October 13, 2009

Hate the Sin, Not the Sinner

By One Man, Adam, Sin Entered into the World

By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. (Romans 5:12)

Sin is the Transgression of the Laws of God

Sin is the transgression of the laws of God, not just the Ten Commandments, but all that the Lord declares in His Word. Jesus asks, “If you are not able to do that thing which is least, why take thought for the rest” (Luke 12:26)? “For he that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much (Luke 16:10). “Therefore, whosoever shall break one of the least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven; but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:19). (Charles Haddon Spurgeon)

God requires a life of perfect obedience to His law; however, man was unable to function in a lawful, responsible way. God, being a righteous judge, requires that no sin go unpunished, so man was unable to escape God’s divine justice (Romans 6:23). Yet God, being merciful, knowing that all men sin and fall short of His glory, provided a way for His People to escape the penalty of sin, which is spiritual death. God Himself became man’s personal Savior (Isaiah 43:10-11), that He might reconcile His people to Himself by His shed blood and substitutionary death (Colossians 1:21-22). Thus the way to escape the penalty of sin, the death of the spiritual body, is through Christ, who paid the wages (penalty) of sin on the cross for all of God’s People. Then whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved (Acts 2:21). (“The Real Work and Accomplishment of the Cross,” Tony Warren)

God’s saving grace can be acquired only through the Lord Jesus Christ: there is no other name that can effectively address the dilemma of man’s sin and its inevitable consequences. Thus there is no other name whereby mankind may be saved (Acts 4:12). (“Statement of Faith,” Tony Warren)

The Natural State of Fallen Man is Total Depravity

There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. (Romans 3:10-11)

Mankind was created in the image of God, but fell to Satan’s temptation in the Garden of Eden and became separated from God. As a result of this original sin, man produces seed that is, from the womb, stained with a sinful nature and is subject to death in the righteous wrath of God. (“Statement of Faith,” Tony Warren)

And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (Genesis 6:5)

Thou knowest the people, that they are set on mischief. (Exodus 32:22)

“They obeyed not, nor inclined their ear, but walked every one in the imagination of their evil heart.” (Jeremiah 11:8)

“And they consider not in their hearts that I remember all their wickedness.” (Hosea 7:2)

“For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: all these evil things come from within, and defile the man.” (Mark 7:21-23)

Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. (Psalm 51:5)

Sin has utterly ruined the garden of paradise that the Lord prepared for Adam, and has driven forth the children of men to till the ground, which yields thorns and briers unto them. My soul, remember the fall, for it was your fall. Weep much because the Lord of love was so shamefully ill-treated by the head of the human race, of which you are a member and as undeserving as any. Behold how dragons and demons dwell on this fair earth, which once was a garden of delights. (Charles Haddon Spurgeon)

“You will not receive instruction to hearken to my Words” (Jeremiah 35:13), says the Lord, “Seeing you hate instruction, and casts my Words behind you” (Psalm 50:17).

God had one son without sin; but He has no son without temptation. The natural man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upwards, and the Christian man is born to temptation just as certainly, “for the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9). (Charles Haddon Spurgeon)

“Ye walk every one after the imagination of his evil heart, that they may not hearken unto me.” (Jeremiah 16:12)

Without the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, in our hearts, we are under the control of the devil, who fills us with horrible thoughts. Every doctrine of God’s Word hangs upon and confirms the total depravity of man since Adam’s fall to temptation in the Garden of Eden. If you do not understand the condition of fallen man, you do not and cannot rightly understand any other doctrine of God’s Word. (“The Bondage of the Sinner’s Will,” L.R. Shelton, Sr.)

For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s. (Philippians 2:21)

Unsaved man is alienated or separated from the life that is in God, so he has no spiritual life in him; he does not know Christ and has no desire to know Christ—his entire being is depraved; therefore, he has no righteousness, no understanding or knowledge of God. He does not seek after God; he is going away from God; he has no natural goodness. The way of peace he has not known, and there is no fear of God before his eyes. His mouth is full of cursing; his throat is an open sepulchre; his heart is deceitful, incurably wicked; his righteousness is as filthy rags. He is in open rebellion against God; there is no love of God in his heart. His carnal mind is enmity against God. He has no power to do good; therefore, he wills not to repent, and within himself he cannot come to Christ. He is without strength and, therefore, he has no power to come to the Son except the Father draw him to the one Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ. (“The Bondage of the Sinner’s Will,” L.R. Shelton, Sr.)

The following is adapted from “Ham Was Led By Satan” by Ock Soo Park, GNN.
Adam and Eve, the ancestors of mankind, departed from the domain of God and entered into the domain of Satan when they were led by him to eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden. Satan entered Adam and Eve’s hearts when they fell into temptation, and man has sinned from that point onward. As their descendants, our hearts have become one with the heart of Satan.

