When a White Witch calls upon a Christian: Purity 436 06/04/2021
Today’s photo of a sunrise over Dewey Beach, Delaware’s come from a friend who went away for a short trip to enjoy the Memorial Day weekend with their family. The weather was hit and miss with rain, but they managed to catch this great shot, have some family fun at Rehoboth Funland, and take a few moments to fondly remember their departed father who was a veteran of Korea and Viet Nam.
I’m currently teaching a class about the spiritual realities in which we live and how things either align with what Jesus taught and God’s redemptive plan for mankind or are of a spirit that will lead to the road of perdition.
One of the things that has been impressed upon me in this series is the importance of being a light in the darkness and establishing a spiritual heritage with our lives. As Christians, we need to be people that others turn to when they need hope.
It’s not always easy to keep a positive outlook and to be a beacon of hope as we are just as vulnerable to troubles in this world as our non-Christian friends and family.
I have Christian friend who knows all too well how easy it can be to lose our hope due to the cares and concern of the world. They recently recovered from an extended depressive episode that was caused by fears and anxieties about their ability to provide for their families. The enemy filled their minds with lies feeding on our friend’s insecurities about their job performance and the fact that they were the sole provider for their family. The enemy set up a domino effect of fears telling our friend that they would lose their job, become destitute and lose their medical benefits, which would in turn cause their loved ones to get sick and die. These fears weighed heavy on our friend. They were depressed and anxiety ridden. So bad were their symptoms that their co-workers noticed and ended up suspended from their job so they could seek help.
The good news is that this person was surrounded by friends and family in the faith who supported them and helped them find their way out of the darkness. Although they are out of the woods of their dark episode, they are on medical leave and are waiting for the process to move that will allow them to go back to work.
In the meantime, they have distant family members who they don’t see often that are suffering from cancer, a mother in her 80’s and a daughter in her 60’s. The mother is an Episcopalian, but the daughter holds occultic beliefs and considers herself a “white witch”.
Recently, the mother’s condition took a turn for the worse and it became clear that she was in the process of dying. In her pain and suffering, the mother requested to be comforted with prayer and some of the old hymns she remembered from church. Her faith may have not been active in the past few years but as she faced her death she sought to affirm her faith in Christ through worship.
The daughter, the white witch, and other family members didn’t feel comfortable or didn’t know what to say to their dying mother. But they remembered that my friend was a faithful Christian and a nurse so they asked her if she could help their mother with her “church things”.
Because my friend was on medical leave from her job, she was available, and she agreed to come. My friend sat with the mother, prayed with her, and together they sang the old church hymns that the mother so fondly remembered. In the midst of her dying, the mother was comforted and was given peace and hope for what was on the other side of this life. The mother passed away, but she entered the kingdom of God praising the Lord.
So, even when we are overcome by the world and the enemy comes into steal our hope and drive us into confusion, the Lord can use it for good. You wouldn’t think any good would have come from my friend’s depression and troubles at work but because of it she was able to care for someone else in their final moments of life and be a testimony of the hope and peace that is available though faith in Christ.
This world needs the hope of Christ. People are hurting and are turning to other things to find comfort because they don’t feel like the church is the place to find it. The problem is that they are looking for love, hope, and meaning in all wrong places. People need to know what a relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ means beyond the misconceptions drawn from a view from outside of the church and Christian stereotypes.
We must be vocal and active enough in our faith so that people will know that we are Christians, but we also must treat those who don’t understand what faith in Christ really means with compassion and grace so that when the times are desperate or a crisis comes, they think of us.
We are not perfect people, but we know the One who is. We don’t know everything, but we know the One who does. We are passing away, but we know the One who can give us eternal life.
So regardless of our pains or present sufferings, keep your head up because we know the One who has over come the world, sin, and death. He can heal us and can use us to heal others. The hope we have in Christ can give us strength to persevere and can usher others into the kingdom of God. We are the hope for the world because of Christ in us. So let your light shine, people will it, and some will be comforted and saved through it.
This morning’s meditation verse is:
1 Peter 1:3
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
Today’s verse makes some basic truth claims of our faith and echoes the sentiment of Christ as our living hope.
In Peter’s salutation, he states that Christ is the Son of God and that He was resurrected from the dead. These basic truths must be accepted for someone to find the living hope that comes from faith in Christ.
As difficult as God’s redemptive plan may be for some to accept, it does have an underlying rationale behind it that makes it reasonable. Redemption through faith in Christ makes sense but you have to believe that Jesus is the Son of God and God the Son.
The paradoxes of the Trinity and Jesus’ full divinity and full humanity are stumbling blocks that can keep people out of the kingdom of God.
Now remember, the definition of paradox is “a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded or true.” That’s why I call these doctrines of our faith paradoxes because when they are investigated you discover that they are true.
So the seeming contradiction of Jesus being fully God and fully man is proven through his words of wisdom, his miraculous works, and His resurrection. For 30 years, Jesus probably was considered a nice but odd character, but no one thought of Him as special.
