Suffering, Sin, and Sobriety

October 19, 2018 at 3:15 pm | Posted in I Peter | 4 Comments
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Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin;

I Peter 4:1

Christ did not cease from His own sin, because He had no sin, but the principle that suffering in the flesh can bring about a cessation from sin helps us prepare for not giving in to sin when suffering comes, and it prepares us to arm ourselves against the temptation to sin that often accompanies suffering.

Suffering is not always caused by a specific sin in a direct one-to-one relationship, but, even when we see suffering as the result of sin, the Devil still often manages to trick us by using our suffering as a temptation TO sin. We need to recall Christ’s resistance against temptation when He suffered for sin that wasn’t even His own.

That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.

I Peter 4:2

The will of God is perfect. Therefore, it should bring contentment, if not outright enjoyment or ecstatic pleasure. However, we’re often so anxious to get more without giving up what we already have. What would make me think God would entrust me with more spiritual blessings if I haven’t even obeyed Him in my use of the ones He’s already entrusted to me? If God has commanded me to do something, it OUGHT to be done, and if it OUGHT to be done, it CAN be done, through the power and grace of God.

For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries:

I Peter 4:3

When we look back at our pre-conversion days, we must not make the excuse of “just” being trapped in sin. We were not Christians on the inside, just waiting for Christ to cut the strings on the package so we could burst free. No, let’s be honest. We enjoyed sin. We wanted sin more than we wanted holiness, and, in some cases, even salvation. Now, don’t let the Devil beat you up over this and give you a false reason to be defeated. We were slaves to sin, but we weren’t totally miserable in every sense, or we wouldn’t have been so good at it. When we remember this, we won’t get so exasperated with people who meet our attempts to share the Gospel with a reply of, “Come on, join the party.”

Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you:

I Peter 4:4

Light is strong, but light is not always popular. A child lost in the woods, cold, scared, and hungry, rejoices to see a light and runs to it. But the barroom crowd hates the light, and they’ll likely throw a beer bottle at you for shining it in their face.

Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead.

I Peter 4:5

Lost people are heading toward a judgment date with the most terrible Judge of all; they don’t need us to judge them.

For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.

I Peter 4:6

That’s not talking about folks who are physically dead. If they died without receiving Christ, we can’t pray enough, pay enough, or light enough candles to bring them to eternal life. It’s talking about the spiritually dead judging the living – people lost in sin causing suffering for living saints now, and not even being able to see that they will one day be judged themselves. This type of suffering, though, conforms us to the image of Christ, teaching us to be longsuffering, patient, slow to anger.

But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.

I Peter 4:7

If you are a Christian experiencing suffering, financial problems, or the temptation to sin right now, and it is causing you, in panic, to turn to whichever religious charlatan is offering you a quick-fix scheme, chill out. You don’t have to run around your house “pleading the blood,” doing incantations and spells around every window sill and door frame to ward off the attack of the Devil. Be sober. Gird up the loins of your mind. Get your eyes fixed on God’s glory. Stay right on the line of the Word and His will. Watch and pray. Be vigilant and militant and harsh about sin in your life. The Devil can’t beat you up unless you fall asleep on your watch.

An Irascible Marriage

March 25, 2013 at 9:02 am | Posted in Biblical Marriage, I Corinthians | 10 Comments
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In the continuing study of Satan’s attack on marriage, we have imagined our marriages as an enclosed area, surrounded by a perimeter or wall of fortification. We have established that his attack is going to be most concentrated in the area of sexual relations (I Corinthians 7:2-5). Here are the tactics we have identified so far by which he tries to break through our defenses:

1. Spies: Spies try to sneak through the wall by pretending to be our friends. They tell us that, for some reason, the area of sexual temptation is not going to be a problem in your marriage. We deal with these spies by identifying them and executing them with Scriptural ammunition (I Thessalonians 4:3-4).

2. Tunnelers: These are sent by Satan to burrow under the wall by preying on our concupiscible appetites (Colossians 3:5). We combat these by recognizing that our sensual appetites are gifts from God, but were created by Him to be exercised in the freeing confines of marriage only. Thereby, we whack them back down into their holes and pour Scriptural cement into the tunnel to stop them from coming back.

3. Wall-scalers: These assailants try to climb right up and over the wall. They attack our thought life with lies that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God. We combat these assailants by pulling them down – by exposing vain speculations to the Truth of Scripture (II Corinthians 10:4-5).

