Here I Go Again - Purity 795
Purity 07/28/2022 Purity 795 Podcast
Today’s photo of a blazing “sun man” in the clear blue skies over a cracked asphalt road glimmering in its light and comes to us from yours truly as I captured another view of the “road of the cross” while out walking with my canine friend, Harley, on Waite Road in Easton NY last Friday afternoon.
Well, it’s Thursday again, and as is my habit, I share another photo of a pathway of sorts to encourage my friends to be faithful to keep walking and talking with God on the path of Christian Discipleship. The photos I share usually tend to highlight the beauty of the setting of the pathway, and I guess today’s does so too – that is a pretty cool optical illusion of a stick figure man with the sun for a belly in a clear blue sky and that cross like utility pole on the roadside is pretty epic, but I particularly like the way this photo displays the reflected light of the sun on the road’s surface as well as the many cracks and imperfections in the “blacktop” because it can serve as an analogy for the fact that we will never be perfect in our attempts to follow the Lord and we may end up second guessing the things we have said or done as we try to be faithful to follow the Lord and encourage others to do so too but end up offending others or having relationships end because of our faith pursuit to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.
That cracked up asphalt roadway isn’t the only thing that has been broken on this path of Christian Discipleship! In my journey to leave the darkness of my sinful past behind and follow the Lord’s way for living, I have suffered the loss of many relationships with both friends, family, and some brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. Now don’t get me wrong, I am painting with a broad brush this morning as I think about those “left behind” and am including people who I consider to still be in good standing with relationally but who I have been separated from because of the trajectory of my walk.
While I have been rejected, unfriended, and blocked by some because of my faith and don’t have any illusions about our relationship status, there are others, brothers and sisters in Christ, that I don’t have any dealings with any more because our lives have led us to go separate ways. With distance, some of those relationships were exposed for just how transitory, conditional, or shallow, they were.
In considering the many relationships that didn’t necessarily end but just kind of faded away because of the course of my life’s journey, I am saddened over the fact that some people are no longer in my life on a regular basis, but I have to admit, that in considering some more of the prickly pears or difficult people in my past, I am not so disappointed by their absence in my life, in fact at times I’m sort of glad that my course of life has led me away from certain people and their drama, including myself!
Let’s face it, as we mature in life, we are not the people we used to be and often the people we love the most have the most difficulty letting go of the person we once were and constantly remind us, subtly or not so subtly, of our humble beginnings. Some, perhaps out of their fear of losing control or from their own lack of progress, go to great lengths to “put us in our place”. Can you see, why I might be glad to have “moved on” to better things?
But honestly, when I think of these transitional losses, I got “nothing but love” for them, because I do love them and if things had remained the same I would still be in relationship with them on a regular basis and would nurse any injuries to my pride, when necessary because these people are still my friends, family, or brothers and sisters in Christ and I know that even if things weren’t always perfect there were undeniable bonds of love and faith that would and will always keep us together.
Just remember, as we walk with or away from difficult people in this life, if they are In Christ, we will never be separated from them as we will all be joined together in eternity with the Lord. Of course, when that happens all our rough edges will be “glorified” away, and they and ourselves will be much easier to deal with!
No, in presenting the “broken and cracked asphalt road of discipleship”, I was not thinking of the difficult relationships that have faded away in frequency but remain through the faith ties that bind us all to the Lord.
I was thinking of the relationships that have taken a bad turn as the result of the specifics of the Christian faith and the implications that come from believing in Christ alone.
As you walk on this road following Christ, you can get used to rejection. In this post Christian society, the enemy has done a fantastic job of vilifying the Christian faith and while our society speaks of diversity, coexistence, and tolerance those terms seem to all fall short on the equal acceptance of Biblical Christianity.
Our society is a morass of relativism and individual subjectivity that denies any standard of absolute truth or morality and has been infected by the questioning and rebellious spirit of Satan himself who has developed an atmosphere that not only “questions authority” but has led to relative confusion on a mass scale to the point that even the realities of science are denied in the changing winds of our times that demand that we respect of an “individual’s truth” over objective reality.
