Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Lord, Is It Warfare? Week 1, Day 3

We are to Day 3, in the first week of Kay Arthur’s Lord, Is It Warfare? study guide.  You need fair warning to know that this entry today will force you to think through some matters that are facing our society today.  One of the spiritual battles that we face on a regular basis is when a there is a developing fearfulness of speaking about these things and how that you will be perceived among your friends.  It is very interesting the subtle peer pressure that is prevalent in the church these days both among ministers and members when we speak something that is solidly Word-based that is opposed to a humanistic bent.  Say what you will but this is spiritual warfare!  The same spirit pushing on Jehudi to take a penknife to Jeremiah’s words in the Old Testament (Jeremiah 36:23) wants to do the very same thing today. 

To combat this and other attacks, Paul gave us some instructions:

·        Be strong in the Lord—v. 10
·        Put on the whole armor of God—v. 11
·        Take the whole armor—v. 13
·        Stand—v. 13
·        Stand—v. 14
·        Put on the belt of Truth—v. 14
·        Have the breastplate of holiness/righteousness in place—v. 14
·        Put the shoes of the Gospel on your feet—v. 15
·        Take the shield of faith—v. 16
·        Take the helmet of salvation—v. 17
·        Take the Sword of the Spirit, the Word—v. 17

The following format is the manner that I have recorded these notes in my journal.  It does not follow an active paragraph style. 

-Ephesians—centers on spiritual warfare more than any other epistle. 

-Ephesus—fourth largest city in the Roman Empire during Paul’s day.  It was dependent on two things for survival:  1) Its geographical position as a center for trade; 2) The worship of Artemis/Diana.

-Ephesus was driven by the money that both of these avenues brought in.  All societies of any size are driven by money.  This is why the enemy wants to get in the middle of it.  The silversmiths earned their living by their involvement with the commerce of the temple of Artemis.  They sold their idols there and prostitutes sold their bodies (both male and female).  Innkeepers and restaurant owners were also in the mix.  They grew rich from those traveling to worship there.  It was a lucrative thing for all to get involved for the sake of religion. 

-Also had a huge library called the Library of Celsus.  It was the third largest library and the most important one in that time.  But there wasn’t a single copy of the Old Testament.  If the Word had not been lost to them if would have saved them and helped them.  (NOTE:  Am I as a pastor, “losing” the Word on a self-help, feel-good, warm-fuzzy, americanized, apple pie “word”?  Or am I a solid biblical preacher who is willing to forgo the uncomfortable position that my solid, steady, systematic preaching of the Word will bring to me?)  

-Home to Artemis/Diana.  Fertility deities that exalted sensual practices.  (NOTE:  I was at church on Sunday night Jan 26 when the Grammy’s were being awarded but the next day, the news was full of coverage over what took place.  If you cannot make the connection between the 1st century activities behind the worship of Diana and the 21st century activities of Beyonce and Katy Perry, you have your head in the sand.  We are in a spiritual war!  Can you with an honest and spiritual mind condone watching this kind of thing?  Most pastors hear crickets chirping when they preach against this in our times because the saints have gotten so desensitized to this kind of traffic in their homes they no longer can even sense that it is wrong in its influence and the detrimental spiritual effect it has on our souls.  Could that explain some of the spiritual attitudes, general lifelessness in prayer and worship, and malaise toward preaching, prayer, and worship in our day?)


Spiritual warfare is therefore resistance.  It is a defensive posture.  It involves recognizing the supernatural power of temptation and being prepared to face it.  It also implies appropriating God’s power to progress in eradicating moral vices that already have a place in one’s life.  (pp. 154-155)

On the one hand, they (truth and righteousness) need to be understood as divine endowments for the task of spiritual warfare.  On the other hand, they are to be regarded as virtues that need to be cultivated in the lives of believers.  (p. 155)

In contrast, the devil is the archadversary who uses many schemes designed to misrepresent, deceive, and trick.  Believers need to be convinced and assured of the gospel’s truth and what it affirms about them as God’s children.  By implication, believers need to conduct their lives in a manner consistent with the truth of the gospel.  Lying and deceit can have no place in the believer’s life; they are an affront to the God of truth.  Consequently, in Ephesians, Paul told each Christian that he or she “must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor” (Eph. 4:25, cf. 5:9).  (NOTE:  Contrast in this Eph. 4 passage the things we are to “put on.”)  (p. 155).

