The world today seems almost to be spinning out of control. Fear has gripped the hearts of millions whose minds cannot fathom what is transpiring before their eyes. The terms "helpless" and "hopeless" may be among those most commonly used to describe one's feelings. What is the reason, and why do even Christians experience such dread when they look around at the current downward spiral?
The answer can be traced to one thing. That "one thing" is an enemy so cleverly masked it is rarely, if ever, recognized. What, or who, is our greatest enemy, and why is it so hard to detect?
The Holy Spirit has been prompting me daily, giving me thoughts to record as I prepared to write what He is saying. Come along with me now as we expose this enemy and its profoundly insidious deception.
Although the title of this article may sound dramatic, it is nondescript compared to the disastrous influence the "greatest enemy" has had throughout history. Particularly today we see the prevalence of this most despicable thing. In the entire world, both secular and religious, everything that is wrong can be traced to this one enemy. On these pages, we will uncover the far-reaching influence this enemy has had, and still has.
Most recently, the world has watched with great interest the unfolding drama centered on America's election of a new president. In the weeks and months leading up to November 4, 2008, the world's financial systems have taken an enormous plunge, much like the one leading to the Great Depression of the 1930's. At the core of both these, as well as other phenomena, there is one thing to be blamed. That thing is our greatest enemy.
Before anyone accuses me of being too simplistic, let me assure you that the Bible supports such a statement. In every aspect of what many believe to be the "Body of Christ" this enemy is at the root of not only some, but ALL that is not right before God.
To discover where this enemy came from, we need to go back to . . .
In Genesis, soon after the recorded account of creation, we learn how this enemy made its entry into the world - or more specifically, mankind. The enemy was so destructive that it ultimately would result in "death" for every person born on this earth. Such a fact should come as no surprise, since the LORD God said man would die if he acquired the knowledge of good and evil from eating the forbidden fruit of that tree. How did man die? He became independent from God because the forbidden fruit gave him the ability to be "as God" knowing good and evil. He died spiritually when he became elevated in the strength of self, and in so doing created the greatest enemy mankind would ever have to deal with.
The enemy we are talking about is FLESH!
You may say, "Wait a minute! Is not the devil our greatest enemy?"
Take a look at what he really did. His sin of self-exaltation resulted in his removal from God's kingdom. But he didn't stop there. He still wanted a kingdom of his own. His method then was to deceive man into self-exaltation, which Satan knew would produce similar results to his own self-exaltation and ultimate fall. And man would become his own worst enemy. Although he became a part of Satan's kingdom--the kingdom of this world--man was on a path to self-destruction through all that his flesh was capable of. Satan merely had to tempt man's flesh, and flesh did the rest. To this day, Satan still tempts and deceives while flesh willingly complies.
Ever since Adam (mankind) was reduced to a creature of mortal flesh through the knowledge of good and evil, every person has been born in this man-likeness. God's answer to man's self-inflicted devastation was to send His Son in that likeness of sinful flesh to destroy flesh and bring Life to all who come to put their trust in Him.
Isaiah prophesied of the punishment Jesus would endure. In chapter 53:6, Isaiah told how man "like sheep has gone astray" and has "turned every one to his own way." That 53rd chapter describes the dreadful beatings Jesus' flesh would suffer. God's wrath against flesh was poured out on His Son who came as man in the flesh for that very purpose. This is also the reason why John says, "he is antichrist" that denies Jesus came in the flesh.
Jesus Himself described his sacrifice of flesh with these words: "I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world." (John 6:51 EMTV)
But has man always chosen Life? No; we know he has not. What a simple message of redemption, yet man insists on going his own way!
The manifestation of flesh
First we will look at what man's choice has done, not only in the Body of Christ but also in the world. Or, should we say "especially in the world?"
In Noah's day, man had become "only evil," and the LORD God declared "My spirit will not strive with man forever, for that he also is flesh." (Genesis 6:3) Then He, regretting He had made man, said He would destroy all flesh in a flood. We all know the rest of the story.
In the New Testament, we are told that the days before Christ's return to earth will be as those in the days of Noah. (Luke 17:26) I doubt that any person today would argue the fact we have reached that point. Millions of people carry on with plans as though nothing has changed. Even if they have noticed things worsening, they think it will return to normal and life will go on. The passage in Luke 17 also refers to the last days as being like those of Lot's time when "they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building; . . ." (Luke 17:28b EMTV)
In most of the world, the tax-paying public has been subjected to down-right robbery and squandering of their hard-earned income. But first, these same taxpayers, through the lust of the flesh, have given themselves over to bondage to creditors. The news headlines give daily reports of financial "help," amounting to billions of dollars, being given to mega-financial institutions to keep the "credit flowing." And all of it just to place people in greater bondage to the ruthless creditors.
