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WIRED FOR INTIMACY How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain

Reviewed 03/01/2010 by Tim Challies.

Recommended. An investigation of the brain’s role in pornography addiction without the “my brain made me do it” defense.

I read recently of a researcher who wanted to study the effects of pornography on young adult males. He carefully built the structure for the study, determining how he would compare young men who had experienced pornography with a control group comprised of those who had never come into contact it. Tragically this researcher had to cancel his study. He found that he was unable to put together a control group; he could not find young men who had not discovered pornography. The experiment was impossible to conduct.

That is the kind of society we live in today, a society that is absolutely overwhelmed with pornography. The lure of porn is almost irresistible, particularly to young men. If the devil wanted to find a way of destroying young men, of impacting the ability for men to relate properly to women, of disrupting families and hardening hearts, he could hardly do better than this.

Much has been written in recent years about pornography. But new to store shelves is a book that is different from all the others, at least all of the other books targeted at a Christian audience. William Struthers’ Wired for Intimacy looks not primarily to the heart but to the brain. He shows how the male brain is hard-wired for intimacy and relationships and how pornography affects the male brain. He says

Men seem to be wired in such a way that pornography hijacks the proper functioning of their brains and has a long-lasting effect on their thoughts and lives…When we better understand the devastating spiritual, psychological, social and biological reality of how pornography violates our unique position in God’s creation, we will be better able to minister to those who have been wounded by it.

What he provides is a well-rounded understanding of how pornography affects men. He looks beyond the usual–beyond the moral and ethical and legal and even spiritual. He shows that pornography is also a physical matter, “rooted in the biological intricacies of our sexual design.” Though there is value in books that look from the other angles,

calls to pray harder, move the computer to the living room and get plugged into an accountability group only go so far. They come across as hollow to many men whose brains have been altered and rewired by their experiences with pornography. They have trained their brains to respond sexually to the pornography they consume.

Though there is value in reading this entire book, the heart of the book is the brain. In one chapter right in the middle of the book Struthers provides a primer on the brain and shows both how sexuality is hard-wired into the brain and how pornography can disrupt that God-given capacity. He shows that in many ways the male brain is built as an ideal receiver for pornography; the capacity of the brain to pursue intimacy with a wife is very easily disrupted and perverted by a desire to look at pornography. The wiring that ought to be used to pursue intimacy with one woman can easily be disrupted and used to pursue a kind of false intimacy with an endless succession of women. Men who have become consumed with pornography will have to admit with the author that

they have unknowingly created a neurological circuit that imprisons their ability to see women rightly as created in God’s image. Repeated exposure to pornography creates a one-way neurological superhighway where a man’s mental life is over-sexualized and narrowed. It is hemmed in on either side by high containment walls making escape nearly impossible.

What Struthers both claims and (at least to my mind) proves is that looking at pornography and acting out to it creates neural pathways that disrupt the “normal” pathways. As pornography use and acting out to it become habitual, the pathways become more and more pronounced and, therefore, more difficult to overcome. Soon a man has rewired his brain in such a way that true intimacy becomes a challenge. Pornography addiction and sexual compulsion is built in the brain and involves “the visual system (looking at porn), the motor system (masturbating), the sensory system (genital stimulation) and neurological effect of orgasm (sexual euphoria from opiates, addictive dopamine in the nucleus accumbens and reduced fear in the amygdale). They have now begun to store this pattern as a reinforced neurological habit.” Seeing how he gets here and seeing how the various parts of the brain work together to make a man desire sexual fulfillment is well worth the price of the book.

The author’s work in showing how the brain can be rewired (and miswired) through pornography is undoubtedly the most important contribution of the book. But I found great benefit in looking at his description of the sexual nature of the brain outside the context of pornography. Here we see how God has fearfully and wonderfully constructed human sexuality and has deeply integrated it into the inner workings of the brain. This section proves that a man’s desire to make love to his wife is not purely psychological or even mental, but something that is deeply neurological. I hardly even know how to describe it except to urge you to read this book and discover it for yourself. You will stand amazed at what God has done.

Before I close let me say that some Christians may be tempted to assume that Struthers will defend men who look at pornography claiming that “their brains made them do it.” But this is not at all the case. While the male brain does predispose men to be drawn to nudity and drawn to images of sexuality, this does not provide an excuse for indulging. To the contrary, it challenges men to be exceedingly careful about what they view and it makes them doubly responsible before God for images they’ve consumed. The implications of the neurological basis for human sexuality call men to purity before God in a whole new way.

Wired for Intimacy is a book we need. With pornography increasingly reaching epidemic proportions, this book helps us understand it at a whole new level. And it calls us to deal with human sexuality in a way that acknowledges all of its dimensions–moral, ethical, psychological, spiritual and physical. I give Wired for Intimacy my highest recommendation.

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(Original post at Monergism)

 

To one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness” – Romans 4:5

How is the Christian to see himself in this world? “Simul iustus et peccator” – “At the same time righteous and a sinner”. Justification is forensic. In Christ, we are declared, counted or reckoned to be righteous when God imputes the righteousness of Christ (an “alien righteousness”) to our account. Christ’s righteousness ascribed to the redeemed individual without their personal merit. We are declared righteous in Christ, it is imputed to us — it is counted as ours … not infused in us. We are counted righteous in God’s eyes because of Christ. But this does not make us righteous in ourselves. That will only happen at our glorification when Christ transforms these bodies to be sealed in righteousness. Justifying righteousness is something which always resides in the Person of Christ alone. The imputation of this “alien” righteousness is the only means by which man can be acceptable to God. As long as the Christian lives, he is guilty in himself, but “in Christ” he is righteous and accounted precious.

