Revelation 16 – Part 3

“And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory.” Revelation 16:9

After the inhabitants of heaven praise God for His righteous and just judgments toward rebellious humankind who shed the blood of His servants (16:5-7), the fourth angel arrives to pour out his bowl of wrath. Instead of the beast-worshippers on the earth receiving a much-needed drink of rainwater to quench their parched throats, they got the exact opposite. Then the fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and power was given to him to scorch men with fire. And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory.” (Revelation 16:8-9). The definite article before “men” (tous anthrōpous) refers specifically to those whose allegiance was to the Beast (cf. 16:2). It is possible that those who refused to worship the Beast and receive his mark were not struck with this judgment. Likewise, the Israelites also escaped some of the plagues on Egypt’s land, water, animals, people, leaders, and even Pharaoh (Exodus 8:20-9:7; 9:13-35; 10:21-12:36). 1

This “fourth… bowl” judgment used “the sun” to “scorch men” who followed the Beast “with fire” and “great heat” that will leave their human flesh charred. This was “more than an oppressive heat wave that weakens and withers people, this judgment will involve the blistering and charring of human flesh by the sun.” 2

Swindoll writes, “Instead of catching soothing drops of rain, the people of earth were burned with searing rays from the sun! Scientists have long been concerned about the possibility of massive, unexpected solar flares, which could increase the number of harmful rays that penetrate our atmosphere. It seems that by the end of the Tribulation, the atmosphere will have been so damaged that the rays of the sun will no longer be filtered or deflected, causing all sorts of catastrophic climatic changes. This end-times global warming will make today’s hot-earth hysteria resemble nothing more than a warm spring day.” 3

One would think that after all these horrific judgments on the earth that left people painfully afflicted, starving, dying of thirst, and severely burned, that humankind would fall to their knees and beg God for His mercy, right!?! Wrong!!! “And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory.” (Revelation 16:9). Instead of turning to the Lord in repentance and giving “Him glory,” they “blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues.” Instead of letting the scorching sun melt their hearts, they let it harden their hearts toward God, much like Pharaoh hardened his heart after each of the plagues on Egypt.

Surely a loving God would relent of His judgments if people sought to get right with Him. The prophet Joel addresses this part of God’s character when he writes, 4 “’12 Now, therefore,’ says the Lord, ‘Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning. 13 So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm. 14 Who knows if He will turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind Him— a grain offering and a drink offering for the Lord your God?” (Joel 2:12-14).

Instead of humbly repenting before the Lord God Whom they know has the power over these plagues to lovingly bring them to a stop, the people of the earth increased the hardness of their hearts during the last part of the Tribulation. Why? Because they have taken on the character of the Beast who blasphemes God and indoctrinates the citizens of his worldwide kingdom to do the same (Revelation 13:1, 5-6; 17:3; cf. Daniel 11:36; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-10). Instead of blaming their own sinfulness for these first four plagues, they blame God for them. 5

The first four bowl judgments targeted the natural realm (the earth, sea, fresh waters, and the sun), but the next two bowl judgments target the Beast and his worldwide kingdom. “Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom became full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues because of the pain.” (Revelation 16:10). The fifth bowlof God’s wrath was “poured out… on the throne of the beast and his kingdom.” Since the beast’s kingdom was worldwide,this was a global darkness that will cause such intense emotional anguish that beast-worshippers will engage in self-mutilation (“they gnawed their tongues because of the pain”). 6

This darkness is reminiscent of the plague God brought upon Egypt. 21 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, darkness which may even be felt.’ 22 So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days. 23 They did not see one another; nor did anyone rise from his place for three days. But all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings.” (Exodus 10:21-23). This darkness in Egypt was so deep, oppressive, and complete, that the Egyptians did nothing during those three days.The chaos caused by the darkness in Egypt may explain the intense pain this global darkness will cause to the citizens of the Beast’s kingdom during the Tribulation period.

Keep in mind that the effects of these first five bowl judgments are cumulative. “The sores brought on by the first bowl will continue to fester as the darkness closes in around them. The water that would have soothed their sun-scorched flesh will stand in stinking, stagnant pools; once-clean water will be polluted with decaying blood.” 7

Nevertheless, people will still refuse to humble themselves before the God Who could bring a stop to these severe bowl judgments. “They blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and did not repent of their deeds.” (Revelation 16:11). Instead of blaming their rebellious ways for these plagues, the followers of the Beast choose to blaspheme God for “their pains and their sores.” But they don’t stop there. They choose to abide in their wicked ways that caused them to be oppressed by these horrific plagues – they do “not repent of their deeds.” 8

As in 16:9, this scene is reminiscent of a child cursing his parent while he is being spanked. Such a reaction to punishment inevitably triggers more punishment.” 9

We have learned in our study of the seven-year Tribulation on earth in the book of Revelation, that this will be a time that is filled with heightened deception (12:9; 13:14; 18:23; 19:20). One of Satan’s oldest strategies which will be implemented in full during the Tribulation is to blame God for all the pain that exists in the world to deceive people into thinking that the true God is an out of control, vengeful deity who can be defeated if everyone comes together to fight against Him. The truth is pain and suffering did not exist in the world God created (Genesis 1-2). Pain and suffering were the result of Satan, who sinned first against God (Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:12-19), tempting Adam and Eve to sin (Genesis 3:1-6) which resulted in sin and death entering the entire world (Romans 5:12). The effects of sin will culminate in the Tribulation period when humanity’s rebellion against God will reach an all-time depth of depravity resulting in God’s in-kind judgment (Revelation 6-16).

When we look back at the chaos and pain the global pandemic has caused the past two years, do we blame God for this? Or when we observe the loss of innocent lives during the Russia-Ukraine conflict, do we shake our fists at God and hold Him responsible for this? How do we respond to God when we or those close to us experience suffering and pain? Do we harden or humble our hearts toward the Lord?

Satan wants to convince us that God is to blame for all our problems and pain so we will not come to the Lord in faith and be saved forever from Satan’s destiny in the lake of fire (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 20:10). Please understand that God is the One Who loves us, not Satan. Satan doesn’t care about you or me. He knows his destiny is in the lake of fire and he selfishly wants to take as many people with him as possible. He will go to any length of deception to help populate hell. He has no guilt or shame for his actions because he is evil to the core.

But Jesus Christ is selfless to the core. Instead of holding on to His glory in heaven, He veiled His glory with human flesh when He left heaven and came to earth knowing He would be rejected by the world and His own Jewish people who would condemn Him to die on a cross (Philippians 2:6-8). The Bible tells us, 9 God showed how much He loved us by sending His one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through Him. 10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” (I John 4:9-10 NLT). “Real love” gives instead of takes. God’s love gave His best (His Son) when we were at our worst (in bondage to our sins) so we “might have eternal life through” Jesus if we would do one thing: BELIEVE IN HIM.

Jesus said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47). The word “believe” in the New Testament means to be persuaded that something is true and then trust or depend upon. Do you believe Jesus was speaking the truth when He said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life”? If so, do you now trust Christ (not your good life, religion, or prayers) to give you His gift of eternal life? If you do, Jesus guarantees you now have everlasting life which can never be taken away from you (John 10:28-29). God is now your Father in heaven, and you are His child forever (John 1:12; 6:35). Everyone who believes in Jesus for eternal life is your brother or sister in Christ.

Christ wants you to grow in your relationship with Him. Jesus said to those who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31b-32). The opposite of truth is falsehood or lies. Jesus wants you to “abide” or continue in His Word, the Bible, so you can “know the truth” which “shall make you free” from Satan’s lies that keep you enslaved to sin and shame. God’s truth will identify the lies you have been believing that have held you in bondage to sin and will also provide the remedy to overcome those lies. It is the truth of God’s Word that will break the shackles of Satan’s lies that have kept you from leaning into the Lord when you face pain and suffering.

Below are some examples of Satan’s lies that can keep us from drawing near to the Lord. I have included God’s truth to replace those lies and the Scriptures to go with them.Take some time to read through these lies and then identify the ones that you have believed to be true. The lie will feel true to you if you believe it. Then read the corresponding truth statements repeatedly until they feel true to you. As you do that the corresponding lies will feel less and less true. Ask the Lord Jesus to deliver you from bondage to these lies (cf. Psalm 119:28-29). We do not have the power in ourselves to overcome them, but Jesus Christ does. Let Him renew your mind as you meditate on God’s truth.  

Lie: God is to blame for all your pain and suffering.

Truth: Pain and suffering were the result of Satan (who sinned first against God), tempting Adam and Eve to sin which resulted in sin and death entering the entire world.

Scripture: “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.” Romans 5:12; cf. Genesis 3:1-6; Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:12-19.

Lie: God cannot be trusted.

Truth: God can be trusted because He is good and faithful to His promises.

Scripture: “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” Psalm 34:8

“In hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began.” Titus 1:2

Lie: God is holding out on you.