In account after account of similar scenarios, many wish to lay blame on this person or that politician, or that failed program, but there is only one enemy. And THAT enemy is flesh! John gave us a clue to this, when he said "For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world." (1 John 2:16)
Let's examine that verse a little more closely. The Greek word for lust means "longing." The longing of man's flesh has placed him in bondage to financial indebtedness. Why? Because the longing of the eyes [Greek: "envy"] has caused man to covet more than he could afford. Why was he not more cautious in his choices? The answer is found in the next phrase, "pride of life," which literally means "self-confidence in his [means of] livelihood," as the Greek dictionary reveals. Of course, that verse applies to more than only the financial aspect of our lives.
Works of the flesh
Aside from the enormous financial mess the world is in, there are innumerable other things that greatly disturb people these days. Most recently, in America and Canada, elections were held for the highest office in the land. In the months leading up to Election Day the media carried the on-going narrative of vicious attacks made by one person against another. It seems the nastier things someone uttered against an opponent, the more points he scored for his side. One would have to exaggerate to call these people "gentlemen and ladies." Paul the Apostle used clearly descriptive words for the depths to which some people stoop. They can be found in Galatians 5:19b-21, which gives a list of "works of the flesh." . . . adultery, fornication, immorality, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envies, murders, drinking bouts, revelries, and the like; which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (EMTV)
In light of such behavior, is the Body of Christ guilty of the same works of the flesh manifested in the political arena of late? What does the Bible have to say to us? We find the answer in Paul's words to Timothy.
Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made on behalf of all men, on behalf of kings and all those who are in authority, that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. For this is good and acceptable before God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the full knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4 EMTV)
It does not matter how distressed we may become at what is taking place all around us, God's expectation is clearly laid out for us in His Word. We can never "dress up" works of the flesh to make them appear righteous. Man may be fooled but God will not be ridiculed, as Paul said in Galatians 6: 7-8.
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for what a man sows, this also he will reap. For he who sows to his flesh, from his own flesh will reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap everlasting life. (EMTV)
The Apostle Peter also addressed the matter of our responsibility toward those in leadership. Here are his words:
Beloved, I implore you as sojourners and pilgrims, to abstain from the lusts of the flesh which war against the soul; having your manner of life noble among the Gentiles, so that, whenever they speak against you as evildoers, when they observe the good works, they may glorify God in the day of visitation. Therefore subject yourselves to every human institution on account of the Lord: whether to the king as to one having authority, or to governors, as to those being sent for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those doing good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may silence the ignorance of foolish men--as free, yet not using freedom as a cover for wickedness, but as bondservants of God. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king. Servants, subject yourselves to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the crooked. For this is admirable, if because of conscience toward God someone endures pain, suffering unjustly. (1 Peter 2:11-19 EMTV)
It is too easy to point our fingers at the corrupt systems of government, and ungodly politicians, when there is sufficient to keep us busy "working out our own salvation with fear and trembling." Do we need to repent of our disobedience to the Word of God? It is truly amazing the transformation in our hearts when we pray as the Lord asks of us. I know of no better way of learning to love another than by praying for them. When we take our eyes off "self" and pray earnestly for another, it is God who works His love in us. Just imagine how different our world would be if every one who names the Name of Christ had prayed for leaders at all levels of government! The reason we are in such a mess is . . .
The apostate gospel has produced a would-be body of Christ. This body has been "converted" through the preaching of a candy-coated, kindergarten-colored, wishy-washy "gospel" about an easy "Jesus" who is just waiting to proudly present them to the world as His "bride." But many have not met the real Jesus whose Spirit immediately begins to transform the new believer into His likeness. In a true believer, it is the Christ-likeness that is seen by others. In a pseudo-believer, the flesh is what is visible.
As we covered in the "Apostate Gospel" article, these pseudo-believers actually believe they are ready to meet Jesus because they said a little prayer at the prompting of some "soul winner" or at an "evangelistic" crusade. But what really happened? Did the Spirit of God minister Truth to their spirit and begin the work of regeneration in them? In far too many cases, NOTHING happened except a few ritualistic words were uttered and the person was told they were now "born again."
