FACT? OR ALIGNMENT!
ELEVEN DISCIPLES BELIEVED IN JESUS YET STAYED IN THE BOAT, BUT ANOTHER ALIGNED HIMSELF WITH THE LORD'S WORD AND THEREBY OVERCAME THE FACTS SURROUNDING THE STORM AND WALKED ON WATER!
GOD'S TRUTH IS NOT RELIANT ON THE CIRCUMSTANCES WE PERCEIVE
Someone mockingly said, “Faith is just another word for ignorance.” The truth is: real faith is an act of expectation based on what is known to be true. Hebrews 11:1 describes faith as a “substance“, literally a “concrete-like foundation“. The issue of faith, then, becomes one of an understanding of real truth, truth that may not necessarily be within the scope of everyone’s experience or perspective, including the one who made that statement. The real question, then, is: does faith constitute ignorance, or does limited perspective?
Who isn’t aware of the fact that victims of abuse are often wounded and deceived by the facts and circumstances of the abuse into believing that they somehow deserve it, or that it’s their own fault, or even that it’s normal and escape is hopeless. At the least, low self-esteem is almost assured. Yet, an informed and caring society recognizes this “reality” as deception, a deception based on the limited perspective of the victim, and will encourage a “stepping out in faith” onto a path of healing based on a perspective of the greater truth it knows. In order to do so, the abuse victims must be encouraged to get past the effects of the facts they perceive and align themselves with the greater truth they have not yet experienced. This act of faith results in a change of thinking, an "overcoming" that can bring out a whole new person; what scripture calls “being transformed by the renewing of your mind”, which can manifest a new and healthy reality based on that new-found truth. This is an example of "Faith's Truth".
"TRUTH: FACT? OR ALIGNMENT!" introduces the reader to the fact that there is a greater truth outside man's common perspective, and it addresses how to make that truth your own reality while guarding against deception.
Jesus was asked, “Good teacher, what must I do to be saved?” He apparently considered answering the question secondary in importance to adjusting the thinking about what is good. He responded, “Why do you call Me good? There is none good but My Father who is in heaven.” When Jesus asks questions He's not looking for information, He's provoking thought!
So how do we decide what is good and what's not? Isn't it based on behavior, on what we see? The problem with that is even the antichrist to come, being a master of deception, will at first appear to be “good” because of behavior. I find it interesting that “anti” in the original Greek, although it can mean “opposition”, it can equally be translated “instead of” or “substitute”. In the case of the antichrist, the “opposition” is hidden so that the “substitute” will be accepted. 1 John 4:18 tells us that the antichrist was to come, yet there were many antichrists at the time of it's writing.
term “antichrist” is not limited to the identification of one
individual, it's rather more accurately used to identify anything
that takes the place of Christ. It's the “instead of” Christ, no
matter how “good” it seems to be. It's any focus of idolatry or
even subtle substitutes. Santa Claus and the Easter bunny are very
good modern examples. Let me clarify that I'm not advocating the
Church should launch a campaign against Santa and the bunny. It may
seem ridiculous to think of these as “antichrists”, and admittedly they are extreme examples, but that's
exactly the whole point. They seem so innocent and lovable that the gospel they detract from goes on being ignored. Celebration has been taken off of Jesus and
focused on a substitute so effectively that any outright opposition
by the Church to address the fact would widely be considered
fanaticism; just some hair-brained attack on a nice jolly
representation of "good" that loves kids and couldn't hurt anyone. It
would rank right up there with Jerry Falwell's attack on the
Teletubbies. It's not that Santa and the bunny are outright evil in themselves, the evil is in the fact that a substitute has effectively been presented that smothers the messages of the birth and resurrection of Christ, and does so very effectively. People all over the free world celebrate Christian holidays with no exposure to the gospel. From this perspective, is evil involved and unchallenged? Is what appears to be good really good? Is a change of thinking appropriate? Is it just as possible for a "good" man to be presented as a substitute messiah, an "antichrist"? Could there be a more cunning and successful way for evil to control a people and rob them of Truth than with their full co-operation, and even celebration? No wonder Satan's known as a master of deception!
considered it a priority to address the way of thinking over
answering the question of salvation. If thinking isn't corrected and
focus isn't on the true source, any understanding will fall short of
real Truth, and will therefore be a deception. Man, in his carnal
thinking, is deceived because his concept of Truth is flawed.
THREE CONCEPTS OF TRUTH: MAN’S, GOD’S & SATAN’S
There are definite differences between man's concept of truth and God's Truth. This writing is to consider some of the basic differences between man's truth, God's Truth, and Satan's deception, which, although a lie, we all-to-often except as Truth. When we trust the lie and act upon it, the lie is manifested into reality, a condition man commonly considers to be truth.
If we can truly grasp the differences between these and learn to recognize real Truth, we will be able, like Peter, to respond to Christ's word when he walked on water, and take God at His word as Abraham did, in spite of whatever other input we receive.
For the sake of clarity, I will use the words “truth” when referring to man's concept, but capitalize it to read “Truth” when referring to God's concept.
When we think of truth we naturally equate it to mean fact. Facts dictate truth. However, remember that Satan uses facts to accuse us, yet Jesus tells us in John 8:44 that Satan is the father of lies and there is no Truth in him. Jesus also said that we would know the Truth and the Truth would make us free. Has knowing the facts of your past mistakes, your sins and shortcomings, or your circumstances set you free from anything? Isn’t just the opposite true? Isn’t knowing the facts of your humanity and all the limitations that go with it the very thing that limits you in your approach to God? Have you ever noticed that it’s during those times when you most feel the need to approach God that the reasons you shouldn’t, or can't, come to mind? Are these timely reminders of the facts of your unworthiness from God, the One Who intends to remove your shame and imperfections from you and forget them (Heb. 10:17), or are they from “the accuser of the brethren”( Rev 12:10)?
If the Spirit of Truth is our comforter, and He is God, and God is love, and love doesn’t repeat a matter (Pro 17:9), and therefore His only interest in the facts of your failings and shortcomings is to separate them from you “as far as the east is from the west” (psalm 103:12), can we still equate facts with Truth? Or, aren’t we compelled to seek a deeper understanding of Truth?
When Jesus speaks of Truth, He is relating to a much broader concept of the subject than man has commonly come to know. When Jesus was teaching the disciples in John 16:12,13, He indicated to them that they did not yet know all Truth, were not even capable of receiving it, but would come to know it in the near future once the “Spirit of Truth” came upon them?
"I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.However, when He, the Spirit of Truth, has come, He will guide you into all Truth. For He shall not speak of Himself, but whatever He hears, He shall speak. And He will announce to you things to come."
There's a rather astounding revelation in Jesus' statement. Even the Holy Spirit doesn't consider Himself the source of Truth. He will only speak what the source (the Father) tells Him.
Jesus also said, “the Truth will make you free.” (John 8:31), and those who worship God must do so “in spirit and in Truth” (John 4:24). Biblical Truth, then, equates to much more than just fact.
All the way through the book of John we see Jesus speaking Truth to the Pharisees and other religious leaders. People who, although they knew the “facts” of what scripture said, couldn’t begin to understand the “Truth” of what it meant.
