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Showing posts with label Freedom in Christ. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Freedom in Christ. Show all posts

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Freedom in Christ Lesson 6: The Battle for Our Minds

 

Freedom in Christ Lesson 6: The Battle for Our Minds  

 Lesson 6 Podcast

Focus Verse:

Ephesians 6:11 (NIV2011)
11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.

Objective: To understand that, although our enemy, the devil, is constantly attempting to get us to believe lies, we don’t have to believe every thought that comes into our head but can hold each one up against truth and choose to accept it our reject it.

Focus Truth: We are all in a spiritual battle. It’s a battle between truth and lies, and it takes place in our minds. If we are aware of how Satan works, we will not fall for his schemes.  

Welcome

Has anyone ever played a really good trick on you, or have you played one on someone else? What was it?

Read aloud the following passages:

Colossians 2:15 (NKJV)
15 Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.

 Luke 10:19 (NKJV)
19 Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.

Colossians 2:20 (NKJV)
20 Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations—

Matthew 28:18-20 (NKJV)
18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.

 

The Battle is Real

We're not just up against the world and the flesh. The Bible teaches that we're also up against the devil, whom Jesus calls the “father of lies” (John 8:44). The good news is that this is the most resolvable of the three. Jesus came to destroy the devil’s work (1 John 3:8)

The tendency, however, of those of us brought up with the Western worldview is to run our lives as if the spiritual did not exist. But from the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelation, there's one continuous theme in the Bible: the battle between the Kingdom of light and the Kingdom of darkness; Between the Spirit of Truth and the father of lies; between the Christ and the Antichrist.

If we don't understand that we are in a battle or how that battle works, we're likely to become a casualty - to be neutralized in our walk with the Lord.

Satan The Deceiver

So, who is Satan and how does he work?

When God created Adam and Eve to rule over the world the devil had to crawl at their feet in the form of a snake.

But when they sinned, Adam and Eve effectively handed over their right to rule the world to Satan. That's why Jesus referred to him as the “prince, or ruler, of this world” (John 12:31). He's also called “the ruler of the kingdom of the air” (Eph 2:2) and we're told that the whole world lies in his power (1 John 5:19).

Satan is Not Like God

God and Satan are not equal and opposite powers or anything remotely like that, though Satan would like you to think that they are. In fact, it has been said that to compare Satan to God is like comparing an ant to an atomic bomb. The Bible makes a huge distinction between the “Creator” and the “created” (John 1:3). Like us, Satan is a mere created being.

Satan Can Only Be in One Place at a Time

Because of that, we can infer that he can only be in one place at one time. He rules this world through “rulers, authorities, powers and spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph 6:12), different types of levels of fallen angels. The Bible doesn't bother telling us a huge amount about how they are organized because we don't really need to know.

Only God is everywhere at once. That means that most of us have probably never come up against Satan himself in person. So when I use the term “Satan” I'm usually referring not just to Satan himself (who can only be in one place at one time) but using it to refer to evil spirits in general.  

Satan's Power and Authority Do Not Even Begin to Compare to God’s

At the cross Jesus completely disarmed Satan (Col 2:15) and Satan can only operate within the boundaries that God sets (Jude 1:6). He can't just walk into your life and inflict damage and destruction.

God has put Satan on a leash, and he can only act within the boundaries that God has set.

Satan Does Not Know Everything.

Every occult practice relates to the mind or the future, but Satan knows neither perfectly.

There is no evidence that Satan can read your mind. For example, all interaction in the Bible between angels and people or demons and people is done out loud.

 How Satan works

By Putting Thoughts into Our Mind

Now this does not mean that Satan cannot put thoughts into your mind, something that the Bible clearly teaches he can do.

Mind you, so can I. In fact I hope that during this course I live I've been putting lots of thoughts into your mind.

Because he’s had so much practice observing people over many years, he can often make a pretty accurate guess about what's going on in your mind and it's not hard for him to know what you are thinking if he gave you the thought in the first place.

The Spirit clearly says that in latter times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons one (1 Timothy 4:1).

Are Christians being deceived into abandoning faith and listening to demons? Let's look at three Biblical examples to try to understand how we can be affected without even knowing it.

Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel. (1 Chronicles 21:1)

What's wrong with that? Wouldn't you want to know how many troops you had? But even the captain of his guard tried to persuade him not to do it because it showed that David was putting his confidence in his own resources rather than God.

But why did he listen to Satan? To put it another way, would he have done it if he had thought it was Satan's idea? Of course not! David believed that it was his own idea, even though the Bible makes clear that it wasn't.

The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. (John 13:2)

Weren't these Judas’ own thoughts? No. The Bible clearly says that the thought came from the devil. And when Judas realized the implications of what he had done, he went out and hanged himself.

Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourselves some of the money you received for the land?” (Acts 5:3).  

Ananias almost certainly thought that this was his own idea, but the Bible makes clear that it originated with Satan. Ananias was deceived and it had terrible consequences. God struck him dead. He sent a powerful message to the early church about the importance of not compromising the truth.

