The Cross Walk-- Chapter 4

                                        FOUR – God’s Provision

     It does not take long for the child of God to realize he has a seriously focused and powerful enemy.  The

trappings of the world are all about, the lure of tough temptations lurk around every corner.  The flesh is weak

and vulnerable; as a result the enemy of the soul takes advantage of every opportunity to sow his seed of

discouragement and discontent.  Yes, this is an arduous place in which we live.  Many Christians feel as

though they take two steps forward and one step back, thereby seeing little or no advance.  No doubt about

it, life is hard; but hallelujah, God is good.  Jesus said, “’These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you

may have peace.  In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world’” (John

16:33).

     The enemy is certainly dedicated to destruction and is intent upon bringing believers down; however, thanks be to God, our position in Christ and His mighty provision assures us of victory.  This, along with our response of obedience, produces an unexplainable joy.

     More than anything the Father yearns for His children to rest in this truth and by faith appropriate His triumph.  Therefore, in grace, He provides each born-again person with the ever present indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  He stands ready not only to indwell, but also to also control and direct the believer’s life.  God Himself lives within to empower and protect each and every child of God.

     Also, graciously provided to each Christian is an efficacious defense system.  In Ephesians 6:10 – 19, this divine equipment is detailed.  Each piece of armor is vital and, as a whole, contributes to the believer’s defense against the world, the flesh, and the devil.

     Yet another assurance, which is ours in Christ (top circle), is the plain truth recorded in Romans 5 – 8.  Once saved we are no longer subject to Satan's controlling ways.  Watch out however, given a chance, he will insinuate and foist himself upon you.  The truth found in this Romans passage declares that Satan’s power has been neutralized, absolutely broken.  Obedience to this truth fosters freedom, victory, and in turn produces joy.

     Allocation by faith of these three provisions to life is a catalyst for Christ-like character—family resemblance.  This character is spelled out in Galatians 5 as the fruit of the Spirit.  In Chapter Three, the subject matter dealt with the first provision, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  In this chapter, we turn to the next two provisions, dealing first with the spiritual defense system detailed in Ephesians 6.

     God is amazing.  Not only does He tell us to be strong and stand firm against the enemy (Ephesians 6:10, 13, and 14), but He also has graciously given each the resources to do so.  No better example of this occurs in Scripture than here in Ephesians 6.  “. . . Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.  Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil” (6:10, 11).

     Christians must never forget this truth.  We stand competent only in God’s might and ability.  Facing the enemy with only our own ability is futile; in this mode, we lose every time.  On our own we are no match for the devil; thus, we are to put on the entire armor God supplies, each piece of the full armor (note also verse 13).  Effective, godly living demands believers not pick and choose only the pieces of armor, which are convenient or most pleasant and attractive.  One cannot expect maximum protection and productiveness unless all the pieces are employed.  Obedient Christians are careful by faith to strap on each piece in order to be at their peak of spiritual strength and vitality.  It is each one’s choice; God does not force His children to wear the armor.  In the Word, we are instructed about the armor and the need for it, but the final choice is left with each believer.

     The English phrase “put on” is translated from the Greek word “enduÓ” which means to clothe or be clothed with, in the sense of sinking into a garment.  Mark used the same word to describe the clothing of John the Baptist.  Likewise Paul, used it to describe the positional truth of the top circle—believers are “clothed in Christ” (Galatians 3:27).

     In Romans 13, Paul gave similar advice:  “. . . put on the armor of light, laying aside the deeds of darkness” (verse 12).  Just a sentence later he wrote, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts” (verse 14).

     Then earlier in Ephesians the apostle said, “Put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.”  Used in several New Testament passages this seems to be one of Paul’s favorite idioms (i.e. put on compassion, put on love, etc.  Check Colossians 3:10, 12; 1 Thessalonians 5:8).