When Satan works inside of us, he first inserts a thought into us—if we continue to follow that thought, Satan then enters our hearts. We may think that we are doing good things, but we are being controlled by Satan and, because of this, we ultimately go against God. No matter what good we may do, we are still connected to Satan, and he will continue to stir up evil thoughts in us that lead us into temptation and sin.

Into our hearts Satan puts thoughts that are different from the Word of God. When Satan puts hateful, deceitful, lustful, vengeful, wicked thoughts into are hearts, we follow them because we do not know that they are from him. This is why we must throw out our ways and our thoughts. The thoughts, “I better live as a good person,” and “God must not love me,” must be thrown out too.

We when trust our “own” thoughts, we allow Satan to lead us down the path of destruction; when we live according to our “own” thoughts, we are accepting Satan’s thoughts into our hearts, and we are departing from the Word of God. We must not accept any of Satan’s corrupt thoughts into our hearts: we must return to God and accept the pure Word of God into our hearts; we must return to God and receive the Spirit of God into our hearts.

Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon (Isaiah 55:7). As God has said, “I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (2 Corinthians 6:16). “I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me forever, for the good of them, and of their children after them” (Jeremiah 32:38).

No matter what sins we may have committed, our hearts are restored, cleansed and made holy when we enter the heart of God. The heart is the channel by which man reconnects with God: we can believe in God, receive God into our hearts, and serve God from our hearts when we enter the domain of the heart of God.

To enter the heart of God, we must receive the Spirit of God into our hearts, and we must deny the thoughts that Satan stirs up in us. We must come to know that the thoughts that arise in us are not our own, but are inserted by Satan; and we must focus our thoughts on things that are true, honest, just, pure, and lovely.

Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9)

If all the things of your heart were revealed exactly as they are, you would be able to see that no matter who you are, you are as hateful, filthy, lustful and deceitful as anyone else because Satan is leading your thoughts.

Satan deceives us by making us think: “All I have to do is go to church and be good; I only need to live honestly and try not sin.” But do not think that you will go to heaven by this standard: this is a thought resulting from Satan’s deception; this is man’s standard of good, not God’s. When believing this standard, we try to hide our evil hearts as if they are not there. Today, there are many Christians who pursue after goodness in this manner, but there is no one who can do good through pursuing goodness with their own effort and determination: this is not possible because our hearts are connected to Satan, and evil continually flows inside of us:

“For the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.” (Jeremiah 17:9)

People try to suppress the evil in their hearts and create good. Although it may appear to be good to us, it is not so in the eyes of God; therefore, He does not call it good. In God’s eyes, any good we try to create on our own comes from an evil place in our hearts: as the apostle Paul said, “I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me” (Romans 7:21).

If we closely search within ourselves, hatred and lust continually arise in our hearts even though we want to do good: this evil is the condition of having left the heart of God and having entered the heart of Satan.

That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus. (Philemon 1:6)

We must come before God if we want to receive goodness, which is the Spirit of God, because God is the only one who is good. When Jesus was asked, “Good Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered, “Why callest thou me good? There is no one good but God alone.” Good does not exist in this world: good exists only in God; therefore, we must come before God to create good.

For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13)

God does not allow us into heaven because we did something good, and He does not send us to hell for doing something evil. If a person has committed many terrible sins, all things change in a single moment when his heart enters God’s because there can be no murder, hatred, or corruption within the heart of God.

Entering the heart of God means that you give yourself to God completely so that He can make you whole. Good lies only in God: when you are in the heart of God, you have the Spirit of God: He takes charge of everything; He makes your life new; He washes your sins away no matter how many you may have; He renews your life; His Word becomes your thoughts.

The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the Lord. All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the Lord weighs the spirits. Commit your works unto the Lord, and your thoughts shall be established. (Proverbs 16:1-3)

Believing in God is not realizing that you have stolen or committed adultery, then making up your mind and laboring not to do such things again—it is entering the heart of God and leaving your soul in God’s hands. When you receive the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, you realize clearly in your heart that you can no longer believe your own thoughts, but that you must believe in the Word of God and accept the heart of God as your own. When you accept the heart of God as your own, you can believe in yourself because you have the guidance of God, which is the Word of God in your heart, and the Spirit of God begins to live and work inside of you.

When God says, “Every imagination of the thoughts of man’s heart is only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5), He isn’t just referring to those who commit terrible sins. The people that God destroyed during Noah’s flood were not all people who committed murder, adultery, or some other terrible sin. The evil that God is referring to is the evil of having left God and having allowed Satan to lead us.

The devil is the one that puts evil thoughts into our hearts, and he is able to do this because our hearts have been connected to him since Adam’s fall into temptation in the Garden of Eden.

