“You believe in the devil? Really?” “Yes!”, we might answer our unbelieving friends. The Bible is crystal clear in its teaching about a supernatural enemy by the name of Satan, or Lucifer, or the devil. And I’m pretty sure that my unsaved friends —
36. THEY DON’T HAVE A BIBLICAL UNDERSTANDING OF THE DEVIL!
But don’t even lost people suspect that there’s something behind the massive cruelty in the world, something beyond the human? How wrong Oscar Wilde was when he said, “We are each our own devil, and we make this world our hell.”
Mark Twain has said some humorous things, but one of his most foolish was the following: “I have no special regard for Satan; but I can at least claim that I have no prejudice against him. It may even be that I lean a little his way, on account of his not having a fair show. All religions issue bibles against him, and say the most injurious things about him, but we never hear his side.”
I would argue that we “hear his side” from the moment we enter the world. But we need the Scriptures to tell us the truth about our arch-enemy. Here are several critical truths we learn about the devil:
(1) The Bible is clear that the devil is real and personal. People need to come to their senses and escape the trap of the devil who has taken them captive to do his will (2 Tim. 2:26). One can “belong” to the devil (Jn. 8:44). We are children of the devil until we trust Christ (I Jn. 3:10). Conversion is defined as turning from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to God, “so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” (Acts 26:8). However, Satan must report his activities to God and have His permission for whatever he does (Job 1).
(2) The devil majors in tempting human beings to rebel against the Lord (Mt. 4:5).
(3) Scripture does not sugar-coat the fact that he is able to sow seeds of unbelief among the Word sown (Mt. 13:39). We read that “the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.” (Lk. 8:12). We also read in I Peter 5, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (v. 8). He roams throughout the earth, going back and forth on it (Job 1-2). He masquerades as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14).
(4) He is the one who prompted Judas to betray Jesus (Jn. 13:2). We learn that he somehow has power over sickness (Acts 10:38) and kept a woman bound for 18 years (Lk. 13:16). He holds the power of death (Heb. 2:14).
(5) Regarding believers, Satan asks to sift believers as wheat (Lk. 22:31). Believers can give the devil “a foothold” (Eph. 4:27), but we are to be aware of and take our stand against the devil’s schemes (2 Cor. 2:11; Eph. 6:11). He is quite capable of invading the bedrooms of believers for we read in I Corinthians 7, “Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” (v. 5). Satan can fill the hearts of believers to lie to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3).
(6) In terms of the believer’s response to the Evil One, we are to resist the devil and he will flee from us (James 4:7). God can use Satan “for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.” (I Cor. 5:5). Wayward believers can be “handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme” (I Tim. 1:20) Paul gets a thorn in the flesh, “a messenger of Satan, to torment me” (2 Cor. 12:7). He can block the way of believers (I Thes. 2:18) and can do signs and wonders (2 Thes. 2:9).
(7) Satan’s fate is sealed, as are the demons who assist him. We read that “the eternal fire has been prepared for the devil and his angels (Mt. 25:41).
So, how do I pray for my unsaved friend? I don’t think I’ll talk much to him about the devil. But I won’t duck questions about the Evil One either. And I pray for my friend that he would realize he is not yet in the family of God, but in the family of the devil. I will pray earnestly his status will change. (to be continued)
Tags: benefits of being a believer, Satan, the Bible, the devil
My friend Mike — who has not yet trusted Christ as his Savior — reminds me of a number of blessings which I enjoy — or should enjoy — as a believer. “Enjoy” might be the wrong word for our next blessing, but I am thankful for God’s grace. And I don’t believe most of my friends —
35. THEY DON’T HAVE AN OPENNESS TO CHANGE!
I am not overlooking the human potential to recognize a habit or a sin that needs to change — and changing it! Alcoholics are sometimes successful in attaining sobriety. Poor fathers may realize their failures and become dads who really care. Rebellious teenagers occasionally come to their senses and become respectful and grateful young adults.
I’m talking about a fundamental, soul-deep conformity to the Person of Jesus Christ! Moral changes may take place in lost people because they have been made in the image of God, but a substantial re-ordering of one’s priorities and values can only happen to one who has surrendered his or her life to Christ. Theologians — who get paid by the big word — call this sanctification.