The Council of Trent itself reveals that Rome considered Luther’s simul iustus et peccator to be a most serious threat to the traditional teaching of the Catholic church. The Roman Church contended that “justification” means making a man righteous in his own person. The Catholic reasons, “How can God pronounce a man to be righteous in His sight unless he is actually righteous?” He therefore thinks that a man must be born again and transformed before he can have right standing with God. In this system of thought, a man can have no real assurance of justification, for he can never be sure whether the Holy Spirit has made him righteous enough to be accepted of God.

Righteousness through Christ is called an “alien” righteousness because it did not generate from us. It is not our righteousness; it is his. It is an alien righteousness because it came from without, and now it is in a foreign land. It does not belong here; it is an alien righteousness. In Latin we call it simul iustus et peccator: simul, simultaneously; iustus, just; et, and; peccator, sinful. That is me – simultaneously righteous and sinful. That is my contribution to salvation — my sin! At the same time that I am a sinner, God sees me as righteous because of the blood of Jesus Christ. That is the message of outreach — it is the message of salvation.

Righteousness comes in two ways: coram deo (righteousness before God) and coram hominibus (before man). Instead of a development in righteousness based in the person, or an infusion of merit from the saints, a person is judged righteous before God because of the works of Christ. But,absent the perspective of God and the righteousness of Christ, based on one’s own merit—a Christian still looks like a sinner. The declaration involves God imputing to the believer’s “balance sheet” or account the alien righteousness of Christ. The believer is not declared righteous by virtue of his own merit, but on the basis of the merit of Christ. When united to Him, it is justification which becomes the foundation upon which the believer can stand with confidence coram dei. The believer has no cause to fear in the presence of God because of His acquittal. The believer has only and always to look to the finished work of Christ on the Cross and hear God’s declaration, “You are accepted.” Because of justification the believer does not fear God’s rejection because of the sin still present in his/her life. God does not look at the sin in our life except through the work of Christ. This tension is resolved in the Incarnate Christ, crucified and now risen for the life of the world.

Eternal life is Christ dwelling in His righteousness in the soul of the justified person. So eternal life is union with Jesus Christ. And the word for that union with him is faith. The sinners comes to him, rests in him, trusts in him, is one with him, abides with him; and this is life because it never ends. The united soul abides in the Vine eternally. Weakness, sin, proneness to sin never brings separation, but only the Father’s pruning, which cements the union even and ever tighter.

The Judge of all the earth declares us “not guilty” when we believe because Christ was pronounced “guilty” for us on the cross. We are not first made righteous, then declared righteous; we are declared righteous by grace through faith in Christ, then made righteous! When we believe, God imputes Christ’s righteousness to us ‘as if’ it were our own. However, it is HIS righteousness, that is why Paul says in Romans 1:17 that there is a righteousness that has been revealed from God, a righteousness not of our own, but a righteousness revealed from God and freely given to those who do not work, but to those who believe. In light of the goodness and graciousness of God who was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, we should daily repent of our own self-righteousness (our works), The words imply a declaration and pronouncement from the divine court of the believer’s right standing with God. “Justification” in itself does not mean a change in the man, but a declaration of how he appears in God’s sight.

Through faith we run to Christ and hold fast to Him, who satisfied the law on our behalf (Romans 10:4; Galatians 3:10-13). In this way we are accounted righteous in the sight of God through faith alone, without doing the works of the law. We are simul iustus et peccator.

Luther recognized that even in a state of regeneration the believer still lives in the world and still in fact does commit acts of sin. There is no attempt to redefine sin to make it anything less than what it is. Rather there is a stark recognition of the dialectic of the Christian’s acceptance before God and the fact that he still sins. Luther’s phrase to describe this condition was that the state of the Christian between regeneration and ultimate glorification is simul iustus et peccator, at once just (or justified) and sinner. This is not a condition that will ever be transcended in this life. Rather, the believer must always rely on the finished work of Christ for his/her acceptance before God.

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To view original article, please click on the following link: http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/what-have-you-done/

 

by David VanDrunen

Get a group of conservative Christians together and before long someone will probably express shock at the latest evidence of cultural decline: “Can you believe what they did?” It’s not nearly as common in such settings for someone to say, “Well, of course outrageous things happen in society — we’re all a bunch of rotten sinners.”

From a biblical perspective, perhaps what is really surprising is not how morally corrupt things can be but how well they often turn out. Many societies have legal, economic, and healthcare systems that, however imperfect, provide tremendous benefits for large numbers of people. Given the moral state of humanity — “every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5) — this is remarkable.

