Who are you most afraid of? Who is that person that knows just which buttons to push to get you to do what you would otherwise never consider, because it is wrong? Regardless of whether this particular bully is at school, at work, in your neighborhood, or even at home, it is essential that you know that there is Someone you need to be so much more afraid of displeasing.
“…when He…seated Him [Christ] at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.” (Ephesians 1:20-21)
I must have been about ten when my parents decided to discuss the spiritual world around us. I’m not sure what they were thinking and they surely meant no harm, but the thought that there were supernatural beings who were watching what I was doing terrified me for weeks to come. The fact, however, is that there is a supernatural world and there are supernatural beings, both good and bad. As children these concepts are easy to understand because we are naturally imaginative, but because we cannot see them, as we mature the idea of angels and demons begins to seem increasingly implausible, like something out of a children’s book. Yet the truth is that the spiritual world exists, albeit not within the simplistically conceived constraints we imagine.
One of the oldest books of the Bible, Job, describes a scene which occurred “in the heavenly places”—in heaven:
“Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them.”
While we imagine fanciful cherubs and pitchforked devils, this was a day when the various supernatural beings created by God came to present themselves to Him. Although it is also difficult to speculate on this meeting’s purpose, it is possible that this was a gathering of God’s angels responsible for various parts of creation. The fact that Satan, though not one of the “sons of God,” also presented himself suggests that perhaps he felt he belonged there too.
It is interesting that after God asks Him where he has come from, he states, “from going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it.” Is it possible that this was a claim of ownership of or authority on earth? As bizarre as this might seem, the fact that God’s next comment to him is “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?” lends credibility to that possibility, as God thus indicates that because Job is a godly man who fears Him, Satan cannot, indeed, claim control of the entire earth. Whether or not the conversation was over an ownership claim by Satan, this passage of Scripture gives us a broader insight into the spiritual reality which exists, and helps us better understand that rather than being inhabited by the simplistic cherubs of Valentine’s Day cards and pitchforked devils of Halloween, it is a reality which has significant repercussions in our own experiences. So, should we be afraid of the spiritual world?
The book of Job, again, answers this question. It shows us that Satan is powerless to do anything without God’s permission. Satan even accuses God, “Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side?” We are not to fear Satan, because He can only do as much as God allows, and we know that “…all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) Furthermore, we need not fear the angels because Hebrews 1:14 tells us that they are “…ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation.” So if we are not to be afraid of Satan and the evil spirits, and the angels are sent by God to help us, who should we be afraid of?
I John 4:18 tells us “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” And 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” The Holy Spirit does not instill fearfulness in the people of God. But, there is a fear we ought to have which even Jesus taught, and that is the fear of disobeying God:
“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him [God] who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28)
Hebrews 10:26-31 explains it best:
“For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which He was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. And again, ‘The LORD will judge His people.’ It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
Modern Christianity has become exceedingly lax where intentional sin is concerned. This is not to say that we cannot repent. God frequently allows us the grace to repent. But the concept that we can lasciviously abuse the grace of God by living in habitual sin and still “be saved” is Biblically inconsistent. To the contrary, “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth” (I John 1:6) and “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested [revealed, made known to us], that He might destroy the works of the devil. Whoever has been born of God does not sin [habitually, as a way of life], for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin [as a way of life], because he has been born of God. In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest [revealed, obvious, known]: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.” (I John 3:8-10)
As fallible human beings there will be times when we “mess up,” but if our lives are a consistent pattern of intentional disobedience, we need to realistically assess whether we are taking God seriously and even if we truly belong to God. 2 Corinthians 13:51 warns us, “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.”
Perhaps because recent generations have feared harsh parenting to the point of the pendulum swinging to the opposite of extremely lax disciplinary measures, many of us tend to transpose our parents’ attitudes onto God. It is imperative that we not do so. Rather, we must learn who really He is and how serious an attitude He takes toward sin from His Word.
God commands us in Leviticus 19:2, “…You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.”
In Revelation 21:7-8 He says, “He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
And in Galatians 5:19-21 He explains, “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
We must take God seriously. Jesus is in a position of authority in heaven, and while He has paid for our sins, God takes our obedience very seriously. May we recognize the times we live in and not assume that all is well because everyone else does it, but consciously turn away from sin toward Christ-centered obedience!
Thank You for everything You have done for me. Help me to overcome. In Jesus’ name, Amen.