Here are ten ways you might be blocking the power of God’s Spirit in your life.
Grieving the Spirit
You can actually grieve the Holy Spirit by not confessing sin (Eph 4:30). Just as a person grieves over the loss of a loved one, the Spirit is said to be grieved when we sin (Eph 4:26-30). That will not only block the Spirit of God’s power, it will actually grieve the Third Person of the Trinity, God the Holy Spirit. He is called “Holy,” because He is holy, and is God, but He also works to create holiness in us, but unconfessed sin blocks that growth.
Quenching the Spirit
The Apostle Paul says that it’s possible to quench the Spirit of God because that’s just what he told the church at Thessalonica: “Do not quench the Spirit”(1st Thess 5:19). When we quench the spirit, we’re trying to silence what God is trying to say to us or motivate us to do something by the Holy Spirit’s prompting. Sometimes we quench God’s Spirit without even knowing it.
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Ignoring the Spirit
This is what unbelievers do. They ignore their conscience and suppress the knowledge of God, and even though they really know that God exists, the push back that knowledge in their consciences. Paul writes, “by their unrighteousness suppress the truth”(Rom 1:18), and “although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Rom 1:21). After a person ignores their conscience for so long, eventually God will just give them up to their own depravity.
Resisting the Spirit
When Stephen was on trial for his faith in Christ, he bluntly told the Jewish religious leaders, “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you” (Acts 7:51), and all you need to do is read about ancient Israel’s history to see that it’s true. They resisted God every step of the way, so God allowed them to wander in the wilderness for forty years until that generation was gone. God may put us in a “wilderness” for a time, until we stop resisting the Holy Spirit and His power.
Not Following the Spirit
When Paul wanted to go into Asia to preach the gospel, it was said that the Spirit blocked him from doing so (Acts 16:6). This didn’t mean Paul wasn’t following the Spirit, but the Spirit was trying to make Paul to go where He wanted him to go, and not where Paul wanted to go. The Holy Spirit always seeks to have us do the will of the Father, and so when we resist the Holy Spirit, we resist God Himself.
Going through the Motions
Traditions are fine, but when these traditions can become just going through the motions. When we do things without much thought, we’re blocking the Spirit’s power in being spontaneous. When church services become “automated,” then the church might be blocking the Holy Spirit’s power in worship services. For example, if we are singing songs without comprehending their meaning, then we’re just going through the motions and just “checking things off our list.”
Doubt and Fear
Doubt and fear are the enemies of faith and trust. To have fear is to show a lack of faith and doubt can rob our joy. Both doubt and fear can suppress the work of the Spirit in us and strip us of our desire to serve Christ. Perfect love should cast our fear (1st John 4:18). A great way to dampen the doubt and face the fear is to be in the Word of God. That’s where the Spirit can help give us assurance and faith.
Harboring a Grudge
When we are holding a grudge against someone, it’s like a nagging thing in our mind that we quite can’t shake. The Spirit convicts us when we sin, but when we refuse to confess them, we can be grieved by God’s convicting Spirit. David said “my sin is ever before me” (Psalm 51:3a), and it was “when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer”(Psalm 32:4). Unconfessed sin can put God’s heavy hand upon us just like holding a grudge can.
A Resistant Spirit
I would rather it be, “Have your own way with me Holy Spirit” than “This is what I’ll do next.” If we have any pride at all, God’s going to resist us (James 4:6), and since the Holy Spirit is also God, the Spirit can resist us if we get full of ourselves. God’s Spirit can do little in someone that is full of pride. Until a person comes before God and is emptied of self, He cannot fill them; until they admit they are broken, God cannot fix them by His Spirit.
Not Walking in the Spirit
The Apostle Paul admonished the church at Rome to walk in the Spirit, “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”(Rom 8:4) because “to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace” (Rom 8:6).
We need all the help we can get from God’s Spirit in not grieving the Spirit, in not quenching the Spirit, in not ignoring the Spirit, in not resisting the Spirit, and in not following the Spirit and holding onto doubts, fear, being prideful and not walking with God, in the Spirit. Perhaps the greatest block of the power of God’s Spirit is pride. God cannot work with people that feel they have arrived in life. God resists the proud, but only gives His grace to the humble (James 4:6). When we block God’s Spirit, we also block His power working in us. That’s important enough reason to not grieve, quench, ignore, or resist the Spirit of God, but rather, to follow the Spirit
We don’t know if Jesus’ stepbrother, Jude, believed what many others did. That was their expectation of Jesus returning in their own lifetime, but he did seem to have a sense of an end-time scenario. By the way, most of the first-century church lived with the expectation of Christ’s return. Obviously, they missed it by at least 2,000 years. But are there signs today that precede Jesus’ coming? Jude writes as if he is writing about today, saying, “I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:3-4). These ungodly “people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals” (Jude 1:10). Jude writes that “in the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions. It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit” (Jude 1:18-19). A clear sign of Jesus’ coming are these distorted versions of the Gospel, which can be seen everywhere today. There are unbelievers everywhere, scoffing at the idea that there is even a God at all.
