Category: JESUS CHRIST


Greetings fellow time-travelers! Here’s the continuation of my post on suffering caused by malevolent spirits, and my series on suffering in general. If you missed the first half of part 7, published a couple of days ago, you might want to read that before this

Schongauer_Anthony

HOW DOES SATAN OPPOSE US AND CAUSE SUFFERING?

From the start I want to stress again that I don’t believe all or even most suffering is inflicted by demons, but that some is. All the other causes I’ve written about before are in action, and they’re mostly related to human nature and the Curse.

Satan not only hates God, he also hates those made in the image of God: humans. There are several ways in which the enemy of our souls can cause suffering:

THE DEVIL’S WORK 1: SIN

The Bible says that the world we live in-the world of men, of society and culture, the plethora of religions and philosophies, the way of life which ignores our Creator-is governed and directed by the ways of Satan. In fact Jesus called Satan “the prince of this world” (John 14:30). Paul called him “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4).

Consequently not only are we vulnerable to temptation directly from Satan and his servants just as Adam and Eve were, but the entire ungodly world system we live in-shaped and directed by “the prince of this world”-presents all kinds of ways for us to turn away from God. We tend to think that the ways of the world are more attractive and more “fun” than the ways of God. The reality is otherwise, because ungodly motives and actions always end in trouble and loss for ourselves and for others. As one example, children lose stability, love, happiness and faith in mankind when a father leaves home for another woman.

It’s more common for us to be led into sin by our own attraction to the ways of this world than by the direct work of malevolent angels (James 1:14). The “devil made me do it” theology among some Christians is nothing more than an excuse for their own failures. The devil cannot make the believer who is walking in faith do anything: “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). In contrast the devil and his angels can lead unbelievers into all kinds of things, because apart from the Spirit of God they have no power to resist and no motivation to do what’s right:

“The whole world lies in the power of the evil one” 1 John 5:19).

THE DEVIL’S WORK 2/ DECEPTION

“…the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ…”  (2 Corinthians 4:4).

Of course, temptation as in point 1 is deception. The kind of deception I’m speaking of in point 2 is that passed on in the philosophies of men, and of fallen angels who are in rebellion against God. These include false religion and false gods which lead millions away from our Creator; immoral and ungodly lifestyles which cause broken families, disease, rejected children, abortion and loneliness; false belief systems such as evolution and the idea the we’re all here because of random processes, chance, natural selection and multiplied millions of fortuitous mutations which have never been observed. Such philosophies have fueled all kinds of dark political systems such as Communism-responsible in the 20th century for well over a hundred million deaths around the world. See my post series on communism:

https://nickyfisher.com/2012/06/15/war-religion-and-atheism-part-3-lenin/

Most deception is much more subtle than communism.

THE DEVIL’S WORK 3/ PERSECUTION

Christians around the world face persecution because of their faith in and association with Jesus Christ. This persecution comes from the hatred of men for the faith, but ultimately from the devil and his angels who are in constant opposition to God and all his people. Persecution in recent years in the Middle East against the Church has been of such an intensity and of such unspeakable horror that it cannot have had anything but a spiritual origin. Media people in the West largely ignored what has essentially been attempted genocide against a Church which has existed in some of these ancient nations since the beginning.

THE DEVIL’S WORK 4/ OTHER PEOPLE

This point is related to the above discussion on “Deception”, but really needs to be noted separately.

Demons are unseen, but they are able and willing to extend their wishes into the physical world through people, either verbally, or through their actions or their teachings. People who are open to lies and falsehood; people who are not governed or guided by the truth of God; people in the right position of influence and power are good candidates to fulfill demonic wills. It’s hard to imagine, for example, that Adolph Hitler and his accomplices were not prompted to unleash war on the whole of Europe, slaughtering indiscriminately and without remorse, attempting to wipe out an entire nation of people-God’s chosen. On a much smaller scale, one person can be led into an illicit relationship by another persons help, perhaps (not always) by demonic prompting.

darwin-hitler

War, poverty, disease, ignorance, and so many other maladies can be the result of the sinful actions of man, sometimes caused by spiritual entities.

We could look at several examples from the Bible. One of the better known ones is where Jesus reproved Satan who was speaking though Peter, who was suggesting that he avoid going to Jerusalem and so the cross:

Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns (Matthew 16:23 NIV).

