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THE ARMOR OF GOD 7 Truths to Identify and Be Victorious Against Your True Enemy By Brian S. Holmes Is your enemy your government, other nations, sinful cultural trends, terrorism, political party, or global poverty? Maybe you feel like your selfish spouse, your health, your financial struggles, or your own bad habits are your worst enemy? Did you know they’re not your true enemy? In this lesson we’ll discuss what is and how to effectively fight against it with 7 biblical truths. Truth #1: Our True Enemy is Sin and Satan/demons. Our primary struggle is against spiritual evil. Ephesians 6:12 says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” They’re also described in Colossians 2:15, Ephesians 2:2, and 2 Corinthians 4:4. The bad things previously listed only exist because of human sin and demonic influence. They’re the root cause. Romans 6 teaches that all who sin are slaves to sin and the outcome of sin is death. Hebrews 2:14 says Satan, the devil, holds the power of death, because we’re held in slavery by our fear of death. When we commit sin or if we lose our confidence in the Gospel about our past sins being forgiven and washed away, we give authority and power to Satan to hold sin against us and have increased access in our lives. Truth #2: The Church is Satan’s primary target. Christians sometimes falsely think that Satan’s causing evil and sin in the world but he doesn’t much bother with Christians. Yes, he’s the prince of this world (cf. John 12:31) and the lowercase G “god” of this age (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:4). But he’s also the thief that comes to steal, kill, and destroy the sheep (cf. John 10:10) as is numerously called “our Adversary.” Revelation 12:17 describes Satan as determined “to wage war against the rest of her offspring--those who keep God's commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus.” Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 2:11 not to let Satan outwit us by not learning and being unaware of his schemes. Truth #3: The Gospel provides Everything we need for Victory. 1 Corinthians 15:56-57 says, “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Jesus has broken the power of sin and death over us! He’s purchased for us total forgiveness of sin, eternal life, and adoption into God’s family. He’s also given us power and authority over demons and all spiritual evil, and He empowers us by His Spirit to be victorious. Truth #4: God allows our Faith to be Tested through attacks. Ephesians 6:11 says, “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” Ephesians 6:14 says, “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” Revelation 14:12 says, “This calls for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep his commands and remain faithful to Jesus.” Peter understood how God allows believers to be tested. Jesus told Peter he was going to be sifted by Satan, and even fail three times, but he wouldn’t fall away permanently (cf. Luke 22:31-32). In his letter 1 Peter 5:10 he says, “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” Truth #5: You need to Wear Defensive Armor. First, remain mentally alert. 1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Second, fix your mind on your new identity as a child of God and disciple of Jesus. Ephesians 6:17 says to wear our confidence in our own salvation like a helmet, allowing it to guard our mind and thoughts. Ephesians 6:14 says to “stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place.” The truth of the Gospel holds the rest of our armor and all other beliefs/practices in place. It’s the truth of the Gospel, and the forgiveness of our sin and imputation of Christ’s righteousness to us, that protect us. It’s our newfound blamelessness over our past sin, as well as our ongoing Spirit-led victory over future sin temptation, that protects our heart and internal organs. That’s if we trust in God’s promises and wear them as though our life depends on them - because it does! Our final defense found in Ephesians 6:16 is “the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” Again, our defensive shield is our trust in our faith in the Gospel. Truth #6: You need to Fight with Offensive Weapons. In addition to remaining alert for defense we need to remain alert for offense too. We need to live by the Holy Spirit, led by and walking in step with Him. Since this is a spiritual battle we must fight it with spiritual weapons, namely prayer and the Word of God (the Bible) which Ephesians 6:17 calls the Sword of the Spirit. Hebrews 4:12 says “the word of God is alive and active, sharper than any double-edged sword.” Jesus demonstrated how to use God’s Word against Satan in His wilderness temptation in Matthew 4. Ephesians 6:18 says to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” Our prayers asked and answered are a powerful weapon for us. Truth #7: Our Strength comes from Trust in the Lord. Ephesians 6:10 