The Days of Noah
Jesus referred to the end of the age by saying, “As it was in the days of Noah, so will it be at the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man” (Matthew 24:37-39). In other words, it will be business as usual. And just as the people in Noah’s day never would have expected a flood, neither will many expect Jesus to come and bring a flood of judgment against all unbelievers. Perhaps another sign that it’s just as it was in Noah’s day is that “the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth” (Genesis 6:11-12). Sounds like today’s headlines, doesn’t it? The phrase “the earth was filled with violence” is repeated twice in this chapter because God is emphasizing the fact that violence had grown so bad that the whole earth or population of man was full of it (Genesis 6:11, 13). Can you see how this same violence that was taking place in Noah’s day is similar to what’s happening today in our streets?
Natural and Man-made Catastrophes
Jesus, in giving the so-called Olivet Prophecy, said just before His return that “nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places” (Matthew 24:7). These are not the signs of His return, but they are like “the beginning of the birth pains” (Matthew 24:8). During the time leading up to Christ’s return, “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken”(Matthew 24:29). And only after this “will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matthew 24:30-31). The darkened sun and blotted-out moon could be from volcanic activity, earthquakes, meteorites, or asteroids striking the earth. Most somber of all could be the result of a nuclear winter after another global or world war.
We can’t pin down every single sign of Jesus’ soon return any more than we can understand all prophecy, but that’s okay. We’re not commanded to understand all prophecy; we are commanded to be ready at any moment. Jesus says, “Concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man”(Matthew 24:36-37). “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect”(Matthew 24:44). Those who sit on the fence about Christ today might be cast into hell with those on the other side someday. Today is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2), as there is no guarantee for either of us that tomorrow will even come. It’s too great a risk to delay your salvation. Come to Christ today and you will be ready for His return; delaying could prove disastrous (Revelation 21:8).
It’s great to understand prophecy and be looking for the signs of Jesus’ return, but this can take our eyes off Jesus. He must remain the central focus of our studies in the Word. We don’t know when Jesus will return; we only know He will, which means we have work to do while it’s still day. The time is coming when no one will be able to work and the age of grace will be over. We must warn others of the coming wrath of God (Romans 2) so that the grace and mercy of God will be relevant to them. Unless we tell them of the need to repent and believe, they will die in their sins with the wrath of God abiding on them (John 3:36b). Let God use you as a means to save some by bringing them to Christ and then letting Him save them (John 3:16; Acts 4:12).
What was at first horrifying became glorifying for God through Jesus Christ at Calvary (Isaiah 53). No event in human history has been declared to be more unjust and cruel than Jesus’ scourging and death on the cross, because He was totally innocent and unworthy of such a horrible, agonizing death. The shame, scorn, ridicule, and rejection Jesus suffered on our behalf was the most horrifying of all biblical moments, but one that made possible our salvation (John 3:16), because God uses evil for good (Gen 50:20).
Slaughter of Children
King Herod has gone down in history as one of the most evil kings of all, even though he was only a puppet king of the Romans. When he discovered that the Christ was to be born in Bethlehem, “he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men” (Matt 2:16). This horrific event fulfilled Jeremiah the Prophet’s prophecy of, “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation. Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more” (Matt 2:18), which was a quote of Jeremiah 31:15.
In Daniel chapter five, King Belshazzar was having a great banquet for a thousand of his royal guests, and during their drinking binges, the king ordered the sacred vessels that his father, King Nebuchadnezzar, had taken from the temple and King Belshazzar wanted to used these gold and silver goblets to give to his wives and concubines so that they might drink out of them. Then, Belshazzar saw something horrible. It was a finger writing something on the wall. All of a sudden there was no more fun and games. Daniel the Prophet interpreted “Mene, Mene, Tekel, and Parsin [and] this is the interpretation of the matter: Mene, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; Tekel, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting; Peres, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians” (Dan 5:25-28). In other words, it was the end for Belshazzar and his kingdom.