THE DEVIL’S WORK 5/ THE CURSE

This particular subject is perhaps my own idea. It may or may not be correct, so please question what I’m saying, and give me any thoughts if you wish.

It’s my personal conviction that the devil and his fallen angels help to administer the Curse, which I discussed in an earlier part of my series. Again, I’m not talking about any  “Yin-Yang” type of belief here as discussed in the Dao De Jing. What I mean is that God employs-nay conscripts-the devil and his fallen followers in the out working of the Curse. How does this play out in life, you may wonder? My answer is that while God has subjected all of nature to frustration (ROMANS 8) through the Curse, the frustration works in our lives and in our bodies in many ways other than ageing, sickness and death. Our intentions, our dreams, our efforts are frequently frustrated and come to nothing. Surely a loving God would not want us to be frustrated, you may think. Well, he did arrange for us to live fairly short life, to age and to die, didn’t he? I can only think that his motivation is to prevent us from living in long-term opposition to his ways, and to use the specter of mortality to sober us up quickly.

I believe that one out working of this frustration in our lives is in what we call in the US “Murphy’s Law”, or in the UK “Sod’s Law”. It has many other synonyms. Search for my post on the subject, published a few years ago, soon to be re-written and improved.

CAN SATAN CAUSE PHYSICAL SUFFERING?

We’ve considered Hitler’s war on mankind, but can the devil and his demons directly cause hurt?

We’ve seen that demons can lead people to physically hurt other people in many ways. In Peter’s warning of the “roaring lion”, mentioned earlier, he said that as a result of the devil’s efforts “the same kind of sufferings are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world”. This suffering was clearly tangible: a physical, material suffering.

However, it’s possible for physical suffering to be directly imposed on us by our unseen enemy. You only have to look at what happened to poor Job as a result of Satan’s attention. He lost most of his family and his home and he lost his own health not only as a result of Satan’s prompting of people around Job, but also directly from the will of Satan, in conjunction with God’s approval (Job 1:12-19).

717px-Blake_Book_of_Job_Linell_set_6

Most tellingly, it was Satan who directly inflicted physical suffering on Job:

So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head (Job 2:7).

Paul suffered physically as a result of the work of a demon, though under God’s direction. He was sent a “messenger” of Satan to torment him and to keep him humble. Notice that this was a problem in his flesh (verse 7).

Elsewhere in the New Testament, we read of the woman who was crippled- bent over- for eighteen years of her life, until Jesus healed her. Jesus said that this physical harm was inflicted by Satan (Luke 13:11-16). .

In Revelation 2:10 we read how Christ warned some believers that the devil was going to put them into prison and they would be persecuted to death. This is about as physical as suffering can be! It seems clear from scripture that while trouble can be inflicted by Satan directly-if he has permission-he can also influence people to do the job for him. Refer to Nazi Germany as a prime example.

VICTORY IS OURS

The most important point in this entire subject is that God is supreme, and he loves us. We have problems in life now, but ultimately believers are on the winning side, and we cannot possibly lose. Don’t forget that Jesus said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul” (Matthew 10:28). Our bodies are temporal: our souls are eternal. Jesus Christ is the shepherd of our souls. Paul said:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit…For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us… Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans chapter 8, verses 1, 8, 35, 37, 39).

 

The traditional view of Satan’s work on earth has depicted him whispering over our shoulders and talking us into doing bad things that we really want to do anyway. He’s the CEO of hell, and causes havoc on the earth. Meanwhile God wrings his hands as he runs around frantically trying to minimize the devil’s work, and trying to patch up the damage.

Beelzebub_and_them_with_him

Welcome to the most unpopular subject in the world: suffering. This part (7) of my series may be a little more popular than the rest, since even in our “enlightened” age people are fascinated with the devil. On one occasion I was witnessing in the street when one young woman hissed in my face, “I don’t believe in God-I believe in the devil!”. She was perhaps speaking for many other people who prefer the darker side of life.

Part 7-itself divided in two-is necessarily devilishly long: I’m sorry. Please scroll down to get the gist of it if you wish.

In this part of my edited and re-written series, based on Biblical scriptures, I consider whether and to what extent the devil and his angels contribute to our problems in life. Unbelievers and also some believers will find the subject difficult to take seriously: I say ignore spiritual opposition at your own peril.

