Spiritual Weapons, Part VI: The Name of Jesus

philippian-slave-girl

The Name Above All Names

The marketplace was hot, compounding the heat of the arguments that continually arose over prices and alleged cheating  The dust hung over the heads and bodies in the crowded area like a dark shadow, gradually settling on the baskets, the bread, and the tables laden with wares.  It lay like a thick mat over everything in sight until the swish of a donkey’s tail or the robes of a group of buyers sent the dust skyward once more.

Occasionally, the tension in the air broke as the crowd laughed at another foreigner who had been shamed by the young, female fortune teller,whose owners continued to goad the people to test her powers of soothsaying and divination.

Suddenly, the crowd broke forth as one in a torrent of mocking laughter as the girl, under the influence of the evil spirit within her, pointed and said loudly, “Behold the servants of the most high God!  Let them show the way to salvation!”

As she had before, she followed to mock Paul, Silas, and Luke as they passed through the marketplace to their place of rest and prayer.  And as before, her sarcastic remarks, blasphemously spoken, raised the levity of the people who continued to pour forth other ironic remarks and laugh uproariously.

Suddenly, however, Paul turned and faced the crowd being led by the young soothsayer.  Taken aback, the crowd retreated a step, then finally regathered to continue their mockery.  Paul, however, with a loud voice said to the spirit within the girl, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!”

The girl looked as though she had been shot by an arrow.  Gradually, however, the angry contortions in her face faded, and it became apparent to all that she had been freed from the evil spirit that had tormented and kept her in bondage for so long.

The Name of Jesus

In recent articles we have discovered the secrets of engaging in spiritual warfare through the weapons God has given us to fight the battles, learning what they are and how they are used.  These weapons are not carnal, or fleshly.  Instead, they are mighty through God!

Is there a conflict in your home or church body because of strife or unforgiveness?  Is there a rebellious child?  Is there a husband or wife who has deserted the family?  If so, use the Spiritual Weapons God has given to you.  Using carnal weapons will only make the situations worse.

In the example of the Apostle Paul and the girl with the evil spirit of divination, the Name of Jesus is a mighty weapon!  In the name of Jesus is the fulness of Christ, including the all-encompassing power of His cleansing and atoning blood.  As Jesus said,

These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.  (Mark 16:17-18)

We have been given all authority in the name of Jesus to meet and defeat the enemy in every spiritual battle.  We have been given the “power of attorney,” so to speak, to use His name, and when we speak in His name, it’s just as if Jesus Himself is speaking!  

Speaking of the times following His resurrection, Jesus said,

In that day you will not question Me about anything. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you. Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full. These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; an hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but will tell you plainly of the Father. In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I will request of the Father on your behalf;  for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came forth from the Father.  I came forth from the Father and have come into the world; I am leaving the world again and going to the Father. (John 16:23-28)

Although Jesus often spoke in secrets, or “mysteries,” here Jesus makes clear that His words are not to be taken allegorically or interpreted figuratively.  He is saying that since we are His Body, we can speak in His name, and when we do, it is just as though the words are coming out of His mouth.

Unauthorized Use of the Name of Jesus

This is the power and authority Paul used when speaking in the name of Jesus to the spirit of divination inside the servant girl in the city of Philippi.  This is the same power delivered to the Church on the Day of Pentecost when the Apostle Peter spoke of the Holy Spirit’s being poured out on the gathered believers:

Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.

And these promises are made to all believers who have been commanded to go into all the world to preach the good news, as Jesus Himself said:

These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover. (Mark 16:17-18)

However, this Spiritual Weapons may be used only by those who have truly been given this weapon, the name of Jesus, to use.  

Jesus authorized His disciples to cast out spirits, and He gave the same authority to all true believers in Him, members of His Body,  who have been born again into His Kingdom. The Seven Sons of Sceva, however, learned that simply using Jesus’ name without true authority to do so was disastrous.  