“You search the scriptures because you think that in them you will find life, but all of scripture speaks of Me.” “…yet you want to kill Me.” (John 5:39,8:37)
The spiritual leaders of God’s people, the Jews, even after having the prophets and the law, were deceived. They had the facts, but they missed Truth! Actually, the more facts they knew the more deceived they became. Jesus called them, “blind leaders of the blind” (Mat 15:14).
Peter’s experience while crossing the sea shows us just how deceiving the facts can be.
But the boat was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves; for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a phantom! And they cried out for fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, Be of good cheer, I AM! Do not fear.
And Peter answered Him and said, LORD, if it is You, tell me to come to You on the water. And He said, Come. And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But seeing that the wind was strong, he was afraid. And beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me! And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him; and said to him, Little-faith! Why did you doubt? (Mat 14:24-31)
How many of us can see ourselves in Peter, stepping out in faith only to let our thoughts take us to that place of doubt, even to the point that we become convinced we can’t do the very thing we are doing according to what Jesus says we can do? This is the power and the essence of deception: when what one believes to be true is contrary to Truth, and that belief then takes control because of the decisions made in response to that false belief.
Within a very few moments Peter had moved from the extreme of demonstrating enough faith to do the impossible and overcame the natural laws of physics, to the extreme of not believing he could do what he was proving he could do, and succumbed to those same laws he only moments before proved he had supernatural ability over.
Jesus responded to Peter with what, I believe, was not a scolding as much as training. It was a prompting to consider what had happened in the knowledge that by understanding the deception he could overcome it in the future. There were eleven other disciples who stayed in the boat because they had less faith than Peter. Jesus didn't scold them, He didn't even address them. I believe one of the lessons the Lord is showing us here, in addition to how easily we are deceived, is that the real training comes to those who “step out of the boat”. It's the place of miracles, a place where mistakes and even failings can be expected, but it's also the place where the Lord shows up and lifts us up by the hand, re-establishes us on solid foundation and enables us to “walk back to the boat”.
When Jesus told Peter he could walk on water, Peter got out of the boat with child-like faith and did the impossible based on the Truth Jesus spoke to him. However, after taking a few steps something convinced Peter that he couldn’t do the very thing he was doing. His deception robbed him of his faith. His natural mind connected with the storm around him and brought his focus away from the Truth that Jesus spoke, fixed itself on what it believed to be true based on its’ training to let the facts learned determine truth, then deceived Peter to the point that he couldn’t believe the Truth Jesus spoke to him even though he was literally “walking it out”. Peter let a belief in something other than what Jesus told him govern his thinking and his actions. He relied on the facts he could relate to in his natural thinking and therefore was unable to receive Truth.
When we examine the three friends of Job in the book of Job we find a prime example of man seeking Truth with his intellect alone. We also find an explanation for their failure to find it. They were using their analytical powers of intellect and reason to determine what they believed to be true of God, and therefore what to be true of Job’s dilemma. They seemed very careful to honor God in each of their many explanations. Explanations that most of us could relate to and even agree with, had we not been told in the beginning of the book by God Himself that Job was completely innocent and blameless. However, when God appeared, He told them He was angry with them because they had not spoken Truth about Him.
When the young man Elihu appeared (his name indicates he is one who speaks with the Spirit of God), we gain insight into the True source of Truth and wisdom, and how we obtain it.
"I thought age should speak, and increased years should teach wisdom. "But it is a spirit in man, and the breath of the Almighty gives them understanding. "The abundant in years may not be wise, nor may elders understand justice.” Job 32:7-9
Biblically, the words breath and spirit are the same. This passage of scripture is telling us that True wisdom, or Truth, doesn’t come to man through his intellect and years of experience. Rather, it comes through his spirit, and is given by the breath, or Spirit of God.
And when He (Jesus) had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit. (John 20:22)
More about this process later, but for now lets more closely examine man’s concept of truth. If we can understand the difference between man’s concept and God’s concept, we can more easily put aside our own fears, doubts, shame and confusion, and step out into the things of God.
MAN’S CONCEPT OF TRUTH: INTEGRITY
When we think of truth we think in terms of integrity: a factual depiction of what already exists. Our search for truth causes us to focus on the tangible physical evidence we find and to question anyone, or anything, that does not concur with the facts as we see them. We know that a person of integrity would give a factual account of what is. Conversely, we would question the truthfulness of anyone who presented something that did not correspond to the facts as we find them.
Put another way: integrity is a resolve to be accurate, however, since facts are what they are, and are not reliant on ones integrity, there is room for the possibility of error in relaying and interpreting facts. This possibility of error is the very thing that causes us to leave a little room for doubt or skepticism, even when we hear from someone of great integrity. Man’s truth is limited to communication and interpretation of the facts as they exist, rather than the facts having to exist as man presents them. For example: man cannot say, “there is light” and have light appear where there is only darkness. Man can only communicate whether or not light is present, and his communicating about the presence of light does not affect the presence of light, only his own accuracy based on his perception of that presence.
In other words, we know that things are not always as people say they are. We also know that the way to find out the truth is to check out the facts and compare what we were told with the facts as we find them. It is this thinking that leads us to always focus on those facts and to feel uneasy and doubtful if we don’t have facts by which to judge things, even the things of God. The story of Gideon depicts this point.
Beginning in Judges 6:36 Gideon said to God:
“If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised – look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand as you said.” (NIV)
Notice that this test was not an effort to seek God’s will. Gideon knew God’s will because God spoke it to him as Gideon himself stated twice. Gideon had a difficult time accepting what God said because it was, from a human standpoint, impossible. Because he was limited to using his natural mind, which could only analyze evidence to find truth, he needed the physical evidence that God was able and willing to do the impossible in order to fully accept it. His request here was that God supply that physical evidence. The next three verses tell us that God did grant Gideon’s request and then allowed Himself to be tested a second time. Gideon was not convinced by God’s word as much as by the circumstances.
It is man’s limited concept of truth that causes him to demand proof through physical evidence. This is why a walk by faith (trust without proof) is very difficult for man. It does not come naturally and takes a “renewing of the mind” (Rom 12:2), and a revelationary way of thinking in his perception of God, which then results in the “transformation” that allows us to perceive and walk in Truth (“be transformed by the renewing of your mind”).
For a brief moment Peter had experienced this transformation, which allowed him to step out of the boat and “stand on the word of the Lord”, even though it made no sense to his natural mind. We must realize that real Truth does not come through experience and reason alone. As Elihu said:
"I thought age should speak, and increased years should teach wisdom. But it is a spirit in man, and the breath of the Almighty gives them understanding.” (Job 32:7-9)
This scripture in Job corresponds to the New Testament scripture about when Jesus asked Peter who He (Jesus) was. Peter responded with the Truth that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus then told him that he didn’t learn this through natural means, meaning his carnal mind (what I like to call his “understander”), but through revelation by the Spirit of God. Peter received a knowing of Who Jesus was that went past his capability to analyze and understand. He knew in his spirit (what I like to call his “knower”). Peter didn’t step out of the boat because he analyzed and understood that he could, he got out because he was connected with the Truth that was alive in his spirit of Who Jesus is. As long as he stayed in touch with his “knower” and what God had placed there he could do whatever Jesus told him to. His mind was “transformed” from a carnal way of thinking to a supernatural one. Paul referred to “the spirit of your mind”. He wasn't referring to the mind and spirit being the same thing, he was referring to the connection between your mind and spirit which in turn is our connection to the Spirit. This is the connection we have that must be our primary receptor of Truth. It was only when Peter let his “understander” take over and focus on the fact of the storm that he got into trouble.