There’s no question, Biblically speaking, that our most threatening enemy in life is the devil, along with his accomplices:

“Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

Schongauer_Anthony

BIG-PICTURE REALITY

In contrast to that age-old image I noted above, when you really get stuck into relevant Bible passages, and when you look around and use a little logic, you see that there are no battles directly between God and Satan. The very few battles between Satan and his angels and God’s faithful angels are brief and have an unavoidable outcome of defeat for Satan. However, the fascinating and provocative reality is that God not only spares Satan and the other fallen angels but actually uses them. I’m not teaching a Yin-Yang type of theology here, in which good and evil are two sides of the same coin: they are not.

What I’m saying is that God is the almighty ruler and sustainer of all things, so that he can even find a use for those who rebel against Him. There’s no waste with God. Satan is on a chain , and one day that chain will be pulled in. You discover In Scripture-if you’re honest-that God is totally supreme and indisputably in control. Here are three illustrations from scripture of God’s total supremacy over Satan:

1: When God judged the earth by Flood because humanity had become so corrupt and violent (Genesis chapters 6 and 7) there was no attempt by Satan to stop the Lord from sending judgment: in fact he was nowhere to be seen.

2: When Jesus dealt with demons during his earthly ministry his power over them was unhindered, so that they feared that their time was up:

“What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?” (Matthew 8:29 NIV).

3: The fate of the devil and his followers is already sealed, and it’s one of eternal punishment (Matthew 25:41).

Broad_chain_closeup

 

GOD USES SATAN AND HIS FALLEN ANGELS

Contrary to our culture’s centuries-old belief that Satan causes trouble on earth while God fights back and attempts to minimize it, and that he’s down there in hell overseeing the punishment of the lost, the Bible makes clear that God uses Satan to send testing and suffering, and that Satan’s independent desire to see us suffer (and be sure that it is intense) is allowed or encouraged within God’s plan to test, discipline, shape, punish or judge unbelievers and believers. Here are some examples:

When the Spirit of God left Saul because as king he was serving himself and not God, we’re told that “an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him” (1 Samuel 16:14).

God searched for a spirit to entice Ahab into defeat and death. Micah said:

I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing beside him…and the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab….?’ “Then a spirit came  forward…I will go out and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets…’ And he (the Lord) said ‘You are to entice him, and you will succeed; go out and do so’ (1 Kings 22:19-23).

In the New Testament, we see that at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry he was tempted by the devil in the wilderness (Matthew 4: 1-11). It’s important to see that “Jesus was led by the Spirit…to be tempted by the devil”: It was the will of God that Jesus be tested.

Ary_Scheffer_-_The_Temptation_of_Christ_(1854)

Paul realized that in order to keep him from becoming conceited by his close experiences with God a physical ailment was given to him by God (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). God sent “a messenger of Satan” with the ailment. Paul prayed three times for healing and God refused.

The work of Jesus Christ on the earth reveals God’s supremacy. As noted above, the demons he dealt with were well aware that they were destined for torment at his hands. However, we can easily see that they were not being tormented then: they were released to continue their existence and their activities on the earth. They will not be dealt with permanently until after the coming Millennium (Revelation 20:10-14).

Perhaps the absolute clincher in the argument that God gives permission to Satan to cause suffering is found in Revelation. Apart from the fact that God allows the devil to persecute believers to the death (Revelation 6:11) we also read that Satan will be released from his future prison, for a brief time, in order to deceive the nations:

“And when the thousand years were ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth…” (Revelation 20:7,8).

220px-Reggio_calabria_museo_nazionale_mosaico_da_kaulon

Wow-is God helping the devil to do evil? No, God is using the devil to do the Lord’s work. Is God really the ultimate “baddy” and the ultimate trouble maker? No, God wants to test our hearts: do we love God, or are we in opposition to him? Satan is a tool that God uses to do the testing.

GOD PUTS A LIMIT ON OUR SUFFERINGS

When Satan wanted to put Job’s faith to the test, he had to first get the Lord’s permission to do so (Job 1:9-12, and 2:4-6). God put a limit on what Satan was allowed to do in order to test Job, and he said to Satan “Very well then, he is in your hands, but you must spare his life” (2:6).

We naturally think that God should have put a much greater limit on Job’s sufferings and on our own: take that up with the Lord. However, even if we die at the hands of evil men through persecution, there’s an end to suffering:

And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul (Matthew 10:28 KJV).

Thanks to all of you who’ve read this far. You did well, and I didn’t ask for any money, did I! The rest of part 7 on spiritual opposition will appear on Wednesday at 4:30AM PST Don’t miss it!

