Matters of the Heart: what God says about the core of man

The Bible is says followers of Jesus Christ are to live in a way that reflects Him. A Christian is a “little Christ.” This can be a difficult role to fulfill especially when other people, even Christians are not acting, speaking or living for Christ. How do I live in a dirty rotten world? How Can I shine the light in a dark world? What is God’s view of self, success, & stuff? Does it matter what I do with my free time? So how do I live in the world, but not become like the world? What is the matter with my heart?

the heart of the matter

What is the heart? The heart is not just a muscle that pumps blood, the shape of a card you receive on Valentines Day, nor where romantic feelings come from. It is said that you cannot understand a human until you understand the heart. The Bible describes the heart as your inner man [spirit, soul, mind, emotions, passions, will, etc.]. The heart is the real you, where your beliefs affect your behavior. It is the control center of a your life. [Read More]

key to understanding your heart

Have you ever had a set of keys that you just did not know what they unlocked? I use to have a small box of mysterious keys I no longer knew what they unlocked. I still keep many of them around just in case I have a door or padlock that I cannot open. Hopefully you are not missing a key to something important that I’ve borrowed and forgot to give back to you? It is frustrating not having a key to unlock something valuable to you [i.e. home, car, safe, etc.]. Sometimes it might feel like your heart is locked and you do not have the right key to understand. [Read More]

Heart Distracters & Hardeners

God, you really didn’t mean to say that?

What does it really mean not to love the world? What does it mean for me? Does it mean I have to give up listening to unchristian music, R-rated movies, MTV, video games, making lots of money, gossip magazines, or my short shorts? If you were really honest you don’t want the answers, especially from a 2000-year-old book that may seem out of touch with today’s culture and trends. [Read More]

i love the world

John says, “Do not love the world or the things in the world.” [1 John 2:15] But then in another place John says, “For God so loved the world…” [John 3:16] and Jesus says, “As [God] sent Me into the world, so I have sent [believers] into the world.” [John 17:18] So on one hand, I am not supposed to love the world, but God loves the world. And on the other hand, I am not supposed to love things in the world, but Jesus sends His followers to live in the world. Okay, let’s decipher and answer: What is the world? Should or shouldn’t I love the world? How can I love the world? [Read More]

the colossal compromise

Compromise is a part of life. Everyday you are faced with decisions where you have to give up something good for another good. Do I study or do I play soccer? Do I visit this family member or do I visit this old friend? Do I go out to eat for pizza or a hamburger? Do we go on vacation to the beach or the mountains? Compromise is simply changing the question to fit the answer. Sometimes you cannot have both and you must compromise. Sometimes compromising is not this simple. Sometimes compromises can have a great affect on you and others depending on which option you choose. Sometimes people compromise deep-rooted beliefs or sacrifice morals to get what they want. [Read More]

lead me not into temptation

Temptation is something every human faces. Temptation in and of itself is not sin, but it is the first stage towards sinning. Temptation comes at you like blazing arrows at from Satan, the world, and your wicked heart. Your only vaccination to combat the constant nagging attacks of temptation is using the Word of God and loving Jesus Christ. Jesus was tempted, but did not sin [Hebrews 4:15-16]. Therefore, He knows the full weight of temptation because He did not give into it. [Read More]

hypocrisy

In the early days of acting a hypocrite was considered a good term. It described an actor who could put on many different faces or masks. Actors in the Greek theatre wore masks depicting an emotion. The masks were large, often twice the size of an actor’s face, so they could be easily seen. The Jews used the word hypocrite to describe a liar, deceiver, two-faced, or one who hid his true nature behind a mask. [Read More]

the spiritual war and your enemy

From the beginning to the end of Jesus’ ministry he warned, overturned, taught, and fought against spiritual foes. Much of Jesus’ ministry portrayed power encounters, exorcisms, and exposes a real supernatural warfare in this world. Since, spiritual warfare is real, how do we deal with it? [Read More]

the spiritual war and your enemy

The past few weeks we have been discussing matters of the heart. Your heart is the control center of your being. Your heart defines who you are and what you do. We have already discussed two specific factors that can distract your heart from what God desires to define you heart. First, the world, an external factor that seeks to distract your heart. Second, worldliness [i.e. flesh], an internal factor that seeks to distract your heart. Today, we will look at final factor, supernatural forces of evil [Devil & demons] a spiritual factor that seeks to distract your heart from following after Christ wholeheartedly.

