Thursday, February 27, 2014

Is Satan a reality?

It is surprising, at least to me, to read of many surveys showing up as many believers do NOT believe in the reality of Satan.  Many believers do NOT believe Satan as a real being.  Some just believed him as the personification of sins.

Satan was and is real. Even today, he is around, working away, with his minions of fallen angels known as demons.

Honestly, Satan was mentioned in Scripture often enough to be ignored.  For those who believe NOT there was and is a Satan, they are really alleging (a) the Bible is fictional, since it talked about Satan, when there was or is no Satan; or

(b) Satan is to be understood as personification of something, and the closest fit is sins.

I am one who keeps reminding myself and others that whatever theology and doctrines of the faith, they must be formed from Scripture, NOT from our experiences.  Our experiences testify to the truth of Scripture.  Experiences devoid of scriptural support are to be viewed with more than a pinch of salt, so to speak.  As a minimum, what is observed must NOT contradict the Word.

So, first, we consider if there is an extra-biblical basis to argue for the reality of Satan and his demons.

I have lived more than half a decade, and that is a long time, and I must say, “Time has flown me by.  How I wish I am in my twenties again!” Of course, that is fat hope.  I have seen and involved myself in deliverance work.  Demonization and demon-possessions are real. 

There are enough manifestations that are clearly non-medical or NOT due to natural sicknesses.  NOT all symptoms and manifestations can be accounted for, purely through science, unless we take science to be inclusive of demonization and demon possession.  Some of the manifestations included opposition to God, violent reactions to declaring of the name or blood of Jesus, and the manifestation of supernatural strength, or people slithering on the floor like a snake.  For example, a normal sized woman in manifestation needed half a dozen men to hold her down on the floor! 

These demonization and demon-possession are NOT curable by scientific medicine.  Some of the stubborn demons are NOT easily persuaded to leave “what they considered as their home or abode”.  In Christian deliverance ministry, we break the hold of the demons, bind them and cast them out. When people are “cleaned” out, the “after person” is different from the “before person”; if the person has the “stoned” appearance, he would no longer have that; he would appear fresh and alert once again.

Some people said that the so-called Satan or demons are some force, but they are NOT like gravity or magnetism which is impersonal forces.  These are NOT simply some impersonal forces which we can remove, and the person(s) would be well.  The evil or evil-being is NOT some impersonal force, that if it affects you, it will affect me, likewise.  No, the evil-being interacts with intellect and will; and so, it could “latch” on to you and even possesses you, but it may NOT do so, with me, because of the difference in the “spiritual state” of my intellect and will, at the time.  

Deliverance ministry experiences have scriptural basis; and we read of Jesus’ own deliverance episodes in Scripture.  Then there were also the disciples’ experiences recorded for us.  The manifestation of supernatural strength can be found stated in Mark 5:1-4.

Was Satan merely a personification of sins, in Scripture?  Meaning, was Satan merely sins talked about like a man or being, given speech and attributes of a personal being?  There are just too many places and verses very simply addressing Satan as a personal being.  If Satan we argue, on personification ground, as NOT a being, then we may as well also say the same for God - isn’t a being either!

Jesus, for example, addressed Satan as a personal being.  For one thing the Lord recognized him.  Jesus, before He was born as a man, when He was with the Father in Heaven, had seen him in Heaven!  Jesus said in Luke 10:18 that He saw Satan being cast out of Heaven.

In the last of the 3 temptations Satan did on Jesus after the latter’s 40 days and 40 nights fasting, he, Satan, said this, ““All this {the world} I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”” And Jesus replied him, (Matt 4:10): “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’

The above exchange between Jesus and Satan does NOT look like Jesus was talking about some impersonal force or a mere personification of some evil, does it!  Elsewhere, in John 12:31, John 14:30, John 16:11, Jesus addressed Satan as “the prince of this world

Then there were the Apostles who also addressed Satan as a personal being. The apostle Paul called Satan the “god of this world” or “god of this age” (2 Cor 4:4) and the “ruler of the kingdom of the air” or “prince of the power of the air” (Eph 2:2). Additionally, Paul also wrote this: “The Spirit clearly says that in latter times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron” (1 Tim. 4:1-2).

In 1 John 5:19, we read the apostle John said this: “We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” The verse is a “pair”, we, the children of God; the world under the control of Satan.  So, God and Satan are being viewed by John in like-perspective – God a being, Satan, too.

