Greetings once again Friends around the world!
In my last post, I started a new series where I proposed sharing a topic from the Bible that is relevant to our human spiritual life, and frame it within the ‘Triune Life three-step format.’ I called these three steps: “ascents,” with each step dove-tailing into the next step and spontaneously expressing its manifestation. As I explained, I coined the term “Triune Life”* to refer to a person who lives the three-dimensional life within the Tri-Personal Godhead of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, as opposed to living the one-dimensional solitary life in himself/herself in the fallen self that is inherited from Adam’s rebellion. Humans were created to personify God’s Triune Love-life, which includes His divine freedom. (Gen.1:26-27; 2 Cor.13:14; Gal.5:1) Man was made to be a free “triune being” in Christ, the second Adam, in place of the “solitary being” from fallen Adam exploited and manipulated by Satan. (1 Cor.15:22, 45) You may read the footnote below, titled, “Triune Life” for detail explanation of the term.
In this post, I will discuss the topic of Freedom. Why freedom? Because freedom is the flip side of the divine nature of God’s Love. Last month, we saw the topic of God’s divine Love. If you have not read it, you may access that post at: http://bulamanriver.net/16467. Love and freedom are two aspects of the same nature of God. In other words, you cannot have Love without freedom, nor freedom without Love. One cannot be forced to Love someone or something. But Love is genuine when given freely without coercion.
Where did the human free-will (freedom) originate from? The source of freedom is God’s Tri-Personal Being. Humans were created in God’s likeness. (Gen.1:26-27) The three Persons of the Trinity are three distinct and free Persons in the Godhead. The Triune Godhead consist of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Triune God freely chose to create the vast universe, including this wondrously beautiful earth, and placed humans upon it as the pinnacle of His creation. When all is said and done, it is the testimony of Scripture which undergird our confession of the Trinity: You may read Matthew 28:18-20; Jude1:20-21; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Ephesians 4:4-6; Matthew 3:16-17; John 14:16-17; Romans 14:17-18; 1 Peter 1:1-2; 2 Corinthians 1:21-22; Luke 3:21-22.) They are three free Persons who freely Love One Another and mankind. They are not three Gods, but One God. They consist in their one substance of Love. In their Love they are free yet undivided in One Substance and Godhead.
So, human freedom is based upon the divine freedom of the three unique Persons of the Trinitarian Godhead. If you wish to read the “Athanasian Creed” concerning the Trinity, you may go to: https://carm.org/athanasian-creed-500-ad.
Each human being is a unique and free personality created in God’s Triune likeness. Humans were created in the image of the Creator, thereby predestined to live in the likeness of the divine Love and freedom and as one united humanity. Thus, in order for humans to live as one united humanity as the Tri-Personal Godhead, humans are called to live with and within the divine life of God – I call this the “Triune Life.”* It is a life of collaborative union and oneness where humans are never left to themselves, they are never alone from God, for He promises never to leave humanity. (Heb.13:5; Deut.31:8)
Every human ever born possesses his/her divinely conferred gift and personality from which the person’s freedom is founded. It begins with the gift of Jesus as Savior, and the gift of the Holy Spirit who is the personification of God’s Love. (John 3:16; Rom.5:5) The Bible tells us this about Jesus and human gifts, “All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Him (Jesus)” (Col.2:3). In other words, it is through Christ that God reveals the knowledge about human gifts and personalities. How so, and why Jesus? Because He is the second Person of the Godhead who came and took our humanity upon Himself (Immanuel-Isa.7:14), died to save mankind from rebellion and the sin-condition of Satan, and was resurrected and ascended to heaven into His High Priestly role today. If each of our gifts originate in the divine will, then it would be correct to conclude that they are all part of the tapestry of God’s Love fused together as free-standing persons modeled after the image of the Triune God. Gifts and talent from Christ are manifested in us through the Spirit’s power in Humans. (1 Cor.3:16; Act.2:38) The Bible says, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them…each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” (1 Cor.12:4,7).
Every form of expression of human life is intended to manifest the divine gift conferred by the Creator in each person at birth. So, whenever we express our own unique gift, that is the expression of divine freedom in God’s Love. In other words, we will remain in bondage until we discover who we are in our gifts and express them in life in relationships with the Creator God first, and then with our fellow humans “for the common good.” (Mark 12:30-31) Since Adam’s fall, Satan has cast a great web of deception upon humanity. It is his attempt to keep humans blind to their personal gifts, and especially the gifts of His Son and His Spirit. So, freedom is expressed and lived through a person’s gifting influenced and motivated by the divine Love “for the common good” of humanity. (1 Cor.12:4, 7)
From the beginning, humans were given the “dominion mandate” or rulership over God’s creation by exercising their gifts under the motivation of God’s Love. (Gen.1:26, ESV; 1 John 4:8) Adam and Eve were given to “dress and take care” of their home, Eden, and by extension the whole earth. Lamentably, they surrendered the earth’s dominion to the enemy by rebelling against God when they submitted themselves to the devil’s evil schemes. (Gen.2:15; 3:1-6) Since Adam’s fall, humanity have used the dominion mandate to exercise fear, greed, self-love and narcissism, corruption and sin, and became human-domineering predators, under the influence of Satan. But thank God, for He freely gave us the second Adam, Jesus His Son, who defeated Satan and restored the rightful heirdom of this earth to Jesus and humanity. (1 Cor.15:45; Rev.11:15; 19:6, 16; Dan.7:14, 27)
Jesus called His disciples and admonished them, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord (dominate) it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Matt.20:25-28). Before Jesus was taken to be crucified, He washed the disciples’ feet demonstrating humility (Love/service) over superiority (dominion/malevolence). (John 13:3-5) Even though He was their Lord, Jesus stooped down and washed the feet of His disciples.
Because each person is created with unique gifts, humans are not a subservient species. Through unique gifts, humans became creators in God’s image, unlike the animal kingdom and other species which behave predictably because they are led by their fixed inherent instincts. Think about all that mankind has done through the creative geniuses of people. We see their impact upon humanity, especially since the industrial revolution and beyond. Technology, health advances and various sciences, engineering marvels, jet flights, space exploration, etc. Humans use their God-given minds to exercise their divinely conferred rulership through their gifts over creation. Knowledge seems to have exploded in all direction of human endeavors. Thereby, humans resent domination of any form because it suppresses the free expression of gifts through creativity of the human mind. Human freedom and gifts are mutually dependent. Later, we’ll see how God brings us all together into a united humanity under the Spirit’s power.
Dominion was given to humans over all creation with the exception of other humans, don’t forget that. In other words, humans exercise Love with their fellow humans, not a domineering spirit. God never commands a person to exercise dominion over another human, except to Love one another. Whenever and wherever humans dominate other humans for their own ends, they are betraying their divine purpose for human existence – to Love. Paul told the Romans, “Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to Love one another. If you Love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law” (Rom.13:8). That ought to be apparent enough that the ‘dominion mandate’ never included another human. Only God has the prerogative to rule man for humans were created in His image. The life of every human and every creature is in His hands. And God inherently and inevitably rules in Love, for “God is Love.” (Gen.1:26-27; 1 John 4:8; Act.17:28)
Yes, we are to be helpers of one another in the exercise of each of our unique gifts in a Loving way, where “the good of all” is always uppermost in our minds. Jesus commanded His disciples, “So now I am giving you a new commandment: “Love each other. Just as I have Loved you, you should Love each other” (John 13:34, NLT). Paul said, “So encourage each other and build each other up (in their gifts), just as you are already doing” (1 Thes.5:11, italics mine, NLT). Together with our fellow humans, we are given equal dominion over creation under the auspices of Jesus’ overall divine authority, and Love. (Matt.28:18-20; 1 John 4:8, 16) Yes, similarly with all creation, humans are to exercise the ‘dominion mandate’ with Love.