Spiritual warfare is the real deal [Ephesians 6:10-20]

From the beginning to the end of Jesus’ ministry he warned, overturned, taught, and fought against spiritual foes. Much of Jesus’ ministry portrayed power encounters, exorcisms, and exposes a real supernatural warfare in this world.[1] Since, spiritual warfare is real, how do we deal with it?

Paul wraps up his letter to Ephesians with a battle cry similar to that Joshua, “be strong in the Lord and the power of His might.” Right out of the box, preparation for this battle against spiritual warfare is exclaimed, “put on the whole armor of God.” There is an air of readiness for believers to put on the whole armor of God because spiritual warfare is eminent. Here are 5 truths about spiritual warfare from Ephesians 6:10-20:

#1 You are at war [6:10-11]. Believe it or not, and most do not realize it or try to ignore it, you are at war. From the moment you are born to the moment you die you are in the midst of a heated battle. It is the clash of the kingdom’s—the kingdom of light versus the kingdom of darkness. This world is not a playground; it’s a battlefield. This world and your heart is the battle zone. Are you ready for this spiritual warfare?

#2 You are at war with evil supernatural powers [6:11-12]. “For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Paul would agree that your flesh and blood is evil, but we see in this text that the conflict is also fought against supernatural, demonic forces.

#3 You are charged to stand [6:11-14]. Three times in this passage Paul tells believers to stand so you do not fall [vs.11, 13-14]. These powerful forces cannot be faced in the power of your own might. If you stand alone, you will fail.

#4 You are able to stand by the provisions made by God [6:14-17]. “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.” It is nothing about what strength you have, but everything about the strength of your God [cf. victory in Christ, 1:20-23]. The provision of God is the armor. The armor must be “put on,” for the spiritual armor is an external counterpart to Paul’s emphasis on inward growth and the edification of the church [cf. 4:12, 16].

#5 You are charged to be prayerful and watchful [6:18-20]. Prayer is not a weapon of warfare, but a sounding horn to God for continual preparation in the battle and communion with Him through the battle.

This text is clear, spiritual warfare is real and ferocious. Paul gives a clarifying call to believers in the church to stand firm against the supernatural powers seeking to destroy their unity and reputation in Christ as ambassadors of the gospel of Christ. Spiritual warfare is the real deal, but what about the enemy?

Know your enemy

Throughout history, military strategists have noted the effectiveness in winning battles is to know your enemy. As Victor Hugo said, “A good general must penetrate the brain of his enemy.” As followers of Christ, you have an enemy that is well document. You have dirt on how you can win the war against him. He is not invisible and impenetrable.

First, Satan is limited. He cannot do anything he wants anytime he wants. God limits Satan because he created Satan [Genesis 3:1]. God has Satan on a short leash [Revelation 12:12]. He cannot do anything without God permitting him. Satan knows humans are limited too. God limited Satan’s ability to touch Job when tempting him [1:12]. His limitation is a tactic he uses to deceive your hearts too. He knows your limited, “You can’t win. You can’t fight. Give up!” That is a lie from the pit of hell.

Second, Satan is not like God. Satan cannot know your thoughts. He does not have the power to force you to do anything. He cannot even be everywhere at once. He gets far more credit that he deserves. He has lots of help from his fallen minions, the fallen world, and your wickedly deceived heart. He is not capable in power, wisdom and presence like God. He can’t do what God can do. Only God can do what God can do. No one is like God.