We read in Malachi 3 about the Lord where He says, “I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.” (v. 6). The Psalmist speaks of the Lord in Psalm 55- “God, who is enthroned from of old, who does not change— he will hear them and humble them, because they have no fear of God.” (v. 19). We are told clearly in I Samuel 15, “He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind.” (v. 29). Our God is absolutely perfect. And what is perfect does not need to change. James tells us, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (1:17)
But we’re not. Perfect, that is. And we need to change in so many ways. For the believer, a large part of change involves repentance. We acknowledge our wrongness in an attitude or behavior or priority, ask the Lord for forgiveness, and covenant with Him to change. Saying one is sorry is not the same as a soul-deep conviction that leads to significant conformity to Christ.
So, how do I pray for my unsaved friend? I show by my life some changes which Jesus is making in me — and I give Him the credit! And I pray for my friend, not that he would try to be “better”, but that he would come to repentance and trust the Savior who does not change. (to be continued)
Tags: benefits of being a believer, change, sanctification, sin, the Bible
The believer in Jesus has many blessings! And one of the reasons to have unsaved friends (in addition to our Savior being a friend of sinners) is that we are able to count the many gifts and advantages that we have in Christ which our lost friends don’t yet have.
And I’m pretty sure that Mike — and my other unsaved friends —
34. THEY DON’T HAVE THE GIFT OF TRUE FREEDOM!
Freedom in Scripture is not the right to do what I want, but the power to do what I should. As one writer put it, “Man’s first duty is not to find freedom, but a Master!” Trusting Christ as one’s Savior brings an incredible freedom which the world can only counterfeit. Jesus promised, “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)
Much of the epistle to the Galatians emphasizes the freedom the believer has in Christ. We read in Galatians 5, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
The Messiah was prophesied as one who would provide freedom for those who believed in Him. We read of this prophecy in Isaiah 42 and hear Jesus apply those words to Himself in Luke 4: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free . . .”
The Psalmist understood freedom and proclaimed: “I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.” (Psalm 119:45). Even creation itself longs for the freedom that is promised, as we read in Romans 8- “the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.”
The believer can come to God, as Ephesians says, “with freedom and confidence” (3:12). Paul makes it clear as he thinks about his freedom in Christ — “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial.” (I Cor. 10:23).
Psalm 18 says, “He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me. You provide a broad path for my feet, so that my ankles do not give way.” (vv. 19 & 36)
So, how do I pray for my unsaved friend? We read in 2 Corinthians 3, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (v. 17). My lost friend doesn’t have the Spirit because he doesn’t have the Savior. And I can pray for a God-given freedom from his sins. (to be continued)
Tags: benefits of being a believer, freedom, the Bible
I’m grateful for my friend Mike. Yes, he’s as lost as lost can be. And I’m praying earnestly for him to come to know Christ. But thinking about him has got me thinking about me. Well, not about me so much as about the many blessings I enjoy as a believer which my friend Mike does not yet enjoy.
Another blessing of which I’m becoming aware is that of a heart full of gratitude toward God for all He has done for me. And I’m pretty sure that Mike — and my other unsaved friends —
33. THEY DON’T HAVE A HEARTFELT, GOD-DIRECTED THANKFULNESS!
I’m not saying my unsaved friends aren’t thankful people. But how much of their thanksgiving is directed toward the Lord? Apart from giving thanks at dinner, do they praise Him for life, for His mercy, for the gift of salvation? Not yet, as far as I can tell.
We live in an unthankful, entitled culture that demands its rights and expects only good things in life. But the believer is told: “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (I Thes. 5:18).
A lack of thankfulness is one characteristic of the lost person, according to Romans 1. In Paul’s diatribe against fallen man, he writes, “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (v. 21) 2 Timothy 3:2 says, “People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy . . .” Jesus advises His followers: “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.” (Lk. 6:35)
So, how do I pray for my unsaved friend? I demonstrate by my life that I am grateful for all God’s blessings to me. And I strategically pray for my lost friend that he would recognize his thankless natural state and turn to the Lord in gratitude for salvation. (to be continued)
Tags: benefits of being a believer, gratitude, Romans 1, thankfulness, the Bible
What are some temptations that you face as a believer? One of the blessings that I have as a follower of Christ is a sensitivity to the Lord. I don’t want to embarrass my Savior, grieve the Holy Spirit, or hurt myself or my family by giving in to sin.
However, temptation is not sin. The Lord Jesus faced temptation, but turned away from the enticements of the Evil One. And believers face temptations all the time. But I’m pretty sure that Mike — and my other unsaved friends —
32. THEY DON’T HAVE A VIGILANCE ABOUT TEMPTATION!
“Oh, no! Not another missionary!” I just learned that a long-term missionary has been caught cheating on his wife. They are now separated, getting intense counseling, but it seems unlikely that the marriage will survive. Christians aren’t immune to temptation and sin.
