This is actually Satan's wartime strategy, along with the world system that has fallen, which all collaborates together, conspiring to bring us to the uncertainty of doubt. In fact, keep in mind that Satan and the world system effectively have an agent working on the inside.
You. Your fallen personality, your fallen mind, your fallen affections, your fallen flesh working in treasonous collaboration with the enemy. Is there an area of your life where you're experiencing doubt? Doubt is a powerful tool in Satan's arsenal. He can use doubt to keep you and other believers impotent and discouraged. Very often our hearts are prone to doubt. So if you experience doubt, you're not alone. Being a mature believer doesn't mean that you have no doubts. But as you mature in Christ, you can learn to deal with and respond to those doubts biblically. Would it help you to learn how to deal with doubt?
If so, stay with us, because that's the theme of Steven's message today here on Wisdom for the Heart. I'm nearly halfway through the third volume in the biography of Winston Churchill, a biography nearly 3,000 pages long, which is why I'm only halfway through, covering extensively nearly every detail of this interesting man's life and leadership in Great Britain. Just about everybody knows something about him. Germany was beginning its quest for world domination under the hypnotic spell of Adolf Hitler, and Churchill's warnings, you may remember, were ignored for years. Great Britain had assumed a posture of isolationism and had kind of turned a blind, naive eye toward his agenda in hopes that they would be left alone, and as the Prime Minister said at one point in time, there will be peace in our time. Churchill, of course, at the same time as a member of Parliament, was pounding away, warning, warning, warning, and most believed that he was either exaggerating to gain attention or just misreading the times. But then Churchill was elected Prime Minister, and when he moved into the Prime Minister's residence at number 10 Downing Street, everything changed. The policies of peacetime were over. Up until then, Manchester writes, number 10 Downing Street had been a comfortable private home where everything went smoothly and quietly, with messengers summoned at the tinkle of a bell, where clean towels and ivory brushes lay ready in the cloakroom, and everything reminded its inhabitants that they were working at the heart of a great empire in which haste was undignified. But then everything changed. Churchill arrived on the scene like a summer storm at a sailboat race. It was pandemonium. Bells were ringing constantly, telephones of various colors for different reasons were being installed in every nook at number 10 Downing Street, and the new Prime Minister was producing an endless stream of directives from his cabinet room, his bedroom, and even his bathroom, with replies expected within minutes.
The staff would begin early in the morning and retire after midnight. One of his staff members would later write, it was only then that we all realized we were at war. Of course, he was elected by the providence of God in time to save Great Britain and perhaps the rest of the world from falling into the hands of Adolf Hitler. In writing to the Ephesian believers, the apostle Paul talks in the language of war that is either disbelieved by the average Christian or simply ignored and to our own peril. Paul reminds the church that we are at war with the enemy of our heart, the enemy of our gospel, the enemy of our mission, and because of that, we've got to put on daily the spiritual armor, including the shield of faith, which is to withstand the fiery arrows or darts from the evil one, Ephesians 6. Every day, then, Paul implies that new arrows are fashioned. They're fired at the believer, and it catches us by surprise. I wonder why that happened.
Where did that come from? I thought this was peacetime. Paul says, no, it's war. A believer finds these arrows directed at their minds, their thinking processes, primarily as they daily battle and being conformed and transformed by the living Word of God. The Christian who gains ground is a Christian who understands he is at war against the temptation of a world system, against the flesh, against the devil, Ephesians 6, verse 12. The ultimate target of all of it is the glory of God, the worship of Christ, the integrity of the gospel, the communion of the believer, not only with the Lord but with each other, and the strategic communication of a pure gospel to a world that will one day understand that it is indeed defeated. How does Satan attempt to keep a Christian from engaging effectively in this war?
How does Satan hope to keep the Christian from worshiping God, from communing with Christ, the Son of God, understanding the glory of Christ, faithfully serving the body of Christ, communicating the gospel of Christ? One of the primary weapons fired by Satan at the believer is the weapon that we will simply call doubt. Doubting uncertain Christians are ineffective soldiers. We wonder that Satan will most often lead his most strategic attacks, firing this kind of arrow at the faith that we have in the gospel, the certainty of our salvation, the assurance of our standing before Christ. Are we really genuinely saved? When a Christian is crippled by that doubt, he cannot fight the fight of faith, so it's no surprise that every single believer throughout the course of their lives fights against faces with his shield of faith the arrows of doubt. And maybe you're thinking, well, certainly you reach a point in your Christian life where that no longer becomes a problem. I've had the privilege of meeting choice servants of God in their 70s, 80s, and 90s, and they all say the same thing.
