jesus Loves Me.”
For one thing, her daughter already had worn the mask for several months without issue.
Then, too, she examined the school’s policies, its handbook, and its rules, and found no authorization for such a speech ban. In fact, she found just the opposite – and when she challenged the school, officials were unable to find any such rule in their own handbook.
Booth pointed out the school specifically acknowledged the 2016 Mississippi Student Religious Freedom Act, “which is our state-level law that protects students’ freedom of speech as far as expressing their religious view in their work or in anything, so long as they’re not being disruptive about it. And then on the very next page, they have where they recognize the students’ freedom of speech.”
Eventually, days later, she was told by the school that the ban on “religious” words was in the school’s COVID restart plan.
But Booth checked the original posting of the plan, and it wasn’t there.
But it was in a document that an administrator emailed to her.
Booth, whose career is in IT, checked the metadata for the document she was sent, and found out the policy had been modified by the school administrator “30 minutes before he called me.”
She said the knowledge that the school fabricated a policy to support its position after attacking the message her child wanted to convey to her fellow students was “devastating.”
“OK, these people are in charge of my child. They are supposed to be protecting my child whenever I can’t be there. They’re supposed to be role models, and here they are, not only are they violating the rights they’re supposed to be teaching her at the school, but there’s a complete lack of integrity. They’re not taking responsibility and showing my child the way that an adult should act, and the way that I expect my children to act,” she said on the podcast.
Her connection to ADF followed shortly, and now the case is pending.
Langhofer explained, “The most surprising thing about Jennifer’s story to me and the sad thing is that not only did they not have a policy, they modified the policy, or purported to modify the policy, to address that situation. But the sad thing is that this school official actually thought that was going to make it better. It didn’t make it better, it made it worse. Why did it make it worse? Because they targeted political and religious speech.”
Langhofer continued, “And if you know anything about the First Amendment at all, you know that the worst thing you can do as a government official is to target certain content of certain speech, the viewpoint of certain speech. And so what it tells you is there’s a lack of understanding in our government officials about what our fundamental rights are.
“The fundamental rights are protected by the First Amendment: the right to engage in the free exercise of religion, the right to engage in free speech, and the right to prohibit the government from telling you what you can and can’t say on a specific topic.”
The lawyer told the school has backed down, now allowing the child to war her mask, but so far failed to admit what it did was wrong.
If you have kids under 18, then the last few weeks–scratch that–months have probably invoked more fear and unrest than they have ever experienced looking at the world around them. First Covid-19, then the tragic killing of George Floyd, then the outbreak of violence in the streets… all of these issues dividing people instead of united them. Millions of American homes have news channels on right now that aren’t reporting news as much as “casting blame.” I’ve been alive 50 years, and I’ve never seen our country so divided. I don’t think many adults are stopping to consider: our kids are watching.
A black man is killed by a policeman on national TV. Our kids are watching.
Looters throw garbage cans through store windows and carry out televisions. Our kids are watching.
Politicians point their fingers. Our kids are watching.
Grampa gets mad at the TV screen and starts casting more blame. Our kids are watching.
What are our kids gleaning from all of this pain, violence, bitterness, and unrest? More importantly, how can we talk with them about all they are observing?
Here is yet another situation where being proactive is always better than being reactive. Right now the entire world is reacting, many acting without thinking. What our kids need is a solid foundation in an otherwise shaky world.
So: how can we anchor our kids to this solid foundation?
As evil increases in the world around us, a great awakening is also taking place. People are asking questions about God and what will happen next. The great news is that there is comfort and peace for those who turn their eyes to God.
Well, we have the opportunity again tonight to open the Word of God to the sixth chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians and a section that we have come to know as the believer’s armor – the believer’s armor. Ephesians chapter 6 and actually, verses 10 all the way down through verse 18.
There was a time in the life of Martin Luther that his conflict with Satan was so real that he says he picked up his inkwell sitting on his desk and threw it at the devil. The ink stain remained on the wall for years as a reminder of the reality of that conflict. We are all engaged in a conflict with the enemy of God, the enemy of Christ, the enemy of our souls, the enemy of truth.
That conflict is inevitable because we who are part of the kingdom of God, we who are the slaves of Jesus Christ, we who are the soldiers of Christ, as it were, are in enemy territory. Satan is the prince of the power of the air, the ruler of this world. He and his minions, his demons, which constitute a third of the angels, run their wicked anti-God, anti-Christ, anti-truth, anti-life system through this world. As long as we are here, we are engaged in that battle.
That’s why in verse 10 we read, “Finally be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day and having done everything to stand firm.”
In the opening couple of messages, we addressed these verses and tried to draw out some foundational understanding of the spiritual conflict in which we engage. Understand this, that if you are a believer, you are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Satan does not dwell within you. In fact, greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world. And He that is in you is the Holy Spirit. No Christian can be devil possessed or demon possessed. We’re not talking about that. We’re not talking about demon possession, which can only occur in one who does not belong to God, in whom the Spirit does not dwell.
What we’re talking about is the battle that a Spirit-indwelt child of God faces living in Satan’s world. And it isn’t what Satan does in us as if he lived there or what demons do in us as if they lived there, it is what they do outside of us that panders to the fallenness that is in us. We have been redeemed. We have become regenerate. We are new creations, as we heard tonight. We have different affections, different motivations, different loves, different attachments. We value things completely opposite the way we valued them before we came to Christ.
Life is new for us. We are a new creation – however incarcerated in unredeemed flesh. We still possess fallen propensities to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. That is what is in us. What is in us is our fallenness, what is in us is sin.
Romans 7, “It is sin that is in me,” Paul says. “That is why I’m still a wretched man. That is why I don’t do what I ought to do and I do what I ought not to do. In fact, I do what I don’t want to do and don’t do what I actually want to do.” It is sin that is in me. It is a principle still operating in me that wars against the law of God that now dominates my mind, my new creation.
Satan, who is outside of us, works the world system in such a way as to assault us at the points of our fallenness. We live in a hostile world, a world that is filled with manifest promotion of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. It dominates our culture – in some ways, more now than ever, at least on the media front. It isn’t that sinners are worse now, although there is some increasing degree as we read in the words of the apostle Paul, “Evil men grow worse and worse.”