Sulfur and Fire
One of the most horrific events that happened in the Bible was the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Thankfully, God sent two angels to save Sodom and his family, but Lot still lingered, so “the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city” (Gen 19:16), and “Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven. And he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground” (Gen 19:24-25). Today we know there is sufficient archeological evidence that just such an event took place there.
I’m not sure which was worse; the great flood that destroyed all but Noah and his family or the evil wickedness that had come to dominate humanity. That’s because “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen 6:5), meaning evil is all they thought about. They probably had contests to see who could come up with something new and evil, so “God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth” (Gen 6:12-13).
The most horrific thing any person could ever do is reject Jesus Christ and saving faith in Him and then dies in that state. If this happens, a person’s fate is sealed forever (Rev 21:8). There is no repentance in hell…only eternal regret and remorse. Please tell any family member, friend, co-worker, or neighbor that unless they repent and believe, they cannot be saved (Mark 1:15; John 3:36; Acts 4:12). For those who trust in Christ, they are saved from the wrath of God and eternal damnation, and will be in the presence of the Lord for time without end.
One guy said that he lost his temper with his wife and said something he regretted. In actuality, he didn’t lose it; he found it. But maybe he needed to lose it. Anger is almost always a pride issue when we lose our temper. Righteous indignation is not what I’m talking about here because when we see a child abused, children aborted, or rioting and looting, getting angry is a natural feeling. What I mean by losing our temper is when someone cuts in front of us in traffic or in line and suddenly we unleash the middle finger or profanity-laced words come flying out of our mouth. The thing is, you can’t ever take words back. It takes 10 times the amount of time to clean up the damage by one single outburst. James wrote that “the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God,” and so we should “put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness” (James 1:20-21). A bad temper can destroy your spiritual growth because you’re always doing damage control by trying to apologize time and again, and it really does destroy your Christian testimony and kill your spiritual growth.
Failing to Assemble Yourselves in Worship
I knew a couple that had problems coming to church. Their attendance was very sporadic. They would be gone about two out of every five Sundays, and then it got to be three out of every four. Over time they stopped coming to church altogether. The man started drinking and became hooked on pornography. His wife was on the verge of leaving him, and that was when he contacted me for some counseling. What he and his wife were doing was “forsaking the assembling of[themselves] together, as is the manner of some” (Heb 10:25), and they missed the encouragement of one another in the church (Heb 10:26). Not being within the Body of Christ, they missed out on worshiping God and the joy that brings. They missed out on the fellowship of the saints, and they missed out on being fed the Word of God on a regular basis. They were literally starving to death from a lack of the Bread of Life. This really stunted their spiritual growth, and it about caused them to divorce.
Absence of Prayer and Bible Reading
One of my old seminary professors wisely said that prayer is the pulse of the believer’s spiritual temperature. If there’s a slowing or decreasing pulse in prayer, then there is spiritual decay, and the fellowship between them and God is affected. Add to that a lack of regular Bible reading and you have a recipe for killing your spiritual growth. I have counseled so many people who are struggling with their faith. They begin to doubt their salvation, and then they stop reading the Bible altogether. It is a self-replicating cycle. They pray less; they read less. The less they pray and read, the more they get into the habit of doing neither. Reading the Bible will lessen your doubts. Not reading the Bible will increase your doubts. The exact same thing goes for prayer.
If you are a church member, the janitor, or the pastor, it really doesn’t matter; if you or I have no integrity, we are grieving the Spirit and quenching His work in us, and it will kill your spiritual growth. Let’s say some Christian is hedging on his taxes (a fancy word for cheating). Would you want them to be the church treasurer? What does this person do with Romans 13:7 where it commands believers to “to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed?” A lack of integrity will kill your spiritual growth, because you cannot read the Bible long before you are convicted by your lack of honesty, and that plagues you when you read the Bible (as it should), so you stop altogether and don’t even read it anymore, or at least very much. A lack of integrity doesn’t only kill your spiritual growth, it robs you of the joy of your salvation.
