By serving those outside our families, Jill Briscoe talks about how Christmas on the go can be a perfect time to share the gospel.
Jill Briscoe, founder of Just Between Us (JBU), apologizes for her lack of cookie recipes. Here we are embarking on the holiday season, she says with a laugh, and she has no baking secrets to impart or craft ideas to share. Furthermore, in the family’s school-house-turned-homestead, located on a lake outside of Waukesha, Wis., Jill’s Christmas decorations are kept to a minimum. A simple splash of red poinsettias, a beautiful wreath flanking the fireplace, a scattering of candles, and a glass nativity scene compliment the antique tables and chintz-covered chairs.
And what about those family gatherings? Their motivations are simple: opportunity and service. As speakers and ministers-at-large, they know that people are more receptive to the gospel during the Christmas season. In the past, their December travels have taken them to places like South Africa, Trinidad, and Australia.
Leaving home at Christmas to minister is no new idea, Jill explains. “Jesus didn’t stay home much. He was busy serving others. Besides, can you imagine a better present than knowing that somebody will be in heaven because you gave the gift of time?”
Just Between Us had the opportunity to talk with Jill about how we can use the holidays as a way to share Christ with those around us and keep Christ the focus.
Have you always celebrated Christmas on the go?
Jill: We’ve never known a stereotypical family Christmas. With three kids in ministry, we’re never all in one place at one time. We settle for a bit of the family here and a bit more there…as many as can gather. It’s gotten wilder with the addition of each grandchild. (We have 13 now.) We give each other time, not things, when we can.
You’ve had a lot of practice celebrating Christmas far from home. What was your first holiday season like after leaving Britain in 1970?
Jill: Christmas was extremely difficult when Stuart and I first emigrated. We both left widowed mothers in England. I sorted it out theologically by reminding myself that this was the will of God, and I was here because I was supposed to be here. It also helped to know that we were serving others.
The holidays can be very stressful even without long-distance travel. How do you prepare yourself mentally and spiritually for your rigorous Christmas season?
Jill: I’m grateful that I’m asked to speak at several Christmas meetings every year. These invitations nudge me to prepare my heart early as I think about my messages and look at the birth of Christ from different perspectives.
Years ago, I wrote a Christmas message based on C.S. Lewis’ story of Narnia, the land of ice and snow governed by a wicked queen who took Christmas out of winter. Only when the lion, who represented God, roared, did the ice melt. My message was that too many people – even Christians – celebrate what I call “Winterfest,” but not Christmas. My parents, who were wonderful people, did this. Their Winterfest was beautiful – full of fun, Bing Crosby songs, chestnuts roasting on the open fire, and other traditional trappings of the season. I loved Christmas, and I loved what my mother did with it. But my parents worshiped the family. To them, family was God. That kind of attitude doesn’t bring the satisfaction that comes from having a home that lets the world in rather than closes it out. Invitations to speak give me the opportunity to focus people’s attention not on Winterfest but on Christ.
Christmas brings out the Martha and Mary in all of us. Like Martha, we worry about all the things we need to do – the Winterfest details. But we want, like Mary, to concentrate on the spiritual aspects – the Christmas side of the season. How can we balance all our obligations and stillserve others?
Jill: By being very disciplined in our time with God, by volunteering for things that are spiritual, and by refusing to be pressured into trivialities. Let’s plan things that really matter and include our children. It’s good for kids to go with parents who serve meals at an inner-city mission or buy gifts for a prisoner’s family. Families can cook, shop, and wrap gifts for others. Individual families can host Christmas dinners and invite nonbelievers. Christmas is the perfect opportunity to use our home as a loving environment where evangelism is apt to happen.
As a student in New York City, Fidel Castro longed to be invited into an American home. He never was. Think of the difference it might have made. So many students in the United States will sit in their dormitories over the Christmas holiday because they can’t afford to go home. Who knows? You might change a country by inviting a young person to share Christmas with you.
How can we keep from letting the commercialism of the season steal away the true meaning for us and our families?
Jill: When I turned 50 I decided to simply Christmas and keep the real meaning by not buying any new gifts for people. Instead, I decided to give loved ones and friends what I call “heritage gifts.” I decided to start giving away things that were meaningful to me that I felt would be meaningful to others like jewelry, family keepsakes, etc. One year I gave my daughter my dining room set and it’s been so neat to go over to her house and sit at the table and see her family enjoying it. Other ideas could be Bibles that you’ve made personal notes in, journals, family recipes. We’ve even encouraged the children and grandchildren to start doing this. This type of giving helps us to take the focus off of purchasing a lot more stuff that we don’t need to passing on things with meaning.
For many, Christmas can be a very sad time of year. How do you deal with the pain that sometimes accompanies Christmas?
Jill: I believe we should let pain accomplish what God has allowed it into our life to accomplish. We should accept it from the hands of a good God and know that He wants to work in it. If we do this, we’ll see God as we’ve never seen Him, see others as we’ve never seen them, and know ourselves as never before. During periods of pain, we should say, “Lord, I accept this situation, and I believe You are in control. I believe the pain will make me more effective, more sympathetic, and more like You.” Then we can ask ourselves, “What do I now have to give others that I didn’t have before the pain came?” God said He would comfort us so we could comfort others. He allows tough things to happen not just for our heart’s benefit, but so we can be better ministers.
What is your Christmas wish for the JBU readers as they enter this holiday season?
