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This is the fourth and final session of our series of talks on the theme of The Enemies We Face; “we,” of course, being God’s people, the Church of Jesus Christ. In the previous two talks I have dealt with what I believe to be the two main enemies that confront the Church today. The first is witchcraft, the second is the spirit or the power of antichrist.
Witchcraft I defined as really the universal religion of fallen humanity—the means by which men through all the ages have sought to make contact with Satan’s rebellious kingdom of angels in the heavenlies, worshipping them in some way or other as gods. Antichrist is a different kind of spiritual power that only has relevance where the Gospel of Jesus has first been proclaimed. I pointed out that the word “anti” has two meanings: first of all, “against”; secondly, “in place of.” And the pressure of the spirit of antichrist is against Jesus, the true Messiah, to eliminate Him, but then the second move is to replace Him by a false Messiah. And I suggested to you that spiritual force is very actively at work in the church today. I also tried to give you just a little picture of what I believe the final manifestation of the spirit of antichrist, the antichrist, the beast, will be like.
Now I want to move on from the negative to the positive. This final talk I want to deal with The Church’s Victory. I have tried to briefly define the main enemies we face with the purpose of showing how we can obey God and overcome those enemies by the means that He has provided. The first thing I think we need to understand is this: All the promises that close the Bible, all the promises in the book of Revelation, the final revelation of Jesus to His church, all the positive promises are only for those who overcome. There are no promises for the defeated. Paul said, “Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil by good.” I believe we have only two options, in the last resort: we either overcome or we are overcome. There is no third ground. And there are no positive promises of God whatever for those who allow themselves to be overcome. In chapters 2 and 3 of the book of Revelation we have a word that Jesus sent to each of seven churches and every final promise to each of those seven churches is to the one who overcomes. There are no promises to the ones who do not overcome. We need to face this very seriously. God has made it possible for us to overcome. He expects us to overcome. That is really summed up in one verse near the end of Revelation in chapter 21 and verse 7:
“He who overcomes shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.”
So the overcomer gets everything. And the one who does not overcome gets nothing. It is total, one way or the other. I think one of the great deceptions that the devil foists upon the Christian Church is to somehow convince us that there is some middle ground. I’m not really an overcomer, but I don’t want to accept the fact that I am overcome. I don’t think the New Testament indicates there is any such middle ground.
So we are talking now about overcomers. Every now and then some new group emerges within the church who claim to be the overcomers. In the course of my Christian experience, which has lasted nearly 50 years, I could name two or three different groups. I want to tell you this: If you ever encounter a group who tells you that “If you want to be right you’ve got to join us,” you can be sure of one thing: if you join them, you are wrong. No one has a monopoly on overcoming. It’s not a label, it’s not a doctrine, it’s a life.
Now we are speaking to overcomers, to those who are convinced by faith in Scripture and in Jesus that it is possible to overcome. The first thing we need to understand in dealing with these satanic forces is very important and very basic. It is that Jesus through His death and resurrection has already administered to Satan a total, permanent, final, irreversible defeat. If you don’t understand that, you do not have any basis for victory. Let me say those words again: a total permanent, final, irrevocable defeat. There is nothing that Satan can do that can ever change that fact. When Jesus died, He said, It is finished.” And it is finished. Nothing needs ever to be added to what He did and nothing can ever be taken away from what He did. This is stated one place very clearly in Colossians, chapter 2, verses 13 through 15. These are complicated statements and I could spend the rest of this session trying to explain what they mean but I don’t intend to do that. I just want to pinpoint certain statements. Colossians, chapter 2 beginning at verse 13:
“And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He [God the Father) has made alive together with Him [Jesus Christ, the Son] having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us and He has taken it out of the way having nailed it to the cross, having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.”