The scriptures indicate that when Jesus started His earthly ministry of teaching he wasn’t accepted because He was just seen as “the carpenter’s son”, nobody special. This criticism shows that Jesus was a man just like us but His mighty miraculous works and resurrection from the dead show He wasn’t. He is fully man and fully God.
As for the sonship of Christ, the gospels reveal that God spoke from heaven above declaring Christ to be His Son on more than one occasion.
Jesus needed to be fully God and fully man because He had to be. To pay for an infinite number of sins and to impute his righteousness to a potentially infinite amount of people, Jesus had to be God and He is.
On our own there is no hope for us. But through the power of God in Christ, we have the hope of eternal life. So share the truth of who Jesus is and let people know that through Him they have the hope of a new life now and for evermore.
As always, I invite all to go to mt4christ.org where I always share insights from prominent Christian counselors to assist my brothers and sisters in Christ with their walk.
Today we continue with Dr. Neil Anderson’s Victory Over the Darkness, continuing in Chapter 1, with the section on “The Effects of the Fall”
The Effects of the Fall
Unfortunately, the idyllic setting in the Garden of Eden was shattered. Genesis 3 tells the sad story of Adam and Eve's lost relationship with God through sin. The effects of their fall were dramatic, immediate and far reaching, infecting every subsequent member of the human race.
What happened to Adam and Eve spiritually because of the Fall? They died. Their union with God was severed and they were separated from God. God had specifically said, "You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die" (Genesis 2:17, NIV). They ate and they died.
Did they die physically? Not immediately, although physical death would be a consequence of the Fall as well. They died spiritually; they were separated from God's presence. They were physically cast out of the Garden of Eden and a cherubim waving a flaming sword was stationed at the entrance "to guard the way to the tree of life" (Genesis 3:24). Some believe this act preserved a way back as God's plan of redemption unfolded.
Just as we inherited physical life from our first parents, so we have inherited spiritual death from them (see Romans 5:12; 1 Cor. 15:21, 22). Consequently, every human being who comes into the world is born physically alive but spiritually dead, separated from God (see Ephes. 2:1).
Lost Knowledge of God
What effect did the Fall produce in Adam's mind? He and Eve lost their true perception of reality and the idea of knowing was no longer relational. We read in Genesis 3:7, 8 that they tried to hide from God. Doesn't that reveal a faulty understanding of who God is? How can you hide from an omnipresent God? Their distorted perception of reality reflects Paul's description of the futile thinking of those who don't know God: "They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts" (Ephes. 4:18, NIV).
In essence, when Adam and Eve sinned they lost a true knowledge of God. In God's original design, knowledge was relational. The Hebrew concept of knowledge implied an intimate personal relationship. For instance, "Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived" (Genesis 4:1, KJV). Yet we don't generally equate a knowledge of someone with personal intimacy. When they sinned and were banished from the garden, Adam and Eve lost their relationship with God and the knowledge of God, which was intrinsic to that relationship.
In our unregenerate state, we may have known something about God, but we didn't know God because we had no relationship with Him. "But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised" (1 Cor. 2:14).
The necessity of being in relationship to God to know God comes into sharp focus in John's announcement: "And the Word [logos in the Greek] became flesh" (John 1:14). That was an incredibly significant statement in a world heavily influenced by ancient Greek philosophy. To the Greek philosopher, logos represented the highest form of philosophical knowledge. To say that the Word became flesh meant that the logos was incarnated, that ultimate knowledge became personal and relational. Jesus embodied the truth because He is the truth. You couldn't separate His words from who He is. The Hebrew dabar, translated as "word," also conveyed the ultimate wisdom of God.
The Gospel of John brings these two cultures and dominant concepts together in Christ. God was announcing to the world through John that the true knowledge of God, which can only be discovered in an intimate relationship with God, is now available to the world through God who came in the flesh—Jesus Christ. In Christ we are able to know God personally because we have received the "mind of Christ" (1 Cor. 2:16) in our inner selves at salvation.
This truth has profound implications for Christian education. Knowledge to the western world has become nothing more than the collection of data. That kind of knowledge makes us arrogant, but love edifies (see 1 Cor. 8:1). Paul says, "But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith" (1 Tim. 1:5). The truth (Christ and His Word) should set us free and enable us to conform to the image of God. "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35).
Dominant Negative Emotions
Adam and Eve were not only darkened in their understanding, but they also became fearful and anxious. The first emotion expressed by fallen humankind was fear (see Genesis 3:10). Fear of anything other than God is mutually exclusive to faith in God. Why is the fear of God the beginning of wisdom (see Proverbs 9:10) and how does it expel all other fears?
As I was writing the book Freedom From Fear with my colleague Rich Miller, I became aware that we are living in an age of anxiety. People around the world are paralyzed by fear of anything and everything but God. Chuck Colson said, "For the church in the West to come alive, it needs to resolve its identity crisis, to stand on truth, to renew its vision . . . and more than anything else, it needs to recover the fear of the Lord."