But God’s Word does not leave the believer in the dark when it comes to sin and its precursor temptation. We read in Hebrews 4 —
Please notice several key points brought out in this passage: (1) Although the writer to the Hebrews uses negatives to make his point, the positive way to state verse 15 is: we have a high priest who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses! You and I, as children of God, will never be in a situation in which we might say, “Jesus would never understand what I’m going through!”
(2) Jesus has been tempted in every way we are — yet He did not sin.
(3) We can approach God’s throne of grace and find mercy and grace in our time of need.
My lost friend Mike doesn’t enjoy any of those benefits. God may indeed show him mercy when he gives in to temptation, but he (as of yet) has no relationship to the Savior and should not expect to find help in his time of need. His greatest need is to repent of his sins and trust Christ for his salvation. Then Hebrews 5:15-16 will prove to be a great help to him!
So, how do I pray for my unsaved friend? I make it clear that I’m not above or beyond temptation and sin. I might share some of my struggles with my lost friends — and how Jesus as my high priest helps me overcome temptation. And I pray for my friend that he would take temptation and sin seriously and bow his knee to the Savior. (to be continued)
Tags: benefits of being a believer, high priest, sin, temptation, the Bible
Traveling to 3rd world countries has a way of making one extremely thankful for the wealth and comfort most of us enjoy in the West. Technology has brought many blessings to our culture, but also many dangers. I will no longer walk or ride my bike with traffic because I’m afraid of distracted drivers on their phones who might run over me.
My lost friend Mike enjoys many of the same gadgets and gizmos our technological society has bestowed upon us. But I’m pretty sure that Mike — and my other unsaved friends —
31. THEY DON’T HAVE A BALANCED VIEW OF TECHNOLOGY!
I’m not suggesting that Mike is addicted to video games or anything of the sort. But I don’t believe he’s aware of the dark side of new innovations. As someone has written, “Modern technology has not made man better morally but only more powerful in his wickedness.”
All of life should be used for the glory of God. And, sadly, much of technology has one and only one purpose: entertainment. “Amusement” — a term which literally means “no thinking” — seems to be one of the highest goals of our culture. And hardly a thought is given to bingeing for hours watching a TV series or spending inordinate amounts of money to install the latest video equipment.
The bottom line is that we are responsible for how we use technology. The Apostle Paul writes in Colossians 3 “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (v. 17). We are challenged in I Corinthians 10 to live our lives carefully before God: “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (v. 31).
We can — and should — use our technology for blessing others and for advancing God’s kingdom. Entertainment is not in itself evil. But it must not be all-consuming. One cynic wrote about Western culture: “When historians of a future generation look back at American culture, they will say ‘they entertained themselves to death.'”
So, how do I pray for my unsaved friend? I make conscious choices not to allow technology to have power over me. And I pray for my friend to understand that salvation finds it source in Jesus, not in technological advancements. (to be continued)
Tags: benefits of being a believer, technology, the Bible
As I think about my unsaved friend Mike, God is reminding me of the many blessings I enjoy — or should enjoy — that he does not yet have. One blessing that occurs to me might sound strange, but I believe is a marker of a serious follower of Jesus. I don’t believe my unsaved friends —
30. THEY DON’T HAVE A PASSION FOR SOULS!
What do we mean by “a passion for souls”? We mean that the follower of Jesus is to be greatly concerned with the spiritual welfare of everyone he or she meets or knows. If the Bible is true that every human being is headed either to hell or to heaven, then the right passion, the crystal clear passion of the Christian, must be the gospel.
I’m certainly not criticizing my lost friends for the passion that they have for their families. I’m grateful when my friend Mike expresses his desire to be a good husband and father. But what ought to be the highest priority in a human being’s life is knowing God and longing for others to know Him.
Jesus says in John 17, “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (v. 3). Eternal life is not simply unending existence, but a quality of life in knowing and following the God of the universe.
A passion for souls involves the following elements: (1) A clear recognition that man without Christ is lost (Jn. 8:22-24); (2) A daily discipline of praying for those who are outside of Christ (“As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you.” I Sam. 12:23); (3) Eyes open to opportunities to share a bit of the gospel on every occasion (“Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.” 2 Tim. 4:2); (4) An awareness of being a stench to some and an aroma to others (“For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task?” 2 Cor. 2) ; (5) A commitment to doing the homework necessary to answer any questions which are keeping a person from believing the gospel (Acts 17- the Apostle Paul knowing pagan literature so he could speak to the philosophers of his day).