Jill: I hope that, for the month of December, they will covenant with God to spend at least 10 to 15 minutes a day focusing on Him. Out of that will come decisions and plans that will not be made if they give Him only a tip of the hat before bed each night. To go back to Martha and Mary …if we’re like Martha and are too busy to be blessed, we won’t be a blessing to the persons we love the most. If we don’t discipline ourselves in prayer and Bible study, the wicked queen will steal it all. We must not let that happen. We must make sure that our attention is not on Winterfest, but Christ!
~ By Holly G. Miller. Holly is the author or coauthor of 14 books and is contributing editor to The Saturday Evening Post, a consulting editor for In Trust Magazine, and frequent teacher at writing workshops. She lives in Anderson, Ind., with her husband Phil.
There are so many wonderful, wonderful instructions given to us in the letters of the New Testament that comprise the teaching that relates to our Christian living and Christian ministry that it’s good to go back and be refreshed in these things.
Turn in your Bible, if you will, to chapter 6 in Ephesians. A very familiar portion of Scripture is the main focus of this chapter. It actually begins in verse 10 and it runs all the way down through verse 20. It is about the Christian’s war or, if you will, the armor of the believer.
This is really the end of the epistle and needs to be seen a little bit in its context. This particular epistle follows a pattern that many of the epistles of the New Testament follow, particularly those written by Paul, in that the opening chapters – namely, in this case chapters 1, 2, and 3 – identify our position in Christ. They are doctrinal. They define for us what it means to be a Christian.
For example, back in chapter 1, it means that we have been blessed with all spiritual blessing or every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. And then Paul unpacks all of that, starting in verse 4, in one long sentence running down to verse 14, “We have been chosen before the foundation of the world to be made holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us, so that we have been adopted as sons through Jesus Christ for the purpose that we might be to the praise of His glory.” We have redemption, verse 7, through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses according to the riches of His grace and that grace He lavished on us.
Furthermore, He has given us revelation in that all wisdom and insight has been made known to us. And that involves the mystery of His will, that which was formerly hidden and is now revealed. We are able through the revelation of Scripture to understand not only the past and the present but the fullness of the times, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in heaven and things upon the earth. We have obtained an eternal inheritance to which we have been predestined.
We have been sealed through that eternal redemption with the Holy Spirit of promise in verse 13, who is given as a guarantee and engagement ring, a down payment, the Greek word arrabōn, sealing our final inheritance and our final redemption as God’s own possession to the praise of His glory.
So Paul starts out with this long staggering list of benefits and blessings that belong to us because we belong to Christ. And Paul prays then that we would understand all of this, verse 18, the eyes of our heart being enlightened to know what is the hope of His calling and the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, what is the surpassing power that has been extended to us, the working of His might, the very power that raised Jesus from the dead.
And then he says that this Christ, who is our Christ, having been raised from the dead, is seated at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion and every name that is named not only in this age but also in the age to come. And everything has been put in subjection under His feet because He’s the head of everything.
Keep that in mind because all rule, authority, power, and dominion, words like that come back again in chapter 6. And there, clearly, they refer to demonic powers. So here in chapter 1, we are told – and it’s very important – that among the benefits and the blessings of belonging to Christ is that He is not only the head of all things, not only the head of all things given to the church as head of the church, but He is over all demonic powers in this age in the one to come. So we are told that the One who is the head of the church, the One who is our Lord and our Redeemer, our Savior, is also the One who has total power over the forces of hell.
Chapter 2 further describes this wonderful gift of salvation by reminding us that we were dead in trespasses and sins but we have been made alive, verse 5. We have been made alive together with Christ by grace, raised up with Him, seated with Him in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus, with a view that in the ages to come, He’s going to show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
And this is how these first three chapters go. All of the blessings are defined. We are His workmanship, verse 10. We have been created in Christ Jesus for good works. The result of our regeneration is that we do those works that please God, which He prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. We used to be excluded from the purposes and plans of God, now we are included, along with Jew and Gentile, and that’s how chapter 2 ends.
Even when you come into chapter 3, Paul talks about the wonderful privilege that has been his to be a steward and to be a minister. Even though he’s the least of all saints, as he says in verse 8, in order that he might bring to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things. That is, he has been able to be the vehicle by which God reveals the glorious truths of the New Testament, which define the infinite and eternal blessings that are ours in Christ.
And so these chapters are all about what belongs to us because we belong to Christ. We have been granted from the riches of His glory everything we need. And the third chapter then closes with this great doxology, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all we can ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” So there is this doxology, this outburst of praise in response to all that is ours in Christ.
And then in a very typical fashion, there is a “therefore” in chapter 4, and that is to say we now move from the doctrinal section to the practical section. We now move to the duty section, you might say. Since all of this is true, since God has given you all of this, this is your position in Christ, this is all that belongs to you because you belong to Christ, here is what is then required of you. “Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” That sums it up.
And then he begins to unpack all of that. “We are to walk in a way that is consistent with our calling, that means humility, gentleness, patience, showing forbearance to one another in love, diligently preserving the unity of the Spirit,” which is then further elucidated in the subsequent verses. “We have been grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. We are to make sure that we use that grace. We are to submit ourselves to those who are evangelists and teaching pastors in the church who are there for our edification, to build us into mature people, a body fitly brought together – verse 16 – held together by that which every joint supplies according to the proper working of each individual part.”
So here we come into the body now and we have a function, and a responsibility and a ministry for which we’re gifted and given the grace that is required for that function. We are to walk differently than we used to walk, no longer walking like the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their minds, no longer being callous, sensual, practicing impurity with greediness. We didn’t learn Jesus Christ, verse 20 says, in this way.
