The Distorter (Ephesians 4:25–32)
When God’s people, his Beloved, obeyed the Archnemesis in the beginning of this great story, all of God’s creation fell. We still live in a broken world today.
While the world we live in is broken, it hasn’t been destroyed. It’s broken as in “not fixed.” Fingerprints of the great Hero can still be seen. And as he works in and through his Beloved, his ways and his kingdom spread.
Jesus told us to ask God to spread his kingdom further (see Matthew 6:10). But Satan, the great Corrupter, is out to stop every bit of it.
Although he is pure evil, Satan has to fight within his limitations. He’s not a creator. If he was, he could create a slew of new beings to battle against the Beloved. But he can’t create like God can. He can only distort. He corrupted the angels that joined his rebellion—he could only steal from what God had already created. And still now, he and his fallen angel followers can only interfere with what exists. Like a fungus or a parasite, they’ll take something good and infect it.
The Archnemesis seeks to break up strong families and good relationships, doing whatever it takes to tear them down.
He corrupts sexuality. Since it’s one of God’s beautiful and creative inventions for marriage, Satan has attacked it fervently—promoting it as something everyone should do, at any time, without any rules.
The Enemy goes after whatever God says is good. And as we buy into his corruptions, we put on his chains.
Since the Archnemesis is mainly a distorter, you can know that the target of his attacks is something good. If it’s good and of the Hero, that something is worth fighting for. Pay attention to the world around you. Look for the Archnemesis’s attacks. Find out what he’s after, and defend it.
Taken from NIV The Great Rescue
How to Ask Forgiveness
He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins. (1 John 1:9)
I recall hearing one of my professors in seminary say that one of the best tests of a person’s theology was the effect it has on one’s prayers.
This struck me as true because of what was happening in my own life. Noël and I had just been married and we were making it our practice to pray together each evening. I noticed that during the biblical courses which were shaping my theology most profoundly, my prayers were changing dramatically.
Probably the most significant change in those days was that I was learning to make my case before God on the ground of his glory. Beginning with “Hallowed be Thy name,” and ending with “In Jesus’ name” meant that the glory of God’s name was the goal and the ground of everything I prayed.
And what a strength came into my life when I learned that praying for forgiveness should be based not only on an appeal to God’s mercy, but also on an appeal to his justice in crediting the worth of his Son’s obedience. “God is faithful and just and will forgive your sins” (1 John 1:9).
In the New Testament, the basis of all forgiveness of sins is revealed more clearly than it was in the Old Testament, but the basis in God’s commitment to his name does not change.
Paul teaches that the death of Christ demonstrated the righteousness of God in passing over sins and vindicated God’s justice in justifying the ungodly who bank on Jesus and not themselves (Romans 3:25–26).
In other words, Christ died once for all to clear the name of God in what looks like a gross miscarriage of justice — the acquittal of sinners simply for Jesus’ sake. But Jesus died in such a way that forgiveness “for Jesus’ sake” is the same as forgiveness “for the sake of God’s name.”
Isaac, the promised miracle child, is born. But then, a few years later, God tests Abraham’s faith.
When they arrived at the place where God had told him to go, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it. Then he tied his son, Isaac, and laid him on the altar on top of the wood. And Abraham picked up the knife to kill his son as a sacrifice. At that moment the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”
“Yes,” Abraham replied. “Here I am!”
“Don’t lay a hand on the boy!” the angel said. “Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.”
Then Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in a thicket. So he took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering in place of his son.
Pagan nations practiced human sacrifice, but God condemned this as a terrible sin (Leviticus 20:1-5). So why did God ask Abraham to perform human sacrifice? God was testing Abraham. God did not want Isaac to die, but he wanted Abraham to sacrifice Isaac in his heart so it would be clear that Abraham loved God more than he loved his promised and long-awaited son. The purpose of testing is to strengthen our character and deepen our commitment to God and his perfect timing.
Imagine what Abraham must have felt as he walked slowly up the mountain with his beloved son. And then as he built the altar with Isaac and laid the wood on it. And finally, as he tied Isaac to the altar and reached for his knife. What a test! But he passed; and through this difficult experience, Abraham strengthened his commitment to obey God. He also learned about God’s ability to provide. He learned to trust God more.
The ram offered on the altar as a substitute for Isaac parallels Christ, who was offered on the cross as a substitute for us. Whereas God stopped Abraham from sacrificing his son, God did not spare his own Son, Jesus, from dying on the cross. If Jesus had lived, the rest of humankind would have died instead. But God sent his only Son to die for us so that we could be spared from eternal death and instead receive eternal life (John 3:16).
Letting go of what we deeply love is extremely difficult. What could be more proper than to love your only child? Yet when we do give to God what he asks, he returns to us far more than we could dream. The spiritual benefits of his blessings far outweigh our sacrifices. Have you withheld your love, your children, or your time from him? Trust him to provide.
Streams in the Desert – May 4
He makes sore, and binds up: he wounds and his hands make whole (Job 5:18).
The Ministry of Great Sorrow
As we pass beneath the hills which have been shaken by the earthquake and torn by convulsion, we find that periods of perfect repose succeed those of destruction. The pools of calm water lie clear beneath their fallen rocks, the water lilies gleam, and the reeds whisper among the shadows; the village rises again over the forgotten graves, and its church tower, white through the storm twilight, proclaims a renewed appeal to His protection “in whose hand are all the corners of the earth, and the strength of the hills is his also.”
God ploughed one day with an earthquake,
And drove His furrows deep!
The huddling plains upstarted,
The hills were all aleap!
But that is the mountains’ secret,
Age-hidden in their breast;
“God’s peace is everlasting,”
Are the dream-words of their rest.
He made them the haunts of beauty,
The home elect of His grace;
He spreadeth His mornings upon them,
His sunsets light their face.
His winds bring messages to them
Wild storm-news from the main;
They sing it down the valleys
In the love-song of the rain.
They are nurseries for young rivers,
Nests for His flying cloud,
Homesteads for new-born races,
Masterful, free, and proud.
The people of tired cities
Come up to their shrines and pray;
God freshens again within them,
As He passes by all day.
And lo, I have caught their secret!
The beauty deeper than all!
This faith–that life’s hard moments,
When the jarring sorrows befall,
Are but God ploughing His mountains;
And those mountains yet shall be
The source of His grace and freshness,
And His peace everlasting to me.
–William C. Gannett