SATAN’S IMITATIONS [11/06/20]

Life is filled with many counterfeits, and this is evident in every area of life especially in merchandising; we make a purchase of a name-brand that we trust only eventually to find out it is a fake. Sadly, we find that this has moved into our Christian lives and our Churches, and at times it is shocking to hear the messages from some of our church pulpits, and this is Satan’s design! “Wherever God does a work on earth, Satan first tries to oppose it, and next to corrupt it by introducing a sham” (From Egypt to Canaan by John Ritchie)

In the book of Exodus, we find that Pharaoh is a depiction of Satan, and many of his attempts to avoid releasing the Israelites involve some counterfeit action or suggestion to God’s command. His magicians duplicated Aaron’s rod by doing the same with theirs <Ex.7:11-12>; the Nile water became blood and again and this was duplicated <Ex.7:20-22>; again, the plague of frogs was replicated by the magicians <Ex.8:6-7>; but we find that after this when the magicians could not produce a counterfeit, Pharaoh responded with alternatives.

God’s command was “Let my people go, so that they may worship me…. We must take a three-day journey into the desert to offer sacrifices to the Lord our God, as he commands us.” <Ex.7:16; 8:27 (NIV)>; and Pharaoh’s first suggestion was, don’t go too far <Ex.8:28>, later after the Egyptians had endured God’s judgments, Pharaoh suggested that only the Israelite men should go <Ex.10:11>; and finally, he suggested that that all the Israelites could go but their animals should be left behind <Ex.10:24>.

So, we find that throughout the accounts recorded in the Scriptures Satan introduced his own alternatives to what God had done or commanded His people. One of the first incidents recorded is that of Abraham, Sarai and Hagar. God made a promise to Abraham and Sarai <Gen.15:4>, but because of Sarai’s infertility <Gen.11:30>, she doubted God and decided on her own solution <Gen.16:1-5>, and the result of this action is evident throughout the centuries to this day in the animosity between the Jews and the Arab nations. After their departure from Egypt and their anticipated entrance into Canaan, Moses rehearsed God’s promises and gave them God’s specific commands, as recorded in the book Deuteronomy; “The Lord your God commands you this day to follow these decrees and laws; carefully observe them with all your heart and with all your soul.” <Deut.26:16 (NIV)>, and one specific command was concerning the inhabitants of Canaan who were under the condemnation of God because of their detestable worship customs, God intended for the Israelites to carry out His judgment upon these people; He commanded the Israelites to completely destroy the people and everything that related to them, because God knew that if anything was left of them the Israelites would be attracted to their form of worship. After Joshua led the Israelites across the Jordan river and the conquest began, Satan immediately introduced a deception which, unfortunately they fell for <see Jos.9:3-6, 14-16> and allowed the Gibeonites to live in the land, which later on was to their regret <see Jud.2:2-3>. How often today Christians are faced with similar situations, they know what the Scriptures teach but they deliberately disobey God’s commands to their detriment. Moving forward; during Solomon’s reign his son Jeroboam rebelled against his father, and some years after the death of Solomon we see a division in the kingdom; Jeroboam rules over the northern kingdom of Israel where he introduces a substitute place of worship and sacrifices, no doubt influenced by Canaanite worship, to discourage the people from travelling to Jerusalem for the Temple worship, <see 1 Kings 12:26-33>; which led to the eventual fall of the northern kingdom to the Assyrians. The Kingdom of Judah soon followed the northern kingdom into captivity by the Babylonians for the same sins; they had allowed the Canaanite worship to influence them <see Deut. 28:43; 31:29>.

This pattern continued on to the birth of the early Church after Christ’s ascension. Several times the apostles were confronted by Judaizers and other false teachers, and Paul had to write to Timothy and Titus giving them specific instructions in dealing with false teachers that had infiltrated the early Churches, and throughout the other books recorded in the New Testament we see that false teachers were constantly at work, and we continue to see evidence of their teaching today as Gnosticism and Nicolaitan doctrines continue to creep into the Church. Satan will continue to introduce various counterfeits and suggestions to God’s people and we have to be extremely cautious in bringing these counterfeits into our lives and into our Churches. Sermons are preached, teachings and variations in our worship are introduced in our Churches today that have no semblance to what is taught in God’s Word, and we as Christians, followers of Christ, must be continually on our guard; we must know what the Scriptures teach so that we can readily recognize the Satanic counterfeits and suggestions that are facing us;  “do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” <1 Jn.4:1>.

LIBERATION FROM OPPRESSION [10/10/20]

Similar to any desire to free oneself from sinful oppression, so it was for the Israelites when Moses and Aaron presented God’s command to Pharaoh “Let my people go” <Ex.5:1>, Pharaoh immediately declared open non-compliance and demanded that the oppression be increased; “Who is the Lord that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go” <Ex.5:2 (NIV)>. This is the method of the devil as he attempts to impede the liberation of the sinner. How often in life an individual, who has become a slave to some depravity or pattern of life, attempts to break away only to be snared and returned to the life of slavery? There seems to be no way of escape and the demands of slavery increases, <see Ex.5:9, 11>. Similarly, the devil does not let go of the sinner and deters in every way the individual’s decision to turn to God in repentance. There are four deceptions recorded in Exodus 5 to 10 used by Pharaoh that can be associated with the tactics of Satan, as he attempts to impede the Israelites from obedience to God’s command; “Now let us take a three-day journey into the desert to offer sacrifices to the Lord our God” <Ex.5:1, 3 (NIV)>. This was God’s method of salvation for His people then and now; the three days are a representation of Christ’s suffering and death, His Burial and resurrection, that completed His work of salvation; this salvation which is the only escape from the bondage of sin.