     As was stated, the phrase “put on” means to be clothed in the sense of sinking into a garment.  Most people have favorite articles of clothing in which they feel most comfortable—an old ratty tee shirt, which you have had for as long as you can remember, or an old pair of shoes which look like they have been through a war, but they just feel so comfortable.  The Lord has given each of His children a custom-designed, tailor-made army-issue defense.  It fits like a glove; it never chafes or irritates, it is unbreakable; it is not some burdensome aggravation.  Put it on, enjoy it, use it in the Lord’s power and might to successfully meet the enemy.  The adversary has schemes—a word used in Scripture only by Paul and found both times in Ephesians (4:14 and 6:11).  The English word “method” is derived from this Greek word and it means crafty or deceitful.  You must understand that the enemy never fights fairly.  He has no scruples and honors no restraints.   Therefore, we must be at the peak of readiness, wearing the full armor God provides.

     In verse twelve Paul wasted no words to describe the enemy and the battle.  It is a struggle—an all out fight or wrestling match.  It is a spiritual encounter with the powers and authorities of darkness.

     Far too many believers wage war against other personalities, preachers, or groups.  Paul said that is the wrong battle; it is a waste of effort and energy.  Our fight is not a battle against the flesh.  The Greek word “sarx,” is translated “flesh” more than 125 times in the New Testament.  Sometimes it is translated “body” or “fellow countrymen”—more often than not it is a reference to others.  In essence Paul wrote, “Stop aiming your weapons upon one another—we are in a spiritual battle and in order to fight effectively you must use this spiritual defense system” (6:12).

     James and Peter reinforce the advice Paul gave in verse 13 in their New Testament letters.  James said submit and resist; submit to God and resist the devil.  That is the proper order; do not try to reverse these two verbs, because resisting the devil in our own power without allegiance or obedience to Mighty God is ill advised and actually futile.  The end result of proper action will cause the enemy to flee, literally tuck tail and run.  The devil does not want to be around anyone who is obedient to, and reliant, upon God.  Why?  Because he knows he is whipped before the fighting begins (James 4:7, 8).  Peter also gave his direction—“Be of sober spirit, be on the alert.  Your adversary, the devil prowls about like a roaring lion seeking some to devour.  But resist him, firm in your faith . . . “(1 Peter 5:8, 9a).  Set yourself against him; oppose him continually remembering he is the enemy.  Stand firm in Christ and give the devil no ground or advantage.

     Christians fight Satan’s lie with truth (Ephesians 6:14).  We stand against evil and ungodliness with righteousness (6:14).  Believers engage conflict and discord with peace (6:15).  We shield ourselves from doubt with faith (6:16).  In the face of worldly ways and advice, we hold up the eternal, living Word of God and the message it contains—the gospel of grace (6:17).  These are invincible weapons of defense and, when used with complete trust and faith by the believer, victory is sure.

     The third provision given to every born-again believer is the resounding truth found in the living and eternal Word of God.  It is wonderfully summarized in Romans five through eight.  This New Testament book is a mighty document full and running over with liberating truth.  Jesus said to know the truth is to know freedom (John 8:32).

    Satan knows that if he can keep Christians ignorant of, or indifferent toward the truth, then he can keep Christians impotent, feeble, and ineffective.  Therefore, dive into the truth and be unchained!  Never forget that the devil is nothing less than a scam artist, a con man, a hustler.  He is a master manipulator and liar.  He skulks and slithers through the slime of deceit and intimidation.  He will boldly barge into any life completely uninvited and unwanted.  No wonder Ephesians 6:18 sounds the warning:  “be alert.”

     This third provision, found in Romans, is complete and reads like a well-written declaration of facts:  Christians are in Christ and no longer need to live under the control of a merciless master, who only uses and abuses.  Satan is no longer in control.  Peter wrote of the devil as a prowling lion who roars (1 Peter 5:8).  A lion is a fierce and dangerous animal, which has the ability to utterly destroy his victim.  I sure would not want to be in a cage alone with a lion.  But, our Protector, the Lord Jesus, solidly cages the lion of which Peter and Paul spoke.  There is no doubt this massive beast will use his belligerent roar to scare and intimidate—but his roar can never hurt us.

