Overcoming the Evil One

John writes about children, fathers, and young men (1 John 2). Concerning young men he says, “you have overcome the evil one.” Overcoming an opponent means knowing the opponent’s strategies. In Eden, the serpent used lies. That is basic; sin always comes out of a lie. If Eve, and then Adam had not believed a lie, they could not have fallen.

Not only are we to move past being children who know forgiveness, we are to overcome the evil one and then move into parenting. The big block is becoming convinced that the devil‘s power is nothing compared to God’s power. It is pitiful, though, when someone does not believe in Satan or recognize him. That is delusion indeed. However, it is sad as well when a saint will not rise up in faith and say, “I don’t take it!” when tempted. There is a strange pride that the world and carnal believers take in being too weak to resist the evil one, as if Christ is greater than the devil, but Christ is not greater than the devil in them. Certainly Christ can keep us from giving in to lies and fleshly lusts.

John says, “you are strong.” The protest comes, “We have no strength of our own.” Yes, a branch has no life of its own, which is why John favors the term abiding. He says, “the word of God abides in you.” There is the strength. The Christian merely abides in God, and thus abides in His strength, which manifests as the branch. The branch simply remains in the vine. To be one with Christ means that the vine expresses itself by its branches.

Here is where Satan brings in the lie, inciting believers to say about themselves, “I am sinful flesh” rather than “I am a God-made branch, cleansed, and expressing Christ.” Failure gets perpetuated by lies spoken in first person as if they are merely human thoughts, rather than lies spoken by Satan. Humanly, no one can overcome, but faith overcomes and knows it, not by emotion but by the Spirit-quickened word of faith.

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Knowing That You Have Done Enough

Beware of deception when it comes to measuring results. Teams that do not win or businesses that fail to make money fire their leaders and find new ones to produce results. If your identity is centered in this approach, life will remain temporal. Even in education, the focus on test scores and grades treat learning as information apart from wisdom. However, what God cares about is Christ formed in the saint by His Spirit, and only He can do this. No one can feel or reason his way to this result. Only faith works, whereby God authors and humans receive (1 Cor. 3:7).

If a man lives by faith unto the Lord wholeheartedly (Col. 3:17) and loss or poverty result, he can know that the same God who opens doors can close them as well. However, the inner door – the one to the Spirit – is never closed. One can always be rich in the Spirit and fellowship. The point is identity. The point is life. Paul said that he could abase or abound (Phil. 4:12) and neither touched his identity. He had times of quickened responses from many and times of apparent dwindled harvest, yet his identity remained the same. It is God who authors the harvest.

Faithfulness does not change with changing outer circumstances. Our part is to give what we know “in season and out of season” (2 Tim. 4:2). Being who we are is never out of season. Besides, God defines the seasons and their harvests. We do not even know what those are yet. In sports, thrilling victories are forged in the game’s late stages. How do we know what the game is, necessarily, or what God’s clock is? The point is that on a canvass vaster than we can see, we give our all by the Spirit even when results look slim. What happens from that is God’s business.

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Set Your Mind on Things Above

An old cliché talks about being so heavenly minded that one is no earthly good. The saying implies a dreamer or fool who is not practical – someone who talks about things that do not put food on the table or provide remedies for illness. Yet it is Jesus who says not to worry about food and clothes or to consider earthly life as the main kingdom to be concerned about. In eternity is a throne where the sovereign God rules outside of time and earthly life, yet He also rules over earth.

Both are true, time and eternity, because opposites cannot be eliminated. However, one of them will be our driver, which is why Paul says, “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:2-3). This does not mean that there are not earthly things, or that they are evil; it means that they are not the source and energy of the universe. Outside of flesh consciousness is the throne in the heavens where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. This is command central for all things in heaven and earth, and no one can access it by the flesh or in any earthly way.

Access is by the Cross, upon which Jesus died, and upon which we died. The effect of that was to hide our life in Christ (Col. 3:3) – hide it not from us, but from those who still define life only in earthly terms. To affirm earth and deny heaven is to shut one’s self off from the glory of God (Rom. 1). By the Spirit’s aid, we are to press through earthly concerns to get heaven’s view of things, and then earthly worries are much lighter and seen for what they are – temporal.

