Notes on Christian Warfare (23)

“Fighting the Good Fight”

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The Devil’s Designs  (Ephesians Chapter 6 Verses 10-20)

With the shield of faith, you are equipped to deal with, to quench each and every flaming dart the devil throws at you. Not just some, all of them. You do well to remember also that in the noise and heat of the battle, no matter how fierce it becomes you are never out of the sight of the commander in Chief. And he is not just watching you but praying for you unceasingly (Luke 22:31-32). He is dynamically present with you at all times. To utilise the shield of faith is to believe that with all your heart. One of the attacks of the enemy is to get you to not believe that. To believe because he is attacking you that God has left you, doesn’t care. But this is not true, even if you do not feel it. It is the objective truth of God’s written word, he had it written in case you would forget. “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5). And, If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us” (Romans 8:31-34). The devilish insinuation that God is not with you is a fierce lie from the very pit of hell. And, especially so when you are in trouble of your own making when you have sinned, blundered, failed in some way. He will more than suggest that God has now cast you off. No, this is where your shield comes in, must be employed. In faith you affirm, shout it out from the rooftops if needs be, God is good! God is loving! God is caring! God is compassionate! And his call is always that you turn to him in faith and find refuge in him from the storm whatever the cause of it may be.

The thing we so often forget that God is ever seeking us. Back in the garden of Eden, it was God who went seeking our parents. They were frightened, terrified, in hiding, but he still wanted them and went in search of them in love. So tell me who is it that makes you feel rejected, useless, finished, or casts us into depression? Yes, the devil, the enemy of your soul. The one who hates your Saviour and hates you because you love him. Some of his flaming darts are slow-burners they’re not all fierce blazers. The devil’s design is to cause long-term dis-ease. But however long, in faith, we pray, we wait on the Lord, he will come, he will deliver. This dis-ease, is designed to cause dis-peace. You’ve lost the sense of peace, but remember losing the sense of something and losing the thing itself is two different things. But you flay yourself in rebuke, in shame, in agony. But this is not from God, this is not how he deals with his children. If something is wrong he may tell us firmly, but he show us, to correct us, “and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you” (Philippians 3:15). He will by his grace enable you to put it right. Be at peace child of God, for his thoughts towards you are thoughts of peace, “for I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end” (Jeremiah 29:11). But Satan doesn’t like peace, he is the disturber of such and that’s why you and I need the shield of faith. This is why we need to go on as we started, in faith, believing. The enemy would have you to believe he is strong, he is not. But God is, and he is our strength and our lives are hidden in him, they are untouchable (Colossians 3:3). When we begin to grasp what God has provided for us this provision of his complete armour we begin to understand what king David meant when he spoke of God providing a table of refreshment in the presence of his enemies. He has so provided for us also.

(© James R Hamilton, written Summer, 2014)
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Notes on the Exodus (122)

“Exposing the Exodus”

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Release and Redemption  (Chapter 13 Verses 1-22)

For now, the narrative is suspended and consequences and responsibilities that come as a result of their redemption. God acts in grace and then establishes his rightful claims up our beings. This is the doctrine of redemption. The exodus clearly teaches us the theology of salvation. And brings to us today the appreciation we ought to both feel and express as a result of our own salvation. The consecrating of the firstborn was already a practice amongst the patriarchs. But it is redemption that gives it a historical motivation, a rationale for it. The firstborn is to set apart, for the Lord. We are in total a consecrated people, simply because we have been liberated by the Lord (12:51). And now Israel begin their momentous journey towards the promised land. Why the consecration of the firstborn? For the firstborn whether man or beast is alive but only as a result of the Passover lamb slain in their places. They are debtors (v1-3), as we today are to grace. God has ordained our freedom, he has appointed and provided us with a substitute, the One the Passover pointed to, Jesus. Therefore we are reminded that we are not our own (1Corinthians 6:19). The firstborn is a symbol of all Isreal, the spiritual, the Israel of God. We all of us owe our existence to God, our identity to God. And so we are indebted to live for God, to please him in all of our lives. But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy” (1Peter 2:9-10). When we survey the cross as the hymn writer suggests we are reminded that once we were enslaved to sin. We were captives, under oppression and bondage but just like as with Israel of old, God acted, he delivered us, set us free. So we are his, all we are and have is his.

