I ain’t afraid of no Ghosts

IT’S THAT TIME of year again here in Borger Texas, Halloween. The time when many decorate their homes with ghosts, goblins and witches.  Even Netflix is promoting a plethora of scary zombie movies. The conversations about ghosts and goblins increase as well. I’ve spoken to several folks who actually believe in a potential zombie apocalypse. A zombie is a corpse said to be revived by witchcraft, in other words, the walking dead.

Regardless of the pop culture surrounding zombies, I ain’t afraid of no zombies either. I’m not afraid by faith. When we say “by faith”, what we mean is that we have revelation from God on any given subject. “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” [Romans 10:17; Deut 29:29]. God has told us a few things about the evil spiritual realm.

[This article revisits a theme I wrote about in June, “Is demon possession possible].

What does the Bible say about the evil spirit world?

God revealed through the scriptures some things about spirit beings, or angels. Angels are beings with a higher nature than man [Psalm 8:5; Heb 2:7, 9], but some of them sinned against God [2Peter 2:4; Jude 1:6]. This fallen group seem to be identified as the devil’s angels [Matt 25:41; Rev 12:7,9]. They are identified by other terms as well; “demons” [Luke 11:15], “evil spirits” (Acts 19:12-13], “unclean spirits” [Matthew 10:1], or Satan’s angels [Matt. 25:41; Rev. 12:7, 9].

Though very little is said about the demonic & demon possession in the OT, in the NT it appears to have increased. Jesus, along with his disciples, frequently encountered the demonic and were able to cast them out of possessed peoples [Matt 1:21-27; Mark 9:14-29]. Jesus said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” [Luke 10:18-20]. The context shows that He was speaking about the disciples’ power over evil spirits and the weakening of Satan’s power, including his influence.

This ability matches the prophecy from Zechariah; “I will also cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to depart from the land” [Zech 13:2]. Peter & Jude refer to evil spirits being in chains and bound [2Peter 2:1-4; Jude 1:6]. Revelation describes Satan being “bound” during the time in which Christ reigns over His kingdom—which is the church [Rev. 20:2]. This evidence points to the conclusion that demonic activity does not happen today, because the evil spirit realm has been “bound” awaiting the final judgement.

Then there’s the living dead…

Most of what we declare about ghosts is from the imaginations of the minds eye of fiction and not by faith (by revelation from God). Even in the Bible, we see the disciples “imagining” that they saw a ghost when they were actually seeing Jesus walk upon the water [Matt 14:26]. But it was their fear of the unknown that created the thought of a ghost, for they had never witnessed anyone ever walking upon the water. It’s important to note that the spirits of the dead are not the same as angels or demons. It is only after the resurrection of the righteous dead that they become “equal to the angels” [Luke 20:36]. Just because the disciples “supposed it was a ghost” is no evidence that ghosts exist [Mark 6:49].

Where do our spirits go when we die?

According to the word of God, all of the dead go to a place of the dead called in New Testament Greek, “Hades”, (translated either; hell, Hades, or grave) the place of departed souls [Luke 16:19-30; Acts 2:27]. All of the sinful angels are bound in a part of Hades called “Tartarus” [2Peter 2:4]. We conclude from these passages that the spirits of the dead & bound are not allowed to roam the Earth nor haunt us. In Jesus’ parable of the rich man and Lazarus, [Luke 16:19-30], the rich man begged that Lazarus be sent back to warn his brothers, but this request was denied.

There are only 2 instances in the New Testament where departed spirits, other than Jesus Himself, were allowed to return. The first was the return of Moses & Elijah in Matt 17:3. This was to show that the Law of Moses & the prophets are fulfilled in Christ Jesus, for God spoke and said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.”  The second, when the graves of the saints were opened after the resurrection of Jesus in Matt 27:52-54. In both instances they were for a very specific purpose, to testify to the validity of Jesus’ claims, and have since ceased. We can have confidence in the scriptures that we need not be afraid nor be deceived about any evil spirit, zombie or ghost [Eph 5:6, Col 2:4,8,18; 3:6; 2Th 2:3], sound theology has a way of doing that!

