Growing In Godliness Blog
Faith of Demons
By David Norfleet
The Bible is full of amazing accounts of people’s faith. The 11th chapter of Hebrews alone speaks of those who, motivated by their faith in God and His promises, traded wealth for poverty, exchanged the known and comfortable for the unknown and frightening, and sacrificed that which was precious for a greater relationship with God.
But I would like to think about the faith of another group in Scriptures – the demons. We think about those spiritual beings as our enemies, and rightly so (Ephesians 6:12), but we might not think of them as having belief or faith in God. But Scripture says in James 2:19 that they believe and even shudder. But, what do they believe?
Consider Matthew 8:28-34 and the parallel text Mark 5:1-13. In these accounts we find Jesus is casting out the group of demons self-identified as Legion, but what is revealed within these interactions about their faith is fascinating (Even if their tone is derisive it reveals a level of belief beyond what we would normally ascribe to these beings.).
- First, I would note how they identify Jesus of Nazareth as Jesus Son of the Most High God (Mark 5:7). By identifying Jesus as the “Son of…” they are recognizing a fact the gospels make abundantly clear, and that Jesus is God.
- But that is not the only revelation concerning their faith in their use of this title, consider that they recognize the Father as “Most High.” In Hebrew that is El Elyon or God the Highest. What that means is even the demons recognize God’s preeminence.
- Furthermore, they recognize there is punishment, they are subject to it, and Jesus has the authority to execute this judgment. Note the question they ask in Matthew 8.29, “…
Have You come here to torment us before the time?” (Matthew 8:29).
- But these demons realize and believe in another aspect of God’s nature and that is that He is merciful. Note their plea in Mark 5: 10 “And he began to implore Him earnestly not to send them out of the country.”
Let us look yet further into the beliefs of these evil spirits. Not only did they understand who Jesus was, that there was punishment, and God was ultimately merciful, they also understood and were able to recognize that God had a means of salvation. While traversing the city of Philippi to the place of prayer, a slave-girl with a spirit divination, spoke concerning Paul and his companions, “These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation.” (Acts 16:16-18).
This set of beliefs was not merely cold and lifeless to these demons, but resulted in a response whether of their own volition or not. Note the account in Mark 3: 11-12, “Whenever the unclean spirits saw Him, they would fall down before Him and shout, ‘You are the Son of God!’”
Are you astonished to the degree that the demons believed? Does it startle you to think of their body of belief? And yet, James describes their faith as incomplete, barren, and lifeless (James 2:14-26)
So, what is the point? There was something lacking in their faith. James says in James 2:22 that works (actions/obedience) completes, finishes, and brings faith to its intended goal. If we want a faith that is complete, alive, and useful it must go beyond that of demons and include our obedience to be justified before God.
Worldliness vs. Godliness
By Brock Henry
“You and I have need of the strongest spell that can be found to wake us from the evil enchantment of worldliness.” (C.S. Lewis)
Few distinctions are more clearly delineated in Scripture than the one between worldliness and godliness. In no uncertain terms, Scripture indicates that the character promoted by the world is diametrically opposed to the character promoted by God.
This does not stop us from blurring the lines, though.
As Christians, we often swallow, with ravenous enthusiasm, the poisonous lie promulgated by Satan himself that we can have our cake and eat it, too. We delude ourselves into thinking that piety and frivolity are symbiotic.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Godliness and worldliness are not parallel paths; they are wholly divergent. And so we stand at a crossroads every time we make a decision.
Either we will take the path that leads to life and godliness, or we’ll take the path that leads to death and worldliness. (cf. Deut. 30:15-20; Joshua 24:15)
There is no middle ground. Only life or death. Only hot or cold. God will vomit out of His mouth those who are lukewarm (Revelation 3:16).
At The Heart of the Distinction
When you boil it all down, there is one defining feature that distinguishes the worldly character from the godly one: Motive.
