The Breastplate of Righteousness

The Belt of Truth

May 29, 2014 – The Belt of Truth

Jesus was about to ascend into heaven and leave behind His beloved disciples, whom He had commissioned to go into all the world where the devil was prowling around seeking someone to devour. Notice the first concern of our Lord in His high priestly prayer: “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:15-17).

Deception is the devil’s greatest weapon, and God’s Word is our first line of defense, which is why the belt of truth is the first piece of God’s armor. Lying is the most common defense mechanism employed by unbelievers and possibly the greatest sin of believers. Those who have something to hide will seek to cover it up, and in so doing they will play right into the hands of Satan, who is the father of lies. We will stay in bondage as long as we continue to believe his lies. Some don’t want the truth to be known, because their deeds are evil and they don’t want them exposed (see John 3:20).

The first step in any recovery program is to face the truth and acknowledge our need for God, who alone has the power to overcome our sin. Those who turn to Christ find their sanctuary in Him, because Jesus is the truth (see John 14:6), the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth (see John 14:17), He will lead us into all truth (see John 16:13), and that truth will set us free (see John 8:32).

If the devil tempted you, you would know it. If he accused you, you would know it. But if Satan deceived you, you wouldn’t know it, because if you did, you would no longer be deceived. That is why deception is the major tool of the devil. The fact that even good people can be deceived is evident in the sinless life of Eve before the Fall. She was deceived and believed a lie (see Genesis 3:1-6). Satan’s strategy was deception in the Garden of Eden, and will be until his final demise. “And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world” (Revelation 12:9, NASB). Spiritual deception will likely intensify in the end times with the coming of the false prophet and the Antichrist.

We don’t overcome the father of lies through human reason or scientific research. We overcome the deceiver by divine revelation. We are admonished to walk in the light (see 1 John 1:7) and to speak the truth in love (see Ephesians 4:25). The only thing we as Christians ever have to admit to is the truth. We never have to be afraid of the truth, for it is a liberating friend. Therefore, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones” (Proverbs 3:5-8).

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog

Putting on the Armor

May 28, 2014 – Putting On The Armor

Satan’s first objective is to blind the mind of the unbelieving (see 2 Corinthians 4:3-4). When that fails, his next objective is to deceive, tempt and accuse believers. Satan’s aim is to “prove” that Christianity doesn’t work, that God’s Word isn’t true, and that nothing really happened when we were born again. Because our struggle is against spiritual forces of wickedness, we need to know how to protect ourselves.

Westerners have a strange reaction to the notion that unseen demons are present, but so are germs, which they can’t see either. Approximately 200 years ago we didn’t even know that germs existed. Doctors didn’t wear surgical masks, sterilize their equipment, scrub before surgery or use antibiotics. Consequently, a lot of people got sick, and the average person died before they were 50. Now that we know there are germs, what should we do? If we become germ-oriented and start looking for them, we will become hypochondriacs. The appropriate response is to live a healthy life. Our immune system will protect us if we get enough sleep, exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet.

There are demons in this world! So, we must live a righteous life. Yet if that is all we have to do, why do we need to even know about them? For the same reason we need to know there are germs. If there were no evil spirits, there would be no need to put on the armor of God, to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, or to stand firm and resist the enemy. Ignorance and passive resistance will leave a lot of people in bondage, sick and dying (physically and spiritually).

When we put on the armor of God, we are putting on the Lord Jesus Christ. “So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh” (Romans 13:12-14).

We are only vulnerable when we live according to the flesh, which is why we are to make no provision for the flesh. Satan has nothing on Christ (see John 14:30), and to the extent that we put on Christ, the evil one cannot touch us (see 1 John 5:18). There is no physical sanctuary or place where we are spiritually protected, and there is no time when it is safe to take off the armor of God. Our only sanctuary is our identity and position in Christ (see Ephesians 6:10).

Putting on the armor of God requires an active participation on our part. We cannot passively take our place in Christ. As Paul describes the armor of God, he admonishes us to “be strong” (Ephesians 6:10), “put on” (verse 11), “take [our] stand” (verse 11), “stand firm” (verse 14), “take up” (verse 16), “take” (verse 17), “pray” (verse 18) and “be alert” (verse 18). “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground” (verse 13). The purpose for armor is to stop penetration, and we become vulnerable if we do not assume our responsibility to stand firm in our faith.

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog

St. Francis

May 27, 2014 – St. Francis

One day in Portiuncula [a small church located in central Italy] while at prayer alone in his cell, St. Francis saw a vision of the whole house surrounded and besieged by devils. They were like a great army surrounding the place, but none of them could gain entrance to the house. The brothers were so disciplined and devoted in their lives of sanctity that the devils were frustrated without a host upon whom they might find a way in.

