Dead Men Walking

15 01 2010
Truth Matters Newsletters – February  2008  Vol. 13  Issue 2 – Dead Men Walking – By Rev. Robert S. Liichow

Discernment Ministries International

Dead Men Walking

By Rev. Robert S. Liichow

Please forgive the somewhat abbreviated first article and the lateness of this specific newsletter it is all due to my work load at seminary. Since so many of you gave sacrificially for me to attend classes I feel it is my duty to God and our partners to do the best I can in them.

What was I trying to get across in the first article can be boiled down to the following — victory over the world, the flesh and the devil is experienced by those who have “died” to the world, the flesh and devil, i.e. are purposefully living the crucified life.

This type of message is not very popular and it has not been for probably 2,000 years. Certainly you will never hear any televangelists or other popular SINister teach about dying to self for the sake of expanding the kingdom of God. The teaching of the cross is as radical today as when Jesus and the Apostles initially taught it.

The important thing to keep in our minds is that this teaching is not for some people who have risen to some high degree of personal holiness, in fact, from what I read it seems that this teaching of “dying to live” is really spiritual boot camp, sort of Christianity “101” and really when looked at properly it becomes crystal clear why this teaching has to be foundational because almost all our “work” for the kingdom to be of any value has to flow from this basis of the crucified life. So allow me briefly to share with you some of the texts which will be GREAT ones for us all to ponder and mediate on during this Lenten season.

I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. John 12:24-25

The context of this verse is plain, Jesus is speaking to His followers about the need to “die” to ourselves. It is only when we die, i.e. get ourselves off of our hands, that we become free to focus on the needs of our neighbors. As long as we stay focused on our needs, our wants and desires we cannot and will not see the desperate needs of those around us. Regarding Himself Jesus said:

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. 20:28

In His comment here Jesus is settling the dispute of who will be the greatest in the Kingdom of God. The greatest one is the one who serves all the others. Jesus came to serve humanity by dying for our sins. We as His disciples serve humanity by picking up our cross and following in Jesus footsteps (see Matt. 10:38) to the place of crucifixion and dying to self. The author of Hebrews tells us to “go to Him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore” (Heb. 13:11).

We know that this death to self took place in the waters of baptism:

For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin–because anyone who has died has been freed form sin. Rom. 6:6-7

It is one thing to remember that one has been baptized, it is quite another to live out that baptismal life consciously. This seems to be how the Apostle Paul lived life — being aware of his death and new life in and by the power of Christ:

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Gal. 2:20

Paul makes his comment in the context of a rebuke to the Galatians who were being misled into thinking they could start their spiritual life out by God’s grace and somehow complete it by their works. Paul calls them “foolish.” Please understand I am not advocating some systems of works or of human will power. Quite the opposite. What the Bible is calling for is: for us as the people of God to wake up to who we really are and by God’s grace live accordingly. The Apostle Paul says in another place—

Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame. 1 Cor. 15:34

He reminds them again in his second letter to them that they are the righteousness of God in Christ and are now ambassadors of reconciliation to the rest of the world (2 Cor. 5:17-19).

I think it is time for many of God’s people to “wake up.” Wake up to the fact that in their flesh dwells no good thing (Rom. 7:18) and we must realize that our flesh cannot be reformed or renewed that is why it must be crucified daily.

We also must wake up to who we are in Christ. I’ve stated this before but I want to say it again and really meditate on this FACT: What God did in our re-birth is vastly more powerful and superior to what Satan accomplished when Adam fell.

If the work of Satan and sin in the fall were more powerful than Jesus work on the cross, then logically Jesus would not have been victorious over the devil. Yet we know He was! He says to His disciples “REJOICE, I have overcome the world” (Jh 16:33). He overcame death, hell and the grave for you and I. He lovingly gives His victory to us if we will but accept it and lean upon the power of His Holy Spirit, our Divine “Helper” who indwells us to grant us grace to grasp hold of what is ours in Christ in the face of all temptation, trails and tests. Let’s work together with the Spirit of Grace and be the overcomers Christ so dearly paid for.