Let’s start with the closing verse. The principalities and powers referred to there are the same as we saw earlier in Ephesians 6:12. Our wrestling match is against principalities and powers, the various levels and orders of Satan’s kingdom. That is what we are fighting against. But we need to understand that Jesus has already ministered a total public defeat. The word used there is “He has triumphed.” You need to understand what a triumph is. It is part of the culture of the Roman Empire. When a Roman general was particularly successful in war, when he returned to Rome, the senate of Rome voted him a triumph. And in this triumph he was placed in a chariot drawn by a white horse and he was led through the streets of Rome and all the people of Rome lined the streets applauding him and behind him were all the evidences of his victories. The rulers and the commanders that he had defeated were led in chains behind him. Then great numbers of prisoners were led behind him and in some cases even wild animals from the conquered territories, animals maybe that Roman people had not seen. So this is a triumph. It is not winning the victory, it is the celebration of the victory that has already been won. And Paul in this language is saying that by His death and resurrection Jesus was placed in the triumphal chariot and led through the unseen world and behind Him were all the forces of Satan led in chains. That’s the totality of the victory.
Now, to obtain this victory, Jesus did two things for us. I can only touch on them briefly. The first relates to the past. We need to bear in mind that Satan’s great weapon against us is guilt. As long as he can keep us guilty, we are no match for him. But in this victory Jesus dealt with the problem of guilt. First, in regard to the past, He made it possible for us to be forgiven all our previous sins. It says, “Having forgiven you all trespasses.” That little word “all” is very important. We have to believe that every sin we have ever committed, has been forgiven. If we have even one unforgiven sin, it is a lever that Satan can use against us, to frustrate us and to make us ineffective.
The other thing is more complicated but let me just say it briefly: Jesus has abolished the law of Moses as the means to achieve righteousness with God. He has not abolished it as part of the Word of God, or as part of the history of Israel; He has not abolished it as all the lessons that come to us from the law of Moses; but He has abolished the law of Moses as the requirement for achieving righteousness with God. As long as the law was the requirement, every time we wanted to claim righteousness Satan could stand there and point to some commandment, some ordinance that we had not obeyed and say, “There you are, you have no right to approach.” But when Jesus died on the cross He put an end to the law in that aspect. And the Scripture says it very vividly, “He nailed it to the cross.” So when we go beyond the cross, we are not under the law. Now our righteousness does not depend on keeping commandments, it depends on faith. We are justified, made righteous, by faith. This is always so vivid to me in regard to the dealings of Jesus with Peter. At the Last Supper Jesus told Peter, “You will deny me three times before the night is out.” Because Peter said he would not, but you know he did. Then Jesus said, “But I have prayed for you [not that you will not deny Me, but, what?] that your faith will not fail.” If you can keep believing, your faith will take you through. So never get moved away from your faith. Let no failure, let no accusation, nothing ever move you from your faith that Jesus died in your place, bore your sins, was made sin for you and has offered you the garment of His spotless righteousness.
You know what “to be justified” means? This is not part of my message but it is so important. It is a legal phrase. You have been tried by the court of heaven and the court has handed down its verdict. And the verdict is not guilty. Wonderful! Not guilty! Satan, you can say what you like. You can point out all my sins and all my failings and all my inadequacies and I will agree with you. I even can tell you some you don’t know about... But the court of heaven has said not guilty. I am reckoned righteous, made righteous, justified, “just-as-if-I’d” never sinned. And when you stand on that ground, you are more than a conqueror of Satan in the conquest that Jesus has already won. If we start from any other basis, we will never achieve victory. The only basis is the cross.
And then having deprived Satan of his weapons against us, and the one great, sovereign, supreme weapon is guilt, Jesus has equipped us with the weapons with which to defeat Satan. That’s the second part of it. Second Corinthians, chapter 10, verses 3,4 and 5. Ruth and I make this confession and I think we will do it together. We have a number of Scriptures, I think probably 50, that we proclaim as part of our spiritual warfare. And this happens to be one.
“For though we walk in the flesh, we war not after the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds. Casting down imaginations, and every high thing which exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”
What a victory that is, isn’t it?