The fourth area of attack comes in the form or assailants who are not as sneaky, tricky, or subtle as the other three. These are employed by Satan to try to simply batter down the walls. They are the siege engines of spiritual warfare. This is very different from how we normally expect Satan to attack. So far, all of our lessons on protecting your marriage in the area of intimacy have focused on defeating Satan the tempter – Satan the deceiver – for that is his primary tactic. But remember, he is also Satan the intimidator. Satan wants to intimidate you by bombarding you with so many lies that you begin to question God or to doubt His goodness or to be afraid to fight. If you back away from the protective walls of your marriage and hide in the compound, he will batter them down.

However, just like in the area of temptation, God has also equipped us to fight back in the area of intimidation. Satan the tempter tries to prey on our “concupiscible” appetites. Satan the intimidator would like to frighten us into forsaking our “irascible” appetites. (These terms come from my study of Scriptural principles which line up with some of the teachings of Thomas Aquinas.) Sensual appetites are pleasurable. Irascible appetites (or what I might call “reasonable” appetites) direct us toward objective good which we must discern by reason since they are not pleasurable. Satan is battering at the walls. There is a temptation to cower and drop out of the battle. Things like sexual immorality and temptation, as they are depicted and advertised on television, the tabloids, the internet, and other media can be dealt with to some extent by avoidance. But encounters with immodesty, enticement, and emotional predators must be dealt with more directly if, as married Christians, we are still going to participate in hands-on ministry. Married people have a protective wall, but it must not be a stationary wall. If our marriages are forts against sexual infidelity, they must be forts that travel. They must travel to hospitals, to the homes of those with needs, to the mission field, to the marketplace, to the job site, to church. Satan would like to accuse and intimidate you into being so scared of being “worldly” that you don’t venture out into the world at all.

But God says differently. In the next lesson we will take a look at three irascible appetites which God has given us to combat the accusations and intimidations of Satan as he attacks our marriages.

Guarding the Top of the Wall in Marriage

March 8, 2013 at 1:09 pm | Posted in Biblical Marriage, I Corinthians | 5 Comments
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As we seek to guard against the temptation of sexual infidelity, we have imagined our marriages as walled cities under attack by Satan. In the last lesson, I discussed the way he attempts to send “exalted” thoughts and ideas up and over the walls. Remember, these “assailants” are false statements that are esteemed in our culture as being valid. They are statements that boldly exalt themselves against the revealed Word of God.

First assailant: Flirting is not cheating.

Or to put it another way: You can look and not touch (applies more to men, in general). Or to put it yet another way: You can share intimate thoughts and feelings with another person on the internet or the phone and it’s not cheating (applies more to women, in general.)

Lust not after her beauty in thine heart; neither let her take thee with her eyelids.

Proverbs 6:25 (emphasis added)

Notice that the prohibition is not against lusting after this beautiful person in your hands, on your lips, or even in your loins! (Although, those would certainly be prohibited, too.) The prohibition is against lusting in the heart (which includes your thought life). There is nothing wrong with admiring beauty. However, when a married man says, “I can admire a beautiful woman if I want,” the only right response is, “Yes, you can, sir, as long as she’s your wife.” From a man’s perspective, women are beautiful and they are exciting to look at. Young boys need to be told that truth. But as they grow into young men, they also need to be told to get a job, to get a home, to get a car, to get it insured, to first become a man – then, to get a wife and look at her all they want.

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:

Matthew 5:27

There is an elliptical thought between Matthew 5:27 and 28 that implies – even in the time of Jesus’s earthly life – there were those who believed it was wrong to commit adultery, but not to think about committing adultery.

But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

Matthew 5:28

Why did Jesus equate lusting in the heart with the actual commission of adultery? Certainly the person who looks but doesn’t touch does not break up a family or cause an unwanted pregnancy or crush the feelings of his or her own spouse. Jesus’s point was not that lusting in the heart does as much damage as physically committing adultery. His point was that the God Who made us is so holy that He condemns not only the accomplishment of the sin but anything that tends toward the sin.

Second assailant: Sex is physical and it is not mixed up with spirituality.

Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.