Let us close this Lenten mediation out with a quote from Dr. Francis Pieper:

God who creates faith, also produces sanctification by His infinite power (1 Thess. 5:23-24). But in this work of sanctification, the Christian also plays a part. In conversion man merely experiences the working of God, but in sanctification the Christian plays an active role; he cooperates (synergism of the new man)…In other words: it is the Holy Ghost who produces the activity of the new man; the new man remains the organ of the Holy Ghost. (Christian Dogmatics, Vol. III, p. 14) ♦

Copyright © Robert S. Liichow  

 





The Axis of Evil

14 01 2010
Truth Matters Newsletters – February 2008 Vol. 13 Issue 2 – The Axis of Evil – By Rev. Robert S. Liichow

Discernment Ministries International

The Axis of Evil

By Rev. Robert S. Liichow

1 John 2:16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

(KJV)

One thing that is missing in my seminary experience thus far is any real discussion of spiritual warfare.

There is a thing called “victory” in living this Christian life. I am not referring to our ultimate victory when our bodies are fully redeemed from death and glorified. No, I am referring to living a victorious life in the midst of our fallenness. I readily acknowledge that I am a saved “sinner” or in good Lutheran parlance “simil Justus et pecator” (justified at the same time a sinner). Yet to me there seems to be an inordinate concentration on the reality of our “old man” and our fallen condition. The other side of the “coin” is just as real, i.e. our ability in and by Christ to be victorious over what I am calling in this article “the Axis of Evil”

In order to be a victor in a war, one has to understand who the enemy is, what are his tactics and discover his weaknesses and exploit them to the fullest. Too many Christians are simply ignorant of Satan and his devices when the Bible tells us not to be (see 2 Cor. 2:11). It is a fact that Jesus defeated Satan on the cross making an open show of him:

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. Col. 2:14-15

Yet the New Testament is clear that we still have to contend with Satan and his forces in this life. We need to realize that although we have been delivered out of the dominion of darkness and translated into the Kingdom of God’s dear Son (Col 1:13) through the life giving waters of our Baptism and through faith in Gospel message of the cross of Christ; we still have an enemy to fight. The Apostle Paul reminds us that we need to:

Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rules of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Eph. 6:11-13

Many Christians get no further then “we wrestle not” in their lives when it comes to contending with the enemies of their faith. It is my hope that as we begin this new year we all will stand victorious in God’s armor and by His power and to His glory over all the works of the evil one.

Some time back President Bush shocked the world and the politically correct by declaring North Korea, Iran, and Iraq as comprising an “axis of evil.” What the President meant was that these three nations were in league together to expand terrorism and increase their own power.

As Christians we too face an axis of evil comprised of (1) the world, (2) the flesh and (3) the devil. All three work in concert to keep us from growing spiritually and effectively shining as lights amidst a wicked and perverse generation. (Phil. 2:15).

Enemy Number One: The Devil

Satan marshals these forces together against us to keep us ineffective and shames us into silence about our Christian faith. For example, when you are at home and ou see your neighbors and you think “I should go and invite them to church this Sunday.” Immediately the thoughts come faster than machine gun bullets — “you can’t do that, who do you think you are? Religion is a private concern. What if they got offended?

Brothers and sisters let me tell you those thoughts come from Satan and his minions. Remember what Jesus said of him? Jesus in John 6 says “When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own; for he is a liar, and the father of it.” In Rev. 12:10 Satan is called “the ACCUSER of the brethren.” So when Satan and his demons speak to your mind telling you, that you can’t or that you are not a good enough Christian to share Christ with others…simply remind the hosts of wickedness of a few things, one of my favorite verses is:

And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. Col. 2:15

Remind this LIAR that he has been disarmed and that Christ Jesus has triumphed over all his hosts by the cross! Tell him that you are baptized into Christ, and in Him you can do all things INCLUDING sharing your faith with your neighbors and friends. REMEMBER Satan goes about as a roaring lion, but he is not one! (1 Peter 5:8). He is a defeated foe whose ONLY POWER is to get you to believe the lies he tells you.