They battle the same thing. So even the Puritans would write, oh, that I may indeed one day win Christ. In his book entitled By Grace Alone, Sinclair Ferguson names several fiery darts of doubt. He gives them names, fire to believers.
There are more, but I'll just give you three of them. He names one fiery dart, this, God is against you. God is against you. In other words, God isn't really on your side after all.
I mean, you're fighting a good fight, but you're left alone in the cold. He isn't with you. In fact, how can you believe that he's even interested?
And you look around, you look at the evidence. It's obvious he's AWOL. He's not with you.
He's abandoned you or you never really did belong to him. God is actually against you. Have you ever had something happen in your life and you've asked the question, I wonder if God's on my side or if I'm on his side or if we're even on the same team? The name of another fiery dart, Ferguson writes is, you really can't be saved because you keep on sinning.
You ever felt that one? Has it penetrated your heart and brought doubt? How can you truly belong to God when you keep on sinning against him? I mean, how can you say you believe in God when the only thing you really consistently do is sin? And the more you grow in Christ, the more sensitive your mind and heart becomes to the things of Christ, the more you realize you are sinning. It seems like all I ever do is confess. Maybe I'm not a Christian.
Following closely those two fiery darts is another which he named, Payback is Coming. In other words, payback from God is going to come to you one way or another. God is going to get you back. Maybe you are a Christian. God is going to repay you for all that unfaithfulness.
Besides, a real Christian would never do what you did or say what you said or think what you thought. And so his payback might be unanswered prayers. It might be problems at work. It might be health issues. It might be a flat tire. It might be other or greater financial difficulties.
It might be difficult relationships. Those are all forms of God's displeasure with you and Satan fires it at you and says, I deserve that. Payback.
You are left to wallow in, oh, I deserve much more than that. President of Puritan Reform Seminary, in his commentary, which I have enjoyed, the book of 1 John wrote, failing in faith, failing in love, failing in obedience, prompts us to wonder, are we really Christians after all? That is exactly what Satan has in mind. This is actually Satan's wartime strategy. Along with the world system that has fallen, which all collaborates together, conspiring to bring us to the uncertainty of doubt.
In fact, keep in mind that Satan and the world system effectively have an agent working on the inside. You. A traitor. Your unflesh. Your fallen personality. Your fallen mind.
Your fallen affections. Your fallen flesh working in treasonous collaboration with the enemy. Because, as Paul said, in our flesh dwells no good thing.
We get into a battle and we expect us to defend ourselves and we turn on ourselves, don't we? And we side with the devil and we say, that's right. That's why Paul would lament in Romans chapter 7, oh who will deliver me from this body of death, this corruption of my flesh which always fails me. Those fiery darts find their mark in the heart and the mind of the believer, creating doubt and disillusionment and despair and uncertainty and this thin veneer of doubt colors all of life, doubting God's love, doubting God's forgiveness, doubting God's word, doubting God's care, thus doubting your own salvation. Effectively then keeping a Christian hobbled in uncertainty.
Pinned down, as it were in this analogy, in a foxhole. Instead of fighting the good fight and running with joy the race set before you. How effective is this fiery arrow of doubt? Doubt is so significant and it must be addressed and it's as if the apostle John stops his deliberation and almost parenthetically says, yeah, we've got to deal with this issue of your conscience and doubt that comes because of it. And certainly, obviously, conscience has a good thing.
It's a gift from God for certain things. Satan will take it further in a moment, I'll show you. But what John is going to do is effectively reveal to us three dangerous characteristics of doubt.
And I want to verbalize it in this way to keep the analogy true that God provides for us three counter attacks to those fiery missiles. The first dangerous characteristic of doubt is this and then we'll look at the text. Number one, doubt fixates on your personal deficiencies. It fixates on your personal deficiencies. You could write depravities, disobedience, whatever.
It's got to be a D to fit my outline, okay? Doubt fixates on your personal deficiencies. All right, look at chapter three of 1 John. Let's pick up our study where we left off at verse 19 and hear what John, the spirit through him has to say. We will know by this that we are of the truth, and here's the key word that sets the tone, and we'll assure our heart before him.