In this atmosphere, things that have been classified as sin by the word of God are social acceptable, individuals have the chose to assign their own gender, and can craft and create their own god based on their preferences and because of all these things Christianity will increasingly be rejected, feared, and hated.
The Bible is the word of God and by it we will all be judged and people don’t like that!
Beyond, the moral law, perhaps one of the most offensive things that the Bible presents is the exclusivity of Christ to save man from judgement and hell.
The Apostle Peter, speaking about Jesus, said in:
12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."
In a society, that seeks to honor and validate everyone’s life and spiritual choices, this “doctrine” simply can not stand and increasingly Christians are being labeled as hateful extremists and despite the glaring facts that our society is becoming increasingly immoral there is a concerted effort to stir the fears of secular society to dread the possibility of a “theocracy”, a dystopian Christian state.
I enjoy a good science fiction story as much as the next person but the signs of the times and the word of God both agree that Christianity will not overwhelm society and change the world through governmental or societal means.
This road is a narrow road and Christ told His disciples that they would be hated because the world hated Him.
So I’m not surprised when people in essence say : “Oh you’re a Christian? Forget about you!”
As a Christian, if you ever wonder what you believe in, just ask a non-believer and they will tell you.
"Oh you are Christian, that means you are a __(insert unkind label our curse here)________, and you believe in __(insert political belief, bizarre spiritual practice or twisted idea of a Christian practice, or out of context Bible reference here)________, and you hate __(insert literally any and all things here, including socially acceptable but sinful behaviors, and or diverse people groups of different races or religions).
Of course, you shouldn’t believe what others tell you what a Christian is, you should believe what the word of God indicates what a Christian and believes and how one is supposed to behave.
And that is where I will point all my friends to, the Bible and to Jesus Christ. Faith in Christ as Lord is the only thing that can save us and the Bible was written so we could know this, and know how to live our lives.
And that’s why started down this path today, and every day, the lost relationships that hurt the most are the ones where our hopes are dashed when someone comes into our lives and walks with us for a while but then decides that they are done with us because we choose to live according to what God’s word says and have decided to not compromise when it comes to His truth.
I can’t tell you that it’s okay to “do that” if the word of God indicates you shouldn’t.
I can’t tell you that you can believe in other gods, religions, or philosophies of life and be accepted by God when the word of God tells us that Jesus is the only way.
And those two things, amongst many others, can cause people to turn from Christianity and choose to join the world who gives a multitude of options and choices that appear “good to a man” but just so happen to lead to death and separation from God.
So what do we do when people reject us, walk away from the faith, or just walk away from us because of the word of God that we try to share?
I was reading Matthew 10 today, I would recommend it to anyone who has felt the pain of loss at being rejected because of your faithful witness to proclaim God’s truth. Among Christ’s many instructions regarding sharing the gospel and living as a Christian in that passage, Christ says:
Matthew 10:14-15 (NKJV)
14 And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet.
15 Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!
Those who leave us and reject Christ, are going the wrong way. No where in scripture is Christ seen running after people pleading with them to believe in Him, quite the contrary. When we are rejected we are to “shake off the dust” of the hurt and depart. We are instructed to keep going.
So we keep going down that broken road, and we let the feelings of rejection and hurt of loss fall behand us as we keep walking and talking with God and seek to tell others of the joy and peace that can be found in Christ alone.
It reminds me of the White Snake song: Here I go Again, did you know it is sort of a prayer! The lyrics say and I quote:
“…Though I keep searching for an answer
I never seem to find what I'm looking for
Oh Lord, I pray you give me strength to carry on
Cause I know what it means
To walk along the lonely street of dreams
Here I go again on my own
Going down the only road I've ever known
Like a drifter I was born to walk alone
And I've made up my mind
I ain't wasting no more time”
I’m sharing a video that highlights the lyrics if you want to rock out as you keep walking and talking with God as you try to tell the world about “love’s sweet charity” that can only be known through faith in Christ alone!