Truth: God wants to give you, His best.

Scripture: “The thief [Satan] does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I [Jesus] have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” John 10:10

Lie: You can be like God by disobeying Him.

Truth: Since there is only one true God, and I am not Him, I must live in total dependence on Him.

Scripture: God said, I am the Lord, and there is no other; there is no God besides Me.” Isaiah 45:5

“’But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord;’ I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in Your hand.’” Psalm 31:14-15

Lie: God is against me.

Truth: God is for me and not against me.

Scripture: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31

Lie: God has or will accuse me.

Truth: God has declared me totally righteous in Christ.

Scripture: “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” Romans 8:33

Lie: God has or will condemn me.

Truth:  God will not condemn me because Christ took my condemnation on the cross and He now defends me and intercedes for me in heaven.

Scripture: “Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.”

Lie: I am going to be separated from the love of Christ because I’m so unworthy.

Truth: No one and nothing can separate me from Christ’s love.

Scripture: 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?… 37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35, 37-39

Lie: God would never love me as I am.

Truth: In Christ, I am totally loved by God as I am.

Scripture: “Long ago, even before He made the world, God chose us to be His very own through what Christ would do for us; He decided then to make us holy in His eyes, without a single fault—we who stand before Him covered with His love.” Ephesians 1:4 TLB

Lie: I am alone and unloved.

Truth: I am not alone or unloved. I am loved and cherished by the Creator of the Universe.

Scripture: “When my father and mother forsake me, then the Lord will take care of me.” Psalm 27:10

Lie: I could never be forgiven.

Truth: I am totally forgiven in Christ.

Scripture: 13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” Colossians 2:13-14

Lie: I am an unacceptable person.

Truth: I am totally accepted in Christ.

Scripture: “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1a

“To the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.” Ephesians 1:6

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we come to You now realizing that we can be a lot like the people in the Tribulation period who will be deceived into blaming You for their suffering and pain instead of their own rebellion against You. When bad things happen to us, help us O Lord to humble our hearts before You instead of hardening them. Lord, we cannot overcome Satan’s lies on our own. The Devil wants to take as many people with him to hell as possible. He will go to any length of deception to populate the lake of fire. Lord, please make us the kind of people who will do whatever it takes within the boundaries You have given us to populate Your heaven through the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We desperately need You and Your Word to help us identify the lies we believe and replace them with Your truth so we can live the abundant life You came to give us. We pray for those whose hearts and minds have been deceived by Satan into believing You are responsible for all their pain and suffering. Help them to see that You love them and gave Your best for them when they were still undeserving sinners. And You want to save them forever from the lake of fire and give them eternal life if they would simply believe in You, Lord Jesus. Please use our lives and lips to communicate Your love to a lost and broken world so they can hear and believe the good news of Jesus’ gift of eternal life. In Your mighty name we pray, Lord Jesus. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 172.

2. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach, The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1559.

3. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pp. 296-297.

4. Ibid., pg. 297.

5. Constable, pg. 172 cites Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 8-22: An Exegetical Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), pg. 257.

6. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2407.

7. Swindoll, pg. 298.

8. Vacendak, pg. 1559.

9. Evans, pg. 2409.

How do I climb out of the pit of discouragement? (Video)

This is the third video in a series entitled, “Real Solutions to Real Problems.” In this presentation you will learn from the Bible several transforming principles for climbing out of the pit of discouragement.

All Scriptures are from the New King James Version Bible unless otherwise noted. Digital images are used with permission from FreeBibleimages.org, Goodsalt.com, John Paul Stanley / YoPlace.com, or they are creative common licenses.

Revelation 12 – Part 3

“So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” Revelation 12:9

Last time in our study of the book of Revelation, we saw that the dragon, Satan (12:9), failed to destroy the Christ Child at His birth and during His life and in His death, so Jesus could ascend victoriously to heaven after His resurrection (12:3-5). Since Satan cannot get to the Christ Child who is now on His throne in heaven (12:5), he is going to go after what is dearest to the Child – His people, Israel.

The apostle John writes, “Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days.” (Revelation 12:6). Christ’s birth and ascension to heaven in verse 5 took place some two thousand years ago, but the events described here in verse 6will take place in the future. The nation of Israel, represented by “the woman” (cf. 12:1-2; Genesis 37:9-11), will flee “into the wilderness” immediately at the middle of the Tribulation period when the Man of Sin (the Beast or Antichrist) occupies the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem and declares himself to be God (12:6a; cf. Matthew 24:15-21; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4). 1

During the first half of the Tribulation many Jews will believe in the gospel of the kingdom proclaimed by the Two Witnesses from Jerusalem (11:1-6). This believing remnant (“our brethren” – 12:10) will need to get out of Israel as quickly as possible because Satan’s desire is to exterminate Israel so he can render God’s promises to them as false, making God a liar.

If Israel obeys Jesus’ command to flee to the mountains to the “place prepared by God” when the Man of Sin occupies the rebuilt Jewish temple (“abomination of desolation” – Matthew 24:15-16), God will “feed” or provide for her “there one thousand two hundred and sixty days” or three and a half years during the last half of the Tribulation period (12:6b). “God fed millions of Jews for forty years during their Exodus from Egypt, and He will do so again in Israel’s darkest hour.” 2

Hitchcock suggests that this place of refuge prepared by God for Israel could be the rock city of Petra in modern Jordan (cf. Micah 2:12-13; Daniel 11:41). He writes, “This place is also consistently described as being in ‘the mountains’ or ‘the wilderness’ (Matthew 24:16; Revelation 12:6, 14, NASB). Therefore, this city must be prepared by God in advance, must be in the hills and in the wilderness. The city of Petra fits all of these criteria: it is adequate to hold what may be one million Jewish people; it is both in the hills and the wilderness; and it is accessible to the fleeing remnant. Therefore, putting all these points together, it is apparent that God will provide the fleeing Jewish remnant an accessible place of refuge in the wilderness and in the hills that will be like a sheepfold and that will be outside the Antichrist’s domain. The place that best fits the clues provided in Scripture is the magnificent rock city of Petra.” 3

To protect Israel during the last half of the Tribulation, John writes, 7 And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, 8 but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer.” (Revelation 12:7-8). John then sees a “war” break “out in heaven” between “Michael,” the archangel who battled with Satan over the body of Moses (cf. Jude 1:9), 4 and Satan, “the dragon.” Michael is accompanied by “his” unfallen “angels” and Satan is joined by “his” fallen “angels” or demons (12:7). The angels’ way of fighting here will be like what they do on behalf of all believers today (cf. Hebrews 1:14). The accidents we narrowly escape, and the perfect timing of various life events are not coincidences, but heaven’s divine arrangements of all things for our good. 5

As Michael fought on Daniel’s and Israel’s behalf against demons in the Old Testament era (cf. Daniel 10:13), angels fight for believers today and will fight for Israel in the last half of the future Tribulation. 6 Daniel 12:1a explains this event when it says, “Michael shall stand up,” which undeniably refers to the fact that the archangel is ready to act on behalf of Israel (cf. Daniel 10:21). This war in heaven will occur just before the time of Jacob’s “trouble” – the last half of the Tribulation (cf. Daniel 12:1b). 7

Despite all of Satan’s raging, he, and his fallen angels “did not prevail” over Michael and his angelic army (12:8a). As a result, there was no “place found for them in heaven any longer” (12:8b). Satan and his demonic cohorts are prohibited from entering heaven ever again. Since the fall of humankind, Satan used this God-given access to make relentless accusations against the people of God (cf. Revelation 12:10; Job 1:6-12; 2:1-7), but near the middle of the Tribulation period, this access to God’s throne is stopped. 8 God will no longer hear Satan’s accusations against believers in His throne room. 9 In the end, Satan and his demonic armies will not be able to stop God’s plan for Israel nor His Son’s return to earth to set up His kingdom. 10

Hitchcock states,Both amillennialists and postmillennialists… view the casting of Satan from heaven in Revelation 12:7-9 as parallel with Luke 10:18-19. They point to Mark 3:27 and Matthew 12:25-29 as the fulfillment of the binding of Satan during the earthly ministry of Christ. For them, Satan’s activity and power are restricted during this present age. However, this contradicts the way Satan is pictured in the New Testament. Satan is called ‘the ruler of this world’ (John 12:31; 14:30), ‘the god of this world’ (2 Corinthians 4:4), ‘an angel of light’ (2 Corinthians 11:14), ‘the commander of the powers in the unseen world’ (Ephesians 2:2), and he is ‘like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour’ (1 Peter 5:8). The devil schemes against believers (2 Corinthians 2:11; Ephesians 6:11), hinders us (1 Thessalonians 2:18), accuses us (Revelation (Revelation 12:10), and blinds the minds of the lost (2 Corinthians 4:4). Satan is anything but bound today. He is aggressively opposing the work of God. 11

“As someone once said, ‘If Satan is bound today, he must have an awfully long chain.’ Satan is characterized as the arch-deceiver in the New Testament. Yet, Revelation 20:3 says that when he is bound Satan will ‘not deceive the nations anymore.’ This does not fit the current situation. It demands a later time after the Lord’s coming.” 12

Satan’s defeat in heaven at the midpoint of the Tribulation led to his and his fallen angels’ expulsion to earth. So, the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” (Revelation 12:9). God identifies “the great dragon” as “that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan.”