In Revelation 12:9 we read this: “The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

Thus the way Satan was depicted in Scripture, he sure was/is NOT some impersonal force or a mere personification of evil.

Who then is Satan?  These verses in Scripture gave us an idea of who Satan is:

1.   Job 1:6-12 - 6 One day the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them. 7 The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.” 8 Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” 9 “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. 10 “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. 11 But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.” 12 The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.” Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.

We don’t know when this has happened, but it was probably a long, long time ago (in the OT time).  The interesting thing here was that, then Satan was still allowed to come before God, but it is NOT conclusive from the brief mention, that the scene was in Heaven. 

By the way, this account of testing on Job did NOT conclusively say that Satan have to ask God for specific permission to do anything towards any man!  Briefly, it was God who suggested Job to Satan, and it was that Satan knew there was a God’s hedge (protection) around Job; the permission was specifically that, God got to remove His protection; without which, Satan just could NOT test Job or act against him.  Is it every one of us, believers, has the same hedge, and Satan cannot test or act against anyone of us?  My answer is no.  In a while, we will see a scripture saying whom he can devour, Satan will try to devour, meaning some are easy, some are difficult, and some he can touch, NOT.

2.   Gen 3:1-5 - 1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” 4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

The serpent here was referring to Satan.  How do we know?  We infer it from Rev 12:9 (“that ancient serpent called the devil or Satan”).

Rev 12:7-9 reads: 7 Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. 8 But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. 9 The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

This Revelation text tells us that there was a war in Heaven. My own belief is that although the Book of Revelation is prophetic of the future, this text of Rev 12:7-9 was a flashback, meaning the war broke out a long time ago in Heaven, and in that war, Satan fell from Heaven, to earth, with his angels with him.  Jesus witnessed this fall of Satan when He was still in Heaven with the Father; in Luke 10:18 we read Jesus saying, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.  After the fall from Heaven, Satan and his angels (about 1/3 of all angels) (thereafter, after the fall, called demons), reached a point of no return; for the salvation to come, did NOT and would NOT include Satan and the demons; salvation was and is only for men.

3.   Matt 4:1-11 - 4 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” 4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” 5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” 7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” 10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” 11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

The above is the account of the Devil tempting Jesus.  Many people often forget when it happened.  When did it happen?  It happened after Jesus was water-baptised, and filled with the Spirit without measure (for Jesus, it happened as one event – water baptism and baptism of the Holy Spirit), and after Jesus had fasted for 40 days and 40 nights.  Why do I point this out specifically?  Because I want people to see the Devil and his minions are a reality even for the believers.  Jesus then a man, was water-baptised and filled with the Holy Spirit, and fasted even (so, he should be sensitive to the Holy Spirit), yet the Devil still tempted Him.  Why do people want to suggest that the Devil and his minions won’t tempt you or test you, and if possible, devour you!

4.   1 Pet 8-9 (KJV) - Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: 9 Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.

This text tells us what Satan or the Devil is up to, on earth, even concerning the believers.  Yes, the text was directed at believers (look at the preceding verses and you can see it there).  Satan is seeking whom he may devour. He does NOT need to ask God for permission to come against you, although God knows.  God does NOT necessarily stop Satan from tempting you or even acting against you; rather we are told to resist the devil, and remain steadfast in the faith.

5.   Eph 6:10-18 - 10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

This exhortation by the Apostle Paul is a rehash of what the Apostle Peter said, which we saw in 1 Peter above.  Again, the words were meant for believers.  The Devil and his minions are a reality, even for the believers (don’t listen to preachers who tells you they are NOT! They are wrong!).  Paul was saying here, that there are things we need to do, although it is NOT to say that God cannot put a hedge around you.  Again, there is no idea of the Devil has to ask for specific permission to come against you.  Preachers who argue for this, are wrong; the stage has gone beyond that – God and Satan are at war; and we are caught in it, and you should know which side you are on!

6.   Luke 22:31-32 (KJV) - 31 And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: 32 But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.

This text had given rise to some insisting that Satan has to ask the Lord/God for permission to test/tempt/act against a believer.  All the text was saying was that Jesus was privy to knowing Satan wanted to test Peter (sift Peter as wheat), and that He, Jesus, prayed that Peter’s faith would NOT fail. 

Even if indeed Satan asked God, it is to be understood in like vein as that understood (if you correctly understood it) of Job’s testing by Satan, i.e. that there was a “hedge” around Peter, and Satan challenged God to remove the hedge.  Ultimately, it is the test of faith that will either shame or glorify God; and that was and is what Satan is challenging God in, with regard to men. 

