Tuesday, November 6, 2012

"Victory Over Evil Forces"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
Growing in Christ
Lesson 6: "Victory Over Evil Forces"

There are only two religions in the world. (1) The religion of self-love is invented by Lucifer. It is an attempt to overthrow the government of God. (2) The religion of self-denying love is the foundation of God's law. In the great controversy Lucifer sought to enlist others in a mutiny against God's love and assert individual selfishness. The religion of self is Spiritualism. It's foundation is the teaching of the "immortal soul." If the soul is immortal, then it is "god."
The question that faces us in this week's lesson is: How does the 1888 message help us discern the most sophisticated form of Spiritualism by which Satan seeks to undermine the faith of the church?
Christ has conquered the forces of evil. The last church, Laodicea, has been diagnosed by Jesus as having the "Baal flu." It doesn't know its true condition. It is "wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked" because it has not that true "gold tried in the fire" and "white raiment" (Rev. 3:17, 18). Satan has stolen her "faith," and consequently her "righteousness" is only a mere legal "cover" for her self-centeredness. This subtle form of Spiritualism which has invaded the church is Baal worship. It is the worship of self disguised as the worship of Christ. [1]
Laodicea is engaged in the most intense phase of the great controversy. Christ's purpose for her is to overcome and "sit with Me in My throne, even as [He] overcame" (Rev. 3:21). Laodicea is to be given executive authority to fully manifest the principles involved between the forces of evil and "the faith of Jesus." Christ already sits in "heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named" (Eph. 1:20, 21). Christ has conquered the forces of evil and He is now giving that victory to His frontline troops in battle on this earth.
We wrestle against "principalities and powers, … spiritual wickedness in high places" (Eph. 6:12). This "spiritual wickedness" is the principle of sin and addiction that is within our human nature. They are forces of evil that tug at our souls, that sweep us into deep water over our heads like a rip tide.
The question is: has the sacrifice of Christ effectively conquered that rip-tide power? If we say "No," then we join Satan in his accusations in the great controversy! If we say "Yes" and allow the Holy Spirit to demonstrate that it is indeed God who both wills and does His good pleasure in us, then we are in fellowship with the High Priest in His closing work of atonement.
"Principalities and powers" formerly entrenched in our sinful nature, evil habits, and darkness of soul that rendered us incapable of obedience, have been "spoiled," gotten "rid of," defeated. Slaves of evil appetites, drugs, and darkness of soul are delivered from these demonic powers that held them captive, says Paul. You are free from all these "principalities" that dragged you down! Like captives conquered in a Roman war they are displayed "openly" as in a triumphal procession of victory (Col. 2:15).
All of this is made possible through Christ's "intercession for us" (Rom. 8:34). What does it mean that Jesus as our High Priest has to "make intercession" for us before the Father (Heb. 7:25)? "Intercession" implies that someone thinks bad of us and needs persuasion to change his mind to think good of us.
Does the Father need to be persuaded to think good of us? Wasn't it the Father who took the initiative to "so love the world that He gave His only begotten Son" for us (John 3:16)? "If God be for us, who can be against us" needing intercession (Rom. 8:31)?
Is Jesus interceding with the devil? Will he or his angels ever be persuaded to be nice to us? Hardly! Then who has to be persuaded to "accept" us, to stop condemning us? The good angels? No, they are "all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for" us, not against us (Heb. 1:14).
Then who is left who needs to be "persuaded," interceded with to "accept" us, except we ourselves? We may believe that God forgives our sin, but because of our recidivism of offenses we cannot forgive ourselves. We think the Father must have a club behind His back, about to let us have it, and then Jesus steps up and says, "Look, Father, at the wounds in My hands. Please be nice to these people!" But this is not the case. So it is we who are the ones needing Christ's intercession. We need to hold our head high, to join Paul in being "persuaded" that nothing will ever "separate us from the love of God" (Rom. 8:38, 39).
Peter says that "your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour" (1 Peter 5:8). Most of us believe in defeatism--if you get in a fight with the devil, since he is so much stronger than you, you just have to lose. But No! you have help! You can't lose this battle with the devil unless you want to.
James says, "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you" (James 4:7). But you say, "That's my problem--I don't have the strength to resist!" Then read the first part of the same verse: "Submit yourselves therefore to God." Come to the Saviour, singing:
"Just as I am, without one plea
But that Thy blood was shed for me,"
and you will find that "it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13). That is freedom. It's a miracle, but it's true. You have a Saviour. Let Him deliver you out of the mouth of the lion. If you have scars, don't worry about them; getting delivered is enough reason for songs of praise. The scars may help you not to forget.
We cannot cherish one sin if the heart appreciates the length, and breadth, and depth, and height of the love that led the Son of God to go to hell to find us there. That is what "believing" is defined to be in John 3:16. Say "No!" to temptation (Titus 1:12, NIV), a thousand times a day if necessary. Let the good news set you free in glorious liberty. Christ "was in all points tempted like as [you] are, yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15), and even though you are tempted you too may overcome "even as [He] also overcame" (Rev. 3:21). And that's today; you don't need to wait until your deathbed. Like Christ, you will learn instantaneously to tell the devil, "Get thee behind me!"
The grace of God teaches you to stamp your foot and cry out "No!" to every alluring temptation. Satan cannot force you to transgress; even if he tries to frighten you by stamping his foot, you don't need to put up with him. You don't need to suffer either allurement or terror from Satan!
--Paul E. Penno
[1] The Laodicean church can never be characterized as "Babylon" for a number of reasons, chief of which is she holds to the cleansing of the sanctuary truth and protests the pagan-Christian teaching of the immortal soul. It is "Babylon's" anti-law gospel and immortal soul teachings which have caused her moral collapse.
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