authority of the believer, biblical scholarship, calvinism, christianity, church, faith, freedom, God's promises, God's will, God's Word, grace, heresies, Holy Spirit, humility, Islam, Jesus Christ, Paul Harvey, prayer, pride, religion, satan, secular humanism, sovereignty of God, spiritual authority, spiritual warfare, theology, tribulation, truth, United Nations
In May 1976, a nationally renowned news commentator named Paul Harvey began broadcasting a 5-minute-or-so syndicated show on ABC Radio Networks called “The Rest Of The Story.” In each episode, he would recount a carefully-researched story containing fascinating, obscure facts about a famous person or significant moment in history, never identifying that person or moment until the very end. Harvey would then close each episode with his famous tag line, “And now you know… the rest of the story!” His show aired up until his death in 2009. His son, Paul, Jr., even published two books containing the stories his dad told in those shows. While I’m not even remotely going to emulate him here, his show’s title has stuck with me as the one I feel the Spirit wanted to use for this article.
Now to the topic at hand. I cannot even begin to count times I have heard sincere, dedicated, well-meaning Christian believers — even pastors and ministers! — incompletely quote various Bible passages, especially God’s promises. An excellent example is the following quote from Revelation which is almost universally cited to support the principle of spiritual warfare against Satan and his schemes:
And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony… — Revelation 12:11a
What is almost universally omitted from their quote is the ending phrase in that selfsame verse:
And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. — Revelation 12:11 (italics mine)
In the first instance, it appears the only ingredients necessary to defeat the powers of darkness are invoking the blood of Jesus and speaking the Truth. However, once we consider the entire verse, we can clearly see God’s promise is that Satan is overcome by the blood of Jesus and the Christian testimony of those who are so totally dedicated and unwilling to compromise their relationship with Jesus — or God’s Word — they will literally lay down their lives and reputations for it.
This reinforces the salient fact that the Gospel of Christ is not some religious game played by church-goers, it’s a life-and-death struggle where folk’s earthly lives and eternal destiny are held in the balance, being wooed by the Holy Spirit to the foot of Jesus’ cross on one side while being relentlessly attacked by a cruel, psychopathic liar hellbent on their earthly and spiritual destruction on the other.
I’m going to spend the balance of this article exploring other such examples, but before we go down that road, I want to address an issue debated among pastors and teachers of various theological persuasions. That issue is this:
Are God’s Promises Conditional or Unconditional?
To be more specific:
“There are many promises in God’s Word containing various conditions which someone must fulfill in order to receive the provision promised therein. Are those conditions binding upon Christian believers or not?”
There are some who teach the conditions associated with any of God’s promises are not binding upon the believer, that all God’s promises are automatically granted to us by grace through faith in God’s Word, period, end of story. They based this concept on the following verse.
For all the promises of God in Him are “Yes,” and in Him “Amen,” to the glory of God through us. — 2 Corinthians 1:20
However, I believe this teaching to be incorrect, though in no way I do believe it classes as a heresy — or even gross error, for that matter. Christians of good conscience can and should fellowship with one another without division regardless of where they stand on this issue. That being said, I truly believe such teaching causes believers who embrace it to experience a great deal of frustration over lack of “results” when standing in faith on any given promise.
Here is why I believe the conditions for promises are indeed binding: those conditions are how God brings about Christ-like character in the believer (2 Peter 1:2-4). I have addressed the topic of God’s promises and their conditions in great depth elsewhere here, here, here, and here at Miscellaneous Ramblings, so I will let you explore those at your leisure. I believe that by the time you finish reading them, both my position and why I believe it to be the sound one will become self-evident. Hopefully, you, too, will agree afterwards, but whether you do or not is between you and the Holy Spirit.
Personally, I believe 2 Corinthians 1:20 means all the promises in both testaments are available to every Christian believer, with total disregard of who those promises were originally made to. I personally stand in prayer on many OT promises which I believe have been brought forward by this verse into the Christian experience. There are certain other theologians who have opined that OT promises are not applicable to Christians because we are under the New Covenant in Jesus’ blood and the Old has been superseded by the New. I believe this verse puts that concept outside the realm of accurate Bible exegesis.
Regardless of where you stand on this issue, the balance of this article will be presented assuming the concepts that: 1) the conditions are indeed applicable, and; 2) they apply to all believers, regardless of testament.
Resisting the Devil
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard the following verse partially quoted, I would be a wealthy man!
Resist the devil and he will flee from you. — James 4:7b
Actually, the whole thought includes the previous verse as well as a clause in the first part of the same verse:
But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. — James 4:6-7
The first point I want to make is that when we have a prideful attitude, God opposes us. Whether that pride takes the form of overt arrogance or merely an attitude of self-sufficiency, both are anathema to The Most High! — so much so that the word “opposes” in the Greek literally means “to set oneself in battle array against!” And guess who’s going to win that battle? Oops!