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A Sower Went Out to Sow

A SOWER WENT OUT TO SOW: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it. And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. And his disciples asked him, saying, What might this parable be? Luke 8:5-9

This parable, as told by our Lord and Master, teaches us about the difficulties of spreading the Gospel. In His explanation [Luke 8:11-15] He shows us that we have good seed, which is the word of God, and that the only failure that occurs in spreading the gospel is on the part of the sower or the receiver, God’s word never fails [Isa 55:11].

There are only 2 reasons why someone rejects the Gospel, you or them. They are responsible for the rejection of the Gospel due to the lack of a good & honest heart [Luke 8:15], or because they do not have a love for the truth.

And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. [2Thess. 2:10]

We fail the master for the same reason, a lack of love for the Word of God. When we obeyed the Gospel, confessing that Jesus was the Christ, we committed ourselves to His service as lights of the world [Mat 5:14]. Therefore, when He said, “go” we said “ok” [Mat 28:18-20]. When we don’t, we become like the son who disobeyed his Father [Mt 21:30].

Here’s where the lack of love comes in, Jesus said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” [Mat 22:37]. He also said, “if ye love me, keep my commandments” [John 14:15]. Love is exemplified in our obedience toward Him. Which command of God shall we omit? Jesus went on to say, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” What better way to demonstrate our love toward a Borger neighbor than to share with them the soul saving Gospel message? There are several ways we can share the Gospel with those closest to us…

ONE, we can show it by acting like Christians every day. This was the case with a woman who had an unbelieving spouse; “Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear” [1Peter 3:1-2]. When we take an honest look at our behavior and attitudes, will we find that extra special difference from the world? Do we have an above average positive attitude, an above average speech, an above average hope, an above average kindness, an above average show of love, an above average level of service? Rather, and I’m no exception, our daily “conversation” would hardly win anyone.

TWO, we can share the Gospel through our love for each other. “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” [John 13:35]. We are like any family, we have disagreements from time to time, but that doesn’t mean we stop loving one another or treat each other poorly. Folks are watching us and judging us by the way we treat each other. If we’re having trouble with loving each other, then pray for them. It’s hard to keep hatred in your heart when you pray for them.

THIRD, we can talk about the Gospel with others directly. This requires an intentional mindset toward spreading the Gospel. With enough practice we can turn nearly any conversation toward spiritual things [Acts 8:35]. Of course, not everyone cares for these kinds of conversation, in those cases just remember Matthew 7:6 “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.” Do you WANT others to hear the Gospel and obey it? If we want eternal life bad enough, then we can’t help but have the Gospel burst forth from us. “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” John 7:38

FOURTH, we can help others in their evangelism efforts. Some folks are really good at starting Bible studies or inviting to services. Your part may be in being the hospitable host or hostess. Perhaps you can help a young mom with her fussy child, allowing her to concentrate on the study. Paul described this kind of evangelism in 1Corinthians 9:19-23. “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” As in the previous point, we have to WANT it bad enough.

FIFTH, we can refer interested parties to other members more experienced in leading a study. A new convert friend of mine is really good at generating contacts, but has yet acquired the skills to lead a study. One day he shall, but for now he is invaluable in making contacts. Cornelius, as well as Lydia & the Philippian Jailor, referred their entire families to those who could teach the Gospel. [Acts 10:33; 16:15, 32]. We can give our friends and family study material. We have tracts or books or we can pass out the Ready reference of Bible topics bookmark. You can even pass along the weekly bulletin.

LASTLY, we can evangelize through our own joy in the midst of all our sorrows and pains of life. This is the meaning of 1Peter 3:15; “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;” As Christians, if Heaven awaits us, we can endure even the most difficult of lives. That’s how Job got through the worst tragedy of life, the loss of a child. When people see our struggles, but at the same time see us remain hopeful, they’re going to ask why. Sorrows are key moments in a person’s life and if we can’t trust in the Lord, why would anyone want to know about Him.

3 step method for Overcoming Discouragement

THERE ARE MANY reasons why we become discouraged.