But it isn’t so much that there have never been sinners before, or there’s never been sin before. There has always been sin. There has always been vile, wretched sin through all of human history. But the exposure level because of mass media at this part of human history is something beyond anything people in the past had to endure.
It was impossible, for example, to have a full pornographic experience in your room at home. That was not possible before it had direct access to something you hold in your hand wherever you are. It was impossible to have the kind of sexual explosion on your mind that you get by looking at a thirty-foot-high screen that’s sixty feet wide and watching people committing immoral acts. That level of assault is part and parcel of living in this century and the previous one.
That’s what Satan does. Satan works in that system. That’s the wicked side of it. The moral side of it – deceptively moral side of it – is in religion. Satan also operates all false religions in the world. So Satan operates false religions in the world, false forms of Christianity. He wears clerical garb. He runs certain seminaries and colleges that call themselves Christian and call themselves religious. He’s in charge of all of that, and he’s also in charge of the pornographic industry and every form of sin and mixture and admixture in between.
This is the world system that assaults us with false religion and blatant sin and everything that’s in the middle. This is the war. The war for us is to walk in the Spirit and not fulfill the lust of the flesh. The war for us is to live in the Spirit and not in the flesh. The war for us is to love what is right, holy, and just, and good and not find our affections attached to what is evil because it is so alluringly presented to us.
Now, there is a basic contrast between what God does and what Satan does that can be simply understood. God reveals truth; Satan conceals truth. God tells us the truth; Satan tells us lies. God gives life; Satan takes life – he has the power of death. God produces spiritual works; Satan produces fleshly works. God brings along tests to make us mature; Satan brings along temptations to destroy us. God sets us free; Satan imprisons us – so it goes.
And so we live in this world and, as I said, the world in which we live today has capabilities and capacities to assault us in ways that the worlds of the past didn’t have. The question, then, is how do we deal with this and live a triumphant life? How do we overcome these things that are all around us and in our face and, therefore, in our minds, therefore pandering to our remaining fallenness?
Well, there are some things that we can offer as very important elements to the answer to the question (How do we deal with this?). One way is to remind yourself that Hebrews 2:14 is true. Jesus came to render powerless – that’s what Hebrews 2:14 says, render powerless the devil. Or 1 John 3:8, “The Son of God appeared to destroy the works of the devil.” Recognize this, then, that Christ has defeated Satan. He is a vanquished foe. He is not the victor – he is the vanquished.
Genesis 3:15, way back there, it said that when the seed of the woman came who was the Messiah, He would crush the serpent’s head. That’s why Romans 16:20 says that Satan will shortly be put under your feet. He is a defeated enemy. So like sin that remains in us, we no longer have to sin. We do not have to lose. He is not a foe who can overpower us.
I think that’s so important to mention because there are people who think that Satan has this kind of invincibility that overpowers God. And certainly if Satan can overpower God and God’s purposes, he can certainly overpower us. But that is not what the Bible teaches. At the cross, he was rendered powerless. His abilities are completely confined and limited by the sovereign purposes of God. He is the victim, not the victor, and “greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world,” 1 John 4:4.
The second thing to understand, not only the fact that Satan is a vanquished foe and you do not need to collapse under the weight of his efforts because you have a greater strength within you in the power of the Holy Spirit, but secondly, even saying that, you have to follow that up by saying you have to be alert to his efforts and resist them. First Peter 5, “Be sober.” In other words, get your priorities right, think straight. Be on the alert, for the devil goes about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. You have to be aware of what’s going on around you. In James 4:7, it says, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”
So while we understand he’s a vanquished foe, that in itself does not mean that he’s not going to have an impact on us if we are not alert, sober-minded, thinking clearly, thinking biblically, and doing everything we can to avoid this roaring lion.
Bringing you down a little further, the third thing you need to realize is that you cannot give any room for his entry. Ephesians 4:27 says, “Do not give the devil an opportunity.” Don’t put yourself in a situation where you give him an opportunity. Yes, he is the victim, not the victor. You recognize that. You have a greater power within you. Still, you have to think clearly, maintain spiritual priorities, be alert at all times, resisting him strong in the Christian faith; that is to say, the truth of sound doctrine, never giving room for him to have entry, giving him no opportunity.
Bringing it down further, flee from temptation. Second Timothy 2:22 says, “Flee youthful lusts and pursue righteousness.” You have to run from the things that give Satan an opportunity. The other side of that, bringing it down even further is to give control of your life to Christ. Second Corinthians 10:5 says “bringing every thought captive to Christ.” First Corinthians 2:16 says we have the mind of Christ. Think like Christ thinks or (Philippians 2) have this mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus.
Those are things we’re all familiar with as Christians, right? Those are sort of the basics of living a godly life in an ungodly world. But there’s another way to say all of that. There’s another way to grab all of that pull it into one memorable format and it’s this: Put on the whole armor of God. Put on the whole armor of God. And that brings us to our text.
The armor of God is just another way to pull all of those components together in a memorable fashion, in a mental image of a soldier. We have the best outfitted army ever. We have the best Commander in Chief. We are the most powerful force that’s ever walked on the earth. But if you go out without your armor, you’re going to be vulnerable. Put it on and you can handle anything the enemy brings. So let’s look again at the armor. Ephesians 6. First thing we saw – and this will bring you down to where we left off last time in verse 14 to the opening words, “Stand firm.”
That’s what we’re talking about here, standing firm under the assault of Satan in the world system. Stand firm. How? “Having girded your loins with truth.” The belt of truth, we talked about that last time. Since Satan is a liar and the father of lies, it is obvious that you must know the truth. But that’s really not the main issue here. The word alētheia is used in the sense of truthfulness or commitment based on that truth or conviction tied to that truth.
In other words, as a Christian, you must not only understand the truth but you must fully embrace the truth with the kind of conviction that makes you determined to go out and to battle against all lies and deception. In other words, you’re serious about the warfare. This is commitment to the battle. Remember, I told you the first thing a Roman soldier did? He wore a tunic, it was like a dress, put a sash around his waist or a belt around his waist and pulled up his tunic inside so that it became a mini-tunic so he could move rapidly, cinch that belt or sash down so it wasn’t flying around in the breeze when he was in a hand-to-hand combat. Pulled in all the loose ends.