In reference to your former manner of life, verse 22, lay aside that old self. We are called to a new kind of life. In order to live that life, verse 23 says, we have to have our minds renewed. And that’s where the Word of God comes into the picture and thereby we put on the new self, created in righteousness and holiness. We set aside falsehood, we speak truth, each one of us with his neighbor. We’re angry but we don’t sin – in other words, only a righteous anger, don’t let the sun go down on our anger.
And then this: “And don’t give the devil an opportunity.” Don’t give the devil an opportunity. The assumption here is that any of these kinds of behaviors give the devil an opportunity, including the ones that come after this. Don’t steal anymore, but work, performing with your own hands what is good, not only that you might provide what you need, but you might have something to share with the one who has need. Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, that only such a word is as good for edification according to the need of the moment that it may give grace to those who hear.
Don’t grieve the Holy Spirit. That is, don’t do anything that would bring grief to the Holy Spirit. Any unholy act would do that. Get rid of all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander. Let it be put away from you, including all evil – that’s the word malice, evil. On the positive side, be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ has forgiven you. You come into chapter 5 and he says, “Be imitators of God, walk in love as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us.”
Don’t let immorality or impurity or greed be named among you. Let there be no filthiness or silly talk, coarse jesting, obscenity. It just keeps going like this. This is how you live because of what God has done for you. You were formerly darkness, verse 8, now you’re light. Walk as children of light. Verse 15, be careful how you walk, not as unwise but as wise. Make the most of your time. Don’t be foolish. Understand what the will of the Lord is. Don’t get drunk. That’s dissipation.
Be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another in psalms, hymns, spiritual songs, singing, making melody with your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks for all things in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Be subject to one another in the fear of God. And he tells wives how they’re to act and husbands how they’re to act. And he tells parents how they’re to act and children how they’re to act and slaves how they’re to act and slave owners how they’re to act.
Coming down into chapter 6, verse 9, then, you have all of this accumulation of the details of living out our Christian life. Standards for unity, standards for life in the church, for ministry, principles for purity, for fellowship, for witness. What the Spirit-filled life looks like, a life controlled by the Spirit of God, if you will, under the dominating impulse of the Word of God. The great theme here is to walk the worthy walk.
In the metaphor of walking, there is a certain benign reality. Walking is not difficult. Walking is the easiest thing we do. And one might assume that because this is the metaphor that is used that it somehow means this is going to be a stroll for us. Well, the reason the New Testament writers like to use the word “walk” is because it is a constant pattern. But it is not to make us assume that this is some kind of a stroll that’s going to be easy. I think we know better than that. And we certainly know better than that when we come to verse 10 in chapter 6.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. The assumption here is it will not be easy. It’s going to take strength. It’s going to take strength that you don’t have. That’s why it says be strong in the Lord and repeats it in the strength of His might. This is not an easy walk, it is a walk in the sense that it is repetitive, that it is constant, that it is not highs and lows, fast and slow, it is a pace. You’re to live a godly, holy pace. But it is not easy.
You have a lot of things working against you. First of all, the flesh. Your fallenness is a problem, as is mine. We all face the same reality that we’re living in an unredeemed body. There are in this body impulses that go along with being human that are not yet redeemed. And that is what Paul calls the flesh in Romans 7, and it wars against the spirit. There is a battle going on in every believer between the spirit, which is that new creation, and the flesh, which is what’s left of that old man. And there is a war going on so that Paul says, “I don’t do what I want to do and I do what I ought not to do.” And he says, “It’s a wretched man that I am.” He describes it like having a corpse tied to your body that you can’t get rid of.
In Galatians chapter 5, which is another helpful passage along this line, we learn more about this conflict. In Galatians 5:17, “The flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, that is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit against the flesh. These are in opposition to one another so that you may not do the things that you please.” The reality of living our Christian life of walking the way we ought to walk, walking a worthy walk, is that it is not easy. It is not easy because of the opposition of our unredeemed flesh.
What are the elements of this flesh? Verse 19 of Galatians 5, “The deeds of the flesh are these: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing and things like these.” So this is not an exhaustive list, this is merely a representative list. Those are the kind of things that are done by people who have no part in the kingdom, verse 21. The people who continually practice those things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
On the other hand, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such things, there is no law. And so therein lies the battle. The Sprit drives us in the direction of that which is holy, the flesh drives us in the direction of that which is unholy, and that is the battle. So the battle is not outside of us; in this sense, the battle is inside of us. It is inside of us.
It doesn’t do you any good to – like the medieval monks, it doesn’t do you any good to pluck out your eyes or go live in a cloister somewhere on the side of a mountain so that you’re somehow away from sin. It doesn’t do you any good to have some kind of surgery that is supposed to deal with your desire, as some of the medieval monks did. And by their own testimony, it had zero effect on their evil desire. Doesn’t do you any good to run from sin because wherever you go, sin goes with you. It’s in you. Even though you may be a believer, there is still remaining sin.
So you’ll not be walking some kind of stroll through a happy meadow, if that is a way to view it, you really are walking through a minefield that is inside of you. The minefield has been basically set by your own flesh, and there’s a war from the very outset on the inside. You don’t need the devil for that war, your own fallenness is sufficient. But when you add the presence of the devil, the battle becomes all the more fierce.
And if you go back to chapter 4 and verse 27, which I read to you a moment ago, Paul says in the middle of all of this, walk this worthy walk, do not give the devil an opportunity. And falling into any of the patterns that are described there as sinful patterns is how you give the devil an opportunity. So we have an enemy that is in us, and we have an enemy that is outside of us. We have to be aware of this.