Christians have appealed to several theological concepts to explain the existence of these wholesome aspects of human culture. By His providence God works out good results from wicked human intentions. God’s common grace restrains the full outbreak of evil and showers many non-saving blessings upon human life. And many Christian theologians have pointed to natural law to explain the moral instincts and insights of so many non-Christians. Natural law is simply an aspect of natural revelation. God reveals Himself and His moral law in the structure of the created order, including human nature itself as it reflects the image of God. Natural law does not reveal the gospel and has no power to regenerate fallen human hearts. Though natural law does not save, it does press God’s moral claims upon the conscience of all people, even those unaware of God’s revelation in Scripture.

The New Testament refers to Christians as “sojourners and exiles” in this world (1 Peter 1:1, 17; 2:11). By God’s grace in Christ we are already citizens of heaven (Phil. 3:20), but we live temporarily away from home, “in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation” (Phil. 2:15). Natural law must surely play an important role as we seek to live “peaceably with all” (Rom. 12:18) in such a world.

Though Scripture never uses the term “natural law,” it refers to the concept of natural law on all sorts of occasions. Some of the most interesting and relevant occur in the stories about the patriarchs in Genesis. When the New Testament calls us “sojourners,” it points us back to the experience of the patriarchs, the original “sojourners” (Gen. 12:10; 15:13; 20:1; 21:34; 23:4). The patriarchs were believers in the true God, living amidst pagans and without a true home in this world. Scripture wishes us to learn something about our life in the present world by observing the patriarchs in their world. How did the reality of natural law shape their sojourn?

The fascinating encounter between Abraham and the pagan king Abimelech in Genesis 20 is an illuminating example. Fearing for his own life when he entered Gerar, Abraham announced that his wife Sarah was his sister, and Abimelech promptly took Sarah for himself. Informed by God that Sarah was Abraham’s wife, Abimelech confronts Abraham: “What have you done to us?” (v. 9). The pagan king is apparently shocked by this reckless disregard for marriage. He accuses Abraham: “You have done to me things that ought not to be done” (v. 9). Abraham replies, “I did it because I thought, There is no fear of God at all in this place” (v. 11). As it turns out, Abraham was wrong. These pagans actually did fear God (in some sense) and understood that people should not do certain things to one another. Natural law had impressed fundamental moral truths upon their consciences.

There are certainly things to learn from this story that are relevant for Christian sojourners today. First, natural law gives unbelievers a sense of moral boundaries that people simply should not cross. Even pagans like Abimelech are sometimes appalled when such boundaries are transgressed. This should provide encouragement and remind us that it is possible to have meaningful moral conversations with unbelievers.

Second, people often transgress these moral boundaries, though they know better, and this can bring great hardship for believers. Jacob’s daughter Dinah was raped by a pagan prince, though “such a thing must not be done” (Gen. 34:7). Sodom and Gomorrah grossly violated social propriety and Lot was forced to flee (Gen. 19). Natural law will never usher in utopia. We should be sober-minded with respect to this world and remember to set our hearts upon the city that is to come (Heb. 13:14).

Third, believers themselves, sadly, sometimes transgress fixed moral boundaries. Abraham and Isaac tried the wife-sister stunt three times and were rightly rebuked by pagans on each occasion (Gen. 12:18; 20:9; 26:9–10). In response to cultural decline, Christians can be self-righteously quick to denounce others for moral degeneracy. But we are often the ones who do terrible things, and we shouldn’t think that unbelievers don’t notice. Christian sojourners should live with circumspection and humility. We must always remember that our own true righteousness is not of ourselves but is a gift of Christ to which we cling by faith.

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Dr. David VanDrunen is Robert B. Strimple Professor of systematic theology and Christian ethics at Westminster Seminary California. He is contributor to By Faith Alone: Answering the Challenges to the Doctrine of Justification.  

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Foreword:  I have a 35-year old sister with Down’s Syndrome and her childhood years have been a very happy one. She went to a special school and learned a lot. However, a major influence to her learning is Sesame Street where she learned to identify muppets by names, sing songs about A-B-C, words and numbers. Her favorite characters are Cookie Monster, The Count and Guy Smiley, among others. Without a doubt, Sesame Street has impacted her mind tremendously.  It has been many years since and it is with much concern that I am posting this article from Lighthouse Trails website. So to every Christian parents, please watch with discernment every children’s program with your kids.

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Christian Parents Beware: Sesame Street Will Teach Your Children Yoga

November 14th, 2009 | Author: Lighthouse Trails Editors

LTRP Note: For parents or grandparents who have thought it is harmless to let their little children or grandchildren watch an hour of Sesame Street once a day, we offer this warning. While many Christian parents have most likely seen the liberal slants of the popular T.V. show, and perhaps kept their children away from the show, turning to Mr. Rogers instead, many Christian parents have allowed Sesame Street into their homes, feeling that the underlying New Age, liberal message was subtle enough to bypass the hearts and minds of little eyes and ears. But the following articles show that Yoga (the heartbeat of Hinduism) is alive and “well” on Sesame Street, and parents should beware. While warning a 4 year not to participate in any Yoga exercises they might see on Sesame Street can make parents feel they have done their job in protecting their kids, it isn’t likely that a 4 or 5 year old will understand the dangers when Big Bird tells them how fun it is or when they see their favorite personality on Sesame Street telling a room full of kids to do the Yoga exercises. Check out the following articles below.

New York Times:  ”Same Street, Different World: ‘Sesame’ Turns 40″:

The pedagogy hasn’t changed, but the look and tone of “Sesame Street” have evolved … Now there are green spaces, tofu and yoga…. 