It's not too much of a leap to think that, if Satan can put thoughts into our mind he can make them sound like our own. He would not announce the thought with an evil cackle: “Satan here, you’re useless.” No, he would make it sound very much like your own thought: “I'm useless, I'm ugly.” Not every thought that comes into your mind is your own. And you don't have to think every thought that comes into your mind.


Pause for Thought 1

Objective:

To understand who Satan is and how he works. To realize that he is only a created being but also a destroyer, liar, and thief. (John 8:44, 10:10)

Questions:

Does the devil seem more or less powerful than you had imagined? In what ways?

“Not every thought that comes into your head is your own” For example “I'm useless or I'm dirty.” What do you think about this?

Looking back, can you identify occasions when a thought you have had may well have been from the enemy? Are those thoughts always completely false?

___________________________________________________________________________________

Through Temptation, Accusation, and Deception

The strategies Satan uses fall into three categories: temptation, accusation, and deception.

 

Let's imagine your Christian life as a race, with the racetrack stretching out in front of you. Satan can't block the path or stop you from becoming everything that God wants you to be. All he can do is shout out to you from the sidelines.

He'll try to tempt you away. “Hey! Look what's over here! Come and get it. It'll make you feel better, and no one needs to find out. You know you want to.”

Or he'll shout accusations at you. “You blew it again? You useless excuse for a Christian! You might as well sit down and give up.”

He'll also tell you barefaced lies. “Excuse me, you're going the wrong way. The finish line is back that way.”

Satan is trying to get us into sin, to establish negative patterns of thought. “I'm hopeless” or “I'll never be able to”, and to deceive us into worldly ways of thinking. “I can figure this out on my own” or “All I need is positive thinking”.

The most defeated Christians believe the lies and sit down. “Yeah, you're right, it's hopeless.”

Others stand while they argue with the thoughts, but they make no progress.

Victorious Christians simply ignore them. They take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ and keep running toward the finish line.

Are we experiencing a battle for the mind? Let's ask three questions to find out. Please raise your hand to indicate your response.

·       How many of us have experienced some form of temptation this last week? And are the others being tempted to lie?

According to the Bible, who is the tempter? Is it the opposite sex, or the porn site, or the chocolate bar? No, those are just objects that Satan uses. But given that Satan himself can only be in one place at a time, we're probably dealing with deceiving spirits.

·       How many of us here have struggled with the voice of the accuser in the last week? Or, to put it in another way: How many of us have struggled with thoughts like: “I'm stupid,” “I'm hopeless,” “No one understands me,” “God doesn't love me.”  “I'm different from others”?

Every one of us has. Satan accuses us before God day and night (Revelation 12:10).

·       In the last week, how many of us have been deceived in some way?  

Far fewer hands went up for the third question (if indeed that is the case) because if I tempt you, you know it and if I accuse you, you know it. But if I deceive you, by definition you don't know it. Deception is Satan's primary strategy.

By Getting Footholds in Our Lives Through Sin.

In the last session we looked at Ephesians 4:26-27 which says that if we don't deal with anger quickly, we give the devil of foothold in our life.

You can see the same principle in 2 Corinthians 2:10-11:

Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven, if there was anything to forgive, I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.

We’ll look at forgiveness in a later session. But for now I'll just point out that Satan's greatest access to our lives is often through the sin of unforgiveness.

If Satan can lead us into sin, he gains a point of influence in our lives that he can use to hold us back, as if we are on a piece of elastic.

We tend to look for the activity of demons in “dramatic” episodes. But the battle is primarily in the mind.

The Relationship between Demons and Christians

It's very important to stress at this point that we're not talking about Christians being completely taken over or taken back by demons.

At the center of your being, your spirit is connected to God's Spirit and Satan can't have you back. You have been purchased by the blood of the lamb (1Peter 1:18-19). In other words, we're not talking here about ownership or “possession”.

If we fall for Satan's temptation, accusation, or deception, he may gain a degree of influence in our minds (1 Peter 5:8). His goal is to neutralize us or even use us to further his agenda (for example, Acts 5:3).  

We read in 2 Corinthians 4:4 that Satan “has blinded the minds of unbelievers” and these footholds seem to work in believers in much the same way. They cause a degree of spiritual blindness and make it more difficult for us to connect with the truth. That's why good teaching on its own isn't enough for us to grow. We may simply be unable to connect with it until we deal with these footholds of the enemy.

The good news is that getting rid of these footholds is not difficult or dramatic, and you'll get an opportunity to do that in a gentle and controlled way when we go through The Steps to Freedom in Christ. Many find that they are then able to grasp the truth of God's word in a completely new way.

Pause for Thought 2

Objective: To help people get to grips with what it means practically to win the battle for our minds.

Questions:

“If you are deceived, by definition you don't know it.” What are some of the ways that you might become aware of deception in your life?

What practical steps can you take to “take every thought captive” to obey Christ? (2 Cor 10:5)?

If we have given the enemy of foothold through sin, how can we take that foothold away according to James 4:7?

___________________________________________________________________________________

Our Defense

Understand Our Position in Christ

Ephesians 1:19-22 says that Jesus is seated at God's right hand, the ultimate seat of power and authority, “far above all rule and authority, power and dominion”. God has placed all things under His feet, and we are told that He is now “head over everything”.