God never establishes us in wrongdoing by blessing our lives whenever we are self-directed. At all times and in all places, He will utterly oppose “The Lie” first presented by Satan in Eden: “you can be your own lord and it will work.” Like most of the devil’s lies, it is a half-truth: we can indeed be our own lords, but the One True Lord will never allow it to work!
So the only way we can receive God’s grace is by humbling ourselves at the foot of Jesus’ cross, surrendering to His lordship as the only Person who is uniquely qualified in the entire universe to run our lives. In that daily act of humility, we admit we are hopeless basket-cases apart from Him personally and are utterly dependent upon His love, His mercy, His grace, His kindness, His generosity, and a host of other amazing character attributes of The Almighty. From that place of surrender and submission, He then imparts to us His authority over the powers of darkness and their evil schemes/deeds.
Accordingly, when we are somewhere other than in an attitude of total surrender, our ability to resist the devil is precisely zero, zilch, nada! Why? Because when we are prideful, we are playing on the devil’s playground using his rules, his ball, and his bat. When we refuse to play by his rules though humble submission to Jesus, we move ourselves from the devil’s playground to God’s and we then are playing by His rules with His ball and His bat. The devil’s playground rules always lead to our defeat; God’s always lead us into victory.
What most casual believers do is play the devil’s game through their pride and then blame God when things don’t go according to their own plans. The old fundamental truism “authority and responsibility must always be equal” produces a corollary: “whoever is in charge is responsible for the results.” While every believer will face trials, tribulations, and temptations as we “walk out our salvation with fear and trembling,” if your life has its Suck-O-Meter pegged at the bad end of the scale for an extended period of time, you might want to check your hole card and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you how much of the show you are running versus how much He is running. Generally speaking, that answer will most-likely be the person staring back at you in the mirror each morning. The bottom line is God will not allow Himself to be held responsible for lives and situations where we are in charge!
Casting Your Cares
Here’s another frequent partial quote, often used to exhort believers not to worry:
cast(ing) all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. — 1 Peter 5:7
The entire thought, though, is this:
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. — 1 Peter 5:6-7
Everything we’ve just discussed concerning humility equally applies here. The bottom line? If we are leading self-directed lives, we can cast cares onto the Lord until we are blue in the face and all they pretty much do is bounce off!
True freedom from worry comes through surrender to our loving Savior!
The Truth Shall Make You Free
This is one that has actually made its way into secular pop culture — many of those who casually quote it never realize Who originally spoke these words:
…you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. — John 8:32
To a person, what everyone leaves out is the previous verse:
Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” — John 8:31-32
While there is almost always a benefit from forthright truthfulness, the truth which makes us free actually comes via the Holy Spirit as we live according to his Word in a disciplined manner. Seeking His face and living according to His commands and precepts will always produce freedom, not bondage.
Simply knowing it intellectually, though? Not so much!
Beating Swords Into Plowshares
This one is actually emblazoned on a wall inside the United Nations (a godless, anti-Semitic organization, if there ever was one!) building in New York City:
They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. — Isaiah 2:4
Nice, feel-good, warm-fuzzy kind of sentiment, right? Let’s now include the 3 prior verses to that one:
The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, And we shall walk in His paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. — Isaiah 2:1-4
There is a comparable passage in Micah 4:1-3 which essentially says the same thing almost word for word.
While the desire for peace is admirable and peace itself is a goal worthy of pursuit, the truth of the matter is that lasting peace on this corrupt planet will continuously elude us until the millennial reign of Jesus prophesied in this passage as well as elsewhere in the Word. Until then, there are way too many utterly selfish people running around this world who refuse the bow the knee to the lordship of the One True God for lasting world peace to ever take place.
Truth be told, those of us who have submitted to the Lord cannot even achieve peace amongst ourselves, arguing over various doctrines, traditions, and every other nit-picky thing we can find to separate ourselves into warring factions (the current debate raging over modern vs. traditional worship music immediately comes to mind). While some of that division is legitimate due to heretical doctrines promulgated by one group or another, the vast majority of it is simply demonic divisiveness used by the powers of darkness to keep us weak and ineffectual in our primary mission: reaching the world for Christ.