This season has an Om sensibility. “My mom takes me to yoga class, I love doing yoga,” a little girl in pigtails says in an episode that ran in October. She is narrating a short film that shows a pixieish teacher and her pupils folding into the downward dog position. After class her mother arrives with a plastic water bottle. “She says it’s important to drink water when you exercise,” the girl explains. “When I grow up I want to be a yoga teacher.”

The Independent (London, UK): “Why Sesame Street still counts”

In recent years Sesame Street has faced challenges. It can sometimes seem at odds with the era of political correctness. The Cookie Monster has been accused of promoting obesity and sponsorship by McDonald’s was drew wide criticism. The show still attracts big name guest-stars but is up against competition from newer forms of entertainment. Even the programme’s core values have changed. In 1970 it taught racial tolerance, now young viewers hear about the environment or healthy food. In an episode of the new series a child talks about her mother’s yoga class. “I love yoga,” she announces. “When I grow up, I want to be a yoga teacher.”

 

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Foreword: A couple of years a go, I encountered a story that  tickled my thoughts and I have used it once as part of a sermon because it was relevant to the text of the message. I have not forgotten that story since. In the original article by Roger William Thomas, there was no mention of any Scripture support, however, I have appended here a vision of John the apostle concerning the Marriage Supper of the Lamb in the book of Revelation, where every redeemed person through the blood of Jesus Christ gathered for a feast prepared by God. The prospect of this day has remained to be my longing since the day the Holy Spirit regenerated me to repent and believe in God’s Son, Jesus Christ. And may every Christian be zealous always for this glorious day!

6 Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,

“Hallelujah!
For the Lord our God
the Almighty reigns.
7 Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
8 it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure”—

for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

9 And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”Revelations 19:6-9

 

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Keep Your Fork

by Roger William Thomas in “A Third Serving of Chicken Soup for the Soul”

There was a woman who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live. So as she was getting her things “in order”, she contacted her pastor and had him come to her house to discuss certain aspects of her final wishes. She told him which songs she wanted sung at the service, what scriptures she would like read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in. The woman also requested to be buried with her favorite Bible. Everything was in order and the pastor was preparing to leave when the woman suddenly remembered something very important to her. “There’s one more thing,” she said excitedly. “What’s that?” came the pastor’s reply. “This is very important,” the woman continued. “I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand.” 

The pastor stood looking at the woman, not knowing quite what to say. “That surprises you, doesn’t it?” the woman asked. “Well, to be honest, I’m puzzled by the request,” said the pastor. The woman explained. “In all my years of attending church socials and potluck dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, ‘Keep your fork’. It was my favorite part because I knew that something better was coming…like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. Something wonderful, and with substance! So, I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder ‘What’s with the fork?’ Then I want you to tell them: “Keep your fork….the best is yet to come”. The pastor’s eyes welled up with tears of joy as he hugged the woman goodbye. He knew this would be one of the last times he would see her before her death. But he also knew that the woman had a better grasp of heaven than he did. She KNEW that something better was coming.

At the funeral people were walking by the woman’s casket and they saw the pretty dress she was wearing and her favorite Bible and the fork placed in her right hand. Over and over, the pastor heard the question,” What’s with the fork?” And over and over he smiled. During his message, the pastor told the people of the conversation he had with the woman shortly before she died. He also told them about the fork and about what it symbolized to her. The pastor told the people how he could not stop thinking about the fork and told them that they probably would not be able to stop thinking about it either. He was right. So the next time you reach down for your fork, let it remind you oh so gently, that the best is yet to come.

 

 

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Foreword:  This is the 3rd installment on our series on “The Life of a Justified Sinner” from the Modern Reformation magazine Nov./Dec. Vol. 5 No. 6 1996 issue. For articles uploaded earlier, click the series title on the sidebar under ‘Categories’.

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By Michael S. Horton

 

Sanctify them by your truth. Your word is truth.” – John 17:17

Those words from our Lord’s high priestly prayer in John 17 frame our discussion of a most important subject in this issue. What do you think about when you come across that verb, “to sanctify” or the noun, “holy”? Especially in our day, images of a prude come to mind-a narrow-minded, somewhat bigoted kill-joy who is worried that someone somewhere is having a good time. But, of course, that caricature is not only superficial; it’s the opposite of the biblical portrait.

First and foremost, sanctification is God’s work. He takes us for himself, as he did at Mount Sinai after he had delivered his people from slavery. Like the vessels used in the temple, God has taken common, unclean, unholy people, and has set them apart to belong to him and to be used in his service. It is he who sets us apart, not we. Furthermore, we are not simply set apart from the world, but (more positively) for God. This is why Reformation theologians speak of two uses for the term “sanctification”: definitive and progressive.

We are already “holy and without blame before him,” by his choice, redemption, calling and justification (Eph. 1:4-13). “He has been made for us our righteousness, holiness, and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30). But because we are already holy in Christ, we are responsible to grow in the progressive sanctification that characterizes the Christian life. Although we can do nothing to give ourselves new life, once we are made anew in Christ by the Holy Spirit, we are able for the first time to love and serve God, however imperfectly, and to love and serve our neighbor. We are not active in our new birth, but acted upon, but this does not mean that after we are made alive that we are still passive toward God! Quite the contrary, we are actively seeking out the light that once caused us such revulsion. Although this sanctification “is never perfect in this life” (Westminster Shorter Catechism), it is always growing and increasing and no Christian-regardless of how his or her experience might contradict this fact-is justified apart from also being progressively shaped into the likeness of Christ.