As the descendents of Adam and Eve, Satan continues to put evil hearts inside of us—the problem is not that we are committing sins, but that our hearts have left the domain of God and entered into the domain of Satan. We cannot simply repent from our sins of stealing, committing adultery, or murder: we must repent from having left God. We must say, “This is not working, because I am trying to do good without turning to God. I can only do evil regardless of how much I try to do good!” Deep in our hearts, we must realize, “Why is such an evil, hateful and lustful heart arising from me? What is wrong with my heart?” This is how dirty the heart of man becomes when he has departed from God!

We must deny our thoughts, which are stirred up by Satan, and we must turn to the Word of God in order to have true repentance and true faith. True faith is entering the heart of God and departing from the world of our own hearts, where Satan is leading our thoughts.

If you live believing you can become good by your own efforts, you will fail because you cannot become good, no matter how hard you try, while you are in the heart of Satan. If you live according to your own thoughts, you will fail because your thoughts are not your own, but the evil thoughts that Satan is stirring up in you. If you believe in yourself and try to live honestly and refrain from sinning, you will fall into sin everyday because only God is good. Until you realize that, as a whole, you are completely depraved and deceitful, your attempts to be good will fail: things won’t go well and you will, in turn, feel like you are going crazy, losing your sanity, doing whatever Satan tells you to do and ending up in sin.

But when you leave your soul in the hands of God, when you surrender your will to God’s will, you will experience God making you distant from sin and working in you to do good. When God enters your heart, hatred will disappear from it. When God enters your heart, you will have His guidance from then on. When God enters your heart, you will be able to live a holy life, glorifying our heavenly Father.

Biblical Examples of Being Led by Satan
“For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: all these evil things come from within, and defile the man.” (Mark 7:21-23)

Adam and Eve:
In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve received thoughts from Satan, tempting them to disobey God and to eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Satan entered into their hearts. Being the descendents of Adam and Eve, man has sinned from that point onward.

Noah’s Ark:
People who were destroyed at the time of Noah’s flood followed their “own” thoughts because Satan deceived them. When God said that He would destroy the earth with water, Satan put into each person a heart different from the Word of God. They thought, “Why would God, full of love, punish the world? He is only warning us to not sin. We just have to be good.” They simply believed in this thought that Satan gave them. It was a very uncertain thought, but they had no idea that it was from Satan. Thus, they did not help Noah build the ark; instead, they despised Noah for building it. Satan deceived them just as he deceived Adam and Eve when he told them they would not die from eating the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, even though God said that man would die if they did so.

Noah’s Son, Ham:
Ham was saved with the others on his father’s ark but, unlike his brothers, his thoughts were steadily led by Satan. His brothers Shem and Japheth thought in their hearts: “Father has gotten drunk and is lying asleep, naked. He is not usually like this, but he is this way because he is drunk. We’d better cover him before anyone else sees him.” But Ham did not feel this way. He thought: “Father always gets naked whenever he drinks! He did this the last time, and the last time my wife almost passed by! I don’t know what’s wrong with my father!” He was full of complaint in his heart. His heart of complaint, itself, was not the problem, but his heart had become one with Satan as he stirred up thoughts in Ham. Shem and Japheth had the guidance of God, the heart of God, while Ham had the heart of Satan.

Ham departed from the heart of God when he accepted Satan’s thoughts into his heart. With the thoughts of Satan, Ham judged the nakedness and drunkenness of Noah with his own standards, and went out and spoke ill of him. He had not done this himself, but Satan in Ham’s heart had done this. What did Noah do after waking from his sleep? He knew what Ham had done and cursed him, saying: “Cursed be Canaan, a servants of servants shall you be unto his brethren.”

Esau sold his birthright to his brother, Jacob. After their father, Isaac, had finished blessing Jacob, Esau begged for blessings from his father as well. But Isaac cursed Esau. How could a father curse his own son like that? He was not cursing his son: he was cursing the heart of his son, which belonged to Satan.

And Isaac answered and said unto Esau, ‘Behold, I have made him thy lord, and all his brethren have I given to him for servants; and with corn and wine have I sustained him: and what shall I do now unto thee, my son?’ And Esau said unto his father, ‘Hast thou but one blessing, my father? Bless me, even me also, O my father.’ And Esau lifted up his voice, and wept. And Isaac his father answered and said unto him, ‘Behold, thy dwelling shall be the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven from above; and by thy sword shalt thou live, and shalt serve thy brother; and it shall come to pass when thou shalt have the dominion, that thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck.’ And Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing wherewith his father blessed Him: and Esau said in his heart, ‘The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then will I slay my brother Jacob.’ (Genesis 27:37-41)

Judas Iscariot:
The devil put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot to sell Jesus to the Jewish high priests to make some money. At first, when he had this thought, he felt, “What? Why am I having such thoughts? I can’t believe I want to sell Jesus!” But he believed that this was his own thought, so he followed it. Satan put the thought inside of him, making him feel that all would be well. Judas eventually sold Jesus but did not spend any of the money—he committed suicide.