From this text and that of Job’s testing (from the book of Job), it is imperative that believers to know that we cannot put all responsibility for faith, back to God, even though God does give supernatural faith (gift of faith); there is the faith that we are to have, which will be tested and challenged by the Devil.

7.   John 10:10, the words of Jesus Himself contrasting Satan and Himself - The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I {Jesus} am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

The thief is pointing to Satan, and it can include any of those who work for or further his (Satan’s) purpose.

8. John 8:44 - Jesus also told us some of the characteristics of Satan. Christ said he was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him, and that when he speaks he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.  John 8:44 - You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

9.   Rev 20:1-10 - 1 And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. 2 He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. 3 He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time…

7 When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—and to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. 9 They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. 10 And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

This is the destiny for Satan at the end.  The salvation plan will save only men, NOT Satan and the demons.

10.               Satan’s own falling into Iniquity - Isaiah 14:12-14;  Eze 28:11-19

Isaiah 14:12-14 - 12 How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! 13 You said in your heart, “I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon {most sacred mountain of the Canaanites}. 14 I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.”

Satan was Lucifer. This is a “dual context” passage: On the surface, it was referring to the king of Babylon as presented in his pride, splendor and fall; beneath or behind, the power behind the evil Babylonian king. No mortal king would claim his throne was above God’s or that he was like the Most High; the power behind, was Lucifer, Son of the Morning.

Apart from referencing the Babylonian king, the passage marks the beginning of iniquity/sin in the universe and the very fall of Satan himself.  There is another passage that will add some more to our understanding of this fall of Satan – Ezekiel 28:11-19 -

11 The word of the Lord came to me: 12 “Son of man, take up a lament concerning the king of Tyre and say to him: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: “‘You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. 13 You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned you: carnelian, chrysolite and emerald, topaz, onyx and jasper, lapis lazuli, turquoise and beryl.

Your settings and mountings were made of gold; on the day you were created they were prepared. 14 You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones. 15 You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you. 16 Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned. So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones. 17 Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor.

So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings.

18 By your many sins and dishonest trade you have desecrated your sanctuaries. So I made a fire come out from you, and it consumed you, and I reduced you to ashes on the ground in the sight of all who were watching. 19 All the nations who knew you    are appalled at you; you have come to a horrible end and will be no more.’”

Again, this is a “dual context” passage: On the surface it is addressed to the "king of Tyre", beneath/behind, it went beyond the king to the one who is behind the evil king. This passage is also a “dual prophecy” passage; there was a near prophecy of what was to happen to the evil Tyre king, at the same time, there was and is a far prophecy about Satan, his final end which is yet to happen; to take place after the final judgment (Rev 20:7-10).

What both the above texts about Satan were also trying to say is this: That we succumbed to Satan’s workings, we may end up taking after Satan, and become his underling; and we are furthering his aims, against God.  Evil kings, particularly, are used by Satan in this manner bringing nations low. Satan is the principality behind the powers of this corrupt worldview system.

This Ezekiel passage reveals to us that Satan was once an anointed guardian cherub or an anointed arch angel.  Mortal kings are guardians, and they could be used by Satan to front-shadow him. Satan was most magnificently created – he was “the seal of perfection, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty.” Pride was what led to Satan’s downfall. Because of pride, Iniquity became found in him.

Where is the pride? Isaiah 14:12 tells us what Satan coveted - "I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit on the mount of assembly on the heights of Zaphon; I will ascend to the tops of the clouds, I will make myself like the Most High." Note the repeated “I will”; that is the pride.  Satan wanted to be like God, no longer want to be God’s servant; that was rebellion.  Iniquity was then replicated in Man, through Adam and Eve, by Satan, appealing to the same pride – “be like God”; Gen 3:5 - "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

Is Satan a reality?  Yes, he was and is a reality, to both non-believers and believers, for the world is under his control (1 John 5:19).

Who then is Satan?  He was once called Lucifer, the most magnificent (seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty) guardian angel (a cherub) God had created, most beautiful and were blameless in his ways until Iniquity/Sin has come to be found in him. 