The Apostle John writes, “if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him” (1st John 3:17)? That’s a very good question, isn’t it? I relate an experience recently where a pastor I know very well said he had a man who had been financially supporting the church’s missions, the church itself, and the pastor, and before he left, he said, “You know, I have given you about $1,500 in help and thought you should…,” I don’t want to tell you what he said, but the pastor got the message. He had been keeping track, apparently. His financial support made him feel he had more say in the way things are in the church, so even though he was generous, he did it for selfish reasons; for personal gain, like having more control over the church. Others give little of their time, talents, and treasures, but when they are in need, they ask, “Where is God? Where are my friends?” I would say, “Where were you (and I) when your neighbor needed your help and you didn’t help him?” I plead guilty too, but today, I’m a little more radical in my giving, because God is a generous God, and I think we should all be more generous too.
Take your spiritual temperature once in a while and ask yourself: Is my temper ruling me, or am I ruling my temper? Am I failing to assemble and worship with the saints? Then I may be failing in other areas, too. Is my prayer life and Bible reading declining? If so, my spiritual growth is, too. Those are three bad habits that will kill your spiritual growth for sure.
When you’ve been praying and praying about something, and yet God hasn’t answered, maybe it’s just not the right time for what you’re praying for. A friend of mine who had been waiting and waiting to hear about a job he had applied for finally thought God wasn’t hearing his prayers, so I asked him, “Do you think maybe the timing’s not right?” Perhaps God was working behind the scenes…and indeed He was. Two weeks later, my friend applied for another job and got hired almost immediately. When the other employer finally called and offered him a job, it was a job for better pay, but it was a job in human resources, something he didn’t like, so by my friend’s waiting, he landed a job that paid a little less, but a job in an area he really wanted. If the first employer had called him earlier, then he’d have been less satisfied at his job and stuck doing something he liked less than the job he finally got. The point is, God’s timing is not our timing. He knows better than we do. It might seem like God’s delaying His answer, but God’s timing is always best for us, no matter what happens to us (Rom 8:28).
When the Answer’s “No”
It’s hard to accept, but sometimes “No” is the answer we’ve received from God, but it’s just so difficult to accept, however, if we look at things from an eternal perspective, it might make us realize, it’s best for us anyway. Think about this: If Joseph had not been thrown into a pit to die, his brothers wouldn’t have sold him to slave traders. If Joseph hadn’t been sold to slave traders, he wouldn’t have been sold to Potiphar’s household. If He hadn’t been sold to Potiphar’s household, he wouldn’t have been unfairly accused and thrown into prison. If Joseph hadn’t been unfairly accused and thrown into prison, he wouldn’t have interpreted the two prisoner’s dreams. If Joseph hadn’t interpreted the two men’s dreams, he wouldn’t have had a chance to interpret Pharaoh’s dream, and if he hadn’t interpreted Pharaoh’s dream, he wouldn’t have been put in second command of all Egypt, and if not for that, the great seven-year famine that came would have caused millions to die, perhaps even Jacob’s children who became the 12 tribes of Israel. When Joseph finally saw his brothers, he said, “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Gen 50:20). Joseph didn’t deny that what they did was evil; he only shows that God can even use evil for good. Just look at the cross. If the Apostle Peter had his way, Jesus wouldn’t have gone to the cross, but then, we’d all still be in our sins. Of course Jesus didn’t listen to Peter and this great evil brought eternal life to all who would trust in Him.
Finding God’s Will
Praying is not so much getting our will done on earth but getting God’s will done on earth, but God’s will being done on earth starts with God’s will being done in us! And I mean myself too. I am at the foot of the cross just like everyone else. It’s level ground and I’m just as much in need of God’s mercy as you are, but if we are seeking to pray for something, and it may not be the will of God, then we’ll be praying for something that’s not going to happen…or as they say, “Be careful about what you ask for (or pray for)…you might just get it.”We know it’s God’s will for others to be saved, but we may not know if it’s God’s will for us to marry that person, get that job, buy that house, or whatever it might be. God’s will is always best, and it’s always best to align our prayers with His will, and not the other way around. I know I’ve prayed for God’s will to be mine, without even knowing it. God’s will is best because He knows all (omniscient). We know precious little in comparison. There are many verses that tell us what God’s will is (Rom 12:2, 1 Thess 4:3, 5:18, 1 Pet 2:15), but if we know these verses and don’t do them, knowing that they’re the will of God, we’ll have a difficult time finding out God’s will when we are faced with big decisions. If you obey His revealed will, He’ll give you more revelation of His will for your life. When family, homes, jobs, and things like that come up, you want God’s will, because what may look great on the outside, may end up being bad on the inside. One man bought a house down the block. It looked beautiful on the outside, but when he moved in, it was full of termites and dry rot. The former owner had only put a fresh coat of paint on dry rot wood. This man later admitted that the house was more important to him than God’s will, and he didn’t even pray about it, so he said, “I got what I deserved.” At first, Joseph got what he didn’t deserve; then he got all he could have imagined. It wasn’t Joseph’s will to be thrown into a pit or prison, but somehow, he had faith that God was going to use all of this for his own good. There’s no Scriptural record that Joseph wailed or complained, but rather he was content to wait on God’s timing, but more importantly, for God’s will to be done and not Joseph’s.