And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him… (John 13:2)

Then entered Satan into Judas surnamed Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve. (Luke 22:3)

The Power of Satan, the Prince of the Kings of Earth, is at Work in the World

“Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” This He said, signifying what death He should die. (John 12:31-33)

The prince of this world, the spirit of Satan, is in the world, “for we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12).

When we chose to disobey any of the commandments, laws and judgments that God has given us, it is the devil, the evil spirit, that we are listening to, not the Holy Spirit. For God does not make man sin neither is He responsible for it: man in his fallen state is responsible for his own sin by accepting the thoughts of the devil into his heart. We defeat the devil’s temptation using the Word of God, “for it is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword.” (Charles Haddon Spurgeon)

“Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe. Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.” (John 14:27-30)

“Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you. And when He is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not on me; of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.” (John 16:7-11)

The following is adapted from the Morning and Evening Devotionals of Charles Haddon Spurgeon.
Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels. (Revelation 12:7)

War always will rage between the two great sovereignties until one or the other is crushed. Peace between good and evil is impossible; the very pretence of it would be, in fact, the triumph of the powers of darkness.

Michael will always fight; his holy soul is vexed with sin and will not endure it. Jesus will always be the dragon’s foe, and that not in a quiet sense, but actively, vigorously, with full determination to exterminate evil. All His servants, whether angels in heaven or messengers on earth, will and must fight; they are born to be warriors—at the cross they enter into covenant never to make truce with evil; they are a warlike company, firm in defense and fierce in attack.

The duty of every soldier in the army of the Lord is daily, with all his heart and soul and strength, to fight against the dragon. We are foolish to expect to serve God without opposition: the more zealous we are, the more sure are we to be assailed by the myrmidons of hell. The dragon and his angels will not decline the affray; they are incessant in their onslaughts, sparing no weapon, fair or foul. The Church may become slothful, but not so her great antagonist; the devil’s restless spirit never suffers the war to pause; he hates the woman’s seed and would devour the Church if he could.

The servants of Satan partake of much of the old dragon’s energy, and are usually an active race. War rages all around, and to dream of peace is dangerous and futile. Glory be to God, we know the end of the war. The great dragon shall be cast into the lake of fire and forever destroyed, while Jesus, and those who are with Him, shall receive the crown. Let us sharpen our swords tonight, and pray the Holy Spirit to nerve our arms for the conflict. Never a battle is so important; never a crown is so glorious. Every man to his post, warriors of the cross, and may the Lord tread Satan under your feet shortly!

God Does Not Tempt Us, Satan, the Prince of Darkness, Does

We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Ephesians 6:12)

That Satan tempt you. (1 Corinthians 7:5)

“Let no man say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted of God:’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He any man: but every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” (James 1:13-15)

Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost. (Acts 5:3)

The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. (2 Corinthians 4:4)

“Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.” (Matthew 16:23)

Satan hindered us. (1 Thessalonians 2:18)

“Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the Word that was sown in their hearts.” (Mark 4:15)

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.” (Luke 22:31)

And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the spirit into the wilderness, being forty days tempted of the devil. (Luke 4:1-2)

And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel. (1 Chronicles 21:1)

The Devil’s Power to Tempt and Oppress is Under God’s Control

The following is adapted from “Behold He Cometh: the Church Strong in Tribulation – Symrna” by Herman Hoeksema.
Although the devil possesses power to tempt and oppress the people of God, the power he possesses is limited and meted out to him by God. And when the full measure of the devil’s time and power has been meted out to him according to the will of God, the Lord bids him stop, and he can stir no more against God’s children.

God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

The blessed comfort for God’s children lies in the fact that the power of evil is under the absolute control and sovereignty of God. Christ has received all power in heaven and on earth: power, also, to control the devil (His mighty adversary), His cause, and His people in the world.

In hell, evil spirits are under, with misery, God’s supremacy: when permitted to roam abroad, it is with a chain at their heel. As we see with the case of Job, the devil must approach God for permission to afflict His servant:

And the Lord said unto Satan, “Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? And still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause.” And Satan answered the Lord, and said, ‘Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life.’ And the Lord said unto Satan, “Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life.” So went Satan forth from the presence of the Lord, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown. (Job 2:3-7)

When Satan fails to induce Job to apostasy by depriving him of all that he has in the world, he must again turn to the Most High for permission to continue and to aggravate his attack. The devil, therefore, can never proceed beyond the limits set him by the Almighty; neither can he reach any other end than the purpose of God in the affliction of His people in the world.