Now a liberated Israel is bound for glory (v4-5), the land of promise. The journey has begun. But they are not left to their devices or to find their own way there. They are to be accompanied each step of the way. But it is a beginning, it is not the end. And we too constantly need to be reminded of this. We have begun and God has promised to finish the job (Philippians 1:6). Alas, it so easy to settle down where we are, in the wilderness, the world. To get anchored to it, fall in love with it, Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (1John 2:15-17). We are pilgrims just passing through, this is not our home (Hebrews 12:1-2). Our focus ought to be on eternal things, not the things of this world, to stand upon the promise of God (v5), to bring us to the journey’s end. We make plain where we are at by the way we live, the things we value most, the spiritual exercises we engage in, or don’t. There is always the danger of hypocrisy (v6-10). Our children can smell hypocrisy ten miles away, they know what motivates us, our lives (v8). What is the driving force in your life today, not just the word of God in your mouth (v9), but burning in your heart and motivating you in appreciation for redeeming grace, to live for God first. The wearing of the word of God on the Pharisees became more and more enlarged in order to draw attention to their spirituality. Instead of God’s grace and goodness adorning and beautifying their hearts and lives for all to see.

(© James R Hamilton, written Spring, 2015)
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Notes on Christian Warfare (22)

“Fighting the Good Fight”

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The Devil’s Doubts  (Ephesians Chapter 6 Verses 10-20)

The Roman shields for size would have been very much like those our modern day police use, but made of leather and very heavy. They would be used in grim situations to fend off hostile forces. The would catch and quench fiery arrows before they could ignite a fierce blaze. But the best way to have used them would have been in company, shoulder to shoulder with other soldiers. Whether is defence or attack. One of the devil’s choice schemes (v11), is of course to divide. He is likened to a roaring lion, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). A ravening wolf, who likes to pick off individual stragglers, the weak or wounded, or those who have strayed. This was a strategy of Moab in the Old Testament, picking off the stragglers, the slow, the weary. This is why we need Christian fellowship, why need to stay close to one another, because a united shield gives more protection, security for the weak and wounded as well as the strong. This piece of our armour is of the utmost importance and a duty, even more than a duty for all of us. Each one of us in our God-given place. That in itself is of much importance. If king David had been in front of his troops, fighting alongside them he would perhaps never have laid eyes on Bathsheba. Are you in your God-appointed place, are you in the Lord’s battle and fighting, not your own little war, but fighting God’s cause. If you’re out on you own you are in danger of being picked off by the enemy. Also, it takes some effort to use the shield of faith. It must in faith be set before you, holding up the promises of God. But to do so they  must be read and learned, the more saturated with the word of GCod you are the better equipped you will be to deflect Satan’s attacks. Study the temptations of your Master. See how he dealt with the enemy, answering each onslaught with the word of God. Destroying his lies with truth and refuting his suggestions with divine wisdom.

The apostle Paul believed God, “but after long abstinence Paul stood forth in the midst of them, and said, Sirs, ye should have hearkened unto me, and not have loosed from Crete, and to have gained this harm and loss. And now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man’s life among you, but of the ship. For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Cæsar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee. Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me” (Acts 27:221-25). He trusted God in a most perilous situation, and God delivered him. There was nothing the devil could do to stop Paul from getting to Rome, how does he know this? Because God had already told him, “and the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome” (Acts 23:11). God does not change his mind. The issues are only confused when we fail to trust or mistrust God, his word is always good. Use the shield of faith. The devil often nearly always oversteps himself. You must remember he fires all sorts of flaming darts at us. Some making us doubt or even fear. But be encouraged, if his flaming darts are being fired at you, it’s because you are going on with the Lord. The devil would not be troubled with you otherwise (1Peter 4:12). Of the ten virgins in Matthew twenty-five there were five who were ready, they were the Lord’s that’s why, and five who were not. But read it again, “they all slumbered and slept” (Matthew 25:5). Are you awake Christian? “And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed” (Romans 13:11). When the flaming darts start to come at you the tendency is to run or to change direction. The need is to stand! And “to stand firm” (v13).

(© James R Hamilton, written Summer, 2014)
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Notes on the Exodus (121)

“Exposing the Exodus”

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The Lord’s Possession  (Chapter 12 Verses 37-51)

In these remaining verses of chapter twelve, it is clear that Israel, this mighty host leaving Egypt are under God’s law. The divine justice system provides them with the governing principles they need (v49-51). Now this is important. Their new-found freedom is not just a free-for-all, this would lead to chaos. With hindsight, we know how rebellious they were, how hard pressed Moses was to keep them in order. There were times when God himself had to intervene judiciously in order to keep them in check. We have seen this in countries more recently where freedom has been gained from hardline communist or Islamic rulers. At first, the people don’t know what to do with their new found freedom, it tends to mayhem until some new form of government is formed. So God’s law is of the  utmost importance for God’s people as they enter their new freedom from Egypt’s tyranny and head towards the promised land. But this is a mixed multitude, there are Egyptians who have joined them, so are they bound by God’s law also? Yes, God’s law as with his covenant is not national, it is international, it is applicable to all creation. “Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD say, “The LORD will surely separate me from his people”; and let not the eunuch say, “Behold, I am a dry tree.” For thus says the LORD: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off. “And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant— these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” The Lord GOD, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares, “I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered” (Isaiah 56:3-8). So it is not only Israel even at this stage who are the Lord’s own possession, his people. The gospel was and is always to be proclaimed indiscriminately, not exclusively. It is to those who hear his call, who believe, who follow him. It is to those who yield, submit to him as their Lord and Master. Those willing to learn to be his servants, witnesses (1Peter 2:9-10). They are his people, separate from the world, from those who are not called, who do not hear, who do not follow, who will not submit. So what is meant by separation?