The development of personal holiness and integrity is part of the preparation for engaging in victorious spiritual warfare.  Conversely, a lack of integrity and personal holiness will certainly hinder a believer’s ability to resist the onslaught of Satan’s minions successfully.  (pp. 155-156)

-No deity was more sought after than Diana.  Her temple was four times the size of the Parthenon.  People traveled from all over the world to gain a sense of worship.  It involved drunkenness, sexual immorality, and general debauchery of all kinds. 

-There was a treasury in the temple that served as a bank.  It would lend money to travelers (worshippers) that needed it.  For all the wealth it brought to Ephesus if left men with a huge void in their souls. 

1 Corinthians 10:18-22 KJV  Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?  [19]  What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing?  [20]  But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils.  [21]  Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils.  [22]  Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he?

-This passage indicates that behind every idol there is a demon associated with it. 

v. 18—Those who eat off the altar of God become partakers of Him.
v. 19—Idols of this world cannot be ignored.
v. 20—What the world sacrifices on its altars are things that are given to demons.  We cannot fellowship with this kind of thing!  (You fill in the blanks here about all of the American altars. . . like I had to.  If you love this world, you can feel the convicting sting of the Word here.)
v. 21—I cannot drink out of both cups.  Either I am a participant at the Lord’s table or I am lodged at the devil’s table/altar. 
v. 22—Do my actions provoke the Lord to jealousy?  Are there spiritual and carnal paradoxes in my life?

-Behind every American idol there is a demonic influence but my mind is often clueless to this!  This has happened because I am so spiritually sluggish and blind, that I cannot even see it!  Send revival to my life, O Lord!!!!

-Consider the whole drive of our American society’s altars/idols and consider the dark forces behind them:

1.      Entertainment—According to hollyreporter.com, this industry is projected to top $2 trillion by 2016 globally. 
2.      Sports—According to Bloomberg.com, this industry is projected to have a revenue of $67.7 billion in the US alone. 
3.      False Religion—Set your own taste for your religion.
4.      Education—An ominous press toward humanism and atheism.
5.      Fashion—Another profitable industry.
6.      Materialism—The discontentment of the soul presses for more, more, more. 
7.      Sometimes even avenues of “ministry” can be idol altars—Spiritual life is more than just filling seats and offering plates.  Our job is to encourage conversion, transformation, and
8.      Individualism—I will go it alone and no one will tell me what to do. 

-So God sent a man, Paul, into the middle of the whole arena.  I have no doubt that when Paul stood in front of that massive temple that he felt increasingly overwhelmed by it all.  I am sure he thought he had no chance to even begin to have an influence on this.

-The devil roared when Paul stepped into Ephesus.  This very well could be the reason that Paul said he fought the beasts at Ephesus (1 Cor. 15:32).

-The next instructions in the study was to go through Acts 19 and pick out the main events in this chapter.  I am not going to put all that I wrote down but I will share a few of them:

19:9—Truth hardens the heart of people.  Don’t be surprised by this.  They would not believe it and they spoke evil of what Paul tried to tell them.  He left them and took the disciples with them.  Sometimes it is best to just move on!

-I wrote this prayer out to myself at this point after 19:20. . . O God forgive me for all the times that I have not been sensitive to the Holy Ghost when these promptings have come to me.  I am convicted and ashamed that it has taken me 40+ years to get to this place and I still feel inadequate for the task!  Help me do Your will. . .