Worldliness, at its core, is selfish. Godliness, on the other hand, at its core, is selfless. One looks inward, the other looks outward. One says, “my will be done.” The other says, “Your will be done.”
3 Biblical Analogies
Scripture uses multiple analogies to describe the drastic nature of the distinction between godliness and worldliness. Consider three of them:
Light vs. Darkness: possibly the most vivid analogy Scripture uses to describe the distinction between godliness and worldliness is that of light and darkness.
John describes Christ as the “true Light” (John 1:9), and Jesus later confirms this epithet as valid when He simply states, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12).
It’s important to note that Christ did not say that He has the light of the world; He says that He is the light of the world. Thus, light is a defining feature of Christ Himself, not just His message. (And as Christ is one with God, it’s not surprising that John later writes of God the Father, “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5, NKJV).)
As a result, it only makes sense then that those who call themselves by Christ’s name should also be described as the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:14) and as “having the light of life” (John 8:12).
Because God defines Himself as light, and bestows this light upon all who faithfully follow Him, everything that stands in opposition to Him must necessarily be described as darkness:
• 1 John 1:6 draws a distinction between fellowship with God and “walking in darkness.”
• Christ indicates that those who follow Him “shall not walk in darkness” (John 8:12, NKJV).
• Paul indicates that we should, “Walk as children of light...and have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness” (Ephesians 5:8-13, NKJV).
• Paul also writes that the godly have been “...delivered...from the power of darkness...” (Colossians 1:13, NKJV).
• To the Christians in Thessalonica, Paul writes, “You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness” (1 Thessalonians 5:5, NKJV).
• Peter writes that the godly “...were called...out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
In the end, godliness and worldliness are as different as day and night.
Truth vs. The Lie: a second analogy that Scripture uses to illustrate the distinction between godliness and worldliness is that of truth and a lie.
Just like Christ defines Himself by light, He also defines Himself by truth: “I am the way, the truth, and the life...” (John 14:6, NKJV). Similarly, Jesus prays to the Father that He would, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17, NKJV). Again, it isn’t that God’s word has truth, it’s that God’s word is truth.
Accordingly, those who align themselves with the Creator are described as “walking in truth” (2 John 4; 3 John 3-4) and as “obeying the truth” (Galatians 5:7).
Because God is truth, everything that stands against Him is described as the opposite of truth. Whereas Scripture indicates that it is impossible for God to lie (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18), it describes Satan as the “father of lies” (John 8:44).
Thus, those who choose an ungodly character are described as being “...of [their] father the devil...” (John 8:44) and as “wandering from the truth” (James 5:19, NKJV). When man opts for worldliness over godliness, he “...exchanges the truth of God for the lie...” (Romans 1:25).
So, just as godliness and worldliness are as different as night and day, they are also as different as truth and a lie.
Purity vs. Defilement: a third analogy that Scripture uses to highlight the distinction between godliness and worldliness is that of purity and defilement.
Purity is yet another defining feature of God Himself (1 John 3:3). As a result, everything that emanates from Him is also pure, including His words (Psalm 12:6; Psalm 119:140), His commandments (Psalm 19:8), and His wisdom (James 3:17).
Who then is qualified to associate with God? Those who have adopted a godly character and have purified their hearts (Psalm 24:4; cf. James 4:8 and 1 Peter 1:22). Jesus reiterates this when He says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).
If the godly character is described as pure, then the worldly character is described as defiled:
• Jude describes certain apostates as having “...defiled the flesh...” (Jude 8).
• The Hebrew writer equates “falling short of the grace of God” with bitterness, trouble, and “becoming defiled” (Hebrews 12:15, NKJV).
• Paul, in his letter to Titus, makes a marked distinction between the “pure” and the “defiled” (Titus 1:15).
• Jesus speaks of “...evil coming from within and defiling a man” (Mark 7:23, NKJV).
Thus, just as godliness and worldliness are as different as night and day and truth and a lie, they are also as different as purity and defilement.