You see, we have weapons that are not carnal. So what are they? Spiritual. In other words, we don’t use bombs, or tanks, or rifles, because we are not fighting persons with bodies. They are useless, but we have been given in place of those physical, material weapons spiritual weapons, that we can use. And this is what we can use them for: pulling down strongholds. Whose strongholds? Satan’s, that’s right. If you notice the next verse, there are various alternative translations. You can have arguments, reasonings, speculations. And then it speaks about the mind and the thought. So we’ve discovered the battlefield. Very important to know what the battlefield is. It is the mind. How many of you realize that? Most of your problems as a Christian are in the area of the mind. Don’t let that discourage you. That’s where the war is. But we have been given the weapons of victory. And we can pull down Satan’s strongholds or road blocks or fortresses. You see, Satan builds up fortresses in the minds of men and women to prevent them being able to receive the truth of the Gospel. And one of our functions is by the spiritual weapons God has given us. Prayer, preaching, praise and so on to break down those strongholds and open the way for the Word of God to enter and to save people and to change them.
We dealt, for instance, with two anti-Christian forces, Judaism and Islam in our last talk. Each of them has a specific stronghold that you have to break down. The stronghold in the Jewish mind is: “If I believe in Jesus, I’ll no longer be Jewish.” You may not be aware of that but that is the strongest barrier that they have against receiving the truth about Jesus. The Moslem stronghold is: “God does not need a Son. There is not a Son of God.” And if you are going to reach either Jews or Moslems effectively, you are going to have to use these spiritual weapons to break down those strongholds before you can really make an impact on them.
So we have the weapons for victory. Notice the ultimate aim is to bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. It is a staggering assignment. First of all, we have to release people’s minds from the false captivity of Satan and then we have to bring their minds into captivity to obedience to Jesus. That’s wonderful, isn’t it? That we have been given the weapons to do it. Now my talk tonight is not on those weapons. I have given many talks on that theme in the past. But I want to deal just with certain general basic requirements if the church is to be victorious.
I’m going to deal with them briefly. I have actually listed seven; you could probably make it eight or you could make it six, but in my making of outlines, if I get to the number seven I usually stop.
Let’s turn to Matthew 12:25. Here is a statement by Jesus which is extremely important. And I think I’m afraid the church has often ignored it. Jesus said:
“Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.”
We’ve spoken about the kingdom of God. But if the kingdom of God is divided against itself it cannot win. So Satan’s primary attack on the church is to divide us. Has he been successful? I’m sorry to say, he has been extremely successful. One thing we have to do is to resist division. That does not mean that we automatically associate ourselves with everyone or everything that is called Christian. But it means that wherever there are people who are true believers in Jesus according to the Scripture and committed to love Him and serve Him, we have to acknowledge them as our brothers and sisters. And we do not let unnecessary barriers come between them and us.
Ruth and I in our ministry we work with I don’t know how many different ministries and persons around the world. And basically I can say we don’t have any problems in our relationships with them. I think the primary reason is because they and we are committed to something positive. And we are committed to Matthew 24:14: “This Gospel of the kingdom shall be proclaimed in all the world as a witness to all the nations and then the end will come.” We believe this is our responsibility to prepare the way for the Lord by proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom to all nations. And wherever we meet with people who have that primary aim based on Scripture, we may never have met them before, but in 10 minutes we feel like we have known them all our lives.
So let’s not focus on the negative. Let’s focus on the positive. You’ll find where people are truly committed to prayer and intercession or to evangelism, the barriers melt. Where people are all tied up with church structure and programs there usually are problems. So the first thing we have to do is guard against division. It is not easy. We certainly don’t have all the answers but when we give it due priority I think we will be nearer to achieving it.
Then the second thing we have to do, and this is tremendously important, is to know and proclaim the whole of God’s Word. Now I want to turn to 2 Timothy, chapter 3. This has become a very significant chapter for me recently, because I think it is a picture of the last days. If you begin at the first verse of 2 Timothy, chapter 3, it says:
“But know this that in the last days perilous times will come.”
And the whole of this third chapter deals with things that are particularly relevant to the last days. The first thing it does is to paint a picture of the general degeneration of human character and conduct as the age come to its close. And Paul picks out eighteen major moral or ethical blemishes which will characterize humanity at the close of this age. And really the root of them all is selfishness. Love of self, love of money and love of pleasure. I don’t know three words that better describe our contemporary civilization than that: love of self, love of money and love of pleasure. All the others are within that context.
