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Faith Bible Church, NY
March 9, 1997
Spiritual Warfare, Part 7
Girded With Truth, Part 5
Satan’s Lies against God’s Mercy & Grace
Ephesians 6:14a and Selected
This morning we come to the fifth message dealing with the first piece of armor that God has provided for us so that we’re equipped to stand firm against our scheming and cunning adversary, the devil. Like Spartacus against ancient Rome, Satan often can win a battle against us because he strikes when we least expect it and we are unprepared. We need to make sure that we are always ready for spiritual conflict, and since Satan’s most useful weapons against us are his lies, then our foundational defense against him is the truth. Turn with me again to Ephesians 6:10 as we begin.
6:10 “Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual [forces] of wickedness in the heavenly [places.] 13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth…”.
Are you girded with truth? Can you discern between fact and fiction, between reality and illusion, between accuracy and error, between the truth and the lie? If you cannot you are susceptible to Satan’s trickery and he can trip you up, causing you to stumble and fall into sin. Does this mean we have to become experts in all subjects and know everything about everything in order to protect ourselves? If so then we are doomed because regardless of your IQ, you cannot know everything because only God Himself is omniscient. Praise the Lord you do not, but you do have to know a few things very well in order to avoid the pitfalls of Satan’s lies.
When a choir is in perfect harmony there is a certain “ring” to their sound. When the pitch of every sound is compatible with the foundational note, then blending of the tones produces beautiful music. If one note is off key, even a little sharp or flat, then there is discord and an unpleasant sound. A person does not have to have a great musical background to recognize this. You do not have to have a background in physics and be able to explain the interaction of all the sound waves, you do not have to be able to play any musical instrument, read music or even be able to sing yourself. All your really need to do is listen carefully to music that produces such harmony and you will learn to recognize that “ring” of perfect pitch. After you do this long enough, you can tell easily when music is out of tune, off key or played with discord. Of course you also become a lot more discriminating in what you listen to as well because now you recognize what is good quality music.
Truth is much like this. You do not have to know everything about everything, but you do need to know the foundation well and then develop an ear to listen for the “ring” that comes when something is stated that is in harmony with the foundation. That is what is meant by the phrase, “the ring of truth.” Your ability to discern the truth from error and hear this ring increases with your understanding of the foundational truths and their many corollaries. That is why we have spent so much time in the last month describing God’s attributes and exposing Satan’s lies against them.
How can you know that evolution is a lie if you do not have a scientific background to be able to examine and evaluate the arguments put forth by various scientists? Simple. God is eternal and He does not lie. He said He created everything and that He did so in a certain order. Evolution, both theistic and atheistic, demand a completely different order and so declare God a liar.
How can you know whether the counsel of some talk show psychologist is good or not or if there is any good in modern psychology at all if you have not taken years to study it. Again, God is holy and true and His stated will for mankind is that they repent and walk in righteousness. God is also wise and has revealed Himself and His word to us in the Bible. Does the counsel match the Scriptures? Does it promote godliness, self-control and concern for others or selfish pursuits? Men claim to be wise, but they become fools when they reject God and His word. They are also foolish when the reject the sufficiency of Scripture for man’s deficient wisdom. 1 Peter 1:2,3 is clear, “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.“
How can you know if a group is really worshiping God or not, after all, who are we to judge people in their efforts to worship God? Again, God is true, unchanging and Holy. Religious practice must agree with the Bible, not human traditions. Which is held as superior? In addition, God demands not only that we worship in “spirit and truth,” but that we also treat Him as holy. Lev. 10 records that Nadab and Abihu did not do this, and God killed them on the spot. Is what is said or sung true to the Scriptures? Is what is being done focused on giving honor and glory to God or entertaining people? Are the people called to righteousness or made to feel comfortable? This can be hard to discern, but is what is being done ringing true with God’s holiness?
There is a popular saying that “all truth is God’s truth,” but there are a lot of things claimed to be true that are not. All true truth, as Frances Schaffer used to put it, will ring in harmony with the nature and character of God. God is eternal, sovereign, omnipotent, omnipresent, true and wise, holy, jealous, just, righteous, transcendent, unchanging, good, loving, patient, longsuffering, merciful and gracious. Anything that would contradict or even insinuate in the least that God is not who and what He claims to be is a lie. God is good – He cannot be accused of evil or blamed for your problems. God is just – there are consequences to sin. Hell is real and the unrighteous will be judged according to their works and condemned to it. God is loving – He does care about what is going on in your life and is willing to help you if you will trust Him and follow after His will.