If you’re coming around a blind corner and can’t see what’s around the bend, then you’re going to slow down, but if we’re in a rush to get something for ourselves but fail to consider if it’s the will of God or not, then we’re flying around a blind corner, not knowing what lies ahead. I will always choose God’s timing over mine, and although I don’t always like it, I can trust Him more than I can myself. Also, if you’ve had evil done to you, consider Jesus Christ endured. That great evil done to Him brought us much good (John 3:16), so we can trust God to take care of things, but in His time (Rom 12:17-21). It’s also important to consider God’s will over our own. Jesus submitted to the will of the Father, even though He prayed three times to have the cup removed…the cup bearing our sins, the cup of the shame He would face, the cup of excruciating suffering like no man has ever had, and the death on the cross.
You can never have the peace of God until you are first at peace with God, and the very first step for everyone is to trust in Christ “since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). Jesus Christ paid the highest price for us to be at peace with God, and this was all about His “love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Since we “have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God” (Rom. 5:9).
Step Two: Peace of Mind
God knows everything about you and me, and He still loves us. “Indeed the very hairs of your head are numbered” (Luke 12:7), which shows that He has “loved you with an everlasting love” (Jer. 31:3). That “everlasting” love means that His love is unconditional and eternal; it is not conditioned on what you do. He will never love you any less when you disobey Him, and He will never love you anymore when you obey Him. His love abides with us forever, and that ought to give us a secure peace of mind that is also everlasting.
Step Three: Peace for the Future
God was actually speaking through Jeremiah to Israel, but these words have no less meaning for the believer today than they did for the ancient Israelites, and that is that He has “plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future” (Jer. 29:11). The future is so incredible that I cannot even describe it, nor could Paul when he wrote to the church at Rome, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18). With this knowledge, “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).
Step Four: Peace of His Presence
God is not just up in heaven watching over us. He says to us, as Moses told Israel, “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you” (Deut. 31:6), and God says to Joshua (and to us, too), “No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Joshua 1:5). Even through the author of Hebrews, He writes, “I will never leave you; I will never run away from you” (Heb. 13:5b). God has not changed. He will be with you today, tomorrow, and for all time.
We have the peace of God because we’ve made peace with God through Jesus’ payment at Calvary, we have peace of mind because God knows every intricate detail about us down to the last atom in our body, we have the peace to know that our future is secure, and we have the peace of His presence as He goes with us wherever we go.
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today(Gen 50:20).
Bad things happen to good people just as good things happen to bad people. In this day and age what used to be deemed good is now evil and what used to be called evil is now acceptable (Isaiah 5:20). You are deemed narrow minded if you call something sin that the world believes is “normal.” What happens when a Christian suffers for something they didn’t do? They actually receive a blessing. The word bless comes from the Greek markarios which means to be happy or blissful. The implication is that it is a self-contained happiness. That means that it is inherent in the person who is blessed and they are perpetually in a good state of mind. So how is a person blessed when they are hated or insulted?Jesus was clear that a person is blessed when they are reviled for His name’s sake. In Matthew 5:11 He says, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” Peter understood persecution for he surely faced a lot of evil in his day but he didn’t complain. On the contrary he wrote, “If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you” (1 Pet 4:14). I want that! I have many enemies but they really don’t hate me so much as they hate Christ. They hate the message more than the messenger. Jesus said, “Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man” (Luke 6:22). It may get so bad that there may be a time “coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God” (John 16:2b).
Take heart the next time your character is assassinated, someone speaks evil of you, a person insults you, a co-worker persecutes you…because to be insulted, hated, persecuted, and rejected for Christ‘s sake, “you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you” (1 Pet 4:14b). How great is that?!
This might be the single greatest way to be able to discern truth from error. How does the FBI train their staff to find counterfeit money? They study the real thing for hours upon hours; in other words, they spend thousands of hours looking at paper money so that they know it so well, they can spot the counterfeit a mile away. The more you get into the Bible, the more the Bible gets into you, and when you read or hear something that just doesn’t sound right, you’ll recognize it as counterfeit teaching because you know the real thing so well.