GOD’S CONCEPT OF TRUTH: CREATION & ALIGNMENT WITH THE FATHER
God’s Truth is more than just communication or integrity. A man of integrity can say something that isn’t true and it will remain untrue. However, “ . . . it is impossible for God to lie.” (Heb. 6:18). When we hear this statement we immediately, and naturally, think in terms of integrity and interpret the scripture to mean that there is something in God’s attributes that prevents Him from saying something that isn’t true. Although God certainly does have integrity, He is not limited by it. God can say something that is not true, but when He says it it becomes true. Why? Because God’s “WORD” is His vehicle of creation.
The one book of the Bible that probably has more to say about the subject of Truth than any other is the book of John. It reveals Truth in primarily two aspects: It speaks of the creative power of God’s word; it also speaks of alignment with God presenting God as the very source of Truth.
The first chapter of John gives us Jesus’ divine credentials as“the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and Truth.” (v14) and tells us that “...in the beginning was the Word (Jesus) and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being by Him and apart from Him nothing came into being.” (v1)
The first chapter of Genesis tells us how God spoke light and most of His creation into being when there was nothing (man was formed and Breathed into). Since God is Truth, and is the creator, what He says creates. He creates by speaking. His word is not just a process of speech or communication, but is the process of creation. He is the One “who makes the dead live, and calls the things which do not exist as though they do exist.” (Rom 4:17)
In part, it is our failure to recognize this Truth that causes us to doubt God. We revert to our “Gideon thinking” and search for circumstances for confirmation before we believe and move forward. There is nothing wrong with seeking confirmation in an effort to make sure that what we are hearing is from God, but, when we know we have heard God and seek confirmation of His ability through circumstances, we demonstrate an incomplete understanding of the creative power of God’s speaking word. Sometimes we step out in faith based on the word of God, as Peter did when he walked on water, then we get caught up in the circumstances, the “storms”, and allow the facts of the circumstances dictate Truth to us. Peter was deceived by the circumstances into believing he couldn’t walk on water even though he was doing so according to the “Rehma” word Jesus spoke to him. In his deception he began to sink. However, one touch from the Lord and Peter again walked on water back to the boat.
We must not receive God through our concept of man’s integrity. We will never be able to fully accept what He has for us if we make that mistake. We must realize what God says is True and IS even if it wasn’t before. The Truth of His statement (process of creation) is completely independent of anything outside of Him. Circumstances and situations, what is or is not, will all change according to what God says. Therefore, the circumstances or facts surrounding us do not, in any way, prevent or alter what God does for us. What He says He does, since what He says IS.
As already mentioned, in addition to the aspect of creation, the book of John speaks a great deal about alignment with God. This concept becomes clear as we give attention to the conversations Jesus had with the religious leaders. They had knowledge of the word of God, but they wouldn’t, or couldn’t, bring themselves into alignment with it. John 3:21 says,
“he who does the Truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”
That which is True will be in alignment with the One Who defines that which is True. This is an aspect of Truth that goes beyond relaying fact, even the fact of what God has said, and searches for the heart, intention, and guidance of God in an effort to apply it to ones life in a perspective of relationship rather than in a legalistic, religious way. John 7:18 reads,
“…He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is True…”
This speaks of alignment with, and submission to the Father.
Jesus said, “I am THE TRUTH, the way and the life...” (John 14:6) and “you shall know THE TRUTH and THE TRUTH shall make you free” (John 8:32).
If we are to walk in Truth, we must look past the facts and seek the heart and mind of the Lord. The Bible tells us that Jesus does not judge by what He hears or sees (in other words: by fact), but He judges in righteousness (Isaiah 11:3,4). This statement declares to us that righteous judgment does not rely on facts surrounding circumstances alone. Jesus demonstrates this many times. He probably demonstrates it best in His dealing with the scribes and Pharisees when they brought "the adulterous woman" before Him with the purpose of entrapping Him. We find this in John chapter 8. In viewing how Jesus handled this situation, as with any, it is important to remember that Jesus is always demonstrating how God deals with people and situations. He said, “If you have seen Me you have seen the Father.” (John 14:9).
The point is that here Jesus was demonstrating how God deals with the accused and the accuser. We can, each one of us, substitute ourselves for the adulterous woman in this situation, and we can substitute Satan for the accusers.
The accusers revealed their heart in the first moment they spoke. They said they had caught her “...in the act”, which means they also caught the man in the act. Justice was not their purpose or they would have brought the man as well. The Mosaic Law said that both the woman and the man shall be stoned. They had their minds fixed on the purpose of stopping Jesus’ work. (If He said she should be stoned He would be violating Roman law. If He said she should not be stoned He would be violating Jewish law.) The accusers used fact to condemn the woman and to try to entrap Jesus. The fact is that she was guilty. However, remember, Jesus does not judge by what He sees with His eyes or hears with his ears, but in righteousness and Truth. In other words, in alignment with the heart of the Father. Jesus demonstrated here that He came, not to judge, but to redeem.
When confronted by the “accuser”, Jesus' response was to not have one. He completely ignored them and began writing in the dirt. As they persisted with their accusations, Jesus stood and confronted them, inviting the one who had not sinned to throw the first stone. They dropped their stones and walked away, which reveals a great deal more than what is obvious. When you consider the fact that the word for sin used here indicates a sexual connotation, and the fact that the accusers neglected to bring the man, I have to believe that Jesus was confronting them with the knowledge that they had all had their turn with the accused. (Even if this weren't the case, sin is sin and all sin carries guilt). I believe that what Jesus was really saying to them was: “Let the one who has not committed this same sin throw the first stone.”
Also, remembering that the Old Testament speaks prophetically about Jesus, we see in the book of Jeremiah 17:13:
“…all that forsake thee shall be ashamed, and they that depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living waters.” (KJV)
Why did the accusers walk away? Because Jesus was writing their names in the dirt while the Holy Spirit was at work heaping conviction on them. I believe Jer 17:13 was brought to their remembrance and pierced their conscience.
Jesus then turned to the woman, who was, in fact, guilty, and forgave her and released her from her shame. Remember that Jesus only did what the Father showed him to do (John 5:19). The fact of her guilt couldn’t keep her from the Truth of the Father’s heart toward her. Jesus released her from the world of shame that the fact of her guilt held her in and brought her into the Kingdom ("The Kingdom of God is within you.") where she could walk in Truth, in alignment with the Father.
In this story we see the obvious working of Jesus, but we must also recognize the other three “witnesses” at work here: the Father’s heart, the Holy Spirit (both in the way of revelation to Jesus and in the way of conviction on the accusers), and the scripture, particularly from Deuteronomy and Jeremiah.