says, “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” It is HIS power, not ours, that gives us the strength to win. James 4:7 says, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” 1 Peter 5:9 says, “Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” Our ability to resist the devil’s attacks relies on how close we are to God. Stand firm in your faith in the Gospel, draw near to God and you’ll increase your strength and protection plus further develop your relationship with God and transformation into Christ’s likeness. Heavenly Father, lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Gospel Transformation By Brian S. Holmes Perhaps you’ve compared other religious figures and what they said and did with who Jesus was and what He said and did. There’s really no comparison! In John 14:6 Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Jesus radiated with light and truth and goodness and beauty and love. He was sinless. He had authority. He walked on water, raised the dead, forgave sins, and had compassion for people. He died and then defeated death, rising from the dead transformed and glorified. No one can compare to Him! Perhaps you’ve heard the Gospel and believed it but you’re not sure exactly how you should live for Jesus today. The Gospel, which means the “good news” is the message that we’re all sinners guilty of breaking God’s law but God became a man in the person of Jesus of Nazareth and died for our sins on the cross. And through faith in Him alone we are redeemed, adopted by God the Father, and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, and given a new life and purpose. It says in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” The Gospel, when fully embraced, will radically transform our lives in at least four ways: Redemption, Adoption, Pastored, and Purposed. Redeemed. The first way the Gospel transforms us is through our redemption. To be redeemed means we were “purchased back” by God. We’ve all sinned and fallen short of God’s righteous standards. Do you realize you’re a sinner? Or do you think you’re already a good person? 1 John 1:8 says, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” Jesus said in John 8:34, “everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” The truth is that we deserve God’s wrath, and it is already upon us. Jesus told us our need for Him; there are only two options: God’s gracious offer of forgiveness for those who belong to Jesus and God’s wrath for those who reject Him. In John 3:36 Jesus said, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” Good deeds won’t make us acceptable to God, especially when our efforts to “do good” come from a faithless heart still in rebellion to Him and not driven by love for Him. Isaiah 64:6 says even our righteous acts are like filthy rags in God’s sight. But we don’t have to feel guilty for not being perfect because Jesus is perfect and He is our way to perfection. Examine your own heart. Do you feel guilty about your past? Do you feel shame about things you’ve done? Maybe you beat yourself up every day because of the terrible ways you sinned against God, or the ways you hurt yourself or others. The good news is that you don’t need to earn your forgiveness. It is freely given to us as a gift from God the moment we put our faith and trust in Jesus! So give all those garbage thoughts and toxic emotions to Jesus right this second. Jesus already died for those sins so you don’t need to pay for them too! (not that you could) So don’t you dare hang on to them! Jesus gave Himself as a ransom for you and you are now redeemed (purchased back) from the debt of your sins. Your debt has been paid in full! You’re also set free from your bondage to sin and the consequences of sin including separation from God, judgment, death, and Hell. Continuously give it all to Jesus and live in the peace of God every day. Adopted. The second way the Gospel transforms our life is that we get a brand new identity as an adopted child of God. Galatians 4:5 says Jesus came, “to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.” Jesus didn’t just die for us just to take away our guilt and our punishment. He also did it to make the way for us to receive an entirely new identity, life, future, and relationship with God. Ephesians 1 says God “predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ” and this is because, in Christ, we’re “God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” Jesus is the only-begotten (one-of-a-kind) Son of God. He’s fully God meaning He’s of the same divine essence as God the Father. As John chapter one describes, Jesus is the eternally-existent Word of God that became a man, conceived miraculously in the womb of the virgin Mary by the Spirit of God. Jesus makes our sonship possible through Him. By believing in Jesus we are spiritually put in Him. And not only are we in Him He is also in us! We are “marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance.” And what or who is the Holy Spirit? Who. Well, He is