“It happened, in the days soon after Francis’s vision, that one of the brothers became offended by another and he began to think in his heart of ways to revenge the slight. While the scheming brother was devising vengeful plans, entertaining wicked thoughts, the devil, finding an open door, entered Portiuncula upon his back.

“Francis, the watchful shepherd of his flock, saw that the wolf had entered, intending to devour his little sheep. At once, Francis called the brother to him and asked him to disclose the hatred that had caused this disturbance in his house. The brother, frightened that Francis knew the content of his heart, disclosed to him all of the venom and malice that consumed him, acknowledging his fault and begging humbly for forgiveness.

Loving his sheep as does his Father, the shepherd soon absolved the brother, and immediately, at that moment, before his very face, Francis saw the devil flee from his presence. The brother returned to the flock and the wolf was gone from the house.

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog

Limitations of Spirtual Authority

May 26, 2014 – Limitations of Spiritual Authority

If something seems to be working, opportunists start jumping on board. Such was the case of some Jews who apparently thought they could perform exorcisms through a magical formula or by simply using the name of Jesus. The seven sons of Sceva (a Jewish high priest) were doing this (see Acts 19:13-14). To their surprise, they got beaten up and run out of the house by a demonized man (see verse 16).

The demon said he knew Jesus and Paul, but not the seven sons of Sceva. The demon didn’t beat them up. The demonized man did. He was able to overpower them because of the adrenaline rush the evil spirit had stimulated within him. It is the same phenomenon that gives people extraordinary strength to lift objects to save people, although in such instances their strength comes from a different spirit.

If a demonized person questions who we are, all we have to say is, “I am a child of God and you can’t touch me” (see 1 John 5:18). All believers, young and old, have the same authority and power over demons, although mature saints may know better how to exercise it. People can get hurt when they misuse or fail to understand the power and authority they have in Christ. We only have the authority to do God’s will. We are operating according to our old nature when we act independently of God. In the flesh we are no match for evil spirits. We will suffer defeat if we operate independently of God, but demons are no match for those who depend on God!

The news of the seven sons getting beat up by a demonized person created fear among the people, but fortunately they turned to Jesus and held His name in honor (see Acts 19:17). Many of the believers openly confessed their evil deeds (see verse 18). Those who were practicing sorcery brought the tools of their practice and burned them (see verse 19). The word of the Lord spread rapidly and grew in power (see verse 20). One of the major thrusts of Early Church evangelism was to free people from demonic influences. That may likely be the case again before the second coming of Christ.

It is human nature to see something work and borrow the method instead of understanding the message behind the method. There are no programs, rituals or formulas that can set anybody free. Who sets people free is Christ, and what sets people free is their response to God in repentance and faith. If God is in it, almost any program will work. It God isn’t in it, then no program will work, no matter how biblical it may appear. But if God is in it, then a good program and strategy will bear more fruit than a bad program or strategy.

A missionary couple once tried to help a demonized man but ended up getting attacked themselves. They explained, “We said out loud that we are children of God and the evil one can’t touch us, but it didn’t work.” The problem was that they said it defensively in fear and not in confident faith with the assurance that they were indeed children of God. Scripture is a not Band-Aid to be placed on sore spots. The couple could have said to the demonized man in confidence, “I know who I am in Christ, and I know the authority and power I have in Him is greater than the disarmed and deceiving spirit that is tormenting you.”

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog

Qualifications for Spiritual Authority

May 23, 2014 – Qualifications For Spiritual Authority

Although Jesus gave the 12 disciples power and authority over demons and sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God (see Luke 9:1), they could not free a father’s son from demonic control (see verses 37-45). Jesus had to reveal to them several Kingdom-killing attitudes. The first attitude concerned their sense of self-sufficiency. When Jesus withdrew with the disciples to the town of Bethsaida, the crowd followed them (see verse 10). It grew late, and the disciples showed concern for the people, so Jesus said, “You give them something to eat” (verse 13). The disciples made a common error when given a humanly impossible task. They looked at their own limited resources and concluded it couldn’t be done.

Jesus took what they had and multiplied it. There was so much food left over that each disciple had a basket of his own (see verses 11-17), but they gained no insight from the experience (see Mark 6:45-52). When they struggled against the storm at sea, the Lord intended to pass them by (see verse 48). Jesus intends to pass by the self-sufficient. If we want to row against the storms of life, He will let us row until our arms fall off, or we can call on the name of the Lord and depend on Him.

The second attitude Jesus warned them about was being ashamed of Him and His words (see Luke 9:26). It is easy to imagine that Jesus could be ashamed of us, but how can any person who knows the truth be ashamed of Jesus? If we are ashamed of Jesus, He will be ashamed of us when He comes again.