With no true authority, they attempted exercise control  over the evil spirit using the name of Jesus, saying, “I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches.” However, they were met with a strong reaction from the spirit:

And the evil spirit answered and said to them, “I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” And the man, in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. This became known to all, both Jews and Greeks, who lived in Ephesus; and fear fell upon them all and the name of the Lord Jesus was being magnified. (Acts 19:13-17)

The many lessons in this story should be clear.  The Gifts of the Holy Spirit, including Faith and Discerning of Spirits need to accompany the use of this Spiritual Weapon, and it should only be used as guided by the Holy Spirit.  Too many have unadvisedly gone about looking for demons behind every bush, and they have reaped thorns and thistles, rather than true fruitfulness and deliverance, as a result.

broken chain

Spiritual Weapons, Part V: A Good Conscience

Sun

Spiritual Warfare

The five Amorite kings with their armies fled in terror down the descent of Beth-horon.  Their defeat at Gibeon at the hand of Joshua had been humiliating enough, but their cowardice turned to terror as suddenly they were besieged with hailstones which bruised and beat the falling men as they vainly tried to cover themselves with their shields.

“We’ll escape under cover of darkness,” they thought.  “Joshua and the Children of Israel cannot pursue us at night!”

But gradually an awesome realization came upon them, a perception that caused many hearts to fail for fear.

Darkness was not coming.  The sun had ceased its journey across the skies of Gibeon, and the moon rested over the vale of Aijalon.

“It is a great God who fights for Israel!”

Faith and a Good Conscience

Writing to Timothy , the Apostle Paul says,

This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you fight the good fight, keeping [holding on to] faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith. (I Timothy 1:18-19)

The two spiritual weapons in this passage are Faith and a Good Conscience, and Paul says that with these weapons we may war a good warfare in spiritual battles.

In the latest article in the Biblical Mysteries Revealed blog,we considered the first of these two weapons, the weapon of Faith.  What faith it must have taken Joshua to speak to the sun and moon, commanding them to cease from their endless journeys.   In this article, we will consider the weapon of a Good Conscience, asking that the Holy Spirit reveal His purpose for this weapon  to us personally.

A Good Conscience

What is a good conscience?  Those who have a good conscience have laid bare their hearts before the Lord in confession and repentance.  It means there is no person they cannot speak to openly and in love.  Also those who have a good conscience are not spiteful towards any person because they have both forgiven and also sought forgiveness, seeking no vengeance or recompense.  A good conscience also means that no known areas of habitual sin exist in their lives, as they continue to hear God’s voice of conviction and seek to walk in His forgiveness.

But it is important to recognize that such people who have a good conscience are not constantly focused on sin, nor are they “sin-centered.”  Having no consciousness of sin, on the contrary, they are focused on the redemption, freedom, and liberty they enjoy, having been set free from the power of sin.

Such people live their lives based on the grace of God, Who has given them the righteousness of Christ Jesus, having clothed them in His robes.

Do those with a good conscience ever sin?  Yes, but when they do, they immediately receive the cleansing of Christ’s blood, a cleansing that comes by faith, as a result of confessing and being purged of all unrighteousness.  They then ask to be re-filled with the Holy Spirit and continue to walk in the power of God.

Reading and meditating on the Tenth Chapter of the Book of Hebrews, we find that those who are truly cleansed should have no more consciousness, or awareness, of sin in their lives.  In this passage we learn that the Law of the Old Covenant was unable to make the Israelites perfect, for every year they had to repeat the same sacrifices for sin:

For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near.  Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins?  (Hebrews 10:2)

Through the sacrifice of Jesus, however, we learn in this passage that we have full access to the power of God over sin.  His sacrifice was a perfect sacrifice, which means that we should have no more awareness, or “consciousness,” of sin.

Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.   (Hebrews 10:19-22)

The Power of a Good Conscience

Why is a good conscience a powerful spiritual weapon?  The Apostle John says that by truly loving others, we can resist the lies of the enemy, the “accuser of the brethren,” who tells us that we are unworthy or ungodly.

Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. We will know by this that we are of the truth, and will assure our heart before Him in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart and knows all things.  (I John 3:18-20)

Consequently, with a good conscience we may boldly come before the Lord to seek His help and power, seeking His response to all our petitions and prayers:

Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight.  (I John 3:21-22)

If we keep the Lord’s commandments, which in the context of these verses mean to “believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another,” then we will have a good conscience.  This is the standing we have in Christ before God, all the more powerful if  we are able simply to reject the accusations and condemnations of the enemy.  As Paul says,

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.  (Romans 8:1-2 KJV)

If there is no condemnation, there is neither anything the accuser of the brethren, who is Satan, may bring against us.  We may just as confidently say as Jesus did, “The ruler of the world is coming, and he has nothing in Me” (John 14:30).

Joshua

Drawing Near To God

Let us draw near to God with a true heart in full assurance of faith, therefore, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience.

Do you remember when you were a child how you used to try to please your parents right when you were about to have a birthday?  How, on the other hand, you would not have dared asked for anything just after you had been sent to your room?

Let us recognize that we have a heavenly Father, however, Whose great desire it is to give us the Kingdom!  Whose promises are always answered with a yes and an amen!

There is tremendous assurance in this promise, especially when it comes to engaging in spiritual warfare with the enemy of our souls or asking God to meet the needs of others.

Holding faith and a good conscience, Joshua not only successfully defeated his enemies, but also assisted his allies under the full power and blessings of God.

I will continue to reveal more spiritual weapons in upcoming articles.

Spiritual Weapons, Part IV: Faith

goliath

An Ancient Battle

The  smirks and muffled laughter from King Saul’s soldiers quickened the footsteps of the shepherd David as he continued toward the stream in search of stones for his sling.  How they had roared when King Saul, who stood head and shoulders above all the men of Israel, had dressed David in the king’s own armor.  David too had to smile as he thought of the heavy coat of hardened leather that hung down nearly to his ankles.

But David knew that the Lord God’s armor and the weapons he now carried were immensely more powerful and strong than any made of brass or iron. As he knelt by the stream and selected five smooth stones, the roar of Goliath of Gath echoed across the Valley of Elah.  Goliath’s mocking challenge sent a shudder throughout the mocking soldiers and turned their laughter to faces filled with dread.

“Who is this Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God,” David thought.  “The Lord who delivered me out of the paw of the lion and the bear will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine!”

When Goliath looked across the valley and saw a mere youth coming to meet his challenge, he grew mad with rage, and his vision clouded with anger.  “Am I a dog that you come at me with a shepherd’s sling?” he said, then cursed the boy by his Philistine gods.

But David answered confidently, knowing that the battle was not his but the Lord’s.  “You come against me with a spear,  a sword, and a shield.  But I am come in the name of the Lord of Hosts, and this day He will deliver you into my hand!”

As David ran to meet the giant, he put his hand into his shepherd’s bag and drew out a stone.  Throwing the stone with his sling, David slew the great giant Goliath, for the stone flew straight and struck the Philistine’s forehead.

Who are the Goliath’s in Your Life?

As Christian soldiers, our King has fitted us with His own weapons and armor, and unlike Saul’s implements of battle, those of the Lord will work for anyone who will learn to use them.  We may overcome even the demonic forces we cannot see, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but are mighty through God.

To his disciple Timothy, the Apostle Paul writes,

This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith.  (I Timothy 1:18-19).  

In this passage we see  two spiritual weapons, and Paul says that by holding these weapons we may fight a good warfare.  In this article we will discuss the first of these weapons, the Spiritual Weapon of Faith.

What Is Faith?

In I Corinthians 12:9, faith is listed along with the other eleven gifts, or manifestations, of the Holy Spirit.  However, Paul describes a different kind of faith to Timothy in Hebrews 11:1:  “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (KJV).

Other modern translations are similar: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (NASB); “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (NIV).

Some may say, “Isn’t this description about the spiritual gift of faith, a gift that only comes from God on certain occasions?  Surely this isn’t the kind of faith we may have and use at all times!”

However, only five verses later we find the following: “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).  

Paul is describing, therefore, the kind of faith that pleases God.  Isn’t it our desire and our calling to please  God continually at all times?  If so, let’s examine the kind of faith in Hebrews 11:1 that we may use in all circumstances to be pleasing to God.

“Now faith is…”

This first phrase is very important, for it shows that faith is now.  I was sharing this thought with a man many years ago, and he objected saying, “But that word is just an adverb!  It doesn’t really say that faith is in the present.”