That's a great position of power!

So what is our position?

Ephesians 2:6 says, “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.”

We are seated with Christ, far above Satan and all demonic powers. Not just slightly above!

Use the Resources We Have in Christ

Now even though Satan is defeated, he still “prowls around, like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

However, James 4:7 says, “Submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” As long as you are submitting to God when you resist the devil he has no choice but to flee. This applies to every Christian no matter how weak and frail you may feel, or how long or how short a time you have been a Christian.  Every believer has the same authority and power in Christ over the spiritual world.

Understanding this concept is the key to escaping from sin-confess cycles. We need to do more than simply confess to God that we did wrong. We also need to resist the devil so that he flees from us.

Do Not Be Frightened

There is nothing big about a demon except its mouth! They are like dogs with a big bark but no teeth. We don't need to be intimidated by something that goes bump in the night. The truth is that demons are petrified of Christians who understand the magnitude of power and authority they have in Christ. Satan and demons have no power over Christians except what we give them.

Some of you might be thinking, “Do you mean there might be demons in here?” Yes, the spiritual world is filled with demons, but so what? God has not given us the spirit of fear. You have no reason to be afraid of that. What else is here what that you can't see but has the potential to hurt you? Germs!

What is the proper response to the fact that there are germs all around?

Do you need to go put on a protective suit and spray disinfectant all over the place? No! The best response is to live a balanced life of diet, exercise, and rest and let your immune system protect you.

What is the best response to the fact that there are demons all around? Simply to fix our eyes on Jesus and by faith live a righteous life in the power of the Holy Spirit. The last thing you need to do is go looking for a demon behind every bush.

However, the danger comes from those Christians who don't realize that demons are there, don't understand how they work, and don't know how to protect themselves. When doctors didn't know there were germs all around us, they didn't sterilize their instruments or scrub their hands and people died. Christians who don't put on the full armor of God are left exposed to the attack of the enemy because they don't understand the reality of the spiritual world.

By the way, your authority does not increase with volume! You don't need to shout the devil away. If you think you have to shout and scream, you're not exercising your authority, you're actually undermining it. The devil’s goal is to get you to respond in fear. If you respond in fear you're operating in the flesh, and he will defeat you.

If you're ever tempted to be frightened of the enemy here is a good verse to memorize: “The One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them.” (1 John 5:18).

Guard Our Minds

Then we need to guard our minds, to be careful what we allow into them.

There are a lot of Eastern influences coming into the business world, schools, and even churches, that are simply dangerous. 

It's concerning when such practices enter our church. The psalmist said, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me” (Ps 139: 23-24). It's good to invite God to search our heart. However, we are never told to direct our thoughts inward or passively but always outward and actively. Even in 1 Corinthians 14, the definitive chapter on tongues and prophecy, Paul says if you pray with your spirit, you should also pray with your mind.

We open ourselves up to deception when we put our mind into neutral. That's what other religions do. For example, Maharishi Yogi, a Hindu, says, “The mind is like a snake. You have to get it out of the way so that you can perceive truth directly”.

We never want to deny any supernatural work of God in our lives, but he does not bypass our minds. He works through them.

Turn on the Light

Some people are concerned to know whether the thoughts in their mind are from the enemy or not. That's the wrong question. The real issue is not where the thought came from but whether it's true! We are told to, “take every thought captive” (2 Corinthians 10:5).. I don't care if it is coming from my memory, the TV, the Internet, or a deceiving spirit. If it is not true, I am not believing it!

If you're in a dark room and you want to see, what do you do? Do you try to shoo the darkness away? No. You turn on the light! Don't focus on the enemy, focus on the truth.

Do you know how bank clerks are trained to recognize forged currency? By studying forged notes? No! By studying the real thing. They get to know what real currency looks like so they are able to spot fake ones when they come through. In the same way, our defense against deception is to know the truth.

Satan’s lies can't withstand the truth any more than night can withstand the rising sun. It's a truth encounter, not a power encounter.

So let's not focus on the enemy. Instead, as Paul instructs:

“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8).

Reflection

 

Objective: To focus on the protection we have from Satan’s schemes.

“The One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them.” (1 John 5:18). Spend a few minutes as a group discussing this powerful truth and how it applies to your daily life.

Read Ephesians 6:10-18 pausing after each element of the armor of God to pray. As you pray, visualize yourself putting on, or having on, each piece of the armor and commit yourself to what it represents, for example:

“I put on the belt of truth. I commit myself to believe the truth, speak only the truth, and live according to the truth.”

“I thank You that Jesus has made me righteous and that the breastplate of righteousness covers my heart.”

_________________________________________________________________________________

Witness: How do you think Satan works in the lives of your non-Christian friends?  What might you be able to do about this?

In the Coming Week: Meditate on the following verses:

Matthew 28:18 (NKJV)
18  And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.