The accuser uses fact to bring condemnation and shame. When we begin to dwell on the facts surrounding our own guilt we can begin to believe that we cannot be given God’s righteousness as promised in Romans 3:21-22. We become deceived by the facts and forget the Truth of the greatness of God’s redemption. In reality, the fact of our guilt does not prove our condemnation, rather it serves to reveal and prove the magnitude of the grace and Truth of God’s redemption.The law reveals the magnitude of the sin, but serves as a contrast to, and measuring rod of, the grace and love of God. Just a further thought on the law: "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" is often quoted as justification for revenge as if God demands it. However, the real purpose of that law is to enforce restraint on those who would overreact, maybe to the point of murder. It points to a sense of justice while making anything beyond that a crime. It's saying you can not take more than has been taken from you.
As important as scripture study is, aligning with the Father goes beyond scripture study alone. There are many who study scripture and learn what the Bible says, yet fail to connect their spirit to God’s Spirit. Only by doing so can we truly align ourselves with scripture and walk in Truth. John 7:19 reads,
“Did not Moses give you the law, yet none of you keeps the law?” John 1:19 reads: “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and Truth came through Jesus Christ.”
This passage of scripture draws an interesting distinction between the “law” and “Truth”. It’s not saying that the law isn’t True or in alignment with God, it is saying that the law, by itself, is powerless to bring anyone into alignment with the Father. The law was not designed to bring people into a righteous relationship with God. It was only designed to point to our need for that relationship, which is found in Jesus:
Wherefore the law was our school-master to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith is come, we are no longer under a school-master. Gal 3:24,25.
It is in Jesus Christ that God gives us the grace necessary to bring us into alignment with Him. In John 14:6 Jesus tells us,
“I am the way, the Truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father except through Me.”
Jesus was not only the living example of what alignment with God means, He is the provision for us, as believers, to step into this alignment. Isa. 53 tells us of the complete work of Christ as He delivered us from the fact of all of the elements of our shame, sin, failures, weaknesses, etc.. We are all just as guilty as the adulteress woman, and just as guilty as the accusers.
“ For whoever shall keep the whole Law and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” (Jam 2:10)
The difference between the two was the fact that the accusers refused to acknowledge Jesus and receive from Him.
The scripture: “All have sinned (an archery term meaning to miss the bull’s eye) and fallen short of the glory of God”, really means that falling short of carrying the glory of God is sin. That's everybody. We all have the same problem. The good news is we all have the same solution: Jesus. He removed the shame, and every other hindrance, so that He could impart the glory to us. John 17:22 says:
“And I have given them the glory which You have given Me, that they may be one, even as We are one.”
Mark 16:17 & 18 tell us:
“These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with other 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.”
James 1:22 warns us;
“But prove yourselves doers of the word and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” Jesus addresses the inability of the Pharisees to be “doers of the word” in John 5:37-39:
“And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me (referring to scripture). You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form. But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe. You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life, and these are they which testify of Me.”
In other words, scripture is the word of the Father given to man by unction of the Holy Spirit for the purpose of revealing Jesus Christ. Jesus is saying that the Pharisees are completely disconnected from the Spirit of God, “having neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form,” and therefore do not have His word abiding in them. He is saying that the Pharisees have only read words written on a page. Those words have not come to live, to abide, within them. The words of scripture bring life when received as a revelation of what it means to be aligned with God. That revelation, as well as the process of coming into alignment with the Father, can only be accomplished through knowing Jesus and the work of His Spirit.
However, their minds were hardened, for to this day the same veil is still there when they read the old covenant. Only in union with Christ is that veil removed. Yet even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Lord's Spirit is, there is freedom. As all of us reflect the glory of the Lord with unveiled faces, we are being transformed into the same image with ever-increasing glory by the Lord's Spirit. (2 Cor 3:14-18
That work comes through impartation of the Spirit. Strange as it may sound, one of the ways God imparts to man is by breathing. If a man breaths he’s just squeezing his lungs to move air. God doesn’t have lungs, but according to scripture, He “breaths”, whatever that means. Whatever else it is, it was the process by which God gave Adam life, He breathed into him. When Jesus imparted the Holy Spirit to the disciples after His resurrection He breathed on them.
And when He (Jesus) had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit. (John 20:22)
We can witness the difference impartation makes when we compare the visitation of God to man at Mt Sinai, with the visitation of God to man at Pentecost. There is a correlation between the two in that they were both instances of God presenting Himself to man and both were on the fiftieth day after the Passover. At Mt Sinai the Spirit of God was separated from the people and He kept them at a distance. The word of God (the ten commandments) was given in the form of law written on stone. The will of God was made known, but man was left with only his fleshly understanding and efforts to attempt to comply with it. The imparting of God’s Spirit, His breathing on them that would make this possible wasn’t there.
However, on the day of Pentecost described in Acts 2 (a New Testament version of the visitation at Mt. Sinai), God wasn’t at a distance the way He was at Sinai, He was close enough to breath on them. The word translated as “wind” in Acts 2:2 is the same word as breath and spirit in the Greek. “Breath” is a more accurate translation.
And suddenly a sound came out of the heaven as borne along by the rushing of a mighty breath, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And tongues as of fire appeared to them, being distributed; and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled of the Holy Spirit, and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
The Holy Spirit of God came at Pentecost, as Jesus promised, and indwelt the people (He became intimate with them) giving them the ability to come into alignment with God, and thereby transforming the wording of the law given at Mt Sinai into statements of fact (when the Word of God and the Spirit are both present, imparted creative power is the result). “You will not commit adultery. You will not commit murder.” The “you will not” is because “you” have been brought into alignment with the heart of the Father by the indwelling Spirit of God.
“And I will put My Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” (Ezekiel 36:27).
As John 6:63 teaches,
“It is the Spirit who gives life, the flesh profits nothing.”
Chapter 14:16-18 tells us,
“And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another helper, that He may abide with you forever – the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him, but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.”
Walking in Truth comes through a knowing in the spirit that will cause the “True” servant of God to come into alignment with the Word of God through the empowering of the Spirit of God. This alignment, this Truth, is therefore something far beyond mere integrity.
Balaam is a very good example of one who failed as a “True” servant of God even though he was very accurate, and very careful in maintaining his integrity in relaying the fact of what he heard God say. Balaam refused to speak anything in contradiction to the words he heard God speak. He would not “lie”, and he focused on the fact of what God said. However, he completely ignored God’s purpose and intent. Even though God made His purpose and intent to bless the Hebrews very clear, Balaam would repeatedly attempt to persuade God, through animal sacrifice, to change His mind about blessing them.
Balaam’s words were lined up with the facts; he wouldn’t say God said something that He hadn’t said. However, Balaam’s heart was far from being in alignment with God’s purpose. Balaam finally told Balak, the enemy of the Hebrews, that if the cult prostitutes were sent into the Hebrew camp the men would sin with them and then God would judge them. The New Testament describes Balaam as a false prophet (2 Peter 2).
Balaam spoke what was factual to Balak, truthful according to man’s concept of truth, but with a purpose of destruction. Although he was accurate in what he said, he was a false prophet. This was a man that would not “lie”, but would use fact to destroy. His focus was on his own personal gain and used his ability to hear from God to gain wealth and the approval of man. Jude 1:11 calls Balaam’s use of fact a “deception”
“…for pay they have rushed headlong into the deception of Balaam.”