The three ascents which leads to Freedom are: Victory, Bondage, and Faith. Freedom is the fourth ascent which manifests itself spontaneously within humanity from the preceding three ascents. You may recall from my previous post, that the first ascent always reveal the relationship with the Holy Spirit. It is God’s inward act of Love for humanity. The second ascent is the relationship with Jesus, and reveals the Father’s outward act of Love for mankind. And the third is the relationship with God the Father, which is the upward act of Love where He brings humanity in relationship with Him as our eternal Father. So, each ascent dovetails into the next and spontaneously manifests the fourth ascent in humans, in this case: freedom. Let us begin with the first ascent.
First Ascent: Victory – Holy Spirit. What is victory? What has it to do with freedom? Recall, this ascent is always about the human relationship with the Spirit. What has victory to do with the human relationship with God through the Holy Spirit? Victory means that life, with all its human responses in whatever circumstance, are working together for the single purpose of living victoriously with success and joy fulfilling the person’s divine destiny in Christ through the Spirit’s power. (Rom.8:28; 5:5) We have established that freedom is about a person living out his/her gift freely. Only then, the person is made to live victoriously as a free-standing person in this first ascent.
So, it is obvious that victory and freedom are realities that are in sync with each other. That is to say, there can be no freedom without victory, neither can there be victory without freedom. But first, the Spirit must be made to come and make the victorious life a reality in humans. Humans can make their own ‘victory,’ but they will always be found hollow and wanting. You see, human history is littered with people who have fought for causes under the pretext of freedom, but they fail at experiencing victory for it is not true freedom.
Some have served humanity ‘good’ and others have felled by the way. There have been notable ones which can be considered to be divinely-inspired. Much has been based upon human rights (freedom), like the universal declaration of human rights that was sanctioned by the United Nations. Before that was the Magna Carta, the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. The Emancipation Proclamation which paved the way for African-American freedom from slavery in America. There are non-governmental organizations focusing upon subsequent human rights issues, like racial discrimination, women’s rights, the environment, torture and genocide, etc. There’s the International Labor Organization (ILO) which oversees treatises protecting workers around the world. The World Health Organisation (WHO) is dedicated to universal health and the control and spread of epidemics. In biblical history, we remember the exodus of the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt.
These and others have brought the end to much human misery and suffering and brought about human freedom to a large measure. Then there are many, many others. But the underlying question will always be, are they promoting the essence of true freedom that liberates humanity and bring victory? Many causes have been found wanting and have amounted to naught and fallen by the wayside. Why, because they could not stand the test of time and human experiment, and most of all, God’s Spirit of freedom based upon His Love.
The very existence of gifts unique to each human personality, ought to illicit personal responsibility to use the gift to enhance freedom, not only for the self, but for others. Remember the true test of freedom we read earlier, it must be “for the common good,” or, “for the good of all” (1 Cor.12:4, 7) Freedom is not for the good of the few, but for all! Only then, can victory be truly liberating. No human knows the answer to the cause of true freedom that can be accepted by every human except God Himself. It must be the freedom that liberates humanity as a whole. How does God know the answer to this human dilemma? Because He has lived that way of life in His Tri-Personal Being from eternity, and desires to share His freedom with humans. It is for this very purpose that humanity was brought into being: to live like God does in His free and unified Trinitarian Love-Being. (Gen.1:26-27; 1 John 4:8, 16) When He conferred gifts in each human, He also knew how human talents all identify with and fuse together into one another to form a united Loving humanity. (1 Pet.2:5, NLT; 1 Cor.3:9) Human gifts find their source from God’s unified Triune Being, so it’s obvious only He knows how to bring humans into one common united humanity. (Eph.2:19-22)
How does God make the victorious life happen in your life and mine so we can experience the freedom from God that is real and tangible, and most of all, that will never fail God and humanity? This victorious life must start on a personal level first before we can make a difference in those we come into contact with on a daily basis. Hence, in this victory ascent the relationship with the Holy Spirit must irrefutably be the first human goal. In the human relationship with the Spirit, He must come and make His home in the person’s life. This is the first step. For He alone is the One who empowers humans to live in genuine freedom and experience the victorious life in Christ. Paul said this about human relationship with the Spirit, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Cor.3:16). Becoming temples for the Holy Spirit is the vital first step to experiencing true victory as God desired the gift of freedom to be given to humanity. Paul said further, “God’s Love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Rom.5:5). So, the Spirit is the power of God’s Love who unifies humanity.
In the history of ancient Israel, the temple building with all its associated rituals and activities was central to the national life of the nation. Yet, for all that Israel was given and taught concerning the temple, beginning with its establishment under Moses’ hand in the wilderness after Israel was freed from Egyptian slavery, the temple was immensely more than just regulations and rituals. The temple was intended to teach humanity this vital connection between that physical temple and the true temple God desired – the spiritual temple (life) of human beings, individually and collectively. Subsequently, Solomon built a permanent structure in Jerusalem which will remain the most impressive edifice in Israel’s history. But God makes it abundantly clear, “This is what the LORD says: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Could you build me a temple as good as that? Could you build me such a resting place? My hands have made both heaven and earth; they and everything in them are mine. I, the LORD, have spoken! I show special favor to the humble and contrite, who respect what I have to say” (Isa.66:1-2). (You may read more about the Human Temple at http://bulamanriver.net/10700 )
All along God was presenting a picture of the true temple made of people who are penitent and responsive to His Words. In the temple plans God was revealing the true spiritual temple of humanity – both individually and collectively. Collectively, humanity is called the Church. Jesus said this to Peter, the first human leader of the New Testament Church, “I also tell you that you are Peter, and on this Rock (Jesus) I will build my church (temple), and the gates of hell (death) will not prevail against it” (Matt.16:18, NHEB, emphasis mine).
Later, the apostle Peter revealed this beautiful truth about humanity and the Church, “And you are living stones that God is building into His spiritual temple” (1 Pet.2:5, NLT; 1 Cor.3:9). The apostle Paul says this, “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of His household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone. In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit” (Eph.2:19-22). Through the indwelling Spirit in humans, Paul affirms, “God’s Love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Rom.5:5). The Spirit brings power, meaning, purpose, and divine destiny into the human life. The ultimate human destiny is to become part of the temple of God where He takes up residence with humanity for all eternity. (To read more on the Temple of God, go to my post at: http://bulamanriver.net/11230)
But first things first, how can the Spirit can be made to come and turn human life into a temple for God’s dwelling, and bring the victorious life? The Bible gives this truth about God’s ardent desire to give humans the gift of the Spirit, “So I say to you: Keep asking, and it will be given you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened for you, because everyone who keeps asking will receive, and the person who keeps searching will find, and the person who keeps knocking will have the door opened. So, if you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who keep asking him!”(Luk.11:9-10, 13, NASB) I want to emphasize God’s desire to give His Spirit to those who ask Him by giving this fuller version of the passage, “If your little boy asks for a serving of fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? If your little girl asks for an egg, do you trick her with a spider? As bad as you are, you wouldn’t think of such a thing—you’re at least decent to your own children. And don’t you think the Father who conceived you in Love will give the Holy Spirit when you ask Him?” (Luk.11:10-13, MSG). God waits eagerly upon every human to respond to His Fatherly call.
When the original Church was founded on the Day of Pentecost, the apostle Peter gave humans God’s process by which the Holy Spirit is given to enter human life, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Act.2:38). This is what humans do in order to receive the gift of the Spirit who brings freedom and defeat all forms of bondage in Christ. The process stated above requires the input of Jesus, which takes us to the second ascent.