Life is Difficult. Job faced this more than any other person. Problem after problem after problem just kept coming upon him and he didn’t know why [Job 1-2]. Let’s face it, life is hard and it’s dangerous. We face the loss of jobs, or stuff through things outside of our control. Sometimes tragedy strikes us with the loss of a friend or family in death.

Life’s challenges appear too big. This seems to be the challenge for the Israelites as they came into the promised land, even the people were giants! [Num 13:26-33; 32:9] The Lord knew that the challenge of taking the land would look too big and warned them about becoming discouraged [Deut 1:21]. Do the obstacles you face, money, health & relationships, appear too big to handle?

Other folks get us down. Then there’s the trouble that comes upon us through other folks. Their bad behavior affects us. The sin of David in numbering the people did this [2Sam 24:15]. Often we’re troubled by the sin of another. Whether it is their apathy, carelessness or outright wickedness, we become discouraged.

Consider the many tragedies our brother Paul faced during his life as an Apostle of Jesus Christ;  …in labours … in stripes … in prisons … in deaths …five times …forty stripes … Thrice … beaten with rods, once … stoned, thrice … shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; … journeyings often, …perils of waters, … robbers… mine own countrymen, … heathen, … city…wilderness… sea,…false brethren; …weariness … painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. [2Co 11:23-28] It would make almost anyone want to give up, but friend, that is not the answer. “But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing” [2Th 3:13]. What are we to do?

3 STEPS TO OVERCOME DISCOURAGEMENT

STEP 1TAKE COMFORT IN JESUS – REALIZE THE POWER OF CHRIST WHEN WE ARE WEAK… Paul is referring to this when he makes the statement in 2Cor 4:16 “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.” As we have seen, Paul suffered greatly for Christ [2 Co 4:8-9], but he saw it as an opportunity for God’s power through Christ to be shown [2Co 4:7,10-11]. Christ taught Paul this lesson as he struggled with his “thorn in the flesh” [2Co 12:7-10]. When we are weak, that is an opportunity to depend upon the Lord for strength! So infirmities and tribulations can be occasions to rejoice, not despair!

STEP 2LOOK AT THINGS NOT SEEN…FAITH Heb 11:1. Looking at things not seen refers to the “far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” [2Cor 4:16-17]. This is what renewed Paul inwardly day by day. This attitude makes our AFFLICTION appear light! It’s this mindset that gives us comfort that if our earthly house is destroyed (our bodies) we have…” a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” [2Co 5:1-5]. If looking to things unseen can renew Paul, it can also do the same for us.

STEP 3TAKE ACTION – DO SOMETHING – FEAR BOREDOM We must keep on keeping on, or as Paul said, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” [Php 3:14]. We can all do something. It’s easy to say, “nobody’s there for me, so why should I be there for them?” Friend, this is not Christ’s way. Even though all had forsaken Him, Jesus didn’t stop serving us all the way to the cross! He left us an example in which to follow.

We can all do something; For OTHERS For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me” [Mt 25:35-36]. When we’re serving the brethren, we’re in effect, serving Jesus. I’ve yet to find the passage which states, “Serve thy brethren AFTER they have served you.”

We can also do something for the spreading of the GOSPEL by inviting someone to read the scriptures with you, or inviting them to a worship service. Let me remind you that one of the methods of evangelism is through our HOPE & GODLINESS [1Peter 3:1, 15].

And finally, we can do something for the CHURCH by participating in the worship & in our Bible classes. Colossians 3:16 teaches how we help one another in our songs, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”

As one of our songs says, “Let us labor for the Master from the dawn til setting sun, let us talk of all His wondrous love and care; Then when all of life is over and our work on earth is done, and the roll is called up yonder I’ll be there.”

A Survey of the Bible

SOMETIMES IT’S GOOD to stop to take in the entire landscape. This is what we are doing with our Wednesday study of the Old Testament.

One of the primary reasons many people haven’t made the effort to get to know the Bible is that they feel it is intimidating and confusing. Without a basic understanding of how the Bible is written this can often be the case. To help develop an overall picture of the Bible, turn to the Table of Contents. You will notice that the Bible is actually a collection of 66 books that are divided into two sections, the Old Testament and the New Testament. Let’s notice how the Old Testament can be outlined.   