In Rev. 2:14 Jesus reveals that Balaam’s use of fact actually
“…kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit acts of immorality.”
We can see then that fact can be used to deceive and destroy. Fact and Truth, therefore, are not synonymous. A True prophet of God would have, after speaking what God said to speak, warned those opposing God’s purpose to repent and align themselves with His purpose and will. Balaam tried to change God’s mind rather than trying to change Balak’s mind. He was much more in alignment with Satan’s purpose than with God’s.
As we saw in the passage 2 Cor 3:14-18, the most religious people in the nation, even with all of their education and training, were completely incapable of aligning themselves with the will and character of God, or even understanding it. John 12:37 again confirms this:
“Although He had performed numerous signs in their presence, they did not believe in Him,”
In John 11:47,48 we see them plotting to murder Jesus even though they admittedly recognized the signs He worked. They had also intended to kill Lazarus because of the testimony he was to Jesus. They knew the fact of God’s word, but would not walk in the Truth of it. In John 8, Jesus makes the point very clear that the Pharisees were sons of their father, the devil, because they aligned themselves with him.
Satan also knows the fact of God’s word, but cannot speak it in alignment with God’s purposes (nor does he wish to), and therefore, distorts it. His attempt to deceive Jesus during His forty day fast is a good testimony to this fact.
The Pharisee Saul (later to become the apostle Paul) believed he understood Truth concerning God. He had spent all of his life studying scripture and the traditions handed down from the Jewish forefathers. Yet, all of his learning only led him into persecution of the True church of God, even to the point of murder. However, after meeting the Spirit of Jesus, he spent years relearning all that he had believed to be True, but now his learning came by revelation through his new-found spirit to Spirit connection with God. When he finally conferred with the apostles he found that the Truth he had come to know through revelation was exactly the same as the Truth they had come to know.
John 4:24 tells us that we must worship God “in spirit and in Truth.” This means worship coming through relationship which results in being in alignment with Him. Alignment with God doesn’t come through external works of religion or education. As mentioned earlier, John 1:17 tells us, “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and Truth came through Jesus Christ.” The law can only tell us what God’s will is; it cannot cause us to align our hearts with it.
Jesus is the embodiment of Truth. He said, “I am the Truth, the way and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6). He is our example of alignment with God. He is in perfect alignment with the Father because He is in perfect relationship with Him. We can only hope to enter into perfect alignment with the Father by entering into relationship with Him, and we can only enter into relationship with Him through entering into relationship with Jesus. It is only through Christ that we can align our hearts with the will, character and purpose of God. The law can’t work this into us, it can only tell us about it. It takes the Spirit of God to bring about change within man. This is a work that comes through the spirit in the inner man by the inner workings of the Holy Spirit.
“If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever – the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” (John 14:15-17)
“However, when He, the Spirit of truth has come, He will guide you into all Truth…” (John 16:12-14).
“But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells within you…If you live according to the flesh you will die: but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the flesh, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” (Rom 8:9-14)
SATAN’S CONCEPT OF TRUTH: MANIFESTED DECEPTION
(THE BELIEVED LIE)
In Rev 2:12-15 we see Jesus Himself addressing the issue of deception in the Church as He speaks to the church at Pergamos. Jesus sets the stage for revealing the Truth about the condition of the church beginning in verse 13.
“I know where you dwell, where Satan's throne is; and you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality. So you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Therefore repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth.”
Jesus is commending the church for its works, for believing in His name and not denying His faith. According to some teachings in the church, even today, this seems to be all that the Lord requires: Faith in God, believing in the name of Jesus, and the resulting good works. Yet Jesus points out a potentially fatal problem: anywhere Satan establishes a thrown there is bound to be deception. Satan is aware that he doesn’t have to cause the church to completely break the faith relationship with God in order to infect it; he merely has to distort it in order to gain influence. We see clearly here that he uses the way people think to introduce his deception in a way that they will accept.
At Pergamos there was a “faith” in God, which apparently meant a reliance on God’s grace and forgiveness. The deception was apparently introduced by using their reliance on God’s grace and forgiveness in order to get them to believe that God would allow His grace to be abused and even used as an excuse, or license, to sin. Jesus hints at a progression of the deception beginning with “the doctrine of Balaam,” which, as we discussed earlier, means a lack of alignment with God’s will and character, and putting self-will before God’s will. This results in attempts to manipulate God while moving in opposition to His will according to the demands of the flesh. This, in essence, is “the doctrine of the Nicolaitans.” This was a doctrine that said that redemption was of the spirit and not the flesh, and therefore whatever the flesh did made no difference. It excused sins of the flesh such as sexual immorality and eating animals sacrificed to demons, both of these practices were condemned according to the decree of the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:28,29). Again in Gal 5:13-17 Paul warns, “do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh…for the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another…” And in Mat 15:8,9: "This people draws near to Me with their mouth, and honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. But in vain they worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men."
Remember, Satan can use fact to deceive! He finds the facts of what one believes, even partial truths, then distorts the interpretation of those facts and truths to weave a deception. He deceived the Nicolaitans, as he did Balaam, into thinking that having a relationship with God didn’t necessarily mean being in alignment with Him, which is the only way to walk in Truth. This problem is also addressed in the books of 2 Peter (especially chapter 2), Jude and Romans 6, 7 & 8, as well as elsewhere.
In the message of the Lord to the church at Pergamos we see just one of many Biblical examples of how Satan uses the way man thinks to introduce a way of thinking to him that “seems right to a man, but the end of it is death.” It often can be reasoned out with intellect, but does not come into alignment with the direction, purposes or character of God.
Satan comes “but to steal, kill and destroy... He is a liar and the father of lies and there is no Truth in him." This Biblical description of Satan found in John 8:44 reveals his purpose and method and points to the fact that there is no reason to believe anything he says. Yet the world, as a whole, is deceived. Even those of us who are Christians and know the Truth find ourselves deceived at one time or another, if only to a minor degree. Why? Because when we see him in action we discover that he can always present fact, which seems to be truth to the carnal mind. However, since there is no Truth in him, he cannot present facts in Truth. There is always a distortion to everything he presents. Even when dealing with God’s Truth, if we allow ourselves to get caught up in our intellect only, which is where Satan has influence, and not engage our spirit with God’s Spirit, even what God has said can be interpreted out of Truth and become a distortion and therefore, a lie. At the very least, deeper truths hidden in scripture will go undiscovered because questions are replaced with assumptions.
Lets look at a very small example of how we can miss Truth in scripture if we rely on our intellect only and don't allow ourselves to be “quickened” by our spirit as we read. There are many greater examples, but I chose a small one for two reasons: Jesus taught to judge by the small things. “He who is faithful in the small things will be faithful in the greater things.” which is a principle I take to also be true of scripture. Those that work with the smallest truths will work with the greater Truths. Also because Jesus said the smallest punctuation of the law will not pass away. If we can show the significance of the small things, the greater things will get their due attention. If we approach scripture with the thinking that there is nothing insignificant, coupled with a conscious refusal to make assumptions, we will see things in fresh light.
