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Captured by Satan

“When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.” Matthew 13:19

Why are these folks captured by satan, the wicked one? Because they do not have understanding. More specifically, they do not have the Holy Spirit who gives understanding.

The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. John 14:26

Why don’t they have the Holy Spirit?

Because they are not true, born-again believers. They may like some of the concepts of Christianity – they go to church, try to be good, etc., but they haven’t grasped (understood) their sinful condition, the penalty for sin, and they have not given themselves over to Jesus Christ for cleansing, healing, rebirth, sanctification, purpose, and salvation. The Bible refers to these types of people as ’natural men.’

But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Corinthians 2:14

The ones who have been captured [by satan] were never really saved to begin with. They never came to sorrowful terms with their sinful nature, therefore they never had a faith-filled desire to repent. Sure, God may have been drawing them to Himself (the only way to be saved), but for whatever reason they rejected His gracious free gift of salvation and therefore His Holy Spirit [of understanding] never took up residence inside them. Sadly, the fault might be ours – the sowers of the seed.

As sharers of the Gospel message we need to remember that God is responsible for bringing folks into the family and our function is to be a conduit for an accurate message, without exaggeration and without Scriptural omission. When we do this the Holy Spirit will convict a person and the unsaved hearer gets the Salvation message directly from the Source. At this point if the listener rejects Jesus, it won’t be because they didn’t have the salvational-facts presented to them. Of course this is not to say that no seed was planted and that God might use another to water, another to cultivate, and another to harvest, but rather to say that we should know the Gospel message completely and share it with love and without compromise when God provides the opportunity.

Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

2 Timothy 2:15


Consider these two Bible verses:

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”(Ephesians 2:8-9)

“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” (James 2:26)

Now *replace the word ‘works‘ with the word ‘religion‘. Ephesians 2:8-9 now reads, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of RELIGION, lest any man should boast.”  Swapping our those words helps us to understand that religion, the very God-given components of our faith (i.e., going to church, worship, praying, reading your Bible, getting baptized, fellowshipping with other believers, taking Communion, obeying the moral teachings of Jesus Christ and/or those prescribed in the Bible, etc.) can NOT save you.

Why can’t religion save you?

Because the Christian religion (the aforementioned elements of our faith) is NOT for unbelievers – it’s for believers: those who believe and follow Jesus Christ as both Lord and Savior, having confessed and repented from their sinful behavior and having turned to obey and serve Him.

Now consider the James 2:26b passage, “So faith without RELIGION is dead, coupling it with the religious components that comprise our faith. Are you a saved, born-again believer, but not going to church, not worshipping, not praying, not reading your Bible, not getting baptized, not fellowshipping with other believers, not taking Communion, and not obeying, following and submitting to the moral teachings of Jesus Christ and/or those prescribed in the Bible?

If you’re not, may I suggest that your faith is dead. These are some of the very things believers should be doing in order to know Jesus better, discern His will, and receive His help. This is the reason God has breathed life into the Christian religion as prescribed in His Word, the Bible. Frankly, there is no relationship with Jesus without these religious components. I’m not saying you’re not saved, although you might want to reevaluate your spiritual position in Christ.

For these reasons, believers need to stop pronouncing religion as bad, regardless if they may have had bad experiences with man-made doctrines as a kid or new believer, or they were raised in one of a million other false religions, or they experienced or witnessed hypocrisy within the Christian church. Know now that there is only one, true religion and it is Christianity. It’s God-given and found within the pages of God’s word, the Bible, it’s not for the unsaved, it’s for you the believer, and it is an essential treasure chest of tools that equip us to know and serve Jesus better.

*DISCLAIMER: I am not adding to or subtracting from the word of God, nor am I saying that ‘works’ and ‘religion’ are synonymous, despite similarities. I am however suggesting that they are complementary in that neither one saves a person, but should be evident in the saved-person’s life. I also believe that if a Christian insists on bad-mouthing the “R word without the context it is due, he or she could very well cause someone to stumble in their faith. 