The great enemy is selfishness. We need to bear that in mind, because the fact that we don’t indulge in drugs and alcohol or immorality does not necessarily separate us from the world. The only thing that really separates us is unselfishness. And I think a lot of moral, good living churchgoers are basically extremely selfish people. It’s number one first. And we need to understand that isn’t the distinctive mark of the church in these days. The distinctive mark is unselfishness by commitment to God and to humanity, to serve and be servants.
Then Paul goes on from there and he points out various other features at the close of the age, some we will return to perhaps later. He very clearly depicts a tremendous upsurge of the occult, which again is very conspicuous in our time, and then he comes to what I believe is God’s answer at the end of chapter 3. Beginning in verse 16:
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.”
How much of Scripture? All. Are you sure? There’s a lot of people not sure about that any longer. There is a lot of preachers that believe it is their job to straighten God out, edit the Bible, find out where it needs to be changed. That is not my attitude. I want to say, I believe:
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. So that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
I understand that to mean that for God’s people to be thoroughly equipped, the whole truth of the Bible has to be presented to them, not just little passages. You have to know what is in the book of Ezra. You have to know the teaching of Amos. You have to understand the epistle to Philemon, because they are all necessary for you to be thoroughly equipped. You may have to take much less time in front of the television if you are going to be thoroughly equipped, because it is a pretty full-time job being thoroughly equipped for Christian service.
Now bear in mind the chapter divisions were not there from Paul, so Paul goes on in the next chapter, the first verse.
“I charge you therefore... [What is the ‘therefore’ for? When you find a ‘therefore,’ you want to find out what it is there for. Because of what he had said in the end of chapter 3, then he comes to this tremendously solemn charge. Look at the words:] I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ who will judge the living and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom. [You could not have a more solemn charge than that. As it were in the presence of God and the light of the fact that we will all have to answer to Jesus at His judgment seat when He comes. So what’s the message? Verse 2:] Preach the word. [Let’s say that together, shall we? PREACH THE WORD.] Be ready in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and teaching.”
Let me ask you a frank question, you don’t have to answer. How many of you go to church on Sunday morning expecting to be convinced, rebuked, and exhorted? Some of you would not go back to that church again if they treated you like that. But if the minister is doing his job that’s what will happen to you. Now how true this is of the time in which we live!
“For the time will come [I believe the time has come] when they will not endure sound doctrine but according to their own desires because they have itching ears. They will heap up for themselves teachers and they will turn their ears away from the truth and be turned aside to fables.”
I think this is conspicuous in the Western church. There are many, many Christians who have to have a new doctrine and a new revelation, something new to tickle them and excite them. But that is not our job. Our job is to preach the Word. And so Paul concludes this section:
“But you, (that’s Timothy) be watchful in all things, endure afflictions. Do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”
I don’t believe there has ever been a time when it is more important to hold fast to the absolute truth and authority of Scripture. It is being attacked and undermined in many quarters which we would not anticipate. Movements and churches and groups that we would consider to be sound in the faith have moved from that foundation in these last few decades.
Let me quote the words of Paul in Acts 20, verse 27.
“I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.”
I’m impressed by those words “I have not shunned” because it would indicate there is a lot of pressures that would cause you not to declare the whole counsel of God. Is that true? Social pressures, financial pressures, denominational pressures. If you want to be popular, it might easily be the quickest way not to declare the whole counsel of God. But remember that we are answerable ultimately to God. Paul said:
“I’m pure from the blood of all men.”
I think he was thinking in terms of God’s word to Ezekiel:
“I make you a watchman to your people. If trouble is coming and you warn them and they don’t listen, they will perish but you have saved your soul. But if trouble is coming and you don’t warn them, and they perish, their blood will be upon your hands.”
And I think Paul said for that reason, “I’m pure from the blood of all men. No one’s blood can be laid at my door because I have not shunned to declare to you all the counsel of God.”
The third requirement, I think, is very important and it is stated in 1 Peter, chapter 5:5–6.
“Likewise, you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. [Now, being over 70, of course I can say a hearty AMEN to that. But it does not end there. Yes, all of you, over 70 or over 50 or under 20.] All of you, be submissive to one another and be clothed with humility.”