How can we neglect such an important topic, especially when there is so much confusion over sanctification in our day? So we hope it will be a profitable read, and if so, please share it with a friend.


Dr. Michael Horton is the chairman of the Council of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, and is associate professor of historical theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in California . Dr. Horton is a graduate of Biola University (B.A.), Westminster Theological Seminary in California (M.A.R.) and Wycliffe Hall, Oxford (Ph.D.).

 

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by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (*)

We have seen that the devil is never quite so subtle, and never quite so successful, as when he succeeds in persuading people that he does not exist at all! That, as we have suggested, was his supreme masterpiece, and it is certainly a part of our problem at the present time. The tendency now is to say that we must not talk about ‘the devil’ but only about ‘evil’. We must not tell people to ‘renounce the works of the devil’, we must tell them to ‘resist evil’. In other words, the whole tendency today is to say that our fight is only against a principle of evil that is in ourselves and in others, and perhaps in the very environment into which we are born. But it is not considered to be ‘consistent with modern knowledge’ to believe still in a personal devil. We must not even make that principle of evil positive. What has been called ‘evil’, we are told, is simply the absence of good qualities rather than something positive in and of itself!

But the whole emphasis of the Apostle here is on the devil as a person. A principle cannot be subtle. It is only a person who can be subtle. ‘The wiles of the devil!’ The Apostle’s whole object is to tell us that we are not fighting merely against flesh and blood, merely against some principle, or absence of principle, which is within us as flesh and blood, as men and women. He goes out of his way to say that it is quite otherwise. In other words what he says is the exact opposite of what is being taught commonly at the present time.

But somebody may ask, ‘Does it matter whether you believe in a personal devil or not?’ The answer is that the Apostle most certainly assures us that we are fighting personalities and ‘spirits’ of evil, the world ‘rulers of this darkness’, not the ‘darkness’, but ‘the rulers’ of the darkness. His whole object is to get us to see that we must not be deluded in this respect, but realize that there are these spiritual entities, personalities, headed up by the devil himself, who are warring a terrible, subtle, vicious warfare against God and all His people. This is not a matter of opinion, it is not just a matter of accommodating our teaching to suit the modern mind and modern knowledge and understanding; if you do not believe in the person of the devil you are rejecting not only the teaching of the Apostle Paul but you are rejecting the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself!

The problem that arises here primarily is the problem of revelation. Was the Apostle Paul just a creature of his age, or was he given this revelation by the Lord Jesus Christ through the Spirit? Was our Lord Himself but a creature of His age? He obviously believed in a personal devil, and in these powers. He addressed demons as persons, saying ‘Come out’. You cannot say that to a principle! You cannot dismiss the devil, as it were, in that way; you are denying at the same time the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. You are saying that you are in a superior position to Him, that your knowledge is greater, that you have greater understanding. You are involved in the whole question of revelation and of authority.

This digression is important, for the business of preaching is to relate the teaching of the Scriptures to what is happening in our own day; and if this teaching in Ephesians is true there is nothing more dangerous than to substitute for a personal devil a principle of evil! The whole of our faith is ultimately involved in the matter. The trouble with the critics is that they really do not believe in the spiritual realm. Many of them are equally doubtful, as I have shown, of the Person of the Holy Spirit. He is just a principle, a power, an influence. There is, in fact, nowadays, a fundamental lack of belief in the spiritual realm and the reality of these spiritual personalities. Never was there a time when it was more necessary that we should consider carefully what the Apostle has to teach us, and what all parts of the Bible teach us, concerning ‘the wiles of the devil’.

Having looked at the wiles in general we must now become more particular in our approach. Here, again, I would sub-divide our treatment of this matter into two main sections. First, we must consider the devil’s activity in general, and then his activity in detail, for it is quite clear that there are certain general activities of the devil described in the Scriptures, and which are seen very clearly in the history of the Church throughout the centuries, and in the Church today. These in turn can be sub-divided into strategy and tactics. It is the same classification as is used in military warfare.

We start with these generalities, these matters of broad strategy. There have been certain movements initiated by the devil which have affected the life of the whole Church, and which in turn have affected the lives of individual believers in the Church. We are, indeed, involved in these very things at the present time. ‘To be forewarned is to be forearmed.’ Let us use again the analogy of international problems. The last War came upon this country suddenly and unexpectedly because people would not face the facts, because we were nearly all believers in, and supporters of appeasement, surrendering this and that, saying that war could not happen again, and that two World Wars do not occur within a quarter of a century! This country kept on refusing to face the plain facts of the international situation. Men wanted to be happy and to enjoy themselves, and dismissed the man who kept on warning us as a ‘warmonger’, a ‘difficult person’ with whom nobody could work, an ‘individualist’. Precisely the same, it seems to me, is happening in the realm of the spiritual today. People say, ‘Do not be negative; let us be positive; let us just preach the simple gospel’. But the Bible is full of negatives, full of warnings, ever showing us these terrible possibilities. If you find in yourself a dislike of the warnings of the Scripture and of this negative teaching, it is obvious that you have been duped by the wiles of the devil. You have not realized the situation in which you are placed.