The Old Testament is made up of 39 books. Here is how they can be grouped and categorized:

Genesis to Esther: History books (of the Jewish people), Mostly chronological, starts at beginning of time and goes to about 400 BC.

Job to The Song of Solomon: Poetry books, not chronological, all written sometime during the History section, designed to teach lessons about everyday life kinds of things: Job – trials, Psalms – worship/prayer, Proverbs – wisdom, Ecclesiastes – philosophy, Song of Solomon – love.

Isaiah to Malachi: Prophecy books, not chronological, all written sometime during the History section, basically they were preachers inspired by God to warn the people of judgment and foretell certain future events. 

The New Testament is made up of 27 books. Here is how they can be grouped and categorized:

Matthew to Acts: History books, not chronological, Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John are all self-contained histories of Jesus’ life. Acts is the history of the early church (or followers) of Jesus.

Romans to Jude: Letters to churches or individual Christians, not chronological, many written during the time frame of Acts’ history, designed to teach lessons about everyday life kinds of things: worship, morality, love, relationships, trials, philosophy, wisdom, etc.

Revelation: Prophecy book, written to correct and warn early Christians.

Recognizing these things will be extremely helpful in your reading of the Bible. Simply understanding the context of what you’re reading will make the Bible less confusing. Knowing the above should give you confidence in your ability to understand God’s Word.

The Outline of the Bible:

overview

Study the chart above. Notice that the three periods of time are divided by how God delivered His laws to mankind. The first was through patriarchs or heads of families. Second was through Moses and the prophets. And finally He delivered His will to man through Jesus.

The Patriarchal Age. This period starts in Genesis 1 at the creation of the world. Adam & Eve disobey God and are made to leave the Garden of Eden. After many years the earth is full of evil and God decides to send a flood to destroy all that will not repent. Noah and 7 of his family are the only ones who are saved. Over 400 years later a man named Abram (later Abraham) is chosen by God to become the father of the Israelite nation (Gen. 12).

From this time on the Bible specifically traces the History of that one nation. Abraham has Isaac, Isaac has Jacob, and after Jacob’s name is changed to Israel he starts the family. The Israelites (also called Hebrews or Jews) begin to grow as a family after Jacob has 12 sons who later become 12 tribes. At the end of Genesis they are a still a small family who have moved to Egypt. They are taken into captivity for a couple hundred years and grow to be a large nation.

The Mosaic Age. God chooses a man named Moses to deliver the people of Israel out of Egyptian bondage. Moses leads the people out of Egypt to a mountain called Horeb (later Sanai). Here God delivers his law for the Israelites.

After the Israelites wander for 40 years in the wilderness, they go into “the Promised Land” (Canaan) under Joshua’s command. Once they settle the land God leads the people by appointing a series of Judges (who were basically military leaders) for around 350 years. After this the people want to be lead by a king like the nations around them. God warns them it’s a bad idea but grants their request by giving them Saul, David, and then Solomon. After Solomon’s reign (925 BC), the nation divides into two groups – Israel in the north and Judah in the south.  The northern kingdom of Israel grows increasingly evil and at God’s decree is taken into captivity by the Assyrians in 721 BC never to return again. Later, the southern kingdom of Judah is punished by being taken into captivity by the Babylonians. After 70 years they returned to their homeland and rebuilt their nation. It is their descendants who are the Jews of today and through whom Christ came.

During the time of these two kingdoms, the Prophets wrote their books. Almost all of them spoke of the coming of a Savior or Messiah. Most of them also spoke of a new covenant that would be enacted when this Savior came.

The Christian Age. This is the final way that God has revealed His will to mankind. We are now living in this age. The Bible teaches that once the Messiah came, so did the new covenant.

According to the Bible people today are to follow the New Testament. This is one reason why there are so many churches today doing so many different things yet all claiming to follow the Bible. There are many religious groups who say they follow the Bible but for some reason have missed this important Bible teaching. Can you think of any religious practices you’ve seen before which are only found in the Old Testament?