There has been a lot of talk in the church recently about submission and I believe submission has a scriptural basis. I point out to most people, what really matters about submission is submissiveness. You can be submissive even when you don’t submit. It is the attitude rather than the code of conduct.
Peter says, “all of you be clothed with humility.” That’s a metaphor that does not come out in the English. The word he uses means “put on an apron of humility.” And the word is used for an apron that was worn only by slaves. So when you had this apron on, everybody knew you were a slave. So he says, put on an apron, an attitude of humility, which shows you are the slave of everybody.
“...because God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you in due time.”
I always point out to people, humility is not something God can do for us. God never says, “I will make you humble,” but always says, “Make yourself humble.” It is a decision; we have to make it.
And then, if you are interested, there is a remarkable example in Ezra, chapter 8, verses 21 to 23, of one specific way of humbling ourselves. Ezra and a party of exiles returning from Babylon to Jerusalem were confronted with a very dangerous journey that took them, I think, four months. They had with them all the precious vessels of the temple and their wives and their children, but Ezra refused a military escort from the Persian monarch. He said, “We are going to trust God.” He had to do that because he testified that God protected those who serve Him. See, that is one of the blessings of testifying, when you testify, you have to live up your testimony. So he did not ask for a band of soldiers and horsemen but he said:
“[We] proclaimed a fast there at the river Ahava, that we might [afflict or] humble ourselves before our God, to seek of Him the right way.”
And this is totally scriptural. I don’t have time to go into it, but one of the appointed ways of humbling ourselves is by fasting. David said in Psalm 35, verse 13, “I humbled my soul with fasting.” Why does your soul need to be humbled? Because it is the arrogant, self-seeking ego in you. It is the thing that says, “I want, I think, I feel. I’m important, look at me.” And that has to be humbled before God can really have His way in our life.
Whenever I tell this, I always think of a lawyer in Washington, D.C., some good many years ago. He heard me teach on fasting. He is a Christian and he decided he would do it. He had a miserable day. Every time he walked past a restaurant or a delicatessen, his mouth watered and his stomach groaned and he wanted to go in. But he finished the day without breaking his fast. Then in the evening he gave his stomach a lecture and he said, “Now stomach, you have been very troublesome today and you made a lot of trouble for me. I’m going to punish you and I will fast tomorrow as well.”
That’s how we have to deal with the self-asserted part of us. We have to bring it into subjection to the will and mind of God. I do believe that those Christians who do not in some scriptural way learn to practice fasting will not be able to administer the total victory of God. After all, Jesus could not do it. He started His ministry by forty days of fasting. You think you are further along than Jesus? He did not say to His disciples if you fast, He said when you fast. He used exactly the same language about fasting in his sermon in chapter 6 of Matthew as He did about prayer. If He expects us to pray, He expects us to fast.
Now you have to sort that out for yourselves and also you have to find out from the Holy Spirit what way and how to do it. But I would say, for Ruth and myself I think we could say, we would not dare to go ahead in the ministry that we are in if we did not practice regular fasting. Because we are challenging basically all the major forces of Satan in the world today by challenging them head-on and we need every help that we can get from God. And one way is by fasting. I’ve got a little book somewhere that is entitled How to Fast Successfully. I have a week’s radio teaching on fasting and I don’t want to take time now but if you are interested you can obtain them.
Going on. The next thing we must do is put on the whole armor of God. We need to turn to Ephesians 6 for a moment. Immediately after the 12th verse, which speaks about the kingdom of Satan in the heavenlies, Paul says (and the next word in my version is “therefore”) in verse 13:
“Therefore take up the whole armor of God.”
And notice, you have to take it up. It does not grow on you. God does not fit it on you. You have to take it up. Paul was writing to people who were Christians, just as much Christians as you and I. But he placed on them the responsibility to take up the armor. And if you look through the armor (we’ll go through it very quickly), in verse 14: the girdle of truth, the breastplate of righteousness; verse 15: the shoes of the preparation of the Gospel; verse 16: the shield of faith; verse 17: the helmet of salvation, the sword of the spirit. If you analyze that, you are completely protected from the crown of your head to the soles of your feet, except one area, which is... the back, that’s right. If you turn your back, there is no protection. It is important to remember.