I Corinthians 6:18

The fact that a spouse may commit fornication without having any spiritual “feelings” for the object of his or her lust, thereby making it a “physical sin,” does not excuse the spiritual implications. If you are a Christian, your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Will you pretend that you can defile His temple without bringing disgrace to Him? Lying can cause terrible pain and trouble. Violence can inflict terrible pain. But fornication defiles not only the people affected by it outwardly, but, in a sense, it defiles that which is most closely related to God’s presence. In the Old Testament, the worshiping of Baal in the temple of God was considered one of the most egregious of all offenses against God. How much more the commission of fornication where God’s very Spirit resides in the body of a believer? The consideration of such a sin must be brought captive and cast down.

Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh.

I Corinthians 6:15-16

Satan would exalt the idea that sexual immorality causes the Holy Spirit to temporarily leave a believer long enough for him or her to fornicate with impunity. That wicked lie must be knocked off the top of the wall of your marriage before it gets over.

Third assailant: A mature Christian does not need safeguards.

Satan whispers: “You can handle it. If you can’t take a little flirting, a little proximity to the opposite sex, you must be some immature, baby Christian.” If not trusting my flesh enough to avoid temptation makes me a baby, then pass me a bottle of milk and change my diaper! The truth is, I don’t need to prove whether I can withstand it or not. The Bible (remember, these are “imaginations” of Satanic influence which must be exposed to Scripture) already tells me the score on what I can and can’t handle.

Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.

I Corinthians 6:18 (emphasis added)

Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

II Timothy 2:22 (emphasis added)

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

James 4:7 (emphasis added)

The devil says, “Look, you’re a Christian. God does not want you to be all angry, like some puritanical prude – what do you mean you won’t even ride in a car with a woman you’re not married to..? You’re a ‘legalist.’ Christianity is about love not anger – chill out. And God hasn’t given you a spirit of fear. He even told you to stand up and fight against me – now you’re going to run away from temptation?” When you find yourself thinking this way, beware. That’s a “high thought” exalting itself against the mind of God as revealed in His Word. It needs to be torn down from the top of the wall around your marriage.

Imagination in Marriage

February 22, 2013 at 10:11 am | Posted in Biblical Marriage, I Corinthians, II Corinthians | 7 Comments
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Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.

I Corinthians 7:2-5 (emphasis added)

Previously, I have shown that Satan attacks the fortified walls of marriages with craftiness and deceit. We are to be ready for various types of attacks by:

1. Not being ignorant. Satan is going to attack in this area.
2. Facing up to the fact that his attack is going to be a fierce attack.
3. Realizing that this attack could come at unexpected times and from unexpected angles.
4. Preparing to recognize infiltrating spies, in which Satan utilizes worldly lies masquerading as common wisdom.
5. Preparing to recognize attacks in the form of burrowing under the protective wall around your marriage, in which Satan seeks to utilize our God-given sensual appetites to his own nefarious advantage.

Now, we will see that we must also:

6. Prepare to recognize attacks coming over the top of the walls.

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:

II Corinthians 10:3

The Bible does not say that Christians do not wage warfare. Just because our warfare is spiritual and not physical, it does not mean that our warfare is any “less real.”

(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

II Corinthians 10:4-5 (emphasis added)

If I cast something “down,” that implies that, before I get to it, it is something “higher” than me. When I think about my marriage, I need to be careful to identify things that might be sitting in a “high place” in my mind where they should not be. “Imagination,” in the sense we normally use that word, is not a bad thing. In previous lessons I have advocated using our creativity and imaginative thinking in making the romantic aspects of our marriage enjoyable. But “imaginations” as used in these verses are a reference to human speculations that cause us to wonder about or doubt things on our own that might already be resolved, revealed, or even restricted in Scripture. Those “bad,” speculative imaginations can easily include things like sexual thoughts – thoughts that seem to be so sudden and secretive that they come to us unbidden.

And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.

II Corinthians 10:6

Impure thoughts should make us downright angry and vengeful – if our minds are captivated by obedience to Christ. This is the “hard work” of spiritual warfare, and Satan does not believe that you are going to put up a good fight when it comes to how we think about sex in marriage. Therefore, he is very bold. He is trying to send these “exalted thoughts” right up and over your battlements. Next time I will identify three assailants that he will send to try to scale the fortifying walls of your marriage at the area we call “sexual fidelity.”