Second Ascent: Bondage – Jesus Christ. The second ascent is always about the human relationship with Jesus. The Spirit cannot enter humanity and bring the victorious life, without Jesus role as Savior who introduces the victorious life by defeating Satan and freeing humanity from the bondage of sin. What is bondage and what has it to do with Jesus? The connection with Jesus has to do with freedom, the subject of this post. Paul said this about freedom, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not be encumbered once more by a yoke of slavery (bondage)” (Gal.5:1, italics mine). Yes, when it comes to humans, true freedom comes when their lives are founded upon the rock of Christ Himself. (Matt.16:18) Where there is all forms of bondage, especially to the sin-condition of rebellion, there is no freedom.
John tells us, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (John 3:16-18). With the freedom Jesus brings, humans are no longer held in bondage to rebellion and sin. Then He makes way for the Spirit to enter human existence, saying, “But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate (Spirit) will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you” (John 16:7) That promise was fulfilled on the feast of Pentecost around AD 33. In God’s eyes, the ultimate form of bondage is rebellion. Satan’s rebellion is the sin-condition which generates sin in humans. Just as Satan is the personification of rebellion in humans, so Jesus is the Personification of freedom through God’s grace that saves humans from the sin-condition. (Rom.6:14)
Rebellion is the first universal sin that started with Satan, God’s adversary. (Isa.14:12-15) Then, rebellion was passed to humanity through Adam and Eve at the hands of the devil. Our first parents ate the forbidden fruit through the devil’s temptation, cunning, and evil plot to destroy humanity. (Gen.3:1-6) Rebellion is the ultimate curse the devil has foisted upon humanity to keep humans in bondage and blind to the freedom to the glorious destiny God has in store for humanity. But God’s purpose for humanity will stand and cannot fail, for God’s voice is heard across eternity, “To whom will you compare Me? Or who is My equal?” says the Holy One” (Isa.40:25). He assures humanity, “The Lord Almighty has sworn, “Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will happen.” (Isa.14:24; 46:10).
Though the enemy will not thwart God’s plan for humanity, he does not let up on his evil work of rebellion through deception and evil. How does the devil attempts to keep humanity in bondage? If we know the devil’s devices on how he keeps people in bondage, then we can search for answers to counter them and live in freedom and victory. The answers can be found in the temptations of Jesus Christ by the devil in the Judean wilderness. (Matt.4:1-11) Let us see what area of life the devil tempts humans and cause them to sin, and keep them in bondage. Paul said that as believers who are led by the Spirit, we ought not to be ignorant of the devil’s devices, saying, “Satan will not outsmart us. For we are familiar with his evil schemes” ( 2 Cor.2:11) The question is, are we familiar with the devil’s devices? (You may read more about Jesus defeating Satan’s temptations in my post at http://bulamanriver.net/11339 ).
People are all different through the gifts God has conferred upon them. We refer to these differences as personalities or one’s personhood. The devil has been making it his business to deceive humanity and knows us better than we know ourselves. So, he tailors his evil craft to suit our different personalities. So, we must understand ourselves first, before we can come to know his devices. The enemy has this whole world under his deception. (2 Cor.4:4) His deception is so far-reaching that it would be wise for people to question their own inclinations that has now become part of their psyche as a person. People have been unknowingly molded according to the pattern of this world, its philosophy, and way of life. Things like concepts, beliefs, ideas, causes, theories, and so forth ought to be questioned when compared with the true values of God.
People can say they are “free” with their brand of freedom, but the fruits of their actions says otherwise, and they are still held in bondage. Jesus said, “Just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions” (Matt.7:20, NLT). He said, “A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit” (Matt.7:18, NLT). Surprisingly, the devil has been studying us for a long time, and he knows what makes us tick, so to speak, and so adapts his temptations accordingly. Hence, it is so vital we take Jesus’ charge seriously about undergoing a rebirth into God’s Spirit so we can crucify the old person who was reared in the rebellious spirit of the enemy, and accepting the new personhood in Christ as the Spirit empowers us. (1 John 5:18-19) Jesus set the example for humanity when He was baptized and given the Spirit in the Jordan River. This is the freedom God desires to give humanity. And through His Son, Jesus, He is accomplishing His plans to save His human children.
There are four areas of life the enemy tempts humans to sin. And each of us must assess our strengths and weaknesses in these areas. How did we come to know about these four areas? Because Satan tempted Jesus in these very areas of human life. Hence, we have come to the knowledge of the enemy’s plan of attack through Jesus’ temptations. Did the devil succeed? No, he failed. Jesus, the second Adam, overcame Satan where the first Adam failed in his temptation in Eden. (Matt.4:1-11; Gen.3:1-6; ) Jesus also gave humans His plan on how to mount our offense and defeat the enemy. Humanity has been kept deceived about Satan’s wiles and evil intent, so most humans are kept unaware of these four areas humanity is kept in bondage, albeit unknowingly, to his way of rebellion against God. Therefore, through Jesus He enlightens us about Satan and his way of keeping the world in his web of deception and rebellion. But God has provided the answer through His Son. As Paul said, “Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life” (1 Cor.15:22).
What this passage means is, we cannot defeat the devil in our own strength, but we certainly can be victorious through Christ’s Personal knowledge and power in us. In other words, we can live triumphantly in freedom not because we can, but because Jesus has gone on before us and defeated the devil for us, once for all. And the reason Jesus continues to bring this victory in us is because He did not remain a Savior dead on His cross, but He is alive and powerful today for He was resurrected from the dead, ascended to His Father in heaven, and continues His saving work today in His High Priestly role of interceding for mankind, and come and live in us Personally in the Spirit’s power and defeat Satan all over again as He did when He walked this earth over two thousand years ago. There is no other way to defeat the devil except vicariously through Jesus’ victorious life.
Recall how Jesus defeated the devil in His temptations. He was baptized in the Jordan, and the Spirit of power came upon Him from the Father, and only then, He confronted and defeated Satan. (Matt.3:13-17; 4:1-11) Jesus was setting the example for humans to follow and do the same in each of our personal strategy to overcome the devil’s temptation. This is a spiritual conflict, not a physical one. We are going to face this opposition every day of our lives with the evil enemy of God and humanity. We will require the spiritual means and spiritual weapons if humans are ever going to succeed. Remember, freedom is never free, it always carries a price in personal sacrifice. (Rom.12:1-2)
Here are the four areas of life Satan tempted Jesus which reveals the tactics used by the devil to defeat God’s plans and hold mankind in bondage through his devious temptations:
- True Knowledge vs False Knowledge
- Independence vs Inter-Dependence
- Worldliness vs Love-liness
- Power and Influence vs
Later, in the fourth step or the manifestation ascent, we will see Jesus’ strategy for defeating every one of the devil’s evil schemes. These temptations are actually four spiritual addictions humans are robustly fixated on, from which people find it impossible to free themselves. They are vice-like addictions much like people who are hooked on illicit narcotics such as cocaine, ecstasy, heroin, and other hard drugs. Through the drug’s paralyzing grip, humans are involuntarily driven to pursue false realities where they are trapped and held in bondage to the spirit of rebellion in the devil’s world.