What do we learn about Satan in this verse? He is a “great dragon” who is fierce, cruel, and monstrous in nature. 13 As the “serpent of old,” he is crafty and subtle in character (cf. Genesis 3:1-5; 2 Corinthians 11:3). Satan is too strong and crafty for us to overcome his strategies on our own. We need God’s power and wisdom to experience victory over him in our Christian lives.

The name “Devil” (diabolos) means “Slanderer” or “Accuser.” 14 This title for “the evil one would have made a specially strong impact in the first century, for there was a well-known and well-hated figure called the delator, the paid informer. He made his living by accusing people before the authorities.” 15

In this church age the Devil focuses on accusing believers of wrongdoing. But because God has “justified” or declared believers totally righteous in His courtroom the moment we believe in Jesus apart from any works (Romans 4:5), no one can successfully accuse us of wrongdoing before God (cf. Romans 8:33), including the Devil.

The title “Satan” (Satanas) means “Adversary.” 16 Satan is not our friend. He is against us. He is our worst enemy. He hates us and wants to destroy our lives and testimony. But Jesus is our “Advocate” (I John 2:1-2) Who ceaselessly defends us and intercedes before God the Father’s throne in heaven (Hebrews 7:25). Whenever Satan accuses us of wrongdoing, Christ says to the Father, “I paid for that sin, Father.”   

John writes that Satan is the one “who deceives the whole world” (12:9b). The primary strategy Satan uses to accuse and oppose us is deception. The Devil cannot win spiritual battles by exerting authority because he has been defeated on the cross (cf. Colossians 2:14-15; Hebrews 2:14-15). So, Satan must win by deception, influencing our thinking through spiritual and worldly means. We permit Satan to achieve victories in our lives when we act on that deception rather than rejecting it as a lie. 17

How can we overcome Satan’s deception? Jesus tells us in John 8. 31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’” (John 8:31). Christ is talking to Jewish believers who have eternal life, so He is not talking about salvation here. He is talking about the lifelong process of discipleship after we believe in Him for everlasting life.

Hence, the first way to overcome Satan’s deception is to believe in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, so you may have eternal life in His name (John 20:31). The only condition for eternal life is simply believing in Christ for it. Obviously, then if you want to be free from the deception of the Devil, you must believe or trust in Christ alone for His gift of everlasting life. And the moment you do, the eternal Son of God comes to live inside of you. If you don’t have Jesus Christ in your life, the only changes in your life will be superficial. You may read your Bible, pray, and go to church or counseling, but you are not going to experience lasting freedom from Satan’s lies without Christ in your life! Only Christ has the power to defeat the Devil’s deception in your life.

But overcoming deception does not stop with believing in Christ. Christ says to these believers, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed” (8:31b). What is the condition for being Jesus’ disciples? Abiding in His Word. To “abide” (menō) in Christ’s Word means “to continue or remain” 18 in Jesus’ teaching – literally, “to make one’s home at.”Where we make our home is where we spend our time. So, notice that you can believe in Jesus and not abide in His word. When believers “abide” or remain in Christ’s word, they “shall know the truth, and the truth shall make” them “free” (8:32).

Note two things. First, there is such a thing as truth. Truth is the absolute standard by which reality is measured. We live in a relativistic society that denies absolute truth, claiming, ‘What’s true for you may not be true for me.’ But truth is not based on our feelings, experiences, or desires. Truth is God’s viewpoint on every matter, and it is not subject to redefinition. Pilate would ask, ‘What is truth?’ (18:38), and the answer to that question is ‘Jesus’ (see 14:6).

“Second, knowing the truth results in genuine freedom. Don’t be confused. Truth alone doesn’t liberate; rather, the knowledge of the truth liberates. Deliverance comes when we know the truth—that is, when we hang out in what God says. When this happens, we will experience the truth setting us free from illegitimate bondage” 19 to Satan’s lies.

I cannot stress enough the importance of being a part of a discipleship relationship with other believers. We always learn from others, truths we would never learn on our own. Other people will help you see insights you would miss and help you apply God’s truth in a practical way. They can also help hold you accountable and I know I need that, don’t you? So, as we abide or remain in Christ’s word, we shall know the truth, and the truth, Jesus Christ (John 14:6), shall make us free from Satan’s deception. The truth will identify the lies we have been believing that have held us in bondage to sin and will also provide the remedy to overcome those lies. It is knowing and applying the truth of God’s Word that will overcome the Devil’s deception.

Prayer: Father God, thank You for reminding us that although Satan is a powerful and aggressive foe, he will not be victorious. Your angels will defeat him at the midpoint of the Tribulation period, so he never has access to Your throne in heaven again. And while Satan accuses us before You every day and night during this current Church Age, we have an Advocate, Jesus Christ, Who ceaselessly defends us and intercedes for us. Not only this, but Jesus also gives us eternal life the moment we believe in Him so we can subsequently abide in His Word and know the truth which sets us free from Satan’s lies. Please empower us, Lord, to know, believe and act on Your truth so that we may become all that You intended us to be for Your glory alone. In the mighty name of Jesus Who is the truth, we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach. The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1542.

2. Ibid.   

3. Mark Hitchcock, The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2012 Kindle Edition), pp. 378, 490 491.

4. Vacendak, pg. 1542.

5. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 2397.

6. Ibid.

7. Vacendak, pg. 1543; see also John F. Walvoord, The Bible Knowledge Commentary Epistles and Prophecy, Editors John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, (David C Cook, 2018 Kindle Edition), location 5701 and Tom Constable, Notes on Revelation, 2017 Edition, pg. 136.  

8. Vacendak, pg. 1543. cf. Hitchcock, pg. 314.

9. Constable, pg. 136.

10. Evans, pg. 2397.

11. Hitchcock, pp. 413-414.

12. Ibid., pg. 414 cites Grant R. Osborne, Revelation (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), pp. 702-703.

13. Contstable, pg. 136.

14. Ibid., see also Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 226.

15. Ibid., cites Leon Morris, The Revelation of St. John, Tyndale New Testament Commentary series, Reprint ed. (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, and Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1984), pg. 161; cf. William Barclay, The Revelation of John Vol. 2, The Daily Study Bible series, 2nd ed. (Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1964), pg. 102.

16. Ibid., cf. Bauer, pg. 916.

17. Evans, 2397.

18. Bauer, pp. 630-631.

19. Evans, pg. 1779.

How do I climb out of the pit of discouragement? Part 9

15 Then the Lord said to him: ‘Go, return on your way to the Wilderness of Damascus… 18 Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.’ “ I Kings 19:15a, 18

Remember how Elijah felt in verse 14? “Lord, Your people don’t care about You and I’m the only one left who does. I’m the only one left standing for what is right! I’m the only one left trying to serve You and that’s very discouraging.” Do you ever feel like that? Alone, afraid, and angry?

Then God has to tell us what He told Elijah –15 Then the Lord said to him: ‘Go, return on your way to the Wilderness of Damascus… 18 Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.’ “ (I Kings 19:15a, 18). Circle the word “Go.” God is saying, “Get moving. Don’t sit in the cave of life feeling sorry for yourself. There is more to be done and I am doing things you don’t even know about that will encourage you and help you.”

This leads to our final step out of the pit of discouragement: GET MOVING, KNOWING WE DON’T HAVE THE WHOLE PICTURE (I Kings 19:15a, 18). We don’t have to have the whole picture to move out for God. God has a journey for us to take…a course for us to follow. He is inviting us to step out in faith, believing He is already at work behind the scenes to prepare the way for us.

Jesus Christ wants to lift us out of our pit of discouragement. He can help us; He can change us; He can heal us of discouragement. We don’t have to go through life being controlled by our emotions. Our emotions are controlled by our thoughts, and even though we cannot directly control our feelings, we can control what we think about with God’s help. We can choose to change our thoughts.

This is what Jesus is saying in John 8:31-32: “31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him,  ‘ If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’”The opposite of truth is falsehood or lies. The Lord Jesus wants to change our false beliefs that can keep us enslaved to harmful habits, hurts, and hang-ups, including discouragement.

I’d like to share some lies that have contributed to discouragement in my life along with the truth that is setting me free from them:

Lie: I am alone and unloved.

Truth: I am not alone or unloved. I am loved and cherished by the Creator of the Universe.