So I bought a motorcycle a couple of weeks ago and the following Monday, title in hand, I ventured to my local (DMV) Division of Motor Vehicles. Things went a little south when the clerk handed me a piece of paper and told me the ‘seller’ had to fill it out and get it notarized as he signed the title in the wrong place. The bad news was that the seller left for vacation and would not be back for another week.

Fast forward – I met with the seller at his bank, got the paper notarized, and returned to the DMV today. Despite having all my paperwork in order, I had a feeling in my gut that it wasn’t going to go well. As it turns out my paperwork was not in order. The clerk advised me that I needed a notarized letter from the seller’s bank (in Texas) stating that he paid off his original loan in full. Thankfully, and because of my previous ‘feelings’, I had been praying for a calm spirit, regardless of whatever was going to happen at the DMV. Although being angry on the inside, I kept a lid on it. After going back and forth with the clerk for a minute, she said she would speak to her supervisor.

Miracle Number One

The clerk was with her supervisor for a good 10-15 minutes and I witnessed the supervisor on her computer and her phone. When the clerk returned she said that her supervisor called the bank in Texas and got the bank to agree to FAX over the required letter and that I should wait a few minutes. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the DMV, but they do not do this. Needless to say I was very grateful.

Miracle Number Two

A few minutes turned into an hour and the supervisor came out to speak to me. She apologized for keeping me waiting and said she called the bank back and it would take another 20 minutes or so. It turns out that the person who notarizes stuff at the bank in Texas called out sick. My heart dropped a little bit, but then she added, “The nice lady I spoke to on the phone would go to a neighboring bank and get the letter notarized there.” Amazing. I don’t know if your familiar with the bank, but they do not do this. Needless to say I was very grateful.

Miracle Number Three

Another half hour passed and the supervisor (Maureen is her name) came out again and said the bank in Texas was unable to FAX over the document (my heart dropped again), but quickly added that she accepted an EMAIL adding, “Which we never do – we never accept emails.” She beckoned me to follow her to the counter and a clerk would complete all my paperwork. Needless to say I was very grateful.

Postscript

I recognize that technically these unusual events do not qualify as miracles, however it is my faith-based opinion that these were so much more than a string of favorable coincidences. In the two hours I sat at DMV, I prayed a lot, and not just for me, but for those also waiting in line to be served. I heard a few people be turned away (as I was initially) for not having the proper paperwork. In my prayers I also thanked the Lord for each mini-miracle as they occurred. I must also confess that God was doing a work on me, teaching me to be patient and stifling the anger that wanted to bubble up from deep within. I could argue that in that was a fourth miracle.

Anyway, and regardless if you deem any of these events as miraculous, I wanted to share this short testimony with you and to publicly give God the honor, glory, and praise He deserves. I felt His presence at the DMV and I suspect others did as well.

Pray without ceasing!





“By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the LORD men depart from evil… Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.” (Proverbs 16:6 & Corinthians 7:9-10)

When you share the Gospel, at some point in your conversation you will want to lovingly convey the gist of those two Bible passages, i.e., the ‘Fear of the Lord’ and ‘Godly sorrow.’ I would venture to say that those who walk away from their faith in Jesus had little or no grasp of these critical doctrines. Think about it. The Bible repeatedly says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, therefore it stands to reason that it should be one of the first things we communicate. It’s so vital that the non-believer understands the awesome power of God, that Jesus said this: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him (God) which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28)

Of course ‘Godly sorrow’ goes hand-in-hand with this fear of the Lord. This unique sorrow comes about when we fully grasp that our sinful lifestyle is the path to hell. That notion should terrify a person. If it doesn’t, then they need to hear more about eternal damnation.

Frankly, we need to be more concerned with lovingly communicating these Gospel-basics and less concerned with leading someone in a half-hearted prayer. Christians-to-be have a right to full disclosure. It’s not our function to keep a smile on their face until we can convert them. It would be better if they walked away with a better understanding of the fear of the Lord then to side-step Biblical accuracy. It’s by mercy and truth iniquity is purged (Proverbs 16:6), therefore we are not at liberty to ignore these tenets.