Lucifer became evil when Iniquity/Sin entered and consumed him, and he fell because of pride.  The moment Iniquity/Sin or Wickedness got hold of him, Satan’s wisdom became corrupted.  His wisdom and therefore, his ways no longer is godly or holy (Eze 18:17).  Satan wanted to be like God (“I will make myself like the Most High.”); that’s was rebellion.  War broke out in Heaven, and Satan and about 1/3 of the angels fell from Heaven.  On earth, Satan, as the ancient serpent tempted the first Man, Adam and Eve, and replicated Iniquity/Sin into Man, and Man became fallen too.

Satan took hold of the world and continued to perpetuate his “sour grape” opposition to God.  John 10:10a said it all – he came to steal, kill and destroy, men.  With the Fall in the Garden of Eden, men are counted with Satan, and would, unless they come into the Salvation Plan through Christ Jesus, end up going to the same place that Satan (and his demons) are destined to go – the burning lake of fire of Hell.  Satan has led the world astray; and through Jesus Christ, we can come back and be reconciled to God, and have eternal life, the end phase of which, is to live with God in Heaven, eternally.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions

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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Where is the works in Ps 23?

For exposition of the entire Psalm 23, read my following articles:

      2.   Ps 23:2-3 – The leading of the LORD, my Shepherd;
      3.   Ps 23:4-6 - The LORD, as our Shepherd, is with us in trouble.

Metaphor is meant to illustrate certain aspects only
This psalm uses the shepherd-sheep metaphor to give us a picture, NOT necessarily, the entire picture, of the life of a believer.  It is necessary for us to understand that the use of metaphors and parables is for the purpose of illustrating or giving a portrayal of certain aspect(s) of a scenario, process or attribute, character or thing, or even God.

Every metaphor or parable has its limitations to portray more than the essential aspect(s) it is meant to portray.  Representations are NOT the same as the actual thing or process or scenario.

Works exhorted in Scripture?
Now, is works exhorted in the life of a believer, in Scripture?  The answer can only be one, and that is yes or affirmative.  Works is one aspect of the redemptive works of our Lord (For fuller study of the Redemptive works of the Lord, read this: Works of redemption by our Lord).

A few scriptures to support works as being necessary, include these:

We are created to do good works – Eph 2:10
Eph 2:8-10 - 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--  9 not by works, so that no one can boast.  10 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Tree that bears no good fruit to be chopped down – Matt 7:19; Matt 3:10
Matt 7:19 - Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
Matt 3:10 - The axe is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

Narrative of “Who are the sheep and who are the goats”Matt25:31-46
If you are keen to read my exposition of this: read “Who are the sheep, and who are the goats

The Great Commission – Matt 28:19-20
Matt 28:19-20 - 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

Works in Ps 23 or NOT?
So, is there works in Ps 23 or NOT?  The answer is, explicitly, no.  It is silent on it (works), but it is NOT incongruent with the necessity of works in the life of a believer, and it does NOT preclude works; and if you are open about it, you can even see it, implicitly.  The metaphor, shepherd-sheep was used to illustrate more, of leading and following, of the one leading is good and more than capable, who must be wholeheartedly and unreservedly followed, and followed with perseverance.  Sheep by nature, do NOT work (explicit definition); and so, the metaphor does NOT hold itself out directly, to be talking about works; but it does NOT preclude works.

If works is NOT precluded, where can be works be, in the psalm? Depending on your definition of works, we can see works, embedded or is implicitly found, in the psalm!

To just sit around in the beach chair, and doing nothing, just basking in the sun, for most definitions, it can be said to be of nil works.  The overly grace or hyper grace community believers have this motto – we are to just bask in grace.  If their idea is to be like the one basking in the sun, how profaning they are, of the grace of God.  For a lot of the time, the grace of God can be seen to be for a purpose.

For example, the sun’s rays come, for us to “bask” some prawn crackers, even as we got basked in sun, doing the work.  From that provision of the sun’s ray, many people, including ourselves, will benefit from eating of the prawn crackers.  This, rather, is a common way the grace of God is extended to us; its benefit is to extend beyond ourselves.

A sheep, just lying there, not budging at all, all day long, can be with no works; but if it gets up and follows the shepherd, it can be said that it is working!  For a moment, think about the nursery rhyme, “Ba ba black sheep”.  Have you any wool?  Yes, sir, yes, sir; three bags full; one for the master, one for the dame, and one for the little boy down the lane. 

Think for moment, away from a sheep going to the slaughter; suppose a sheep will NOT be slaughtered, but would live to give of its wool.  The sheep is working towards provision of wool when it follows the shepherd’s leading to green pastures and quiet waters, to get itself well-nourished. 