Scripture: “When my father and mother forsake me, then the Lord will take care of me.” Psalm 27:10

Lie: If somebody criticizes me, it means I’m worthless.

Truth: If somebody criticizes me, it is an opportunity for me to grow.

Scripture: “Princes also sit and speak against me, but Your servant meditates on Your statutes.Your testimonies also are my delight and my counselors.” Psalm 119:23-24

Lie: I  must be loved and accepted by everybody to be fulfilled in life.

Truth: It does not matter what other people say or think about me, what matters is that God always loves and accepts me.

Scripture:  “The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying: ‘Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.’ ” Jeremiah 31:3

Lie: I cannot admit any area of weakness; I have to be perfect or else I’m a failure.

Truth: It is good enough to do my best for Jesus, and not be perfect.

Scripture: “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.” Colossians 3:23

Lie: God is against me.

Truth: God is for me and not against me.

Scripture: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31

Lie: I could never be forgiven.

Truth: I am totally forgiven in Christ.

Scripture: 13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” Colossians 2:13-14

Lie: I am an unacceptable person.

Truth: I am totally accepted in Christ.

Scripture: “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1a

“To the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.” Ephesians 1:6

Lie: I do not have what it takes.

Truth: Through Christ who strengthens me I do have what it takes.

Scripture: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

These are the kinds of lies that cause discouragement. Jesus knew the importance of correct thinking when He said, “31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him,  ‘ If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’ ” (John 8:31-32). The more we “abide” or remain in Christ’s word, the more we will know the truth which can deliver us from the lies that can enslave us to discouragement.

You can change. How do you start? By beginning a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. This doesn’t automatically cure all of your discouragement, but without Christ in your life you have no lasting power to change. He wants to be a part of your life, and if you will receive Him by faith, He will come into your life to help you start climbing out of the pit of discouragement.

To help us understand our need for Christ, we need to understand that the Bible makes it clear that all of us have sinned against God. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). Our sin separates us from God Who alone is perfect and righteous. “For the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23a). By sinning with our thoughts, words, and actions, we have earned death. The word “death” in the Bible means separation. This means we all deserve to die and be separated from God forever in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15). I think you will agree that is bad news.

“But the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23b). Notice that eternal life is not through our religion, our good life, or prayers. Eternal life is “through Jesus our Lord.” God sent His Son Jesus to take our punishment on the cross and rise again so we could receive everlasting life as a free gift by believing or trusting in Jesus alone (John 3:16; I Corinthians 15:1-6). Jesus said, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47). The word “believe” in the New Testament means to be convinced that something is true and then trust or depend upon.

Jesus is inviting you to believe or trust in Him alone for His gift of forgiveness and everlasting life, not your good life or religion or prayers. If you are ready to believe or trust in Christ alone for His free gift of eternal life, you can tell God this through prayer. Praying this prayer does not get you to heaven. Only trusting in Christ gets us to heaven. Praying this prayer is a way of telling God you are now trusting in His Son, Jesus Christ, to get you to heaven now.

Prayer:  Dear God, I come to you as a sinner. I cannot save myself. I believe You died on the cross for all my sins and rose from the dead. I am now trusting You alone, Jesus (not my good life, my religion, or my prayers), to forgive all my sins and give me the gift of eternal life. Thank You for the forgiveness and everlasting life that I now have. Thank You for coming to live inside me through the Holy Spirit. And thank You for the assurance I now have a future home in heaven with You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

When you trusted in Christ for everlasting life, the Bible says Jesus gave you everlasting life (John 3:16; 10:28). How long does eternal life last? 5 minutes? 5 years? 5 million years? Or forever? Eternal life is forever! It never ends. And it begins the moment you believe in Jesus. Christ now lives inside you through His Holy Spirit and He wants to give you the power to live for Him now (John 7:37-39; Romans 8:9, 11; Galatians 2:20). Jesus in you can enable you to say “No” to Satan’s lies and “Yes” to God’s truth as you learn to trust and obey His Word. He can empower you to climb out of the pit of discouragement and help others to do the same.

To help you grow in your new relationship with Jesus, I recommend downloading our free digital Pressing On discipleship materials to go through with those you care about. This will help you grow in your relationship with Jesus and with those you love.

How do I climb out of the pit of discouragement? Part 1

“And when he saw that, he arose and ran for his life, and went to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.” I Kings 19:3

An intriguing illustration begins with an ad announcing that the devil has put some of his tools up for sale. On the day of the sale, the tools were placed out for public inspection. Each tool had its price tag. Everyone recognized what a terrible collection it was – hatred, envy, jealousy, deceit, lying, pride, etc. But laid aside from the rest was the highest priced tool, appearing harmless though well-worn. Someone asked, “What is the name of that tool?” The devil replied, “That is discouragement.” The man asked, “Why is it priced so high?” To this question the devil admitted it was because it was more useful to him than all the others. Why, he could pry open and enter a person’s heart with that tool when others had failed. It was badly worn because he used it so frequently on everyone, and few people knew it belonged to him.

Discouragement is a great tool of the devil. We must do battle with it in our lives and in the lives of those around us. But how? To discover some ways to climb out of the pit of discouragement we will take a look at I Kings 19.

King Ahab and his wife Jezebel were ruling over Israel at the time. Since Ahab treated Jezebel more like a mother than a wife, he always sought her stamp of approval. Jezebel introduced Baal worship (false god) to God’s people. As a result, there was a huge spiritual decline in the nation of Israel. So, God sent a spiritual heart surgeon – the prophet Elijah. Elijah invited Ahab and four hundred fifty Baal priests to a little barbeque on Mt. Carmel. Both Elijah and the priests built altars and asked for a match from heaven.The altar of Baal was left to rot with not even a spark. But Elijah’s dirt, rocks, wood and water were all consumed by fire from heaven. Onlookers were very impressed with the God of Israel, but they were depressed with Baal priests. Elijah slaughtered four hundred fifty Baal priests that day. Surely, back in Jezreel, King Ahab would set Jezebel straight as to the true God. Right? They would be ready for a revival? Right? Wrong!!

The Bible tells us,1 And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, also how he had executed all the prophets with the sword. 2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, ‘So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.’ ” (I Kings 19:1-2). Although God was using Elijah to bring about a great spiritual awakening in the nation of Israel, there was one person who hated God’s prophet. Queen Jezebel could not stand him partly because he had so much influence. She was furious and sends a message to Elijah, “If I don’t kill you within twenty-four hours, I will be ready to kill myself.”

Jezebel’s resistance causes Elijah to get deeply discouraged. 3 And when he saw that, he arose and ran for his life, and went to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. 4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, ‘It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!’ ” (I Kings 19:3-4). God has been using this prophet in miraculous ways the last three years, and now, when one homicidal woman threatens his life, he gets scared and runs into the desert and prays that he might die. He has gone from the mountain top of victory to the bottom of the pit of discouragement. He was so discouraged that he wanted to die.

But let’s not be too critical of Elijah because we are no different than God’s prophet. The Bible tells us, “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours.” (James 5:17). He had the same problems we do, and in this case he had a problem with discouragement. How does God bring Elijah (and us) out of the pit of discouragement?

The first way is to FOCUS ON THE FACTS, NOT YOUR FEELINGS (I Kings 19:3-4). “And when he saw that, he arose and ran for his life, and went to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.” (I Kings 19:3). God had just defeated four hundred fifty prophets of Baal through Elijah, and now he was afraid of a death threat from a self-seeking queen. Elijah’s fear made him run and he kept on running.

Fear can make us run too. We run to alcohol… an affair… food… a new job… busyness… video games… the computer… the tennis court, etc. Fear speeds us up instead of slowing us down. When we are driven by fear, it is difficult to turn off our thoughts. We may even skip meals or overspend. We cannot relax. Repetitive negative thoughts bombard us. We feel irritable and have dramatic mood swings. We find ourselves drinking too much caffeine or over-exercising. It is difficult to be alone or to be with people. We often make excuses for having to “do it all.” The most fearful people are often the most busy.

Elijah made the mistake of focusing on his feelings rather than on the facts. This often happens when we are discouraged. We focus on how we feel rather than on reality.Elijah felt like a failure because of one incident that scared him. He thought to himself, “I’m such a coward – I’m not worthy to live. I might as well crawl up in a corner and die.” So, because he felt like a failure he assumed he was a failure and he wants to avoid people so he left his servant in Beersheba and goes alone into the desert. When we isolate ourselves from other people and focus on our feelings, it is a recipe for discouragement. We lose perspective so quickly when we withdraw from people and wallow in our feelings.

We must remember that feelings are not facts. Therefore, they can be very unreliable. For example, I can wake up and not feel like a Christian. Does that mean I am not a Christian? No. Being a Christian is based on faith in the facts of God’s Word, not my feelings. Feelings often lie, so when we focus on our feelings rather than facts, we are going to get into trouble. Many psychologists believe that one key to health is to get your feelings out in the open. While we do need to identify and process our feelings, that is not the complete answer.