So when the apostle Paul comes to the end of this epistle in which he calls us to walk in a certain way, and to live a certain kind of Christian life, he reminds us that we have a very, very aggressive and formidable enemy; namely, Satan. And he says in chapter 6, “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.”
Wow – that’s serious stuff. There are adversaries that are human, but behind them is supernatural evil. And, you know, before you come to Christ – this would be true of the Ephesians or anybody else – you’re caught up in the kingdom of darkness to which you belong. You’re under the power and authority of the prince of the power of the air, the ruler of this world, who is Satan. To borrow the language of John 8, you are of your father, the devil.
And so you come to Christ, and Satan still is committed to your destruction. Once he had you, now he doesn’t have you. Once you were part of his system, now you’re not. You have become the enemy of Satan, and an enemy indeed you are, as he is an enemy to you, so you are an enemy to his cause now that you have come to Christ.
In a sense, when you were saved, when I was saved, at the point that we were saved, we were basically delivered out of the kingdom of darkness, to borrow the language of Colossians 1. We had been captive to (2 Corinthians 10 says) certain ideologies that were fortifications, wrong views, wrong thinking, and we were set free and brought captive to Christ. We were rescued out of Satan’s fortress, out of his lying, damning, deceptive ideologies, all those ideas raised up against the true knowledge of God.
He doesn’t take it lightly. Christ literally rips us out of his clutches, as it were. We are like brands snatched from the burning, to borrow the words of Jude. Satan then brings to bear upon us all the forces of hell as if to undo what Christ has done. So we have an enemy that is in us and we have an enemy that is outside of us. How do we deal with the enemy that is in us? Galatians 5 says, “Walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.” Put another way, “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly.” Put it another way, “Thy Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against you.”
We walk in the Spirit, which means to walk in the things that the Spirit affirms, which would be the things that are revealed in Scripture as holy attitudes, holy thoughts, holy words, and holy behaviors. But what do we do about the enemy that is outside of us? How are we to cope with this supernatural, massive evil? When you think about it on a cosmic level, it’s a pretty astonishing thing that we’re dealing with. We live in an infinite universe. It has no end. It is infinite. The bigger our telescopes get, the more they penetrate into outer space, the more stunning and staggering it all becomes. And I don’t need to take you through all the science of that. But it is a stunning, staggering thing.
And you might think, “Why in the world would God create this massive, massive universe where, traveling at the speed of light, it would take millions of years to get to the edge of it? What is that all about when all that ever seems to happen is down in this tiny little dot called the Earth?” Well, this is not the only place where things are happening. There is a host of beings that occupy the space between this little planet and the very throne of God at the final end of the infinite heaven. The Bible describes that as the realm of Satan and his demons, as well as the realm of holy angels.
We get a little bit of a glimpse occasionally into the battle between holy angels and the demons that occupy that realm, such as when God dispatched an angel to bring an answer to a prayer prayed by Daniel and he was held up by a demon. But when you think about God creating the universe the way He created, understand that while there is the human realm here, there is the spiritual realm that is vast. I only point that out to you to let you know that this is a formidable, formidable enemy that we have and we cannot be ignorant of his schemes.
There are countless demons with him. In fact, in Revelation chapter 12, it gives us a picture of Satan when he fell, and it says he took a third of the angels with him. So there are twice as many holy angels as there are fallen angels. But there are ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands and ten thousands, the highest number in the Greek language that has a word. So it’s just another way to say there are uncountable angels; there are, therefore, countless demons in Satan’s army and arsenal.
The question is: How does Satan operate? Well, he operates against the people of God through a system that would be called the world. That’s why we say we have a threefold enemy (the world, the flesh, and the devil). The flesh is in us, the devil is outside of us, and the means the devil uses is the world system. Christians don’t need to feel that Satan could come and live in them. No Christian in the Bible is ever pictured as being indwelt by a demon. The only people that had demons in them were nonbelievers.
You cannot, like so many do today, say that because a believer has a besetting sin in his life, as we heard in testimony tonight in baptism, because a believer may have a besetting sin, he still has a demon of whatever in him that needs to be exorcized. There is no indication in Scripture that any believer ever could have a demon living in him. We are the temple of the Spirit of God. There are times when Jesus casts demons out, but always out of nonbelievers.
Furthermore, there’s nothing in the Bible that associates demonization with moral evil. That may surprise you. Demon-possessed people manifested bizarre behavior, sometimes screaming at Jesus in a synagogue, sometimes jumping into a fire, being suicidal, having some physical infirmity. But there’s no illustration in the Scriptures of a demonized person having that demonization manifest in moral evil. So sin is an issue of the flesh. Demons can’t overpower people and make them sinners, but what they can do is overpower people who are already sinners, and, of course, cause them to manifest bizarre kinds of behavior and self-destructive kind of behavior.
But as far as Christians are concerned, no demon could take up residence in a believer. There is no illustration of that anywhere in Scripture. We are the temple of the Spirit of God. You say, “Well, then, what do we have to fear from Satan who is just one of the fallen angels who we call demons? What do we have to fear from them?”
They dominate the world in this way: They own the unregenerate people of the world, they own them. The unregenerate people in the world are in the kingdom of darkness. They are under the power of the prince of the air, Ephesians 2, right? That’s exactly what we saw earlier. You formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that works in the sons of disobedience.