Third, Satan is the defeated enemy. Have you read the end of the Book—the Bible? God will deal with Satan [Revelation 20]. God will throw him into the lake of fire for all eternity. Satan does not win. He ultimately loses. The cross of Christ crushed Satan’s hope for victory [Colossians 2:15]. Jesus defeats the devil through His death and resurrection. Although he is defeated he is not going out quietly. He is on a rampage to inflict as much chaos and catastrophe in the world and your life as possible before his end.

Your enemy’s strategy is to destroy you

During America’s Civil war General Ulysses S. Grant’s men were impressed—even scared of—southern commander, General Robert E. Lee’s brilliant war strategies. One northern sergeant said, “You never quite know how he is going to move. Wish we had ‘im on our side.” Now Robert E. Lee is not the devil [you can still get shot is some places for making a statement like that], but my point is, the strategies of the enemy often inflict fear in those on the defense.

Don’t underestimate Satan’s power [1 Corinthians 10:12]. He is strong, sly, and stealthy. He has ruined many lives. In Jesus’ words, he tries “to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.” [John 10:10; cf. 1 Peter 5:8] Satan’s sole purpose is to bring you down, to take you out, and inflict you with so much fear that you have no other hope than to escape this life.

Have you ever known someone paralyzed by fear? They tell you how powerful and cleaver the devil is [Ephesians 2:2], and how scared to death they are of his strategies. They give up to his tactics in defeat. They give glory to his strength, rather than giving it to God who is infinitely mightier and more powerful.

What your enemy doesn’t want you to know [1 John 4:1-6]

Do not be intimidated by the devil. Do not give him any ground [Ephesians 4:27]. Keep short accounts with sin. You have resources in Christ to effectively counter his attacks. Believe it or not, Satan believes Jesus [Matthew 4:3]. He fears Jesus [James 2:19] because he knows Jesus will judge him. The devil does not want you to know he is out matched by the power of Christ. He does not want you to know he has been conquered and constrained through the death and resurrection of Christ [1 John 3:8]. In Christ, you have victory, authority, protection, power, and position.

Any voice, word, or idea that violates Scripture or is constantly demeaning to you [i.e. you’re fat, you’re stupid, you can’t change, God can’t help you, you should take you life, etc.], it is not of the Holy Spirit and must be ignored. Test the spirits with the Word of God [1 John 4:1]. Call on the power of God with offensive prayer. Let God fight for you. He will protect because He is the Savior and Sovereign King. He sends His heavenly angels to guard His people [Psalm 34:7; Hebrews 1:13-14]. He gives strength in Christ to stand against and resist the devil [Ephesians 6:10; James 4:7-10; 1 Peter 5:6-9]. You are safe with Christ. Stay close to Him, “The Lord is faithful. He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.”

Recommended Resources on Spiritual Warfare:


[1] Matthew 4:1-12, 22-23; Luke 8:26-29; 10:17-20; 13:10-17; Acts 5:1-5; 19:13-20; Romans 8:31-39; 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, 11:1-4, 13-15; Ephesians 2:6; 6:10-17; James 4:7-10; 1 Peter 5:6-9; Jude 8-9; Revelation 12:10-11

thumb lick thursday [3.10.11]

What is Spiritual Warfare?

Spiritual warfare is not about naming territorial spirits, claiming the ground or binding demons. It is all about the gospel. It is to live a gospel life, to preserve gospel unity and to proclaim gospel truth. It is to do this in the face of a hostile world, a deceptive enemy and our own sinful natures. And it is to pray to a sovereign God for gospel opportunities. Advance comes through godliness, unity, proclamation and prayer. – Timothy Chester, The Message of Prayer. IVP, Downers Grove, IL. 2003. 231.

Westminster Confession Revisited

Have you ever read the Westminster Shorter Catechism? Really read it, closely? Matt Kirkland just started, and man – it’s beautiful. This project is both a study aid, as well as a small way for an creative artist to interact with the text.