All things work together for good to them that love God, who are the called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)

It is evident then that tribulation can never harm God’s children. It is simply a trial by which we are sanctified and purified and strengthened in the faith. What mighty comfort for us in tribulation! The devil can do us no harm, but must serve the purpose of God in Christ. The gates of hell cannot prevail against us. Under the mighty protection and care of our heavenly Father, we have nothing to fear.

Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him. (James 1:12)

Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work. (2 Timothy 2:19-21)

It is God Who Restrains Wickedness in Men

It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13)

Beware of self-confidence and self-righteousness. Believers whose love is fervent, whose faith is constant, and whose hopes are bright, should not say, “We shall never sin,” but rather should cry, “Lead us not into temptation.” Without divine grace preserving our purity, the holiest among us would fall into temptation, even in the worst of sin—that which is done with deliberation and willfulness. It is by the hand of God that we are “kept back” from the vilest transgressions. (Charles Haddon Spurgeon)

But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil. (2 Thessalonians 3:3)

We may think that we have integrity and are freely restraining ourselves from sinning against God, but the truth is, God withholds man from sinning against Him (Genesis 20:6). God is always at work in the world restraining corrupt men, and working in believers to do good so that His will and His purpose might be made manifest. For believers, it is “Christ in us” that keeps us from succumbing to the diverse lusts of the flesh, “for the love of Christ constrains us” (2 Corinthians 5:14). (“Why Was It a Sin that David Numbered Israel?” Tony Warren)

The communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus. (Philemon 1:6)

The following is adapted from the Morning and Evening Devotionals of Charles Haddon Spurgeon.
Grieve not the Holy Spirit. (Ephesians 4:30)

All that the believer has must come from Christ, but it comes solely through the channel of the Spirit of grace. Moreover, as all blessings thus flow to you through the Holy Spirit, so also no good thing can come out of you in holy thought, devout worship, or gracious act, apart from the sanctifying operation of the same Spirit. Even if the good seed be sown in you, yet it lies dormant except “He worketh in you to will and to do of His own good pleasure.”
  • Do you desire to speak for Jesus—how can you unless the Holy Ghost touch your tongue?
  • Do you desire to pray? Alas! What dull work it is unless the Spirit makes intercession for you!
  • Do you desire to subdue sin? Would you be holy? Would you imitate your Master? Do you desire to rise to superlative heights of spirituality? Do you want to be made like the angels of God, full of zeal and ardor for the Master’s cause? You cannot without the Spirit: “without me you can do nothing.”
O child of God, you have no life within you apart from the life that God gives you through His Spirit! Then let us not grieve Him or provoke Him to anger by our sin. Let us not quench Him in one of His faintest motions in our soul. Let us foster every suggestion and be ready to obey every prompting.

The Holy Spirit is indeed mighty, so let us attempt nothing without Him; let us begin no project, carry on no enterprise, and conclude no transaction without imploring His blessing. Let us give Him the due homage of feeling our entire weakness apart from Him. Then let us depend upon Him alone, having this for our prayer: “Open my heart and my whole being to your incoming, and uphold me with your free Spirit when I shall have received that Spirit in my inward parts.”

Canst you bind the sweet influences of Pleiades or loose the bands of Orion? (Job 38:31)

If inclined to boast of our abilities, the grandeur of nature may soon show us how puny we are. In the spiritual, as in the natural world, man’s power is limited on all hands. We cannot move the least of all the twinkling stars or quench so much as one of the beams of the morning. We speak of power, but the heavens laugh us to scorn; the seasons revolve according to the divine appointment. Neither can the whole race of men effect a change therein; Lord, what is man?

When the Holy Spirit sheds abroad His delights in the soul, none can disturb—all the cunning and malice of men are ineffectual to stay the genial quickening power of the Comforter.

When He deigns to visit a church and revive it, the most inveterate enemies cannot resist the good work; they may ridicule it, but they can no more restrain it than they can push back the spring when the Pleiades rule the hour.

God wills it, and so it must be. On the other hand, if the Lord in sovereignty, or in justice, binds up a man so that he is in soul bondage, who can give him liberty? He alone can remove the winter of spiritual death from an individual or a people. He looses the bands of Orion, and none but He. What a blessing it is that He can do it.

O! That He would perform the wonder tonight. I suffer much from sin and temptation: these are my wintry signs, my terrible Orion. Lord, work wonders in me and for me. Lord, end my winter and let my spring begin. I cannot with all my longings raise my soul out of her death and dullness, but all things are possible with you. I need celestial influences, the clear shinings of your love, the beams of your grace, the light of your countenance—these are the Pleiades to me.