What is the world? We’re not talking about the planet, we’re talking about the kosmos. The opposite of kosmos is chaos. And there is an order in the world. There is a system in the world that is run by Satan. It is a sinful system. Demons work in that system. That system basically operates by demonic power through human agencies. And this is what comes at believers.
It isn’t so much that the devil himself comes at you, although there may be times when that does occur in a more specific way; such as when Jesus turned Peter over to Satan to accomplish a certain purpose in his life; such as when a messenger from Satan was coming after Paul and attacking Paul’s ministry in Corinth, and he prayed that it would be removed; such as in the case of Job when God allowed Satan to go after Job. There may be those occasions when Satan or a demon becomes, in the purposes of God, a means by which God accomplishes something in our lives.
That is not to say that that demon will take up residence in a believer, but it is to say that for God’s purposes, He may allow Satan or He may allow a demon to have some effect on a believer, such as in the case of Paul, tearing up the Corinthian church, and God allowed him to do that because Paul had had so many revelations, he needed to be humbled. And having demons wreak havoc in his church was a humbling experience for him, and God wanted him humbled.
There may be times when God allows Satan and demons to do certain things in the realm in which His people live for ends that are His, purposes that are His. God allowed Satan to bring Peter into a very, very difficult situation where he actually wound up denying the Lord, and he was restored and recovered and then he would be able to strengthen the brethren who would go through a similar situation. God allowed Job to be hammered by Satan in order that he might prove that saving faith can never be broken and that he might come out a purer worshiper than if it had never happened.
So Satan may be occasionally, sometimes for the purposes of God may be allowed or some demons may be allowed to have some effect, some way on our lives for divine purposes. Remember now, please, the devil is God’s devil. God owns the devil. God commands the devil. God sets the parameters where he can operate and where the demons operate.
I saw that and I pointed it out to you in the first chapter, that it is Christ, having been raised from the dead, seated at the right hand of God in heavenlies, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion and every name that is named in this age and the age to come, and things that are named are persons. He has power over all persons, whether they are spiritual persons or physical persons living in this world. People or angels all come under God’s control.
So all of that to say there may be occasions when God permits demons to do certain things that affect believers, not from the inside but from the outside. But the primary issue that we have to understand is that Satan works against believers by developing a world system in which believers must live that brings temptation to bear on their flesh. You would like to think that we could live in a world that’s not hostile. People say we have to protect our children from evil influences. Lots of luck. Not going to happen – not going to happen. And evil men get worse and worse.
I think here in the United States of America, we enjoyed a kind of reprieve for a while because this country had so much of Christianity in its beginnings and its roots, and in many ways our culture was influenced by great revivals of the gospel, and there was a kind of cultural morality that maybe insulated us a little bit, at least superficially. That has long since faded away, and we are now living in a culture that is fully exposed to the worst of the kosmos that Satan has crafted among godless people. We are all literally hammered and battered and besieged – aren’t we? – by this system that is really designed by Satan and plied through people.
Now, the leading edge of this system is ideological. The leading edge of this system is that Satan appears as an angel of light, disguising himself as an angel of light. Works most of the time in religion. His ministers are angels of light. All false religion is called by Paul doctrines of demons. In other words, all false religion is concocted by Satan as a part of his system to lead people into deception religiously. And they are doctrines of demons that are propagated, Paul says in 1 Timothy 4, by hypocritical liars.
So the leading edge of Satan’s effort in the world because man is by nature a religious animal – that is to say, his conscience and his mind – the conscience by the moral law written in his heart, the mind by the reality of cause and effect – leads him to God. And the most natural thing for a human being is to understand that because he has a moral law, there had to be a moral lawgiver; because he understands that nothing can exist unless it has a cause, there is a great cause. So there is a great cause who is also moral. That’s inherent in the understanding of man.
Satan knows about that god-consciousness, and so Satan diverts that from the true God to an endless array of false religious systems of which he is the author. And all of them have one thing in common: They tell man that salvation and a right relationship with God can be earned – can be earned. Some of them are moral, some of them are immoral. Across the spectrum, something for everybody. But that’s the leading edge.
It’s false religion because man is naturally a worshiper. And because he has a conscience, he has the sense of guilt over his own sins. And so Satan invents religions that attempt to mitigate that guilt. But for those people who have so stomped their conscience into insensitivity, there is also a full world system available to them that is irreligious, atheistic, if you will, blatantly immoral. And there is that world in the middle that says yes, I’m spiritual, but I can be spiritual and immoral at the same time.
All of these ideologies that range from very legalistic, tight kinds of restrictive religions for people who find an appeal in that, to the kind of open, flagrant, atheistic immorality at its worst level and everything in between is all part of this very broad system designed by Satan. And there is enough in it that it has the ability to drive temptations at all of us. That’s how Satan works. You don’t have to worry about Satan crawling inside of you and making a residence there, it’s not going to happen if you’re a believer.
But we live in a day when we not only deal with the temptation that is in us as all believers had, but we have to deal with the system that is outside of us, and the system is more sophisticated and it is worse than it’s ever been and all the bad of the past has been accumulated and stayed and been fully developed. And now we have media to make it worse than it’s ever been in terms of its exposure. I personally think that Jesus needs to come soon because the onslaught is so massive that it’s beyond hope of ever being reversed.
I’ve been saying to people, by the way, if you think somehow there’s going to be a turnaround in America – forget it. Forget it. We’re going down the path of immorality at such warp speed, we’re not going to turn around. This is Romans 1, we’ve been turned over by God to the consequences of our own choices, and Satan is having a field day in the system. And we are all inundated by it.