When a sheep does NOT budge, and so, does NOT get to feed of the green pastures and drink of the quiet waters, do you think it will produce good bags of wool, for the master, for the dame, or for the little boy down the lane?  While I have said that sheep do NOT work; now, if you could view from the angle of they eating in order to be producing wool, milk (well, even meat!), they are working!  (Actually, a lot more can be discerned from the sheep as metaphor of a believer, and perhaps, another article could be written on it).  Following the shepherd can be works for the sheep; so, are us, believers, following the Shepherd.

Following the Lord is works
The psalm is strong in its portrayal of us needing to follow the LORD, our Shepherd.  Following the LORD is works.  It is NOT difficult to appreciate, as far as I am concerned; for example, if I sit around, at my laptop, playing the computer game I like, beyond a healthy preoccupation with recreation, I am can be said as NOT doing any works (gratifying myself solely).  Now, imagine I am prompted by the Holy Spirit to go outside and share the gospel with the little boy down the lane, and I follow the prompting (the Spirit) and do it, the following is works (for the Lord), compared with continuing with my playing away at my computer game.  To obey and follow the Lord is works.

At the green pastures and at the quiet waters, are the sheep working away?  If you think about the wool-producing sheep or even the milk-producing sheep; they are working away, to feed the “machinery” within themselves to produce what they are to produce.  If you still don’t get it, just consider the other common metaphor used (to portray believer) in the NT - that of a tree, and its necessity to bear fruit; the tree gets water and minerals from the ground and makes food with the help of its leaves and sunlight, so that it could grow, flower and bear fruit – tree in works!

We are all “marketplace” ministers!
The sheep works away, hours on grazing and hours on cuds chewing, yah, at the places of sustenance, green pastures and quiet waters.  So, too, for us, believers, even at our places or positions of getting our sustenance for life, we too, should be engaged in works.

The sheep take in all sustenance, NOT for itself solely, that it may produce wool, that it may produce milk; so shall we NOT just hoard from all the sustenance that the LORD would bring us to.  If you have become rich, enjoy it, but also share it; if you have been blessed, enjoy it, but also bless others.  In your sharing and in your blessing, you are engaged in works.  Do NOT be like the Dead Sea, only take in, but give NOT, out!  The “Ba Ba Black” sheep blesses the master, the dame, and the little boy down the lane, with its 3 bags of wool; what about you?  The master might have merited it, perhaps, the dame, but the little boy down the lane receives unmerited; do you share or bless those who merit NOT(?); that’s works.

If you look hard enough, you will discover there is even much more works, in the “in-betweens” – the in-betweens of green pastures and quiet waters, in the “valley of the shadow of death”, in troubles.  Even as the shepherd leads, he moves the sheep from one green pasture to another, from one quiet water to another, and as he does that, the sheep, with their shepherd leading, may pass through “valley of the shadow of death” or trouble-spots (to understand more, about there is the valley of the shadow of death, even when the Lord is shepherding – read this: “Ps 23:4-6 – The Lord, as our Shepherd, is with us in our troubles, yet they would get through safely, without fear, when they work with the shepherd (there is works, there).

Works spells trouble, and trouble spells works!
Although it is true, that the evil one is no gentleman, and he may still trouble you when you don’t do anything (for his purpose is to steal, kill, and destroy), there is truth in “works spells trouble, and trouble spells works”! In other words, at the “valley of the shadow of death” or trouble-spot, if you work NOT, you are dead-meat! 

Of course, work here, does NOT mean “you go fight by your own wits and strength”, nonetheless, it is work, for you need to be especially attentive to the Holy Spirit, obey Him, and follow Him or be led by Him, and that would include, if He asks you to “jump”, you “jump”; if He asks you to “climb”, you “climb”, if He asks you to turn to left or right, you do so; and if He asks you to go over and give of your “milk” and your “bag of wool” to the starving and freezing souls, you do so. Why would the LORD ask of you for the last item in the list?  Because He would go after the ONE lost sheep; because even as sheep are gregarious, we are NOT to meant to be caring for ourselves only.

If you would live out your life according to the prescription or ways of God or His Kingdom, you are living a supernatural life, for you are working against the natural ways of the world you are living in, the fallen world (and that can spell trouble); in such, you are working, and it is works.  To love God is works, to obey Him is works, to follow Him is works, and so, to be led by the Lord or His Spirit is works.