The Prodigal God

In Timothy Keller’s sermon on the Prodigal God, he share from Luke 15 how both the rebellious younger brother and religious older brother are both lost, and the father’s character is exceptional abnormal,

“The hearts of the two brothers were the same. Both sons resented their father’s authority and sought ways of getting out from under it. They each wanted to get into a position in which they could tell the father what to do. Each one, in other words, rebelled–but one did so by being very bad and the other by being extremely good. Both were alienated from the father’s heart; both were lost sons. Do you realize, then, what Jesus is teaching? Neither sons loved the father for himself.” – Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God. Dutton, New York, NY. 2008. 36

Religion operates on the principle of “I obey–therefore I am accepted by God.” The basic operating principle of the gospel is “I am accepted by God through the work of Jesus Christ–therefore I obey.” [114]

Volkswagen Commercial: The Force
The spot features a pint-sized Darth Vader who uses the Force when he discovers the all-new 2012 Passat in the driveway. It leverages humor and the unforgettable Star Wars™ score to create an emotional commercial.

are you ready for warfare?

Do you go out with your armor on? There are many careers that wear armor, but none more common than the armed forces. It is not uncommon to see a soldier dressed in battle gear on the news. In Jesus day it was not uncommon to see a Roman soldier or centurion. Paul uses this as an illustration to teach followers of Christ a valuable spiritual truth.[1]

You are at War [Ephesians 6:10-12]

Paul makes it clear. Christians are living in a war zone. Here is how your spiritual war is described: First, the war is intensely ferocious [v.12]. It is intensely ferocious because your enemy has one purpose in mind—to destroy your heart and distract you from following God. Your enemy might seem like a friendly foe that offers opulent peace treaties and enticing bribes. He is no friend; he is a ferocious foe in camouflage seeking to ransack your heart with baits and traps.

The spiritual war in which you are engaged is against the “principalities, powers and rulers of darkness.” [v.12] These evil rulers are lead by sergeant Satan the sly strategist and his band of menacing minions. Satan is so sly that he uses your strengths against you. Just as he tempted Jesus in the wilderness he can even distort the Word of God to get his way with you [cf. John 4]. Evil is a Weapon of Mass Destruction and the enemy is as nasty as an Al-Qaeda terrorist. The spiritual war is staged on the battlefield of “heavenly places.” It is waged in a spiritual realm in your midst, but unseen to your naked eye.

This is not the kind of war where you lob grenades, shoot semi-automatic guns, send computer-guided missiles, or have sea and air arsenals. This battle is fought as a wrestling match [i.e. hand-to-hand combat or guerrilla warfare]. Wave after wave of evil savages struggle against you in a continual onslaught seeking to sidetrack and devastate you spiritually. They do not take prisoners of war; instead they look to execute their captives.

Second, the enemy is scheming to take you down hard and fast [v.11]. Satan is not the red-horned, tail-wagging, pitchfork-carrying goofball you commonly see depicted in modern cartoons. He is dark, but is referred to as the Angel of Light. He is incredibly beautiful and intelligent, but is known for being a deceiver and father of lies. He is cunning, tricky, deceptive, and like a predator waiting to devour you like a juicy prey.

What kind of schemes does Satan slyly strategize against you? [cf. 4:22-29] Satan’s weapons of trade are taking little things and making them look big and taking big things and making them look little. He gets you to carry tomorrow and yesterday around today. He makes sin look fun, refreshing, and freeing, but in reality it is guilt-ridden, old as dirt, and bondage. Most importantly he gets you to live contrary to the Word of God and the cause of Christ.

Third, the only way you can win this war is with God’s power [v.10]. “Be strong in the Lord,” is like a war charge towards the troops. This phrase did not originate here, but in the OT.[2] God used this charge towards His nation and its commanders reminding them He will fight right along side them even go before them [cf. 5:8, 11]. Often God fights for His people who are against insurmountable odds. God is a warrior and spiritual warfare champion, which is a source of courage and comfort in the heat of an intensely ferocious war.