So, how do I pray for my lost friends? I pray for myself that I would not settle for a watered-down, minimal concern for the eternal welfare of others. I want my evangelistic zeal to be white-hot, but wise in its expression. And I pray for my friend that he would see that eternity is a long time to be wrong about Jesus. And that he would trust Him as his savior and get passionate about others’ doing the same. (to be continued)
Tags: benefits of being a believer, eternal life, evangelism, passion, the Bible, witnessing
“Quench your thirst!” says the TV commercial for the latest soft drink. But our physical thirst just comes back. So we have buy more of the advertised beverage. But what about a thirst for God? Is it — should it ever be — satisfied? Would any believer ever say, “Oh, I’ve had my fill of the glory and beauty of God. I can move on to other beverages!”?
I believe my friend Mike has many thirsts. He longs to be a good husband and father. He strives to be a good tennis player (he cleans my clock every time we play). I’m sure in his better moments he’s concerned for excellence in his job. But what about God? In thinking about the blessings I have, I’m pretty sure my unsaved friends —
29. THEY DON’T HAVE AN EVER-INCREASING THIRST FOR GOD!
We read in Psalm 42, “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” (v. 2). The same Psalmist David writes in Psalm 63, when he was in the desert of Judah, “You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.” (v. 1). Thirsting for God, longing for Him with one’s whole being — I’m not sure most Christians are there. Our passion for God is often quenched by the drinks of this world.
One of the ways God describes Himself in Scripture is as “the God who hides himself” (Is. 45:15). Job spoke of the Lord in the following words: “But if he remains silent, who can condemn him? If he hides his face, who can see him? Yet he is over individual and nation alike . . .” (Job 34:29). In beautiful King Jamesian language, the Psalmist writes, “Why standest thou afar off, O Lord? why hidest thou thyself in times of trouble?” (Ps. 10:1). In the midst of catastrophe the Psalmist does not hesitate to express his question, “Wherefore hidest thou thy face, and forgettest our affliction and our oppression? (Ps.44:24). “Why do you hide your face from me?”, he asks in Psalm 88:14.
The bottom line is that God wants us to seek Him, to thirst for Him, to long to know Him deeper and deeper. The great spiritual writer A.W. Tozer captures our problem when he writes, “Everything is made to center upon the initial act of `accepting’ Christ (a term, incidentally, which is not found in the Bible) and we are not expected thereafter to crave any further revelation of God to our souls. We have been snared in the coils of a spurious logic which insists that if we have found Him we need no more seek Him.” (The Pursuit of God)
After working a night job at UPS during my graduate studies, I would come home early in the morning, kiss my wife and young children hello, and then, when our son and daughter were out of the room, I’d hide in the linen closet. The kids would come into the kitchen, notice my absence, and ask Mom, “Where’s Dad?” Mom would lie. All moms lie. And she would say, “I have no idea!” Then the kids knew they would have find me; they knew immediately that Dad had initiated a game of hide and seek.
After they had searched the house for me (I could see their little sneakers through the slats in the linen closet), I would then come out of the, uh, closet and sit drinking coffee with my wife. They would ask where I had been hiding. I finally told them about the linen closet hiding place when they each turned 18.
On one occasion I came home from my night job, kissed my wife and children good morning, and hid when their back were turned. I could hear running around the house trying to find me. And then there was silence. I came out of my hiding place and went to find them. They were in the basement watching cartoons.
They were quite happy no longer seeking Dad. I was devastated. Have we stopped seeking the Lord?
So, how do I pray for my unsaved friend? I try to make it clear that, although I now belong to Him through Christ, I’ve just begun to seek Him, to know Him deeply. And I pray that kind of thirst will get a hold of my lost friend. (to be continued)
Tags: benefits of being a believer, God hiding Himself, seeking the Lord, the Bible, thirsting for God
I love being retired! I recommend retirement to all my friends, even the young ones who have years to go before they . . . sleep . . . or nap! Being retired gives me sufficient time to pursue what I believe to be a godly routine. And pursuing that routine is a blessing.
It’s not a blessing for my unsaved friend Mike (although I’m sure he has a routine he follows each day). Life is not meant to be lived 100% spontaneously. We need routine. We need habits which we pursue. We need discipline to make good choices with our time and energy. I grieve for my lost friends, for they —
28. THEY DON’T HAVE A GODLY ROUTINE!
Here’s a brief summary of my morning routine. I wake up about 5 or 5:30 am (which means I have to get in bed by 9 or 9:30 pm the night before), make my first cup of coffee, and settle into my LazyBoy. I quickly check my email, our Amazon account (we sell about ten used books a day), and then make my chess moves on chess.com (I lose internationally). I then dive into my devotional reading.