We are saved for good works (from Eph 2:10).

Anthony Chia, high.expressions

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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Rejoice in the Lord, always – what’s involved?

Often enough we find this, “rejoice in the Lord”, in Scripture. What does it mean?  There can be several meanings to the word, rejoice (G5463 - chairō). I will be concentrating on the main meaning, such as in Phil 4:4 - Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.

“In the Lord”, what it means
I will NOT here, go into the complex “dative” usage in Greek, and it suffices that I distil for us, the “in the Lord”, along this line:

“In the Lord” is about faith and dependence on the Lord. It means the action (in our case, rejoice) is done through a full reliance on the authority, power and ways of the Lord, with a faith that, 1) raises hope leading to endurance through troubles, 2) holds confidence in His love towards us, 3) believes in His wisdom and ability, 4) does NOT doubt He is in control, and 5) trusts He does NOT change of His nature attributes (key of which, is holiness, and so, from that, righteousness and justice).

Rejoice, always – does it make sense?
Scripture is with much exhortation for us to rejoice.  Phil 4:4 said it to rejoice, always.  To rejoice means to be glad, to be filled with joy.  So, we are asked to be glad always, to be filled with joy, always.  But why? 

When it is as said there, always, it means it is we are to be with such a disposition all the time.  What then is this implying?  It is therefore, saying a believer is expected by God to be walking around with gladness and joy.  Is it too much of God to be having such an expectation on us?  No, because He is God and is your God.  In other words, God is saying along the line: If you really know who I am, and that I am your God, how could you NOT be glad and joyous!  So, true joy is rooted in ginosko-knowing who God is and what He has done.

From ginosko-knowing God, your perspective of life will change; and so, too, to lay hold of true joy, one needs to have his perspective of life transformed, from such ginosko-knowing God.  If you want to understand more of what is ginosko-knowing, go read this: I don't know you, evildoer - Part I

Rejoice, always – is it possible?
While the fullness of rejoicing can only be had when we get to the new heaven and new earth (Rev 21:1), at which time, we will come into this:

4He {God} will wipe every tear from their {our} eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."  5 He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" (Rev 21:4-5), we, as believers, are already in the Kingdom of God, albeit, the earthly phase of it. 

In this phase, it is NOT we would reach perfection or consummation point, still God expects us to grow, including in alignment with His Spirit, over time.  One observable sign of maturity of faith is the degree with which we are able to rejoice always.  When we are able to rejoice always, it speaks volume of our alignment with His Spirit, our faith and dependence on God.

It is most difficult for non-believers to be rejoicing always, but for believers, the achievement can be near-perfect, although it takes much on-going work to get there. 

We, as believers, can reach greater in-road into this, is because we rejoice NOT relying on our own strength; we rejoice, as exhorted in Scripture, in the Lord.  How much in-road into this, depends on your growth in your faith and so, also your depending and resting on the Lord.

When in the Lord, you will rejoice
When we refer to “in the Lord”, we are referring to presently, NOT yesterday you were in the Lord, or next year you will be in the Lord.  It is like “with faith”, for “with faith” is presently you are with faith, it isn’t referring to your past faith or your future faith.  For faith, some HAD the faith, but today if they are without faith, God is NOT pleased now.  Similarly, “in the Lord”, has to be NOW; if now you are in the Lord, you will rejoice, if you are NOT in the Lord now, even if you rejoice, it is a different kind of rejoicing.

Why I talk about this?  Because the expectation of God is that we need to continue to be of faith, and we need to continue to be in the Lord.  Only when we continue to be of faith and continue to be in the Lord, do we still have the hope of glory, have peace and joy.  Yes, we have the hope of glory when we enter into salvation; we have peace from justification which reconciles us back to God, and we rejoice in the hope of glory, but moving forward, unless we continue to be of faith, our hope of glory sags, and along with that, our rejoicing in the hope of glory (base rejoicing) languishes.  

It is important to understand the above, because there are believers who are puzzled about Scripture’s saying we have peace with God through justification (Rom 5:1) and their apparent lack of peace.  Yes, there is a peace from justification, at the time we enter into salvation, but that peace can dissipate when we are no longer “in the Lord”.   Such individuals also will find that they have problem with rejoicing in the hope of glory; it is due to the same reason (NOT in the Lord).  Don’t let careless preachers fool you; salvation is a hope NOT a fact!  Scripture pictures for us, salvation is a hope (Rom 8:24-25, for example), and so, it requires faith, on-going.  When you let your hope of glory languishes, due to your lack of on-going faith, your base rejoicing suffers. 