In Mark 6:39 we read:
And Jesus said, Make them recline. And there was much grass in the place. So the men reclined, about five thousand in number. (MKJV)
This is in reference to Jesus preparing to feed the five thousand. We read that He told the disciples to “make the men recline”, which is a literal translation. However, because, at first, that doesn't seem to make sense most translators have used the words “sit down”. Who would tell five thousand people that were about to be fed a meal to “lie down”? From verse 35 we learn that it was late in the day and it would make sense that they were already sitting down.
We see a reference to there being “much grass.” We normally read right over these words as though they're just something insignificant added by the writer with no purpose. How can that be important, and who cares? “Grass would be better translated “pasture”.
Here's the problem assumption brings: because the original language, literally best translated “recline” or “lie”, doesn't seem to make sense, most translators changed it as though they were correcting a mistake. Who made the “mistake”, God, or the one He inspired to write it? Scripture is either the inspired, infallible word of God or it isn't. If it is, we don't have license to change any of it. Not even punctuation. God didn't make a mistake that needs to be corrected.
If accepted literally, questions pop up. What does it mean if it doesn't make sense? Jesus gave us the answer when He said that all scripture points to Him. This passage in Mark is a very subtle confirmation of the identity of Jesus as the One revealed in the 23rd Psalm, “He makes me to lie down in green pastures.” The feeding of the five thousand was a demonstration of the Good Shepherd tending His sheep as pointed to in Mark 6:34.
We get a lot more out of scripture if we read it as though we believe what we say we believe about it, rather than letting our carnal thinking approach it with assumptions. We must keep in mind scripture is inspired, infallible, and all of it points to Jesus. In a truly spiritual approach to scripture the best answers to questions often, maybe even usually, lead to more questions. We need to let our “knower” (our spirit) lead our “understander” (our mind). As Paul said in Ephesians 4:23, “Be renewed in the spirit of your mind.”
There's another mistranslation that's even more subtle, but with major impact that actually detracts from the whole of scripture, and it's only the matter of a failure to capitalize one letter. It would take a whole other study to show all of the ways the book of Job is foundational to the rest of scripture, but for now just consider the fact that it was the first book inspired by God to be written. What God does first is always foundational to what He does after. Job encapsulates God's purpose and message delivered in the rest of scripture. We find the key to unlocking the revelation of Job in the words of Elihu who's name literally means “God of him” and implies “one who speaks with the Spirit of God”. Elihu's message involves God seeking a “ransom” for man with a purpose to replace man's righteousness with His own as summarized in Job 33:23,24,26,
If there is by him a messenger (literally: one dispatched from God: angel, prophet, priest, teacher, ambassador, Messiah), An interpreter (mediator, intercessor) --one of a thousand, To declare for man his uprightness: Then He doth favor him and saith, `Ransom him from going down to the pit, I have found an atonement.' ….He maketh supplication unto God, And He accepteth him. And he seeth His face with shouting, And He returneth to man His righteousness. (Young's Literal Translation)
to capitalize the “H” in “His righteousness”, as some
translations do, completely changes this foundational framework for
the entire purpose of God's message revealed in scripture as
confirmed in Romans 3:21,22. A lower case "h" would indicate one other than God.
And now apart from law hath the righteousness of God been manifested, testified to by the law and the prophets, and the righteousness of God is through the faith of Jesus Christ to all, and upon all those believing, --for there is no difference,
Imagine how different even Old Testament believers in God would have approached scripture had they understood the Truth of the revelation of the gospel in the book of Job. This passage in Romans reveals that the “law and the prophets” testify to His purpose, but without focus on the foundation of Job it's a Truth that's easily missed. One of the underlying foundational messages in Job is found in the fact that Job's circumstances, his “truth” was never his “Truth”.
Minor changes can have major implications. Satan doesn't have to keep people from believing that scripture is True and from God in order to rob them, he only has to distort their understanding of it.
There are two key places in scripture where we see Satan directly engaged in conversation with man in an attempt to deceive: once involving the first Adam through Eve, the second time involves the second “Adam”, Jesus. His purpose was the same in both incidents but his method of deception changed slightly.
When Satan deceived Eve his method was to catch her while she was not in the presence of God, draw her focus away from the Truth of what God had said, away from being guided by her spirit (her knower), and to get her to listen to him (Satan) and analyze what he was saying with her mind (her understander). He began his deception by pointing out a portion of what God had said, but twisted it: “Didn’t God say you may eat of any tree in the garden?” When Eve put what God had said back into context, Satan accused God of lying. He was successful in his deception because he was able to convince Eve that God had lied, and because he was able to get Eve to focus on the temptation he was presenting. She rejected the guidance that came from God and chose to follow the leading of Satan. She was deceived because, although she knew God’s will, she either didn’t know His character, or put it out of mind. She didn’t allow it to become her will, character and purpose, she didn’t align herself with God. She had visitations from God, but the relationship was obviously shallow.
When Satan asked Eve, “Didn’t God say you could eat of any tree in the garden?” he presented the fact of part of what God had said, but did it in a way that took it out of alignment with God. Therein lies the deception: fact that is presented out of alignment with God’s will, purpose and character is not Truth. The reason we are easily deceived is because the facts are sometimes readily available and seem obvious, often easier to understand and grasp than God’s will, unless we are listening to His Spirit speak rehma to us. “Lean not unto thine own understanding...but live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” Prov 3:7 & Matt 4:4
When Satan attempted to deceive the second Adam (Jesus) he failed because Jesus would not be separated from God’s guidance, purpose and character. Jesus, unlike Eve, couldn’t be fooled into thinking there was anything more worthy of His attention than staying in alignment with God. He had a relationship with the Father to the degree that they shared common purpose, will and character. He knew (was intimate with) the Father. He knew Truth.
When deception takes a firm hold there is the danger that the one being deceived will reach the level of deception that he will willingly refuse Truth even when it is obvious. Balaam knew God’s will but continually set himself in opposition to it. The Sanhedrin, while discussing what to do about Jesus, realized they couldn’t deny that God was with Him, yet wanted to stop Him for fear that the people would follow Him rather than them (John 11:47-53). They willingly chose to reject the Truth and accept the lie. They rejected alignment with God in preference to alignment with Satan.
It is impossible for Satan to reveal Truth to you. Remember, Truth is that which God decrees and is in alignment with His purpose regardless of facts and circumstances seen. Satan cannot reveal God’s purposes to you. Whatever he says, no matter how factual, is in opposition to God’s purpose because he IS opposition to God’s purpose. Satan speaking Truth is like darkness being light, it is impossible. However, if he can persuade us to believe him and walk and talk according to his deception, we give credibility to the lie by making it real to us through our acting on it. When we bow to shame, condemnation, or what have you, we give Satan’s lie power in us. His lie (non-truth) becomes deception (believed non-truth), which will result in manifestation of the deception when acted upon. It becomes reality, which man’s intellect will call truth, even though it has nothing to do with God and real Truth. We fall into the trap of mistakenly accepting what has become “truth”, for Truth.
The difference between the obvious lie and the deception is that the obvious lie is information that does not line up with the facts or with our pattern of thinking. It’s therefore not believable. The deception, however, does line up with the way we think. An obvious lie can easily be ignored, but a deception will get our attention.