But that’s not the full list. There are six items there and in the Bible usually when a thing is complete and it’s good, it’s seven. And the next one is perhaps as important as any of them, verse 18: “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the spirit.” I think it was Charles Wesley who taught about the weapon of all prayer. And really all prayer is the weapon by which we can reach out into the heavenlies and attack Satan’s kingdom at its base. The others are mainly weapons of self-protection. But all prayer is, if you like, it’s our intercontinental ballistic missile. It can reach any target, anywhere, if we set the computer right.
The next thing we have to do is realize our need of God’s supernatural power. And I want to say supernatural. Christianity is a religion of the supernatural. I once read through the book of Acts, examining it to see what would happen if I removed all reference to the manifestly supernatural. That’s not just inward supernatural experiences but things that are visible, that can be perceived by the senses. The book of Acts has 28 chapters and at the end of that I just discovered not one chapter out of the 28 would be left intact if we eliminated the supernatural. And that is the only record we have in Scripture of how the church is intended to operate. We cannot operate effectively and accomplish the will of God solely by our own natural ability. We have to have the supernatural enabling of the Holy Spirit. And one main form of that enabling is the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit listed in 1 Corinthians, chapter 12.
We won’t turn there but let’s look at just one statement of Paul which, I think, is important. It really summarizes what I’m saying. 1 Corinthians chapter 4 and verse 20.
“For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.”
It’s not a matter of theology. Theology has its place. It’s not a matter of argument. It’s not a matter of intellectual proof. It’s the demonstration of the supernatural power of God. I’d like to look at the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians, chapter 2, just two chapters back, the first five verses.
“And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or wisdom declaring you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you, except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”
You remember what we said about Galatians, chapter 3? What does witchcraft obscure in the church? Jesus Christ crucified. Paul said, “That’s all I’m going to be interested in. Jesus Christ crucified.”
I was preaching just recently to a congregation which contained a large number of Jews in Jerusalem and I pointed out to them that really the thing which is supremely esteemed amongst the Jewish people generally is knowledge. And here is a Jew who says, “I determined not to know anything [that’s very unusual] except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” Why? Paul said:
“I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. [He was not an impressive speaker by any means.] My speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit [capital S, the Holy Spirit].”
That was power. That was Paul’s secret. Why did the Holy Spirit testify to his ministry with power? Because he focused on Jesus Christ crucified. You can bring all sorts of elegant sermons and theories and quote all sorts of doctors and people, the Holy Spirit is just bored. But when you begin to lift up Jesus crucified, He says, “I will bear testimony to that.”
I believe that is the primary need of the church today. Especially here in this country today where we are surrounded by Moslems. Did you realize that? Millions of Moslems. And there is nothing going to reach the Moslem mind than the demonstration of the supernatural. And we have an opportunity. Instead of having to go to them, they have come to us. We could not go to their nations and proclaim the Gospel because we would be put in prison or executed. But God has arranged for them to come here. What’s the church doing about it? It is time the church rose up and said, “We will demonstrate to them that Jesus is alive.” I say sometimes, “There is no extra charge for that; it is not in my outline but it happens to be true.”
Let’s turn to 2 Timothy, chapter 3 again for a moment. I just want to point out something there. Remember, this is all about the last days. That’s the whole theme of this chapter. And he says in verse 8:
“Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses... [Jannes and Jambres were the magicians of Egypt. They resisted Moses.] so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, [as was the folly of Jannes and Jambres].”
So what Paul is saying is the contest that took place between Moses and the magicians of Egypt in the court of Pharaoh is going to be re-enacted in these days—between the servants of Jesus Christ and the practitioners of the occult. And it is not going to be settled by theology. It is a contest of power, whose power is greater. And bear in mind the magicians of Egypt had a lot of power. The first three miracles that Moses did they could repeat. They could turn their rods into snakes. They could turn water into blood. They could call up frogs out of the river. All of that was supernatural. But when they got beyond that and Moses went further, they said, “This is the finger of God. Now we’re out of our depth.”