The addiction of false knowledge; the addiction of the world’s false promises; the addiction of the world’s allure and drive; the addiction of the world’s power and influence. Only Jesus can free humanity out of this false realities and bring them into the Spirit’s authentic freedom in God’s Love-reality. (Gal.5:1)
But before we can embark on this battle for freedom in the fourth ascent, we need something that is going to be indispensable for our ultimate victory. Yes, we require the new birth in the Spirit following Jesus’ example in the Jordan before He faced the devil. (Matt.3:13-17) This is the first and most important strategy of all in Jesus’ blueprint to defeat the enemy and the four addictive temptations. We already saw how the Spirit is made to come and indwell human believers in the first ascent called Victory. As a reminder, I repeat Peter’s words, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Act.2:38). Receiving the Spirit’s power is a vital weapon for facing the enemy, then there is another powerful arsenal which only the Father gives humans to defeat these addictions that have a vice-like grip upon us. Now, we have come to the Father’s function in the third ascent to receive a vital ingredient which the Father alone gives humans. Let us proceed to the third ascent.
Ascent Three: Faith – God The Father. The third ascent always depict for us the human Loving relationship with the Father. In the Father’s function He gives us that vital ingredient called Faith! If the Father gives something, then it is considered a gift. The gift is nothing less than…wait for it… the Personal Faith of Jesus. Humans cannot defeat the devil’s addictive temptations with mere human faith. It has to take the saving Personal Faith of Jesus. So, we now have two equipment in our arsenal – The Spirit’s victorious power, and the Personal faith of Jesus. Paul said this to the Romans, “Even the righteousness of God which is by the faith of Jesus Christ to all and on all them that believe” (Rom.3:22, AKJ, italics mine; also Gal.2:20; Eph.2:4-8). The faith of Jesus possesses the power to breakaway from this world’s addictions.
What is faith anyway? Faith is the expression of two realities: the spiritual awareness of the environment in which we confront the enemy, and second Jesus’ Personal faith is a weapon used to fight and defeat the enemy. As a matter of our spiritual environment, the Bible states, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb.11:1). In other words, faith makes the spiritual realm we cannot see nor sense physically come real so we can see the enemy and his evil ploys with spiritual eyes. Paul said, “For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor.4:18, HCS).
Faith helps us to see the unseen enemy so we can launch our defensive and offensive maneuvers against the devil’s addictive spiritual drugs (temptations). As a weapon, faith is used in conflicts with the devil in the spiritual realm we can now see with our spiritual eyes. It is the weapon of choice Jesus used to defeat Satan in his drug-like addictive temptations. If we cannot see the enemy, then we cannot start much less embark on a battle to defeat his schemes and be victorious. Faith gives us the eyes to see and given the will to fight. Faith can be utilized for many other purposes other than as a weapon. It can be used as an instrument for God’s grace in accordance with the divine will, such as Love, healing, and blessings.
Keep in mind, the four drug-like addictive way of life (temptations) which humans will face from the devil will take place in the spiritual realm. It does not happen in the physical world that is detectable with the five human senses, although we sense the effects of the conflict because the enemy is waging war against humans, and we suffer physically from his attacks. The Bible warns us, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Pet.5:8). Whatever pain and negative effects that happens to humans in the physical realm is the end-result and aftermath of the spiritual conflict happening behind the scenes.
We ought to be thankful God limits Satan’s work of destruction, or humanity would have been wiped out before now. We know this divine intervention is true from the example of Job’s life and his encounter with the devil, where God limits the enemy’s powers over Job and thereby over humans. (Job 1, esp. V.12) So, whatever the enemy does has to have God’s authority and according to His divine will and sanction. Listen to God’s promise about the temptations humans encounter, “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you can endure” (1 Cor.10:13, NLT). So, be encouraged, God never leaves us to fight on our own, but is always by our side.
So, we are facing a spiritual enemy, in an equally spiritual battle, not a physical one. Spiritual battles require spiritual weapons, not physical weapons. Physical weaponry cannot defeat the devil who is an unseen fallen angel, nor his addictive temptations. However, we sense them because they assault our physical well-being. Satan tries to inflict pain and suffering to tempt humanity to follow him. Although there may be relief, it is not permanent but short-lived, where we continue to suffer in his cycle of evil. His ultimate goal is total demise of humanity. We see the evidence in the world’s suffering, pain, and death today. Christians don’t use guns, warheads, missiles, and other material weaponry to fight a spiritual enemy. But the devil will tempt humans to use these weapons upon themselves.
It is vital to point out a distinction in terms of the word, faith. The term, “faith of Jesus,” is different from the oft-quoted term, “faith in Jesus.” The preposition “of” indicates Jesus’ personal faith, whereas, the preposition “in” shows the exercise of the person’s human faith in someone or something. One is spiritual and holds God’s power, while the other is human and powerless in the spiritual realm.
There is another vital distinction in this subject of faith. The fact that the faith of Jesus is a gift from the Father should tell us that humans were not born with Jesus’ saving faith. By asking for the Son’s faith in our relationship with the Father in the third ascent, it makes it obvious that Jesus’ faith is an external substance that’s given as a gift to enter human life. It enters human life through the indwelling of Jesus’ Person in the Spirit’s power. (John 16:13-14) Mankind was born with human faith, but not Jesus’ saving faith. Jesus faith is personified in humanity through the power of the Spirit (Ascent 1) who indwells human believers. Jesus said this about the Spirit, “He (Spirit) will glorify Me, for He will take what is mine (in this case Jesus’ faith) and declare it to you” (John 16:14, italics mine). Ordinarily, human faith is restricted to the physical world through the human fives senses of touch, sight, smell, hearing, and taste. Humans exercise their gifts through the human faith, however, the faith of Jesus lifts us to a higher level of consciousness. Paul said, “For we walk by (Jesus’) faith, not by sight (human faith)” (2 Cor.5:7, italics mine).
We may have heard people say, “I will believe it (have faith) when I see it” – that is an example of human faith that’s limited by the sense of sight. The human faith is incapable of believing in the existence of the spiritual realm, much less know about the invisible devil and his devious and evil craft. However, ignorance is no excuse, neither will it spare anyone from the devil’s work of keeping humanity in bondage through his deceptive temptations. Hence, through the absence of true faith, the whole world is held in bondage through deceit. The faith of Jesus liberates humans and brings freedom, through knowledge of the spiritual realm, and through the act of fighting for our freedoms.
To give an example, Jesus said that people “may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding.” (Mar.4:12) That’s to say, something unseen is happening behind the scenes we cannot see with our human faith through human sight and hearing. Seeing with the human eye is not enough, for it is the spiritual sight that gives us the true meaning of all that’s happening behind the scenes which we cannot see physically. So it is with our hearing, without the spiritual ear we will not fully understand all there is to know. Paul said, “For what is seen is temporary (present at this moment), but what is unseen is eternal (the bigger picture)” (2 Cor.4:18, italics mine).
Jesus’ faith is the primary weapon that can do the job of liberating humans from Satan’s evil clutches. And the role of the Father is to give His Son’s faith as a free gift to all who ask Him. Listen to Paul’s words, “For it is by His (Father’s) grace that we have been saved through faith, and this faith was not from you, but it is the gift of God” (Eph.2:8, AB). Note the passage says two things, first, faith is a gift (grace) from God the Father, and second, humans were not born with it (“this faith is not from you”).
Paul likens Jesus’ faith to the shield which protects humans from the temptations (“flaming arrows”) of the devil. (Eph.6:16) A shield is an armor used for defensive purpose. Then Paul says the Spirit fights for us by using our sword. (Eph.6:17) The sword is actually the Word of God the Spirit uses as an offensive weapon. The Word of God is both literal and Personified. Jesus is the Personified Word of God, and the Bible is the literal Word of God. (Rev.19:13; John 1:1) Paul further gives us the full armory God gives humans to prepare for spiritual battle with the devil. (Eph.6:10-18) Paul speaks of the environment in which humans exist and see through the spiritual eyes today, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God” (Eph.6:12-13). Yes, humans have a spiritual realm in which they exist, often times without realizing its reality.
