Saturday, January 13, 2007

Avoiding the enemies traps...

Every year we read, or hear in the news, about another pastor or spiritual leader falling into the trap of sin. We all tend to point our fingers and say, “I’d never do that!” Yet, thousands of believers every year fall into traps of sin, snares of temptation, pitfalls that hurt not only our Christian walk and integrity, but every believer and unbeliever we know. The thing we tend to struggle with on a daily basis is overcoming those traps, snares and pitfalls. As Christians give attention for even a moment to the seductive voice of the enemy, they fall into his traps that promise better things… more satisfaction… greater achievement… at the expense of ignoring the promises of God given in the Word of God. Paul warned young Timothy...:For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. (2 Tim 4:3-4) These myths are the traps of Satan. They fall into three basic categories: intellectual, emotional and sensual.
Intellectual traps:
Today we live in a very intellectual world. The systems in place pride themselves in the intellectual prowess of humans. They tend to argue against anything that would attack the premises of intellectual superiority and how education is supposed to cure all the ills of the human race. While educators promise utopian solutions, man continues in a downward spiral as jails grow overcrowded, drug abuse becomes rampant, and corporate greed causes financial giants to fall. Every strata of humanity continues to fail. They write God off as useless and irrelevant. Paul the apostle had a solution here too. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5 RSV) First of all, he attacks the ‘arguments’ of men and their reasonings., that is, their rationalizations by which they support and defend their spiritual errors. These ‘arguments’ are rooted in pride. Pride needs to be placed in subjection to Christ himself. It is a matter of choice. We must choose to bring our minds into spiritual submission to Christ. He is Truth. He is Life. He has the answers that human intellectuals demand. We can try to understand the ways of men with our flawed sinful minds, but in reality, only Christ can know what is in the minds of men. He made us after all.
Emotional traps:
We want to feel good. We love a ‘feel good’ gospel. We want the preacher to tell us that God loves us and His grace is far reaching. It’s true, but the other side is also true. His judgment is also far reaching. Our desire for emotional pleasure, happiness and satisfaction—when placed in carnal pursuits—will always lead us astray. Paul again warns young Timothy of the dangers of emotional excess in the last days. But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of stress. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, fierce, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. (2 Tim 3:1-4 RSV) The key words that stand out here are “stress”, ‘lovers of self” “lovers of money” “proud” “arrogant” “abusive” “disobedient” “ungrateful” “haters” “reckless” “lovers of pleasure”….and every one expresses the emotional characteristics of our culture today. Paul again has a solution for this as he continues in v 5 ...holding the form of religion but denying the power of it. Avoid such people. (2 Tim 3:5 RSV) Notice that these evil people are playing a game of pretend. They are actors (hypocrites) with a ‘form’ of religion but without power. Paul advises that we stay away from such people. Their influence can drag us down to their level. Sadly, too many of our churches today are filled with these pretenders. How can we tell the difference? The fruit of the life of a truly sincere and Godly Christian will be evident. They will be people of prayer, constantly in the Word of God, not seeking selfish interest or gain. Pleasures that satisfy for a moment should not have the highest place in their life. When Paul advises us to “avoid such people” he does not mean that we are to ignore them. After all, they need Jesus. But we can choose our friends, and the church we attend carefully. Place your feet in a church that tells it like the Bible says it. A ‘feel good’ gospel is not an honest presentation of the whole picture. Find a church that preaches power over sin, power to live in victory, power over the devil and the power of the Word and the blood of Jesus. Without these elements in the church today, the church itself becomes powerless.
Sensual traps
Satan is a master of the counterfeit .(2 Cor. 11:4,13,15). He masquerades as an angel of light, deceiving even the people of God. Some find themselves giving an ear to his seductive lies, “Its OK for Christians to have sex outside of marriage, to enjoy the love God created.” When we see spiritual authorities fail, we tell ourselves, if they can do it...we can too. It’s a lie! Those sensual traps he sets up for us are sure to catch us if we do not know the Word and, like Jesus, throw it at the devil when he comes with his seductive lies. He sets us up when he sees that our desires to please ourselves are more dominant that our desire to please the Lord.
The world tries to deal with sensual traps using laws, peer pressure, rehabilitation, jail, psychology, and any type of coercion to try to influence us to good behavior. But the root of the problem is pride….pride that leads us to believe we are OK and above others. Pride causes us to look down on others, especially those who have fallen into open blatant sin. The moment we think we are above the sin, we risk becoming victims of it. When we neglect the basics— reading our Bibles, going faithfully to church, spending time in prayer—we are sliding backwards into sin.
If we become lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, we have a form of religion that has no power. When we major on entertainment without a balance of prayer and intercession, we are in trouble.
Jesus promised that we would suffer persecution and be killed for His sake. The real prosperity message of the Word is that our souls would prosper, and that our treasures are to be laid up where moth and rust do not destroy. Today, our self-centered Christianity asks “What’s in it for me? What do I get out of it?” We want our rights, our needs, our way. We don’t want persecution or suffering, yet these very things are what makes for strong Christians and vibrant churches. It caused Christianity to blossom in it’s early stages. Today it continues to build strong churches in countries such as China and Russia where Christianity suffers constant harassment. It is never persecution that destroys the church but material prosperity. Today, our churches tend to be more like retirement communities and country clubs, where believers can safely retreat from the world, instead of being soul-saving stations where the lost find help and gain spiritual strength. Satan loves it when we entertain ourselves instead of fulfilling Jesus mandate to “go into all the world and preach the gospel”. While some sit idle, others are willing to go and seek the lost, tear down spiritual stronghold and challenge Satan’s grasp on God’s creation.
Spiritual warfare should be a part of every believers life. First of all it demands that we recognize that Satan is real and is out to destroy our walk with God. Then it demands that we take action. That action means prayer. In our own strength we can do nothing to counter Satan’s attacks. But through prayer, we can counterattack the strategies of Satan. When we pray, all the resources of heaven are working on our behalf. We have other weapons too. They are powerful, and they accomplish something. They destroy Satan’s strongholds of evil, but we must use them. They must be part of our daily life. Paul lists them in Galatians and calls them the ‘armor of God’.
We have to choose to be over-comers. Avoiding Satan’s schemes is possible when we stay spiritually alert, in the Word, with a clear focus and our weapons ready. As a good soldier goes into battle, he goes fully equipped, physically fit, and with the mission clearly in mind. He does not allow distractions to deter him from his purpose. God wants each of us to be good soldiers. He is seeking those who will avoid the enemies traps, to do the work of God, to disciple new recruits. What will you be in this New Year? A victim or a victor? Trapped or triumphant? Paul encouraged the churches saying… “I've found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. (Philippians 4:12,13 The Message)
The One who makes us who we are is Jesus, our victorious Lord! He makes me a winner!

J. Johnson


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