So what do we do about it? Well, that was kind of an ad lib introduction, but let’s look at verse 10. I didn’t even turn a page here, that’s not good. Verse 10. “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.” This is the preparation – this is the preparation. Be strong – not a time for weak people. Doesn’t it strike you as interesting that at a time when the power of the world is its greatest that its ever been, the weakness of the church is at its greatest as well? At a time when the world system is more formidable than it’s ever been, the church is weaker than it’s ever been.
And we are called to be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might, recognizing we don’t have in ourselves the strength, we have to rest in Him. But know this, that the power is already yours.
Philippians 4:13, I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me. There is no temptation taken you but such is as common to man. God is faithful, who will never allow you to be tempted above that you’re able but will with the temptation make a way of escape. 1 Corinthians 10:13. The Lord has gained the victory at the cross. The Lord has taken up residence in our heart in the presence of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, and all the power that is there is the very same power that has raised Jesus from the dead.
And we have already pointed that out, and I did that on purpose so I could take you back to it. We understand this. Go back to verse 18 of chapter 1, “I pray the eyes of your heart to be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope of His calling, the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might, and it’s the very strength which He brought about in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places.”
It is the very same power that raised Christ from the dead. It is the same power that exalted Him to the right hand of God. It is the same power He exercises over all rule and authority and power and dominion, every name that is named. And this power has caused Him to put all things in subjection under His feet, made Him His head over the church, which is His body, and the church as His body – I love this – is the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
We are the fullness of Christ. We have the fullness of Christ; therefore, we have the fullness of His resurrection power. In the third chapter also, Paul prays that we would understand this. Verse 14, chapter 3, “I bow my knees before the Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you according to the riches of His glory to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man.” Verse 20, “Now to him who is able to do exceeding, abundantly beyond all we can ask or think according to the power that works within us.”
So the power is there. It’s not as if we have to plead for the power. Christ is there, and with Christ’s presence is Christ’s fullness, and with His fullness is His power. So we are strong. The strength is there. All that we need is there in the very presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.
So we begin with the preparation, and the preparation is to understand that we have to rest in the strength of Christ. The second thing I want you to see in this text, as we just begin, is the equipment. The preparation is to realize our strength is in the Lord, and that strength is available to us. Secondly, the equipment – put on the full armor of God. How do you tap into the power? Here’s the key. How do you tap into the power? You put on the full armor of God. I’m going to leave that because verse 13 says, “Take up the full armor of God” and then describes it starting in verse 14, running down to verse 17.
So when we look at the armor itself, we will see the equipment that allows us to tap the strength, okay? The strength is there, it is bound up in the armor, and the armor is defined for us in verses 13 to 17, and we’ll look at it in detail. So the preparation and the equipment – thirdly, the enemy. We need to understand our enemy, verse 11. “Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.” The schemes of the devil.
We don’t need to take a lot of time to define Satan, this is not a course on Satanology, if you will. Suffice it to say that Scripture describes the devil carefully and repeatedly. Jesus believed in him, referred to him, spoke to him, pronounced judgment on him. The apostles believed in him, obviously, as Paul does here when he writes about him. He is active through all human history. He rebelled against God in heaven, according to Isaiah 14, Ezekiel 28, he was thrown out of heaven, he is the one who fell from heaven, described also elsewhere in Scripture, including the twelfth chapter of Revelation.
When he came to earth, he tempted Eve in Genesis 3. He tempted Christ in Matthew 4. He perverts God’s Word, as we see in Matthew 4. He opposes God’s work, as we see in Zechariah chapter 3. He hinders God’s servants, as we see in 2 Thessalonians 2. He restricts (or tries to restrict) the proclamation of the gospel by blinding the minds of people so the gospel cannot come to them, 2 Corinthians 4. He snares the wicked in 1 Timothy 3. He deceives the nations, as we see in the book of Daniel as well as the book of Isaiah and the book of Ezekiel and the book of Revelation, chapters 16 and 20.
He fights with Michael, that means that he is conflict with the holy angels. He has the whole world in his lap, 1 John 5, the whole world lies in the lap of the evil one. He runs the whole system. All his evil is basically worked through unregenerate people who make up his kingdom, and that is the world system, and that is the source of temptation driven at our human flesh by this very sophisticated system.
He is a person. He is called the anointed cherub. He called the prince of this world. He is called the prince of the power of the air. He is called the god of this age. He is called the prince of demons, Luke 11:15. He has personal names. Fifty-two times, he’s called Satan, which means adversary. Thirty-five times he’s called devil, or diabolos which means slanderer. He is called that old serpent, that great dragon. He is described in 1 Peter 5:8 as a roaring lion who goes about seeking whom he may devour. In John 17:15, he is called the evil one, intrinsically evil, ponēros.
He is called Abaddon and Apollyon in Revelation 9, that is a destroyer. He is called the tempter in Matthew 4, the accuser in Revelation 12, and the spirit working in the sons of disobedience in Ephesians 2, as we just read. He is described as a murderer and a liar. He works overtly, blatantly, and covertly. He works overtly in the raunchy open wickedness of the world. He works covertly in the false religious systems of the world. Mark it, folks, both are under his power.
He will be religious when he needs to be religious, sanctimonious when he needs to be sanctimonious, and blatantly wretched and wicked and vile as it suits him. He is some enemy. He is the one who once was Lucifer, the son of the morning, the anointed cherub fallen from heaven, the ruler of the demon world, and plies his wretched assault on God’s kingdom through the humans that are his subjects. We cannot be ignorant of his schemes.