I would like to point to an important distinction concerning the human faith and Jesus’ faith. As inadequate as our human faith is in spiritual matters, it is still relevant because God’s work of salvation in humanity cannot be done without human participation. Through God’s Tri-Personal nature, He reveals Himself to be a participatory God of Love. That’s how He desires to work with humans He made in His image – a participatory life in His Triune Love. And so, we use our limited human faith to believe and trust in the spiritually all-powerful faith of Jesus to change us in ways the human faith can ever imagine or ever do. This is what Paul makes clear in this passage from Romans – “The righteousness of God which comes by the faith of Jesus to all and on all that believe (with their human faith).” (Rom.3:22, AKJV, emphasis mine)
So, there are two faiths, both working together and complimenting each other. Be that as it may, we must cognizant of which faith carries the real power to defeat the enemy’s evil plans. Many don’t know the existence of both faiths, and much less how to use them. You can’t have one without the other. People can and usually believe Jesus with the human faith alone, even unbelievers. But ultimately, they will find that human faith alone is incapacitated in situations requiring deeper spiritual experience like facing the devil’s works of deception in the addictive temptations which requires the faith of Jesus.
Many people ‘believe’ in the existence of Jesus only as a great teacher who went about doing good, and nothing more. Jesus is not for mere intellectual inquiry through the human faith, but for a far deeper spiritual infusion of His living, powerful, and saving faith which introduces the Creator God’s purpose into a higher level of human consciousness. Sadly, too many Christians today are trying to fight this spiritual struggle with mere human faith alone, which is an impossible task. So, they live powerless lives, and wonder. Yes, the Bible tells us this, “For the Kingdom of God is not in word (intellect/human faith only) but in power” (1 Cor.4:20, italics mine). God’s power comes to humans through Jesus’ faith. The Bible states, “It is impossible to please God without faith (both human and Jesus’ faith). Anyone who wants to come to Him must believe (with Jesus’ faith) that God exists and that He rewards those who sincerely seek Him” (Heb.11:6, NLT, italics mine). We now enter the fourth human ascent…
Ascent Four: Manifestation – Freedom, Humanity. Manifestation means the application of freedom in the life of humans. People pursue various interests, education, vocation, and experiences with the goal of attaining freedom in the way they think fit. (Pro.14:12) But the fruits of their actions doesn’t vindicate their cause for freedom, instead in many cases they fall into deeper bondage. True freedom is related to and connected with a person’s inherent gift conferred upon him/her at birth by God. (Psa.139:13) If gifts are different with each human being, as indeed they are, then freedom is exhibited in myriads of forms and expressions. But with all the innumerable gifts, what holds mankind as one united humanity is God’s Love. All of humanity’s gifts ultimately form into the tapestry of God’s Love, for all gifts reflect God Himself. This is the same way with the Tri-Personal Being of God in the Father, Son, and Spirit. They consist in one substance and reality in their Love for one another. Hence, the Bible states, “God is Love” (1 John 4:8, 16). God is not made of Love, for He is the uncreated God who has lived eternally without a beginning nor end in His one substance of Love and freedom. However, we will discuss the topic of gifting in another post.
Freedom comes from the divine source because mankind was created in God’s likeness. (Gen.1:26-27) By virtue of God’s Triune nature all humans are entitled by birth to live free without oppression, much less intimidation. Freedom is a basic human right because God the Creator is the personification of Freedom and Love.
The fourth ascent always depicts the free-flowing divine relationship of humanity with the Triune Godhead through the three preceding ascents which now manifests freedom in humans in the fourth ascent. This is manifested individually in the matter of living out the larger Freedom which binds us as one humanity with God in His divine Love – day in and day out. Freedom is the flip side of God’s nature of Love. Armed with Jesus’ Faith from the Father (3rd Ascent), and living free from the bondage of sin in Jesus’ saving work (2nd Ascent), and experiencing the victorious life in the Spirit’s power (1st Ascent), we are given to tackle each of the four areas of the devil’s temptations so freedom is protected and championed in human life.
We must always be cognizant of the fact that we still live in Satan’s world that is dominated and camouflaged by the sin-condition. (Rom.8:2) And as we said earlier that freedom is never free, but comes with a price in personal sacrifices in our battle against the common enemy of the devil and his evil devices to keep humanity in bondage . (Rom.12:1-2) These four addictive temptations show us how freedom must be constantly fought for and upheld. Freedom is never neglected but maintained, never abandoned but defended. We are called upon to sacrifice, and never give up our freedom in Christ. (1 Cor.16:13; Gal.5:1) Paul said this about sacrifice, “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (Rom.12:1-2). Yes, the outcome of living with such a mindset will bring nothing but God’s freedom, grace, and blessing.
This sacrificial way of life comes as a natural outcome of living in such a world of conflict with the unseen enemy – it comes with the territory, as the expression goes. In Jesus’ final prayer to the Father before He was taken to be crucified, He prayed for the disciples and all who will become His followers, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that You protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it” (John 17:15-16). God wants us to remain in the world and be His witnesses in defeating our common enemy in the devil himself. Recall the four areas Satan holds humans in his spiritual addictive bondage: knowledge, independence, worldliness, and power and influence. Recall what these temptations are likened with, they are the hard spiritual drugs Satan has humanity hallucinated and numbed. Let’s begin…
1 Knowledge: the Addiction of False Knowledge. The first place to begin with freedom is knowledge. It means to know about the enemy we are facing who seeks to destroy us and all humanity through empty knowledge. This is the most powerful spiritual drug since knowledge controls the mind and is the basis for human decision-making. Sun Tzu, a Chinese general and military strategist of the 6th century, said, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” So, the first and primary tactic of warfare is to “know thine enemy, and know thyself.” The enemy seeks to concoct confusion with his false knowledge from which he creates false realities. Paul says the same, “Satan will not outsmart us. For we are familiar with his evil schemes” (2 Cor.2:11). We have covered the point about knowing ourselves when we entered the first and second ascents in the human relationship with Jesus and the Spirit, concerning being saved in Jesus, repentance and the new birth in the Spirit. Now, let us get to know about the enemy and his evil plan.
Secondly, knowledge is what distinguishes one person from another. Knowledge is about understanding the gift or talent each person was born with. It identifies the person through the way he/she lives out his/her life through that gift. Based upon a person’s gift, he/she develops a core knowledge and know-how at enhancing and sharpening one’s gift and talent. Many view and seek freedom in various ways, but the most powerful and satisfying form of freedom God wants humans to have is where a person is living a life that is significant and self-fulfilling in every way, with the distinct gift which identifies him/her as a personality, and a destiny to be a child of the living God. God has created us for freedom, as Paul told the Galatians, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free” (Gal.5:1). God is free, and desires nothing less for His human children. The flip side of His nature is Love. This is the knowledge that satisfies, and the only one that frees.
When Jesus was tempted by the devil, knowledge was presented to Him in the form of sustenance, in this case, as ‘bread.’ (Matt.4:1-4) Bread sustains us physically, as knowledge does intellectually and spiritually. Jesus had just fasted for forty days and was physically famished. Jesus fasted for spiritual enrichment and strength from God through the Spirit who came upon Him in His baptism in the Jordan, before entering the wilderness of Judea to face the devil in the temptations.
In Jesus first temptation, Satan said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Satan knew Jesus had the power to change stones into bread and satisfy His physical hunger and bring relief to His famished body due to His extended fast. Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matt.4;4).