The Bible emphasizes that we need to get in touch with the truth rather than our feelings, because it is the truth that sets us free. Jesus said, 31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’ ” (John 8:31-32). What is the opposite of truth? A lie. Satan often inserts lies into the limbic system of our (right) brains when trauma takes place in our lives. The limbic system is usually programmed by the time we are six years old. Our prefrontal cortex (our moral and impulse control system) of the (left) brain is not developed until we are twenty-five years of age. Over ninety-eight percent of the decisions we make in life are done subconsciously in the limbic system. So much of our lives are directed by patterns of the past.

Also, the limbic system is programmed to help us cope and survive, and coping behavior is at the core of avoiding our pain and fear. When we take sinful coping mechanisms and make them a lifestyle, we experience bondage to our fears.

People who are driven by fear often have wounds that were caused during childhood or adolescence that fuel their fears as adults. For example, when a six-year old boy is brutally raped and then threatened by his rapist, Satan can easily insert a lie associated with that intense trauma that says, “This happened to me because I am bad.” That little boy grows up believing this lie. At the core of his being he believes he is flawed and that no one could possibly love him if they knew him. The shame from this lie leads him to turn to unhealthy coping behaviors as an adult to numb the pain from his unresolved trauma.

Trauma comes in many forms and it can be experienced as a child and as an adult. High intensity trauma such as military combat, a natural disaster, physical or sexual abuse, the death of a family member, or divorce can leave deep wounds within one’s soul. But one does not have to experience intense trauma to struggle with shame-based lies and addictions. You may have experienced low intensity trauma that takes place frequently such as neglect, verbal rejection, minimal affection, teasing by a stepbrother, having few friends, etc. The cumulative effect of low intensity trauma can be just as damaging as high intensity trauma.  

When Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’ ” (John 8:31-32). To “abide” (menō) in Christ’s Word means “to continue or remain” in Jesus’ teaching – literally, “to make one’s home at.” Where we make our home is where we spend our time. The Jews knew a lot of Scripture, but they did not know the Author of the Scriptures. “Knowing the truth” means knowing Christ who is the truth (John 14:6; cf. 8:32, 36).

How do I abide in Christ’s Word? Early in my Christian life I learned a method of abiding in Christ’s Word that was primarily for my left brain, not my right brain or limbic system. That method basically focused on downloading biblical data into my left brain through reading, studying, and memorizing Scripture. But keep in mind that most of our decision making takes place in the right brain, albeit at an unconscious level. So if all I am doing is downloading Scripture into my left brain, I am going to experience little transformation. In the couple of years, I have learned a new method of abiding in Christ’s Word that is for both the left and right parts of the brain. This method involves an acrostic, S.W.O.R.D., from Seven Pillars of Freedom by Dr. Ted Roberts:

S – Scripture. For over twenty years, I have read through the entire Bible each year. I was so busy reading through my required passages to get through the Bible in a year, that it became another hurried thing I did in my busy schedule. But now, I approach God’s Word meditatively – not to analyze or criticize the Word, but to be analyzed and challenged by God’s Word. So first, I write God’s Word down on paper. Writing it down will help your thoughts to slow down and focus on the truth of the Scripture.

W – Wait. Read the Scripture again on your knees if possible. Read it aloud slowly and attentively. Then pause to let the passage sink in. Read the Scripture again, this time asking yourself the following questions, “What do I see? What do I hear? What do I feel? Where am I in this passage?” Finally read the passage again noticing what word or words grab your attention. Focus on those words. Chew on them for a few minutes. We have a tendency to intellectualize Scripture instead of experience God’s Word. During the waiting, we want to involve multiple senses – sight, hearing, feelings, touch, etc., to come to our observation about God, ourselves, and others.

O – Observe. Take a seat and write down what you observed in the Scripture. When we journal the Scriptures, we retain sixty percent more of what we learn. What truth do you discover in these verses? How does God see me and how do I see God and me? This will clarify your thought processes and involve another whole section of your brain.

R – Request that the Holy Spirit help you see how all of this applies to your life. This is not an academic process but a process of the heart. You are specifically asking the Word to analyze you instead of you analyzing the Word. This often triggers a neurochemical cascade of new understanding where your mind is being renewed.

D – Dedicate. What helps us from being just touched by God to being transformed is the commitment of our heart and will. Trying harder will not get us headed in the right direction when it comes to freedom from our fears. But once the Holy Spirit gets us headed in the right direction, dedicating ourselves to that direction in life will transform us.

We may avoid applying biblical truth because it is painful or difficult. Jesus said if you abide in His Word, “you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32). But at first, the truth may make you miserable! What is the opposite of truth? It is error or lies. God’s Word exposes the lies we believe that keep us enslaved to sin. The truth reveals our motives, points out our faults, rebukes our sin, and expects us to change. It is human nature to resist change, so applying God’s Word is hard work.

That is why I cannot stress enough the importance of being a part of a discipleship relationship with other believers. In fact, notice what Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.” (John 8:31b). The path to freedom from our fears is discipleship. We were wounded in the context of relationships, and we are healed in the context of relationships – healthy relationships. We always learn from others truths we would never learn on our own. Other people will help you see insights you would miss and help you apply God’s truth in a practical way. They can also help hold you accountable and I know I need that, don’t you?

The more we abide in Christ’s Word, the more we shall know the truth which can set us free from the lies that fuel our fears. You may have been through some terrible trauma that has left you deeply wounded. Your life may be driven by shame-based lies that drive your fears. You may have asked yourself, “Where was Jesus when this happened to me?” I want to encourage you, if you are a believer in Jesus, to invite Him to walk with you through that trauma. And as you do this, ask the Holy Spirit to help you answer the following questions:

– Where was Jesus when this happened to me?

– What look do I see on His face?

– And what truth would He say to me soon after this happened?

Christ cares for those who struggle with fears. I believe the more we encounter the radical love of Jesus Christ amidst our fears, the deeper His healing will be of our wounds. Healing that is based upon His truth. Getting the truth down into our souls is what brings change and freedom from our fears. Knowing the truth is not just a point of head knowledge; it is relational, it is intimate, and it is expressed through action.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, all of us can be like Elijah. By Your grace, we can have a mountaintop experience of victory, followed by opposition, and suddenly find ourselves running from our fears. Like Elijah, we can respond to our fears by speeding up and isolating ourselves from others. Please guide us in responding to our fears in a way that brings us back to You and the truth of Your Word. Thank You for reminding us that our feelings are not facts. They are simply feelings. They provide us with information, not instruction. Your Word gives us the instructions we need to identify our fears and past wounds that are often associated with them. Please reveal any lies that may be attached to our past wounds. Lord Jesus, since You are God, You are able to walk with us through those wounds and the lies associated with them. As You help us identify our feelings and any lies attached to them, please replace those lies with Your truth so we can overcome our fears. Regardless of how painful this process may be or how long it takes, we commit ourselves into Your loving hands. In Your mighty name we pray Lord Jesus. Amen.

God’s Grace and Suicide

Living during a global pandemic makes it especially difficult to connect with one another. There is a great emphasis on social distancing. People cannot connect with one another as easily as before because of all the COVID restrictions and the fear of getting sick. The additional stress caused by COVID increases the chance of conflict with one another which can also become a barrier to connecting with one another. Emotional needs are much greater during this pandemic. There is more fear and depression which can lead people to isolate themselves from others. More people feel hopeless and think of taking their own lives.

A question that may arise during this pandemic is, “Will a believer in Jesus Christ who commits suicide still go to heaven?” The answer to this is strongly related to one’s view of God’s grace.

WHAT DOES GOD SAY ABOUT A BELIEVER WHO COMMITS SUICIDE?

In Romans 8:31-39, God answers four questions or accusations that can arise in cases of suicide:

1.MAN’S ACCUSATION: Doesn’t such a death as suicide prove that God works against us, not for us? Isn’t this what prompts a believer to take his life?”

GOD’S ANSWER: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32) God says, “Since I am for you (and no one is greater than Me), no one can successfully oppose you, including yourself.” When the unexpected happens, you need to ignore the lie that God is against you. He is on your side. God does not work against us. How wrong it would be to believe that God turns His back on the believer who commits suicide. God is FOR US – on our side – deeply interested in our needs, our hurts, our pain, our failures and loneliness. 

Proof of this: God gave His Son to die for our sins, including the sin of suicide (Romans 8:32). 

2. MAN’S ACCUSATION: “Doesn’t the suicide of a Christian confirm the fact that Christianity really doesn’t have the solutions to man’s problems?” 