Another emotional by-product of sin is shame and guilt. Before Adam and Eve disobeyed God they were naked and unashamed (see Genesis 2:25). God created them as sexual beings. Their sex organs and sexual activity were holy. When they sinned, however, they were ashamed to be naked and they had to cover up (see Genesis 3:7). Many people mask the inner self for fear that others may find out what is really going on inside. When dominated by guilt and shame, self-disclosure is not likely to happen.
Humankind also became depressed and angry after the Fall. Cain brought his offering to God and, for some reason, God was displeased with it. "So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. Then the Lord said to Cain, 'Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it'" (Genesis 4:5-7, NIV).
Why was Cain angry and depressed? Because he didn't do what was right. In other words, God is saying, "You don't feel your way into good behavior; you behave your way into good feelings." Jesus said, "If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them" (John 13:17).
While researching and writing the book Finding Hope Again, I discovered we are also experiencing a blues epidemic in this age of anxiety. Depression is so prevalent it is called the "common cold" of mental illness. Visits to the doctor that resulted in a diagnosis of depression almost doubled from 1985 to 1995 in the United States, and overall there was a tenfold increase in the twentieth century.
Too Many Choices
Adam and Eve's sin also affected their will to choose. Do you realize that in the Garden of Eden they could make only one wrong choice? Everything they wanted to do was okay except eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (see Genesis 2:16, 17). They had the possibility of making myriad good choices and only one bad choice—only one!
Eventually, however, they made that one bad choice. As a result, you and I are confronted every day with myriad good and bad choices. Apart from the Holy Spirit in your life, the greatest power you possess is the power to choose. You can choose to pray or not pray, read your Bible or not read your Bible, go to church or not go to church. You can choose to walk according to the flesh or according to the Spirit.
Attributes Become Needs
Another long-term effect of sin is that humankind's attributes before the Fall became glaring needs after the Fall. This sad transition occurs in three areas. Each of these three needs is continuous in our lives.
1. Acceptance was replaced by rejection; therefore we have a need to belong. Even before the Fall, Adam had a need to belong. His need to belong to God was filled in the intimacy of his fellowship with God in the garden. Of all the things that were good in the garden, the only thing that was "not good" was that Adam was alone (see Genesis 2:18). God filled that need by creating Eve.
Ever since Adam and Eve's sin alienated them from God and introduced strife into human relationships, we have experienced a deep need to belong. Even when people come to Christ and fill their need to belong to God, they still need to belong to the community of God's people.
If your church doesn't provide opportunities for legitimate Christian fellowship for its members, they will seek it someplace else. Those who study church-growth trends have discovered that a church can give people Christ, but if it doesn't also give them friends, after a few months the church will lose them. The spiritual union of Christian fellowship—called koinonia in the New Testament—is not just a nice thing the church ought to provide; it is a necessary thing the church must provide.
You will never understand the power of peer pressure in our culture until you understand the legitimate need to belong and the fear of rejection we all share.
2. Innocence was replaced by guilt and shame; therefore the need for a legitimate sense of worth has to be restored. Those who work with people recognize that a suffering humankind struggles with a poor sense of worth. An identity crisis and a negative self-image have been human problems since the Fall. The secular advice of stroking one another's ego and picking ourselves up by our own bootstraps is not a sufficient answer. Our sense of worth is not a question of giftedness, talent, intelligence or beauty. Your sense of personal worth comes from knowing who you are as a child of God and your growth in character. We will talk more about the dimensions of our identity in Christ and how it contributes to our sense of worth in the chapters ahead.
3. Dominion was replaced by weakness and helplessness; therefore we have a need for strength and self-control. People attempt to meet this need by learning to discipline themselves or by seeking to control and manipulate others. Nobody is more insecure or sick than controllers. They wrongly believe they can establish themselves by trying to control and manipulate other people or circumstances in life. In other words, they are trying to play God. The fruit of the Spirit is not spouse control or staff control or environmental control; it is self-control (see Galatians 5:23).
On the other hand, extreme efforts at self-discipline without the grace of God often lead to legalism or perfectionism and result in self-destruction. The world would have us think we are the masters of our fates and the captains of our souls, but we really aren't. The human soul was not designed to function as a master. We cannot serve God and wealth, but we will serve one or the other (see Matthew 6:24), being deceived into thinking we are serving ourselves.
Every temptation is an attempt by the devil to get us to live our lives independently of God. Satan tempts us just as he did Jesus by appealing to our most basic and legitimate needs. The question is: Are these needs going to be met by the world, the flesh and the devil, or are they going to be met by God who promises to meet all our needs "according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:19)? The most critical needs are the being needs and they are the ones most wonderfully met in Christ.
Victory Over the Darkness: Realizing the Power of Your Identity in Christ.
God bless you all!
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