How Whack-A-Mole Can Help Your Marriage

February 6, 2013 at 11:19 am | Posted in Biblical Marriage, Galatians | 8 Comments
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Last time, I discussed Satan’s infiltration strategy as he attacks our marriages. The devil comes up to the wall of your marriage as a tempter at the “sexual relations” section of the wall, but all his spies that tried to sneak through were summarily executed. So now he tries to burrow under – and he messes with your thought life. He borrows a shovel and some trenching tools from the worldly media and popular culture, and (because he doesn’t have the power to “create” new physical sensations the way God does) he appeals to the concupiscible appetite which is already in us. He’s not stupid, either. He knows that our concupiscible appetites, while given to us by God, have also been warped and bent by our sin nature. So he tries to get under the wall by making you think that the appetite itself is the thing to be served (worshiped), instead of the Giver of the appetite. He whispers in your (or your spouse’s) ear, and he says, “This feels good, so it is powerful – and it must be satiated more than your spouse wants to satiate it.” Then he whispers, “There are other ways out there to satiate it… There are things to look at and there are people willing to help…and God knows that you are not stronger than your concupiscible appetites, so God will understand – it’s not a big deal…” And he tempts and tempts and tempts! Remember, Satan is the master liar and tempter. He knows how to make sin sound and look very seductive.

So, will you look the other way when the tempter pops his head up through a hole in the ground on your side of the wall? Or will you remember that “your” side of the wall is really “God’s” side of the wall and that your marriage belongs to Him and not to you? My children used to like to buy those little coin-shaped tokens and play an arcade game called “Whack-A-Mole.”

Whenever a plastic mole popped his head out of a hole, they would smash it back down with a big toy mallet, and at the same time another mole would pop right up out of another hole. I’m not trying to be silly because we’re talking about a serious matter, but that is a picture of what we, as Christian spouses, are going to have to do in the area of glorifying God with our concupiscible appetites. We are going to have to watch for the devil to pop his head up in our thought lives, and then beat him back into the ground. The difference is, we have the authority in Christ Jesus to not only resist Satan (James 4:7) and to hammer him back down, but to pour cement in the hole so he can’t keep coming back – at least through that same tunnel.

How are we going to do this? We are going to do it Biblically – with the weapon that God has given us to control the concupiscible appetite. It’s called “temperance.”

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.

Galatians 5:22-24 (emphasis added)

Temperance is a Godly virtue, it is a Christian virtue, and it is a Gospel virtue. It is the virtue of controlling, mastering, and channeling the sensual appetites. Can it be done? Yes! By walking in the Spirit; by asking God to help you do it; by surrendering to Christ and accessing His power; by preaching the Gospel to our libidos. Now, those are principles that apply even if you are on your own when it comes to understanding the truth about Christian marriage. You can have victory in Christ even if your spouse is not on your side. I will say, though, that it is much less difficult when your spouse is on the same page. In a case where both spouses have bought into the truth of Christ-centered marriage, the concupiscible appetite is channeled, by and with the help of your loving and submissive spouse, into the God-ordained and Gospel-enabled arena in which it is to be freely satisfied. Because God made it that way, this is where it is to be freely satisfied and where it is best satisfied.

A Concupiscible Marriage

January 21, 2013 at 12:19 pm | Posted in Biblical Marriage, I Corinthians | 10 Comments
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Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.

I Corinthians 7:2-5 (emphasis added)

In the continuing study of Satan’s attack on marriage, we have imagined our marriages as an enclosed area (Song of Solomon 4:12), surrounded by a perimeter or wall of fortification. Our duty is to protect the entire perimeter from the devil’s attacks, but we want to concentrate our protective resources where the attack is going to be most focused. We have established that his attack is going to be most concentrated in the area of sexual relations. Here are the four principles we have highlighted so far:

1. Don’t be ignorant. Satan is going to attack in this area.
2. Face up to the fact that his attack is going to be a fierce attack.
3. Realize that this attack could come at unexpected times and from unexpected angles.
4. Prepare to recognize an infiltrating spy.

Now, we will see that we must also:

5. Prepare to recognize attacks in the form of burrowing under the wall and popping up in the midst of your marriage.

Satan, in addition to trying to sneak his spies right through the wall protecting your marriage, will also send tunnelers to burrow under the wall. He does this when he attacks our thought life. I’m borrowing some of the ideas in this lesson from Thomas Aquinas, but only insofar as they line up with the Bible. We are fallen sinners, but Christians are redeemed fallen sinners. That means we have access to the grace of the Gospel. We are not “Gnostics.” We do not believe that only spiritual, non-physical things can be “good.” We believe that our souls have been redeemed and that our bodies have been redeemed (Romans 8:23), in the sense that they will one day be resurrected in a glorified form. The physical pleasures of the body – when viewed through Gospel redemption – are to be enjoyed in their set limits. But that’s only half the truth. The fuller-orbed reality is that, when true Christians enjoy these physical pleasures in their “set limits,” we actually have more freedom to enjoy them with more enjoyment. Do you see the tension? We think of “limits” as restricting freedom. But in God’s Gospel, His limitations actually “free” us up to be what He intended us to really be when He created us.