Jesus Has All Authority:

The Bible teaches us 4 things that are NOT our authority for religious practice. 1) The Old Testament, 2) Our own initiative to change something God commanded (like Nadab & Abihu), 3) Emotion or good motives (like David & Uzzah), 4) The traditions of men. If none of these can accurately define for us what God wants from us, where must we look?

He did not know the Lord had departed

THE PHILISTINES are upon you, Samson!” So he awoke from his sleep, and said, “I will go out as before, at other times, and shake myself free!” But he did not know that the LORD had departed from him. That is the situation Samson found himself in after he allowed Delilah to cut his hair in Judges 16:20.

That’s the worst place to be if you knew…. (Which would be far better). Not knowing is dangerous and even spiritually deadly. You can and should repent

Sampson was not the only one, there were so many others…

David hid his sin and didn’t know until Nathan told him. And Nathan said to David, “Thou art the man” [2Sa 12:7]. David had committed sin, but as he tried to hide it is when things got so much worse, leading to lying, conspiracy, murder and ultimately giving occasion for the enemies of God to blaspheme.

We can do our best to hide sin, but shall never hide them from God. I’ve heard that certain practitioners of Islam build walls in their homes facing Mecca and allah is unable to see the sin they commit if done behind that wall. The one true God doesn’t have that limitation, He sees everything! David learned this the hard way and wrote a Psalm about it, “Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance” [Ps 90:8]. The writer of Hebrews said, “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.” [Heb 4:13].

Simon the sorcerer tried to bypass authority and didn’t realize The LORD had departed until Peter told him. “But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money” [Acts 8:20]. We see this one all the time, folks thinking they can bypass the Authority of Christ [Mat 28:18].  None of us think we can buy the power of the Holy Spirit, but some do believe they can have power over the church through their contribution, dissensions or threats. This sin, sedition, is included with the list of the works of the flesh in Galatians 5:19-20. We must follow the instructions of Christ in all things, the church is not a democracy and we don’t vote on the doctrines of Christ.

Peter played the hypocrate until Paul told him – “But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? [Ga 2:14]”

We decieve our friends and family in our own hypocrisy. In our attempts to “fit in” with the world, they see our double minded actions toward God. We do this so as not to lose any friends. When we act in such a duplicitous way, are we really being a friend?

Annanias when he tried to outsmart God. “But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? [Acts 5:3 ]” It’s impossible to outsmart God, but many attempt to do it all the time. W.C. Fields, when asked why he was reading the bible said, “Loopholes, looking for loopholes!” Can you ever out smart God? Amazingly, Christians believe they can fool God. And what’s worse, they believe they can outsmart Him! Minimal attendance or removing your “membership” without going to another congregation so as to avoid withdrawal. Building a team to “out vote” the leadership. It didn’t work then and it won’t work now.

Sapphira ignored her chance but didn’t take it. “And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much” [Ac 5:8]. At least David siezed on his opportunity to repent. Peter gave her opportunity but she had her story and was sticking to it. Learn from Sapphira and repent before it’s too late.

Nadab & Abihu wouldn’t heed the instructions of the Lord. “And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not” [Lev 10:1]. The commandments are clear, and their not burdensome [1John 5:3], but we think that our way is better. We say things like, “the Bible doesn’t say we can’t.” Look again at Lev 10:1, it says, “the LORD commanded them not.” Silence is prohibitive, we have permission ONLY when we have a command.

Lot’s wife didn’t know when she ignored God’s command. “And it came to pass, when they had brought them forth abroad, that he said, Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed. But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt” [Ge 19:17-20]. Perhaps she had grown so used to sin that she didn’t believe God’s command. This seems to be the prevailing view among some. “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.” [Ecc 8:11]. Folks, just because God is delaying punishment doesn’t mean He will never punish it.

We can know if God is with us, by learning and keeping His word. Read 1John and learn about a wonderful hope for the Christian who loves God. It’s a book of hope and assurance for our faith. Eleven times John writes about what “we know.”

My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. 1John 3:18