It is a preserving of gospel, heart purity and a clarity of witness amongst the Lord’s people. It should be evident all around them that they are different, righteously so. But this is in order to be shining lights to those without, “do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:14-15). It is in order to lead others to faith in the God who has delivered them. There is both command and commission involved. Not to receive the foreigner is a denial of the Lord we profess to love and serve. You too were once a foreigner alienated from the commonwealth of God’s people and God himself. But it is on God’s terms, not theirs. It is made clear they do not become the Lord’s people on their own terms. To allow such into the life of the church, with patterns of life and activity that dilute and contradicts the message of faith and morals, is disastrous. And this has been done in recent days in the West and equally with disastrous effects. The church has been swamped by unbelief. In submitting to the ordinances of the Lord the foreigner must renounce their old way of life, identity and inclinations even. They must be willing to become students (disciples) like the rest of us. We learn together. We do well to remember this each time we come to church. Do we come with a desire to learn, a hunger for truth, a humility and willingness to learn?

(© James R Hamilton, written Spring, 2015)
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Notes on Christian Warfare (21)

“Fighting the Good Fight”

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The Spiritual Force Field  (Ephesians Chapter 6 Verses 10-20)

The complete, the whole armour of God is likened to a force field. An energy shield deflecting the assaults of the enemy (v16). It keeps him from penetrating the citadel of our minds. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith (v16). The definite article I think is needed because the reference is first of all to the objective faith of the believer. The objective is what the subjective embraces. The objective truth of the gospel is what protects us from the blazing, fiery missiles of the devil, his temptations. And that is what they are, “flaming darts” (v16). Just as Eve was tempted to doubt God’s word. She ought to have answered no, I believe God’s word. But she and the rest, as we say, is history. We ourselves ought to answer likewise, I believe the objective truth of God’s word. It is written, therefore I believe. To hold up the shield is to hold up the word of God, the doctrine of the gospel. The apostle Paul probably has the picture of a Roman soldier’s shield as he pens this (v16). It was thought to be about four feet in height. Something like what our riot police use, it covers their entire bodies. If you formed a row of Roman soldiers with their shields up you would virtually have an impenetrable wall. With this shield, you can withstand the schemes of the devil (v11). For he is actively, and viciously hostile to God. But he cannot touch God so he goes for his woman, his bride (Revelation 12:13-17). He furiously pursues her. He fires his flaming darts tipped with the poison of his lies. The power of Satan is in the lie, he is the great deceiver, he is the father of lies (John 8:44; Revelation 20:3). He seeks to set our minds ablaze with his lies, about God, about Christ and the gospel. Think of the fire that he started in Eve’s mind, it still burns today. The devil is a fire raiser. You get no warning, he comes at you in different ways, different times. Seldomly the same way twice. His schemes are many (v11). So we need to be prepared, clothed upon with the whole armour God at all times. In all kinds of circumstances, it may be, temptations, surges of feeling, something that takes you by surprise, that stings you to react. Whether it be personal or corporately, the church, he seeks to set a whole host of fires in our midst, until the whole church is ablaze.

Or he may seek to panic us, he can sow and grow the seeds of great fear in us. Set thought patterns in motion, suspicions, criticisms, accusations, or disagreements. We need the shield of faith in all circumstances (v16). Sometimes we get caught by friendly fire, this also happens in a war zone. It might be a close friend who is feeling ignored for some reason, it may be genuine it may not be. The devil seeks all such occasions. All his schemes are calculated to bring confusion, distraction, distress, and division amongst God’s people. Be assured these are not of God, “For God is not a God of confusion but of peace” (1 Corinthians 14:33). But he has studied us well, he knows where we are vulnerable, how to get the reaction he wants. We need that shield of faith (v16). He is a fear raiser too. He will take things of your past, bring them to mind, and accuse you. “What if people knew about this,” he whispers in your ear. Answer? God knows, it has been dealt with in the gospel. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). He can cause irrational panic, “then David said in his heart, “Now I shall perish one day by the hand of Saul” (1 Samuel 27:1). Whatever, we need to grow in Christian discernment, we need to learn to recognise these flaming darts of the wicked one. We need to learn to use our God-given shields of faith (v16). And do remember it is only in a spiritually dry heart and life that Satan’s fires can take hold.