I understand that the word “now” is like the word “well” that we use to begin a sentence:  “Well, I don’t know about you…”  We don’t really mean “not sick,” for sure.  However, as an English teacher I knew that adverbs do convey time, so I believe the word “now” is meaningful in this verse.  Faith is now. We believe now that we are saved, even though we aren’t in Heaven yet!

Thus, faith is distinguished from hope, which indeed points to the future, as Paul says in Romans:  “For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it” (Romans 8:24-25).  

Later, we will see that faith is the “evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1), while hope looks to the future.

There is nothing wrong with hope, of course, for it is the basis or foundation of faith, as we shall soon see.  And both hope and faith come by hearing the Word of God (see Romans 10:17, 15:4).  Nevertheless, hope looks to the future, while faith is now!

“…the substance”

Faith is described as a substance, though not a physical substance but a spiritual substance.  This is why Paul relates in Romans 4:17 that God

“…calls those things which be not as though they were” (KJV)

“…calls into being that which does not exist” (NASB)

“…calls into being things that were not” (NIV)

Ultimately, the things we see around us were created out of the “substance” of faith through the commands or the Word of God.  In other words, even before something is seen or heard in the physical realm, it is first a factual reality in the spiritual realm, as the writer to the Hebrews relates, “By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible” (Hebrews 11:3).

The word “substance” also means “reality, assurance, confirmation,” or “title deed” (Thayers’ Lexicon).

What is a title deed?  It is the proof  of ownership.  This is why faith comes by hearing the Word of God.  When God tells us in His Word that we are saved, then we are saved.  Likewise, when His Word gives us other promises, we can be assured that they are ours, for we have the title deed.

Faith is the assurance that all of God’s Word is true, proof that we have what His Word says is ours, in spite of what we see in the natural or physical realm.

…of things hoped for,…

Hope exists to reveal what is in the future.  It is a belief in the future.  Therefore, hope is the foundation and basis of faith, for faith says, “I have now what I only previously hoped to obtain in the future.”

How does this work?  You might say, “I hope to be saved some day in the future.”  Yet one day this hope led you to hear what God has to say.  You hear that Jesus died for you, that you may receive salvation if you will only receive Jesus now as your Savior.  And by hearing this Word from God, faith is produced in your heart, leading you to have the assurance of your salvation now, even though you do not yet see it physically.

This same principle of faith works for the other promises of God as well.

…the evidence…

This word “evidence” means “that by which a thing is proved or tested, that by which invisible things are proved and we are convinced of their reality” (Thayer’s Lexicon).  Thus, we don’t need to see or hold a thing to know it exists because we have the evidence of our faith to know it is ours.

…of things…

This word seems simple enough, but it is extremely important in the definition of “faith.”  It means “an accomplished fact.”

Do you know that when God commands, “things” happen?  When we pray and petition God, we are not talking Him out of anything, nor asking Him to change His mind.  Prayers change us, not God.  In a real sense, praying is faith in action.  If we pray properly, we demonstrate to ourselves and to God our knowledge of His Word.  And when we do, we please God.

This verse in Hebrews contains a mystery that God wants to reveal to us:

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit,combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual wordsBut a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. (I Corinthians 2:12-14).

Based on this passage in Corinthians, therefore, we must not be like a natural man, and we must be careful not to say in our hearts, “This cannot be true!”

…not seen.”

The slogan of the modern man is, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”  But is this faith?

True faith believes before it sees.  Faith knows that God’s promises are already accomplished.  Faith is simply agreeing with God’s completed work in Christ Jesus, who said, “It is finished.”

But why, then, must we often wait to see these promises fulfilled so that we can see them?

First, the limitations of the physical world call for patience.  Notice how important hope is in the following passage:

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:1-5)

Hope is what gives us stability, the ability to believe in spite of what kinds of tribulations the world, or the enemy, hurls at us.  We need patience in this life, but patience cannot be produced in those who cannot wait.  People can’t grab impatiently for patience!

Also, we live in a physical universe and we are subject to time, and limited by time.  But is God so limited?