Truth is central in our battle with Satan, and you must be thoroughly grounded in it if you are to stand firm against him and his efforts to either keep you from Heaven if you are not yet a Christian or from daily living for Christ if you are a true Christian. It is the truth that sets us free from bondage to Satan’s deceptions. It is the truth that guides us on the path of righteousness that leads to heaven. The Word of God is the truth because He is true.
Our adversary, the devil, is a liar and the father of lies, and one of his most effective means of promoting his lies is to distort the meaning of words. Many social scientists would have you believe that languages have evolved from some more primitive means of communication. The truth is that language does not evolve in the sense of getting better, but rather they devolve and get worse. The deteriorating effect of sin effects even our ability to communicate. Words have meaning, but over time as those words are used incorrectly they develop new connotations and eventually broaden in meaning – sometimes taking on totally new meaning and sometimes even opposite meanings – and I am not talking about witticisms of perspective such as going up the street to the downtown area or down to the store up on the hill.
Some quick examples of this are: The last decade of the 1800’s was called the “gay nineties.” The last decade of the 20th century might also be called the “gay nineties”, but the word “gay” now has a totally different meaning. Bad can mean good and good can mean bad. Is wicked evil, or a great ride on a roller coaster? An antonym of “radical” is conservative, yet in popular usage it is most often used to describe conservatives. (The correct term for conservative extremists would be either reactionary or counterrevolutionary). Pro-choice means removing the unborn child’s ability to ever choose and restricting information from pregnant women.
The deterioration of language makes is more difficult to communicate clearly. We are not sure what is meant by what is being said. True misunderstandings more easily develop while greater room is given to those who purposely want to mislead. An immoral man can tell a woman he loves her, but that does not mean he cares about her. Instead he lusts after her and wants to use her to meet his own needs. Politicians can say one thing and mean another. They can talk about liberty, and mean greater governmental control of your life. Satan can promote sin as freedom without revealing the bondage it brings with it.
In Satan’s lies against God, he distorts the meaning of the words that describe Him and thus can lead people astray. God is holy, but that does not mean unapproachable. It means He is perfectly righteous and set apart from anything evil. God is approachable, but only by those who meet the qualifications He has set, being made righteous by Jesus Christ. God is good and loving, but does not mean you will get what you want from Him. It means He will give and do for you what is best for you from His eternal perspective.
God is merciful and gracious, but that does not mean He is a benevolent and doting grandfather type who will give you whatever your heart desires and will overlook whatever you do simply because you are related to him. Grace and mercy have definite meanings, but often they are thought of and used with a wrong connotation or incorrect meaning resulting in some serious distortions about God.
Webster defines mercy as “compassionate rather than severe behavior towards someone in one’s power.” Synonyms often used for mercy include: benevolence, compassion, forbearance, forgiveness, kindness and sympathy. All these things are helpful in describing God’s mercy, but we must be careful not to let our definition of God’s mercy take away from his other attributes, including being holy and just or that we start defining His compassion towards us according to what would make us feel good.
Mercy does rise out of His compassionate love and it is extended to those under His control, because after all, everything is in His power. However, this is only a small portion of the picture and does not adequately describe the meaning of mercy. The Bible uses several different words to describe God’s mercy.
σπλάγχνα literally means your gut, but it and its cognates are used to refer to the feelings of kindness, goodwill and pity toward someone. It is often translated as “affection,” “bowels of mercy” and “tender mercy.” It is used in Zacharia’s prophecy in Luke 1:78 to state that it was “because of the tender mercy of God” toward us that He sent Jesus to be our savior. The verb form is often used describing Jesus as “being moved with compassion” for the people.
οἰκτείρω and its cognates refer to having pity for the ills of others. Often translated as “tender mercy” or “compassion.” However, unlike us, God’s pity is not motivated externally. Look at Exodus 33:19. Paul quotes this verse in Romans 9:15. We pity what we like and what we feel sorry for. We might pity a stray cat or dog coming to our yard and looking for some food, yet have no pity for a drug addict panhandling at the train station. We may pity the thief who looks forlorn sitting in jail, yet want nothing but vengeance on the hit and run driver who just totaled our car. God’s pity is not based on us but arises totally within Himself based on His own nature. Ex. 33:19 And He said, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the Lord before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.”
The last word is ἐλεέω and its cognates refer to feeling compassion and pity, but there must be an action with it, and this word refers to that. It is the outward manifestation of pity and compassion in action that recognizes the need of another and from its own resources it moves to meet that need. This word is almost always translated as “mercy” though on occasion it is translated as “compassion” or “pity.”