Ephesians 1:3-14 (NKJV)
3  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,
4  just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,
5  having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,
6  to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved.
7  In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace
8  which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence,
9  having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself,
10  that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth--in Him.
11  In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will,
12  that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.
13  In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,
14  who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

Ephesians 2:4-10 (NKJV)
4  But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,
5  even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
6  and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
7  that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
8  For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,
9  not of works, lest anyone should boast.
10  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Colossians 2:13-15 (NKJV)
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.
15  Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.


Thursday, September 30, 2021

Freedom in Christ Lesson 4: The World’s View of the Truth

Lesson 4 Podcast:  Lesson 4 Podcast

Freedom in Christ Lesson 4: The World’s View of the Truth  

 

Focus Verse:

Romans 12:2 (NKJV)
2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

 

Objective: To understand that Christians need to make a definite decision to turn away from believing what the world teaches and choose instead to believe what God says is true.

Focus Truth: The world we grew up in influenced us to look at life in a particular way and to see that way as “true”. However, if it doesn’t stack up with what God says is true, we need to reject it and bring our beliefs into line with what is really true.   

Welcome

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you choose?

Do you think that the way you look at the world and what you believe would be very different if you had been brought up in a different culture?

John 14:6 (NKJV)
6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

 

Ephesians 1:17-23 (NKJV)
17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power 20 which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21  far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. 22 And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

 

1 Corinthians 1:30 (NKJV) 30 But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God--and righteousness and sanctification and redemption—

 

Philippians 2:5-11 (NKJV)
5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

 

What is “The World”?

We’ve looked at some fundamental truths: who we are in Christ and the fact that faith is simply a choice to believe what God tells us is already true. In the next three sessions we’re going to turn our attention to the things that try to deflect us from the truth. We have three distinct enemies: the world, the flesh, and the devil.

First, in this session, we’ll look at the world and how it tries to make us look at reality in a way that is opposed to how God says it actually is.

The world is the system or culture we grew up in and live in. That will vary greatly according to where you are from and when you were born. I’m going to talk about it almost as if it were a person with its own thoughts and deeds. It isn’t. However, there is someone behind it, Satan, whom Jesus called (John 12:31) “the ruler of this world.” To a significant extent, he is the one who pulls the strings behind the world and works through it.

Let’s look at the three main tactics the world uses to try to divert us from the truth.

Tactic 1: Promising To Meet Our Deepest Needs

Its first tactic is promising to meet those deep needs we all have. We were created to have the kind of life Adam had: 100% acceptance, the highest significance, perfect security. But that wasn’t the life we were born into. From our first breath we didn’t have the spiritual connection to God that we were meant to have. Yet we were created with those in-built needs for acceptance, significance, and security that our connection with God would have fulfilled.

When we were growing up and instinctively started looking to fulfill those deep needs for acceptance, significance, and security, up popped the world and said,    “No problem! I’ll show you how to get those.”

It feeds us false formulas:

Performance + accomplishments = significance

Status + recognition = security

Appearance + admiration = acceptance

Those are lies. But in the absence of a spiritual connection to God, we naturally fell for them. Or as Paul put it, we naturally “followed the ways of this world” (Eph 2:2).

1 John 2:15–17 is a key passage in understanding how the world tries to suck us in:

1 John 2:15-17 (NKJV)
15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world--the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life--is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.

According to the passage, there are three channels through which the world works:

The Lust of The Flesh 

The more we buy into the world’s lies and act on them, the more unhelpful patterns of thinking become established in our minds, which then become default ways of behaving.

The Lust of The Eyes 

The world shows me things that it claims will meet my needs for acceptance, significance, and security that God created me to have.

The Pride of Life 

This is simply the temptation the world throws at us to boast about our life, based on the lie that it’s possessions or achievements or connections that make us significant.

 

Pause for Thought 1

Objective:

To help people understand their vulnerability to the world’s promises to meet our God-given needs for significance, security, and acceptance.

Questions:

In what ways has the world tried to make you feel insignificant, insecure, and unloved?

In what ways has the world promised you significance, security, and acceptance?

Do you recognize these “false formulas”?

Performance + accomplishments = significance

Status + recognition = security

Appearance + admiration = acceptance

How can you counteract “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:15–17)?

______________________________________________________________________

Tactic 2: Painting A Complete But False Picture Of Reality

Essentially the second tactic of the world is to give you a distorted view of reality but feed it to you as the real thing.  How we see the world is called your “worldview.”

Just as we pick up things like language from our environment, we also pick up beliefs, values, and ways of behaving. We are influenced by our family, our schooling, our friends, the media.

So without even realizing it we all develop a way of looking at reality that we believe is true. But if your worldview is faulty, it will lead to faulty judgments about what happens in your life.

1.    A Non-Western Worldview

If you were brought up in Africa or Eastern cultures you may well have absorbed the belief that the universe is controlled by a kind of universal power that runs through everything and by spirits of many types.

If something bad happened to you,  you would probably begin to suspect that someone might be manipulating this universal power or the spirits against you by cursing you or doing some kind of magic. 

You would probably turn to a shaman or witch doctor to sort out the problems with this universal power.

If this is how you see reality, chances are that you will be living in constant fear that someone else might have a better control of the powers or that you might somehow unwittingly upset a spirit that would then turn against you.