Now, here’s where Aquinas comes in, because he helps us to see the difference between our “concupiscible” appetites and our “irascible” appetites. For now, let’s leave aside the “irascible” (hopefully I’ll get to those in another session), and focus on the “concupiscible.”

Concupiscible appetites are mainly physical appetites which are very strong because of the physical pleasure they induce and (possibly) because of their ties to our vitality. Eating, drinking, and sex are things that almost all people have an appetite for, and they are all accompanied by sensations of strong physical pleasure. They also happen to be tied to the continuance of life (our “survival”).

Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:

Colossians 3:5 (emphasis added)

The concupiscible appetite is not inherently evil, but it can become tainted by evil. It is not inherently evil because it was put in you by God. Adam and Eve needed to eat and drink before they sinned, and they were made in such a way that they would enjoy these things. Adam and Eve had a desire to procreate and to be sexual before they sinned, and they were made by God to enjoy the physical acts and sensations which lead to procreation. In the next lesson, I will identify a counter strategy to deal with Satan’s manipulation of our concupiscible appetites.

Marital Espionage

January 7, 2013 at 1:22 pm | Posted in Biblical Marriage | 6 Comments
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In a previous lesson I listed the first three fortifications that Christian married couples should build up at the key point of Satan’s attack against marriages: physical intimacy. These three fortifications had to do with recognizing the attack, not underestimating the attack, taking the attack seriously.

1. Don’t be ignorant. Satan is going to attack in this area.
2. Face up to the fact that his attack is going to be a fierce attack.
3. Realize that this attack could come at unexpected times and from unexpected angles.

Here is the fourth fortification:

4. Prepare to recognize an infiltrating spy.

Satan sends “infiltrators” which are “copies:” perversions of what God intended. Sexual relations must not be separated from Scripture. The command to be “frequent” must be taken seriously. The “desire” part of it must not be disregarded or discounted. Satan has made a number of fakes – and they are good fakes because he works in enough “partial truths” to make them look like real truth. When we recognize these infiltrators trying to sneak through the wall of sexual relations in marriage, we can confront them, confine them, and kill them with Scriptural ammunition.

Fake: Different sex drives can be an excuse for infrequency.

Confrontation with Truth: In mutual service, frequent for one has to be frequent for both.

Ammunition: “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour;” (I Thesalonians 4:3-4, emphasis added)

Both spouses are to cooperate in the frequency.

Fake: You have to wait for the “right time.” In other words, the mood has to be just right.

Confrontation with Truth: The right time must be made. “Moods” are feelings which often need to be brought into subjection to Christ’s commands.

Ammunition: “That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour;” (I Thessalonians 4:4, emphasis added)

“To possess” is a present tense verb. It indicates that this is an ongoing thing. The devil’s lie is that routine is always boring. God’s truth is that He has granted you imagination and the ability to plan, and that routine in and of itself can be a form of obedience which is not boring.

These are just some of the ways that Satan tries to “slip by” our defenses or impersonate a friendly ally. They are espionage techniques that he uses, but with diligent vigilance (I Thessalonians 5:5-6) and with the supernatural wisdom of God’s Spirit empowering us (James 1:5), we can spot and summarily execute these spies on the spot.

Smart Phones and Marriage

December 12, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Posted in Biblical Marriage | 13 Comments
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We don’t want to give Satan any credit or compliments, and certainly not any praise, but we definitely must recognize that he is exceedingly skillful at certain sins: He has seemingly unshakeable pride (Isaiah 14:12-14). He is a very accomplished liar (John 8:44). And he is frighteningly subtle (Genesis 3:1), or what we would call “crafty,” or “sneaky,” or “deceitfully devious.” Here’s an example:

Have you ever praised God for your “smart phone” or other modern communication device? Maybe you’ve praised and thanked Him for giving it to you, or maybe even for a time when it’s come in very handy in a crisis, but have you ever praised Him for the design and technology that went into inventing and making it? It is our tendency to think of some computer genius like Steve Jobs when we think of the “inventors” of these types of gadgets and technologies, but do you realize that neither Steve Jobs nor anyone else is the real “inventor” of smart phone technology? In fact, all they did was copy ideas that God put in their brains and then claim them as their own.