God’s mercy is derived from within Himself. It is based upon and conditioned by all His attributes. God is personally involved with the creatures He has made. He recognizes their need and He moves to meet those needs not because they are deserving, but because He is holy, good and loving which extends itself in compassion, patience, longsuffering and forgiveness. In a word, mercy.
Grace is a word with similar meaning and because God’s actions toward men are often both, grace and mercy are often found together. Webster defines it in the theological sense as “unconstrained and undeserved divine favor or goodwill, God’s loving mercy displayed to man for the salvation of his soul.” From this definition, which is also a good definition of the Greek word, χάρις, we can see that mercy can often be included as an aspect of grace.
Both mercy and grace are extended to those who do not deserve it. Mercy centers more on the aspect of compassion that with holds what is deserved from a person while grace centers more on granting to a person what is not deserved though the words are used with some overlap.
An innocent man convicted of a crime that is later pardoned receives justice. A guilty man convicted of a crime that is later pardoned receives mercy. If you host someone for dinner because you are trying to sell them something, that’s business. If you buy them dinner because they want to spend time with you, but they don’t have any money, that’s grace. If someone works for you and you pay them, those are wages. If pay someone that has done nothing for you, that is a gift – it’s grace. If you are pulled over by a policeman because your car has a broken tail light and he does not give you a ticket, that is mercy. If he then gives you $10 to get it fixed, that is grace.
Satan lies about God’s mercy and grace seeking to either magnify or diminish them depending on what will work to keep a person from having a right response to God.
One of Satan’s lies is that because God is merciful and gracious He will not punish you for your sins. We have seen this lie before in relationship to God’s goodness and love. His claim is that a good and loving God will not punish but will instead grant mercy and forgiveness to all His creatures. Variations of the lie will have mercy and forgiveness based on certain man made standards – forgiveness because a person did more good than evil, they did the best they could, they never did anything really bad like murder, steal a million dollars, bring home a venereal disease to their spouse, etc.
In all these cases we find again that God’s holiness, righteousness and justice are attacked as well as His veracity. God has declared that the “soul that sins will die” (Ezek. 18:4) and that includes any sin including hatred, lying, stealing anything, having lust for someone who is not your spouse, boasting, not loving God with all your heart, soul and mind or your neighbor as yourself (Mt. 5, 22, Rom. 1).
God is merciful and gracious, but He cannot simply overlook sin because He is nice and does not want you to suffer in hell. 2 Peter 3:9 tells us that God is not willing that any should perish, and John 3:17 tells us that “God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him,” but those verses do not end there because God’s holiness, righteousness and justice must also be satisfied. That is why the full phrase of 2 Peter 3:9 says God is not willing that any should perish but that all come to repentance, and why John 18 goes on to state, “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed i the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
What you and I and everyone else deserves is eternal punishment in hell. It is God’s mercy that He does not abandon us to reap the full consequence of our sin, but instead, provides a means for us to justified in His sight and forgiven our sins. It is His grace that brings us into a right relationship with Him and grants us the promise of eternity with Him in heaven.
There is now widely held lie that magnifies God’s grace to such an extent that it has perverted the gospel by distorting the conditions God has set for salvation. In an effort to emphasis that salvation is by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ apart from any human works of righteousness (Eph. 2:8), there are many now that will no longer speak of or use the terminology Jesus and the apostles used when they are presenting a message of salvation. They will not talk of repentance, conversion, being poor in spirit, personal righteousness, mortification of the flesh, taking up the cross of Christ or the Lordship of Christ when they are witnessing.
That God requires you to repent, to turn from your sin and to Christ (Luke 5:32; Acts 17:30; 2 Cor. 7:10; 2 Tim. 2:25; 2 Peter 3:9), does not diminish His grace or mercy in any way. Repentance does not earn you salvation any more than faith in Jesus Christ does. Conversion is the whole point of salvation. You are changed from one things into something new (2 Cor. 5:17). You were a slave of sin and you are now to be a slave of righteousness (Rom. 6:17,18). You were transferred from Satan’s kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of Jesus Christ (Col. 1:13). Only the poor in spirit will enter that kingdom (Mt. 5:3) because God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5). Being a Christian is all about becoming like Christ since God’s election and choosing of us for salvation is so that we can be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29), so to talk about salvation apart from God’s call for us to be holy as He is holy is to present a perverted gospel. As I have said many times before, Salvation is not an escape from hell, but from sin. Escape from hell is just a side benefit. To present a gospel in which you call to Jesus savior and not as Lord at the same time is to present a false and dangerous gospel. You do not make Jesus Lord. He is Lord. You simply recognize that fact. Salvation apart from the initial recognition of His lordship over you is not salvation (Rom. 10:9). At the moment of salvation you are converted becoming a new creature who belongs to Christ. From that point on Jesus is your Lord – your master – and the rest of your life is to be spent becoming a better, more obedient servant to Him.