Peace and joy
Peace and joy are NOT uncommon to be associated together, and indeed, they go together.  To me, it is inappropriate to teach the “having of peace” is NOT so important; on the contrary, it is very important.  Just think, why was Jesus named Prince of Peace?  Peace is so important that Jesus had to come to give it.  The absence of peace is a bane to joy.  

Without peace, it is difficult for one to lay hold of joy or to rejoice.  Scripture, in Romans 14:17-18 speaks of the Kingdom of God as about His righteousness, and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, and anyone who serves in this manner (in righteousness and with peace and joy of the Spirit) is pleasing to God.  On the other hand, with peace, one can rejoice.  And so, it is very important believers guard their peace.  Our true peace is sourced at God, and comes to us, from Him.

Because the non-believers do NOT have this faith and so, would NOT be depending and resting on the Lord, but instead depending on their own strength, they fail miserably compared to believers.  Believers with shallow faith, too, will find it difficult to be rejoicing always; this is because to be rejoicing always, we need to be rejoicing in the Lord.

The “in the Lord”, as explained above, requires you and I to be working (with the Lord) on our faith and working at knowing God and His ways.  It is only when we know our God well, that He is indeed the God above all gods, who loves us, and is in control and unchanging, and so, is dependable, can we rejoice always.  Now, a most fundamental requirement for peace is “God is with us”.

What is God with you?
Many people brush this “God with us” as non-issue; simply telling themselves that Jesus is Emanuel (God with us), and they have Jesus, and so "God with us", by His Spirit indwelling in them, since they have accepted the Lord as their Saviour. 

“God with us”, has 2 dimensions:  One, a presence – By His indwelling Spirit, for example, the Lord is with us; and two, “with you”, as in He is going along with you or works with you or in agreement with you or is approving of what you are thinking or doing.

Persistent peace (peace that persists) cometh only with the 2nd dimension in.  If we are without the 2nd dimension, the “God with us” in terms of His presence by His Holy Spirit, will try to convict us.  And when we numb our conscience (erroneously taught by some overly grace preachers that we should ignore our conscience), we will NOT get true peace, which is the peace (and joy) in and of the Holy Spirit.  We have to get into agreement with the Holy Spirit; He is the one with the peace and joy, always, for He is the one who knows the mind of God, and are always in agreement and acting from that agreement with the Godhead.  When we cooperate and be led by the Holy Spirit, we are working with Him, and He, because He is executing the will and desires of God, His peace and joy is shed abroad in us, as we are in alignment and working with Him.

What about Ps 16:11?
People like to quote, “in the presence of the Lord, there is fullness of joy”, it being part of Ps 16:11.  Isn’t this contrary to what I have just elaborated on “God with us”, that the presence of the Lord is NOT enough?! 

At first glance, it seems so, but if you read the context properly of the quote, “In the presence of the Lord, there is fullness of joy”, you will find that the psalmist, King David, was referring to the eventual state, like what Rev 21:4-5 (quoted above) was talking about.  He was referring to the time after our resurrection to Heaven.  In Heaven, where the Lord is present, you will have the fullness of joy; you cannot be in disagreement with God in Heaven, can you?  No, you will NOT; and so, for that time, only the presence of the Lord needs be mentioned.

Did David NOT mention about rejoicing while he lived (on earth)?  He did, and it is found in the few verses before v11 of Ps16.  Verses 7-9 –

7 I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.  8 I have set the LORD always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.  9 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure,

King David rejoiced in the LORD, always.  Just put these verses (Ps 16:7-9) against the “in the Lord” meaning given above (at the outset of this article), and you will find David was relying on the LORD, His authority, powers, and ways, and with a faith that raised hope leading to endurance through troubles, etc.  Was David NOT in any trouble, even as he said he rejoiced? Right there in verses 1-2 of Ps 16, we read it –

1 Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge.  2 I said to the LORD, "You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing."

(Those wanting to read a complete exposition of Ps 16, can go read this: Ps 16 - King David’s profession of faith)

Always means always
Rejoice in the Lord, always, means always; even in our troubles.  Concerning troubles, Jesus said this, in John 16:33 –

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

Jesus spoke about He would be crucified; at which time, the disciples would scatter (“these things”), so that the disciples might have peace.  And with peace they could rejoice; Scripture, in Matt 28:9 (KJV) recorded this, after Jesus’ resurrection:

And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail {G5463 – chairō}. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.