Arm Yourself for Battle [Ephesians 6:13-17]

Soldiers of Christ are charged to stand. [vs.11-14] Three times in this passage Paul tells you to stand so you do not fall [vs.11, 13-14]. The enemy—Satan and his cronies—are powerful forces that cannot be faced alone in the power of your own might. Armor might seem clunky, bulky and difficult to wear. However, if you were in danger you would not think twice about putting on thick armor. God has supplied you with a complete storage shed of weapons to wield for this war:

Weapon Physical Purpose Spiritual Purpose
Belt of Truth Keeps your armor up. Keeps arms and feet useful for action. Be prepared. Protection against hypocrisy and false gospels (1:13; 4:15, 21, 24, 25; 5:9; cf. Luke 12:35-37)
Breast of Righteousness Protects your heart and vital organs Protection against condemnation (4:24; 5:9)
 

Shoes of Readiness

Helps you to run well and stand strong. Durable for long distances. Firm footing. Protection against fear. Bearing the message of the gospel of peace (1:2; esp. 2:14–18; 4:3; cf. 6:23; Romans 3:21-26).
 

Shield of Faith

Protects you from a variety of attacks. Dodging and distinguish fiery arrows. (Genesis 15:1; Psalm 5:12; 18:2, 30, 35; 28:7; Proverbs 30:5; 1 Peter 5:8-9) Protection against dangerous temptation: doubt, disobedience, discouragement, and despair (1:1, 13, 15, 19; 2:8; 3:12, 17; 4:5, 13; Romans 10:15)
Helmet of Salvation Protects your head and your precious noggin Promise of ultimate victory (1:13; 2:5, 8; 5:23)
Sword of the Spirit

[Only offensive weapon mentioned]

Offensive weapon to wound and kill enemy. (Revelation 19:15) Battle is won with the Word of God. Truth defeats deception (1:13; 5:26; cf. Hebrews 4:12-13).

The Bible describes you as a soldier and you are called to wear special armor. You are in a spiritual battle. It is a fight for your life. Armor is not an option it is required to even have a chance to face your foe. Why must I take my armor seriously? You are able to withstand the intense battle and stand firm under immense pressure because you have God’s armor. Only He is able to keep you from falling, therefore, stand tall [cf. 1:20-23]. Each of the pieces of armor is a call to arms that deal with the character of God within you. The armor must be “put on.” Therefore, spiritual warfare is an external counterpart to Paul’s emphasis on inward growth and the edification of the church [cf. 4:12, 16].

Don’t Forget to Watch and Pray [Ephesians 6:18]

Be on guard. One of your greatest weapons is prayer. In the midst of the battle you can call on your commander-in-chief without using the red-phone. God is a unique commander. He is not oblivious to your warfare, He is right there with you. Therefore, when you pray to God you are not surprising God with your needs or trying to change God’s mind; rather you are acknowledging His presence and asking how He wants to change you through the battle.

How should you pray? Be committed to a lifestyle of persistent prayer in the Spirit. This brings your prayers in line with God’s will; making prayer about God’s agendas not yours. If you want to know how to pray look at Jesus [cf. Matthew 6:9-13] who praises God’s greatness and glory [v.9], agrees with His will [v.1], and acknowledges dependence upon God for daily survival [vs.11-13]. Prayer is powerful weapon because it is direct communication with the battles Conqueror and King.

Ground Yourself in the Gospel [Ephesians 6:19-20]

Why is the gospel such a big deal? Why can’t you win the spiritual war without being grounded in the gospel? The gospel is where you choose sides. The gospel chooses the winning side of the battle. In the gospel, Christ defeats death, sin, and the powers of evil, partnering you with the power of Christ to be able to fight against your foes.[3]

How can I ground myself in the gospel? First, pray for opportunities for the gospel [v.19a]. Second, proclaim the gospel [v.19b].[4] Rather than proclaiming your personalities, talents, influence, and spiritual affluence, proclaim Christ. Don’t get hung up on side issues like: politics, culture, end times, or Christian patriotism. Each of these issues is not wrong to discuss, but they can be distractions derailing you from getting to the Gospel. Stick with the gospel; it’s the power of God unto salvation.