Jesus warned of the false prophets who would come as "wolves in sheep's clothing." His words can be found in Matthew 7:15, where He says, "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves." He follows with "You shall know them by their fruits . . ."
The problem is that people, having eyes and ears of flesh, are deceived by these plundering "wolves" who appeal to the flesh. Their words are so stupefying that the hearers fail to take notice of what kind of fruit is present in the "ministries" of these deceivers. Their "fruit" is dead and decaying. It can only spread more decay to the dead flesh in those who are mesmerized by the "greatness" and the influence of these "charismatic" personalities.
If the full gospel of Jesus as crucified and risen Christ is preached, the Spirit will convict souls of their sinful, helpless state of mortal flesh. Only the Holy Spirit can convict anyone. All the grand, descriptive sermons that present a fluffy gospel to attract souls without speaking Truth will accomplish nothing. The hearers will remain flesh, albeit possibly now "religious flesh" in a realm where Satan dispatches religious spirits to aid in fleshly endeavors. Unless the true Gospel is preached, the Holy Spirit is not there to do the work of God.
Oswald Chambers made a clear statement on the importance of preaching Jesus.
If we preach the effects of Redemption in human life instead of the revelation regarding Jesus, the result in those who listen is not new birth, but refined spiritual culture, and the Spirit of God cannot witness to it because such preaching is in another domain. (Emphasis mine)
The effects of Redemption can be seen in a believer who has come to Jesus at the Spirit's prompting. The only gospel the Holy Spirit bears witness to is the Gospel of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. If a preacher appeals to the hearers on the basis of their sinful deeds, the Spirit cannot witness to it, because that preacher is preaching the effects of Redemption--not the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The preacher may list all the despicable works of the flesh he can think of, but they are only fruit of the flesh. He must get to the root of the problem, which is flesh itself. The true Gospel is that which proclaims Life through death to self. Jesus said if He is lifted up, HE will draw all men unto Himself. Where do we get the idea we must "lift up" the "sins" of the people to shame them into believing a false gospel? Any change that comes is merely efforts in the flesh to perform to a new standard. There is no regeneration; the "new convert" is still flesh.
I know this flies in the face of the popular "gospel" preached by the majority of modern-day preachers. So, let me show you from the Word a few passages that will help you see what we are talking about.
The true Gospel - the Cross of Christ
The words of the Apostle Paul clearly describe the power of the Cross of Christ. Let's start with this passage from his first letter to the Corinthians.
For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ should be deprived of its power. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:17-18 EMTV)God's Spirit cannot and will not use the "wisdom" of flesh preachers who do not preach the message of the Cross. Now look at more of Paul's message.
Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, God was well pleased, through the foolishness of our preaching, to save those that believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called [Greek: "saints"], both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (1 Corinthians 1:20b-24 EMTV)
The remainder of that first chapter includes the 26th verse which says, "For you see your calling, brothers, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many powerful, not many noble, are called." Paul is speaking of those whom God will use, as opposed to the "wise" in the eyes of man, or the great orators we have in abundance today also. Paul continues his letter with these words:
And I, brothers, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom, announcing to you the testimony of God. . . . And my message and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, in order that your faith might not be in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:1, 4-5 EMTV)
Someone made an excellent point when he said, "The best sermons are lived, not preached." (Anonymous)
Dying to self
Without exception, every thing that is wrong in the "church" of Jesus Christ can be traced to flesh and man's reliance upon self. Hebrews 11:6 clearly tells us that "without faith it is impossible to be well-pleasing to God." Faith is not something we "do." If it were, then WE would be something. Let's use an example to clarify the point. In his booklet, Ye Are The Branches, Andrew Murray describes the "higher life" in these words:
If I am something, then God is not everything; but when I become nothing, God can become all, and the everlasting God in Christ can reveal Himself fully.
The best sermons
The words of the Apostle Paul fit well here. He wrote to the Galatians, "For if anyone thinks that he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself." (Galatians 6:3 EMTV)
The most common malady in Christianity is the idea that we "must" work for God because He needs us. This comes from our flesh! We have little concept of the power of God, and what He will do through one who has died to self and flesh. I have been asked the question, "Are we to just be lazy and do nothing?" Andrew Murray, in Ye Are The Branches, addresses that very thing.
No one who learns to rest upon the living Christ can become slothful, for the closer your contact with Christ the more of the Spirit of His zeal and love will be borne in upon you.
Paul constantly emphasized the importance of death to self. A well-known passage is found in Romans 7, where he uses himself as an example to elaborate on the battle between flesh and following the will of God.
O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from this body of death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself with the mind serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.The chapter break interrupts his continuing thought, which goes on with these words:
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and of death. (Rom 7:24 -25; 8:1-2 EMTV)
Paul knew the kind of example he should be if he was to effectively be a preacher of the Gospel. He was mindful of what others would see in him, and especially what the Lord would see. In his first letter to the Corinthians, he said, "But I keep under [Greek: 'subdue'] my body (flesh), and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway [Greek: 'be rejected']." (1 Corinthians 9:27)
Path to life
The reality is this:
We go from God who created man in His image/spirit, giving life
. . . to fallen man who, separated from God, reproduced mortals in his likeness/flesh (or) death
. . . to Christ who came to reconcile fallen man to God and who, in man-likeness, put mortal flesh to death for all--THE death
. . . to recreated man whom Christ THE Life transforms into His own image/spirit--new life/new creation
It is a matter of Life and death, which is also Spirit and flesh. The choice is simple.
We know that we have passed over from death to life, because we love the brothers. He who does not love his brother abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. (1 John 3:14-15 EMTV)
Christ Our Life
"When Christ, who is our life, shall be manifested..." (Colossians 3:4)
T. Austin-Sparks wrote the short article, Christ Our Life; the first two paragraphs of which I quote here. (The full article is a must read and can be found on the T. Austin-Sparks web site at the above link.)
One of the main objects of the Holy Spirit is to get believers really identified with Christ as the risen and exalted Lord, and to make His risen life real in their experience. As the age moves toward its consummation - the manifestation of Christ - two features will become increasingly evident. On the one hand things, men, movements, institutions, organizations, etc., will predominate and draw multitudes after them, and will attach the crowds to themselves. On the other hand, with a growing disappointment and disillusionment over these, a minority will turn to the Lord Himself to find Him alone as their life.
Three elements will inhere in all this. One is the unmistakable development of the principle of Anti-christ; that which will definitely supplant Christ, or intend to do so. The second is the alternative to the whole Christ in man-made Christianity, an imitation life born and carried on by its own momentum. The third, a deep and genuine quest for reality, truth, and inward knowledge of the Lord Himself. In the first case it will be naked worship of man in human power: a tremendous overflow of humanism, the wonder and glory of man. The third will be Christ altogether as the life.
The way up is down
The only way to God is through humility. He receives those who are humble and contrite. If we are to have "God's grace" there is only one way. An example of this can be found in the account of Paul's "thorn in the flesh." To keep Paul in humility, the Lord sent a messenger of Satan to buffet him "lest I exalt myself above measure." (2 Corinthians 12:7b EMTV) Just before that, Paul had been taken to the third heaven and experienced things of which he dared not speak. When Paul's thorn in the flesh came, he prayed that it be removed, but the Lord told him it was to keep him humble and to keep him trusting God and knowing His Grace. We know from that passage how the humble Paul was thankful for his weakness, because only in weakness could he know God's strength.
Someone was discussing with Andrew Murray the fact that God honors trust in Him, and he asked Murray the question, "But how am I to get that trust?" Andrew Murray's reply was,
By the death of self. The great hindrance to trust is self-effort. So long as you have got your own wisdom and thoughts and strength, you cannot fully trust God.
- Kept by the Power of God
If Jesus is the Vine, and we are the branches, what are the pseudo-believers whose root is in their flesh? Do they look like branches at all? What kind of fruit do they bear, if any? Yes, they talk about Jesus Who "came to forgive sins." But what about Jesus Who came to be our Life? The problem is that they want to remain self, giving only their sins to be washed away, rather than be willing to die to self.
Jesus said, "It is the Spirit who makes alive; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life." (John 6:63 EMTV) Just remember that the Spirit of Truth can only quicken Truth to the hearts of hearers. It is time for an end to the lies of flesh that have damned souls for centuries. It is time for all who desire to know God fully to be willing to go the way of the Cross, and let the Power of the risen Christ put to death any flesh that remains in us.
The night is advanced, the day is at hand. Therefore let us put off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light . . . put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, for its lusts. (Rom 13:12 & 14 EMTV) I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall by no means fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these things oppose each other, so that you do not do the things that you wish. . . And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and lusts. (Galatians 5:16-17, 24 EMTV)
I am He who lives, and became dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Death and of Hades. (Revelation 1:18 EMTV)
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