Now, when I have said this to people, I have received a common objection: “How do you know this? After all,” they say, “my smart phone is morally neutral. It is true I can use it for great good (such as calling people to invite them to church or to check on them in the hospital) or I can use it for great evil (such as gossiping or downloading pornography). So how do you know that God and not Satan is the one who put smart phone technology into Steve Jobs’s brain?”

My answer is simple: Because Satan can’t create! He can only copy. He himself is a created being and he is not divine or sovereign like God. Satan is what my kids would call a “copycat,” even though he is the world’s most devious copycat.

Several lessons back, we studied the Fall in the Garden of Eden and the Bible made such a big deal out of saying that Adam and Eve were “naked and not ashamed.” Then, they sinned and they knew they were naked and they were ashamed. God put a curse on them and all creation, and He said there’s going to be trouble in the husband-wife relationship from now on: the wife is going to secretly want to usurp authority and the husband is going to want to shirk his leadership responsibility of leading in love. But, remember, I said that the curse was not a curse upon sexual desire itself. Why not? Because God made sexual desire before the Fall and sexual desire was and is good. Likewise, Satan didn’t invent or create sexual desire. He has just taken it and warped it and perverted it and tried to make a false facsimile copy of it.

Sexual desire is a God-given part of our nature. That’s why plain “concupiscence” isn’t described as evil in the Bible. The Bible makes a point of labeling “evil” concupiscence as evil (Colossians 3:5). I am laboring this point in order to underscore the importance of fortifying the area of “sexual intimacy” where Satan is focusing his attack on our marriages.

Getting Busy in Marriage

November 19, 2012 at 11:05 am | Posted in Biblical Marriage, I Corinthians | 12 Comments
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Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.

I Corinthians 7:2-5 (emphasis added)

As Christians we do not have to wonder whether or not Satan is going to attack our marriages. There is absolutely no doubt that he will. If he has already attacked your marriage, you know that it is not a pleasant thing – but it is a fact. Thankfully, the Bible is very straightforward in telling us that we do not have to be caught off-guard by his attacks.

Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.

II Corinthians 2:11

Because we have the Bible, we do not have to be ignorant. I want to be very specific and narrow down what I am talking about here:

1. Because we are not ignorant, we know that he attacks in two ways:
a. As a tempter (Genesis 3; Matthew 4:7)
b. As an accuser (Revelation 12:10; Matthew 12:10)

2. When he attacks as an accuser, he makes two types of accusations against us:
a. Slanderous accusations (John 8:44)
b. Truthful accusations (Zechariah 3:1-5)

3. He makes these accusations against us in two places:
a. In our consciences (I Chronicles 21:1)
b. Before the Throne of God (Job 1)

4. He makes these accusations for three reasons:
a. To destroy our peace – both internally and with God (Luke 22:31)
b. To cause us to doubt God’s goodness and truth (Genesis 3:4-5; Luke 4:3)
c. To paralyze us with fear (Matthew 16:21-23)

When it comes to our marriages he attacks in all these areas, but, according to II Corinthians 7:5, he attacks our marriages more as a tempter than an accuser: “Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.” (Emphasis added.)

I like to imagine my marriage as an enclosed area with a well-defined perimeter. Satan wants to breach that perimeter. As a Christian spouse, my responsibility is to protect the entire perimeter, but, Biblically, I’ve been told that I need to concentrate my protective resources where the attack is going to be most focused.

In the Bible, cities were often surrounded by a protective wall with different “gates” which were the entry- and exit- points to and from the city. In marriage, one of these sections of the wall is “communication;” one is “finances;” one is “career;” one is “ministry;” one is “parenting;” and one is “sexual intimacy.” According to the Bible, Satan’s attack is going to be most concentrated at the gate and area of the wall devoted to sexual intimacy.

