Who Are You, Really?

I like to think of my Christian beliefs as the backbone of my soul. Without them I’d be defenceless ethically, morally, and spiritually. The creation account of the Bible informs us that God created mankind out of the soil of the earth and then breathed into man the “breath” of life and “man became a living soul.” The first Divine CPR. It makes sense to me because I know intuitively that I am more than a biological/physiological entity that only acts and reacts according to instinct, like an animal. The Bible isn’t true because it makes sense to me, but it often correlates perfectly with the facts of life. 

One of the sub-categories of theology that has helped me enormously is the Bible’s teaching about the nature of man. Who are we? What is wrong with us? Can we change? If so, how? These are questions that help me to understand myself and others. And my experience has been that the longer I objectively evaluate myself and others, the more compelling the Bible’s teaching about mankind. The Bible offers enormous insights and antidotes that contribute to the flourishing of our human lives.

Forgive the personal illustration. But as a young man (16 years of age) I was well down a path of human disaster. I had already learned how to sin well! And my sin was contributing to the destruction of my life, both internally and externally. An encounter with Jesus Christ, the Son of God, altered my understanding of how to deal with my chaotic inner world. I found comfort in the Bible’s teaching that there was hope for the healing and transformation of my life. When I discovered that I was not locked in a prison of deteriorating behaviour but that I could improve, change and grow into an honourable man, I was elated. I needed the hope. I needed the change. I needed the help. 

In fact, I discovered that changing into someone different was one of God’s primary goals for me as a Christian. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.  30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified”(Romans 8:28-30). I learned that I was predestined. Predestined “to be conformed to the image of His Son.” God predetermined for me that I would spend my life learning about Jesus, loving Jesus, following Jesus and His teaching.  But more than that, He would gradually change my character to match the character of Jesus Christ. Among all the prophets of the world, no one has yet to find a single flaw in Jesus. The Bible actually teaches that He was in fact PERFECT. I’m far from perfect but I have a sinless example that is being reproduced in me.  

In a deeper mystery, the Bible teaches that He actually “abides” (lives) in me, and it’s His life that is increasingly emerging in me. I still remember learning this truth from Galatians 2:20 which says, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” It’s no longer I, but Christ who lives in me. Of course that’s a reference to the new creation that was born from above on the day of my salvation. 

On the pathway of learning to walk with Jesus in faith, He would lovingly, but expertly, change the self-willed, stubborn and proud man that I am into the likeness of Jesus. He lived a life of surrender, obedience and sacrifice. And in so doing He taught us the way to live. Those qualities are not my natural bent nor my default behaviour. But in relationship with Jesus, I am being continually transformed into His superior image.

This Sunday we will be looking at Belief Number 6 in our church’s statement of Christian beliefs.  Our “We Believe” series will bring us to consider the question that the Psalmist asked in the eighth Psalm. “What is man?” I think the study will help you to understand who you are, why you are, and what you are meant to do in the world. I look forward to seeing you at one of our two identical services, 9AM or 11AM. 

Shalom church family,
Pastor Deric

The Prince Of Darkness

In the famous hymn, A Mighty Fortress is our God, written in 1527 by Martin Luther, the devil is defined as the “prince of darkness.” Here are the words of stanza number 3: 

“And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us, we will not fear, for God has willed his truth to triumph through us. The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him; his rage we can endure, for lo! his doom is sure; one little word shall fell him.”

The Christian unequivocally accepts that the Bible teaches that evil is personified in a being called Satan, Lucifer and the devil. Because we are “followers (apprentices) of Jesus,” we are always seeking to know what Jesus thinks about this subject. And He had plenty to say about the devil. 

Remember that He faced the devil in personal temptation immediately after His baptism. The Bible says that “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil”  (Matthew 4:1). Every Christian should expect to encounter the same opposition from the devil as they live a life of faith. Because Satan is an adversary, an opponent and the accuser of the Christian.

During His three years of public preaching Jesus made it increasingly clear that He would die “as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” He also linked the defeat of the devil to His victory at the cross. He said, Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die (John 12:31-33). Notice carefully what He said about the devil. “The ruler of this world is cast out.” The cross was the crushing defeat of the devil. 

This idea is picked up by the beloved disciple John who wrote: “And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” (Revelation 12:10-12).

We don’t live in fear of evil, i.e., the devil. But we are warned to be “on guard” because our “adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world (1 Peter 5:8-9).

The whole tone of the New Testament blasts warning after warning about a very real spiritual conflict that is being waged for the lives of human beings. Sure, I know it sounds like a relic from a by-gone age but for us Christians “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.”  We take our cues from the King. He taught us to “bind the strong man” (Mark 3) and to advance against the “gates of hell” (Matthew 16). We walk in the world conscious that a strong enemy is waging war against God and His Kingdom of truth and righteousness awaiting the day that “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Romans 16.20).

The devil is already defeated, cast out, but not yet! The practical implication is that we Christians are armed and trained to live as combatants on the winning side. We wait for the great day that Revelation describes concerning the ultimate doom of the devil: 

“Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.  And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, 10 and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. (Revelation 20)

Church family! I’m looking forward to getting back to our “We Believe” series this Sunday. I’ll be speaking about our 5th statement of belief. “WE BELIEVE in the existence and personality of Satan; that he was created perfect, but through pride rebelled against God, thus becoming utterly depraved; that he is the adversary of God and His children, and is the power behind the world’s godless and deceptive activity; that his doom is settled in the lake of fire.”

See you at the 9AM or the 11AM service. 

Pastor Deric