Schemes comes from a verb meaning to stalk – to stalk. It suggests that lion, stalking his prey that Peter referred to. He uses special tactics, guile, deceit, craft, subtly. We need to beware, that he is a very old enemy, been around since before the world was created. In 2 Corinthians 2, verse 11 says, “In order that no advantage be taken of us by Satan for we’re not ignorant of his schemes,” same idea, you can’t be ignorant of his schemes. You must understand. As we read in 4:27 of Ephesians, you don’t want to give him any advantage.
We must understand that he works in false doctrine. We cannot just embrace everybody in every religion, that would be embracing Satan. Hard to get people to understand that. Really hard to get people to understand that. Tertullian once said, “Diabolos est dei simia,” the devil is God’s monkey. He apes God, part of his strategy. His system is the world. That’s why we hear James say, “If you love the world, you’re an enemy of God.” Right? Friendship with the world is enmity with God.
Or we hear John say, “Love not the world, nor the things that are in the world. For all that is in the world, the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life is not of God, it’s of the world, and the world is passing away.” False religions, heresies, subtle deceptions, as well as blatant immorality, all part of his arsenal. And through all of that, he would assault believers and attack the truth and endeavor to hinder the work of God.
He loves to snatch the Word away, as we heard in the parable of Jesus and the sower where the seed is sown in the hard ground and the devil snatches it away. He loves to pervert the Word. He loves to interfere in the life of the church. He works in so many ways. He can create all kinds of false theologies that cause believers to doubt, all kinds of false standards of spirituality that cause believers to think that they’re not really required to live holy lives. He creates theologies like antinomian theologies and perversions of God’s truth.
In all these things, he is at work. And so this means, as we think about these things, that we are engaged in battle. We have to prepare for that. We have to be equipped for that. We have to know our enemy, and we have to understand that we’re in a battle. Verse 12, it is a struggle. It is a struggle not against flesh and blood. People are not really our enemy. I know sometimes we think that immoral people and people who advocate immoral things and people who make referendums against marriage, such as the one we’re facing this week, are really our enemy.
No, our real enemy is far, far more powerful. These are just dupes. These are just pawns. These are just people that he uses who belong to his kingdom. We’re not struggling against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the powers, against the spiritual forces of this wickedness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness that reside in the heavenlies. And that’s what I told you, between here and the throne of God, that’s the domain of demons and angels where there is angelic conflict.
Understand that we have a formidable enemy who has developed a very successful system. The rulers and the powers would simply be the rankings of demons. They’re all structured. Like the holy angels have some structure, as we learn in Scripture, so do the demons. There is a kind of world, there’s a kind of kosmos, even among demons where they have varying ranks. Some of them are associated with nations and governments, in particular, as we see back in Isaiah and Ezekiel and even in Daniel. Spiritual wickedness in very high places.
Should we fear? No. Verse 13 says, “We should react not with fear, but with readiness.” Herein is our instruction as we engage in the battle. “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.” That tells us there can be victory, right?
What is the evil day? The evil day is any day that evil comes. In fact, the evil day would be a way to describe this era in the world. The evil day would be a way to describe living in the world. For us, every day is an evil day. This is evil’s day as opposed to the day of righteousness to come in the future. So as we live in the evil day, if we are putting on the armor, then we can resist. “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” We can resist. Victory is promised.
And when the battle is over and the smoke is cleared and the dust is settled, we can be standing firm. That’s a promise of victory. Paul wonderfully understood that. Second Corinthians 4 – I love this. Second Corinthians 4:8, “We are afflicted in every way but not crushed; perplexed but not despairing; persecuted but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed.” In the end, the devil threw everything he had at him but he couldn’t be victorious. He triumphed through it all and so can you. There is victory promised.
So he says your preparation is in the strength of the Lord. Your equipment is in the armor of God. Your enemy is formidable, the devil. You need to understand his schemes. You’re engaged in a real struggle, and your struggle is not just with humans but it’s with a supernatural force, a complex structure, a hierarchy of demons that operate in the heavenlies. This may seem more than you could ever be able to bear, but the truth of the matter is, if you put on the full armor of God, you will be able to resist in this evil day, this era of evil that dominates the fallen world, and when it’s all over, you can stand firm.
I know that’s what you want in your life, and so starting next time, we’re going to look at verse 14 where it says, “Stand firm, therefore,” and it tells you how. This is how to tap the strength, this is how to stand firm no matter what Satan brings. Let’s pray.
Father, we thank you for the clarity with which the Scripture enlightens us, as always, on things that would otherwise be absolutely mystifying. We know the world is full of ridiculous, foolish ideas about Satan, bizarre, Halloweenish fantasies that are not even close to reality. And then there are those people who would deny the existence of the devil altogether.
But we know the truth because we know your Word. We thankyou that you’ve given it to us and you’ve opened our minds to understand it, to be enlightened by it, and that you’ve promised us that even though we have an enemy that is cosmic, an enemy that is massive, an enemy that is as old as time, an enemy that is experienced in evil for thousands of years at a supernatural level, an enemy who has seen all human behavior come and go, a mass, a force of demons who literally rule over the unregenerate population of the world and have developed a system that is powerfully evil.
You have told us that we can stand and resist and be firm if we have the armor on. What a wonderful, hopeful promise that is. And we stand in that promise, ready to know how to tap that strength, to be strong in the Lord and in the power of your might. So continue to open your truth to us and ready us to live triumphantly to your glory, even in this evil day.