In other words, Jesus was saying in essence, “Man does not live by human knowledge alone, but by the knowledge of God’s Word.” Bread is symbolic, and regarded as the “staff of life” in Jesus’ day, much like human knowledge and education is the “staff of life” today. A staff means a rod, a scepter, which identifies a person’s profession and role in life. It is a prop that holds the person up so he/she does not fall to the ground. In ancient times, ‘bread’ is the metaphor for work which sustains a person and his family, just as knowledge and education has the same meaning today.
By tempting Jesus to turn stone into bread, Satan symbolically reveals his evil craft to deceive humans into receiving his false and evil knowledge in place of God’s true knowledge. The devil’s knowledge does not satisfy, for it is actually stone and not bread. Hence, Jesus answered that humans shall live by true knowledge from God (“every word that comes from the mouth of God”). Here, we see Jesus words come to reality where a person “may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding.” (Mar.4:12). It is about perceiving the reality behind the scenes. Jesus was not blind to what Satan was actually trying to do. This is what Paul says about the ability of the devil to present evil as good, and good as evil, “Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Cor.11:14, NLT; Isa.5:20). Yes, Satan presents himself as light to mankind, but in truth he is the depth of darkness.
On the other hand, Jesus said this, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” ((John 8:12). The Spirit is the One who manifest Christ in us and brings true light through true spiritual knowledge. (John 16:14) The “the sword of the Spirit is the Word of God” which represents the true knowledge we utilize to decipher the enemy’s ploy and defeat his cunning. The “Word of God” is Jesus Christ. (John 1 :1, 14; Rev.19:13 ) We must never abandon but imbibe upon the Spirit’s guidance and follow His lead for our daily spiritual sustenance and well-being. (Eph.6:17)
Jesus said “My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. I am the bread that came down from heaven. Whoever comes to Me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in Me will never be thirsty” (John 6: 33, 35, 41). That “bread” is the Word of God, Jesus. He brings understanding to God’s Word that is the sword the Spirit uses against the enemy. The Spirit’s role is to sanctify humans by infusing them with the right spiritual knowledge and mindset (sustenance) to know the enemy and how he does his work of deception. Yes, the knowledge about the Word of God for each of us is given the spiritual sword given to the Spirit to fight with and for us. To each person the Word of God is applied relative to the gift in him/her.
Jesus was hungry for God’s Word. Millions upon millions of people today still have lives where they are led by human knowledge alone, never knowing about, let alone seek God’s knowledge for them. We educate ourselves and give our children the best education in human knowledge, but overlook the most basic knowledge about God and His purpose for humanity. It is not wrong to pursue a good education, remember, Jesus said “not by bread alone,” to mean human knowledge is fine, but we also require the all-important spiritual knowledge from God which takes a person to a higher level of consciousness and make the person whole. Of what good is human ingenuity if there is no spiritual knowledge to direct our lives for “the good of all.”
Paul gives us God’s purpose in the knowledge of our gifts and talents, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” (1 Cor.12:4-7). So, we know that gifts (knowledge) are conferred by divine prerogative. The Bible states, “This is what the Lord says, your Redeemer and the One who formed you in the womb: ‘I am the LORD, who has made everything, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth” (Isa.44:24: Psa.139:13-14). So, we see that gifts and its development through human knowledge, are given for one purpose: “for the common good” (1 Cor.12:7). Or, as others may say, “For the good of all.” What turns a gift so it’s used “for the good of all” is the foundational knowledge from God.
So, the first step to freedom is about acquiring the knowledge of the true God. It is about giving yourself to God and letting His Word, the Bible, be the foundational knowledge that guides every other knowledge, especially knowledge through your work by which human gift is manifested in life. The most basic knowledge the Bible teaches is to give your life and receive Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. This calls for repentance and change in your past life, and making the commitment to follow God’s way of Love and His principles of living. By receiving Jesus, the Father gives you the gift of His Spirit to live with you and guide and protect you. (Act.2:38) Listen to the words of the Bible concerning your agreement to receive Jesus, “And when you believed in Christ, He identified you as His own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom He promised long ago. The Spirit is God’s guarantee that He will give us the inheritance He promised and that He has purchased us to be His own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify Him” (Eph.1:13-14; also 1 Cor. 2:9-10). Yes, the ultimate goal of the Father is to bring humanity to immortality, that is the human “inheritance He promised.”
Yes, we look to God our Father and His Son who promote the knowledge of His Love and true life, even immortality. Paul speaks of this life when He wrote to Timothy, “Treasuring up for themselves a firm foundation for the future (Godly knowledge), so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life” (1 Tim.6:19). But not so with Satan, he promotes his knowledge of evil, hatred, and death. The Bible says, “There is a path before each person that seems right (Satanic knowledge), but it ends in death” (Prov.16:16:25, 14:12).
2 Independence vs Reliance: the Addiction of False Assurance /Promises. Human life can be said to exist in two widely accepted truths, you can live it independently on your own, or you can live it inter-dependently with others. One is solitary and reclusive, while the other is interpersonal and collaborative. God is not a solitary Being, He is the trinitarian, Tri-Personal God who exist in one substance of Love in the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. As a believer, we follow the way of life of reliance through inter-dependence, not independence. He gave us the human family to teach us how to live inter-dependently with others, and transposes to the larger family of our communities. This the second ingredient about the freedom we are given as humans created in God’s likeness.
In the second temptation, we read, “The devil led Him (Jesus) to Jerusalem and had Him stand on the highest point of the temple. If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw Yourself down from here. For it is written: ‘He will command His angels concerning You to guard You carefully; they will lift You up in their hands, so that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.’” Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test’” (Luk.4:9-12). The devil quoted one of God’s promise to provide security and safety. Ironic isn’t it, that Satan knows about God’s promises than most humans for whom these promises were given.
God has made many promises (right knowledge) in His Word, the Bible, that are given for mankind’s welfare, happiness, and future hope and destiny. Many are unaware of the many, many positive promises God has laid out for humanity in His Word. The one above quoted by the devil is one of them, and is related to human safety and security through angelic intervention. This is where inter-dependence with our heavenly Father is critical through His promises. God’s promises was His way of expressing His desire to live inter-dependently with humans. When we accept Jesus as personal Savior, God brings His promises online (so to speak) so you and I can live inter-dependently with Him by calling upon His promises. Do we know and rely upon them as a way of life? I ask that question because it reveals the second way to live with freedom through our Loving Father’s promises. Of course the devil, like he did with Jesus, have nothing to offer but will tempt us to be self-destructive. But just as Jesus cast him off with the sword of the Spirit by quoting God’s Word of Power – His Promises, so must we.
I have a site you can visit to start you on your journey to get to know and build a foundation with God’s many promises. Or, you can visit a good Christian bookstore and find a helpful book on the subject. Here is the site: http://scripturepromises.com/. Also, you may go to my post, titled, “Standing on the Promises,” to learn more. Click the following link: http://bulamanriver.net/15209
The Scriptures tell us about God’s many promises so humans can purposefully and intentionally turn to Him in time of need and want. The Bible states, “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires” (2 Pet.1:3-4; also 2 Cor.1:20). Yes, His promises are precious indeed, and they show how much He Loves and cares for humanity, and desires above all to live inter-dependently with us. I would like to share my own encounter about experiencing God’s promise of security and safety which I shared with my readers, which you may read at: http://bulamanriver.net/2634. God’s promises form the backbone of our defense against Satan’s temptations.
So, freedom starts with the foundation of the divine knowledge for human purpose, and dovetails into the second point about knowledge of His promises which God gave for security from the enemy, and miracles and blessings from our heavenly Father. Here we called upon to trust His Word, and most of all, His Promises. And Satan will test our faith in God’s promises as He did with Jesus.