The Bottom Line
If we are to be people of godly character, we cannot even so much as dabble in worldliness. Godliness and worldliness are not opposite sides of the same coin, they are in fact two entirely distinct monetary systems. What works in the kingdom of this world is not even recognized by God as valid currency in His kingdom.
“No man can serve two masters,” Jesus said (Matthew 6:24, NKJV). It’s not that doing so is a bad idea, it’s that doing so is impossible. Because we cannot be both godly and worldly, we must make a choice. No other decision has more gravity than this, as what we select will do no less than determine our eternal destiny.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Cursed are the defiled in heart, for they shall not see God.
Spiritual SWOT Analysis
By Mike Cox
Companies sometimes utilize a tool called SWOT analysis to assist in determining a strategy or to gain a better idea of the condition and/or the potential condition of the company. This tool can also be used to assist us in determining our spiritual condition. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.
For our purposes we will evaluate our strengths from a spiritual standpoint. Have we grown spiritually year to year? What helped us to grow? How is our prayer life? Has that progressed, regressed, or maintained? How active are we in the work of the Lord? Whether it be in an assembly, taking care of the church building, taking advantage of the opportunities that may come our way to talk to someone about things pertaining to God. We can pose the same questions in relation to the weaknesses portion of the SWOT analysis. What are we doing to promote the cause of Christ? Can we do more, do we want/seek to do more?
What about our opportunities? What opportunities do we have to grow spiritually? We can think about what additional duties we might participate in. Are there opportunities to spend time encouraging others, primarily from a spiritual standpoint? (Galatians 6:2, Philippians 1:3-8) What about additional studies? Are there any opportunities to serve as a co-teacher or substitute?
What threats to our spirituality are there? Could it be our lack of growth? (Mark 4:19,20) Could it be the friends or other influences that surround us? Do we believe in the word of God and the promise of Heaven that awaits us if we are obedient? What level of desire to serve God do we have?
Sometimes analyzing where we stand and putting it in writing can help us visualize the condition of our spirituality. It can also help to us create a plan that will help us to grow. The planning can be easy, but the execution is often times difficult. Just as not every plan or strategy will work for every business or company, the same applies to each individual Christian. Our plans have to be such that it is fitting for us and one that we can achieve. Therefore, we must look at what we can do; we all may not be able to do the same things (Romans 12:4-5, 1 Corinthians 12:12). We also will have different weaknesses. In either case, we need to prepare ourselves to grow and to protect us from the snares of the devil. We can do this by putting on the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-17) and evaluating the condition of the armor on a regular basis. If there is a crack in our armor (spiritual weakness) we need to fix that crack. Performing a SWOT analysis of our spirituality is one way that we can identify what we are doing a good job in and what we can improve on.
What Does God Want From Me?
By Paul Earnhart
In his little book, Jesus Rediscovered, Malcolm Muggeridge confided that his earliest memory was of walking down the road wearing someone else's hat and wondering who he was. In a real sense, the whole of humanity is walking down that same road, tormented by the same question. The question is built in; the answer is not.
In order to be whole we need to know who we are and what is expected of us, but only God knows that. Human beings, being creatures, cannot answer such questions. American poet Theodore Roethke expresses in haunting words this profound human yearning:
"I close my eyes to see,
I bleed my bones their marrow to bestow
Upon that God who knows what I would know.”
Denying the existence of God not only solves nothing but reduces us to utter meaninglessness. Accepting by faith that God exists and wants us to seek Him (Hebrews 11:6), and that God has spoken to us in His Son (Hebrews 1:1-2) opens up all kinds of blessed possibilities. It is wisdom to listen reverently and learn our duty well.
It is evident from the Bible's beginning that man, created in the image of God, was expected to honor his Creator with due reverence and worship Him in a divinely prescribed way. Cain could tell you about that (Genesis 4:3-5). Not everything goes. The foundation of worship had to be faith and the proper expression of faith was obedience (Hebrews 11:4). King Saul learned that lesson when he presumed to worship God in a way that violated His will. Samuel's rebuke tells the story: "Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice..." (1 Samuel 15:22).