The following is adapted from “Why Did God Harden Pharaoh’s Heart?” and “Works of Law or Exhortation to Obedience?” by Tony Warren
Some have this misguided idea of a God sitting in heaven worrying if man will be too evil and destroy the world, or not good enough to get the job done of building His Church before the great wickedness come. Nothing could be further from the truth. He is not sitting back idle, waiting to see what wicked man will do next. It is He who is in control. Not a feather falls to the ground unless it be known ahead of time of God.

“I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil.” (Isaiah 45:7)

There is no iniquity with the Lord our God (2 Chronicles 19:7). God withdraws light, and thus creates darkness, but this is not sin. God takes away peace, and thus creates war, but this is not God sinning. God removes His hand of restraint from man’s heart, and thus it is hardened, but this is not God forcing man to sin. And when we look at the very context of Isaiah chapter 45, it becomes clear that this is what God is saying.

Notice the contrast between these things: light contrasted against the darkness, and peace contrasted against bad or evil. The opposite of peace is war or adversity and trouble. What God is saying is that “the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.”

God establishes peace, and God brings evil by withdrawing that peace He has established. He’s not obligated to bring man peace and He’s not obligated to shine light upon every person. God bound Satan and God can loose him; He’s not obligated to keep him bound.

So you see, by taking away peace, God creates adversity and trouble as judgment upon the wicked for their unrighteousness. This is not sin or wickedness; it is justice.

The following is adapted from “Why Was It a Sin that David Numbered Israel?” by Tony Warren
And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel. And David said to Joab and to the rulers of the people, ‘Go, number Israel from Beersheba even to Dan; and bring the number of them to me, that I may know it.’ And Joab answered, ‘The Lord make His people an hundred times so many more as they be: but, my lord the king, are they not all my lord’s servants? Why then doth my lord require this thing? Why will he be a cause of trespass to Israel?’ Nevertheless the king’s word prevailed against Joab. Wherefore Joab departed, and went throughout all Israel, and came to Jerusalem. (1 Chronicles 21:1-4)

Satan provoked David to number Israel’s army. David’s reason for doing this was so “that he may know it.” In other words, his own delight or pleasure was what induced him to do this, but it was Satan who tempted him. These are the keys to understanding this sin.

We know that David’s purpose for numbering the men of war was that he might delight or glory in Israel’s own might or resources—we read in previous chapters how they had begun looking to themselves for strength. This shows that they had forsaken trust in the Lord and forgotten that He alone was their sword and bulwark. God allowed David to be tempted by Satan because Israel had taken their eyes off God as their ruler, fortress and provider; and David, too, momentarily took his eyes off the Lord and looked toward Israel’s own ability to provide a host as their strength.

And again the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, ‘Go, number Israel and Judah.’ (2 Samuel 24:1)

It was because of Israel’s sin in not trusting God that God removed His hand of restraint and allowed Satan to tempt David to be prideful, that he would number his armies. God Himself informs us that He allowed David to conduct this census “because of Israel’s sin.” It was God who had removed His normal restraint of sin from David because of the judgment He would place upon Israel for their continuing sin of pride and vanity.

God moved David in the same way that He hardened Pharaoh’s heart: by removing His hand of restraint, He allowed Satan to provoke David to this error. God did not make David sin, but He took away His hand of restraint, and David’s own human pride and vanity does the rest: “His heart was lifted up, and his mind hardened in pride” (Daniel 5:20).

God tempts no man to sin (James 1:13), but neither is He obligated to restrain any man from his own sin. God allowed Satan to tempt David so that He could restore David and Israel to a proper relationship with Him. David’s sin was not in the counting, but in why he was counting: by counting, he was illustrating his trust (and the trust of Israel) in the number of his own soldiers, rather than his trust in the Lord. The counting was the goad, and David was the vessel that God used to judge Israel. And though this judgment was upon Israel, a lesson is taught to all God’s people throughout history. Another example of God restraining man from sin without his knowledge can be found with Abimelech:

“Said he not unto me, ‘She is my sister?’ And she, even she herself said, ‘He is my brother:’ in the integrity of my heart and innocency of my hands have I done this. And God said unto him in a dream, ‘Yea, I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy heart; for I also withheld thee from sinning against me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her.’” (Genesis 20:5-6)

So while, to the novice, the two passages (1 Chronicles 21:1; 2 Samuel 24:1) might seem like a contradiction, they are in complete harmony with each other. It is not a contradiction, but the idioms of Scripture that God has inspired to confound the worldly wise, but are revealed to those given spiritual wisdom.