2.    The Western Worldview

Most people brought up in the West don’t turn to a witch doctor if things start to go wrong. Instead we tend to look for logical reasons and try to fix the problem. 

The Western worldview tells us that what is real can only be known through scientific methods. If we’re ill we’ll turn to a doctor who will use scientific methods to try to make us better.

3.    The Postmodern Worldview 

The “Postmodern” worldview — has been emerging in the West in recent decades, which is something of a reaction against past generations’ reliance on scientists and experts.

The younger you are, the more likely you are to be suspicious of experts in general but particularly suspicious of those who make strong claims to certainty. In fact you may well have come to see anyone who has strong convictions as being on a dangerous line that ends with extreme, fanatical terrorists.

Whereas previous generations saw truth as something revealed by God or discovered by science, increasingly we test whether an idea is valid or not purely on the basis of our own personal experience. If it feels good to me, it’s OK. Each person is free to make up their own version of truth based on their own experience.

So politicians can say what people want to hear even if it flies in the face of facts and get a strong following. Groups on social media promote even the most outlandish views and members reinforce each other’s beliefs.

That is why Christians are under pressure to agree that all religions are equally true. Saying that we respect the right of other people to different beliefs and that we are happy to dialogue with them is no longer enough. There is a pressure to agree that their beliefs are just as “true” as our own.

Younger Christians are happy to say that Jesus is their truth but hesitate to go further and talk about Him as the truth.

This has led to what you might call “extreme tolerance” where practically any behavior is acceptable. People in previous generations used pornography, indulged in binge drinking, used drugs, or had multiple sexual partners, but would usually have acknowledged that those things were wrong. Increasingly, people don’t see these things as inherently wrong as long as they make them feel good. In fact the only thing that is seen as wrong is saying that what someone else is doing is wrong!

The bottom line is that people are increasingly absorbing into their worldview a belief that there is no real, solid, undergirding truth.

The Biblical Worldview: Truth Does Exist

So, what is true? That there is a spiritual power flowing through the universe that we can manipulate? Something that only science can uncover? Whatever feels good to you?

Which worldview is right?

None of them!

If we were to take that virtual reality headset off, get rid of the values and beliefs that our own particular culture instilled in us, what would the world actually look like? 

The Bible claims to be God’s revelation of reality to the people He created. If that is right, then taking off that headset would mean that what we would see would correspond exactly to what the Bible tells us. That what the Bible says is “how it really is.”

Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

What! Are we saying that only one view of reality can be right? Isn’t that a bit, well, intolerant? 

Consider the most important question facing everybody in the world: What happens when you die?

Hinduism teaches that when a soul dies it is reincarnated in another form.

Christianity teaches that souls spend eternity in either heaven or hell.

Spiritists think we float around as ghosts.

Atheists believe that we have no soul and that when we die our existence simply ends.

Can all those things be true at the same time? To put it another way, does what you believe will happen to you when you die make any difference to what will actually happen? Or will the same thing happen to everyone when they die regardless of what they believed before the event?

Surely, if Hindus are right, we will all be reincarnated. If Christians are right, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. If atheists are right, all of our existences will come to an end. If spiritists are right we’ll all float around as ghosts. But they simply can’t all be true at the same time.

So it’s clear that there is such a thing as real truth that exists whatever individuals may choose to believe.

We are not proposing a version of truth that we have made up ourselves. The Bible has been tested and found reliable by millions of people over thousands of years.

In fact many of those ordinary people have found that, by choosing to believe it, they have been able to accomplish, or be a catalyst for, extraordinary things.

We may find it difficult to advance an unfashionable argument. But are we really being helpful if we encourage people in their view that there is no truth when Jesus has said very clearly that He is the truth?
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Pause for Thought 2

Objective: To reinforce the concept that we have all been heavily influenced by a non-biblical way of looking at reality.

Questions:

How different would your worldview be if you had grown up in another part of the world or at a different time?

 In what ways do you identify with one of the three worldviews discussed here?

When we talk to people about Jesus’ claim to be the only way to God, how can we not come across as arrogant?

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Tactic 3: Not Replacing Core Beliefs

The third tactic of the world is to get us to add our Christian beliefs to our existing worldview rather than replace it, so that our core beliefs remain the same. 

For example, in an African country, the leadership of a missionary organization was ready to hand the church they planted over to African leadership. Two men were candidates for the position. Now what I’m about to say might sound silly to you, if you were not brought up with an African worldview, but one of them went to a witch doctor to get a charm to enhance his chances of being chosen as the church leader. Why did he do that? He was simply reverting back to his core beliefs, because they were deeper than his newer Christian beliefs.

How are those brought up in the West affected by the Western worldview which in effect denies the reality of the spiritual world? Some parts of the Church have tried to get rid of what they consider to be unnecessary supernatural “baggage.” They deny the miraculous and the existence of angels and demons.

Most of us recognize the reality of the spiritual world, at least intellectually. However, the Western worldview encourages us to live our lives and exercise our ministries as if the spiritual world didn’t exist.

When something goes horribly wrong in our lives, many Christians blame God. Why? Influenced by the Western worldview, they leave Satan out of the equation who, the Bible says, is a thief who “comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10).