the very spirit of the Living God! How incredible is that! If you believe in Jesus you will have the Spirit of God Almighty, the very God who created the entire universe by just speaking it into existence, living inside of you! Let this amazing promise and reality never escape you. In Christ, you are special and loved and family and God is with you in the most intimate way He can be. No trial or temptation or persecution or famine or obstacle will be impossible for you. God is with you and He will empower you to either overcome it, or to persevere through it—whichever is His will. All to His glory. Romans 8:14-17 says, “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” Pastored. The third way the Gospel transforms our life is that we now have Jesus with us in so many ways. He’s our Good Shepherd. Though we can’t see Him He hasn’t left us behind here. He’s with us all in spirit. He leads us, guides us, teaches us, provides for us, protects us, and defends us. He’s our Savior, our Lord, and our majestic King, yes, but He’s also our helper, our friend, and our elder brother. In Him, we have the same Father. He stands at the right hand of God the Father as our mediator and our high priest, advocating for us on our behalf. Jesus said He would not leave us as orphans but will be with us always. The Holy Spirit, who in John 14 Jesus called the Advocate, lives with us and is in us. And He will glorify Jesus, and only speak what He hears from Jesus, who only speaks what He hears from the Father. The Holy Spirit testifies of Jesus, teaches us all things, and guides us into all truth. The Holy Spirit gives us supernatural power, spiritual abilities, spiritual understanding, internal strength, fortitude, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. He renews our minds, thoughts, and attitudes. He heals our emotional wounds and gives us comfort and wisdom about our past. And He sanctifies every part of our soul and life; repairing, cleaning, and restoring us from the inside out. Don’t resist His prompting or quench His presence. Submit to Him and seek more of Him! Purposed. Lastly, the Gospel gives us a new purpose. Rather than living for ourselves the purpose of life is to bring glory to God. Glorify God in your earthly life in all ways which prepare us for your eternal life with Him. Surrender your will to the Holy Spirit daily, letting Him change you and make you more like Jesus. In John 16 Jesus said it was for our good it is this way and that by His Spirit in us we will do even greater things for God’s glory. This is because, through us, He will impact the whole earth. As a disciple of Jesus, we obey Him and serve Him by participating in His mission for His Church. We're to join in the adventure! The Holy Spirit calls each of us to specific assignments, providing the direction, talents, abilities, and opportunities. He’s leading you individually in your own unique calling as well as all of us together corporately for the benefit of the whole global Church. 2 Corinthians 5:20 says in regards to us being evangelists and sharing this Gospel good news with others, “we are Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” Your mission is to advance God’s kingdom on earth, which means to help every person, area of life, and practice around you, be impacted by this Gospel message. We are to share this good news with those that are still lost. We are to be the hands and feet of Christ that bring love, hope, peace, and spiritual and physical healing to the hurting. We are to teach, train, and raise up more disciples of Jesus so that they also bear much good fruit with their lives. The Gospel has the ability to completely transform our lives. Jesus has redeemed us from sin and death and we can now walk with God daily and intimately in freedom, peace, and joy. We now have a new spiritual family with one Father and we are all equal as brothers and sisters. Jesus is with us and by the Holy Spirit He is pastoring us to live a life of purpose and action. Let’s pray. Heavenly Father, thank you for the Gospel and all you’ve done for me. Empower me by your Spirit. Help me to fully surrender to you to transform every part of my life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT The Natural and Inevitable Outworking of God’s Presence By Brian S. Holmes Were you born again, made a new creation by the Spirit of the Living God now in you? How does His presence affect how we Think? Feel? Live? Act? We’re forgiven of our sins through faith in Jesus and His death on the cross on our behalf. We’re saved by who He is and what He did, not by who we are and what we do. But that doesn’t mean we won’t change - we will!But we’re changed as a result of having already been saved by God’s grace and receiving His Spirit—not by our obedience to God’s law. In Galatians 5 apostle Paul talks about the fruitless and enslaving pursuit of trying to be saved by our own good works. Verse 1 says, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” We aren’t