19:24-26—Demetrius organized a group of silversmiths who fought against the Truth.  Throughout Asia, Paul’s preaching had turned their hearts back to God.  O God, breathe on my preaching!  Breathe on my mind to take the Word in!  Breathe on my efforts at rigorous discipline!  Breathe on my prayer life and grant it passion and depth!

-The Truth will always bring some kind of conflict to those who are opposed to God.  These demons behind the scenes in Ephesus in Acts 19 were interested in one thing—bringing total destruction and causing great chaos. 

-The next area the study guide encouraged was to work through Deuteronomy 18:9-14 and Leviticus 19:26-28, 31.  I am working through these passages in the ESV.  They are the pagan practices to be avoided. 

Deuteronomy 18:9-14 ESV  "When you come into the land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations.  [10]  There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer  [11]  or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead,  [12]  for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD. And because of these abominations the LORD your God is driving them out before you.  [13]  You shall be blameless before the LORD your God,  [14]  for these nations, which you are about to dispossess, listen to fortune-tellers and to diviners. But as for you, the LORD your God has not allowed you to do this.

Leviticus 19:26-28 ESV  "You shall not eat any flesh with the blood in it. You shall not interpret omens or tell fortunes.  [27]  You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard.  [28]  You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the LORD.

Leviticus 19:31 ESV  "Do not turn to mediums or necromancers; do not seek them out, and so make yourselves unclean by them: I am the LORD your God.

-These practices are to be avoided:

·        Idolatrous altars
·        Witchcraft
·        Sorcery
·        Necromancy
·        Wizards

-The Leviticus passage reiterates the Deuteronomy one except it adds cutting and tattooing.  (NOTE:  Here is the great question. . . Where in our society do we see these things coming at us in a very concentrated way?  It is going to be the media influences and what Hollywood promotes.  I routinely tell the folk I pastor that they may have a vague enough sense of discernment to see through all of this and know that it is wrong.  However, their children have unfiltered minds and have not been able to form a sense of spiritual discernment well enough to make the right and wrong choices.  Your children are to be a heritage of the Lord but they are being baby-sat by the enemy.  No wonder our failure is so high!  This does not mean we are to be reclusive and communal but we are to march in the world to the beat of a different drummer as did the 1st century church!)   

-Every saint ought to have a desire to be free from this kind of influence!!!!

-Concerning the idea of spiritual warfare, Ephesus was a hotbed for it.  People lived in fear of what they could not see but what they could feel.  Because of that fear they turned to all sorts of magic, fortunetelling, etc.

-Western culture is enthralled with a fascination of the occult.  Vampires are increasingly popular and prominent in our times.  At my local Barnes and Noble, the teen section for girls is one of the darkest sections in the whole store.  Black covers, black bindings, red blood, and vampires who are pictured as romantic interests.  Paul noted that these were demons and our society is trying to develop a romantic fling with them.  Themes of the occult move through the cartoons, music, and clothes that people wear.  I am sure the devil loves the direction that America is heading. 

-There are prayers of affirmation in Ephesians.  It is important that we not only put on the whole armor of God which provides discernment but also to develop a skill in learning to pray in the same manner that Paul prayed.  This will be discussed at a later point in this series. 

On a closing note, I would like for you to know that I have used a fair amount of additional resources for this whole study.  Along with books that were listed in the first post, I have also used the ESV Study Bible published by Crossway.  There are some wonderful notes under the Ephesians 6 passage and the others that I mentioned in this post.  Also the Expositors Bible Commentary is loaded with historical information that I mentioned today.  Much, much more is there if you choose to do so.

Thanks for reading. . .


More Tomorrow. . . 

1 comment:

Irvin Fields said...

Very good stuff, Brother Harrelso. This subject must be addressed from the pulpits of apostolic churches if we are to stem the tide of worldliness. Appreciate your insight and interest. Your commentaries are very enlightening.