What about when someone has a mental or psychological problem? The medical profession, influenced by the Western worldview, tends to ignore the reality of the spiritual world.

We say we believe the Bible, but isn’t it true that many of our decisions are made on the basis of what we think rather than on what God is saying? We say we believe in the power of prayer but do we spend time praying, or do our actions really demonstrate that we believe that we can sort out our lives on our own and use prayer only as a last resort?

Holding on to our core beliefs leads to a shaky foundation for our faith.

Os Guinness says: “The Christian faith is not true because it works; it works because it is true. . .  It is not simply “true for us”; it is true for any who seek in order to find, because truth is true even if nobody believes it and falsehood is false even if everybody believes it. That is why truth does not yield to opinion, fashion, numbers, office, or sincerity — it is simply true and that is the end of it.” Time For Truth, Os Guinness (Baker Books 2000), pp. 79–80 

Each of us needs to come to a point where we realize that what the world has caused us to believe is so contrary to what is really true that we make a conscious decision to throw it away. We need to make a conscious choice to believe what the Bible says, to make the Word of God our core belief system.

If we don’t, it will lead us to compromise and we’ll be “double-minded” and “unstable in all our ways” (James 1:8).

I’m going to say a prayer that you can pray with me if you want to make a firm decision to base the rest of your life on what God says is true.

Lord Jesus,

No matter what the world throws at me, I am making a decision today to believe only what You say is true in Your Word, the Bible. I choose not to be double-minded any longer but to trust You and make the Bible the core of what I believe. I renounce and turn away from my previous worldview and make a new commitment today to base my life on the truth in Your Word. I trust that You will be faithful to me. In Jesus’ name.

Amen.

Reflection

 

Objective: To give people an opportunity to reject aspects of their original worldview and embrace the truth in god’s word.

The concept of “renouncing” and “announcing” is fundamental to the freedom in Christ course and participants will become well used to it. To renounce something is to reject it or turn away from it.

Spend some time in prayer throwing out your old worldview and choosing to see the world as God says it actually is.

You might find it helpful to say “I renounce the lie that [my old false belief], and I announce the truth that [truth from God’s Word].” For example: “I renounce the lie that the unseen spiritual world is not real, and I announce the truth that it is just as real as the physical world we can see.”

“I renounce the lie that financial success brings real security, and I announce the truth that I am already perfectly secure because no one can snatch me out of God’s hand.”

“I renounce the lie that I should be worried that someone may have cursed me, and I announce the truth that I am seated with Christ in the heavenly realms far above all other spiritual powers.” 

 

 

WITNESS:

 How will understanding that we all grow up with a particular way of looking at the world help you as you talk to people who are not yet Christians? 

 

IN THE COMING WEEK:

At the end of each day take five minutes to review how your old worldview has reared its head during the day to try to persuade you to compromise the truth of the Bible. When you identify it happening, take time to renounce the false belief from your previous worldview and make a commitment to base your life on the truth of the Bible.

 

Anderson, Neil T.; Goss, Steve. Freedom in Christ Leader's Guide: A 10-Week Life-Changing Discipleship Course, Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

 

 

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Freedom in Christ Lesson 3 - Choosing to Believe the Truth

The Bible tells us: “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb 11:6).


Lesson 3 Podcast: Lesson 3 - Choosing to Believe the Truth Podcast

Freedom in Christ Lesson 3: Choosing to Believe the Truth  

Questions before instruction for contemplation : Do you believe that an atheist has more or less faith than a Christian? What about a Hindu or a Muslim? What about someone who “just doesn’t know”?   

 Focus Verse:

Hebrews 11:6 (NKJV)
6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

Objective: To understand that everyone lives by faith in something or someone and that faith in God is no more than finding out what is already actually true and choosing to believe and act on it.   

Focus Truth: God is truth. Find out what He said is true and choose to believe it, whether it feels true or not, and your Christian life will be transformed.  

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Ephesians 3:16-19 (NKJV)
16  that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height-- 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Zephaniah 3:17 (NKJV) 17 The LORD your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing."

 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NKJV) 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

Hebrews 12:1-2 (NKJV) 1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Faith Is Simply Believing What Is Already True

 The Bible tells us: “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb 11:6).

Faith is just finding out what is already true and making a choice to believe it

Faith is simply recognizing what is already actually true.

Hebrews 13:7 (ESV) 7 Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. 

Everyone Lives and Operates by Faith 

The Critical Issue Is Who or What We Believe In  

Hebrews 13:8 (ESV)
8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

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Pause for Thought 1

Questions:

“If you want to know what someone really believes, don’t listen to what they say, but look at what they actually do.” Spend some time thinking about or discussing this thought with others. 

God asks us to believe what the Bible says is true, even when it might not feel true. Share about a time when you chose to override your feelings and acted by faith instead. 

“It takes more faith to believe that there is no God than to believe in God.” What do you think about this statement?   

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M.T. Clark's Testimony: 

As you get to know that God, the object of your faith, really can be trusted with absolutely anything, you will trust Him for bigger and bigger things. But start where you are right now.