God Uses Our Sins and Hardened Hearts for His Good Purposes

All things work together for good to them that love God, who are the called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Having made known unto us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself… According to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will. (Ephesians 1:9,11)

“With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.” (Mark 10:27)

The following is adapted from “Why Did God Harden Pharaoh’s Heart?” and “Works of Law or Exhortation to Obedience?” by Tony Warren
And God said, “And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 7:3)

As God sent Moses to ask Pharaoh, who reigned over Egypt, to let the children of Israel go, He removed His hand of restraint on Pharaoh so that his heart would be in its normal unreasonable and deceitful state. God “hardened Pharaoh’s heart” so that His glory could be seen in the signs and wonders for generations to come. For the Scripture saith unto Pharaoh, “Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.”

When God says that He “hardened Pharaoh’s heart, He is saying that he removed His hand of restraint, which allowed Pharaoh’s heart to return to its nature hardened state. It’s not that God made Pharaoh do anything; God simply stopped restraining him and let him do what he wanted to do.

The sin of the hardened heart was truly Pharaoh’s, but God uses the language that “He hardened his heart” to show that He is sovereign, He was in charge, and it was for His purposes that it was allowed. In other words, God allowed Pharaoh’s heart to be hardened to its natural state so that He might work out the plan of man’s salvation in it. He allowed the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart by removing His hand of restraint of his sin as a judgment upon Pharaoh and a blessing for generations to come.

Allow me to make a practical analogy. If someone is physically holding another person back from committing a crime, then lets that person go because he agrees not to commit other crimes... and then, upon release, this same person commits another crime, is this man responsible for the other man’s sin simply because he no longer physically restrained him? The answer of course is no, not at all. Every man is responsible for his own sin. When the man holding the person back took away his hand of restraint, the sinner did what he wanted to do all along—the one doing the restraining is under no obligation to physically prevent anyone from sinning, and neither is God.

It is important to understand that God cannot sin. Therefore, it is biblically impossible that He made Pharaoh sin. But He hardens who He wants, and He softens who He wants: He can have mercy (soften) or He can judge (harden); it’s His sovereign right to do so. And who are we to question it? In Romans chapter 9, God speaks about His sovereign right to use wicked man to His glory as He says:

“Therefore hath He mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, ‘Why doth He yet find fault? For who hath resisteth His will?’ Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, ‘Why hast thou made me thus?’ Hath not the potter power over the clay; of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor and another unto dishonor? What if God, willing to shew His wrath, and to make His power known, endured with much long suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: and that He might make known the riches of His Glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had afore prepared unto glory?” (Romans 9:18-23)

God is “not obligated” to maintain peace or hold back war. He is under no obligation to restrain anyone from sin or soften anyone’s heart. God removed His hand of restraint, thereby, “hardening Pharaoh’s heart,” but the sin is Pharaoh’s, not God’s. God allowed Pharaoh’s obstinate heart to return to its natural hardened state so that He could use it for His glory, but Pharaoh is the one responsible for his sin. We see this plainly in the following verse:

Wherefore then do ye harden your hearts, as the Egyptians hardened their hearts? (1 Samuel 6:6)

Also, we see where God puts the blame for the Egyptians hardening their hearts: right on them. For God Himself merely let their hearts be hardened. In this way only does He take responsibility for the hardened hearts. He removed His hand of softening as a judgment on them, which left them in their naturally hardened and obstinate state. He hardened their hearts by removing His hand of restraint, but their sin is their responsibility, not God’s.

Happy is the man that feareth alway: but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief. (Proverbs 28:14)

God endures with long suffering (patience) the restraining of man, and then ends His patience and releases His restraint as judgment on man so that He might be glorified in that. It’s God’s sovereign right to restrain sin in the lives of whoever He wants to save, taking away our stony heart (Ezekiel 36:26) and giving us a heart of flesh. It’s called grace, or His sovereign right to have mercy on whomever He wants. Likewise, it’s His sovereign right not to take away our stony hearts or to remove His hand of softening power, that our hearts might grow even harder and as deceitfully wicked as we, by nature, want it to be. For man’s wrath against God and his wickedness in this world is used to glorify God.

Satan Will Never Leave Us Alone So We Must Expect Trouble

The following is adapted from the Morning and Evening Devotionals of Charles Haddon Spurgeon.
He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. (1 Job 3:8)

The devil will make life hard for the faithful in the world. The closer we grow to God, the more Satan will try to tempt us, for he desires no less than the damnation of our souls (Luke 22:31, 1 Corinthians 5:5). Satan will rage against us in all his fury—we must expect this.

“Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” (Revelation 2:10)

Persecution so hotly follows God’s people as to leave us nothing to care for but the soul. We may have no houses, no land, no money, no goods, no life, and no liberty left to care for—all may be gone but the soul. The devil may rob us of worldly things but not the soul, for the soul is not in his power to touch without the leave of God, of Him whose soul it is. Let them that suffer, even to the loss of goods, liberty or life, “commit the keeping of their souls to God” (1 Peter 4:19).