I don’t know what you ever thought about Moses. I particularly like Moses and Aaron. They went there with the rod and Pharaoh said, “Show me what you can do, you guys.” So (I think it was) Aaron, threw down the rod and it became a snake. Amazingly enough, Pharaoh was not much impressed. So he said to his magicians, “Can you do that?” And they said, “We can.” They threw down their rods and they became snakes. But there was one thing that further happened. Moses’ snake ate up the snakes of the magicians. I don’t know whether you ever thought about the scene that followed? The magicians walked out without any rods and Moses’ rod was much thicker and stronger. That’s how it is going to be, you understand? It is going to be: whose rod wins. People disagree with me and sometimes I say, “Well listen, don’t let’s argue. Let’s throw down our rods and see which snake wins.” Really, that’s where it’s at. It’s not argument. It’s demonstration. That’s what’s needed. And particularly in the gifts of the Spirit we need the three revelatory gifts: the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, and the discerning of spirits. The word of knowledge shows us Satan’s operations, how he is working in the supernatural realm. The word of wisdom shows us how to counter his actions and defeat him. And discerning of spirits shows us when we are face to face with demonic power and activity. We desperately need those in the church today.
Let’s move on. The next and sixth point in my outline is: We must apply the power of jubilant praise and bold proclamation. And there is one Scripture has become a favorite with me, in Jeremiah, chapter 31 and verse 7. This is concerning the restoration of Israel in these last days.
“For thus says the Lord, sing with gladness for Jacob and shout among the chief of the nations. Proclaim, give praise and say: ‘O Lord, save your people, the remnant of Israel.’”
There are three weapons, or three activities, spoken of there, which are crucial for us to understand. They are praise, proclaim and pray. Praying is this, saying, “O, Lord, save your people, the remnant of Israel.” Now the Lord has declared He’s going to save the remnant of Israel. You could say that He could do it without our praying. But God says in another place, “I will not do it until I’m enquired for to do it.” You understand? Praying is our contribution to the outworking of God’s purposes in the earth. And God, somebody said, has chosen to need us. He could have done without us but He is not going to do it.
But praying is not just thinking for anything we want and asking for it. Praying is discovering God’s revealed purpose in Scripture. And then praying for the outworking of that purpose. Summed up really beautifully in the words of the Virgin Mary. When the angel brought the promise she said, “Be it unto me according to thy word.” That’s the most powerful prayer you can ever pray. Paul said, “God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we could ask or think.” How? By fulfilling His Word. What God has promised in His Word is far above anything that we in our natural mind could ask or think.
So prayer is not going to God with a shopping list. It is intelligently discovering God’s purpose and then aligning ourselves with it.
And it takes persistence. There are some things that Ruth and I have been praying for ten years. They have not come yet. When that happens, you know, you discover whether you are praying in faith or unbelief. Because if you are praying in unbelief you say, “I’m praying for ten years and nothing has happened.” But if you are praying in faith you say, “The answer is ten years nearer than when I started praying.”
Jesus said, “Man ought to persist in prayer and not to faint.” I think Ruth and I discovered that this is one of the great tests and shaping instruments of Christian character. It is persistence in prayer, discovering the will of God and asking God to do what He said He will do.
Then there is praise. In Psalm 102 (keep your finger in Jeremiah 31 because we are coming back, hopefully). This is again a prophecy of the restoration of Zion at the close of this age, it says in verse 18, after the prophecy of the restoration of Zion,
“This will be written for the generation to come: that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord.”
I believe that refers to this time of the restoration of Zion. God is creating a people with one supreme commitment. To do what? To praise Him, that’s right. It is as though God says, “Well, My people have been so slack, for so many centuries to give Me the kind of praise that I desire, that I’m going to create a people especially to praise Me.” And I think the charismatic movement is the beginning of that. I think there are many weaknesses and failures in the charismatic movement, but there has come forth a new level of praise, at least a vision of what praise could be. And how important it is to praise God.
In Psalm 8 David said:
“Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings Thou hast ordained strength because of thine enemies that they might still or silence the enemy and the avenger.”