Some will say that when the Bible speaks of fearing the Lord, it is speaking solely to respect and reverence. That my friends is not full disclosure. Of course we venerate God, but know also that the word in the Greek language also means ‘to put to flight by terrifying. Read Matthew 10:28 again!

Does this mean we’re to be terrified of the Lord or terrified of the consequences He put in place for those who idolize their sin? Does this mean we’re to flee from His awesomeness or flee from our sin and towards Him?

Did you have a dad who physically disciplined you? I did. Did I fear my dad if I was caught being bad? Yes I did. In my fear did I love him any less? No, I did not. I may have been mad at him, but I never loved him less. So it is with God the Father. We have been given the capacity to fear Him and love Him. It is the beginning of wisdom.



“Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou NOT unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.” (Proverbs 30:5-6)


Many Christians reject the “R” word (religion) because of the errant, man-made components of so many false religions. To their cause they have adopted a catchphrase and have added it to their Gospel presentations. We know the phrase all to well:


“It’s a relationship, not a religion.”


This phrase is not found in the Bible, yet some have added the man-made slogan to their Gospel message primarily because they believe it appeals to those who have had negative religious experiences crammed down their throats while they were yet followers of Jesus Christ. Whatever their reasoning it’s a violation of God’s command. Clearly Christians must have a relationship with Jesus, and clearly God commands that religious hypocrisy and false religions are to be avoided, and clearly (and of utmost importance), the Christian religion unto itself does not save you, but nowhere does God conclude or even imply that the components of the Christian faith are to be rejected. That would be ludicrous – God gave them to us so we would know Jesus better and would know what is expected of us.


Despite knowing this, many Christians still say it, forgetting God’s warning, “lest they be reproved and found a liar.” (Proverbs 30:6).


How many people have been drawn to the faith (and ultimately to a church pew) by these errant words only to discover, “Gee, this whole church-service thing sure seems religious to me!” Their next thought must be, “You lied to me!”


Truth be told it was a lie, because a legitimate Christian church service is religious. Every religious thing that we do in church is designed so that our relationship with Jesus will deepen and mature. None of it saves us – it’s not supposed to; the religious things we do come after we’ve repented and turned to Jesus to believe and follow. I confess, I used to use ‘the phrase’ all the time, that is until I was convicted by the Holy Spirit and His Word to stop. God’s word is pure and He does not need our help by our adding to the message. There is however a way to talk to someone who has had a bad religious experience. It starts by listening to exactly what made their experience bad, then addressing the issue specifically and biblically.


What I have often discovered while listening to these people is that the problem was not so much the religion (unless it was a false religion), but rather that they were not ready for it. In other words, they were not saved and they were not interested in our religious stuff. Who can blame them? I recall hating Sunday School and I now fully understand why – I was not a believer or follower of Jesus Christ. The problem was not the religious activities, the problem was me!

“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14)



I don’t know if this story is true, but nevertheless the way I heard it gave me pause. It’s about an Englishman named Richard Love who over half a century ago was sentenced to death. As the prison chaplain walked with him to the gallows, he pleaded with him to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, adding that to deny Christ was to accept eternal torment.

What was Love’s response? 

“Go to hell.”

This doomed man wanted to know why, if this Good News message was so gravely important, did the chaplain wait until the very last second to deliver it, telling him, “If I thought this message was the truth (as you do), than I would have crawled on my hands and knees through broken glass in order to deliver it to every person in England.” 

Love’s rejection of Christ Jesus was stupid, but his rebuke of the holy man was spot on, and a lesson for every believer. If the Gospel message is as critically important as we believe it to be, what on earth are we saving it for?

World famous magician and atheist, Penn Jillette shares an interesting story with similar application in this video. Jillette, like Love, makes the wrong choice, but his admonition is weighty.