to be enslaved by the law anymore. However, while we do have a new spirit inside we’re still living in bodies of sinful flesh. Our body and our soul (our mind, will, emotions, desires) still has sinful desires and selfish passions that are contrary to the will of God. Sinful desires must be put to death, and selfish passions of the flesh must be forced into submission. The Holy Spirit desires to lead you and He transforms from the inside-out. Live according to the Spirit. Galatians 5:16-18 says, “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” The law of God served as a schoolmaster to know what was wrong from right. It was good but limited. First, because they were always guilty of sin needing continuous atonement for, and second, because they just had to obey the law to the best of their ability in their weak, natural human strength. But now we have the freedom of the Gospel that has set us free from sin, death, and Hell. And authority over Satan. And the guidance and power of the indwelling Spirit in us. All these things ensure victory over sin, not as our goal to attain, but as our foundation to rest and live from. Romans 8:5 says, “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.” Know, identify, and crucify the works of the flesh. Galatians 5:19-21 says, “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Other examples are listed in Matthew 15:19, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Colossians 3:5-6, and Revelation 21:8. These are evidences of being still unsaved, or of having false beliefs that need to be corrected, a part of you still broken you need to bring to the Lord to heal, or something you’re doing in disobedience to the Lord instead of submitting to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Verse 24 says, “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Commit yourself today to crucify it! Know, embrace, and cultivate the fruit of the Spirit. Verses 22-23 say, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” In future lessons we’ll examine each fruit separately but here’s a brief overview. Love is the sacrificial giving of yourself to others, putting their needs above your own. This is foremost love of God followed by love of neighbor. (see Matthew 22:36-39, 1 Corin. 13:13, John 15:12-13, 13:34-35, Galatians 5:13). Joy is deep, internal gladness that first comes from God within and then it culminates in external expression. It could be reserved or energetic, quiet contentment or noisy shouting and dancing - all fueled by delight and appreciation for God. Peace refers to both the inner wholeness, well-being, and rest of the soul that’s now in right relationship with God, as well as the pursuit to forgive and reconcile with others. Patience and Faithfulness are about trusting in the Gospel, and in God, in His sovereignty, His trustworthiness, and in His perfect character, will, and timing. Selflessness is again evident and manifested in the fruits of Kindness and Gentleness, wherein our perspective of others, and our personal character and disposition, are changed in such a way that it affects how we treat others. Goodness (called righteousness in Romans 14:17) is about divine justness, about being godly and morally upright and like God. Lastly, Self-control is now available to us and makes it possible to overcome every sin and obstacle by the indwelling presence, guidance, and power of the Holy Spirit. (Ephesians 3:16, Philippians 4:13). The fruit of the Spirit is the natural and inevitable result of God’s presence. In other words, these things are the natural outworking of God’s attributes. Wherever God’s Spirit is, He is, and His attributes will manifest outwardly as a result. Whoever has God’s Spirit in them these attributes will naturally and inevitably flow. For example, 1 John 4:8 teaches that “God is love” and “anyone who does not love does not know God.” If we know God we will know love and become loving because He is. It’s essential that we know who God is through Jesus and the Bible and then cultivate our relationship with Him by spending intimate time with Him through prayer and worship. If these fruits aren’t greatly evident in your life you need to inspect yourself. Humble yourself, repent of your sin and/or your waywardness, and draw near to God in desperate hunger for more of Him. Stoke the flames of your desire to glorify Him with all of your life, to give Jesus all of your trust as your Savior, and all of your life as your Lord. Continually invite the Holy Spirit to consume and change your innermost being and to operate in and through you. As Galatians 5:25 says, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” Let’s pray. Heavenly Father, we want more of You. Fill us with Your Spirit that we may overflow. Help us identify and crucify every sinful desire of the flesh, and abundantly bear the fruit of Your Spirit.