Third, proclaim the gospel with boldness and without excuse [vs.19c-20]. You are an ambassador of the King of kings and Commander-in-chief of the armies of heaven. Speak as His representative with boldness, eagerness and unashamed passion making known the mystery of the gospel [Romans 1:16]. Remember the cross of Christ is foolishness to those who do not know the gospel. Be prepared to offend people with the gospel. Sometimes the gospel brings on more foes and persecution.

In conclusion, Christian, you are at war with a ferocious enemy in a hostile world. Have a wartime mentality. This war is a difficult fight with evil foes. Ephesians 6:10-20 is a clarion call to arm yourself for battle with the weapons God makes readily available to you. Don’t forget to pray agreeing with God concerning your need of His presence, power, and utter dependence upon Him for victory. Finally, ground yourself in the glorious refuge of the gospel. In the gospel, you will find rest and safety in the secure arms of your Savior and Warrior King Jesus Christ who has fought the battle in your stead, defeated the foe, and claimed eternal victory. The battle truly belongs to the Lord. Have you put your armor on today?


[1] Throughout Ephesians 6:10-20on spiritual warfare Paul’s sustained imagery is drawn from the prophecy of Isaiah, which describes the armor of Yahweh and his Messiah (11:4–5; 59:17; cf. 49:2; 52:7).

[2] Cf. Joshua 1:6-9; Deuteronomy 31:6-7, 23; Zechariah 10:12

[3] Paul often asks for prayer for himself and his colleagues, particularly in relation to their ministry of the gospel (Rom. 15:30–32; 2 Cor. 1:11; Col. 4:3, 4; 1 Thess. 5:25; 2 Thess. 3:1, 2; cf. Phil. 1:19).

[4] Great passages to proclaim the gospel of Christ: John 1:12; 3:16; Romans 3:23; 5:8; 6:23; 10:13; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5; Hebrews 9:27.

this is not a playground, it’s a battlefield

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My brother Colin and I use to pretend to play war. We would play for hours on the land by the lake in the summers. We would set up army men and throw rocks at each other. I would usually win because I was 10 years older than him, but he would get mad, throw a hit and kick all mine over. Yeah, I would let him win.

Now these battles were just for fun. Life at times can be a battle too. When the warfare hits home it is not so fun.

1. Our battle is against the ENEMY OF GOD. Eph.6:12 “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Our enemy is slick, stealth, sly and so powerful. This is why the Bible often calls life a battle, fight, or a war.

2. In this battle we have the STRENGTH OF GOD. Eph.6:10 “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.” Like God would often say to Joshua, “Be strong and courageous…the battle belongs to the LORD” The power that created the universe is the power He gives you to fight against sin, temptation and the world.

3. In this battle we wear the ARMOR OF GOD. Eph.6:13 “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” God has issued you the armor when you enlisted in the Lord’s army. It is your responsibility to wield the God-given weapons of warfare.

4. In this battle we boast in the GLORY OF GOD Gal.6:14 “May it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We do not fight alone. Our champion is Christ. He is our Divine Warrior!! Armies would often have chants for their champions, not a “hip-hip-hooray!” or “I don’t know what you been told, but our champion is really bold.” But more like, “He will rock you, sock you, and knock you out!!” [or something like that!?]. When we cheer on our champion we boast in His glory. Jesus always wins.

ARE YOU READY TO TAKE THE ON HEAT? ARE YOU READY TO FUEL YOUR FLAME FOR GOD? ARE YOU READY TO FOLLOW GOD “INSIDE THE FIRE”?