Chairō (G5463) was the Greek word used.  KJV, as above, translated it as “All hail”, and NIV, “Greetings”; well, the word was “Rejoice”.  Jesus met the disciples and on seeing them, greeted them with a call to rejoice.

Indeed, believers are a peculiar people; we can still have peace and rejoice in our troubles.  Just look at the Apostle Paul; he was imprisoned, and he still rejoiced.  Acts 16:25 (KJV) - And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.

What happened afterwards was this (v26): And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed.

When we turn to Rom 5:3, it tells us, we also rejoice in our sufferings; and it stated for us, the reason we can rejoice. And the reason is suffering produces perseverance (perseverance of what? Faith) (v3); perseverance, character; and character, hope (v4).  Sufferings or afflictions is used by God to turn our initial faith into a persevering faith, and along with it, a persevering hope of glory; and with that, the base joy (from hope) can persist. It is therefore, important that believers pass through troubles, sufferings or afflictions, in the Lord, for when it is in the Lord, the result is positive.  Have you NOT come across believers who are full of joy despite they have gone through many troubles, and may even be in the midst of one?!  This is because they are in the Lord, always.

Persevering hope is so very important. Have we NOT heard it said, “Without hope, we feel like dying, no more joy”?  It may well come from a true reflection from the soul.  Hope keeps us going cheerfully.

Can’t one grieve or be sorrowful?
Yes, you can, but only for a brief season.  Double-talk?  No, Scripture does NOT suggest we be emotionless (but in emotion, we should NOT sin; and ultimately we should NOT be ruled by our emotion).  Even the Apostle Paul did say this (2 Cor 6:10) - sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.  And there is the godly sorrow, which leads to repentance (2 Cor 7:10). With repentance, there is the restoration and reconciliation back to God; and rejoicing once again can come. 

We should allow people to grieve; it is rather inhumane, NOT to; yet no believer should stay in grief.  We have to learn to let it go; or we say will have to manage our emotion in its proper and right perspective.  King David had experienced that (2 Samuel 11 & 12): He grieved over the death of his son (child from adultery with Bathsheba), afterwards (after 7 days), he let it go, and moved on (and David got another son, Solomon [King Solomon] with Bathsheba).

Is there a call for us to rejoice, always?  Yes.
Is it possible to rejoice, always?  There is no perfection yet, but yes.
How?  By rejoicing in the Lord.
How?  By understanding what “in the Lord” means, and get into it.  We need to grow.  Below I repeat what “in the Lord” means:

“In the Lord” is about faith and dependence on the Lord. It means the action (in our case, rejoice) is done through a full reliance on the authority, power and ways of the Lord, with a faith that, 1) raises hope leading to endurance through troubles, 2) holds confidence in His love towards us, 3) believes in His wisdom and ability, 4) does NOT doubt He is in control, and 5) trust He does NOT change of His nature attributes (key of which, is holiness, and so, from that, righteousness and justice).

After all things said, what is the scenario that we are aiming for, so that we can rest on the Lord, have peace and be of joy?  It is this: Live your life in such a way as to avail yourself to “God is with you”.  No, NOT just His presence by His indwelling Spirit, but with you, as in He is going along with you or works with you or in agreement with you or is approving of what you are thinking or doing; of course, it is NOT He is following you, but you are following after Him, works with Him, in agreement with Him, and think or do that which will have His approval.

What if I fumble? Get back on track. Embrace 1 John 1:9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. We need to get back right with God, to be (truly) restored of peace and joy in and of the Spirit.  Keep short account with God.

We don’t teach people to manufacture joy in their own strength; that is wrong.  True joy is that in and of the Holy Spirit being shed abroad in us, yet it is NOT there is no part of us; we have get our perspective of life right (Kingdom [of God] perspective), and “fall in”, so to speak.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions

PS:  When a believer is in trouble, it is NOT always necessary that he sins.  Even with the Lord as our Shepherd, there can be troubles or valleys of the shadow of death that we may have to pass through.  Those wanting understanding of the relationship between “loving God” and “God with us in troubles”, can read this: Ps 23:4-6 - The LORD, as our Shepherd, is with us in our troubles

Comments are welcome here. Alternatively, email them to me @: Or just email me your email address so that I can put you on my blog (new entry) notification list. To go back to blog main page, click here.