Hey the good news is that with the Lord, we have found the answers we were looking for and with Him and the body of Christ, we don’t have to walk alone anymore.
So don’t worry about those that we have left behind or the things you may have said to encourage their faith that only caused them to be offended and walked away.
The truth is not all will find their way into the kingdom of God and that’s their choice, not ours. And as much as we may want to blame ourselves for someone walking away from God or for running off on their own, the simple truth is that nothing we say or do can separate God’s people from Him. The Apostle Paul said in:
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.
So nothing will separate others from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus Our Lord. If people are in Christ, nothing we say our do will keep them from Him. So if someone walks away, they chose to go but if they are the Lord’s they will find their way back to Him and will have no one but themselves to blame for the negative consequences they may experience until they see Him face to face.
Today’s Bible verse comes to us from “The NLT Bible Promise Book for Men”.
This morning’s meditation verse is:
12 Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear.
13 For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.
Today’s verse are the Apostle Paul’s encouragements to the church at Philippi, and to us, to work hard to show the results of our salvation and to obey God with deep reverence and fear, with the assurance that God is working in us to give us the desire and the power to do what pleases Him.
So let’s get rid of the idea that salvation through Christ alone, is a “one-off” or “one time” experience. While one can make the theoretical case, for someone coming to Christ and living a life that showed no outside signs of change or “fruit” and “still be saved” because we are shared by grace and faith alone”, the rest of scripture indicates that our faith will be evident to others through the way we live and the things we say and do.
If there is no desire in someone who claims to be a Christian to show the results of their salvation and to do what is pleasing to the Lord through obeying the word of God, we really have to wonder if that person actually has “saving faith”.
To claim a relationship with Christ but to deny what the word of God says seem to be mutually exclusive, One doesn’t go with the other. Or at least they shouldn’t.
Like today’s verse, there are simply too many verses in the Bible that tell us to fear the Lord, to seek out our salvation, and to obey the Lord’s commandments to allow me to believe in a “check box” Christianity, where someone simply has to mentally assent to a belief in Jesus Christ with no accompanying change in their behaviors.
When I was first in the faith, I wanted to desperately believe that you “didn’t have to do anything to be saved” but believe in Jesus. But as I studied the word of God and felt convicted to repent of my sinful ways of living, I realized that the good news is that God gives us the desire and power to do what pleases Him. When we are “In Christ” and receive the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, we are no longer alone and don’t have to do anything in “our own strength” anymore.
While we will have to work at showing the results of our salvation through intentionally changing the way we think and behave to align with God’s word, the Lord will help us in that work! He gives us the desire to over come! All we have to do is follow His lead and watch our lives change. It may only be one small step at a time, but when you are in Christ, we are never alone in that walk.
As always, I invite all to go to mt4christ.org where I always share insights from prominent Christian theologians and counselors to assist my brothers and sisters in Christ with their walk.
Today we continue sharing from Clinton E. Arnold’s “Powers of Darkness”
As always, I share this information for educational purposes and encourage all to purchase Clinton Arnold’s books for your own private study and to support his work. This resource is available on many websites for less than $20.00.
Direct and Immediate Influence with Physical Symptoms
Scripture gives us a unique and extraordinary example of God allowing an evil angel to inflict some kind of physical malady on a Christian. In this case, the demonic affliction was not the result of sin in the life of the believer, but rather a part of God’s providential means of insuring his servant’s dependence upon him.
The condition affected the apostle Paul himself. He told the Corinthians, “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given to me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me” (2 Cor 12:7). No one will probably ever know precisely what the “thorn in the flesh” actually was. It was likely some physical affliction. Numerous specific ideas have been suggested, including defective eyesight, recurring malarial fever, a nervous disorder, defective speech and even epilepsy.