My friend Frank and I have been reading the same Bible passage together each week for the last couple of years. Our practice has been explained in my blog here. I have another small group of brothers that read a different chapter of Scripture every day, so I have to read that second assignment. I write out my prayer for the day (in Keynote) and am then finished with my daily devotional reading. Recently I’ve spent a few minutes reading a page or two from the book The Intellectual Devotional. I’m then free to work on sermons or my blog or emails.
My wife Linda wakes up about 6:30 am or 7 am and when she comes into our sun room, I kiss her good morning and ask the same question every day, “Would you like a cup of coffee?” And she always says “Yes, as a matter of fact, I would!” After she’s woken up a bit, I take my shower, weigh myself (she says she wants to see less of me), and then report my weight to my wife. My morning ritual is done when she and I sit on the couch and pray together.
My friend Mike doesn’t have this godly routine. As far as I know, he doesn’t read God’s Word, he doesn’t write out his prayer for the day, he doesn’t pray with his wife. He probably just has his breakfast, maybe cycles a few miles on his Peloton, greets his family, and goes to work. That’s not bad, but he’s missing the kind of godly routine that allows God the Holy Spirit to change his life, reorder his priorities, make him more like Jesus.
We’re really talking about what are called the spiritual disciplines. These include meditation, solitude, worship, prayer, Bible reading, etc. Acts 2:42 tells us the early Christians “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
My friend Mike has no reason to pursue the spiritual disciplines or a godly routine, for he is not yet in the family of God. But, maybe, one day he will be!
How do I pray for my unsaved friend? First, I pray for myself that I would settle into a godly routine that exalts God’s Word and opens my heart and life to God the Holy Spirit for needed change. Then I pray for my friend to come to Christ and, perhaps, for opportunities to share with him what I’ve learned from God’s Word that morning! (to be continued)
Tags: benefits of being a believer, habits, routine
“One good deed a day!” was the Boy Scout motto that I tried to follow as a youth. My unsaved friends often try to do good, to be kind, to help when possible. But I have learned as a believer why we should do good works.
John Wesley, the circuit-riding preacher, once said, “Do all the good you can, in all the ways you can, to all the souls you can, in every place you can, at all the times you can, with all the zeal you can, as long as ever you can.” I don’t believe my friend Mike and my other unsaved friends —
27. THEY DON’T HAVE A BIBLICAL UNDERSTANDING OF GOOD WORKS!
When our house burned down in 2003 my unsaved tennis buddies literally gave me the shirts off their backs! They provided meals, words of encouragement, and practical help for which we were most grateful. So what’s the blessing I have which my lost friends don’t have?
What they don’t have is the why of doing good works. For those outside Christ, many live good, moral lives to earn credit with God. They envision a large scale in front of God’s throne which will weigh their good works versus their bad works. And they hope beyond hope that the good works’ side will win the day.
But no one can do enough good works to merit God’s forgiveness. The very idea of earning God’s grace is an insult to the amazing sacrifice which the Son of God made when He gave His life on the cross for our sins!
Believers in Jesus know why they are to do good works. Not to earn or even keep their salvation, but to honor God and to serve the world. We read in Ephesians 2 —
Here we see that salvation is not a matter of human works, but solely of receiving God’s grace by faith. But, after salvation, there are good works which God has prepared in advance for us to do! For the believer, the question is, are you doing them? For the unbeliever, you first need to get into God’s family through the work of Christ. Then you can work on Ephesians 2:10!
There are many passages that speak about the believer’s doing good works, such as James 4:17 (“If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.“); Rom. 12:21 (“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.“); Gal. 6:10 (“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.“); and Titus 2:14 (. . . . who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.”).
Granted, unsaved people do good works because they are made in the image of God, they care about the needs of others, and they seek to live “good” lives. And we may commend them for the good they do. But that’s not salvation.
So, how do I pray for my lost friend Mike? I pray first of all for myself that my faith would not just be verbal, that I would show my relationship to Christ by what I do for others. For Mike, I would pray that he would abandon the idea of earning God’s favor by his own works and would cast himself on Christ whose work was perfect. (to be continued)
Tags: benefits of being a believer, good works, salvation, the Bible