Peter says the same thing, remember? “Gird up your loins,” 1 Peter 1. Tie all the loose ends of your life together, square up with what you know to be true and make a commitment to live according to the truth. That’s where it starts. Bottom line, you’re really not going to win the forays, the battles that come with Satan, if you’re not committed to winning. Get serious about it.
The second thing that we talked about last time was the breastplate of righteousness. This is obvious if you have an image of a soldier in ancient days, they had a breastplate of one kind or another – we talked about the kinds last time – to cover their vital organs. The breastplate that we must wear is that of righteousness. Not talking about forensic righteousness or imputed righteousness that comes to us from Christ but that imparted righteousness, that personal holiness that protects us from sin. The breastplate is holiness, righteous living. Unless you walk in holiness on a daily basis, you’re in trouble.
I mentioned Romans chapter 13. It’s worth another mention and verse 11, which says, “Knowing that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep, for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. The night is almost gone, the day is at hand. Let us, therefore, lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.” What does that mean? Don’t behave in carousing, drunkenness, sexual promiscuity, sensuality, strife and jealousy, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ. Make no provision for the flesh, for its lusts. That’s what we’re talking about.
First of all, you know the truth, the truth is your conviction, and you go out to battle, committed to living the truth. Secondly, you protect yourself by putting on holiness and righteousness. What does that look like? Well, he tells you what it doesn’t look like, sensuality and all of those other things, sexual promiscuity, et cetera, et cetera, and he also tells you what it doesn’t look like when he says put on the Lord Jesus Christ, put on Christlikeness.
Now, that brings us to two more for tonight. Two more pieces of armor, if we have time. Look at verse 15 for the first one. “And having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace” – having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace. I think in the society in which we live – it’s probably in most societies, even down to the time of our Lord’s life on earth, people understood the importance of having the right shoes, particularly if you happened to be a soldier engaged in a battle.
I never fought in a war. The Lord was gracious to me in that. I was willing, but I was deferred because I had a football injury. But while the military wouldn’t take me, the football coach would. So I played all those years with that injury. And that’s the closest I ever came to mortal combat. As you know, occasionally it can be mortal. And I have some vivid memories of my past in football, which I don’t speak of very often because my wife has heard them all and doesn’t want to hear them again. There were some notable exploits along the way, both in high school and my university days.
But there’s one that stands out in my mind that fits here perfectly. We were playing a football game of some consequence in the famous Pasadena Rose Bowl when I was in college. My responsibility was to receive the opening kickoff, among other things. I was a runner and a pass receiver and so forth, and I returned the punts and the kickoffs. I was back. I had had a debate with the people in the locker room about what kind of shoes I was going to wear because there had been heavy rains in the month of December that year, and in those days they were not sophisticated at how they put grass on the field.
And so rather than re-sodding the field for this event, they just took vegetable dye and painted the dirt green. And by the way, when you played on a field that had been painted green, you were green very quickly everywhere. I was debating whether I wanted my speed shoes or whether I wanted those clunky ones with the long cleats. And I opted out for speed – and it was a big mistake. The opening kickoff came down and I took the kickoff on the five yard line, and I immediately sat down all by myself on the four yard line.
This was not what I had envisioned. What I had envisioned was a 95-yard touchdown. That’s not what happened. Nobody was within 15 yards of me. I had made a fatal mistake: wrong shoes. I took one step, my feet went right out from under me, the dirt went into the air and I inauspiciously landed on my southern hemisphere to the – with a jocular effect, believe me, on the crowd.
Shoes are important. If they’re important in an athletic contest, they’re certainly important in some kind of hand-to-hand mortal combat. Armies have been defeated for lack of shoes. Have you read that in history? You know enough about history? Even in America, in the Revolutionary War, one of the greatest problems in the Revolutionary War (when the Americans were trying to fight against the British) was they were barefoot because their shoes were worn out.
You know the old adage, for the want of a nail, the kingdom was lost. You know what that’s about. For the want of a nail, the shoe was lost; for the want of a shoe, the horse was lost; for the want of the horse, the soldier was lost; for the want of the soldier, the kingdom was lost.
How you shod yourself is very important. The Romans understood that. The Romans understood that it was essential to make sure that the soldier – with everything else that he had and particularly because what he was carrying and wearing was relatively heavy – that he could stabilize himself. And remember now, what we’re talking about – please, if you go back to the beginning of verse 14 – is standing firm. Standing firm. Slipping is not good in hand-to-hand combat.
In Roman times, there are historical accounts of long marches. The Roman army amazingly had long marches over terrible terrain, wearing out the leather in their shoes. Historians tell us that took the toll in thousands and thousands of lives in the battles. Proper shoes were essential because if you’re not firm on the ground, doesn’t matter what you can do. Your whole body will be immediately debilitated. Shoes are vital.
Now, the Roman soldiers generally wore a very tough sandal, very, very tough leather, with straps holding it firmly on. And what they did was they pounded nails from the inside through the bottom, thick hobnails, studs, like a football shoe or a baseball shoe or soccer shoe. And that gave the soldier the ability to stand firm in his footing as he was engaged in the fight, to run up a hill and to run down a hill without slipping and sliding.
Also, a familiar device in ancient warfare was to place traps in the ground. These are the precursors to mines. We know about that, don’t we? People crossing minefields in the wars in our history and even in the Middle East today are blown up. Well, before there were minefields, in the ancient times, they would take sticks and they would sharpen the points of those sticks, and then they would bury them in the ground with the points sticking up. Invariably, the points sticking up out of the ground would rip up a barefoot soldier or penetrate readily through a weak piece of leather.
These hidden traps were great dangers because if you had your foot injured, you were done. Slashes, bleeding, infection, meant debilitation. And Paul sees a spiritual parallel to this very familiar part of a soldier’s uniform or armor. So he says in verse 15, “Have your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.” The idea here is made ready, equipped. The feet are to be prepared. The feet are to be equipped for the battle like all the other vital parts.
Now, through the years, most commentators have said what this means is that you have a symbolic call to evangelism here. And they borrow it from that idea, from Romans 10:15. “Blessed are the feet of those who preach the good news,” which is a quote from Isaiah 52:7. But Romans 10:15 (and the feet of those who preach the good news) is not a verse to explain this. In the first place, that has nothing to do with warfare. That has nothing to do with shoes. That’s just saying that the people who hear the gospel will bless the people who brought it to them.
