Monday, 27 October 2014

When is the devil preaching?

THE DEVIL?!?  Preaching?

Pop culture has made the devil out to be a red guy with horns and a pointy tail.  Always with a sneaky smile on his face.  Other parts of culture have taught that the devil wants/does bad things to you - and those bad things usually mean hurting your body or your pocketbook or your family.

But do these ideas come from Scripture?  What does God reveal about the Evil One?

The answer may surprise you - because he is not necessarily out to make life terrible for you, especially not in North America where our affluence has become our blindfold to God's Word.

In fact, the Bible describes Satan with these words - "accuser", "deceiver", "father of lies", "liar", "adversary", "enemy", "masquerading as an angel of light."   You have likely noticed that putting these descriptions together you do not have a cheesy, red suited guy with a sneaky smile.  Instead, you have an intelligent preacher of falsehood who appears righteous and beautiful.  He preaches.  He speaks lies.  That is how he works.  He doesn't want to make your physical life miserable, unless he can use it to shake your confidence in Christ, unless he can also get you to trust his fake words.

So when is the devil preaching?  How do you know it is the devil who is speaking his lies in your ear?

Well, this can be tricky, because he is so crafty.  He speaks through advertisements, politicians, news broadcasts, you name it - anytime words are being spoken in this world, they are either of God or they are of the devil.  (Even the idea that there is some sort of neutral ground, that is not influenced by God or the devil - is his deception).  He will even use God's Word to deceive you, by misinterpreting it, or emphasizing the wrong part of it over against another part.  Here is a list of characteristics in his preaching that you can be on the lookout for.

1) His words oppose God's Word.  Knowing God's Word is your certain defense against him.

2) His words focus you on glory.  Christ came for a cross - not glory - the devil hates this.

3) His words put the focus on you.  What you do - or what you don't do - the devil wants you focused on yourself - not Christ and what He does.

4) His words make promises for your life now.  Christ looked past the shame of this life to the joy that follows, and He calls Christians to do the same.  Any words that speak otherwise are of the devil.

5) His words create self-righteousness or despair.  Either you are a good person, or you have no hope - there is no middle ground - there is no Christ to save you.  This is what the devil preaches.

Certainly this list is not exhaustive, but it is a good start for you to be aware of.  St. Peter said, "Be soberminded.  Be watchful.  Your enemy, the devil, prowls around you like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour.  Resist him, firm in your faith." 

In other words, your faith in God's Word protects you.  You resist the Evil One by holding to God's Word.  The devil wants to scare you into letting go of God's Word - perhaps he threatens you with being unpopular, or persecuted for your faith, or less successful than your peers - all of this is designed to make you release God's promises.  But you have the promise of Christ.  Christ defends you.  His Word is your fortress.  Run into His safety and fill your mind with His Word.  Read it, meditate on and speak it back to God - against this the devil has no move.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Why is God called the LORD of hosts?

Yahweh Sabaoth - LORD of hosts (in English)

You've probably heard this expression before, but have you ever wondered about what it means?

The hosts are armies.  Our God is a God surrounded by His armies.  Armies of angels.  Armies of believers.  Yahweh is in their midst.  He is the God who dwells with His people.

But there is something very unique about these armies - they don't carry any weapons!  WHAT!  No weapons!  Well, not exactly - none of their own.  The hosts, God's armies, are priests.  They serve Him day and night in His holy presence. 

But what if someone should attack?  Who will defend these defenseless priests - these people of God?

This is exactly what God wants people to ask - because He Himself is the warrior.  He Himself is the king, the fortress, the defense of His people.  His people don't have weapons because they don't need weapons.  God is their protection, their refuge, their strength, and He will always keep them safe.

Think about it.  This is the picture throughout the Old Testament.  God leads an unarmed mass of people out of powerful Egypt, and when Pharoah's army chases them, He drowns them.  Then He takes them into the Promised Land where the walls of Jericho just fall down.  Then is the period of the judges, where God's people have no standing army!!  And when an army is gathered by God's servant Gideon - God makes them cut their numbers to 300 when they are about to face 10,000.  Why?  Because at every turn, God wants one thing to be clear - He is the One who protects His people.  He fights for them.  He is the LORD of hosts, and His hosts are His treasured possession.  Nothing can harm them - not even death - because He has even destroyed death too.

Today, the LORD of hosts is still in the midst of His people.  He is surrounded by them when He serves them His body and blood, with which He fights off all their sin, death and the power of the devil.  Our liturgy even confesses this amazing truth in the Sanctus, right before we commune - Holy, Holy, Holy LORD God of Sabaoth - (hosts) - Heaven and earth are full of Your glory.  Hosanna in the Highest!  Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the LORD.  Hosanna in the Highest!  Christ is with His people.  He is in the midst of us, and He fights for you.  He is your champion.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Why doesn’t good take away bad?

Most people think of righteousness as something determined by an old judicial scale – If I put the good I’ve done on one side, and the bad I’ve done on the other side, which one weighs more?  Am I more good than bad?  Then I’m good! 

This might work for manmade righteousness, for telling (lying to) yourself that you are a good person, but the judgment of God described in the Bible sees righteousness in an entirely different way.  Perhaps a good picture to use would be wet paint.

If white is good, and black is bad, measure out how much white you think you have, and put it on the canvas.  Then measure out how much black you think you have (be honest), and put it on the canvas.  While the paint is still wet, mix all that you are, and all that you’ve done together.  No matter who you are – your own view of yourself ends up gray.  All your white is tainted by your black.

The problem is that God demands purity.  Perfection.  Goodness.  Not good with a little bad – not pure with a little impurity.  Not godly with a little “well I’m human.”  According to your own righteousness, you are dirty, stained, mixed up.

But God saw you in your problem, before you knew about it.  He took action to save you from it before you even asked Him.  And His salvation is something entirely incredible.  God doesn’t save you by making you a good person or by allowing you to have a righteousness of your own – He saves you by giving you His righteousness.  By sharing His perfect, holy, pure Godly righteousness with you – in fact, He covers you with it.  By sending His Son to die on the cross, God has laid Himself over top of your gray painted mess.  He has covered it up with His own perfect canvas, one that is perfectly white, the righteousness of Christ.  You are not reckoned righteous because you are – you are reckoned righteous because Christ is, and He has freely given His righteousness to you by faith.  God no longer sees your gray mixed up slop, instead He sees His only Son, who pleases Him in every way. 

Imagine that, you are completely free – freed by what Jesus did on your behalf.  You no longer have to weigh your good against your bad, you no longer have to worry about your black tainting your white, you no longer are a slave to the work of proving yourself – for Christ died for you.  Now you can do the right thing, simply because it’s the right thing to do – and remain confident that in Christ you have already been saved.