(© James R Hamilton, written Summer, 2014)
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Notes on the Exodus (120)

“Exposing the Exodus”

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The Lord’s Passover  (Chapter 12 Verses 37-51)

As we turn again to the ordinance of the Passover (v43-51), don’t miss the authentication of the historical record, the fulfilment of prophecy. “Then the LORD said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years” (Genesis 15:13). Away back in Abraham’s day, God was saying exactly how this would work out and the number of years Israel would sojourn in Egypt. This is food for your faith. It matters because it is the history of your salvation. The accuracy of the Bible is the factual basis of the saving work of our God in history. And so to the Passover. It points to our Saviour, Jesus Christ the Lord. Not a bone to be broken (v46). The sacrifice must be a perfect one, this is the meaning here and of course, the reason why the bones of our Saviour could not be broken either. “Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs” (John 19:31-33). TDhroughout the Bible the Passover points onwards to the Saviour, to God’s lamb (John 1:29). His particular death for his particular people’s salvation. That through faith in his atoning death redemption would be theirs. The ordinance then and now is to be kept pure. The foreigner has no part in it (v45, 48). It’s not that they could not belong, but only by faith. That faith they would have to express publicly and in receiving the sign covenant. The sign which was circumcision in the old dispensation and now baptism in the new dispensation. It is not the sign of course that made them belong, but faith. The faith that recognised and accepted the offered salvation and life by God’s free and sovereign grace.

That grace is always particular. Israel was God’s chosen nation. They did not choose God, he chose them. We did not choose Jesus he chose us (John 15:16, 19). And Israel was chosen to be a blessing to all the nations. This was made plain to Abraham “Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonours you I will curse, and in you, all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:1-3). The bitter exclusivism of the Pharisees was never the Lord’s intent and still isn’t. We also are to be a blessing to the nations, we are to win this blood-bought world for God, not by turning the doctrines of grace into a set of quarantine rules. But by an indiscriminate preaching of the gospel of Christ to all men (Matthew 28:19). Some of the severest rebukes of the Lord were reserved for the ‘frozen chosen.’ “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves” (Matthew 23:13-15).

(© James R Hamilton, written Spring, 2015)
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Notes on Christian Warfare (20)

“Fighting the Good Fight”

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The Grace of Peace  (Ephesians Chapter 6 Verses 10-20)

Peace is a spiritual and gracious gift of God (Galatians 5:22). It is that grace gift that guards and keeps our hearts immovable in Christ Jesus. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7); “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock” (Isaiah 26:3-4). It is a supernatural peace, it is of God and so the devil cannot move us from our gospel stance and Christian practice. The guard spoken of here in Philippians is akin to a sentinel, a soldier on guard duty. God’s peace is that soldier guarding and keeping our hearts. So we can’t be moved from the basis, the foundation of our peace, i.e., the gospel. We cannot be kept from expressing the gospel or our worship of God in our daily lives. O the enemy may try. But that’s why daily we need to dawn the whole armour of God. If our peace goes we become restless, physically, mentally and emotionally. It is then we begin to drive ourselves, seeking to work more and feeling like we’ll never succeed. Then we become tired and weary and sad. Driven by the devil and not led by Jesus. We know nothing of the quiet and confidence that the prophet speaks of, “For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, “in returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength” (Isaiah 30:15-16). But when we get ourselves into trouble and our peace is disturbed the answer is the same as before. It wasn’t works that got us right with and at peace with God, to begin with, it was faith, it was trust. And that is still the answer, to trust, in the gospel of peace.

So the answer is not our striving but rather to learn to be still, to cease from our own works. A renewed awareness of God (Psalm 46:10). For he hasn’t moved, he is still there, still with you. Did he not promise that very thing? Sometimes we get to running around like headless chickens, almost as though the whole cause of God, including our own salvation, will all collapse if we’re not doing. God is in control, we live and work under his orders. So we can rest, we can let the peace of God rule our hearts, let them return to their rest, to the God of peace. Because God will not fail us, he has promised. We have a covenant signed and sealed with the blood of his Son. It is an inviolable and unbreakable covenant. And part of that covenant package is peace, “peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27).  He assures us that he has prepared the way, “I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:3). It is only when we begin to forget the facts of the gospel that we lose our peace. That peace is a confidence in what God has done. If we are not at peace that is saying we are not trusting, simple. But we are given a good prescription for peace (Philippians 4:4-7, 10-13). But our gospel peace must be thought of in the context of the spiritual warfare and service we have been called up to. The peace is promised in the midst of the battle, not out of it. If you have disengaged yourself from the war, sought terms of peace with the enemy. If you have become a spectator of the battle scene, then no wonder if you have no peace. This is one way the devil will give you peace, quit the fight, compromise, he’ll leave you alone, for sure. But we don’t want the devil’s peace, we want God’s peace, yes?

(© James R Hamilton, written Summer, 2014)
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