With which Every Person Must Contend
WE CONTINUE FINDING IT. Serious trouble yet remains in the lives of many professing Christians. Patterns of behavior and response-brought over from their lives outside of Christ-keep surfacing. As pressures of life increase, many find themselves either going back to their old ways, or crying for deliverance. We continue receiving mail and calls from people everywhere desperate for help. Even from large cities, where there should be many ministries of deliverance, people call asking where they can go to find release from the evil in their bosoms.
As we come to the Lord in behalf of these seeking souls, we are coming ourselves to a deeper commitment to some principles we've known for years. We see them in the Scriptures, and, we see them as they work to bring down believers in the most crucial time history has ever known.
We never presume to have a patent answer for anyone who is seeking help. Only the Holy Spirit knows all the sick recesses of a soul and the way into the dark paths of humanity that have brought each one to where he or she is. Therefore, we rely much on the Holy Spirit to guide us in counseling and praying. Some people have problems for which there is no human answer; only a miracle from God will do. This throws us back to much calling upon God. In it all, however, we are committed to the Scriptures for the foundations of our answers. Every soul is described there. If we move away from the forthrightness of God's Word, we only complicate the trouble and make the souls to whom we minister more sick.
Not that we jump on people with Scripture quotations, but the Word is working its way increasingly into our perception of human weakness. In giving ourselves to the Scriptures, we come closer to God's perception of what the real trouble is. And, we come closer to discovering the real answer to the lostness with which each person struggles.
IN EPHESIANS 2:1-3 PAUL POINTS TO SIX PRINCIPLES OF LOSTNESS that work in every person outside of Christ. These show us the reasons behind the failure of many who are trying to live for the Lord. They have come to Him but have not opened themselves to all He offers. It is on these points of lostness that the Holy Spirit is now working. He is bringing us into a place of wholeness and confidence for the last days. Thus, He is making us overcomers.
By the word lostness, we mean that which separates a soul from the power and reality of Christ's indwelling Life. We call the six points we are about to consider principles because they work like primary laws pushing every soul away from God. When they are not dealt with, they remain as the reason for the ongoing trouble many face.
When we discover the reason for human trouble, we begin finding the remedy. Only in knowing our sickness do we become ready for the balm of Christ's healing. Some times discovering the cause of trouble uncovers painful ground, but it prepares the way for God's grace and power to work. The real answer for each point of lostness comes from the Lord working inside us. When we discover this, we come upon real victory.
In the Ephesian passage preceding the one that lays out the principles of lostness, Paul laid out for us-to see clearly-the power and glory of the Redemption. It is only briefly that he turns from describing that work of Christ to remind us of the lostness from which we all are coming. Many never enter what can be theirs in Christ because they never know the extent of their depravity. Therefore, their repentance is shallow and their faith is weak-and the reality of Christ's work in them is small. We note the six principles of lostness in the following passage.
1 And you hath He quickened, 1) who were dead in trespasses and sins;
2 Wherein in time past 2) ye walked according to the course of this world, 3) according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:
3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past 4) in the lusts of the flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and 5) of the mind, and 6) were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
In a brief outline we list the six principles of lostness: 1) sin; 2) the world; 3) Satan; 4) the flesh; 5) the unregenerate mind; and 6) the wrath of human nature. What Paul has said in these three verses is a powerful charge against every person. As many are included in the statement as in Romans 3:10 which says, There is none righteous, no, not one, and Rom 3:23 which says, All have sinned.
LEST WE BE OVERCOME by the hopelessness of the human condition, let us look briefly at the Ephesian verses following. Here is a powerful statement of hope and life. In the face of the hopelessness just described, Paul continued with But God...
4 But God, Who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us,
5 Even when we were dead in sins (1) has made us alive together with Christ (by grace you are saved;)
6 And (2) has raised us up together and (3) made us sit together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus.
What a powerful passage! We go to it often. Pause and find the three words in it describing the qualities in God that cause Him to save us. They're there: mercy, love, and grace. We never move away from these. Then find the three statements telling what these qualities have caused Him to do for us. (1) He has made us alive together with Christ. (2) He has raised us up together with Christ. (3) He has made us sit together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus. The first two tell what happens when He saves us. The third tells where He places us in Christ. This last one is a statement of positional truth. Learning to live in it is the greatest secret of any overcomer.
Before we go back to the principles of lostness, let us take one more pause and note the word you in Ephesians 2:1. The whole chapter is addressed to you. Yet, it has insight and understanding that includes every person in the world. In the Greek, you is in a plural form and is spelled in a way to let us know it is the Object of a Verb. This means it receives the action described by some preceding word. Now here is the marvel: there is no action of any Verb for it to receive except that of raised in Verse 20 of the preceding chapter. This says, God raised Him from the dead. Him has reference to the Lord Jesus. When we see the whole passage from the Greek, we discover raised has two objects: Him and you. God raised Him from the dead--and you when you were dead in trespasses and sins. How powerful! There was one "raising," but two were raised: Him and you. What grace!