This is why we must have our minds “renewed” (Rom 12:2) so that we think with the mind of Christ. We must, because of practice, have our senses trained to discern between good and evil (Heb 5:14).
We have seen that one of the reasons Satan is successful in presenting deception is because he knows that, in our carnal thinking, we rely on facts to determine truth. We are always looking for confirmation of what we believe to be true. Satan not only uses this need of ours for confirmation to get us to focus on facts, he takes his deception to the next level by introducing negative feelings as further confirmation. He knows that man is governed very heavily by feelings. They are an important part of our belief system. If we feel good about ourselves it’s easier to focus on God’s mercy than on His judgment. Therefore it’s easier to believe our relationship with God is good. If we feel bad about ourselves it’s easier to focus on God’s judgment than on His mercy and our confidence in our relationship with Him is shaken. This, at least in part, is why, “the Joy of the Lord is our strength.” (Neh 8:10) Satan uses negative feelings in the same way he uses facts, he presents them to us as a confirmation of the lie he wants us to believe. Our makeup causes us to focus on feelings as an internal confirmation of truth in the same way the facts of circumstances give us external confirmation. If Satan can get us to focus on the facts and circumstances of a failure and introduce the feelings of failure (depression, rejection, anxiety, etc.), it won’t be difficult for him to cause us to take our identity with that failure to the next step of identifying ourselves as failures. At the very root of being an overcoming Christian, being “in Christ”, is the issue of identity. This is what Satan wants to confuse and destroy.
If there is any reason to study the enemy, it’s not so that we can spend more time dealing with him, it is so that we spend less. We need to learn that we must give him much less attention than we do. Think about it! If the only input we receive is from God, how deceived will we be? It was God’s original purpose that we be unaware of Satan’s presence. Nothing was forbidden to Adam and Eve except the one thing that would make them conscience of evil. Man was meant to be focused on God and the Truth that only His input can bring. What Satan wanted or didn’t want, or did or didn’t do, didn’t make any difference because he had no authority to do anything.
Before eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, Adam and Eve didn’t have to suffer Satan putting thoughts into their minds. He didn’t have access to their minds. They didn’t know shame or fear. It was the fruit of the tree that changed all this. The fruit was of knowing good and evil. In the original language this knowing was in the context of being aware of, familiar or acquainted, even intimate, having an experience. There are two ways of “knowing” something or someone. One is to have intellectual understanding gained through external input, the other is to have knowledge through intimacy. You can understand, or know about a disease by studying it. You can know a disease by having it, being intimate with it. The police officer that is testing a drunk driver for the effect the alcohol has had on the driver is using his understanding of the alcohol to know what response he's looking for. But it's the drunk that knows the alcohol. The passage of scripture “and Adam knew his wife” (Gen 4:1) speaks of knowing through intimacy. The passage “they have become like Us knowing good and evil” (Gen 3:22) speaks of an understanding, not intimacy. Obviously God is not intimate with evil.
The fruit was what made man know evil. Before the fall evil was not a part of man’s thought life. He was not aware of (familiar with or acquainted with) shame at being naked (Gen. 2:25). Shame at being naked was introduced after partaking of the fruit. Adam and Eve were now familiar with a thought pattern they had not been familiar with before. This was a whole new experience for them. They were experiencing shame. It had become a part of them. It was intimate with them. It had changed their thinking and demanded a behavior change. This new thought pattern that had invaded their minds instructed them to hide their differences from each other, and to hide from God. They had come to KNOW evil, with a sense of intimacy. Satan had gained access to their carnal minds and had taken over. As a result their identity changed. Through Adam and Eve this problem has become common to all mankind.
For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do, I know not. For what I desire, that I do not do; but what I hate, that I do. If then I do that which I do not desire, I consent to the law that it is good. But now it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwells in me.F or I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwells no good thing. For to will is present with me, but how to perform that which is good I do not find. For I do not do the good that I desire; but the evil which I do not will, that I do. But if I do what I do not desire, it is no more I working it out, but sin dwelling in me. I find then a law: when I will to do the right, evil is present with me. For I delight in the Law of God according to the inward man; but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin being in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then with the mind I myself serve the Law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. (Rom 7:14-25)
Jesus said, “I am THE TRUTH, the way and the life...” (John 14:6) and “you shall know (be intimate with) THE TRUTH and THE TRUTH shall make you free” (John 8:32).
If we are to walk in Truth, we must look past mere fact and seek the heart and mind of the Lord through spirit to Spirit connection, even in scripture study.
In 1 Cor. 2:16 Paul tells us, “…we have the mind of Christ.” However, in the very next four verses he goes on to indicate that that connection isn’t automatic. He told the Corinthians they were, in fact, very carnally minded and unable to receive spiritual Truth. And in Phil 2:5 Paul tells us to “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus…” This tells us that there is a choice to be made of who we will receive input from: Christ or Satan. It’s common to flip-flop back and forth between the two, often without even realizing it as exampled in Jesus’ discussion with Peter. Jesus told Peter he was hearing from the Father when Peter said he knew that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God. He even promised him the keys to the kingdom of Heaven, then rebuked him and called him Satan for his, what seemed to be, compassionate response to Jesus telling him He must suffer and be crucified:
He said to them, But who do you say I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus answered and said to him, You are blessed, Simon, son of Jonah, for flesh and blood did not reveal it to you, but My Father in Heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give the keys of the kingdom of Heaven to you. And whatever you may bind on earth shall occur, having been bound in Heaven, and whatever you may loose on earth shall occur, having been loosed in Heaven. Then He warned His disciples that they should tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ. From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took Him and began to rebuke Him, saying,God be gracious to You, Lord! This shall never be to You. But He turned and said to Peter, Go, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you do not savor the things that are of God, but those that are of men. Then Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life shall lose it, and whoever desires to lose his life for My sake shall find it. (Matt. 16:15-25)
Paul told the Corinthians the evidence of their carnality was the “envyings, strife and divisions” that existed among them. We as Christians often fall into the trap of serving Satan rather than God when we point out the faults and mistakes of our brothers and sisters (factual as they may be) in an attitude of unforgiveness, and cover the bitterness in our heart with the rational that what we say is accurate and therefore truthful. It may be accurate, but the only way we can be Truthful is to be in alignment with God’s Spirit. God is love and love does not repeat a matter (Pro. 17:9). We become “hearers only and not doers of the word” (Jam 1:22) when the enemy distorts our understanding and causes us to align with his purposes in being destructive. We must remember that we become enslaved to the one we submit ourselves to. This doesn’t mean we can’t disagree or speak a word of correction when needed, it does mean we must stay in alignment with the Spirit and heart of God and revelation of His word when we do it.
We have been talking about a way of thinking, a way of knowing, that is different from what comes natural to man, and is only available through connection with the Spirit of God, spirit to Spirit. 1 Corinthians 2:10-16 and 3:18-23 sums it up:
But God has revealed those things to us by his Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the deep things of God. Is there anyone who can understand his own thoughts except by his own inner spirit? In the same way, no one can know the thoughts of God except God's Spirit. Now, we have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who comes from God, so that we can understand the things that were freely given to us by God. We don't speak about these things in words taught us by human wisdom, but in words taught by the Spirit, as we explain spiritual things to spiritual people. A person who isn't spiritual doesn't accept the things of God's Spirit, for they are nonsense to him. He can't understand them because they are spiritually evaluated. The spiritual person evaluates everything but is subject to no one else's evaluation. For "Who has known the mind of the Lord so that he can advise him?" However, we have the mind of Christ.