 

JESUS IN THE PUB

Did Jesus frequent the pub or the bar? After all, he did mix with the sinners, the tax collectors and the prostitutes, didn’t he? Wasn’t he, being a rebel, just like one of them?

300px-Michelangelo_drunken_Noah

There are two quite opposite views on this question. Some people who may not even believe that Jesus ever existed nevertheless invoke his person and example to bring a measure of respectability to their drinking, claiming that Jesus drank beer and wine with the best of them and just lived like one of the boys. Others, who profess to have faith, are convinced that Jesus wouldn’t be seen dead carousing with the riff-raff or the low-life of the town, and would certainly never condone touching a drop of that demon-infested alcohol stuff. If you drink, they think, you can’t really be a Christian, and you may be on your way to hell.

One Biblical passage used by pro-drinkers is this one:

And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:10-13. ESV

Note in verse 10 that this event was “in the house” not in the pub, tavern, bar, inn or otherwise. Note also that Jesus is not said to be glugging down his fourth flagon of ale as he makes his speech, or even his first: he was eating (verse 11).

800px-François_Louis_Jaques_Paysans_fribourgeois_au_bistrot

To be fair, the Luke account does say that Jesus was “eating and drinking with sinners” (5:30). However, he openly agreed that the people he was mingling with were “sinners”, saying that he’d come not to buy them all a round of drinks but to call them to repentance (Luke 5:32). So Jesus, though loving and respecting these people, was mingling not to join in their way of life or to have a swinging party with them, but to call them out of their way of life.

The_wine_is_a_mocker_1663-1664_Jan_Steen

WINE OR WHINE

This subject can’t be considered without also looking at the issue of whether or not we should indulge in alcohol.

Some Christians insist that when Jesus turned water into wine, and when Paul said “drink a little wine for your stomach” (1 Timothy 5:23), the wine referred to must have been grape juice and wasn’t alcoholic. Jesus would never make alcoholic wine for a party, they say. I disagree, and some of you are likely to be gasping and hitting that little “x” in the top corner at this point…

If New Testament wine were only grape juice, how could anyone get drunk on it? Paul said:

“And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery…” (Ephesians 5:18).

Why should a deacon “not indulge in much wine” (1 Timothy 3:8) if wine is only grape juice? How could wine be used as an effective metaphor for Mystery Babylon’s intoxications if it’s only non-alcoholic grape juice (Revelation  18:3)? How can you offend anyone by drinking grape juice (Romans 14:21)?

The Greek word used to describe Miss Babylon’s wine and that which Paul warned deacons about is the same word used to describe what Jesus made out of water at a wedding feast (John chapter 2), and he made plenty of it. It was also used to describe what would be good for Timothy’s health in small doses (1 Timothy 5:23).

Ah, but there is a Biblical counter-weight to this argument, which is the frequent warning not to become a drunkard. If you don’t get drunk (Ephesians 5:18) you won’t turn into a drunkard and you won’t get addicted to wine (Titus 2:3). It’s the “drunkard” part which leads to ungodliness, a denial of faith, offended people and separation from God (1 Corinthians 6:10; Galatians 5:21). In fact, if you don’t touch wine in the first place you can’t become a drunkard, can you? However:

“Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves” (Romans 14:22).

That’s not a license to get drunk, it’s a license to freedom and enjoyment, in close association with godly self-control.

How do Biblical adjectives which describe God as “a consuming fire” and as being “dreadful” square with John’s declarations that:

“God is Love” (1 John 4:8)

and:

“God is light; in him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5 NIV)?

white

There’s no getting away from the fact that the Biblical God, while being loving, and caring for his people, and providing for all our needs, can also be a God of terror. Of course I’m not talking about the kind of terror we see in the news in which some vicious coward wreaks misery on innocent, unarmed people in order to simply frighten the population into seeing things his way.

The only way around the fact that God can be a God of terror is to deny half of the Bible, which doesn’t work, as I explained in the first part of this article. Against all the wishes of mankind, God is not all sweetness and smiles at all times, willing us to do whatever we want and providing everything we need to do it. He is both Love and Terror. How can this be: isn’t it illogical?

puzzle

This can be because God is both perfectly holy, and perfectly merciful: a paradox, perhaps, but not illogical. Look at it this way. God, in order to be what he is-eternal, faithful, unchanging, omni-present-must remain true to himself. In fact he has no choice-he can’t and won’t weaken his own standards. If he allows imperfection or rebellion without responding to it, he is no longer a perfect God.