Just because we are limited, our limitations do not limit God.  Instead, God is pleased when we agree with Him, think like Him, act like Him, be like Him. Therefore, we need to agree with His Word no matter what seems to contradict it, even time.

Faith Works By Love

Since all believers have been given a “measure of faith” (Romans 12:3), how do we put this faith to work?  Jesus said that only a very small measure of faith will move a mountain!

As we have seen, faith works by hearing and hearing by the Word of God, while acting on His Word and  believing it to be true in spite of what we see in the natural realm.

 But the Apostle Paul also says that “faith works by love” (Galatians 5:6).  Do we really love God the Father?  How much time do we spend with Him?  How often do we talk with Him?

When you love someone, you desire to know all about that person.  You learn how she thinks, and talks, and acts, and feels.  You learn what he wants, and you spend all your time striving to please him.

By knowing these things about God, we know what to do, where to go, what to say that will please Him and bring glory to His name.

This is why David ran to meet Goliath confidently, knowing that the battle was already won, serenely assured that the Lord was fighting the battle through him.  David’s faith was a mighty spiritual weapon!

David and Goliath

Spiritual Weapons, Part III: The Weapons of Righteousness

christ-righteousness

The Weapon of Righteousness

We began this exploration of Spiritual Weapons by looking at the Sword of the Spirit, or the Word of God, emphasizing how powerful this weapon is in our lives.  Of course, all words carry a tremendous capacity for good or evil, love or strife, edification or destruction.  But as we speak the Words of God, an awesome power is released, for God’s Word is alive and powerful.  From Hebrews 11:3 we understand through faith that the worlds were framed  by the Word of God, and if the Holy Spirit chooses to speak through us, the power and authority is no less great.  He has designated us and sent us forth to speak His Word in the world, using the speaking gifts of the Holy Spirit.

It is also important that we guard our thoughts and tongues to make sure that no unclean thing comes out of our mouths, for it’s not what goes in our mouths but what comes out that makes us unclean (Matthew 15:11-18).

Let us continue, therefore, to examine other spiritual weapons whereby we may successfully engage the enemy in warfare, in the fullness of God’s power and under His authority.

In his second letter to the Church at Corinth, the Apostle Paul strongly exhorts the believers not to be bound together with unbelievers.  He explains his present conditions to them to reinforce his message, for he is not speaking to them as one who does not have experience in dealing with the evils of this world:

But in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger, in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love, in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left…  (II Corinthians 6:4-7)

The weapons in this passage, therefore, are the “weapons of righteousness” given by God in order to fight both offensively and defensively, one for each hand.  To be righteous means “to be worthy, guiltless, acceptable, and acquitted” in the sight of God through faith in Christ.  Jesus Himself is our righteousness, for as Paul writes, “You are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption” (I Corinthians 1:30 NIV).

What Does It Mean to Be Righteous?

The word “righteous” sounds especially “religious” doesn’t it?  It’s right there with “sanctification” and “justification.” We have often heard, and perhaps grown up hearing, these words, but we may never have bothered to learn what they mean. 

What do the words “righteous” or “righteousness” mean?   The Hebrew root צדקים , or  tzedek, in the Hebrew Bible, and the Greek word δίκαιος , or dikaios, in the Greek New Testament are both translated “righteous.”  It essentially means “right-standing,” or as the song lyrics say, “Clean before my Lord, I stand.”  It is a state of being that indicates a completely new creation has come into being, for we are new creatures in Christ.  

This word  is not just a religious-sounding adjective but a word that means we may come boldly to God into the “Holy of Holies” in the Heavens. Even in the earthly temple, the High Priest under the Old Covenant could only enter once a year on the Day of Atonement, and even he had a cord tied to his leg to pull him out if need be.  Righteousness is not a condition we may obtain through our own works, all of which are as “filthy rags” in the sight of God.

This puts us in a difficult position.  It’s like a “mystery,” for it has confounded many Christians since the early Church.  Perhaps a short explanation will suit our purposes.  