We know the day will come that Satan will be vanquished, sent forever to the lake of fire, which you prepared for the devil and his angels. Until that time, we cannot be ignorant of his schemes nor can we be foolish enough not to put on the armor. Enable us to do that, Father, that we might live not only to your glory but that we might live lives of fruitfulness and joy in the path of obedience. And we’ll thank you for your Son’s sake. Amen.
Good News Club is filled with activity, busy hearts and minds receiving the eternal seed of God. This month, we have been sharing aspects of the early Church with our club kids, and watching what Holy Spirit does best. We have the privilege of witnessing heartwarming, life transformation in our sweet first-graders.
“Darren,” came to us this month with pent-up anger and frustration. He has lots to say, but isn’t allowed to speak much at home; which hurts and upsets him. He spends a lot of time being sent to his room, and told to stop talking. (My sister was like this growing up, so I understand). At the beginning of the month, when Darren became frustrated, he would pull his shirt over his head and slump down, disregarding anything that was said.
Darren is intelligent and personable, but because he’s been stifled in communication, he has a tendency to “make the most” of his opportunities to speak. He asks good questions, and along with our acknowledgment of this, and our consideration in replies to his questions, we have seen him settle.
Once children know they are valued and heard, Holy Spirit brings understanding and appreciation for God, His Word, and relationship with the Godhead, Hallelujah! Darren has gone from feeling out of control, and like he couldn’t measure up, (raising his hand every few moments, and pulling his shirt over his head), to a child that experiences God’s peace and love. He enjoys being with the other kids at club, and has wonderful leadership abilities. Above all, he is learning how much God loves him!
When our identity is wrapped first in the foundation of God’s love, we begin to live a life of purpose and fulfillment. We become transformed in truth and love, which produces a heart to serve and love those around us. As for Darren, in our last club meeting, he announced to me before the missionary story that he was going to follow the rules so he could have a good day, and you know what? He did.
If you have children in your life in any capacity, I hope this testimony encourages you to hang in there:
When we remain calm and provide understanding for God’s Word, rules, and other important information, we give children the opportunity to apply what they are learning.
We instruct our kids (sometimes at the beginning of each activity) with our “Up Rules” Sit Up, Look Up, Listen Up, Hand Up, Zip Up. When you have a “Darren” who likes to keep raising their hand, just let them know you will get back to them, then they won’t worry about being heard; which frees them up to listen.
We all want to be accepted, loved, and to belong; and when these things are available to us, we respond (or at least begin to) in kind. “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” I Peter 4:8 NIV. And love frees us up to be the best version of who God created us.
Before he became Hollywood’s most bankable movie star, Dwayne Johnson got smacked-down by life — arrests, evictions, family suicide attempts, football failure, divorce — and the concurrent depression drove him to God.
“I have my own special relationship with God, you know, and I certainly, I feel very blessed. I count my blessings, every day,” the retired WWF wrestler told the Gospel Herald.
The monikored “Rock” has learned to rely on the Real Rock.
Both his dad and maternal grandfather were wrestlers. Dwayne Johnson grew up in Hawaii, son to a black Canadian father, Rocky Johnson, and a Samoan mother. There was instability in his home, and he was getting arrested over and over — for fighting, theft, and check forgery. Then his mom got evicted, and mom and son were forced to leave Hawaii.
The rude awakening injected in him a measure of sobriety. He decided to turn his life around and turned to football. Working hard, he earned a scholarship as a defensive tackle at the University of Miami. He eventually graduated with a degree in criminology, but his dream was NFL stardom.
After going undrafted, he moved to Canada and tried out for the Calgary Stampeders and slept on a stained mattress he found in the trash outside a sex motel. He subsisted on Ramen noodles for two months into the season.
“The first ‘rock bottom’ that I hit was out of college where I worked for 10 years from the time I started playing football at 14 years old to the time I was 23…and did not get drafted,” he told the Tribune News Service. “I played in the CFL (Canadian Football League) for approximately 200 bucks a week Canadian. I got cut from the team a couple of months later, and I had to close that chapter in my life.
Having to face the death of a dream, with $7 left in his pocket, he returned to his father’s house in Tampa, Florida.
“It’s a tough experience when you have to move back in with your parents. And at that time, my parents — we never lived in a home, they had a little small apartment in Tampa, Fla., and I had to move in with them. And then you go through the challenges of that. You hit depression.”
Against the wishes of his dad, who struggled to provide for the family as a journeyman wrestler, Dwayne launched a career as a professional wrestler. Unlike his dad, he was a blockbuster success as a trash talker with an ebullient personality. The audiences of the late 1990s and early 2000s loved him, and “The Rock” raked in huge ratings, earnings and championships for WWF.
After eight years, he turned to acting with a big splash in The Scorpion King in 2002. He followed up the initial modest success with a string of career-killing family movies. What was happening to the Herculean action movie hero?
My career was a little shaky – really shaky,” he told Rolling Stone.
A return to wrestling was an unthinkable admission of failure.
“What the ____ did I do with my career?” he wondered at the time.
In 2007, the always confident action man lost the confidence of his beloved wife, and the couple divorced. He submerged again into depression.
“Around 2008, 2009, I was going through a lot of personal ____ that was really _______ me up,” he told People magazine. “I was just struggling, man. Struggling to figure out what kind of dad am I gonna be. Realizing I’d done a piss-poor job of cultivating relationships, and a lot of my friends had fallen by the wayside. I was just scared.”