The person who sees this is indeed considered no earthly good by the fleshly mind. However, when earthly means fail, and they always do, only the saint has a pocketful of miracles.

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Speaking Back to Feelings of Unforgiveness

A man says, “I can’t forgive myself.” Pain fills his face as he sits in a circle with six other men in a small group Bible study. Although the study is winding up, this man’s question is not academic, and everyone turns to 1 John 1:9 except the man who asked the question. He can’t find it, so the man next to him helps. Now everyone is on the same page. Someday this man will be helping others find that page. For now, he has opened the door to a new life.

The verse is simple: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” How can this be true when others are enraged and unforgiving, and when the enemy’s heavy load of guilt makes forgiveness seem like an impossible dream – maybe possible for some worthy soul full of other virtues to barter for forgiveness?

The verse does not ask for any compensatory actions; it is not a verse about making amends. All God asks is confession of the sin, which means agreement with Him. This is not a matter of feeling a certain way or of reasoning about what happened. When God speaks of confession, it is a Spirit induced agreement where the receiver accepts God’s valuing of the Cross. It is devoid of anything destructive, having only one intent – forgiveness and cleansing.

God says how He responds: He forgives the one who sins and cleanses him. This is the transaction between God and the one who confesses. Does God do what He says He does? Here is where faith comes in since feeling forgiven is not the point, and reasoning about forgiveness is not the point. All that is in view is Jesus Christ crucified, buried, and raised – “who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). Others may or may not agree yet with God about the sin this man committed. However, he needs one rope to hold onto for now.

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Purple Majesty

I’m of the purple majesty,
a favored son, bathed in mystery,
once a rebel who almost wouldn’t see,
but did and came to certainty.
What looks true outwardly,
incontrovertible apparently,
is a haze of devil smoke you see—
confusion of what is humanity,
whereas the unseen but knowable eternity
of Christ the Lamb breathes free,
and His Cross and Spirit will always be
the only way to sanity.
A new mind was given me,
not earthly, but heavenly,
not a schism, hopeless as to unity,
but a matter of dominion and mastery,
that one’s members do not dangle randomly
as if with power of their own to decree
to my spirit what will be;
but rather I tell them the holy decree
of the Spirit man’s chastity,
such that the body temple, orderly,
is the purple man of purity.


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God Is in Control

If the world looked like God is in control, no one would need faith because faith flourishes against appearances. Thus, when it looks like evil has triumphed, faith knows that God is in control. Evil is temporary and will not last, God is eternal. The Old Testament prophets cried out to God in anguish when nations far more wicked than their own apostate people held power. In the New Testament era, the same dilemma exists: persecution is expected, and being a conqueror means holding fast to the faith when culture contradicts it.

Life is about getting fixed in the nature of God as the sacrificial lamb who may be ignored, persecuted, or killed now, but who rises from the dead because death can only be on a bodily level for the Christian. To get a wheat harvest, Jesus says, a wheat seed must go into the ground and die or else it exists alone (John 12;24). It dies to what it was above the ground and goes beneath the soil in order to rise a producer of seeds. This is the way of multiplication, death on one level, life on another.

Instead of “I should not preserve myself,” faith now says, “I cannot preserve myself.” Instead of “I should do others no harm,” faith says, “I cannot do others harm.” This is what John means when he says that to be “born of God” means that one “cannot sin” (1 Jn. 3:9). Christians start out knowing that when they commit a sin, there is forgiveness. Then they learn how to overcome the evil one and refuse the lie that says, “Christ is not enough.” The more deeply the truth of abiding sinks in, the more life in Christ becomes like concrete setting up and drying in the certainty of “I cannot sin.”

When a Christian faces temptation to sin, the answer becomes “I cannot do that anymore.” It is not a resolution based on merely human internal inventory but upon the keeping power of God, which is based on Christ keeping the one belonging to him. This is our faith.

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In the mind,
in the sea,
in the blessed Trinity.
Who of us can figure it out,
guide the seeker through all doubt,
get clear on what it’s all about.
“Not I” said the seeking self,
“Not I” said books upon my shelf,
“Not I” said the brain, “I’m just an elf.”
When it comes to the crystal sea,
and what of God speaks mystery,
it must be revealed to me.
I the dust, He the star,
He by dust is shining far,
it is by Him that we are.


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