GOD’S ANSWER: “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” (Romans 8:33) God says, “No one can successfully press charges against a believer in Christ because I have declared him totally righteous on the basis of his faith in My Son.” No one can successfully accuse any Christian who commits suicide because God does not even accuse him – He declares him totally righteous or not guilty the moment he believed in Jesus Christ. No one can bring an accusation against the Christian who commits suicide that will stand. But how difficult it is at times to realize God’s interest and presence! It’s like the sun – every day – it shines. No one could EVER say – the sun isn’t shining! We may say, “I can’t feel it or see it”…but fly high enough and there it is!

3. MAN’S ACCUSATION: “Doesn’t such an act as suicide deserve condemnation?” 

GOD’S ANSWER: “Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.” (Romans 8:34) God says, “No one can successfully condemn the believer who commits suicide because My Son – 

“… was condemned to death for his sins, removing his guilt (8:34b).

“… was raised to life, satisfying My demand to punish his sins (8:34c). 

“… is at My right hand defending him against all accusations (8:34d).” When Satan comes to God’s throne with accusations against the believer who commits suicide, God looks to His Son, and Jesus says, “Father, I paid for that sin.”

“… intercedes for him (8:34e).”

Now let me make something quite clear. I am not suggesting that such a death is condoned in Scriptures… for God assures us that He has not only designed LIFE but LIFE MORE ABUNDANTLY for His children (John 10:10). However, the struggles and pain are often too great for a person who commits suicide. But God does not condemn him because Christ has taken his or her punishment. 

4. MAN’S ACCUSATION: “Doesn’t such an act separate a person from God’s love and presence? Isn’t this the classic act of rejection?”

GOD’S ANSWER: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? …Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who 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 created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35-39) Nothing, including suicide, can separate a Christian from the love of God. Even though others may stop loving us or we may stop loving ourselves, God’s love will never abandon us. Nothing you do, say, or think can separate you from God’s love. Absolutely nothing. 

Listen to Jesus’ own words: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them…and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.” (John 10:27-29) That includes the believer who commits suicide!  

Who shall oppose us? NO ONE. Who shall accuse us? NO ONE. Who shall condemn us? NO ONE. Who shall separate us from God’s love? NO ONE. The believer who commits suicide is in God’s presence – no more tears, crying, pain, death or darkness… all that is gone. His body awaits that incredible moment when it will be raised and changed—NEVER TROUBLED AGAIN WITH INNER DISTURBANCE  …CONFLICT …INSECURITY…UNREST…

HOW CAN I OVERCOME THOUGHTS OF SUICIDE?

  • Aim to work on the causes of your emotional pain, not just the symptoms.
  • If your depression is due to guilt, admit your sin to the Lord (Psalm 32:1-5; I John 1:9).
  • When you are depressed, place your hope in God (Psalm 42:5; Lamentations 3:20-25).
  • Avoid being isolated (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10). Stay connected to loving and supportive friends.
  • Seek help from others (Galatians 6:2; James 5:13-16).
  • Listen to uplifting Christian music and sing (I Samuel 16:14-23).
  • Identify and replace the lies underlying your suicidal thoughts with God’s truth. Jesus came so you could have life, but Satan came to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). Suicidal thoughts often stem from some of Satan’s lies.Focus on the truth of God’s Word, not Satan’s lies (John 8:31-32). If you are not aware of the lies you believe, journal your thoughts and feelings, relying on the Holy Spirit to reveal the underlying lies. Then ask God to remove the lies that cause you to have suicidal thoughts and graciously replace them with His truth (Psalm 119:28-29).

WHAT IF I SUSPECT SOMEONE I KNOW IS HAVING THOUGHTS OF SUICIDE?

  • Don’t be afraid to talk to them about it. We are only as sick as our secrets. Ask questions like: “Are you thinking about taking your life? Do you have a suicide plan as to how you would do it? Why do you think that’s the only answer?” Talking about suicide does not plant suicidal thoughts in someone who is already depressed. Talking about suicide actually decreases the possibility of that person taking his or her life because it diffuses its power. (If someone has a plan to kill themselves, make sure they get medical assistance immediately!)
  • Obtain a verbal “non-suicide” contract or commitment not to do anything that would be harmful or self-destructive without first talking with you or with a counselor, pastor, or another trusted person. 
  • Ask them to think through these questions: “If you died and came back to life, could you find other reasons for being glad to be alive? Would the Lord’s promises of love and guidance though your trials still be in place? Would the sun still shine and water still be cool and refreshing? Would there still be adventures in life and growth in relationships? Could some positive reasons for living, as opposed to dying, be developed?” Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! There is hope for the hopeless!


How can I trust the Lord Jesus as the True Shepherd? Part 4

“I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” John 10:9

In our study of John 10 we have learned that we can trust Jesus as our True Shepherd because…

– He has prophetic credentials (John 10:1-2)

– He has the doorkeeper’s (John the Baptist’s) confirmation (John 10:3a)

– He has personal concern for each of us (John 10:3b)

– He provides competent leadership (John 10:3c-6).

Today we discover that we can also trust Jesus as our True Shepherd because HE OFFERS SALVATION COMPLETELY FREE (John 10:7-9a, 10b). “Then Jesus said to them again, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.’ ” (John 10:7). After a shepherd separates his sheep from other flocks, he takes them out to pasture to graze. Near the pasture is an enclosure with no door. The shepherd stood in the doorway and functioned as the gate. The sheep could go out to graze in the pasture or if they were afraid, they could retreat into the security of the pen. A gate provides access or entrance.

When Jesus says, “I am the door,” He is saying He provides access or entrance into the nourishment of the pasture or into the security of the pen. Either way, Christ is the only One who can meet our spiritual needs completely. The religious leaders could not.

“All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them.” (John 10:8). Jesus refers to the religious leaders as “thieves and robbers” who exploited people and cared only for themselves. Established religions and their leaders cannot meet the needs of God’s flock for safety and security. The Pharisees were telling people that the way to be saved was to follow their religious rules and regulations. Instead of caring for these people, they increased their burdens for their own gain. But “the sheep did not hear” or pay attention to them because they were not the True Shepherd.

Jesus on the other hand, offers salvation freely. “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved.” (John 10:9a). Jesus does not say, “I am a door,” leaving open the possibility of other ways into the fold. No, He says He is “the door.” He is the only way into God’s fold. He is the only way into God’s fold. This is another “I AM” statement by Jesus whereby He claims to be God (cf. John 6:35; 8:12; 10:7, 11, 14; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1).

The phrase “by Me” (di’ emou) is in an emphatic position (at the beginning of the sentence). Literally it says, “Through Me, if anyone enters, he will be saved” (di’ emou ean tis eiselthē, sōthēsetai). Only Jesus can provide access or entrance into God’s sheepfold through faith in Him alone. There is no other way for people to be saved from their sins and enter God’s family except through faith in Jesus Christ (cf. John 1:12; 14:6; Acts 4:12; I Timothy 2:5-6).

Notice what Jesus promises the person who enters through Him – “he will be saved.” He does not say, “he might be saved,” or “he could be saved.” No, Jesus said, “He will be saved.” The salvation Jesus offers is absolutely certain and complete. Christ’s statement leaves no room for doubt or uncertainty about one’s own eternal destiny.

In verse 10a, Jesus contrasts His free and complete salvation with the Devil and the false shepherds that the Devil uses. “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.” (John 10:10a). “The thief” climbs over the wall, cuts the throats of the sheep, and then throws them over to other bandits. The thief robs the sheep of life and cares only about himself. Notice that “the thief” is singular and most likely refers to the Devil who wants “to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.” This would include the religious leaders (cf. 10:1, 8) whom the Devil uses to deceive the people. The Jewish religious leaders offered their followers a hope of finding God’s life through a life of obedience to their religious traditions. By doing this, they were robbing the people of the life that Jesus offered.

John 10:9-10 make it clear that there is only one way to God, but there are many ways to destruction. Jesus Christ is the only way into God’s sheepfold (John 14:6). All other religions consist of false shepherds who mislead people away from the life that Jesus freely offers. Most of the world’s religions may sound good to an uninformed person, but all of them have one thing in common – they lead you away from the everlasting life that only Jesus Christ can give.

Jesus did not come to steal, kill, and destroy. He came to give eternal “life” freely to those who would believe or trust in Him alone as their True Shepherd (John 3:15-16; 10:10b). The life that Jesus gives is not only long, but it is also rich, which leads to the sixth and final reason why we are to trust Jesus as our True Shepherd.

Because HE PROVIDES CONSTANT NOURISHMENT (John 10:9b, 10c). Jesus said,I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” (John 10:9b). Those who enter God’s family through faith in Jesus, can also “go in and out and find pasture.” This depicts the joy of the sheep finding nourishment in the pasture. Only Jesus can fully satisfy our needs for spiritual nourishment and security. Christ saved us not only so we can live with Him forever in heaven, but also so He can give us everything we need to grow and become more like Him here on earth. When Christians look to people to do for them what only Jesus can do, they will be very disappointed. People cannot give us eternal life or an abundant life. Only Jesus can do that. 