Pray to the Helper
The Helper is, of course, the Holy Spirit, and as God, He can point out error when we are not quite sure. Jesus said the Helper “will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26), and Jesus promised the “Advocate to help you and be with you forever” (John 14:16).
Listen to Biblically Solid Teachings
I have listened to a lot of rock-solid Bible teachers over the years and in seminary, and the more I hear these teachers, the more I can discern what is true and what is not. That’s why my favorite preaching is expository preaching where the pastor, teacher, or professor goes through the Bible verse by verse. You get to hear the text in the proper context and avoid hearing a pretext. Proof texting, which is what so many false teachers do, where they take one text out of context and create a pretext or they build a doctrine over that one verse, and it’s usually a false doctrine. That is a sure-fire way of hearing some false teaching.
Buy a Study Bible
I have three study Bibles, and they have some very good commentary that helps when wrestling with difficult Bible verses, which are often the focus of false teachings. Errors can happen so easily when we don’t fully understand certain verses. Sometimes the cloudy is made plain by the clear, and a good study Bible gives you cross-reference Scriptures where you can read more about a difficult verse when you come across one.
Obey the Truth
There seems to be a way to learn more truth, and that is to obey the truth that you already know or have learned. When God gives us some light and we walk in that light, we are given more light. That seems to be the way it works for me anyway. If we are not obeying what truth we already know, why would God give us more truth? He only gives to those who use what He gives.
Discernment is so important. We can discern truth from error by abiding daily in the vine–and that is Jesus Christ and His Word (John 15:1-8)–by praying for the Holy Spirit’s help, by studying the Word with a good study Bible, by sitting under good Bible teachers, and by obeying what we do know as the truth. It is true: A half-truth is a whole lie. We need to recognize the truth, for it is the truth that sets us free (John 8:32)–free from sin and free from error.
Christians are fighting a daily battle. Not against flesh and blood, but against the powers of darkness. Believers do battle with fallen angels called demons, lead by the chief enemy of God, Satan. These enemies of God and of ours attack believers on a consistent basis. What can Christians do to arm themselves against these spiritual attacks? How can a believer fight off theses spiritual attacks? God has provided a way. It is found in the Word of God – the Bible – and it is there that we can “armor up”, so to speak, against the Prince of the Power of the Air (Satan).
The best defense against temptation is a good offense and the offensive weapon is the Sword of the Spirit (the Bible).
The Armor of God
We are told that we must put on the armor of God to be able to defend ourselves against the schemes of the Devil (Eph. 6:9). Paul, having been under arrest so often by the Roman authorities, was highly familiar with the Roman Soldier’s apparel. He thought it was the perfect analogy for the Christian in their fight against the invisible enemy of darkness. The Bible describes just what the armor of God is in Ephesians 6:10-17:
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 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. 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. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
The Belt of Truth
The Belt of Truth is the belt that fastens up the believer in the only Truth there is in this world. Jesus Christ is the truth, the life, and the way (John 14:6). There is no other truth that is more absolute than the Word of God (the Bible). We can put it this way: Jesus is the Word and the Word is Jesus (John 1:1,14). The truth is something that we can stand firm on knowing that God can not lie and has promised to deliver us and not one of us will be lost (John 6:37, 10:28-29). We can stand firm if we are in Christ (II Cor. 1:21). Paul says that we stand firm only “with the belt of truth buckled around your waist”(Eph 6:14). The Roman soldier had a belt and when he prepared for battle, he girded up his loins with his belt. That is he pulled up his lhong garment and tucked it in so that he could more easily do battle with the enemy, not trip over his clothing, and not be encumbered by his accessories. This enabled his to stand firm and hold his ground to fight. The truth will not only set you free, but it allows us to be on guard, to be courageous, and to be strong (I Cor. 16:13). The world can not buckle this belt because they do not have the truth.
The Breastplate of Righteousness
The Breastplate of Righteousness is the righteousness that comes from ooin Christ. It is truly the righteousness of Christ that has been imputed to us on account of His righteousness. If we had our righteousness to protect us we would be in great danger. Fortunately, Jesus Christ’s righteousness is imputed to those who trust in Him as it says in Hebrews 10:10,14; “we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.“ The world does not have this and so they have no defense against wicked spirits. When we are born-again, the literal translation means “born from above.” The meaning is clear; we are born of God by the Holy Spirit to be a possession of His forever. We are only given this grace by the placing of our sins on Christ Himself and we are accounted righteous before God because of the perfect sacrifice of the Lamb of God. The wrath of God has been removed and when we stand before God He will declare us “not guilty” because our Advocate has paid for our sins with His own life. Those who are not saved do not have this breastplate to protect themselves on the day of judgment; the Great White Throne Judgment that is coming for those who do not believe in Jesus (Rev. 20).