Now just a few words earlier, John began with these tender words in verse 18, little children. Remember, he's writing to Christians. He's not writing to unbelievers saying don't worry about whatever your conscience says. He's writing to Christians to assure their hearts before God. You see, he's just finished, if you've been with us, challenging the believer to love each other, not just with lip service but with our lives. He's confronted us with an ever-tightening argument of murder and then hatred and then indifference.
We've all been caught in that. Then he shifts gears as if anticipating that every Christian is going to wonder, well, since I don't love like I ought to love, and since I'm guilty of indifference and even hatred and maybe even physical murder, how can I be a Christian? You see, John knows that every honest Christian will feel the potential heat from a fiery dart that adds a question mark to genuine faith from what he's just written to basically challenge us. And so it's as if he immediately anticipates this, and the theme in the next few verses is centered around this word assure, assurance. We will have assurance in our hearts before him.
This is what John wants to see develop. The word for assure means to convince. In fact, it means to set at rest.
Let me set your hearts at rest. He knows how our hearts are ever ready to join the enemy and condemn us. That's why he refers to, here in verse 20, look, in whatever our heart condemns us. The word for heart is the word cardia. We use that to refer to a cardiac arrest or to cardiology, the study of the heart. You need to know that in John's day, the cardia, the heart, was considered a reference to one's conscience.
It was the seat of morality. Your conscience is condemning you, John writes. In fact, the word for condemn literally means to know something against someone else. Your conscience knows something about you that he can use against you as if it were personalized. That word condemn is only used in one other New Testament text, and that's where Paul said that Peter stood condemned.
Why? Because Paul had heard that Peter had acted inconsistently and ungraciously toward these Gentiles. He was sort of, well, he was outwardly prejudiced even though he knew the gospel crossed the barrier. And Paul wrote that Peter stood condemned.
He needed to be challenged, that is. John is saying here that your conscience knows something about you that condemns you, does it ever. In fact, your conscience never runs out of material to condemn you, does it? We happen to know more about ourselves than any other person on the planet, and that's a good thing in that. Even your spouse doesn't know everything about you that you know. Your conscience, however, does, and when Satan will bring doubt, he simply collaborates with your conscience and says, I have something that can condemn you. The French philosopher Montaigne once said that if all our inner thoughts were made public, every one of us would deserve to be hanged at least ten times in our lifetime.
I think he's conservative. The truth is a Christian's sensitive conscience can easily condemn them. God uses it in a good way. But in the bad way, it brings you to believe that maybe you're not even a Christian. So notice how John wants you to counteract that. Don't go that far. Look at verse 20.
Remember this. When your conscience condemns you or your heart condemns you, look at what he says. God is greater than our hearts and knows all things.
Here's the counterattack. God already knew. Satan will fire this flaming arrow at you through your conscience, which offers up something true about you. So he's already dealt with admitting and confessing and repenting, by the way. Face it.
But the enemy tries to go too far. He's got his own agenda. He's going to use your conscience to bring you doubt that you even belong to him because of something you've done. At that point, counteract with, well, God already knew that.
He already knows. When he saved me, he already knew the worst about me. When he saved me as a 17-year-old, he knew the sin I would commit as a 55-year-old.
Just had my birthday. I can now get free lemonade at Chick-fil-A. What a consolation. God knew that. He knows the last sin I'll commit.
And when Satan says, Oh, okay, look, you've confessed that, but I'm going to bring that up again and again because that certainly takes everything off the table. No, you can say, God is omniscient. He already knew.
Takes the wind right out of the enemy's sails. God is omniscient. Think about that. Has it ever occurred to you that God has never learned anything? He's always known everything. No gossip can inform him.
Nobody can dig up any dirt on you that removes your standing. With Christ, no action on your part can surprise him. He knows what you're planning to do tomorrow. He knows where you were last week. He knows what you're thinking right now. He knows your past, your present, and your future. The omniscience of God is both convicting because you understand you can't hide anything from God.
But in this context, it's reassuring. John says, God already knows. That's greater than anything your conscience can bring up.
So use that as a counterattack. John is not suggesting here that God minimizes our sin or downplays our sinful hearts. John doesn't write here, in whatever way your conscience condemns you, don't pay any attention to it. You know, it doesn't know what it's talking about.
No. The solution to battling this particular characteristic of death, though, is not to diminish our depravity or downplay our sins. The solution is to admit and confess and then remember this amazingly encouraging counterattack that God already knew the worst of me. He canceled out the debt of my transgressions, the New Testament says.