We cannot obtain right-standing with God through our own works, for “we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  We can only obtain our right-standing before God through the atonement of Christ, who was our sacrifice to God for sin (atonement means we are “at-one” with God.)  We receive the righteousness of Jesus Christ Himself, for He was both the sacrifice and the High Priest, having sacrificed Himself with His own blood on the cross.  

Therefore, we may enter into the presence of God with Christ’s righteousness.  He took our penalty for sin Himself, for the wages of sin is death, and because He overcame death through His resurrection, we may enter into the very presence of God through Jesus.

As a result of our new “right-standing” with God, we are born again, and we have come to new life in Jesus.  Old things have passed away, and all things have become new.  We are new creatures in Christ Jesus, for we have died to our sinful lives and come into a new life in Jesus.  

The worst approach we can taketo living this new life in Christ, therefore, is to keep seeing ourselves as unbelieving sinners.  Yes, we are unworthy, but that’s why we needed the righteousness of Jesus, and His righteousness is a gift of God that we receive by faith.   By faith, we need to accept our righteousness as a gift, one that is not earned or worked for.   And what God has cleansed we should not call unclean.  In other words, we should not continue to label ourselves as “worms,” as appears in the lyrics of the hymn”Amazing Grace.”     Instead, we need to see ourselves as former worms that have been transformed, or “metamorphosized,” into a whole new creation, the same way a caterpillar changes into a butterfly.

Can you imagine a butterfly continually referring to itself as an ugly worm? Yes, we once were ugly, no-good sinners.  But we are no longer sinners in Christ Jesus.   Do we sin?  Yes, but what must we do when we sin?  The Apostle John writes, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous  to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).

Boy_in_Bow_Tie

The Way Righteousness Works

Particularly when I was much younger, I tended to act and behave according to how I was dressed.  I didn’t even think about running the hills and getting muddy or infected with poison oak if I had on my white shirt and bow-tie to go to church on Sunday morning.  (This was a long time ago!)

Likewise, when dressed in a tuxedo before singing in the Madrigal Singers group in my high school, my fellow singers and I were above reproach in our demeanor and behavior before and after taking the stage.

Therefore, by faith we need to see ourselves as sinless in the eyes of God, whether we feel like we are or not, as the praise chorus relates:

I am covered over with a robe of righteousness
That Jesus gives to me, give to me
I am covered over with the precious blood of Jesus
And He lives in me, lives in me
What a joy it is to know my heavenly Father loves me
And He gives to me, my Jesus
When He looks at me He sees not what I used to be
But he sees Jesus

http://www.higherpraise.com/lyrics/elder/elder_0068.html

 

Breastplate-of-righteousness

The Power of Righteousness in Spiritual Warfare

But what is the importance of righteousness in spiritual warfare?  It is seen as not only a “breastplate” that covers our hearts (Ephesians 6:14) but also as defensive and offensive weapons that we hold in our hands.

  The Apostle John writes, 

We will know by this that we are of the truth, and will assure our heart before Him in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight. (I John 3:20-22)

If our hearts do not condemn us, if we know we are righteous in God’s sight, then we have confidence in His presence to approach His throne of grace and mercy, and we have faith that He hears our prayers and will answer.  By following His commandments in humble obedience, we continue to be righteous as the blood of His Son continually cleanses us from all sin and unrighteousness.  As a result, we have faith that we shall receive from our Father what He has promised and what we have asked Him for. We are righteous through the “right standing” we have in Him who saved us, and therefore we may go forth in the power of His might to do the mighty exploits of God, all in spite of the accusations or objections of the enemy.  We have been made to be the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus” (II Corinthians 5:21)  

In other words, since we are in Christ, and He is in us, when the enemy sees us, he sees Jesus.  After all, we are wearing Christ’s armor and carrying His weapons. In addition, if our hearts condemn us, then we are vulnerable to the accusations of the enemy, who is the “accuser of the brethren” (Revelation 12:10).  Feeling guilty, we may be hesitant to confront him because of our own sin. 

The Resources of Righteousness

Have you ever been led to believe that you had failed so miserably that there was no way God would hear your prayer?  Or that in order to get any kind of answer from God you just might have to cry for two hours, or fast, or live in a tent of the top of a mountain, or at the least grovel at God’s feet while telling Him all about how unworthy you are?