     David had the same impression in mind as he penned Psalm 23—“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me . . .” (verse 4).  Shadowy figures in the night can play tricks; however, that is the extent of their deeds.  Like shadows, death—Satan’s greatest threat—is powerless to harm the born-again believer, our Protector is with us and we are free.

     In the first six verses of Romans 7, Paul used an illustration to shed light upon the truth of freedom from our old master.  Paul said as long as a wife’s husband lives, she is “bound by law to her husband” (7:2).  In other words, she is obligated to him and must be faithful.  However, if her husband died—she is absolutely free to marry another (7:3), and enjoy a loving relationship with him.  Her responsibility to the first husband is negated—death has freed her from any obligation.  Likewise believers have been released from the mastery of Satan—we are dead to him and his power; Christ has liberated us in order that we may “serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter” (Romans 7:6).

     Several years ago a popular prime time television show had many people of the nation parroting “the devil made me do it.”  Unfortunately that line may cause some to laugh; however, it is also as old as the Garden of Eden.  After Adam partook of the forbidden fruit and God asked him why he had disobeyed, he tried to pawn off the blame on another—“God do not blame me, the woman You made for me, made me do it” (Genesis 3:112).  In a sense, Adam is trying to pin the blame on God rather than squarely accepting personal blame and responsibility.  This is a favorite ploy of Satan, and he constantly fosters its use in mankind.  Blame anyone or anything, just not yourself:  “It is not my fault, blame my environment, my parents, my lack of education, or whatever—just don’t blame me!”  The Bible says that everyone is a sinner by nature and by choice (Romans 3:23; 5:12).  We were all born with the want-to to sin.

     God furnishes for the one who has been born again, and forgiven, this third provision;  Christians no longer need to hide behind this flimsy excuse because God stands ready to empower His children to say “no” to Satan, his temptations, tricks, and power.  He no longer has any authority.  Because we belong to Christ and have His life, we must learn to reject the enemy’s leadership.  “Do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts . . . For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace” (Romans 6:12, 14).

     Romans 8 begins with no condemnation and ends with no separation.  “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1 [italics added]).  Before salvation, we were found in Adam and were condemned and judged by God.  Since conversion, we are forgiven and we are His forever (i.e. the top circle).  “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38, 39 [italics added]).

     Learning the truth of Scripture will lead the born-again believer into a deeper and more intimate relationship with the Heavenly Father.  It will stimulate more family resemblance, cultivate more Christ-likeness.  Read Paul’s words found in Romans 8:29—“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the first-born among many brothers” (NIV).

     The Father desires we look and act like our elder Brother, the Lord Jesus.  That is His determination.  In 2 Peter 3:9, the apostle shared that the Father would have everyone come to Him for salvation, that none should perish.  God wants a big family, and there is always room for another.  He is not only interested in quantity, but also is quality.  It is His divine plan that His own would continually mature in Christ and take on His characteristics.

     These characteristics of Christ may be found in the nine-fold fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22 and 23.  The list begins with love, for out of that flow the other traits:  joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  First Corinthians 13 also paints a pen portrait of Christ—for every mention of “love,” replace it with “Christ.”  You may then substitute our own name for the word “love” and measure your own Christ-likeness.

     These are three wonderful provisions from the Father’s hand to His children helping them know His victory and grow in His likeness.  These precious provisions are more than doctrines to know; they are truths to believe.  God only traffics in truth, because He cannot lie (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18).  All of this is ours because of His marvelous grace and love.  What is our response?  May obedience motivated by our love for Him be our goal and He will reward us with His joy, which is unexplainable.

Copyright © 2010 by J. Michael Fox

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