What is clear in this passage is that “a messenger of Satan,” literally, “an angel of Satan,” produced it. This was not an unusual activity of Satan. Ralph Martin points out that Satan is associated with physical illness in the biblical tradition. God allowed Satan to inflict sickness on Job (Job 2:5), and Jesus accused Satan as the one who had kept a woman crippled for eighteen years (Lk 13:16). Outside of the biblical tradition, evil spirits were often believed to cause sickness.
Paul explained that he explicitly pleaded with the Lord three times for his “thorn” to be removed, but God did not allow it to be taken away. God permitted this demonic agent to hurt Paul so that he would draw on the power of Christ and not on his own strength. God told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). Paul emphasized that God allowed it to continue so that he would not be inclined to assert his independence from God and become proud. Paul felt especially susceptible to this because of an incredible revelation that God had granted to him (2 Cor 12:1–6).
Paul’s example strongly underlines God’s desire for humility among his servants. An arrogant, prideful or independent spirit is so contrary to what God desires in us that he may permit a demonic agent to afflict us. This example also warns us that it is not necessarily God’s desire for all sickness to be alleviated. God may allow an unpleasant condition to continue to insure our humility and our dependence upon him.
As God’s Tool of Discipline
There is a second positive way that God sovereignly uses Satan’s forces. Just as God used an evil angel to help instill a proper attitude in the apostle Paul, so too, he can use the forces of darkness to promote the restoration of erring Christians.
In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul firmly responded to a grievous situation in which the Corinthian church was tolerating one of their members sleeping with his stepmother (1 Cor 5:1–13). Paul chided them for turning a blind eye to the situation of blatant immorality and for their arrogance in spite of the situation. He urged them to excommunicate the man from their church. He told the church to assemble and “to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Cor 5:5 RSV).
Notice that the ultimate goal of such action is restoration. It is not an act of “good riddance,” but rather a disciplinary measure designed for the person’s ultimate well-being. While the intention was for him to be saved in light of Christ’s return, Paul likely intended that his repentance be evident to the Christian community before he is restored.
Paul defined the man’s expulsion in terms of handing him over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh. It is doubtful that Paul was thinking of a real personal delivery to Satan in which Satan is personally summoned and the man is given to him. What the text says is probably what Paul considered the net result of excommunication to be. Gordon Fee provides an apt explanation of this action:
In contrast to the gathered community of believers who experience the Spirit and power of the Lord Jesus in edifying gifts and loving concern for one another, this man is to be put back out into the world where Satan and his “principalities and powers” still hold sway over people’s lives to destroy them.
No longer would this man benefit from the caring nurture of the body of Christ Satan and his forces could inflict their murderous influences on him.
Paul envisioned that this process would produce “the destruction of his flesh.” While a number of commentators have thought this means that the man would physically die, it is probably better to interpret the passage as the translators of the NIV, “so that the sinful nature may be destroyed” (italics mine). This could very well entail physical illness or even death, but the language does not necessarily make this implication. Unfortunately Paul did not explain specifically how he saw the destruction of this man’s carnality to occur. He was optimistic, however, that it would happen.
In a similar way, Paul “handed over to Satan” two other men, Hymenaeus and Alexander (1 Tim 1:20). In this case, Paul was more specific about the goal of their removal from the church; he wanted them “to be taught not to blaspheme.” Again, Paul did not let us know what he thought Satan and his powers of evil might do to these two men, but he clearly saw positive value in the process.
It is important for us to adjust our thinking on church discipline in light of these two passages. Church discipline is not merely a social action, it is a spiritual action. It involves the dislocation of a believer from the primary sphere of the Holy Spirit’s activity—the body of Christ. These examples also serve to remind us of what vital spiritual importance the regular gathering together of God’s people really is.
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Encouragement for the Path of Christian Discipleship
 Clinton E. Arnold, Powers of Darkness: Principalities & Powers in Paul’s Letters (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic: An Imprint of InterVarsity Press, 1992), 133–135.