He was nailed and in his body he carried the entirety of my sin, Peter writes. So your future is not and will never be in jeopardy for Christ, your Savior, has forgiven everything he already knew you would need to be forgiven of when you came to him by faith in Christ. Here's the truth about doubt. Doubt will fixate on your personal deficiencies.
And if you allow it, it will remind you it will never run out of material. Secondly, doubt feeds your spiritual uncertainties. Doubt says, look, the last thing you can expect is for God to be actually listening to your prayers.
Isn't that rather arrogant? Besides, he's seen what you did this week. You've had an inconsistent week and surely you ought to clean things up a bit or get a little more disciplined and then approach him.
I mean, look at the week you've had. John effectively says that whenever the believer deals with issues of conscience, he's already dealt with sin over and over again, recognizing that we're known by God through Christ, already on forgiven ground, uncertainty then is exchanged for this kind of confidence to approach him. Look at verse 21, Beloved, if our heart, you could add in the margin of your text there, then, it's his idea, if our heart then does not condemn us, in other words, we've dealt with it, we have confidence before God. Literally, we have confidence in the face of God, in the presence of God. We can come boldly before the very throne of God, Hebrews 4.16. You don't run from God because you're undeserving. You run to God because Christ is deserving and you are in Christ. He has accepted you in the Beloved by means of Christ's atoning sacrifice and Satan is going to come along and say, okay, well, you know, you dealt with, you know, all that stuff, but God, he's not interested in seeing you, especially after yesterday or this morning. The counterattack is this, God is always accessible to me. He is always inviting me.
He is always available to me. Now, it might help to remind you of the meaning of the word translated confidence here in this text, verse 21, you will have confidence before God. The word translated confidence already appeared in chapter 2 and verse 28 where John wrote that we can be confident at the appearing of Jesus Christ and I brought out the fact that how many of us would go, oh, here, I'm so confident, you know, now. Now, that's not the idea of that original word. It has the idea of open speech. It was used originally for transparency and you as a believer can be prepared for the coming of Christ with transparency. You can and that's a wonderful goal to have.
Full disclosure. So this confidence to approach God isn't some kind of bold bravado. I have enough, you know, on my good list here so that I can come to him in prayer. I've got a consistent Sunday school record for the last year. I've got a perfect driving record for the last two weeks. I've had a really good week. I haven't skipped devotions and I've been nice and now I can go to God.
That's the enemy talking. The idea of confidence is transparency before God. You live openly, confessing, communing.
You're invited at any time. John is effectively saying you deal with the issues of conscience and instead of hiding from God, you open your heart to God. He does inspect and purify and then you find your confidence growing as your honesty grows before him.
Doubts about his love diminish. The attack of Satan that breeds doubt is that you don't deserve to talk to God. The counterattack is God already knows everything about me and in Christ then I am always invited into his presence. I like the way Eugene Peterson paraphrased this verse that fits perfectly. I believe with the correct understanding of John's intention. He writes, For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves. Once that's taken care of and we're no longer accusing or condemning ourselves, we're bold and free before God. I hope you've been encouraged by this message so far. Stephen called it dealing with doubt.
Since you're going to have doubts from time to time, it's so important that you learn how to deal with those doubts biblically. Now, there's more to this lesson. We're only about halfway done and we don't have time to finish.
So we're going to stop right here for today. And on our next broadcast, we'll do a little bit of review and then bring you the conclusion to this message. In the meantime, now would be a great time to take us up on our offer to send you some free issues of Stephen's magazine. Stephen deals with a different topic each month. He helps you better understand what the Bible says and how you can apply it to your life. For example, some of the past topics have included things such as a biblical look at why there is evil in the world, advice for how fathers can leave a godly legacy, how you can forge stronger friendships.
Stephen's dealt with abortion and how we should think about that issue. The magazine also has a daily devotional guide that you can use to remain rooted and grounded in God's word every day. We call this magazine Heart to Heart. We use it to show our appreciation to all of our wisdom partners, so we send it to them as a gift. But we also send three issues of Heart to Heart magazine to anyone who asks.
We'd like to send it to you if you haven't seen it yet. You can sign up for it on our website. As soon as you get to wisdomonline.org, you'll notice a link on that homepage that will take you right to the sign-up. You can also call us at 866-48-BIBLE. That's 866-482-4253. We'd love to talk with you and introduce you to this resource, Heart to Heart magazine. Call today and then tune in next time for the rest of this message called, Dealing with Doubt. .
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-08 06:17:24 / 2023-01-08 06:27:25 / 10