Have you ever wondered how Abraham could contemplate sacrificing his son Isaac? He had come to learn through experience that God was loving and could be trusted.

You start with what God has said is true and you choose to believe it. Don’t start with what you feel — you’ll be all over the place! You don’t feel your way into good behavior — you behave your way into good feelings. Your feelings will follow in due course.

I’m not at the Abraham level of faith yet but as I look back I can see that God has deliberately engineered circumstances to build my faith. If I look back to the when I first got saved, for example, I can see that the Lord led me on a journey that increased my faith. I had a lot of problems that I was hoping God would help me with. I found it a frustrating process because I didn’t seem to make much progress at first. I knew Jesus was the answer for my problems, but I didn’t know how. I didn’t know what I should do apart from praying for God to take my problems away and that didn’t seem to change anything.

Of my many problems, I would say the most obvious one was my drinking problem. Unfortunately, although I asked God to instantly take it away from me. It didn’t work that way.  

But One day I was serving in my local church when the pastor made an announcement that they were starting a recovery ministry. I sensed that God was telling me that this new ministry was for me and to put my pride aside and to go to the first meeting.

Odd really — but I took a small step of faith and went. The pastor who ran it actually thought I came to the first meeting to volunteer to help with the ministry because I was a Bible college student and a member of the worship team. But I explained that I wasn’t there to help but to get help.  

That was the start of a radical change in the direction of my life as it turned out — I had no idea at the time. I made it through the program but thought that I still had work to do to truly discover the freedom in Christ that others talked about having.

Later I discovered Neil Anderson’s book the Bondage Breaker and it made a lot of sense. I was intrigued with a process in the back called “The Steps to Freedom in Christ” which claimed to help people resolve personal and spiritual conflicts. Every story in the Bondage Breaker, ends with people being set free by doing the Steps to Freedom in Christ, so when I got to the end, I knew that I wanted to try the Steps for myself.

I prayed through the Steps as instructed and I really felt the chains coming off as I dedicated myself to God’s kingdom and renounced all the bondages of the past.  When I was done I was surprised by the silence I had in my thought life. All the condemning thoughts that I was used to were gone! I had a mental stillness and clarity that I had never really known.  I was free and I knew it.  

Since then I was given the authority over the recovery ministry and decided that our local church community, those who needed recovery or not, would be better served by learning to realize their freedom in Christ. So I started a Community Freedom Ministry under the authority of our local church leadership and with the guidance and training from Dr. Neil Anderson’s Freedom in Christ Ministries. A CFM teaches the freedom message that is based on the word of God and is found in Dr. Anderson’s best-selling books, where we encourage people to claim their freedom as Christians by going through the Steps to Freedom in Christ.      

As I look back at all that I have walked through to come to this point, it really helps my faith. I now know that I never need to manipulate events but can trust God to deliver what He promises. I just need to wait. God has been gracious enough to me to show me clearly that He is real. I think He is ready to do that in all our lives. We simply start where we are and do what He has told us to do no matter how small it seems.

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Pause for Thought 2

Questions:

What are some of the ways our faith grows?

In what circumstances or season in your life have you noticed your faith grow the most?

What are some of the ways you have discovered that help you get to know God better?   

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Faith is Demonstrated by Actions

James 2:17-18 (ESV) 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

 No matter what we say, it’s what we do that shows what we really believe.

M. T. Clark's Faith in Action 

When my marriage failed and it became clear that I was to divorce, a lot of things were unpleasant, and the future was uncertain.  When out divorce agreement was finally signed, I realized that the conditions were not in my favor, and I was going to have to figure out a way to pay support and find a new place to live for me and my kids to call home. 

The financial burdens from attorney fees, debt, and support payments made it necessary to get a second job.  I also had to help my teenage children learn to drive, one of which was suffering from diabetes and was in therapy because of the instability in their life caused by both their parent’s divorce and difficulties with a personal relationship with their significant other. In the same time period, the other child saw their dreams of starring in their high school musical and figuring out their future after high school go up in smoke because of the shutdowns and uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Even though I didn’t know what was to become of myself and my children, I put my faith in the Lord and prayed everyday to give me the strength to carry on and to help deliver us from the toxic environment we were living in.   

As I worked two jobs, I encouraged my children the best I could and helped them get their licenses which was really needed because I was so busy with work.  The second job provided much needed income to help me to start a plan to get money for down payment and closing costs for a new house.  My meager planning would have resulted in my being able to begin to look for a house in June of 2020. 

But God, in the 9 months from October 2019 and June of 2020, the Lord strengthen and guided me to trust His still small voice to do things and to make financial moves that I didn’t really understand at the time but ultimately resulted in all my legal fees to being paid, the obligation to pay a portion of my ex’s legal fees to be paid, for all my personal debt to be paid, to provide for enough money for a down payment and closing costs to a new house, along with money to pay for needed repairs and renovations to the new place, along with new furniture for the new place.  

While my plans would have, allowed me to begin looking for a new house in June 2020, God’s plan had me essentially debt free and moving into a new house on the 25th of June, my birthday, in 2020, all during the Covid 19 pandemic.  