GIVE GENEROUSLY It’s All God’s - In Gratitude, Steward It For His Kingdom By Brian S. Holmes Look at what’s in your hands. Look at where you live, what you drive, what you eat, what you wear, where you go, and what you buy. All of it you had to buy with your money, right? Wrong. The Bible teaches the things we think are ours, actually aren’t. They belong to God. Everything was created by God and for God. The universe, the earth, each one of us, everything that exists, every experience, every opportunity—and everything we possess. We’re just a steward of it. Meaning it actually belongs to God, we’re just the manager of it. It’s our duty to manage it well for Him. Deuteronomy 8:18 says, “Remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the power to make wealth.” God gives us the power, or ability, to make wealth. He gave you talents, skills in creativity, problem solving, etc. He gave you a mind capable of understanding tasks, a body capable of doing tasks, the means to get education, helped you get the personal connections and job opportunities you did. He also gives you the life, breath, and strength to do it. Nothing you have was entirely your own doing, even the things you earned through your own hard work. God deserves your gratitude for everything, including your money. So, in gratitude, make your money your servant, rather than your master. Money is a Good Servant but a Bad Master. The Bible warns often against being covetous, greedy, and a lover of money. Your money, or rather the selfish, pleasure-seeking things you use your money for, should not rule over you. Rather, your money should do what you tell it to do, while you do what God tells you to do. In Luke 16 Jesus gave a parable about a dishonest manager. One of the takeaways of the parable was about stewardship. Verses 10-12 read, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?” Jesus reminds us we must be faithful with what we’ve been entrusted with in this life. If we are, God will give us true, eternal riches of our own. You must choose if you will use your money to serve yourself or God. “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” Your Money Shows Where Your Heart Is. In Luke 12:15 Jesus said, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” He then gave a parable about the futility of being rich in earthly possessions but not rich towards God. Jesus said in Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” It’s also not about the amount you give. A person can be very wealthy and be greedy or generous. Likewise, a person can be poor and still be either greedy or generous. In Mark 12:41-44 Jesus, “sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” It’s not about the total amount you earn, or give. It’s about the percentage of what you earn, above your basic needs, that you give away towards things God cares about vs. the percentage you keep for yourself. Ask yourself these three questions. Of your monthly income, what percentage is well budgeted and managed for basic life necessities, frugal spending, wise saving and investing? What percentage is being used to indulge in selfish, foolish, worldly, temporary pleasures? And lastly, what percentage is given towards God’s Kingdom purposes and for blessing those in need? Remember, it’s not your money - it’s God’s. He didn’t entrust you with it for you to indulge yourself! Your percentages reveal where your treasure is, and thus, where your heart is also. Steward the first, limit the second, and be generous with the third. God Blesses the Giver and Multiplies What We’re Generous With. On two separate occasions, shown in Mark 6:30-44 and Matthew 15:32-39, Jesus took the few fish and loaves of bread the people had available and multiplied it in a way that miraculously fed more than five and four thousand people. (cf. Mark 8:19-20) This principle is true for you and me as well. Whatever money you give to God for the work of the Kingdom He will do abundant and amazing things with it. Now, God doesn’t need our money or our help. It’s a privilege that He extends to us that helps us to know Him, and to be known by Him, need Him, and become like Him. He invites us to partner and co-labor with Him. He rewards our desire to serve and our faithfulness and trust. He lets us share in the outcome of the harvest by receiving eternal rewards for the good that comes as a result! And He often blesses us in the here and now for our pleasure. Sometimes God even provides us with greater income potential because He knows we will manage it well for Him. So give generously towards Kingdom work, towards activities that build up the Church, towards activities that bear good fruit in the world, and towards activities that bless others - all to the glory of God. Make a plan. If it’s not painful, it’s not generosity. So give generously until it hurts! Let’s pray. LORD God, everything is Yours! Destroy the love of money and greed and covetousness in my heart. Help me manage well the money You’ve entrusted to me. Help me make money my servant, to be generous with as led by Your Spirit, and please multiply it for Your glory. In Jesus’ name. Amen.