And when Jesus quoted that in Matthew 21, verse 9, He changed the words Thou hath ordained strength into Thou hath perfected praise. So what is the ordained strength of God’s people? Perfected praise. What does that do? It silences who? The enemy and the avenger. Why do we need to silence Satan? What is he doing all this time? Accusing us. You say, “Why does not God stop Satan from accusing us?” Because God said, “I have given you the means to stop Satan. If you learn to praise Me the way I want to be praised, it will silence Satan.”
I was preaching in Lausanne with a French interpreter some years back. I quoted this and it was quoted in French. And I understand French and I was gripped by the phrase, which says: “Praise imposes silence on the enemy and the avenger.” What a wonderful revelation that we can impose silence on Satan! We can say to him, “Shut up!” Isn’t that marvelous? How do we do that? By praise. If God’s people would take the time and learn to praise Him and spend hours in praising Him, with pure hearts and honest motives, not trying to twist God’s arm, but praising Him because He is worthy of praise, the whole atmosphere around would change. People’s hearts would be opened. The dark powers that have bound men and women would be shaken and driven out. I tell you we are just on the fringe of a mighty ocean which is the power of praise.
And then, going back to Jeremiah 37: Proclamation. This is something that God has begun to quicken for Ruth and me in the last few years in a new measure. You see, proclaiming is actually the activity of a herald. In the New Testament the word that is used for a preacher is the word for a herald. Paul said, that God had made him a teacher, an apostle and a herald, a proclaimer. And since I started my radio program I have got a more and ever increasing vision of what can be achieved just by proclaiming the truth of the Word of God. One of the great strengths of Islam, as we’ve been speaking about Islam, is that for more than thirteen centuries, five times every day, out of that mosque has gone the proclamation about Allah and Mohammed and that has created a darkness over those nations, which if you have never experienced that, you have no idea of its intensity. What is that? That is the power of false proclamation. We need to overcome that power with the power of true proclamation. We need to proclaim the truth. As you saw, Ruth and I have got an armory of Scriptures that we use to proclaim. And we proclaim many of them several times a week.
Let’s go to Deuteronomy 33, verse 25, just to give you a little demonstration. Now when we proclaim them, we turn you in the Bible into us, you see.
“The bolts of our gates will be iron and brass and our strength will equal our days. There is no one like the God of Jeshurun, who rides on the heavens to help us and on the clouds in his majesty. The eternal God is our refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms. He will drive out our enemy before us, saying destroy him.”
This is just one verse. 2 Corinthians 9, verse 8 is the basis of our faith for the financial supply of our ministry, and again we change you into us.
“God is able to make all grace abound toward us that we always, having all sufficiency in all things may abound to every good work.”
When you say that every day, how can you possibly fear any lack? And notice, it is grace. I want to tell you that. You don’t have to earn it; you have to believe it.
We come to the last point in requirements for the church to be victorious. Revelation 12:11. Many of you know this Scripture.
“They [the believers on earth] overcame him [who’s him? Satan. You realize that we are in direct conflict with Satan? Very clear. They overcame him; nothing in between. It is a person-to-person conflict. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony. And they did not love their lives to the death.”
That’s really another example of proclamation. I teach, this means that we overcome Satan when we testify personally to what the Word of God says the blood of Jesus does for us. We proclaim it. I have a sevenfold proclamation, but we don’t have time for it. But when you do that, you overcome Satan. But you have got to be a certain kind of person. It says of these people, “They did not love their lives to the death.” What does that mean? It means this: that it was more important for them to do the will of God than to stay alive. What is that? That is commitment. Satan is not afraid of uncommitted Christians. In the last resort he can wear them down. But those who are prepared to lay down their lives rather than deny the Lord or withdraw their testimony, they are the overcomers. Amen. Let’s pray, shall we, as we close. Let’s pray for the church, ourselves included.
“O God, we thank You that your Word has made so clear to us the conditions for victory and above all the glorious possibility of victory. And we want to confess, Lord, our sins and our shortcomings, that many times we have not believed You and not obeyed You. Lord, we are sorry and we ask your forgiveness. On behalf of ourselves and the whole church of Jesus Christ. And we pray, Lord, that by the power of your Holy Spirit you will enable us to meet the conditions to be overcomers for your glory. In Jesus name.”
And all God’s people said: AMEN.
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