Salvation can never come from man’s efforts to produce works of righteousness because such man produced deeds are filthy before God (Isa. 64:6). Salvation from sin only comes as a gift of God’s grace for it is all His work. It is the Holy Spirit that convicts you of sin bringing the conviction that drives you away from sin to seek after some means of being forgiven. It is Jesus Christ who died in your place taking the full penalty of your sins upon Himself so that you could be forgiven and made righteous before God. It is the Holy Spirit that brings you to faith to believe these things are true and to place your trust in Christ alone for forgiveness and receive the salvation He offers. God does not stop there but continues to draw you into a deeper relationship with Himself, into the increasing practice of righteousness as He conforms you to the image of His Son, Who will bring you through the trials of life to the joys of heaven. Salvation is all of God’s mercy; it is all of His grace, but those that reject it will receive the full wrath of His holy justice.
Some people believe Satan’s lie that though God might be merciful to some, He could not be so to them. They count themselves as too great of sinners who have done too many horrible things to be forgiven. What sin is it that is so great that God cannot forgive? What stain of sin is there on any human soul that the blood of Christ is not powerful enough to wash it clean? Moses was a murderer. God forgave him and used him to not only free Israel from Egypt but also bring God’s law to His people. David was an adulterer, a liar and a murderer, yet God forgave him and called him a man after His own heart. Matthew was a despised tax-gatherer – a traitor to his people and probably a thief too. Jesus forgave him and called him to be one of the apostles. Paul consented to murder and cruelly attacked the early Christians trying to get them to blaspheme the name of Jesus, yet Jesus forgave him and used him to write a significant portion of the New Testament.
Jesus came to seek and save the lost, calling sinners to repentance. Your guilt over your sin only demonstrates that He came for you. Certainly the unrighteous will not go to heaven. That is clear throughout the Bible. Paul states it clearly in 1 Cor. 6:9 and then lists out some of the kinds of people that make up the unrighteous. Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor [the] covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God. If Paul ended there you might have reason to feel hopeless and unforgivable, but he goes on in verse 11, “And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God.”
You cannot sin beyond the reach of God’s mercy and grace. For you to continue to do so is to call God a liar and claim that Jesus death was not sufficient for you. Don’t be proud to the point that your sin is greater than anyone else’s, and stop believing Satan’s lie. God’s mercy and grace are available to you if you will believe and receive it. If we confess our sins He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
Another lie of Satan’s is that God is not merciful, but cruel. These lies are also against God’s goodness. The person believing these lies perceives God as some tyrant who takes pleasure in our suffering or at least as a cosmic kill-joy who does not want us to have any fun. People usually fall to these lies because they are self-centered and proud. They believe that they know what is best for themselves and if they do not get it, then it is because God is cruel.
I am amazed at how quickly we will defer to a human “expert” but will not grant the same understanding to God who is the ultimate expert, knowing everything about everything. When you go to a doctor for some ailment and he recommends some treatment, do you think him cruel because that treatment will hurt – both physically and financially? Is God to be considered cruel when He begins His spiritual treatment program on you. Is the doctor mean when he sends waves of pain through your body as he resets your broken bone? Is God mean when He turns your life topsy turvy and begins to resent your broken life? Is it heartless for a cardiologist to put his patients on restricted diets? Is it heartless for God to require you to be morally and spiritually disciplined? Was the surgeon that operated on my appendicts sadistic because it left me in the hospital for 10 days with some of the most intense physical pain I have ever experienced? Is God sadistic because He might remove something important to you?
Sheldon Vanuaken wrote a book he entitled Severe Mercy. In it he tells of the great love he had for his wife and how God first drew her to Himself for salvation, and then through her death from cancer finally brought him to salvation. Was the death of these four children the other day God’s cruelty or His mercy as the parents testimony of faith was given to a large audience of people currently on their way to hell?
God is not cruel. He is merciful and gracious, and His grace and merciful are available to you. If you are not yet a true Christian, He offers you forgiveness of sins and a relationship with Himself through faith in Jesus Christ..
If you are a Christian God wants you to continue to grow in your faith and trust Him for the cares of your daily life. We deserve only bad, yet He gives to us everything good. If you are struggling in some area then that is what the church, the body of Christ is for. Find a friend and share your burden with them and let them encourage you.
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