Here’s the video: https://youtu.be/6md638smQd8

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (and) the wages of sin is death… But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord… God demonstrates His own love for us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us (so) whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved… If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. Romans 3:23, 6:23a, 6:23b, 5:8, 10:13, 10:9-10 

Satan’s Job

The job of satan (at least in part) is to keep us so in-the-dark that we do not know we are lost and frankly, as we look around the world today, he is doing a pretty good job of it. Currently in these United States practically ‘anything’ goes; a person can essentially find an accepting coalition for any behavior or action he or she can dream up and what was once rightfully considered sinful fifty years ago is now conventional and very often encouraged. Somewhere, somehow, we have falsely established an authority over God determining [for ourselves] a measure of sin suitable to our lifestyle and the fact that we witness similar conduct in our churches today is the abominational icing on the cake.

You Are a Sinner

You are a sinner, I am a sinner, your sweet old granny is a sinner, and yes, even Mother Teresa was a sinner. There is no need to get all bent out of shape about it; it’s just the way it is. The problem with sin is that God hates it, so much so that if you lived to be one hundred years old and only committed one stinking little sin, that minor imperfection would keep you forever separated from God.

God Demands Perfection

God demands perfection, and odd as it may seem, so do we.

We might not think we are perfectionists, but isn’t it true that we demand excellence from the folks we deal with? Would any of us fly an airline that advertised, “We Get You There…Most of the Time, ” or a doctor who asks, “I am not big on cleanliness; is that a problem for you?” Why then do we get all flustered when we learn that the God who created us also demands excellence, after all, we are made in His image.

There is Only One Solution

By that I mean there is only one solution for our separation-problem: the sin which separates us from God and denies us entrance into Heaven. And honestly, if God provided two ways, we would ask for three; if He provided ten ways, we would ask for eleven, one thousand ways, one thousand and one. Let’s be forever grateful that God kept it extremely simple and gave us one way only: Jesus Christ. If you are involved in a religion that has laid all sorts of required ritual burdens on you, then you are doing a whole bunch of extra stuff that the Lord never asked you to do. The Lord’s deal is a done deal; all you need do is accept it as the gift it was always meant to be. Jesus said…

For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. Matthew 11:30

We Receive With Open Hands

Like I said, your salvation (once received) is a done deal; there is nothing else you ever have to do accept take procession of it—that is in fact the Good News. If you choose to keep this Good News to yourself, it is your prerogative and your salvation will not be in jeopardy, but it’s GOOD NEWS MAN, how can you keep it to yourself? Tell someone! You are saved; you have discovered the cure for death—go give it away!

I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us. Demetrius has a good testimony from all, and from the truth itself. 3 John 9 + 12


Legacy

The third book of John tells us about three people, two of which I want to discuss today: Diotrephes and Demetrius. Both considered themselves to be followers of Jesus, but yet Diotrephes emulated that which was evil. It would help us to know a little bit about what was going on when John penned this letter.

In these days there were itinerant preachers that would go from town to town sharing the Good News of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Inns were not a common sight, so these folks were often put-up by other Christians (at no cost) which aided these preacher/teachers immensely. John tells us that Diotrephes was one of these traveling teachers. However, Diotrephes was a prideful man–he thought himself to be the preeminent teacher of the day and therefore would not support any other Christian in their effort.

The truth may be that Diotrephes was an awesome teacher of God’s word, but because his pride prevented him from expressing godly love towards others, he will be forever remembered as the evil one we should not imitate (3 John, verse 11).

Good is Good

Then there is Demetrius. What does the Bible have to say about him? No very much, only that everyone who knew him only had good things to say about him. The truth is we have no clue who this man is or what this man did. However, in his humility, Demetrius will travel through eternity being known as the guy who was a good example and a good witness for the faith.

Sufficiency

Would that legacy be sufficient for you? The lesson here is that if we want our preeminence now, God will surely let us have it. Though, if we hang-back and walk as Jesus would have us walk, a much greater reward awaits us. It would serve us all well to remember this the next time we find ourselves envious of those shine in the spotlight. Oh, I am not suggesting that they (or Diotrephes for that matter) will not make it to Heaven, only that those who serve with humility and in anonymity will receive the greater reward.

How Do You Want to Be Remembered?