Let no one deceive himself. If any of you thinks he is wise in the ways of this world, he must become a fool to become really wise. For the wisdom of this world is nonsense in God's sight. For it is written, "He catches the wise with their own trickery," and again, "The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are worthless." So let no one boast about men. For everything belongs to you, whether Paul, Apollos, Cephas, the world, life, death, the present, or the future-everything belongs to you, but you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.
In light of all that we have studied here, I think it’s wisdom to review the warning found in 1 Cor 10:12: “Therefore, the person who thinks he is standing securely should watch out that he does not fall.”
In reference to deception, remember the Nicolaitans we discussed earlier. In Revelation Jesus speaks of them twice. In 2:6 He says He hates what they do, and in 2:16 He says He will war against them with the sword of His mouth. The Nicolaitans were followers of Nicolas, one of the seven deacons appointed to the church in Acts 6:5. He had to be Spirit filled as this was a requirement for the position (Acts 6:3). The apostles laid hands on him and commissioned him into service (Acts 6:6). There has been historical debate as to whether the heresy originated with Nicolas or was a misunderstanding by his followers. Either way, it was a very skillfully woven deception in the midst of a Spirit filled move of God.
Many of the heresies and deceptions discussed in the New Testament originated from outside the Church. This one seems to have come through Spirit filled leadership within the Church. This problem wasn’t limited to the early days of the Church. I know of a modern version of a very similar deception. I have a friend who, before moving here from out of state, attended a four thousand member church which was part of a well known and respected denomination that focuses on teaching the word, including the necessity of receiving it though revelation of the Holy Spirit and putting off the works of the flesh. My friend was in attendance when a guest speaker visited the church and preached that it doesn’t matter what you do, or what lifestyle you maintain, the grace of Jesus covers everything. It’s the doctrine of the Nicolaitans all over again that teaches, in effect, that no real repentance is needed.
Expecting the pastor to get up and refute this heresy, my friend was astonished to hear his pastor congratulate his guest on such a well-delivered message. His sister still attends there, lives a very promiscuous and partying lifestyle, then confesses her sins before going to bed, all-the-while fully intending to continue to live her fleshly lifestyle, believing that this is how the grace of God is applied.
Very commonly the scripture in Romans 8:1 that says, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus…” is often used to support such heresy. However, this is just another deception to support the “teachings of demons” we are warned about in 1Ti 4:1,2: “Now the Spirit says clearly that in the last times some people will abandon the faith by following deceitful spirits, the teachings of demons, and the hypocrisy of liars, whose consciences have been burned by a hot iron.”
It’s a deception because, although it’s scripture, it’s taken out of context. The entire scripture reads: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”
How can such open deception occur, even under Spirit-filled headship? I believe it begins with a lack of desperation to be near Jesus in all things, at all times. This results in a failure to “keep your eyes on things above and not on things below.” (Col 3:1). Remember, it was God’s original intent for man to only have God’s input, and whatever is not from faith in Him is sin. (Rom 14:23). As discussed previously, a lack of focus on Jesus with spirit to Spirit connection results in thinking in the carnal realm, a place where Satan has great influence. The flesh takes over, which wars against the Spirit (Gal 5:17). Romans 8:5-8 tells us:
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set our minds on the flesh leads to death, but to set our minds on the Spirit leads to life and peace. That is why the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile toward God. For it refuses to submit to the authority of God's law because it is powerless to do so. Indeed, those who are under the control of the flesh cannot please God.
what assurance do you have that you won’t fall into a trap of
deception? We are promised in Prov 8:17: “I love them that love
Me, and those that diligently seek Me shall find
Me.” And in Gal 5:16: “Walk in the Spirit and you will not
fulfill the lusts of the flesh.” (See the "Why Did God Hate Swine")
Jesus said to him, "'You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Mat 22:37)
This is how it’s supposed to be between God and us: a total love relationship. A side benefit, if we comply, is that there won’t be any unsubmitted areas for Satan to work his deceit in. Conversely, if there are areas of your life that you are holding back from submitting to the Lord and aligning with Him, and believe you are in full control, you are wide open to spiritual blindness and deception.
If we do find ourselves in deception and sin we need only go to Jesus, confess our sin and repent from it, and the forgiveness of God will be instantaneous and complete, which means full restoration to the point of having God’s own righteousness (Rom 3:22). That may be hard to fathom, but it's not to say we are as perfect as He is, only as righteous, which has to do with acceptance, not perfection.
One of the ways Satan uses deception is for the purpose of building personal prisons around individuals. Several years ago I had occasion to see this with what you might call “spiritual eyes.” One of my children was very close friends with a young teenage girl who had been horribly physically, sexually and emotionally abused by her father, who was obviously under a lot of demonic influence. Growing up with this kind of abuse, coupled with a family background steeped in witchcraft, gave Satan the perfect foundation for building strongholds in her life. She was convinced she was completely worthless and had no hope. She had even attempted suicide several times. She had a very difficult time reaching out, and couldn’t let anyone in.
As I mentioned, I got a look at her prison. I saw a beautiful young princess chained to a wall in a dungeon made of stones, each one very carefully placed. There was writing on each stone. These were the lies she had been believing about herself. From her perspective the stones were very solid and immovable. However, I could see that they were very transparent, as though they weren’t even there, and that she could walk right through them at any time. All she needed was to know that she could. But, there was a dragon walking back and forth around the outside of the dungeon making sure that each stone remained in place. Receiving a relationship with Jesus would break the chains, which would free her to then receive truth that would break the deception of the stones
She came into a Christian environment where she received a great deal of prayer and unconditional acceptance, and a lot of “Jesus loves you.” Once she finally reached out to the Lord, she could begin to receive truth and the stronghold began to crumble, stone by stone. Progress was made. She got married and has a family. Although this may be an extreme case, it is typical of how this type of stronghold works.
I’d like to finish with these thoughts: I have experienced many spiritual battles where all I had to do was to apply the Word in faith and receive the victory won by the Lord. I have also experienced how easy it is to suffer the loss that comes by slipping into carnal thinking, at least partly through spiritual complacency and apathy, what I believe to be two of the greatest enemies of the Church. These rise out of a satisfaction in where one is spiritually and can, in themselves, be a stronghold. They may not always seem like defeat in spiritual battle, but they will always result in loss compared to what could be, and can even result in being the subject of Jesus’ warning in Mat 13:22 about the seeds sown among thorn bushes. And also His warning in Revelation about loosing the first love, which speaks of complacency and apathy.
I can’t stress enough our need to comply with Paul’s advise in Phil 3:12-15:
It's not that I have already reached this goal or have already become perfect. But I keep pursuing it, hoping somehow to embrace it just as I have been embraced by Christ Jesus. Brothers, I do not consider myself to have embraced it. But this one thing I do: Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I keep pursuing the goal to win the prize of God's heavenly call in Christ Jesus. Therefore, those of us who are mature should think this way. And if you think differently about anything, God will show you how to think.