Doesn’t all that sound ridiculous when you think about it that way?  Especially when we acknowledge the fact that God has provided a way into His presence, not based on what we have done, but on what Jesus has done! Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  No man comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6).  

If Jesus is the Way, where does this way lead?  

We know from the Book of Acts that the life of the believers at the time of the Apostles was referred to as the “Way.”  The Apostle Paul, speaking to the Roman governor Felix, says, “But this I admit to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect I do serve the God of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets” (Acts 24:14, see also 18:26, 22:4, and other references).  Also, the “Way” is not merely the “way of salvation,” although this meaning is certainly implied.  

Notice what it says in Hebrews 10;19-22:

Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

You may remember that the “veil” of the temple was “rent” and torn apart as Jesus hung on the cross and gave up His life for us.  Through this curtain the high priests under the Old Covenant entered into the very presence of God in the Holy of Holies,  

When the veil was torn, significantly from top to bottom, God was indicating that such a veil was no longer necessary to separate sinful humans from a righteous and holy God.  But primarily it was to signify that the new “Way” into His presence is through the veil of the blood and the person of Jesus Christ, Who said,

In that day you will not question Me about anything. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you. Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full. (John 16:23-24)

This is the supreme confidence that we have in Him!  If we ask anything according to His Word and His will, in the name of Jesus Christ, then we are assured that He will hear us.  And if He hears us, then we may be assured that we will receive what we ask for (I John 5:14).

When Jesus hung upon the cross, and when He who knew no sin was made to be sin for us, He said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).  The fellowship was broken, and the intimate communion between the Father and the Son was cut off.  Jesus, as sin, was cast out of God’s presence, taking our sin upon Himself, taking the curse of death and spiritual absence from God upon Himself.  In this sense, Jesus was our substitute.  He took our penalty of separation from God, being shut out of God’s presence.

But just as certainly as Jesus took our place in taking death as the penalty for sin, He was raised from death and seated at the right hand of the Father.  The fellowship between Father and Son was restored, the communion re-established, and  Jesus became  our substitute, our identification.  Just as His relationship was restored with the Father, our broken relationship with the Father is restored as we identify with Jesus by faith.  We too have been raised up to sit together with Him in heavenly places.

The Mystery of God’s Will 

Read Paul’s description of our right-standing with God through Jesus Christ, which he calls “the mystery of His will.” First, notice that we have been given every spiritual blessing!  Think about what this means.  

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.  (Ephesians 1:4)

We have received not only a familial relationship with our Father through Christ.  We also have the inheritance due to the children of God, as well as redemption, which means we who have been enslaved by sin have been redeemed, bought and paid for by the sacrifice of Christ Jesus, even though we did not deserve it.

In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.  In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace  which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight  (Ephesians 1:5-8)

We have been given insight into the “mystery” of God’s will, a secret that has been revealed to us about the culmination of all things in Christ.

He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth.

Again, Paul reiterates that we have received an inheritance as children of God:

 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.   (Ephesians 1:11-12)

Finally, we can look forward to the future with hope to the future, for what we experience of God’s love and grace in this life is only a down payment of what He has for us eternally.  We have been given the Holy Spirit not only as our Teacher, the one who reveals God’s will to us, but also the “pledge,” or “good faith promise” that we will be eternally redeemed into God’s presence for all eternity.

In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.  (Ephesians 1:13-14)

 

Walking in Faith

How do we take act on these promises and see them fulfilled?  We act like they are true.   The writer of the Book of Hebrews relates (in Chapter 11:1) that “Faith is the substance of things hoped for,” or the assurance  that what we will see fulfilled in the future is already ours because of God’s promises to us.  In the same verse, we learn that faith is also the “evidence,” or “conviction,” of what we do not yet see.   

This is indeed a mystery, for what we do not yet see or experience now is nevertheless factually ours because of God’s promises to us.  God’s Word is true whether we see its fulfillment in our lives or not.  Thus, we need to believe and act like it is true regardless of our own experiences and what we know according to our five physical senses, which only tell us what is true physically, not spiritually.

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