We can only reach beyond the mystery of this when we discover the mercy of it. So close to Paul telling what makes a person lost, he told about the power of Christ's Resurrection. In it was released a powerful force of Life to overcome all our lostness.
NOW WE WILL BRIEFLY consider each principle in EPHESIANS 2:1-3. There are volumes to know under each point, as vast as all the lostness of all humanity. We can only allow the Holy Spirit to make each one of us know our own lostness. He will show us all the hole of the pit whence we were digged-Isaiah 51:1. But He is also ready to show us how Jesus was wounded for our transgressions and was bruised for our iniquities-Isaiah 53:5. And, He will show us the path of life-Psalm 16:11.
ONE~The Principle of Sin and Spiritual Death.
Ephesians 2:1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins
The most fundamental principle working in every person is the Law of Sin and Death. A sinful nature exists in everyone. No one is free from its grip. Every soul is born with sin already firmly planted in his or her nature. If left alone, it pulls downward till it conquers in death-unless there is that intervention of God's grace given us in Jesus.
Sin is the foundation for all human failure. Left alone, it sets up an invariable law that works in every person to provide a ground for Satan's work. It becomes the basis for much human sickness-spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical. There is no person who can devise a way out of its bondage. No one can approach God with any gift or record of righteousness good enough to wipe out its power or the penalty it incurs. Like a law invariable in its demand, sin holds on-till it meets Jesus. Then, the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus will make any soul free from the law of sin and death-Romans 8:2.
The main New Testament Greek word for sin is hamartía. It occurs in this Ephesian verse. It means "an error, or a miss." It is a word that could be used by a person shooting with a bow and arrow, or throwing a dart. It means "the missing of the mark." It is failure in pleasing God and describes the defective nature of all mankind.
There is a mournfully long list of words in the Greek New Testament speaking of mankind's departure from God. Paul used most of them in his Epistles. Besides hamartía, "the missing of the mark," there is paraptóma, also used in this verse as trespasses. It means a "stumbling aside by making a false step." There is adikía, the "departure from what is right; wrong, iniquity, falsehood, deceitfulness." There is parabásis which means "the overpassing of a line; a transgression." There is parakoé which means "the disobedience to a voice." There is agnóema which means "ignorance of what one should have known." There is éttema which means "failure; the diminishing of what should have been rendered in full measure." There are anomía and paranomía both of which mean "the non-observance of a law; lawlessness." Together these words help reveal the extent of mankind's departure from God. They also show just how deep is the Redemption. It reaches under them all. Every dimension of
sin leads to death, but the grace of God in Christ undertakes to overcome them all.
Of all the words describing our departure from the living God, hamartía finds its way in the New Testament more than all. Paul used it 66 times in his Epistles-48 times in Romans alone. There he described the three dimensions of the sin to which the grace and mercy of God reach. They are the outward acts of sin, the inward principle of sin, and the sin we inherited from Adam. The grace given us in Christ Jesus reaches them all.
TWO~The Principle of Living according to the Standards of the Present Age.
Ephesians 2:2a Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world...
The course of this world is interesting in the Greek New Testament. Course is from aión. It means "a period of time of significant character"; or, "the state of things making up an era." World is from kósmos. This means "the present order of things; the secular world." The world system places a heavy demand upon every soul. While we are called to abide by the laws of a land, submission to the principles and standards of life set by the world lead to frustration and disappointment. This is because the spirit behind the world system is vain and opposed to the Kingdom of Christ. The Apostle John said, The whole world lieth in wickedness-I John 5:19b. Quite clearly, this means, "All the kósmos lies under the influence of the wicked one." Wickedness is from ho ponerós which means "that one who is evil, malignant, and afflictive." Martin Luther said it well: "His craft and power are great, and armed with cruel hate, on earth is not his equal."
But, oh! Who is that Who rules from the heavens and is making His triumph known in the earth?
There is no lasting profit in any realm the world offers. A person who gives himself to the world, and gains everything, gives himself to that which is passing away and has no lasting substance. Jesus made reference to the world's bondage when He asked, For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?-Matthew 16:26a. His desire for His disciples in relation to the world came out in this prayer of His: I pray not that Thou shouldest take them Out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil (one)-John 17:15.
To one rich young man Jesus offered a way out of the world's bondage. He said, . sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor... and come, follow me-Lk 18:22b. This was so difficult for the young man he refused-and made himself a fool. Nate Saint, martyred missionary to Central American Indians, said, "He who gives away what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose is no fool."
THREE~The Principle of Satanic Rule.
Ephesians 2:2b Wherein in time past ye walked .. according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience...
This prince of the power of the air describes that energizing force from Satan that seeks to rule in every life. This force opposes what is right and wholesome from God's viewpoint, and works toward the ultimate destruction of every person. John described him in Revelations 12:9 as the great dragon, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world.