The movements to which I am referring can be best classified and considered along the following lines. We start with Heresies within the Church, which have been caused and produced by the devil and his powers. I am not concerned to go into the detail of heresies; I am simply concerned to emphasize the fact of heresies, the fact of movements within the life of the Church that have so often led to terrible trouble and produced a state of chaos.

A heresy is ‘a denial of or a doubt concerning any defined, established Christian doctrine’. There is a difference between heresy and apostasy. Apostasy means ‘a departure from the Christian truth’. It may be a total renunciation or denial of it, or it may be a misrepresentation of it to such an extent that it becomes a denial of the whole truth. But a heresy is more limited in its scope. To be guilty of heresy, and to be a heretic, means that in the main you hold to the doctrines of the Christian faith, but that you tend to go wrong on some particular doctrine or aspect of the faith. The New Testament itself shows us clearly that this tendency to heresy had already begun even in the days of the early Church. Have you not noticed in the New Testament Epistles the frequent references to these things? There is scarcely one of them that does not include mention of some particular heresy that was creeping in, and tending to threaten the life of some particular church. It is seen in this Epistle to the Ephesians; it is still more plain, perhaps, in the Epistle to the Colossians where heretical tendencies were entering through philosophy and other agencies. It is found likewise in the Epistles to Timothy.

Incipient heresy can be detected from the very earliest days. There is an enemy who comes and sows tares. I am not applying that parable in detail, I am using it as an illustration to show the kind of thing we are considering. The enemy’s object, of course, is to disturb the life of the Church, to shake the confidence of Christian people, to spoil God’s work in Christ. The Epistles were in a sense written to counteract these evils. The threat was already there in many different forms, for before the New Testament closes, all the major heresies were beginning to show their heads in the Early Church.

But from the second century of the Christian era the evil becomes still more evident and obvious. The simple fact is that for several centuries the Christian Church was literally fighting for her very life. With the conversion, and the coming in, of those who were trained in Greek philosophy and teaching, all kinds of dangers immediately arose, and the danger became so great as to threaten the whole life of the Church. People who called themselves Christians, and moved in the realm of the Church, began to propagate teachings that were denials of Christian truth. The threat became so great that the leaders of the Churches held certain great Councils in order to define the Christian faith. Their object was to pinpoint heresies, and to protect the people from believing them. Such confusion had come in that people did not know what was right and what was wrong. So the leaders met together in these great Councils, and promulgated their famous Creeds, such as The Athanasian Creed, The Nicene Creed, and The Apostles’ Creed.

These Creeds were attempts on the part of the Church to define, and to lay down, what is true and what is not true. And in this way they were able to brand certain teachers as heretics, and to exclude them from the life of the Christian Church. The confusion that led to the drawing up of the Creeds was a great manifestation of the wiles of the devil. And today there are many people who recite these Creeds in their churches every Sunday, and then in conversation tell you that what you believe does not matter at all — ‘believe anything you like!’ But the Creeds are a permanent reminder to us of the wiles of the devil in this respect.

During the great period of the Protestant Reformation likewise the different sections of the Reformed Church drew up their Confessions of Faith, such as the Belgic Confession, the Augsburg Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, and in this country the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England. In the next century Protestant theologians meeting in Westminster Abbey in London in and after 1643, eventually produced ‘The Westminster Confession of Faith’. What was their purpose? I ask the question because we are living in an age when many say, ‘Of course, these things do not matter at all, they have no relevance to us’. I am trying to show their vast importance, their extreme relevance at this present time. Confessions were drawn up for the same reason as held good during the earlier centuries. Church leaders, led by the Holy Spirit, and enlightened by Him, saw very clearly that they must, as their first duty, lay down clearly and on paper what is true and what is not true. In part they had to define their faith over against Roman Catholicism. And not only so, but also over against certain heresies that were tending to rise even amongst themselves. So they drew up their great ‘Confessions’ — which in a sense are nothing but the Creeds once more — in order to give the people light and guidance and instruction with respect to what they should believe.

Is there someone who feels at this point, ‘Well, really, what has all this to do with me? I am an ordinary person, I am a member of the Church and life is very difficult. What has all this to say to me?’ Or there may be someone who is recovering after illness and who says ‘Well, I was hoping to have a word of comfort, something to strengthen me along the way, something to make me feel a little happier; what has all this about Creeds and Confessions and the wiles of the devil to do with me?’ If you feel like that, the truth is that the devil has defeated you. The Apostle Paul says, ‘Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners’ (I Corinthians 15:33). He means that wrong teaching is desperately dangerous. He is there dealing with the great question of the resurrection, he is concerned with that one doctrine, and he says, Make no mistake about this; it is not a matter of indifference as to whether you believe in the literal physical resurrection or not. ‘Ah but,’ you say, ‘I am a practical man of affairs, I am not interested in doctrine, I am not a theologian, I have no time for these things. All I want is something to help me to live my daily life.’ But according to the Apostle you cannot divorce these things, ‘Evil communications’ —wrong teaching, wrong thinking, wrong belief — ‘corrupt good manners’. It will affect the whole of your life.