Usually Satan works along these lines, first he tempts us (he is called the “Tempter” in Matt 4:3) with some sins, when we give into his temptation he then immediately accuses us. In these cases his accusations are not lies because we did give into temptation and sinned. At this point most Christians are silenced by shame. The correct response is to immediately turn to Christ and confess our sin knowing that when we confess our sins God is faithful and just to forgive us our transgressions and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 Jh. 1:9). The author of the book of Hebrews reminds us:

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Heb. 4:14-16

As we grow spiritually and learn to depend upon God’s grace more and more Satan must employ other, sometimes more subtle means in order to attempt to defeat us. He must call upon another one of his “partners” in his axis to assist him in the battle.

Enemy Number Two: The World

The world, cosmos in the Greek and this term refers to everything that adorns this world-system and that is against the Kingdom of God. Our opening text tells us that the cosmos is comprised of (1) the lust of the flesh, (2) the lust of the eyes, and (3) the pride of life.

We all succumb to the Tempter (1 Thess 3:5) from time to time when he offers up the baubles of this decaying world before our eyes. Think about the programs and commercials on television almost all of which are directly opposed to godly living. The images projected tell us that we’d be happier with a new car, new husband or wife, bigger house, more money, etc…Satan uses the manifold pleasures of the world to blind us to that fact that we as the people of God are not “of” this world, we are “in” it but not of it. This world is not our home an our lives are to be lived as stewards of what God graciously gives us.

Yes we all fail and give into our sinful fleshly desire for the world but read what Jesus says of US!

I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 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. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth John 17:14-17

Let me ask you one question — do you believe that the Father answered Jesus’ prayer? ABSOLUTELY! Jesus says we are not of the world any more than He is! In fact, He says that TWICE! We have to begin to see ourselves as Jesus does. Yes we are IN the world but we are NOT of it! Let us echo our brother Paul when faced with the enticements of the fading system of sin and say with him:

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Gal 6:14

Our attitude towards the world is this: We are not it! We are set apart from it by the POWER inherent in God’s Word and by the means of His grace! Our boast is not in fleshly achievements bt only in the cross of our Lord Jesus through whose sacrifice the world has been CRUCIFED and I have been CRUCIFIED to the world!

As we renew our mind through the power of God’s Word (Rom 12:2-3) and allow His Word to set us apart from the world we begin to become bolder witnesses for our Lord and vessels fit for honor. (2 Tim. 2:21).

Enemy Number Three: our Flesh

The last axis of evil Satan calls upon is our fallen flesh. We all carry about with us that fallen man who was drowned in the waters of our baptism…yet as the late Professor Marquart said “the old man is a great swimmer.” Nonetheless what Paul says to us in Romans is true:

Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. Rom. 6:4-6

This is the ongoing power of our baptism. Our old man WAS and IS crucified with Christ and henceforth we should not serve sin. Paul goes on to encourage us in the same chapter saying:

Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. Rom. 6:11-14

We all carry with us the fallen nature. Yet it is equally true that the old man died a real death just as we have received NEWNESS of LIFE through faith in Christ. I believe the new man recreated in Christ is stronger than the old man who is easily led by Satan.

The devil has no power over us at all! Jesus defeated him and his forces on the cross openly! The victory Jesus won on the cross was for YOU and for ME! We are in Christ and we share His Triumph! Never lose sight of the fact that Jesus won the victory for us, He had no need of victory He had not lost anything to the devil.

The world is not our home, we are to wear it as a very loose garment, knowing that we brought nothing into this life and we will take nothing with us when we leave apart from what we did for Christ. We are now citizens of God’s household (Eph. 2:19). Our joy is to shine as lights amidst this wicked and perverse generation (Phil. 2:15).

The flesh is with us, but we MUST reckon it DEAD, because it really is. It will try to resurrect itself in the face of Satan’s temptations…but we are not to yield to its desires. The good news is by the virtue of our Baptism into Christ we are now empowered to be what God says we are in:

No, in ALL these things we are MORE then conquerors through HIM who loved us. Rom. 8:37

“He must increase, but I must decrease.”

John 3:30

 

Copyright © Robert S. Liichow