Christ then said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10bc). Eternal life must first be received as a free gift through faith alone in Jesus alone (“I have come that they may have life” – John 3:16; 4:10-14; Rom. 6:23; Ephes. 2:8-9) before we can experience that life “more abundantly” through obedience to Christ (John 8:31-32; 12:24-26). The word “abundantly” means over and above or overflowing life. All those who believe in Jesus have “life” in His name (John 10:10b; cf. 3:16; 20:31). But only those believers who obey Christ’s word will experience that life “more abundantly” both now and in eternity (John 10:10c; cf. 8:31-32).

So, eternal life can also refer to a reward that obedient believers will receive in the future (cf. Matthew 19:29; John 12:24-26; Galatians 6:7-8; I Timothy 6:12, 19). Eternal life is not static. Believers can experience varying degrees of God’s life as they learn to trust and obey Him.

Who is your shepherd? Is it your husband or wife? Your parents? A close friend? An imam, pastor, or priest? Your church, your religion, your government, or your culture? As important as they are they can never be the True Shepherd of your life because they are sheep too. Believe or trust in Jesus Christ alone as your true Shepherd not only for eternal life, but for a more abundant life both now and forever!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I come to You as my True Shepherd. Only You can guarantee life that never ends the moment a person believes in You. Only You can provide safety and security that lasts forever. When I compare all the other religious leaders of the world with You, they all fall short of Your goodness and grace which was fully expressed when You took our place and punishment on the cross to die for all our sins and then You rose from the dead. No other religious leader has ever laid down his or her life and taken it back up again in resurrection. I praise You not only for giving me everlasting life the moment I believed in You, but You also promise me an abundant life when I live for You. This is my desire my Lord and my God – to live for You the rest of my life because Your way leads to an abundant life as opposed to all other ways which rob people of the forever life You freely offer. In Your name I pray. Amen.

How can I overcome my sinful addictions – Part 5

“Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me?” John 8:46

The third reason why we are hindered from overcoming our addictions is because of our STUBBORN UNBELIEF (John 8: 45-47). Like their father, the devil, these unbelieving Jews lived in a world of lies and falsehood. Jesus said to them, “But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me.” (John 8:45). These men would rather believe a lie, rather than the truth that Jesus spoke. They had believed the devil’s lies so long that when Jesus tells them the truth, they did not believe Him because His teaching did not line up with their belief system. Here lies the battle: truth versus lies. The only way you can begin to overcome your addictions is to start believing the truth – about Christ, yourself, and your bondage to sin.

Jesus asks them, “Which of you convicts Me of sin?” (John 8:46a). “If you can find anything that I have done wrong, anything in all my thirty-three years on earth; if there is one of you who can stand up and say, ‘You cheated me, you stole from me, you lied to me, you deceived me, you lived for your own self, you took away what belonged to another,’ that would utterly demolish My claim to have come from God.” He pauses for an answer, but no one says anything. Their silence implied that Jesus was sinless. 

So Christ asks, “And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me?” (John 8:46b). “If you can find no sin in Me, then I must be speaking the truth, so why do you refuse to believe in Me? A sinless Man should be believed!” Jesus has stripped away the veil that has hidden their hearts from themselves. He has revealed them, not as good and decent men who were free before God, but as slaves, bound with habits they could not break, slaves to sin, desperately needing the work of a Redeemer. Yet they stubbornly refuse to believe in Christ.

So He states the case plainly. “He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.” (John 8:47). They rejected Christ’s message because they have no relationship with God.

This reminds me of some of the victims of hurricane Katrina, one of the deadliest hurricanes to ever hit the United States back in August of 2005. When rescuers came to their flooded homes, they shot at them instead of trusting them to save them from drowning. They refused their help. Are we any different? We can be so entrapped by sin, unable to break those sinful habits, yet when Christ offers us His help to overcome them, we shoot at Him as if we would rather die in our sin than be saved by someone else.

This brings us back to what Jesus said in John 8:31b-32: “31b If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” That is the only way out. To all victims of Satan’s lies Jesus offers the priceless gift of freedom. Only Jesus Christ can deliver us from bondage to sin. We do not have the power in ourselves to overcome sin. Only Christ can free us from sin’s control. Will we think, believe and act on the truth or will we think, believe, and act on a lie? The choice is ours. Choosing the truth will lead to freedom from bondage to sin and an abundant life. Choosing a lie will lead to more bondage and destruction.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we come to You as prisoners of our own making. All of us are slaves to sin. It may be anger, lust, worry, alcohol, drugs, self-abuse, gossip, pornography, cell phones, or work. You know our addictions and only You can set us free. Empower us to know, believe, and act on Your truth so that we may be all that You intended us to be for Your glory. In Your name I pray. Amen.

How can I overcome my sinful addictions? – Part 2

31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’ ” John 8:31-32

Addictions are often fueled by shame-based lies that are inserted into the limbic system of our (right) brains when trauma takes place in our lives. The limbic system is usually programmed by the time we are six years old. Our prefrontal cortex (our moral and impulse control system) of the (left) brain is not developed until we are twenty-five years of age. Over ninety-eight percent of the decisions we make in life are done subconsciously in the limbic system. So much of our lives are directed by patterns of the past.

Also, the limbic system is programmed to help us cope and survive, and coping behavior is at the core of addictive behavior. When we take sinful coping mechanisms and make them a lifestyle, we experience bondage.

Most addicts have wounds that were caused during childhood or adolescence that fuel their addictions as adults. For example, when a six-year old boy is brutally raped and then threatened by his rapist, Satan can easily insert a lie associated with that intense trauma that says, “This happened to me because I am bad.” That little boy grows up believing this lie. At the core of his being he believes he is flawed and that no one could possibly love him if they knew him. The shame from this lie leads him to turn to sexual addiction as an adult to numb the pain from his unresolved trauma.

Trauma comes in many forms and it can be experienced as a child and as an adult. High intensity trauma such as military combat, a natural disaster, physical or sexual abuse, the death of a family member, or divorce can leave deep wounds within one’s soul. But one does not have to experience intense trauma to struggle with shame-based lies and addictions. You may have experienced low intensity trauma that takes place frequently such as neglect, verbal rejection, minimal affection, teasing by a stepbrother, having few friends, etc. The cumulative effect of low intensity trauma can be just as damaging as high intensity trauma.  

However, not everyone who has an addiction has major wounds or trauma. Some people turn to addictions when they feel stressed to medicate their pain. In other words they have developed unhealthy coping mechanisms or sinful addictions to deal with their stress.

Our sinful addictions do not stop with believing in Christ for His gift of everlasting life. That is only the beginning. I must also CONTINUE IN CHRIST’S WORD (John 8:31-32). The Bible says, 31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’ ” (John 8:31-32). To “abide” (menō) in Christ’s Word means “to continue or remain” in Jesus’ teaching – literally, “to make one’s home at.” Where we make our home is where we spend our time. The Jews knew a lot of Scripture, but they did not know the Author of the Scriptures. “Knowing the truth” means knowing Christ who is the truth (John 14:6; cf. 8:32, 36).

How do I abide in Christ’s Word? Early in my Christian life I learned a method of abiding in Christ’s Word that was primarily for my left brain, not my right brain or limbic system. That method basically focused on downloading biblical data into my left brain through reading, studying, and memorizing Scripture. But keep in mind that most of our decision making takes place in the right brain, albeit at an unconscious level. So if all I am doing is downloading Scripture into my left brain, I am going to experience little transformation. In the last year I have learned a new method of abiding in Christ’s Word that is for both the left and right parts of the brain. This method involves an acrostic, S.W.O.R.D., from Seven Pillars of Freedom by Dr. Ted Roberts:

S – Scripture. For over twenty years, I have read through the entire Bible each year. I was so busy reading through my required passages to get through the Bible in a year, that it became another hurried thing I did in my busy schedule. But now, I approach God’s Word meditatively – not to analyze or criticize the Word, but to be analyzed and challenged by God’s Word. So first, I write God’s Word down on paper. Writing it down will help your thoughts to slow down and focus on the truth of the Scripture.

W – Wait. Read the Scripture again on your knees if possible. Read it aloud slowly and attentively. Then pause to let the passage sink in. Read the Scripture again, this time asking yourself the following questions, “What do I see? What do I hear? What do I feel? Where am I in this passage?” Finally read the passage again noticing what word or words grab your attention. Focus on those words. Chew on them for a few minutes. We have a tendency to intellectualize Scripture instead of experience God’s Word. During the waiting, we want to involve multiple senses – sight, hearing, feelings, touch, etc., to come to our observation about God, ourselves, and others.

O – Observe. Take a seat and write down what you observed in the Scripture. When we journal the Scriptures, we retain sixty percent more of what we learn. What truth do you discover in these verses? How does God see me and how do I see God and me? This will clarify your thought processes and involve another whole section of your brain.