One of the first things you are to learn in this Christian life and warfare is that, if you go wrong in your doctrine, you will go wrong in all aspects of your life. You will probably go wrong in your practice and behaviour; and you will certainly go wrong in your experience. Why is it that people are defeated by the things that happen to them? Why is it that some people are completely cast down if they are taken ill, or if someone who is dear to them is taken ill? They were wonderful Christians when all was going well; the sun was shining, the family was well, everything was perfect, and you would have thought that they were the best Christians in the country. But suddenly there is an illness and they seem to be shattered, they do not know what to do or where to turn, and they begin to doubt God. They say, ‘We were living the Christian life, and we were praying to God, and our lives had been committed to God; but look at what is happening. Why should this happen to us?’ They begin to doubt God and all His gracious dealings with them. Do such people need ‘a bit of comfort’? Do they need the church simply as a kind of soporific or tranquillizer? Do they only need something which will make them feel a little happier, and lift the burden a little while they are in the church?

Their real trouble is that they lack an understanding of the Christian faith. They have an utterly inadequate notion of what Christianity means. Their idea of Christianity was: ‘Believe in Christ and you will never have another trouble or problem; God will bless you, nothing will ever go wrong with you’; whereas the Scripture itself teaches that ‘through much tribulation we must enter into the kingdom of God’ (Acts 14:22), or as the Apostle expresses it elsewhere, ‘In nothing be terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God. For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake’ (Philippians 1:28-29). Our Lord says, ‘In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world’ (John 16:33). There is nothing which is so wrong, and so utterly false, as to fail to see the primary importance of true doctrine. Looking back over my experience as a pastor for some thirty-four years, I can testify without the slightest hesitation that the people I have found most frequently in trouble in their spiritual experience have been those who have lacked understanding. You cannot divorce these things. You will go wrong in the realms of practical living and experience if you have not a true understanding. If you drop off into some heresy, if you go wrong at some point, if you believe, for instance — I give one example in passing — ‘that healing is in the atonement’, that it is never God’s will that any of His children should be ill, that it is always God’s will that all His children should be healthy, and that no Christian should ever die from a disease . . .; if you believe that, and then find yourself, or someone who is dear to you, dying of some incurable disease, you will be miserable and unhappy. Probably you will be told by certain people, ‘There is something wrong with your faith, you are failing somewhere, you are not really trusting as you should be’, and you will be cast into the depth of despair and misery and unhappiness. You will be depressed in your spiritual life, and you will be looking here and there for comfort. Such a person’s condition is due to error or heresy concerning a primary central doctrine. He or she has insinuated something into the Christian faith that does not truly belong to it.

Nothing is more urgently relevant, whether we think of ourselves in particular or the Church in general, than that we should be aware of heresy. Take the New Testament, take the history of the Christian Church, or take individual Christian experience, and you will see that true doctrine is always urgently relevant. It is of supreme importance for the whole life of the Church. The Holy Spirit is the power in the Church, and the Holy Spirit will never honour anything except His own Word. It is the Holy Spirit who has given this Word. He is its Author. It is not of men! Nor is the Bible the product of ‘flesh and blood’. The Apostle Paul was not simply giving expression to contemporary teaching or his own thoughts. He says, ‘I received it by revelation’. It was given to him, given to him by the Lord, the risen Lord, through the Holy Spirit. So I am arguing that the Holy Spirit will honour nothing but His own Word. Therefore if we do not believe and accept His Word, or if in any way we deviate from it, we have no right to expect the blessing of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will honour truth, and will honour nothing else. Whatever else we may do, if we do not honour this truth He will not honour us.

This is surely one of the major problems in the Church at the present moment. Everyone is aware of the fact that the Church is lacking in power. The leaders are trying to seek the cause of this in order that they may discover how to remedy it; and apparently, they are all jumping to one conclusion, namely, that the cause of our lack of power is found in our divisions. So we must all come together. That is the argument. The divided Church is the cause of the trouble, and so the argument follows that if only we all come together we shall be blessed, we shall obtain the missing power, and tremendous things will happen. But how are we to come together? One believes this, another believes that. The main trouble, we are told, is that some put far too much emphasis on what one believes. Surely, they say, we ought to recognize that the one thing that matters is that there are great common enemies against us, for example, Communism, so we must all come together, all who call themselves Christian in any shape or form. We are all one; why divide about these things? We must all come and stand together as Christians, and then we shall have power.

We read about these things constantly in the newspapers. Some are rejoicing because Protestantism and Roman Catholicism are drawing nearer together. ‘What does the past matter?’ they say, ‘Let us have the right spirit, let us come together, all of us, and not be concerned about these particularities.’ I have but one comment to make about this matter, and I regret to have to make it. To me, all such talk is just a denial of the plain teaching of the New Testament, a denial of the Creeds and the Confessions and the Protestant Reformation! It is carnal thinking, in addition to being a denial of the truth. According to the teaching of the Bible, one thing only matters, and that is the truth. The Holy Spirit will honour nothing but the truth, His own truth. But that, He will honour.