Short of Jesus’ return with Him establishing his 1000-year reign over this earth, there is only one force on the planet capable of enforcing any kind of deténte among the nations: the United States and its superior-to-all-others military. If we were to fall away from our foundational ideals and devolve into something less than who and what we were designed to be by our founding fathers, there is absolutely nothing left on this planet to forestall the rampant imperialistic ambitions of the Russians, the Chinese, and the Moslems. For this very reason Satan is doing everything in his power to subvert — and cause us to lose sight of — our founding principles, our national heritage, patriotism, and purpose, and have us embrace false ideologies like socialism and all the other “isms” being touted by the godless left these days.
(If you want an interesting look at what the world might have looked like had we lost WWII, check out Phillip K. Dick’s sci-fi novel “The Man In The High Castle” or its TV-series adaption on Amazon Prime. While the novel is steeped in the godless eastern philosophy of the I-Ching as well as Dick’s personal anti-establishment political ideology, his alternate-history story line is truly compelling).
Short of our Savior and Lord establishing His active and physical rule over this entire planet after defeating all evildoers and consigning them to eternal destruction, those who beat their swords into plowshares will be the slaves of those who didn’t.
God’s Thoughts Are Higher Than Ours
Again, I’ve lost count of the times I’ve heard this quoted out of its context. The entire passage reads as follows:
Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My Word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
For you shall go out with joy, and be led out with peace; the mountains and the hills shall break forth into singing before you, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress tree, and instead of the briar shall come up the myrtle tree; and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.” — Isaiah 55:6-13
Here’s what’s really happening:
- God is calling the nation of Israel to repentance, an act of will, commanding them to seek Him. He promises their reward will be their nation would be blessed and exalted (a promise the USA should heed today, I might add).
- Next, God declares that His ways and thoughts are not ours, that His are higher than ours. Our perceptions are abysmally limited and flawed and morally corrupt by comparison with the Most High. This is why mind-renewal (Romans 12:2) is intrinsic to the sanctification process all believers are supposed to be actively engaged in. The more we think like Him and the less we think like our natural selves, the more we act like Him, and the more valid our witness to the lost becomes.
Unfortunately, Calvinists rip this verse out of context and use it to justify their bogus claim that God inflicts evil upon us to teach/humble us and His reasons are beyond our puny ability to comprehend. In other words, we should blindly accept and believe cosmic child abuse is a good thing.
<LOUD BUZZER> Sorry, thank you for playing!
That’s not to say that we are exempt from challenges to our faith, it just means that temptations and disasters are either from the devil’s or our own doing, not God’s. Many trials and tribulations can be avoided simply by our living according to His narrative instead of ours through obeying His Word — in other words, when we stop shooting ourselves in the foot! Others can be avoided by our consistently standing in faith and exercising our aforementioned authority over the powers of darkness. For the rest, God promises a way of escape that we may stand and endure them (1 Corinthians 10:13). But I digress…
In this verse, God is declaring we need to avoid leaning to our own understanding, logic, and reason and entrust ourselves to His all-powerful Word which He assures us will come to pass regardless of what we perceive with our limited senses, emotions, and intellects.
- The result of our seeking Him and setting our priorities according to His, while living according to His narrative for our lives rather than our own, will ultimately be joy, peace, and prosperity and that He will be glorified throughout.
Albert Einstein is quoted as once saying:
The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.
Good old Al definitely grasped one of life’s fundamental truisms. Without a radical new approach — an entirely new way of thinking — we are doomed to remain in both the problems we have created and those we have inherited from others. Because we are hopelessly mired in our inherent selfishness, we cannot devise any human-based solution which is not also inherently corrupt at its core, regardless of how righteous or altruistic such attempts may otherwise appear.
It is this principle, the Law of Unintended Consequences, which dooms all measures rooted in human effort to failure, indeed that the problems being targeted will be replaced with yet other, even worse problems caused by the so-called “solution.” Sounds hopeless and depressing, doesn’t it? Indeed, that is precisely why the vast majority of the world is so hopelessly depressed!
By God’s grace, Jesus broke that stalemate by reaching out to an irreparably lost and corrupt mankind collectively engaged in a desperate, yet futile, search for a spiritual clue. However, we Christians have no moral high ground from which to judge those so deceived — apart from His grace, none of us would have ever seen the Truth of the Gospel and made Jesus Lord of our lives. Why? Because that Truth is revealed only through the wooing of the Holy Spirit Who convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgement.
However, as anyone can clearly see from the nightly news, there are billions of people actively resisting God’s grace through their own selfish desires and dead religions, vainly trying to save themselves and shape the world into their own version of reality. They do this because they have chosen by their own free will, not because God has somehow caused them to do so.
I guess that about wraps it up for this one. If the Lord brings more of these examples to mind, I might write a sequel on this topic. Until then, I will close this article with the immortal words of our Christian brother Paul Harvey:
And now you know… the rest of the story!
Thanks for reading!