R – Request that the Holy Spirit help you see how all of this applies to your life. This is not an academic process but a process of the heart. You are specifically asking the Word to analyze you instead of you analyzing the Word. This often triggers a neurochemical cascade of new understanding where your mind is being renewed.

D – Dedicate. What helps us from being just touched by God to being transformed is the commitment of our heart and will. Trying harder will not get us headed in the right direction when it comes to freedom from our addictions. But once the Holy Spirit gets us headed in the right direction, dedicating ourselves to that direction in life will transform us.

We may avoid applying biblical truth because it is painful or difficult. Jesus said if you abide in His Word, “you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32). But at first the truth may make you miserable! What is the opposite of truth? It is error or lies. God’s Word exposes the lies we believe that keep us enslaved to sin. The truth reveals our motives, points out our faults, rebukes our sin, and expects us to change. It is human nature to resist change, so applying God’s Word is hard work.

That’s why I cannot stress enough the importance of being a part of a discipleship relationship with other believers. In fact, notice what Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.” (John 8:31b). The path to freedom from our addictions is discipleship. We were wounded in the context of relationships, and we are healed in the context of relationships – healthy relationships. We always learn from others truths we would never learn on our own. Other people will help you see insights you would miss and help you apply God’s truth in a practical way. They can also help hold you accountable and I know I need that, don’t you?

Before I conclude this article, I want to give you an assignment to do. I want you to make a chart (see above) consisting of four columns and ten rows under each column’s heading. The first column is entitled “Worst Moments.” In this column, write down your ten worst or most painful moments in your life. The second column is entitled, “Limbic Lies.” In this column, write down the lie or lies attached to your worst moments. The third column is entitled “Scripture/Truth.” In this column, ask the Holy Spirit to help you identify the truth He wants you to apply to that painful moment in place of the lie you already identified. Write out the Bible verse and truth about yourself that it communicates. The fourth column is entitled “Destiny.” In this column, write down what that verse says about your destiny. Spend time this week speaking these truths when you find yourself thinking or speaking their corresponding lies.

Let me give you an example of this exercise. I will relate it to the six-year old boy I mentioned earlier. In the “Worst Moments” column, you would write, “When I was six years old, I was brutally raped.” In the “Limbic Lies” column, you might write, “I am bad because of what happened to me.” In the “Scripture/Truth” column, you could write, “I am precious to Jesus because of what happened to Him.” (Matthew 13:45-46; I Corinthians 6:19-20). In the “Destiny” column, you could write, “Because my worth is based on what Jesus has done and not what was done to me, I no longer need to try to prove my value through what I do.”

The more we abide in Christ’s Word, the more we shall know the truth which can set us free from the lies that fuel our sinful addictions. You may have been through some terrible trauma that has left you deeply wounded. Your life may be driven by shame-based lies that drive your sinful addictions. You may have asked yourself, “Where was Jesus when this happened to me?” I want to encourage you, if you are a believer in Jesus, to invite Him to walk with you through that trauma. And as you do this, ask the Holy Spirit to help you answer the following questions:

Where was Jesus when this happened to me?

What look do I see on His face?

And what truth would He say to me soon after this happened?

Christ cares for those who struggle with addictions. I believe the more we encounter the radical love of Jesus Christ amidst our trauma, the deeper His healing will be of our wounds. Healing that is based upon His truth. Getting the truth down into our souls is what brings change and freedom from sinful addictions. Knowing the truth is not just a point of head knowledge; it is relational, it is intimate, and it is expressed through action.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, You have taught me so much about what drives my sinful addictions. The primary fuel that has driven them are the wounds from unresolved trauma in my life and the lies attached to them. Lord Jesus, since You are God, You are able to walk with me through those wounds and the trauma that caused them. Thank You so much for speaking Your truth to me when You have walked with me through them. Some of my trauma is because of my own choices while some of my trauma is caused by the choices of others. Regardless of the cause, I pray the Holy Spirit will reveal any deception in my life that has caused me to remain in bondage. Please shed light on the dark places of my life, areas that no one else can seem to reach, not even those who love me the most. Cleanse me and soften my heart and help me renew my mind so that You can use me. Regardless of how painful this process may be or how long it takes, I commit myself into Your loving hands. I am so grateful to have a Father like You. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

How can I know God is for me when all this bad stuff is happening?

As conditions worsen with regard to the coronavirus, many people are panicking. In large part, it seems to me that the media is highly responsible for a lot of fear-based decision making. God does not want His children to be driven by fear. He wants us to be driven by faith (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:7). With so many negative reports in the news today, it is challenging to maintain a life of faith. We may succumb to this bombardment of sensationalism and begin to doubt if God is really on our side. A lie that the enemy likes to whisper in a Christian’s ear when bad things are happening is, “God is against you.” Do you ever have thoughts like that? I certainly do.

The truth God has given us to combat this lie is found in Romans 8:31 where the apostle Paul writes: ““If God is for us [and He is], who can be against us” (8:31)? When we think someone is against us, God says, “Since I am for you (and no one is greater than Me), no one can successfully oppose you!” This includes the coronavirus, those in authority over us, family, friends, and even the devil and his demonic armies. As a preacher once said, “One plus God is  always a majority.” Does it always feel this way? No. But our feelings do not always tell the truth.

You may respond, “But God, how do I know You are for me?” Paul writes, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things” (8:32)? When we were enemies of God, He gave us His own Son to die in our place (Romans 5:6-8). If God gave us His best when we were at our worst, how much more will He give us now that we are His beloved children!?!

God the Holy Spirit wants to apply these truths beyond our thoughts to the depths of our soul and spirit so that even when bad and painful things happen to us, we will still know deep down inside that God is for us. He is on our side. God is our biggest fan despite what we hear from our antagonists, including our own flesh. Therefore, there is no longer any reason to live in fear.

How do we replace this lie (and others) with God’s truth? Second Corinthians 10:3-5 instructs us. First, we must rely on God’s power, not our own. This battle for our minds is not “according to the flesh” (10:3). Nothing in our own flesh will help us to live victoriously or draw us closer to the Lord. Since the weapons of our warfare are “mighty in God,” then we must rely  upon the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome Satan’s lies (10:4).

Second, recognize the erroneous thought. This battle is located in our minds because it involves “strongholds,” “arguments,” “knowledge,” and “every thought” (10:4-5). The word “strongholds” pictures a fortress with high walls and towers surrounded by a moat. God says these strongholds must be destroyed which means that God did not build them. A “stronghold” then, is a negative, destructive pattern of thinking that Satan has built in our minds through repetition, trauma, or circumstances. Satan does not put thoughts in our minds. He uses other people’s voices to insert thoughts in our mind. Ungodly thoughts come from us. Christ lives inside us and He does not give us these ungodly thoughts (Galatians 2:20). We will not get very far in this battle for our minds until we acknowledge these satanic strongholds.

Third, release the lie. “Casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God” (10:5a). Dismiss the lie and say, This is not true, therefore, it is a lie and I am not going to pay attention to this. I am not going to entertain these thoughts that say God is against me.”

Fourth, reprogram your mind with the truth, “bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (10:5b). How do we bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ? Jesus told us: “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). The devil is a liar by nature and he cannot handle the truth (John 6:44). This is why the devil tries to distract us from the truth so that it never gets deep down into the areas where he has a stronghold in our lives.

Persevere in this truth: “God is for me and not against me. The proof? He gave me His best on the cross when I was at my worst.” Review this truth daily. Say it out loud. Find a picture or image that represents this truth and review it throughout the day. This will help download the truth of God’s Word into your right brain where lies are attached to wounds from your past.

Neuroscience teaches us that it takes 2-5 years to develop new neurological pathways in our brain that contain the truth. So keep telling yourself the truth even when you don’t feel like it or see it so you can create and strengthen the new pathway in your brain. Our bodies create new brain cells the more we tell ourselves the truth. The more we tell ourselves the truth, the stronger the pathway becomes between brain cells. When we ignore the lie, the old pathway weakens – those brain cells containing Satan’s lies have less power and strength. You can continue to create new brain cells throughout your life by speaking the truth to yourself. When Paul said, “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:2), perhaps he not only had a spiritual transformation in mind, but a physiological transformation in mind as well.

Prayer: Father God, by Your Spirit, please heal my soul of the wound that has the lie attached to it that says, “You are against me.” I cannot heal this wound myself. No doctor, pastor, or therapist can heal me. Only You, Lord God, can heal me. I will need Your grace to replace this lie with Your truth that says, “You are for me. And since no one is greater than You, no one can successfully oppose me.” When I doubt that You are for me, please remind me of the cross that says You gave me Your best when I was at my worst. And since You gave Your best to me when I was at my worst, how much more will You give me through Your Son Jesus now that I am Your beloved child through faith in Him!?! Thank You that I no longer need to live in fear. I can awaken each morning expectant of Your best for me through the Lord Jesus Christ. In His name I pray. Amen.