The name Satan, occurring 55 times throughout the Bible, means "adversary." He is the enemy of God's Anointed One and is the primary source of trouble for all mankind. It is his determination to gain the position rightly belonging to Christ, both in the lives of people as well as in the governments of the world. Since he can bring no attack against the risen Christ, his design is to stop every person who is on the way to becoming part of Christ's Kingdom. He is persistent in his pursuit-until he meets the living Christ in the one he is pursuing.
In Ephesians 6:12 Paul reveals four levels of Satan's spiritual authority as he opposes us in Christ. In Him, we can overcome them. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but 1) against principalities, 2) against powers, 3) against the rulers of the darkness of this world, 4) against spiritual wickedness in high places. These forces dispatched from the realm of Satan can tempt, suggest, place pressure, and bring human misery, but we do not have to succumb to their schemes to control our lives. Whoever lives in Christ receives His authority to overcome them.
FOUR~The Principle of the Lusts of the Flesh.
Ephesians 2:3a Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh,..
In every natural person the flesh will seek to dominate as a ruling force. We call this carnality. It teams up with Satan and the world in rebellion against God.
The flesh is that part of human nature in which sin finds its ground to work. It rules with strong desire. Those living in submission to the flesh move toward their own destruction-spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically.
The way of thinking put over by the flesh, can never please God. It is enmity against God-Romans 8:7. Paul saw his own flesh as a weight and hindrance. Tired and oppressed by it, he cried, 0 wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? The answer came: I thank God through Jesus Christ our lord--Romans 7:24,25a.
The flesh centers upon its own needs, often ignoring the rights and needs of others. Tragically, it often works toward destroying close relationships as one person considers his or her own needs above the needs of others.
Because Jesus came in the flesh, and overcame its bondage through His death and resurrection, He can offer deliverance from the stronghold of the flesh. This comes about through the power of the cross. It works in those who, with humility and broken desire, submit to its authority and find release from carnality's strong pull. This is part of the power and strength of Paul's testimony in Galatians 2:20. I am crucified with Christ nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me...
FIVE~The Principle of the Mind outside of Christ.
Ephesians 2:3b. ....... we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires...of the mind...
The mind outside of Christ is darkened. In this state it quickly joins with the flesh in hostility against God. Those who live according to the demands of their carnal mind separate themselves from communion with God.
The Greek word translated mind in the verse is dianoía. This describes the operation of one's mental faculty as it perceives, understands, or sees through a matter. According to Ephesians 4:18, the dianoía of a person outside of a relationship with Christ is darkened. Because of this, it cannot discern what is right or what God wants. In fact, in its natural state it tends to operate as an enemy of the Lord.
Into the darkness of our mind the Holy Spirit comes with light for our process of thinking and understanding. When He thus comes, He awakens our conscience, quickens our will and emotions, and sets a stream of wisdom flowing. Darkness becomes light. Understanding is born from above and our soul-now that of a redeemed person--can come into line with God's Kingdom.
In Ephesians 1:18 Paul speaks of the eyes of your understanding (dianoía) being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints. What possibility lies here! What challenge lies in it! Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus-Phippians 2:5.
SIX~The Principle of Natural Wrath.
Ephesians 2:3c.. and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
There is a working force of corruption by nature that comes down through family lines upon children. This sets each one up for many patterns of behavior and response that seem natural, but often, when tested before God, are depraved to the core.
Curses of the past send their poison through family lines causing those who live under the wrath of human nature to become perverted in their response to life. The iniquity of parents comes down upon children and children's children, unto many generations. Where the Redemption through Christ has not reached, there is still truth in the proverb: The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children's teeth are set on edge- Jeremiah 31:29.
The spirit of poverty, divorce, murder, anger, thievery, hatred, drug and alcohol abuse, resentment, fear, and the way of thinking that goes with these, can all pass on from generation to generation. Also, any practice of witchcraft starts a foul trail of sorrow that can lead through many generations. If the actual practice of some of these is absent, still their influence remains. Children brought up with these poisons in their natural line become themselves by nature the children of wrath.
Now here is the marvel of grace: there is no blight upon any soul that cannot be turned into something good by the grace of God. Into the wrath of human nature will come the Lord Jesus, redeeming children of wrath to become children of God's Kingdom: How powerful that to which Paul points us in II Corinthians 5:17! Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
IN MANY LIVES, these principles of lostness point to problems that have become covered over with religion--sometimes very spiritual and active religion. In others, the same principles of lostness drive them away from religion. Whatever the case, when these principles continue working, they prepare those in whom they work for a fall. Considering what will happen at the time of the end, this Will be terrifying.
Our purpose in this series of articles is to see the power of the Redemption through Christ as it works to overcome all these principles of human lostness. What He has accomplished for us works on to present a people triumphant in every dimension, a people upon whom the flames of tribulation will not kindle.
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