The Sandals of Peace
The so-called Sandals of peace is the readiness and inner-peace that comes from knowing that “He Himself is our peace” (Eph. 2:14-15). It is called the “gospel of peace” for this reason (Eph. 6:15). Christians are at peace with God because “we have been justified through faith” (Rom 5:1). We have this peace with God only through our Lord Jesus Christ. Before we were saved we were enemies of God as Paul attests to in Romans 5:10, “For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” John 14:27 shows us this peace that comes from Christ, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.“ The world can not have this peace as it says in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
The Shield of Faith
The Shield of Faith is a must to fight off the fiery darts from the devil (Eph. 6:16). Shields in the 1st century were a combination of cloth and wood. These shields were then soaked in oil. This oil was not a flammable oil but an oil that would quench the flaming arrows that were frequently used during battles. The oil could easily represent the Holy Spirit. The shield of faith is the faith that is placed in Jesus Christ. There is no greater faith in all the universe. If it were our faith, then this shield could easily be penetrated by doubts and fears, for alone we are no match for the Devil and his fallen angles (demons). However, when a person places their faith in Christ, this means that they place their full assurance in Christ; they fully rely on, they totally lean upon, and have a complete trust in Christ Himself. Non-believers have only their own faith to protect them. It is a frail, feeble, untrustworthy faith – a worldly faith. It is a hope-so faith and not a know-so faith that is only found in Jesus Christ (Gal. 2:20). The world’s faith at best can only be in their job, in their bank account, in their stocks or retirement funds. The faith that believers have in Christ is secure and eternal and no moths, rust, or decay can touch it – it is safe from robbers nor can any stock market crash effect it (Matt 6:19-21).
The Helmet of Salvation
The Helmet of Salvation goes over the head. I believe it is meant to protect knowledge of the security of our salvation. This helmet fits over the head and therefore covers the intellect. Not only can the devil not take our life (Job 1:20) but he can not touch our imperishable crown. Everything on this earth is perishable but the imperishable crown is protected for eternity as Paul says in I Corinthians 9:25, “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” The knowledge of our salvation should help us endure the afflictions and persecutions of this world. Paul is encouraging us by writing in II Corinthians 4:16-18, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” Isn’t this a wonderful thing to know? We are secured for eternity and it is not temporary like that of the world. It is eternal and makes the temporary troubles seem trivial in comparison (Rom 8:18).
The Helmet of Salvation (this knowledge) should help a believe when they start having doubts about their own salvation, if they are truly saved or not, or to think that they are not worthy to be saved. The enemy will use doubts and self-condemnation to attack the believer that does not have this helmet. One way to tell if it is the Holy Spirit convicting a believer or the Devil that is condemning them is that the Holy Spirit will not condemn but convict. The Devil will put in thoughts into the believe mind that they are not worthy, or that they are just pretending to be a Christian but really aren’t one. That is the enemies tactic and why it is so important to have the Helmet of Salvation adorned. Those who are not Christ’s own can not wear this helmet since they do not have this knowledge.
The Sword of the Spirit
The Sword of the Spirit is the only offensive weapon that the Christian has at their disposal to fight off the enemy. Jesus used the Word of God (Scripture) to resist and fight off the Devil in the Temptation in the Wilderness. In Luke chapter 4, Jesus is tempted by the Devil. In Luke 4:3-4, “The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.” Again in verses 5-8, “The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.” Finally in verses 9-12, “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. For it is written: “He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”
Three times the Devil tried to tempt Jesus and each time Jesus used the Word of God. The best defense against temptation is a good offense and the offensive weapon is the Sword of the Spirit (the Word of God – the Bible). Putting it this way, if you get into the Word of God, the Word of God will get into you. I heard a pastor once say, “Show me a worn out Bible and I’ll show you a strong Christian.” David knew the value of hiding the Word of God in his heart. It helped him endure for so many years running for his life from King Saul. The Devil knows the truth but he hates it. When you feel temptations coming on or feel spiritual attacks hitting you, then reading or praying back Scripture is the most effective weapon there is. The Word of God is the very power of God Himself. It is alive, active, and powerful. The unsaved do not have this at their disposal.