This could be seen as something of a problem for a God who also loves his creation. He didn’t create the world and mankind in order to provide himself people to pick on. In fact, when he created the world in its original perfect condition, along with mankind, as only a perfect God can do, we’re told that:

“…God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 2:31).

Earth

 

So what could a perfect God do when his creation began to be imperfect and to rebel against him and to betray each other? The answer is that he provided for himself ways of forgiving that imperfection and rebellion. And such provision is seen repeatedly throughout the Bible in many characters.

An early and clear example found in the Old Testament is Moses. Moses was chosen by God to deliver his people from slavery. But it wasn’t just physical deliverance from Egypt that God had in mind for Moses, it was deliverance for the people from his own perfect standards and his wrath against those who would break them. God chose a man who he knew would stand between his holiness and man’s fallen nature.

God’s desire and compulsion was to punish and destroy those who were rebellious, and sometimes he did. But there were also times when Moses stepped in, particularly when God planned to destroy the entire nation:

I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you”

705px-Operation_Upshot-Knothole_-_Badger_001

But Moses implored the Lord his God and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people…?  Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people… And the Lord relented from the disaster… (Exodus 32:9-14).

God provided Moses to protect the Israelites from himself. Many examples of people who stood between God’s wrath and man can be found in the Bible, but the greatest, and the most important one, is Jesus Christ. The gospel, or the “good news” about Jesus Christ is that he, being the only son of God, was sent by the Father to pay the price of our own rebellion and imperfection, which is God’s wrath:

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed…and the Lord has laid upon him the iniquity of us all… (Isaiah 53:4-6).

7038016-jesus-on-the-cross

Remember the prayer of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, when he knew what was about to happen to him, and yet he surrendered to the will of the Father:

My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless , not as I will, but as you will… (Matthew 26:39).

Jesus Christ suffered God’s wrath in our place when he was crucified and left to die. This was the Father’s, and the Son’s, ultimate expression of love and mercy to his creation:

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only son into the world, so that we might live through him…he loved us and sent his son to be the propitiation for our sins… (1 John 4:9-10).

 

 

 

HOW TO BE OFFENSIVE

Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you I’m not quite like other people. And I know from experience that when people don’t fit easily into a stereotype, others attempt to either squash them into one or just write them off as being “weird”.

458px-Vincent_van_Gogh_-_National_Gallery_of_Art

Some claim to approve of weird and unusual types, until they come across one whose weirdness doesn’t fit their understanding of what weird should be.

From an early age, having realized and been told that I was “not normal”, I made a point of not fitting any molds, even though I didn’t really need to try. And having perplexed many before being a Christian, I increased my powers of perplexation once I became one (I’m developing a habit of creating my own words-how do you like that one?)

Being human, Christians also put other Christians into boxes or stereotypes, upset or offended when they don’t fit the available boxes. Consequently I detect a considerable amount of recoiling going on when I meet people. Not that I’m trying to offend or repulse-it just happens, even when I’m trying to be friendly…

477px-Frankenstein's_monster_(Boris_Karloff)

The herd mentality is prevalent in human nature because nobody wants to be rejected or spurned, and this is why political correctness almost succeeded in getting a stranglehold on all of us. Even though it’s fashionable today to be individual and unique, people tend to be individual and unique in all the same ways, though I don’t want to name some of those ways for fear of treading on toes. I think I’m long past any compulsion to follow the herd, and I’m really determined not to shape my personality, my tastes and my habits just to fit into acceptable boxes.

I have no desire to be offensive, and we believers are supposed to do all we can to be at peace with all men. However, if I’m offensive to someone simply because of who I am, then so be it. Churchill said, “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” 

The one good way to be offensive is in what we profess, and in adherence to the cross of Jesus Christ. Paul referred to the “offense of the cross” (Galatians 5:11), and explained that the message of the cross is “a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (1 Corinthians 1:22). It was that very message which Paul was intentionally preaching, and which we are also called to preach.

So let’s be offensive for God. I don’t mean get in someone’s face and be an intentionally irritating and self-righteous embarrassment: I mean let’s believe and profess the good news without shame or reservation. Let’s winsomely stand up for the one thing which is most worth standing up for. If that’s offensive to someone…so be it.

 

 

%d bloggers like this: