We are now in Jamaica into the second week of Lent. And a friend, now long gone to glory, used to observe that the Devil is especially "let loose" during Lent. I suppose for rebel forces and the people fighting for a new democracy, in Libya, they must have felt that the forces of hell were let loose against them this week. Thank God for the news that a coalition of western countries have enforced successfully the UN no-fly zone over Libya. We here in Jamaica, have seen evil forces on the rise again in our country, with gunmen attacking a police station. And then the terrible news broke this week of a young child, shot dead by another child, who apparently found a gun hidden and began playing with it. One cannot begin imagine the grief in that house. Then later on this week, another youngster died from wounds suffered when a goal post fell on him at school. And everyone is hoping that there will be no further, " embarrassing moments", when our Prime Minister is subjected to cross examination this week by lawyers seeking to unearth the truth, as the Mannatt Commission comes to a close.
The reality is, however, that whatever means the evil one uses to wreak havoc in the world, his goal is to undermine the influence of God, and his strategy is to lie. This is the word from the Lord this week in different forms. But it began with a direct message.
REJECTING THE LIAR CHRIS TIEGEN
IN WORD Not only will Satan lie to us about ourselves; he will lie to us about God. Just as we may count on the fact that any search for fulfillment in something other than God and His gifts is futile, we may count on the fact that the enemy will lie to us about the character of the Father.
Have you heard him? Any hint that God is not trustworthy comes from him. Any nagging doubt that perhaps God's promises are not entirely reliable came from him. Any subtle thought that depicts a God made in the likeness of corruptible human beings, with petty thoughts and an unforgiving spirit, is his work. He is a liar and the father of lies. Nothing he says is legitimate.
Satan is out to distort God's image. He poisons our understanding by inspiring false philosophies, by offering false promises, and even manipulating the Word of God to say what it does not really say. He is not so much interested in our thoughts and our captivity. he is interested in degrading the reputation of God on earth. In that pursuit, he is zealous.
IN DEED We let him get away with it, don't we? Any time we question God's goodness, distort His Word, pursue unbiblical insights, or craft our own image of God to suit our own purposes, we have fallen for the lies. The world is full of false deities.
" God " has become the force, the embodiment of " love"( by our definition), the philosophical first cause, a distant observer, the opiate of the masses, a psychological crutch, and a host of other impersonal, unholy entities. Why? Because Satan is a liar and we far too often believe him.
The father of lies has many children. Where in this world can we turn for safety? To what bedrock may we anchor to avoid tossing around on the waves of phony concepts? Jesus gives us the answer: " You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free"( vs 32). This truth is a person( John 14:6). Cling to Him and believe no one else.
It's amazing that today, during a sermon, I was moved by the Spirit to question if we believe that , " The Word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two edged sword". Further, we believe that that Word speaks about the character of God.
That, " The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love". Also that " My thoughts are higher than your thoughts and my ways higher than your ways".This in relation to the question posed,
" What do you believe God would do with Dudus who has caused so much trouble in the land, with those public officials who have lied before the commission, with Vybes Kartel and his leading little children astray, with that reportedly " foul mouthed" and openly uncouth former member of parliament Everald Warmington, with the person who left the gun unattended and caused indirectly the death of that little boy? What would God really do with them? Tell them to go to hell! Burn them up with fire! Let them drop dead immediately! No! That's the lie that Satan would like us to believe. That God is a vengeful God. But what does His Word really say in Ezekiel 18:23
" Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather am I not pleased when they turn from their wicked ways and live". The fact is that God is far more willing than man to forgive, and forgive, and forgive. And forget all our sins, if we would only turn and repent and accept His gift of forgiveness in and through the shed Blood of Jesus Christ on the Cross of Calvary. That's why the inspired word of God in one of our great hymns, " To God be the Glory! Great things he hath done", says:
" O perfect redemption, the purchase of blood!
To every believer the promise of God;
The vilest offender who truly believes,
That moment from Jesus a pardon receives
So there is hope for Mr. Coke and other reputed " drug dons". For public officials who have been economical with the truth, for the wayward dancehall artistes and parliamentarians who have lost their way in life and even for those who leave instruments so of death unattended. No doubt it is this love of God that passeth all human understanding, that moved Boehoeffer, that great German theologian and martyr to write, " It is much easier to imagine a praying murderer or a praying prostitute, than a vain person praying". Nothing is all so at odds with prayer than vanity" - inspired by Satan's lies, that we are not so bad after all ( my words).
Christians have every reason to identify with those who seem to be beyond any hope of reaching God. As contrary to what Satan would have us believe, this is the evidence of our former condition, as revealed by God's Word.
" ....remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ". Ephesians 2: 12-13 NIV.
Two other related issues the Lord spoke about this week. One is that we need to be careful how we speak. And, therefore, do not allow Satan's lies that we are to curse the wicked, to deceive us.
" Careful how you speak and how we judge. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father and with it we curse men who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth comes both praise and cursing. My brothers this should not be."
James 3: 9-10 NIV
Is there a lesson to be learned here in how we join with the world in " cursing" those who offend us. Others who have yet to appreciate the extent of God's goodness and mercy towards them, may be excused. But not us who have been rescued by the Blood of the Lamb. We, who according to God's Word, " Even while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us", can never for afford to forget such mercy. And thus we have to be very careful how we treat with those who are gone astray.
Secondly is the fact that we not need not only to refrain from judging, but more importantly to seek after the stray.
" My brothers, if some of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins". James
A prominent pastor is now on trial for his involvement in attempting to " carry Dudus to safety at the US Embassy". Depending on what God has seen in His heart, he may well be vindicated at a higher courts of justice. Or otherwise.
In that regard I was very struck by a few verses in the Psalm appointed for today in my church.
" From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind; and from his dwelling place he watches over all who live on earth -
he who forms the hearts of all, who considers all they do". Psalm 33:13-14 NIV
A passage which is amazingly similar to :
" For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any two edged sword, it penetrates even to diving soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give an account". Hebrews 4: 12-13 NIV
If we are not careful we forget abut our own issues before God, and focus on the " sins " of other. Which is what the enemy wishes us to do. To lose focus. So we had better be careful about our own hearts and be careful how we " look forward" for the Prime Minister to be exposed next week. Or for Ragashanti or Vybes Kartel to be banished forever. Or for Mr Warmington to be sent off to some " far land by himself to learn civility". For God knows the hearts of all, and all truth will be revealed in due course. And to Him alone will everyone have to give an account. So we all have a lot of thoughts and deeds for which we need to repent. As church and as a people. And I freely admit and repent of the fact that I am one of those who needs frogiveness before a merciful and compassionate God.
And so my friends, the early church fathers in their wisdom, and no doubt inspired by the Holy Spirit, gave the world Lent, so that we could spend quality time in repentance of our many many sins. Including following the lies of Satan. That's why no doubt our grandmothers taught that : belief kill and belief cure. So be careful what you believe. Amen