The third Kingdom-killing attitude was unbelief (see verses 37-45). The disciples were ineffective in helping the demon-possessed boy because they really didn’t believe. Jesus implies some moral impurity on their part with His stinging rebuke, “O unbelieving and perverse generation” (Luke 9:41). The power we have in Christ is only effective when we repent and believe ourselves.

The fourth attitude that made the 12 disciples ineffective was pride (see Luke 9:46-48). They were arguing among themselves as to who was the greatest. According to Jesus, the greatest are those who humble themselves and come to God with childlike faith. Humble people are confident in God and put no confidence in the flesh (see Philippians 3:3).

The fifth Kingdom-killing attitude was possessiveness (see Luke 9:49-50). We may be driving different cars in the kingdom of God, but we are all getting our gas from the same station. No one person or ministry is superior to another, and what God has given us we should freely share with others.

The sixth attitude the disciples displayed the wrong spirit (see verses 51-56). What kind of spirit requests permission to use the power of God to destroy? It may be human nature to retaliate against those who reject us, but it is not God’s nature. If it were, we would all be doomed.

 The seventh Kingdom-killing attitude was a false confidence (see verses 57-58). It is better to have a few followers who have counted the cost and will endure to the end than to have a crowd who will leave before the task is done.

The eighth Kingdom-killing attitude was lame excuses (see verses 59-62). Jesus tells us, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” (verse 62).

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog

The Conferring of Spiritual Authority and Power

May 22, 2014 – The Conferring of Spiritual Authority and Power

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). In Christ we were chosen (see verse 4) and in Him we have redemption (see verse 7). Our hope lies in Christ (see verse 12), and we “were marked in him with a seal” (verse 13).

The problem is that we don’t always recognize or understand this remarkable inheritance that we have been given in Christ. As Paul expresses for all believers, “ I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power [dunameos] for us who believe. That power [energeian] is the same as the mighty [kratous] strength [ischuos] he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead” (verses 18-20).

Behind Christ’s authority is the same power that raised Him from the dead and seated Him at the Father’s right hand. That power source is so dynamic that Paul uses four different Greek words to describe it (see italicized words in brackets in quote above). Behind the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ lies the mightiest work of power recorded in the Bible. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead and defeated Satan is available to us as believers. When we don’t understand and appropriate our spiritual heritage, we don’t experience the freedom and the fruitfulness that is intrinsic to our position in Christ. To carry out our delegated responsibility, we have to know the authority we have in Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit who indwells us.

The scope of Christ’s authority is “far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come” (verse 21). We share this same authority because we are seated with Christ in the heavenly realms (see 2:4-7). We are not being made alive in Christ; we have been made alive in Christ. We are not being raised up with Christ; we have been raised up with Christ. We are right now together with Christ. The throne of God is the ultimate authority of the universe, and it is from this position of authority that we carry on our delegated Kingdom responsibilities.

Before Christ, we were dead in our transgressions and sins. We “followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient” (verse 2). But now we have received “the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (verse 7). “His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord” (3:10-11). The last thing the devil wants you to know is who you are in Christ, because he can’t intimidate a child of God who knows they are forgiven, made alive, empowered and authorized to make disciples.

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog

The Authority of Christ

May 21, 2014 – The Authority of Christ

Satan had succeeded in filling the heart of Judas to betray Christ (see John 13:2). It was to the remaining 11 disciples that Jesus gave the Great Commission. Jesus said to them, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19,20). Nothing could be more comforting than to know that God is with us no matter where we go and that He will be until the end of time.

There are only two criteria that must be fulfilled in order for the great commission to be accomplished. First, we must be empowered. That is why Jesus said to His disciples, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. . . . But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:4,8). All those who are filled with the Holy Spirit are empowered to do His will.

Second, we must have the authority to do God’s will. The Great Commission can only be understood in light of Jesus’ previous words to His disciples: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:18-19). One cannot delegate responsibility without authority. Jesus never appealed to His own authority until He had to delegate responsibility, even though that authority had been recognized. “The crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law” (Matthew 7:28-29). If all authority has been given to Jesus, then Satan has no authority over any believer. Tragically, many believers don’t know their position in Christ, so evil spirits easily intimidate them.

Satan wants to be feared, because he wants to be worshiped. If we consider his attributes to be equal to God’s attributes, we will believe we are caught in a battle between two equal but opposite powers. Any Christian who believes that is defeated. God is omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient, and Satan is disarmed (see Colossians 2:15). Children of God are spiritually alive and seated with Christ in the heavenlies. We are joint-heirs with Jesus and have the authority to continue His work on earth.