Oh by the way, I was also working on my master’s degree in Christian counseling during all this, eventually finishing my master’s thesis in my new home on October 31st, 2020.  I celebrated All Hallows’ Eve, or Reformation Day, knowing the full power of the Lord’s ability to take a seemingly hopeless situation and to turn it around for His glory.

My children and I now have a home that is defined by peace and stability. My one child no longer needs therapy, and both are currently flourishing and are enrolled in college.  

While I don’t know where our futures will take us, I know that I will continue to have faith and trust the Lord to be with us wherever we go.  

So, you can see that the question of how much faith you have is in your hands. It all depends on choosing to believe the truth and putting it into practice. 


If you want to know what you really believe, look at what you do

The outcome of your Christian life is in your hands.

 

The truth is that there’s no one here who can’t become a mature, fruitful disciple. There’s no one here who can’t resist temptation, get out of hopelessness, leave behind negative behavior and past influences and move on. You don’t need some special anointing from God or others. You just need to know what is already true, choose to believe it, and act on it. 

Now, we have another list of truths from the Bible that will help us with this. It’s called The Twenty “Cans” Of Success and I have provided it as a handout. Let’s read it aloud together. 

1.    Why should I say I can’t when the Bible says I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength? (Phil 4:13)

2.    Why should I lack when I know that God shall supply all my needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus?  (Phil 4:19)

3.    Why should I fear when the Bible says God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind? (2 Tim. 1:7)

4.    Why should I lack faith to fulfill my calling knowing that God has allotted to me a measure of faith? (Rom12:3)

5.    Why should I be weak when the Bible says that the Lord is the strength of my life and that I will display strength and take action because I know God?  (PS 27:1)

6.    Why should I allow Satan supremacy over my life when He that is in me is greater than he that is in the world? (1 John 4:4)

7.    Why should I accept defeat when the Bible says that God always leads me in triumph? (2 Cor 2:14)

8.    Why should I lack wisdom when Christ became wisdom to me from God and God gives wisdom to me generously when I ask Him for it? (1 Cor 1:30, James 1:5)

9.    Why should I be depressed when I can recall to mind God’s loving kindness, compassion, and faithfulness and have hope? (Lam 3:21-23)

10. Why should I worry and fret when I can cast all my anxiety on Christ who cares for me? (1 Peter 5:7)

11. Why should I ever be in bondage knowing that, where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom?  (Gal 5:1)

12. Why should I feel condemned when the Bible says I am not condemned because I am in Christ? (Rom 8:1)

13. Why should I feel alone when Jesus said He is with me always and He will never leave me nor forsake me? (Matt 28:20; Heb 13:5)

14. Why should I feel accursed or that I am the victim of bad luck when the Bible says that Christ redeemed me from the curse of the law that I might receive His Spirit?  (Gal 3:13-14)

15. Why should I be discontented when I, like Paul, can learn to be content in all my circumstances? (Phil 4:11)

16. Why should I feel worthless when Christ became sin on my behalf that I might become the righteousness of God in Him? (2 Cor 5:21)

17. Why should I have a persecution complex knowing that nobody can be against me when God is for me?  (Rom 8:31)

18. Why should I be confused when God is the author of peace, and He gives me knowledge through His indwelling Spirit? (1 Cor 2:12; 14:33)

19. Why should I feel like a failure when I am a conqueror in all things through Christ? (Rom 8:37)

20. Why should I let the pressures of life bother me when I can take courage knowing that Jesus has overcome the world and its tribulations? (John 16:33)

We’ll have one more list to share with you later in the course. Keep in mind that there’s nothing magical about reading these lists out. The truth in them will only have an effect on your life to the extent that you decide to believe it. But reading the lists out loud — as soon as you wake up in the morning for several weeks — is a great way to commit yourself to affirm and believe the truth. Many people have said that their lives have been completely transformed just by doing that.

Elijah said: “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God follow Him; but if Baal is God, follow him” (1 Kings 18:21).

Will you take this opportunity to make a new commitment to base your life completely on what God says is true, regardless of your feelings and regardless of the opinions of others?

Reflection

 Objective: To help people grasp the truths in the “20 Cans of Success” list at a deeper level.


Read the 20 Cans of Success. Pause after each one and ask yourself why that truth is or could be particularly meaningful to you.  

Which truth is most significant to you? Write it down and personalize it, for example, “Why should I, MT, say I can’t when the Bible says I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me?  Take time to digest and enjoy this truth, asking God to help you receive it in your spirit.   

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Witness: 

Think of someone you know who is not yet a Christian. What does the Bible say about why they don’t yet believe see 2 Corinthians 4:4, Romans 10:14-14)? 

Write a prayer you could pray that specifically asks God to do something about the things that are stopping them from believing. Then take God at his word and pray it.

In the Coming Week:

Every Day Read the 20 “Cans” of Success List out loud. Then pick one of the truths that is particularly appropriate to you and make a decision to believer it regardless of your feelings or circumstances. If you can find a way of stepping out in faith some practical way based on that truth, so much better! 

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 Thank You for your interest! 

We pray that you have made Jesus Christ your Lord and Savior of your life and will now choose to believe the Truth of God's Word and live by acting on it.