The Old Testament prophets speak to our question often. When Israel sought to placate God with the multitude of their sacrifices, Micah told them straight out that God wanted more - "And what does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?" (Micah 6:6-8). To the hypocritical shallowness of their worship Isaiah and Amos and Jeremiah say the same (Isa. 1:10-17; Amos 5:21-24; Jer. 7:21-23). Jesus echoes the prophets by His frequent quoting of Hosea: "For I desire mercy and not sacrifice and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings" (Hos. 6:6; Matt. 9:13; 12:7). What Jesus and the prophets were saying was not that the sacrificial offerings of the law (Leviticus) were unnecessary but that God's desire was for far more than that.
What is the lesson here? Do not try to turn God away from getting what He wants from us by offering the part for the whole -- even actions that God has clearly required -- frequent attendance at church assemblies (Heb. 10:24,25), regular eating of the Lord's Supper (Matt. 26:26-29; Acts 2:42), communal prayers and spiritual singing (Acts 2:42; Eph. 5:19,20) et. al. All these are to lead to a higher purpose -- our transformation into the image of God's Son (Rom. 8:29). What God wants is you and me, that which is expressed in the first and greatest commandment: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength" (Mark 12:28-29). In short, God wants all there is of us, given gladly and freely in the same measure that He has poured Himself out on us.
The Patterns of Sin and Faith
By Tristan Ganchero
Like most people, I follow set patterns of behavior almost every day. I wake up around the same time, eat the same thing for breakfast, and drive the same route to work. There might be some days where everything in between waking up and sitting down at my desk at work is a blur of activity. On those days I might stop and ask myself, “How did I get here?” After some thought I’d be able to explain how I arrived at work or school because it’s the same thing I do every day.
What about when I find myself in sin? My first response to the question, “How did I get here,” might be, “I don’t know.” But sure enough, if I gave it some more thought, there would be a pattern of behavior that resulted in this sinful situation.
One such pattern is: Seeing, Desiring, Taking, and Hiding.
Consider three examples from the Old Testament: Eve (Gen. 3:6-8), Achan (Josh. 7:20-21), and David (2 Sam. 11:1-5).
Genesis 3:6-8 God told Adam not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but Eve saw that the tree was good for food. She desired to be wise, took the tree’s fruit, ate, and gave some to her husband to eat as well. Then, they both hid from the presence of the LORD.
Joshua 7:20-21 God had told Israel that everything in Jericho was devoted to destruction, but when Achan saw the spoil, he desired (coveted) the spoil for its value. He took the spoil for himself, even though it belonged to the LORD, and then he hid the spoil inside his tent.
2 Samuel 11:1-5 During the time of year when kings went out to battle, David stayed home and saw Bathsheba bathing. He desired her beauty (this is implied in his actions), had his servants take her to him, and then spent the rest of the chapter trying to hide his adultery.
The consequences of their sins were serious: suffering, death, and more importantly, a broken relationship with their Creator. We will face the same consequences when we keep our eyes fixed on what we shouldn’t be seeing, desiring what we shouldn’t be desiring, taking what we shouldn’t be taking, and hiding from the LORD.
What’s the solution? If we realize that we are hiding from the LORD because of this pattern sin, then we need to step out of the darkness and into the light by repenting and confessing our sins (1 Jn. 1:6-9). Then, rather than engaging in the pattern of sin, we need to busy ourselves with the “pattern of faith”: We need to fix our eyes on Jesus and see Him as our King (Heb. 12:1-2). We need to desire Jesus for His wisdom, value, and beauty (Col. 2:3; 1 Pet. 1:18-19; Is. 33:17). Finally, we need to take hold of the hope that we have in Him and hide (take refuge) in the shelter He provides (Heb. 6:17-18), never straying from the message of our great salvation, eagerly waiting until that Day when Jesus returns and reveals the glorious hope that the faithful have been longing for - eternal life with Him.