The first of the devil’s deceptions is observed in Pharaoh’s suggestion to Moses and Aaron: “Go sacrifice to your God here in the land” <Ex.8:25>. Satan understands that he cannot fight against God, but he will do everything in his power through craftiness to cause the new believer, and even the older believer, to stumble and fail; so, he suggests that the Israelites “sacrifice in the land”. This deception is still being suggested today as Satan’s aim is to destroy the very object of our salvation and testimony to the true God, the Cross of Christ. If Satan cannot deter the liberation of a sinner through visible obstruction, he will subtly keep the individual sacrificing in the land, and Satan has certainly succeeded in this deception. Satan has no objection to any person adopting a form of religion where one can uphold a successful moral standing in today’s culture without being a sincere follower of Christ <2 Tim.3:5>, such people are accepted and praised by the social order but do not have an effective witness for Christ, causing the name of God to be ridiculed. A worldly religion embraces everything, condemns nothing except the committed follower of Christ, Satan hates an absolute separation to God. As a professing Christian, have you completed your three-day journey? Have you separated yourself from worldly influences? You cannot present a true testimony for God or worship Him in spirit and sincerity, while at the same time fellowshipping in a worldly religion; the call of God is clear; “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” “Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord.” <2 Cor.6:14-17 (NIV)>

The second deception of Satan is identified in Pharaoh’s next offer: “I will let you go to offer sacrifices to the Lord your God in the desert, but you must not go very far.” <Ex.8:28 (NIV)>, or in simple terms “do not go too far away”. Satan prefers that the believer does not go too far, just far enough so that he can draw the individual back under his control, destroying the persons testimony as a separated follower of Christ. A modern-day type of Christianity – “Borderland Christianity” is very common, and is a great tool for Satan as it fits his purpose; a Christian who is “luke-warm” is nothing more than a stumbling block to everyone, a hypocrite, having no capacity for anything, respected by no one, and lives a discouraging life. The account of Lot in Genesis pictures this type of Christianity, where he lived a life of hypocrisy so that he had no testimony in his city and when the judgment of God was imminent his sons-in-law would not believe him <see Gen.19:14; cf Rev.3:15-17>; he was ridiculed as his worldliness completely paralyzed his preaching. All believers in Christ must recognise this deception, for Satan will say to us “don’t go too far”, you can be a Christian but you can still indulge in actions and things that may be questionable for a believer in Christ, why not, others are doing so. But are they correct? We are taught by scriptures that God’s people, or followers of Christ, are chosen, holy, God’s possession, to declare God’s praises <1 Pet.2:9>; and we are also instructed that we should not live an ungodly life <Eph.4:17; 1 Cor.3:3>. It is very easy for us to follow what others are doing, we must be like others is the encouragement, but unfortunately such action will only lead to disappointment and discouragement in our walk with Christ <see Ex.8:26-27>; we are encouraged to be like Christ in all our ways. Therefore, we must insist on our “three-day journey” – a complete separation from the world if we are to be an effective Christian.

Satan’ next deception is seen where he suggests: “Have only the men go; and worship the Lord” <Ex.10:11 (NIV)>; Pharaoh will allow them to go but they must leave the women and children behind. This is a clever deception and can be seen in the actions of some Christian parents today where their children are encouraged to participate in worldly practices so as to be successful and acceptable by the social order of the day; the end result being that their children are so influenced by worldly pleasures and practices they are far from being followers of Christ. Both Lot and Eli the priest were guilty of this and their children are an example of those that are left to worship in a worldly manner <see 1 Sam.2:12, 22-25>, symbolizing a warning to all Christian parents today. The decision is, and always should be; “We will go with our young and old, with our sons and daughters, and with our flocks and herds” <Ex.10:9 (NIV)>, since all that we have and are must be dedicated to God.

The final deception recorded is: “Go, worship the Lord. Even your women and children may go with you; only leave your flocks and herds behind.” <Ex.10:24 (NIV)>. This sounds reasonable since taking their flocks and herds would create great difficulty, but this stopped short of God’s demand; everything that they owned was required to make the journey “until we get there we will not know what we are to use to worship the Lord.” <Ex.10:26 (NIV)>; God must have all when we decide to follow Him, we cannot deny God of what belongs to Him; so, Moses’ response was “not a hoof is to be left behind” <Ex.10:26 (NIV)> everything must go.

Christ’s call to follow Him demands a response of full commitment <Mk.1:17-20; Lk.5:11>, we have to make a decision to follow Christ, and such decision means that everything that we are and have goes with that decision, and we see many examples in Scripture where individuals are called to make that decision, Moses refused to lower God’s claims, Daniel was thrown into the Lions den and the furnace of fire rather than deny God, to name a few. We must understand that it is the responsibility of all disciples of Christ to leave the world behind and take the journey of the Cross when we decide to follow Christ, taking all that we have and dedicating it to Christ.