3 Worldliness: the Addiction of the World’s Allure. In the third temptation, the Bibles records, “Again, the devil took Him (Jesus) to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said. (Matt.4:8) In this section there are two obvious temptations which fall into the third and fourth temptation. The first part quoted above relates to worldliness, or as the passage states, “the world and their splendor.” The second part relate to power and influence which we will discuss under the fourth temptation.
The third temptation is one where the devil has subdued most of humanity in deception and held bondage. This is where humans are most vulnerable and the enemy knows this well. Because human weakness shows itself most conspicuously in the temptation of worldliness, obviously, this is where our awareness and defense require most attention. The statement “the world and its splendor” speak of the spirit of worldliness. Worldliness can be viewed as a cocoon the devil has encircled this world in systemic deception through materialism. Worldliness is a term which tells us of the devil’s total deception over mankind through a way of life steeped in materialistic pursuits. Worldliness is a philosophy of life that is guided ultimately by the worship of the self above everything else. It is operated by the fuel of excessive behavior of greed, exploitation of people, coveting what does not belong to you, self-loving and narcissistic, vain and egotistical. This openly uncovers and display the very spirit of rebellion – Satan’s original sin. (Isa.14:12-15) Paul speaks of what this spirit makes humans become, “People are going to be self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical, treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags, addicted to lust, and allergic to God. They’ll make a show of religion, but behind the scenes they’re animals. Stay clear of these people” (2 Tim.3:5, MSG). Worldliness drains the power of God’s Love in humanity because it is fueled by pride and self-centeredness. Only God’s knowledge and promises saves us from such a dysfunctional and self-sabotaging life.
All these behaviors can be traced back to the way Jesus defines worldliness. He puts it across in the context of what humans treasure most in life. He said a person can devote his/her life to stock-piling treasures on earth, or to store treasures in heaven. Jesus said, “Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars” (Matt.6:19-21) The behaviors Paul speaks about above relates to the people who dedicate their earthly life to storing treasures upon earth, with no faith in God or the treasures God promises for the faithful. Paul said, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no heart has imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Cor.2:9, BSB)
With God’s treasures safely in store in heaven for humanity, He calls upon all to extricate and free themselves from such a world where they are held hostage and in bondage to Satan, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers (worldliness).” Jesus said unbelievers “fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion.” He goes on, “There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds” (Matt.6:25-26, MSG). He continues on, “Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them. “If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think He’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do His best for you?” (Matt.6:28-31, MSG) Then He finishes with these words, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously (through your gift), and He will give you everything you need. Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes” (Matt.6:33-34, italics mine).
God calls upon each person to “Come out from them and be separate. For what fellowship can light have with darkness? Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. I’ll be a Father to you; you’ll be sons and daughters to Me.” (2 Cor.6:14,17-18). To be God’s children requires we come out of Satan’s prison of worldliness, and enter into the freedom of God’s world where His Love is a way of life. We ought to be self-reflective and ask, am I remotely if not overtly materialistic in my attitude towards life? Jesus told His disciples, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions” (Luk.12:15).
God is free in His Tri-Personal Being, so are we who belong to God’s world – His eternal Kingdom where people live in freedom. There is nothing wrong with having material possessions which are not worshiped as idols. As the Scriptures states, “He will give you everything you need” (Matt.6:33). There is a basic principle by which God blesses His children materially. It comes within the scope and ambit of the person’s gift, not outside of it. Or, as the Bible puts it across, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously (through your divine-conferred gift), and He will give you everything you need” (Matt.6:33, italics mine).
There are two very potent weaponry against the deception of worldliness God gives humans. The first is a defensive armor – our shield, or, the personal faith of Jesus, as we saw earlier. This reality comes through the manifestation of Jesus in humans by the Spirit’s power. (John 16:14, ESV) Paul was inspired to say, “Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires” (Rom.13:14). You can read more about Jesus’ faith at: http://bulamanriver.net/8382
The second weapon is the sword of God’s Word. The Spirit uses God’s Word as sword to defeat the enemy. Paul said, “Take…the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word. For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it pierces even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It judges the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Eph.6:17; Heb.4:12). Yes, the Word of God gives us the understanding of the enemy’s heart and intent, and the use of God’s Word of Power to be victorious – that is why it is a sharp two-edged sword.
Jesus showed us how to use our sword. In each temptation Jesus encountered with Satan, He defeated him using God’s sword – God’s Word. He quotes God’s Word in every one of His defense, saying, “It is written…” (Matt.4:4, 7, 10). God’s Word is the only way we are given to defeat the enemy. God’s powerful Word is our spiritual sword. There is no other way. God’s Word is the expression of His power and grace. In the beginning, God spoke and His creation came into existence. (Gen.1 & 2) This is a spiritual battle, and spiritual weapons are utilized to gain victory. Paul said, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full spiritual armor of God” (Eph.6:12-13).
Paul mentions the other armor we have for the battle like the breastplate of righteousness, the belt of truth, the helmet of salvation, and our feet fitted with the gospel of peace. (Eph.6:13-17) These are ancillary but nonetheless indispensable armament we require to defeat the enemy. We are covering only two armor today – the shield and sword.
4 Worldly Power and Influence: the Drug of worldly power. In the fourth temptation Satan “Showed Him (Jesus) all the kingdoms of the world… I will give it all to You, if You will kneel down and worship me” (Matt.4:8-9). By tempting Jesus with the words, “I will give it all to You, if You will kneel down and worship me” Satan was offering Jesus his world with all its power and influence. The devious devil wanted Jesus to bow to him and not to God, to forsake His Father. Satan failed, for Jesus replied, “Go away Satan! The Scriptures say: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve only Him.'” (Matt.4:10, CEV). Yes, Jesus again used the sword of the Spirit, the Scriptures, and the shield of His divine faith to trust God’s Word and promises.
Matthew Henry, is his commentary, said this, “The glory of the world is the most charming temptation to the unthinking and unwary; by that men are most easily imposed upon.” So much so, people can become drunk with power, whether it is in politics, in military domination, in business empires, in family legacies, in many human talents like music and athletic prowess, satanism and mystical affiliations, the accumulation of money and possessions, in personal dreams and projects, etc. When power is idolized, be it personal or shared, then Satan is the one who is worshiped. Christ rejected this proposal with abhorrence and declared, “Away from Me, Satan!”
The Scriptures tells us plainly the truth about power, “Once God has spoken; Twice I have heard this: That power belongs to God” (Psa.62:11, NASB). The Bible explains how this divine power can be made to inhabit human life. Jesus said, “All authority (power) in heaven and on earth has been given to Me” (Matt.28:18). The divine power of God is channeled to mankind only through Jesus, the Personified Word of God. Jesus took our humanity unto Himself as Immanuel and glorified it in the Triune Godhead of the Father, Son, and Spirit, through His life, death, resurrection, and ascension. Thus, God and man become one in Christ. The power Satan exercises in this fallen world is given under God’s suffrage until His divine purpose is completed. (Rom.13:1-2; John 19:11) Satan was allowed to create a worldly system that’s based on lies and deception, beginning with Adam, from which he has created pseudo and artificial power bases which has no basis in reality to God’s sovereign power by which He creates and sustains the universe and all in it, both in the spiritual and physical realms.