When evil forces confront us, we can say with confidence that we are children of God and that the evil one cannot harm us (see 1 John 5:18). Satan will try to intimidate us, and we can easily allow that to happen if we don’t know the truth. He wants us to respond to his attacks in fear, because then he is in control. If we respond in fear, we are operating in the flesh, which is on his level. The fear of anything other than God is mutually exclusive with faith in God. We have lost control if we start shouting and screaming. The authority we have in Christ does not increase with volume. We don’t shout out the devil! We just take our place in Christ and calmly say, “I’m a child of God, and you can’t touch me!”

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog

Authority and Power

May 20, 2014 – Authority and Power

“When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases” (Luke 9:1). Jesus sent these first 12 disciples out on a training mission to proclaim the kingdom of God. Then Jesus appointed 72 others and sent them out. “The seventy-two returned with joy and said, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name’” (Luke 10:17). In proclaiming the kingdom of God, these missionaries were confronting the kingdom of darkness, and they discovered that demons were subject to them in the name of Jesus.

Satan had suffered another defeat at the hands of these itinerant missionaries because Jesus had given them authority and power over his demonic emissaries. They were successful in taking back some of the ground that Satan had captured. Jesus went on to say, “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you” (verse 19). Snakes and scorpions are not our enemies; Jesus is alluding to Satan and his demonic hierarchy.

Subjection is a military term that means “to rank under.” Authority is the right to rule and power is the ability to rule. As believers, we have the right to rule over the kingdom of darkness because of our position in Christ. We also have the ability to rule because of the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we should, “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power” (Ephesians 6:10).

It is critically important that we understand that the authority and power we possess in Christ is His power and authority, which is over the kingdom of darkness. We have the power and authority to do God’s will, and nothing more. Every member of the Body of Christ has the same authority and power, because it is all based on our identity and position in Christ, which is the same for every believer. Satan can’t do anything about your identity and position in Christ, but if he can deceive you into believing that it is not true or irrelevant, you will live as though it isn’t.

Jesus must have found it necessary to put in perspective His disciples’ enthusiasm about their authority over the kingdom of darkness. Flushed with victory, we can also easily lose our perspective and adopt a wrong focus. Remember that pride comes before a fall. Jesus wants us to know that demons are subject to us but that our joy comes from knowing Him. We are to rejoice that we are children of God. Our focus has to be on the answer and not the problem. This is a consistent issue in Christianity. You don’t have to know the lie; you have to know the truth. Counselors get bogged down in a paralysis of analysis. All the analysis in the world doesn’t set anyone free.

To maintain our victory, we must be Christ-centered, not demon-centered. In doing so, we cannot let the devil set the agenda. The devil has succeeded if he can get us to pay attention to him and what he is doing instead of fixing our eyes on Jesus and paying attention to what God is doing. We should never allow evil spirits to distract us from our devotion to Christ (see 2 Corinthians 11:3).

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog

Overcoming the World

May 19, 2014 – Overcoming the World

Nineveh was a worldly city characterized by the godless nature of its people. Nahum communicated to its inhabitants that God was “slow to anger” (Nahum 1:3) and a refuge “for those who trust in him” (verse 7), but He would not leave the guilty unpunished (see verse 3). The Ninevites never overcame their worldliness and were doomed.

We also can let our affections be drawn to the world. For this reason we are warned, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not them” (1 John 2:15). As Christians we are betrothed to Christ, but we are tempted to commit adultery with the world. “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God” (James 4:4).

The world seeks to weaken our love for Christ by appealing to our old nature, which desires to live according to the world’s values. The temptation of the world is to satisfy our pleasures and not seek that which pleases God. The world system promotes self-sufficiency, but we have all the resources we need to withstand these threats. “For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4).

In the first sentence of this verse, “overcomes” is in the present tense. This does not mean that believers never succumb to the temptation of the world but that victory (rather than defeat) generally characterizes their lives. In the second sentence, “has overcome” is in the past tense, indicating that the action is finished. This is consistent with the truth that when we came to Christ, we were joined to the One who could say, “Take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Christ’s triumph over the powers of sin belongs to every believer who is alive in Him.

“Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God” (1 John 5:5). John switches back to the present tense, indicating an ongoing sense of overcoming—that is, the daily experience of our victory over the world because we are alive in Christ. When we placed our faith in Christ, we became overcomers, and we continue to live like overcomers when we continue to believe all that God says is true. “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome [false prophets], because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. . . . We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us” (1 John 4:4,6).

Jesus said, “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeits their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done” (Matthew 16:26-27). You can store up treasures on earth or treasures in heaven. You know you have overcome the world when you look forward to a greater reward than the passing pleasures of this world.

Dr. Neil

For Spanish, see http://www.ficmm.org/blog