I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ. (Philippians 3:8)

The Christian knows no change with regard to God. He may be rich today and poor tomorrow; he may be sickly today and well tomorrow; he may be in happiness today and distressed tomorrow—but there is no change with regard to his relationship to God.

If He loved me yesterday, He loves me today. My unmoving mansion of rest is my blessed Lord. Let prospects be blighted; let hopes be blasted; let joy be withered; let mildews destroy everything; I have lost nothing of what I have in God. He is “my strong habitation whereunto I can continually resort.” I am a pilgrim in the world, but at home in my God; in the earth I wander, but in God I dwell in a quiet habitation.

That those things which cannot be shaken may remain. (Hebrews 12:27)

Whatever your losses have been, or may be, you enjoy present salvation. You are standing at the foot of His cross, trusting alone in the merit of Jesus’ precious blood, and no rise or fall of the markets can interfere with your salvation in Him; no breaking of banks, no failures and bankruptcies can touch that. You are a child of God and God is your Father: no change of circumstances can ever rob you of that. Although by losses you are brought to poverty and stripped bare, you can say: “He is my Father still. In my Father’s house are many mansions; therefore will I not be troubled.”

You have another permanent blessing; namely, the love of Jesus Christ. He, who is God and Man, loves you with all the strength of His affectionate nature—nothing can affect that. The fig tree may not blossom and the flocks may cease from the field, yet it matters not to the man who can sing, “My Beloved is mine, and I am His.” Our best portion and richest heritage we cannot lose. Whatever troubles come, let us play the man; let us show that we are not such little children as to be cast down by what may happens in this poor fleeting state of time. Our country is Immanuel’s land, our hope is above the sky; therefore, calm as the summer’s ocean, we will see the wreck of everything earth-born and yet rejoice in the God of our salvation.

Even Spiritually-Minded People Have Dreadful Thoughts and Temptations

The following is adapted from the Morning and Evening Devotionals of Charles Haddon Spurgeon.
He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto Him. (Mark 1:13)

A holy character does not avert temptation—the devil tried to tempt Jesus, who could not be tempted, so of course he will never cease to try to tempt us.

When Satan tempts us, his sparks fall upon tinder; but in Christ’s case, it was like striking sparks on water... yet the enemy continued his evil work. Now, if the devil goes on striking when there is no result, how much more will he do it when he knows what inflammable stuff our hearts are made of. Though you become greatly sanctified by the Holy Ghost, expect that the great dog of hell will bark at you still.

In the haunts of men we expect to be tempted, but even seclusion will not guard us from the same trial. Jesus Christ was led away from human society into the wilderness and was tempted of the devil. Solitude has its charms and its benefits, and may be useful in checking the lust of the eye and the pride of life, but the devil will follow us into the loveliest retreats.

Do not suppose that it is only the worldly-minded who have dreadful thoughts and blasphemous temptations, for even spiritually-minded people endure the same; and in the holiest position we may suffer the darkest temptation. The utmost consecration of spirit will not ensure you against Satanic temptation.

Christ was consecrated through and through; it was His meat and drink to do the will of Him that sent Him: and yet He was tempted! Your hearts may glow with a seraphic flame of love to Jesus, and yet the devil will try to bring you down to Laodicean lukewarmness.

If you will tell me when God permits a Christian to lay aside his armor, I will tell you when Satan has left off temptation. Like the old knights in wartime, we must sleep with helmet and breastplate buckled on, for the arch deceiver will seize our first unguarded hour to make us his prey.

He that cleaveth wood shall be endangered thereby. (Ecclesiastes 10:9)

To cleave wood is a common every day business, and yet it has its dangers; so then, reader, there are dangers connected with your calling and daily life, which it will be well for you to be aware of. We refer not to hazards by flood and field, or by disease and sudden death, but to perils of a spiritual sort. Your occupation may be as humble as log splitting, and yet the devil can tempt you in it. You may be a domestic servant, a farm laborer, or a mechanic, and you may be greatly screened from temptations to the grosser vices, and yet some secret sin may do you damage.

Those who dwell at home, and do not mingle with the rough world, may yet be endangered by their very seclusion. Nowhere is he safe who thinks himself so. Pride may enter a poor man’s heart; avarice may reign in a cottager’s bosom; uncleanness may venture into the quietest home; and anger and envy and malice may insinuate themselves into the most rural abode. Even in speaking a few words to a servant we may sin; a little purchase at a shop may be the first link in a chain of temptations; the mere looking out of a window may be the beginning of evil.

O Lord, how exposed we are! How shall we be secured! To keep ourselves is work too hard for us: only the Lord is able to preserve us in such a world of evils. Lord, spread your wings over us, and we, like little chicks, will cower down beneath you and feel ourselves safe!

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