Humanly speaking, all of creation from which power proceeds, ultimately originates with God, not the devil. God alone is uncreated and has existed eternally in His divine power. The enemy was a holy angel and fell through his rebellion was part of the created order and possesses no power to create nor is given free hand to do with humanity as he pleases, or else we would have been destroyed long ago. As we saw, his power is given under constraint and under proviso. In other words, God limits all his evil intents and actions for His own divine purpose for humanity. If Satan’s power is artificial and temporary, why do people invest their lives in something that’s fabricated and based upon lies and deception? Jesus asked, “What profit will a person have if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life (soul)?” (Mar.8:36, ISV). Yes, that is the end-result – it’s nothing more than a smokescreen, a mirage and empty pipe dream which has no power in reality, and anyone who bets his life on it will most certainly lose out.
The “whole world” means the devil’s world. Though worldly power may seem real and tantalizing in the physical sense, we are reminded by Jesus’ guidance to keep our eyes on the reality of the true power behind the scenes. The servant of Elisha, the prophet of God, was afraid of the approaching army set on destroying Israel. He was given to see the true power behind the scenes when Elisha asked God to give the servant a vision to see the armies of God standing ready to do battle against the seeming mighty enemy of Israel. He said, “Don’t be afraid. We have more forces on our side than they have on theirs. And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha” (2 King 6:15-17, GWT).
Consider the various world-ruling empires that have existed upon this earth and have eventually disappeared for one reason or other. These were world-dominant empires like Egypt, Babylon, Assyria, Rome, the Mongol Empire, the Russian Empire; the Spanish and British empires, and others. History has taught us about the Pharaohs, Alexander the Great, the Ceasers, Genghis Khan, the Czars, the rulers of many Royal dynasties, etc. Why? Because it is power that exist in a vacuum (world) controlled by Satan. This applies to all kinds of power bases, not just political. By contrast, God says this about His own Kingdom, “During the reigns of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed or conquered. It will crush all these kingdoms into nothingness, and it will stand forever” (Dan.2:44) An angel appeared to Mary and revealed Jesus as the King in God’s Kingdom, “You will conceive and give birth to a Son, and you are to call Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; His kingdom will never end.” (Luk.1:31-33; Matt.3:2).
Why not invest your life in the real thing, in true power? Why not invest in God’s world – the Kingdom of God in which Christ is King of kings, and Lord of lords. (Rev.19:16) To lose your true self in Christ to a power that cannot stand the test of time and reality (eternity) is nothing short of absurd and ludicrous. It ought not to be worthy of our consideration. It is a shameful proposition to even consider losing your divine destiny as a person made in the Creator’s image for a hollow promise for a power that is equally impotent.
Here is a promise of God’s power He gives to support and defend us, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isa.41:10, ESV). Here’s another similar promise, “No weapon that is formed against you will prosper; And every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, And their vindication is from Me, declares the LORD” (Isa. 54:17). We saw the promise about angelic protection which Satan quoted to Jesus, “For He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways” (Psa.91:11). Here’s an all-important one from Jesus Himself, “For My Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day” (John 6:40).
Yes, God gives us power, but it is all about vindicating His purpose in each of us where He is making humanity into a temple of Love for His dwelling with mankind into eternity. (Eph.2:19-22; 1 Cor.3:16) It usually starts small – overcoming the bondage in the false-self inherited from Adam’s fallen humanity, and living the reborn true-self (Christ’s new glorified humanity) in the Spirit’s power, through the framework where life is lived overcoming the four temptations of the enemy. (Col.3:10) It is the expression of a Love relationship with our God, His Son, Jesus, and the Spirit, in the preceding three ascents. When we will have grown to genuinely live the “Triune Life,”* His power will manifest itself in our lives. For divine power proceeds forth from no other place but His Trinitarian Godhead. When we find our place in His Triune Being, we will receive gifts with divine power in the Spirit to carry out His divine will for us in our faith walk with Jesus.
The Scriptures utters God’s promise for those who wait upon Him, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no heart has imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Cor.2:9). Yes, it is beyond what our limited human mind can fathom, but in a restrained way, much like squinting in a fog and peering through a mist as Eugene Peterson states aptly, we are made to understand for the Spirit reveals to us the hidden things of God, “These things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God” (1 Cor.2:9-10, ESV). This is the miraculous life believers are privileged to live supernaturally in the Spirit.
The enemy’s role is to promote his lies and deceptions and create schism and division in our Love relationship with the Triune God, and if possible, to totally sever this Love relationsip altogether. And these are four of his main arsenals with which he attacks us, and if possible, destroy our Love relationship with God our Father, His Son, Jesus, and our Friend, His Spirit. But Satan will not succeed because God’s plan to create mankind in His Triune image and likeness will never be thwarted. God created man to Love God above all else, and secondarily to Love his neighbor as he Loves himself. (Mar.12:29-31) Jesus said “there is no greater commandment than these” two, therefore, all of creation is merely the vehicle and means by which to accomplish that singular end. Everything in the created universe was never intended to be taken as end in themselves much less worshiped and idolized. That divine end is very simply to fulfill our purpose as humans living life in God’s likeness and image of Love, for the Scriptures says, “God is Love” (1 John 4:8,16).
All the temptations we will confront will come under one of these four sub-headings which encompass all the nuances of life’s expression in one form or another. As we saw, they are the spiritual hard drugs Satan has concocted for human consumption. We are not perfect by any means, but that’s just the point – the temptations are intended to expose our spiritual flaws and weaknesses which the devil had ingrained in humans before coming to Christ. If we follow Jesus’ example, instead of the enemy exploiting our vulnerabilities, we will turn the table on the devil by metamorphosizing his temptations from negatives into positives in the Spirit’s power. Thus, we see these experiences as a framework by which we are being conformed to Jesus’ likeness as sons and daughters of our heavenly Father. (Rom.8:28-30) As we read from Peter’s passage, “this is a spiritual process” (1 Pet.4:12-13, The Message).
We will have successful lives on earth and ultimately becoming glorified humans following Jesus’ example who introduced immortality to humanity through His resurrection. (Rom.8:29; Col.1:18; John 6:47; 1 Cor.15:50-53) The vital point is that we are experiencing maturing repentant lives in the Spirit, so that Christ our High Priest is ceaselessly mediating for our salvation in His temple in heaven and here on earth in the human temple of humanity that’s empowered by the Spirit to live the “Triune Life”* experiencing the divine Freedom as we relate with the Tri-Personal Being of God in the three ascents and its manifestation we discussed in this post. (You may read my post about Jesus, “Born for His High Priestly Role” at: http://bulamanriver.net/11230).
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to write to me in the space provided below, or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until we meet again in my next post, may the blessings of the God who ceaselessly expresses Himself in His dependable Triune Love, be with you always. May the Spirit enliven your spirit and make all things concerning you possible as you live the “Triune Life”* Be strong in the Lord’s joy.
Kiang P. Lee (Your Servant In Christ)
* Triune Life: The “Triune Life” is a way of life. It’s foundational tenet is based upon the Love of God, because it is the nature of God. Love is both a noun and a verb. We are called Love because we live by Love as God’s own children. It means a life lived according to the image and likeness of God. (Gen.1:26-27) It means as children of God we live the 3-dimensional life within the Tri-Personal Being of God, as opposed to the ‘solitary’ 1-dimensional life man lives in himself under the influence of the devil. It means God, as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, lives and walks in you. Man’s union with the Triune God, or “Triune Living,” is made possible by Jesus, who Himself, is one in substance and reality with the Triune God, who took our humanity into the very Being of the Triune Godhead. To live the “Triune Life” is the miraculous expression of the Spirit in us. The miraculous life is the promise of the New Covenant, “I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you shall keep My ordinances, and do them” (Ezek.36:27) You can read more at: http://bulamanriver.net/?p=8036. Also at: http://bulamanriver.net/9092
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All scriptures are taken from the NIV Version 2011, unless stated otherwise.
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