Satan actually has ministers and many of them are behind the pulpits. Even the Devil can appear as an angel of light. Paul says that there are “false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness” (II Cor 11:13-14). Paul was “afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough” (II Cor. 11:3-4).
Any church that does not preach about the divinity of Christ, that He came in the flesh, was born of a virgin, lived a perfect life, and shed His blood to redeem fallen humans on the cross of Calvary is a false gospel and is not from God ( I John 2:22-23, II John 1:7-11).
Satan’s Prime Targets
Satan does not concern himself with the world. He is not interested in them because they are already headed down the broad path of destruction. Those who do not believe in Christ do not need persuasion to sin. They are already held captive by the god of this world (II Cor 4:4). He also may not waste much time attacking so called carnal Christians. Those believers who live in a way that is not growing in grace, in holiness, and in the knowledge of the Lord God are no threat to the Devil. No, those who Satan sees as his arch enemies are those who are trying to live a holy life. He particularly hates those who are sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. Even though he has already been defeated, he focuses his energy and sends his demons against those who are actively proclaiming Jesus Christ as the one and only way to heaven.
Spiritual attacks seem to most frequently occur at times of personal growth in the believer, when a Christian is overcoming a major sin or addiction, and when they are sharing their faith in Jesus in Jesus Christ with others. We give far too much credit to the Devil. Remember that he was a created being and can never be God’s equal. Neither is he omnipresent; that is he can not be in different places at the same time. He is not omniscient either so he can not know your heart or mind like God can. He has been defeated by Jesus Christ and Satan can do only what God allows or permits him to do and not one bit more. He is within God’s sovereignty in everything he does (Job 1).
I believe that spiritual attacks may be on the increase. Christians feel that the way this world is going that they may be living in the last days before Jesus Christ returns. Although no one knows the day nor the hour of His return, we can clearly see the signs (Matt. 24). Satan must also realize that his time is running out before Jesus Christ returns to bind him and toss him into the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:10). If you are not a believe in Jesus Christ, your fate will be sealed on the day of His return (Rev. 20:12). Today it is still not too late to come to saving faith in Jesus Christ (II Cor 6:2). If you are not a believer in Him, then you will have the same ending as the Devil himself – but for those who have been saved by grace through faith, they have already won the victory over sin, over death, and over the Devil. There’s victory in Jesus, but only death -eternal death – by rejecting Him. I pray you will join the other victors to live for eternity with God in the joy of fellowship and relationship. It will be the end of death, sorrow, pain, and suffering, but just the beginning of an everlasting joy that can not even be described (Rom 8:18).
If you have told your friend something in confidence and never heard it from anyone else, that’s a great sign of a true and trusted friendship. Friends confide in one another, and we can tell our innermost secrets, faults, and sins without fear of them telling others. If you feel like you can tell them anything and have not one bit of concern they’ll tell anyone else, you have a true friend, and they are such a blessing. That’s also someone you want praying for you, isn’t it? I have such a friend as this, whom I love so much.
Through Thick and Thin
If you’ve been through some real adversity and it seems everyone else blames you for your troubles but not your friend, that’s a true friend indeed. A friend in need is a friend indeed, and if your friend comes to you while they’re in a hard place and you do the same for them, you have a real friend there. Even when all others forsake you, your true friend never will. Hold onto that friendship with all your might.
Not Judging You
The truest of friends will tell you the truth, as the proverb says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Prov. 27:6), but they won’t judge you for your faults. If they’re honest, they must admit that they, too, have faults, so they won’t be too quick to judge you because they know you well enough to understand that it could happen to them, too. A real friend will give you the benefit of the doubt (1 Cor. 13:7) and never assume the worst but always the best.
Listens Without Interruption
I hear some people say to someone else what they’re going through, and even before they finish their sentence, the other person interrupts and says, “You think you’ve got a problem, listen to what happened to me.” A real friend will let their friend finish their sentence without interrupting. They’ll just sit and listen and wait for them to finish what they are saying. A true friend doesn’t interrupt, and they let the person say all that they need to before they say something themselves. No one wants a conversation hog where all the talk is like a one-way street.
If you want to read about true friends, read Proverbs chapter 27. It says a lot about real friends. Friends are those you can trust with your deepest secrets. They stay with you in the good and the bad times. They don’t judge you unfairly. Even when it looks like you’re in the wrong, they give you the benefit of the doubt, and they are good listeners. Are you such a friend? I covet such friendship.