When I Corinthians 7:5 uses the term “incontinency” it refers to a lack of self-control, and its specific reference is to sexual relations. The previous lesson contained an acronym – “F.I.N.E.” – which dealt with promoting the Biblical ideal for sexual intimacy in marriage:


I’m sorry to be crude, but when I was in college there was a slang term for sexual relations called “getting busy.” The fact is, if you are not getting busy in your marriage, then Satan is! This is not an easy topic to talk about, but Satan is real. I hate to admit it, but he is stronger than I am. And he is smarter than I am. He’s no match for my Lord and my Best Friend, but if I try to take him on in my own strength, he will sift me like wheat, embarrass me, and chase me right out of my blessings, peace, and assurance, putting me to shame. Recognizing that, here are the first three steps to shoring up and fortifying the defensive and protective wall against temptation in the area of sexual intimacy in marriage:

1. Don’t be ignorant. Satan is going to attack in this area.
2. Face up to the fact that his attack is going to be a fierce attack.
3. Realize that this attack could come at unexpected times and from unexpected angles.

In the next lesson we will learn how to recognize Satan in his craftiness.

The Life of a Missionary: Having a Fit, Making a Tough Choice, and Singing in Jail

August 25, 2009 at 2:12 pm | Posted in Acts | 7 Comments
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The events recorded in Acts Chapter 15 took place about 20 years after the day of Pentecost. The meeting that is described is often called the Jerusalem Council. Some Jewish “Christian” theologians had come to the Church – possibly sent by Satan – and they had taught a false gospel: Christianity constrained by Judaism.

The result of the Jerusalem Council was a sort of a compromise. There were two commands: avoid idolatry and fornication. And there were two concessions: don’t eat blood, and don’t eat meat from animals killed by strangulation. This result preserved unity in the Church.

Most local churches that wind up destroyed do not get destroyed by outside forces. Most of them split from within.

And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do. And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark. But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work. And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus;

Acts 15:36-39

Paul and Barnabas got into a fight about Barnabas’s cousin, John Mark. The Greek word for “contention” in Acts 15:39 is a funny word – paroxysmos – meaning a paroxysm or a “fit.” Paul ended up taking Silas with him, and Barnabas took Mark. Paul cared for people in the sense of what they could do for the Lord. Barnabas cared for people in the sense of what God could do for them, or what God’s work could do for them. Of course, it could just be that God wanted two missionary teams instead of one.

Acts Chapter 16 describes the beginning of Paul’s second missionary journey. At Lystra they picked up Timothy to replace Mark on Paul’s team. Timothy and Titus, Paul’s two main proteges, were both gentiles. Timothy was circumcised, but Titus was not. The reason is that Timothy was going to be working with Jews and gentiles, but Titus’s circumcision would have helped Paul’s enemies (Galatians 2:1-5).

Paul’s personal preference was to go east to Asia, but God wanted him to go west to Europe. He went to Troas, then to Macedonia, then to Neapolis, then to Philippi.

On this missionary journey, Lydia of Thyatira, the seller of purple dye, was saved.

And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.

Acts 16:14-15

Paul cast a demon out of a girl who was following them, even though she was proclaiming salvation.

And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying: The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation. And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour.

Acts 16:16-18

This young lady’s conversion cost her masters much income, and they had Paul and Silas beaten. Notice how sneaky Satan is! He tried to trap Paul and his team: They could let this girl keep it up and corrupt the message and their separated walk; or, they could oppose her, stir up trouble, get beaten, thrown out, and lose the opportunity to witness. We must wonder if Satan thought he had baited the perfect trap. If Paul and his team let the girl continue, then Satan could use her to start lying. If they silenced her, they would make her masters angry. However, God always makes a way of escape for His people when they are tempted of Satan. So, Paul and Silas were beaten, and then instead of getting thrown out of town, God allowed them to get thrown into prison. Paul and Silas were in prison, singing songs of praise to God!

And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.

Acts 16:25

God shook open the prison doors, but Paul stayed to witness to the Philippian jailor.

And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.

Acts 16:30-31

Here, it is important to note that they are not telling one man to believe by himself, such that his belief would be a substitute for the belief of everyone else in his household. They are telling him that each person of the household must believe on his/her own.

And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.

Acts 16:34

Paul and Silas were prisoners, but they were treated differently once they claimed their rights as Roman citizens.

But Paul said unto them, They have beaten us openly uncondemned, being Romans, and have cast us into prison; and now do they thrust us out privily? nay verily; but let them come themselves and fetch us out. And the serjeants told these words unto the magistrates: and they feared, when they heard that they were Romans. And they came and besought them, and brought them out, and desired them to depart out of the city. And they went out of the prison, and entered into the house of Lydia: and when they had seen the brethren, they comforted them, and departed.

Acts 16:37-40

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