Someone Has to Die

Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
1 John 3:15-16

We Know

The born-again Christian knows intuitively — we might not always be able to verbally express it, but we know. And when you think about it, much of our spiritual-walk revolves around the concept of knowing Jesus better. Amazingly, as we grow spiritually, we recognize that we do not have to do much of things associated with our faith, but rather that we get to do them. Somehow the Lord plants a seed of desire to be in His Word, to be in fellowship, to share our faith, and to be in communion with Him. In so doing we learn more about ourselves as God reveals our true hearts to us.

You have heard that it was said to those of old, ’You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. Matthew 5:21-22

Jesus taught us that we can kill with our words as well as our actions. Have you ever stopped to think what actually occurs when we mockingly roll our eyes when someone else speaks? In a very real sense it’s the same as an evil word or gossip — whether it is true or not, that other person becomes whatever it is we say or gesture about them. Jesus tells us we are committing murder and Proverbs 18:21 serves to remind us that…

Death and life are in the power of the tongue

Someone’s Gotta Die

As we grow in the Word we gain a deeper understanding of what Christ did for us, and in so doing, we gain access-ability and a desire to do similarly for others. Again, all the more reason to be in the Word, in fellowship, and in prayer. However, with all this knowledge we soon learn that there is an obstacle that lies in the path of actually applying it: our flesh. With Jesus as our example we discover someone is going to have to die.

What?

I am not talking about salvation (Jesus died once for all men—this deed does not have to be repeated), but rather growth through reconciliation. In order for there to be peace (for God’s love to flow freely), the Christian needs to die to self; the selfish needs of the Christian need to be willingly (not grudgingly) put aside. In order for love to gush forth, our agendas need to be pushed off the stove, not merely shoved to a back burner. While it sounds difficult, in Christ Jesus it is not. His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

Nothing to Lose

But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? 1 John 3:17

In a very real sense, the Christian has it all, or at least we should understand we have all that we need. When we have a dispute with another person, what is it we are really holding on to and truly, what is it we are afraid to give away. It is in these times we need to ask the Lord to examine our hearts so that we might see the silly, prideful thing we selfishly cling to. We can say we love folks all we want, but if we are unable to express this love by letting go of something that is near and dear to us (like our pride), how true is our love? Does Jesus ‘really’ abide in such a person?

My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. 1 John 3:18

Let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.

Satan’s Play Book

For all that is in the world–the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life–is not of the Father but is of the world. 1 John 2:16

Imagine you are a football coach and you got a hold of the opposing team’s playbook discovering that they only had three plays: a run to the left, a run to the right, and a run up the middle. If you suspect that with this knowledge your team would do well, you would be correct.

Satan’s Playbook

Our coach Jesus loves us so much, He has provided us with satan’s playbook which consists of (you guessed it) only three plays. 1 John 2:16 tells us what they are: lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. We see these three enticements first displayed in Genesis 3:6 when satan tempted Eve.

So when the woman (1) saw that the tree was good for food, that it was (2) pleasant to the eyes, and a tree (3) desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate.

How does our Lord recognize these things? Hebrews 4:15 tells us…

For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.

When we realize that all temptation comes in only three basic forms, we can begin to understand how Jesus endured all that satan had to offer—everything satan throws at us, he threw at Jesus first. There are several places where the Bible records these attacks, but probably the clearest is found in Matthew 4:1-10. We see that satan first tries to appeal to our Lord’s flesh…

“If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” 

Satan’s next challenge is to tempt Jesus with pride:

“If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down, ”

Then finally lust of the eyes: 

“took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.”

The temptation was real, but Jesus did not take the bait. We’re bombarded similarly. It would serve us all well to remember that, “The world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”  In other words, God’s offerings are exceedingly better and they are everlasting.

Now That We Know

Knowing that every single temptation we face will fall into one of these three categories does not mean we won’t ever be duped again. However, when we know the plays beforehand, we will be better equipped to defend against them. We do that by being in the Word, being in prayer, and being in fellowship with like-minded Christians.

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