Paul is not talking about going anywhere. He’s not talking about traversing any place. He’s not talking about taking the gospel to anyone. He’s talking about standing, not going. The issue is not evangelism. The issue is taking a firm stand in a battle against the devil as he assaults our lives. It’s like 1 Corinthians 16:13, “Stand fast in the faith.” The idea here is that our feet need to be equipped to stand firmly when the attacking blows come.
What is it that can allow the believer to stand unflinching, take his stand, never slip, never slide, never fall under attack? What is it that gives us a firm footing? It is having your feet prepared with the gospel of peace. The gospel of peace – what does that mean? Well, the gospel of peace is the gospel. It’s sometimes called the gospel of Christ, it’s sometimes called the gospel of God, like in Romans 1, and here it’s called the gospel of peace. What is the gospel of peace? It is the good news that you have made peace with God.
That’s essentially the theme of the opening verses of Romans 5. Look at this, Romans 5, verse 1, “Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. What does it mean to be at peace with God? Simply, it means that God is not our enemy but God is our strength. And it takes you right back to Ephesians 6:10, “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.” It means He’s on our side. We stand firm because we know that we are, in reality, invincible.
Satan may come at us, tempting us one way or another, we are firm in the great truth that we are at peace with God; therefore, God is on our side. I think that’s what was in Peter’s mind when he grabbed a sword in the garden and whacked off the first available ear and was going to go through the whole crowd. What made him feel so strong, this man who could so easily be a coward? Well, Jesus was standing beside him, right there, and what had Jesus just done? He had declared His identity, and the entire crowd of hundreds of people fell over flat when He spoke.
Now, that would leave Peter with the impression that he was pretty safe. Pulled out his sword because he knew who was on his side, and he knew what kind of power He had. All we need is Christ, and we can stand against everything Satan has to bring. You go into the battle with Satan, and if you’re not sure where you stand with Christ, if you’ve got doubts, you’re very vulnerable.
You have nothing to fear. People have asked me that through the years. “Don’t you fear what the devil can do to you?” No. Because I know who’s on my side and whose side I’m on. I have made peace with God. God is on my side with the full power that He brings to bear on behalf of His own in defending us. And that’s what we heard in the testimony a little earlier. Nothing is able to separate us from the love of God in Christ, right? Nothing, Romans 8. Nothing. In fact, that passage is so powerful it’s worth reading. “If God is for us” – what’s the rest? – “who’s against us?” Verse 31.
“If He didn’t spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” If He gave up His Son for us when we were sinners, what would He withhold from us now that we’re saints? Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, sword, those are all things Paul personally experienced and they didn’t separate him. No. Even when we were put to death, as it were, all day long, even when we’re considered as sheep to be slaughtered, in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.
I am convinced that neither death nor life nor angels nor principalities nor things present nor things to come nor powers nor height nor depth or any other created thing is able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. It is this kind of realization that gives us the security to hold our ground. I don’t feel like I need to become a monk. I don’t feel like I need to have my eyes plucked out so I can’t see anything. I don’t think I need to flagellate my body and wound it and injure it and harm it somehow to push down the flesh, otherwise I’m going to end up in hell.
I am secure in my salvation. I take the Word of God at face value as the truth. “I know that whoever the Father chooses, He gives to the Son. Whoever He gives to the Son, the Son receives. Whoever the Son receives, the Son keeps and raises them all at the last day,” John 6. I have no fear of that. Therefore, I have no fear of Satan. I stand firm in the truth. I stand firm against the onslaught of Satan in the confidence that God is on my side, and His strength is fully available to me.
We had a group of people come to this church years ago from another church, and I said, “What was it that brought you here?” They said, “We all visited this church on a Sunday when you preached that God is sovereign, and we never went back. Because up to that point, we lived under teaching that Satan was sovereign, and we could no longer stand the sovereignty-of-Satan idea. He’ll kill your children. He’ll give you diseases. He’ll fill your house with demons. And you’ve got to pray him out of every room and out of your baby’s crib,” and on and on and on and on.
You’re not ready to engage in the war if you’re not confident of the strength of the Lord. And if you don’t know it well, remember Judges 7, the host of Midian came against God’s people and Israel gathered an army of 32 thousand total. And God said, “I don’t need 32 thousand, just give me 300.” Remember? “Just give me 300.” And they won. And they won. We were all born in rebellion against God, but while we were enemies, God loved us; and while we were enemies, Christ died for us. And we have made peace with God, and God is on our side, and all the power is ours.
You know, I’ve taught the Christian’s armor for many, many years. It’s always new, it’s always fresh, and I always say different things. But I never come to this particular point and I don’t think of an incident that happened when I was in junior high. And most of my junior high is long forgotten, only several things that I remember. One of them was – I was a preacher’s kid, and I wouldn’t dance, so I got an F in algebra. I’ll never forget that, that was not fair. It’s not worth telling you the story. I had to take it all over again. I hated it both times.
But there’s another thing I remember from my junior high. It was a public junior high school in Downey, California, where my dad was a pastor. I had a friend named Roger, and Roger was just the kind of kid you want to tease, smaller than everybody else and rounder than everybody else, with a boyish little smile and rosy cheeks. Just the kind of kid bullies pick on. And they did, and sometimes they hurt him. Sometimes they hurt him. And I was his friend, and sometimes they hurt me – one day, they basically split my head from front to back in wood shop.
And Roger got weary of it. So I said, “Roger, what are you going to do about it?” And he said, “I’m going to tell my brother.” Ho-ho. His brother was the middle linebacker for Cal State Long Beach football team – huge. From a junior high perspective, really huge. I remember Roger telling me that his brother drove a bread truck as a job and drove it into a wall and walked away. So he could take a hit, I’ll put it that way.
One day, Roger came to school and I was there. He said, “Come, come early, and come to the gym.” And Roger walked up to the ringleader of this (who, by the way, now is dead, died in a barroom fight) and Roger said something like, “I’m tired of the way you treat me,” and they just laughed at him. And then Steve came around the corner and he said, “Which one is it, Roger?”
“That one.” I’m telling you, it was something to behold. That young man lost all his front teeth – shot. Picked him up, threw him over the hedge against the gym. Turned to the others and said, “Leave Roger alone.” I will tell you this, in our junior high from then on, Roger ruled.
You know, it has to do with who’s behind you, right? Where your strength comes from. It’s so wonderful to know that you can go into this world, we can penetrate this world, folks, we don’t have to become monks, we don’t have to go hide somewhere to find safe ground. We can penetrate the world. We have to penetrate the world, don’t we? In that sense, it is – we have to carry the gospel of peace, but we can be firm and take our stand because we know where the power is, behind us, and it is the absolutely sufficient power provided by the Lord Jesus Christ.
So you want to be triumphant in your Christian life. We’ve looked at three pieces of armor that help us to understand what that means. Ask yourself, first of all, with regard to the belt, do you really want to win? How much does it matter? That’s the first issue. If you’re content to live in the low ground, if you’re content to live with your petty sins, if you’re content with your marginal commitment to worship, with your indifference to the things of God, you’ll lose. You’ll lose repeatedly and you’ll lose severely.
You’re not going to lose your salvation, but you’re going to render yourself virtually useless to the purposes of God; therefore, you’ll forfeit an eternal reward and you’ll wind up under divine chastening instead of enjoying the benefits of blessing. So ask yourself. Are you pulling in the loose ends of your life? Do you really want to go into this battle? Are you committed to the truth? Do you have convictions about the truth? And are you willing to go to war for those convictions?
Secondly, do you seek to support that with a holy life? Or are you content with your sin? Really, another way to look at the same thing. Thirdly, do you have the kind of confidence that it takes to march into the den of the roaring lion? It’s a wonderful thing. Yeah, I think back – people have asked me so many times – when I go on television and I talk to these people in very, very adversarial environments, where I don’t even know what they’re going to say, and the whole world is watching and all that, on CNN or whatever – do I have confidence.
And I just remember what Jesus said to His disciples. “Don’t worry about what you’re going to say. When you get there, I’ll tell you what to say.” And while I’m not an apostle and don’t get divine revelation, it is amazing what comes out of my mouth that I haven’t planned to say. I don’t have any fear of what they’re going to do to me. I don’t have any fear they’re going to destroy my faith, no matter what arguments they make. I’m confident in the One who supports me. If God is for me, who can be against me?
So, do I really want to win? Do I seek to live a holy life? And am I bold in the battle, confident in the strength that is provided for me?
That brings us to the fourth part of our armor. I don’t think I can go through all of it, but I can introduce it to you. Shield of faith – the shield of faith. Now, obviously, if you have any familiarity whatsoever with ancient armor, you’re very familiar with the idea of a shield. So verse 16 says, “In addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one.” Now, what are we talking about? Well, we’ve got to make the image clear because that helps us to understand the analogy.
There’s several kinds of shields that were used by different armies and by different branches of the same Roman army. For example, if you were a gladiator – you’ve probably seen depictions of this. If you were a gladiator, if you were among the Greeks, for example, you would use a shield that was very small, very round, and you would hold it in your hand, and it would wrap around your wrist, and it would be easy to move the shield around to parry the blows that were coming at you in that kind of environment.
If you were right-handed, of course, it would be strapped to your opposite arm and then with this one, you would make the thrust with your own dagger. With the other one, you would use the shield to parry the thrusts that were coming from your mortal enemy. This is a small, lightweight, usually pounded metal, pounded very thin, designed for the free movement of the soldier in this kind of hand-to-hand combat.
That’s not the word here, that’s a different word. The word here, thureon, is not a small shield. It’s probably around four feet in height and about two or two-and-a-half feet in width. The design of this shield was to put it in the ground and be able to put your entire body behind it. This is a large, oblong shield like a small door, designed for full protection. You wouldn’t be holding it when you got into hand-to-hand combat. It was designed for full protection in the initial phases of ancient battles.
Now, you know how ancient armies used to fight in a line called a phalanx? They would come like a side-winding snake across the ground like this, all shoulder-to-shoulder-to-shoulder. You see that even in the Revolutionary War. The British were still doing that, getting picked off like sitting ducks as they marched shoulder-to-shoulder. Well, the ancient armies did that, and they first put the soldiers with these thureon shields, these whole shields that gave the front line complete protection.
There would be many rows of those, and the bodies would be able to hide behind them so they couldn’t be hit by anything flying in the air, and behind them were the archers who would be shooting their arrows over the rows and rows of shielded soldiers out front. And they would move, eventually, that way across the land, a solid line of protection, until they engaged the enemy in the hand-to-hand combat, when those shields would be laid aside because they were useless and you would go to battle with, if you had another one, a smaller shield or if not, you just fought with your sword.
What is this? Well, please notice some very important components. In addition to all, the NAS says. I think the old Authorized said above all. Doesn’t mean it’s more important, it simply means on top of everything else. You have to have our belt on, pull all the loose ends in, you have to have your breastplate on, protect your vital organs, you have to have your shoes on to be able to stand firm. And above that, on top of that, in addition to that, you need to get a shield. This provides double protection – really does.
We’re going to talk about a minute – your helmet, which you already have to cover your head, your breastplate, which you already have to cover your vital organs, and this is double protection. That’s what “above all” means. Above the shield, above the shoes, and above the sash or the belt and above the breastplate, you need to have the shield. But it’s not only that. In addition to those three, you take three more: the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, verses 16 and 17. Shield of faith, verse 16. Verse 17, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit.
So you have three pieces that are fixed, then you have three pieces that are added. A soldier has his belt on, the soldier has the preparation, the readiness to go to battle. He’s got his breastplate on. He’s got his shoes on. Perhaps he’s still at rest. But once the battle starts, picks up his shield, puts on his helmet, and takes up his sword. This is immediate readiness. So you not only have sort of a long-range, staple routine, constant protection, but when the battle gets hot, there are some things you grab.
So when there’s a little bit of a lull in the battle, the soldier may lay his sword down, he may lay his helmet down, he may put his heavy shield down, but at all times he keeps his feet shod and he keeps his breastplate covered and he keeps his belt on so that when the call to battle is given, he can pick up the pieces in addition and go to war.
Well, the first of these additional “above all” components in verse 16 is the shield of faith – the shield of faith. And what’s it for? Well, it is so that you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one – or if you have an old version, the fiery darts might come to mind, flaming missiles from the wicked one. Who is the wicked one? Ho ponēros, Satan, he’s the source of the attack. We do not just fight evil in the world, we fight the evil one. That’s what we’ve been learning.
It is not an abstract, impersonal thing, evil is not some kind of floating force, it is not just the reality of negativity in the universe, it is a personal devil. And 1 John 5:19 says, “The whole world lies in the lap of the evil one.”
Now, in the battles in those days, there were ways in which you attacked those men who had shields. They made arrows, arrows that would have a metal tip. And they would put around those metal tips (or behind those metal tips) pitch, a kind of tar. Just before shooting them, they would light the tar, which is high in oil content, and they would become flaming arrows. You’ve seen pictures of that, images of that. And they would fire those arrows.
Shields, at the same time, were often covered in leather, and the leather would be thick, and sometimes the leather would be saturated with a kind of oil that would extinguish the fiery arrow. A soldier without a shield in the front lines would be powerless to protect himself. Even if he was able to keep something from hitting him in a vital area, if he got hit by a fiery arrow, it would set his clothes on fire and he would be a torch in no time. So the shield was very important as that front-line protection.
I believe that these fiery darts that this is depicting are symbols of seducing temptation, shafts of impurity, of lustfulness, of greed, of vanity, of materialism, of pride, of anger, of impatience, of covetousness – all these things. And they come at us in this world system, and they come at us all the time. We’re never to be content with anything. We’re to lust after everything we don’t have, whether it’s a material thing or another person, we’re never to be satisfied.
See, the heart of all sin is dissatisfaction. Not only dissatisfaction with what you have but dissatisfaction with what God says you should have or gives you. That’s what was going on the garden, wasn’t it? When Satan came to Eve, what did he say? Well, the implication of what he said is, “Guess what, Eve, God is not who you think He is. You think God is so wonderful and so good, but the truth of the matter is there’s that tree over there (tree of the knowledge of good and evil), which has beautiful fruit, good to eat, and He told you no.
“There’s something wrong with God. I’m the good guy, I’m telling you it’s beautiful to eat, it’s a delight to eat, you ought to have a right to eat it. And the fact that God doesn’t allow you to eat that tells you there’s a flaw in God because He’s withholding something beautiful and something good.”
I read a letter on my desk this morning from a young man who used to go to our church who is now, after 47 years of singleness, decided to jump into homosexuality. And he has become the partner of a minister, a homosexual minister. In fact, at the end of his letter, he signed his name and the sign of a fish with a rainbow in it. Just really revolting to me because I care about him, and Patricia and I know his mother so very, very well. But his letter said basically this: “For all these years, I have been cheated. I now am free to enjoy the best of life and this, I think, is what God had for me all along.”
Well, there is a god who does have that for you, it’s the god of this world. And his conclusion is that the restraints that were on him in the past were unacceptable. He doesn’t want anything to do with a God who puts those kinds of restraints on. Well, that’s what Satan was doing with Eve. “Come on, what kind of god is going to restrict you from what’s beautiful and good?” Those are the fiery darts. And what extinguishes them? I’ll tell you what – faith. What does that mean? Believing that God does have the best for you, right? That’s the faith.
So when you sin, who do you believe? Satan. “But you deserve this, you have a right to this, you should enjoy this, you should do this. You don’t need to be restrained. You don’t need to be limited. Jump in.” That’s the fiery dart. And you have the remaining sin, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life, and the system comes at that with a viciousness, and you either say, “You know, you’re right, Satan” or you say, “I’m going to trust God that His commandments are best, that His commandments are true, that His commandments produce the greatest fulfillment, the greatest satisfaction, and the greatest joy.”
It comes down to that, folk. If you sin, you believe the lie. When you do what is right, you believe God. When you look, for example, at the temptation of Christ, you can see that. Because Satan comes to Christ, you remember, let me close with this, Matthew 4, because this is such a good illustration of it. Satan comes to Christ. Tempter comes to Him, He hasn’t eaten in 40 days and 40 nights, He’s hungry, He’s been led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit for the purpose of letting the devil after Him. Why? Because God wants Him to pass the test and vindicate His holiness.
Tempter comes in verse 3, says, “If you’re the Son of God, command these stones to become bread.” Do you understand that temptation? “What kind of a deal is this? You are the Son of God, you’re hungry. That’s ridiculous. What is your Father doing to you? You are the perfect, sinless, holy, beloved Son of God, you should never want for anything. You should never lack for anything, and God is somehow warped if He withholds anything from you.” That’s the temptation. Distrust God. “I am for you,” Satan is saying. “I don’t want you to be hungry, I want you to have what you deserve, you’re the Son of God, make some bread.”
But He answered and said, “It is written, man shall not live on bread alone but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” And He says, in a sense, “I will not distrust God. I feed not on bread to satisfy me, but on the Word of God.” The devil takes Him into the holy city, Jerusalem, has Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, probably the southeast corner, which had about a 400-foot drop or three-hundred-and-some-odd feet.
Said to Him, “If you’re the Son of God, throw yourself down. What is this? You’re the Son of God, and nobody knows it. You’re the Son of God, and you’re out in the wilderness, and you’re hungry, and nobody knows you’re the Son of God. What in the world are you doing? Why don’t you just do a dive off this precipice, come down to a soft landing, and ‘Oh,’ everybody will believe in you.” In other words, claim what you have a right to. Claim what you think satisfies you. Claim what you want.
If you’re – verse 6 – the Son of God, throw yourself down. Doesn’t the Old Testament say He’ll give His angels charge concerning you and on their hands they’ll bear you up lest you strike your foot against a stone? Believe me, Satan can quote Scripture with the best of them. Jesus said, “On the other hand, it’s written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” I’m not going to do something that God has not willed for me to do and thus test Him. I’m going to trust God. He’ll feed me when it’s time to feed me, and He’ll proclaim my Messiahship when it’s time.”
Then the devil took Him to a high mountain. Starts with a simple thing, food. Gives Him a little bigger thing, convince the Jews that you’re the Messiah. To the whole world, takes Him to a high mountain, shows Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. This tells you who’s in charge of the world system. He says, “All these things will I give you if you fall down and worship me.” Did He have a right to them? Did Jesus have a right to all the kingdoms of the world? Of course He did – of course He did.
Satan is saying the same thing. “What kind of a God have you got? Something’s wrong with God, He’s flawed. You’re hungry and you’re His Son. You’re His Messiah and nobody knows it and nobody believes it. You’re supposed to be the King of the world, look at you. You have nothing. I’ll give it all to you, just fall down and worship me.” Now, that’s exactly what you do when you sin. You decide “Satan will be my god for this experience, Satan will be my god for this moment. I’m believing him and not God.”
But that wasn’t Jesus’ response. He said, “Be gone, Satan, for it’s written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve.’” And the devil left Him and the angels came and ministered to Him.
So, you know, whenever Satan comes at us in the world system and panders to our fallenness, it is to make us believe him instead of believing God, that our real satisfaction, our real happiness, our real fun, our real fulfillment is going to be found in the things he tells us to do rather than the things that God tells us to do, and when you sin, you believe Satan, and when you don’t, you believe God. That’s why the shield that protects you from temptation is faith, faith in God.
Well, I’m going to leave it there because I do want to say a few more things, but that’s the way I always feel. And I will say a few more things next time about this, and then we’ll look into the helmet and we’ll probably have one whole session just on the sword of the Spirit, okay? All right, let’s pray.
It’s been a wonderful day for us, Father. We have thoroughly been blessed to be with those of like precious faith. We’ve been so encouraged in the worship, in the fellowship, and the instruction that comes out of Holy Scripture. We thank you, Lord, for the clarity with which your Word speaks to us. It’s such a blessing and a benediction. We know exactly what you’re saying and we thank you for it. And may we live it to your great glory and our own good. We pray in Christ’s name. Amen.
Catholic theologians and educators gathered in a Wisconsin resort town during the week of July 23, 1967, to discuss how they could modernize Catholic universities.
Their final document was informally named the Land O’ Lakes Statement after the town where these influential priests and laymen held the meeting. It was signed by 26 heads of U.S. Catholic colleges and universities, one of whom was Notre Dame University president Fr. Theodore Hesburgh.
The document ultimately called for Catholic universities to “have a true autonomy and academic freedom in the face of authority of whatever kind, lay or clerical, external to the academic community itself.”
Looking at what has happened to Notre Dame and the Jesuit schools, it’s easy to see they’re straying further away from Catholicism more and more each year.
Discussing the study of theology, the 1967 document declared: “The theological faculty must engage directly in exploring the depths of Christian tradition and the total religious heritage of the world in order to come to the best possible intellectual understanding of religion and revelation, of man in all his varied relationships to God.”
The document makes another troubling statement about how the “university should carry on a continual examination of all aspects and all activities of the Church and should objectively evaluate them.”
Since then, it’s not uncommon that people who have 12 years of primary education in Catholic schools go on to get a four-year degree in a prestigious Catholic university and come out less Catholic than when they went in.
Pope John Paul II addressed the problem of Catholic universities abandoning their Catholic roots in his 1990 document on Catholic education.
He reminds the heads of Catholic universities that “a specific part of a Catholic University’s task is to promote dialogue between faith and reason, so that it can be seen more profoundly how faith and reason bear harmonious witness to the unity of all truth. “The large Catholic universities have been slipping further away from the Catholic ideal of the salvation of souls as their first principle.
“A Catholic University, as Catholic, informs and carries out its research, teaching, and all other activities with Catholic ideals, principles and attitudes,” the pontiff notes.
He concludes with the reason for preserving a Catholic focus in education: “Every Catholic University is to maintain communion with the universal Church and the Holy See,” he asserts, to “contribute to the Church’s work of evangelization.”
Despite John Paul II’s admonitions, the large Catholic universities have been slipping further away from the Catholic ideal of the salvation of souls as their first principle. Some schools even promote concepts that directly oppose Church teaching.
A Florida woman recently received national attention when she suggested (somewhat in jest) that a long-tailed creature captured in early morning home security footage looked like a dinosaur.1 The story reminds us that people are fascinated by these creatures. Deep down, many of us would love to see a living dinosaur—from a safe distance, of course!—and not just its fossilized skeletal remains. That dinosaurs fascinate us should not surprise us since God no doubt created these powerful animals to impress us with His power and might.
Genesis 1:24-28 teaches that God created all the land animals, along with Adam and Eve, on Day 6 of the creation week. Since dinosaurs are land animals, they too were created on Day 6. People and dinosaurs, as well as other supposedly “prehistoric” reptiles, were together on the earth from the very beginning.
Because Christ created all the animals to be vegetarians (Genesis 1:29-30), dinosaurs were originally harmless. It was only after Adam’s sin that carnivory, death, and bloodshed entered the world.2 Before the Genesis Flood, dinosaur representatives boarded Noah’s Ark, along with representatives of the other land-dwelling, air-breathing animals. Those dinosaurs not aboard the Ark perished during the Flood. We find their fossilized remains, along with those of plants and other animals, entombed within water-deposited rocks all over the world.
Ancient peoples wrote about their encounters with the descendants of the creatures that dispersed from the Ark. The word dinosaur does not appear in ancient records, or in the 1611 English King James Version of the Bible, since that word was not coined until 1841. However, the Old Testament has about 30 references to tannîm or tannînim, usually translated as “dragons.”3 Moreover, the Bible describes a monster-size marine mammal called tannîn (Lamentations 4:3, perhaps a whale) and a dragon-like marine creature called leviathan (Job 41; Psalm 104:26; Isaiah 27:1), as well as flying serpents (Isaiah 14:29, 30:6) that sound like pterosaurs. It also contains a detailed description of a giant, powerful, long-tailed vegetarian animal called behemoth (Job 40). Other ancient and some not-so-ancient historians confirmed that these creatures lived recently.4,5
Ancient peoples drew pictures of these animals, some of which are immediately recognizable as dinosaurs.4 The ICR Discovery Center for Science & Earth History showcases many depictions of these animals based on known historical artifacts from around the world.
Many dinosaur fossils contain original organic material, including skin, blood vessels, and bone collagen. Laboratory experiments, based on well-known chemistry, indicate that these delicate structures cannot survive millions of years.6 These creatures lived recently, not in an imagined Age of Dinosaurs millions of years ago.4,6
I often tell children that had Adam not sinned, they could have had a pet dinosaur. And it’s true! That some of these creatures became dangerous after the Fall and eventually went extinct are just two of many unfortunate and unforeseen consequences of Adam’s sin.
Dinosaurs are not a problem for biblical creation. The Bible makes good sense of these amazing creatures, and the Lord Jesus Christ, not personified nature, deserves the credit and glory for creating them.
In 2002, Jack Whittaker won $315 million in a West Virginia lottery. Years later he told a reporter, “You know, my wife had said she wished that she had torn the ticket up. Well, I wish that we had torn the ticket up, too.”
His daughter and granddaughter died of drug overdoses, and he was robbed of $545,000 eight months after winning the lottery. “I just don’t like Jack Whittaker,” he went on to say. “I don’t like the hard heart I’ve got. I don’t like what I’ve become.”
There are a lot of things that money can buy, but there are also things that money cannot buy. As Zig Ziglar pointed out, “Money will buy you a bed, but not a good night’s sleep, a house, but not a home, a companion, but not a friend.”
Money isn’t a bad thing. It isn’t intrinsically evil as some would suggest. Maybe you’ve heard people say, “You know, the Bible says that money is the root of all evil.”
But the Bible doesn’t actually say that. Here’s what it does say: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Timothy 6:10 NKJV).
So money isn’t evil. If you love it, however, if you make it your goal, if you think that money will bring you happiness, then you’ll be in for a rude awakening one day. On the other hand, there are uses for money, and money can be a blessing in our lives. The Bible tells us that money is something we can use to touch other lives.
The apostle Paul wrote, “Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. Tell them to use their money to do good. . . . By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life” (1 Timothy 6:17–19 NLT).
So where do we find the meaning, purpose and happiness in life that we all want? How can we be truly happy people?
According to the Bible, if we seek to know God and discover His plan for our lives, we will find purpose as a result. We will find the meaning and happiness that we so desperately long for—not from seeking it but from seeking him. The Bible says, “Happy are the people whose God is the Lord!” (Psalm 144:15 NKJV).
C. S. Lewis wrote, “God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other.”
According to the Bible, happiness and fulfillment are not things we should seek outright. Rather, happiness and fulfillment will come as a result of seeking something else. That something else, in fact, is someone else: God Himself.
We won’t be happy by trying to be happy. We won’t find fulfillment by trying everything this world has to offer. But we will find fulfillment when we commit our lives to the Lord and ask Him to reveal His purpose for us. When we align our wills with God’s will, we’ll discover life as it was meant to be lived.
Henry Ward Beecher said, “The strength and happiness of a man consists in finding out the way in which God is going, and going in that way too.”
In the New Testament we find the account of some men from Greece who were looking for Jesus. They were in Jerusalem for the Passover celebration, and they were seeking answers, meaning, and purpose in life.
We’re not quite sure if they ever had a personal encounter with Jesus. John’s Gospel tells us they went to Philip, who then went to Andrew. Together Philip and Andrew approached Jesus, and He gave them His response.
In effect Jesus answered the essential question he could see in their hearts: What is the meaning of life? Why am I here? Why do I exist? How can I be happy?
At this time in history, Greece basically was the cultural center of the world, the intellectual capital of Planet Earth. Philosophers like Plato and Aristotle held court there. Greece was the fountainhead of philosophy, the matrix of mythology, the cradle of civilized society.
Not only was Greece an intellectual capital, but it also was a philosophical capital. In this open, free society, devoid of absolutes, the people were encouraged to live as they pleased. Immorality was pervasive, and justice was lacking.
These men who came to Jerusalem were searching for something more, and Jesus gave them what they were asking for.
His words for them, in effect, unlocked the secret to personal happiness and fulfillment: “Unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity” (John 12:24–25 NLT).
Jesus was saying, “Here it is: If you want to find your life, you need to lose it.”
This seems very difficult to understand. It seems unnatural and certainly impossible. But what Jesus was saying is this: If you want to live life to its fullest, you must be willing to lose your life. Then you will find it.
There are people today who essentially say, “I don’t want to live by anyone’s rules. I’m going to do what I want to do. I’ll do whatever makes me happy and brings me fulfillment, because all that matters is me. It’s all about me.” So they live their lives with that attitude.
But Jesus was saying that if you seek to live for yourself, then you never will find yourself. If a selfish, me-first attitude permeates every aspect of your life, then you’ll come up empty. And ultimately you’ll see the emptiness of life without God.
The victims of child abuse often wrestle with the question of forgiveness. Forgiveness can feel like defeat – another surrender to a predator who has already taken so much from us, including our self-respect.
Strength v. Weakness
But forgiveness is NOT a sign of weakness. Nor is it a warm and cozy feeling.
Forgiveness is a deliberate decision to put the past behind us . That requires enormous strength on the part of victims. Most of us cannot accomplish it until we have first mourned our losses (a fact those urging forgiveness upon us must not overlook).
Emotionally speaking, unforgiveness is akin to the sulfuric acid used in storage batteries.
Battery acid is a dangerous substance. It dissolves the skin, causing chemical burns. Heavy scarring can result. Contact with the eyes will cause blindness. Long-term exposure to fumes is toxic.
Like battery acid, unforgiveness eats us up inside, creating scars that further tie us to the past, exacerbating rather than easing our pain. And the longer our bitterness lasts, the deeper the scars.
Bitterness blinds us to the possibilities before us. Forgiveness, by contrast, opens our eyes. It clears our head, and cleanses our heart. We can once again breathe freely. The past no longer has power over us.
Forgiveness is NOT salt in the wound, NOT an added stripe from the lash, NOT a final humiliation . Nor is it an argument that predators’ horrendous behavior should be excused away at victims’ expense.
Significantly, forgiveness is not inconsistent with criminal prosecution, should victims choose to pursue that. Prosecution may prevent others from being victimized.
Instead, forgiveness implies release for the victim…release from bitterness, from anger, from hatred. From the groundless self-condemnation the abuse to which we were subjected left in its wake .
Victims deserve that.
“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you…” (Matt. 5: 44).
 This is not to suggest that we were responsible for our abuse. Children, however, blame themselves for the actions of the adults around them. Victims carry that misplaced sense of guilt into adulthood.
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