To me the most marvellous thing of all is that, the moment you come to such a conclusion, you realize that in a sense nothing else matters. Numbers certainly do not matter. But today the prevailing argument is the one that exalts numbers. If only we all got together and formed a mammoth World Church! Some would even extend that idea further and bring in everyone who believes anyhow in God. They talk about the ‘insights’ of Mohammedanism and Hinduism and Confucianism, and dream of all who believe in God uniting against a godless, atheistic Communism. The present, they say, is no time to be dividing on these small, irrelevant differences of belief, the result of which is that we are dividing our forces and become ineffective. I can only comment: What a tragic fallacy! What a tragic failure to understand the basic elementary teaching we are given here in Ephesians about the wiles of the devil!

To explain this matter further I use an analogy which seems to me to be an apposite one at the present time. I am not concerned about its political aspect; but look at the condition of the Labour Party in this country at the present time. People say, ‘There is no Opposition today, there is no “Her Majesty’s Opposition”.’ This is due, they say, to the fact that the Party’s members are all divided into groups and factions. They argue with one another, and they will carry no weight until they settle their internal differences and all speak with one voice. Now, when you are talking about a political party, that is absolutely right. Political parties can do nothing unless they have a majority. Political parties function in terms of majority rule. However right what they believe may be, if they cannot command the votes they will not be able to form the Government; in fact, governmentally they will be paralysed. Obviously they must get together and try to achieve unity so that they will command votes and increase the possibility of forming a government.

But this argument is not only wrong, it is dangerously wrong, if you relate it to the realm of the Christian faith. The whole Bible testifies against it. The glories of Church history protest loudly against it. The Christian position is entirely different. Here, you do not begin by counting heads, you are not concerned primarily about numbers and masses. You do not think in that way. You are in an entirely different realm. Here, the one thing you think of primarily is your relationship to God! Over against the modern faith in numbers we must say with an American of the last century, William Lloyd Garrison, ‘One with God is a majority’. God has come in, the everlasting, the almighty, the eternal God! It is the power of God that matters. And the moment you realize that, the question of numbers, as regards men, is comparatively irrelevant and unimportant.

Nothing matters in the spiritual realm except truth, the truth given by the Holy Spirit, the truth that can be honoured by the Holy Spirit. Is there anything more glorious in the whole of the Old Testament than the way in which this great principle stands out? God often used individual men, or but two or three, against hordes and masses. Is there anything more exhilarating than the doctrine of the remnant? While the majority had gone wrong, the ones and the twos saw the truth. Take a man like Jeremiah. All the false prophets were against him. There is a man who had to stand alone. Poor Jeremiah — how he hated it and disliked it! He did not like being unpopular, he did not like standing on his own, and being ridiculed and laughed at, and spat upon, as it were; but he had the truth of God, and so he endured it all. He decided at times to say nothing, but the word was like fire in his bones, and he had to go on speaking it. Obloquy and abuse were heaped upon him, but it did not matter; he was God’s spokesman and God’s representative. Similarly Moses had to stand alone when he came down from the Mount where he had met God. To stand in isolation from one’s fellows, but with God, is the great doctrine of the Old Testament in many ways. And it is emphasized in the New Testament also.

Is it not amazing that people should forget the Scriptures and past history? Look at the Early Christian Church. From the standpoint of the modern argument the position was ridiculous. The Son of God goes back to heaven and leaves His cause in the hands of twelve men! Who are they? No one had ever heard of them. We are told about the authorities of Jerusalem that they noticed that they were ‘ignorant and unlettered men’. Incidentally, they added that they had been ‘with Jesus’. They did not see the significance of that fellowship. What they saw was ignorant and unlettered men, and only a handful of them at that! A mere handful of men in a great pagan world with all the Jews against them, and all the authorities! Everything on earth was against them.

I do not understand that mentality in the Christian Church today which says that we must all come together and sink our differences; and that what we believe does not matter. It is a denial of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, and of the story of the twelve ignorant, untutored and unlettered men who knew whom and what they believed, and who had the power of the Spirit upon them, and who ‘turned the world upside-down’. This is surely one of the central messages of the Bible. The great concern of the New Testament Epistles is not about the size of the Church, it is about the purity of the Church. The Apostles never said to the first Christians, ‘You are antagonizing people by emphasizing doctrine. Say more about the love of God and less about the wrath of God. They do not even like the Cross, and they cannot abide the story of the resurrection! Drop that talk about the wrath of God and Christ’s ethical teaching!’ Not so do the Apostles speak!

There is an exclusiveness in the New Testament that is quite amazing. The Apostle Paul writing to the Galatians says, ‘Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached, let him be accursed’ (Galatians 1:8). ‘My Gospel!’, says Paul writing to Timothy. He denounces other teachers. So many of these modern preachers are much nicer people than the Apostle Paul! They never say a word against anyone at all, they praise everybody, and they are praised by everybody. They are never ‘negative’! They never define what they believe and what they do not believe. They are said to be ‘full of love’. I am not misjudging them when I say that that is not the explanation. The explanation is that they do not ‘contend for the truth’, they are innocent concerning the ‘wiles of the devil’. It is not for us to decide what to leave out and what to drop for the sake of unity. My business is to expound this truth, to declare it — come what may! We must not be interested primarily in numbers, we must be interested in the truth of God. Why are many today denying the glory of the Protestant Reformation? Martin Luther — one man, standing against the whole Church — would be dismissed today as ‘just an individualist who never cooperates’. But he stood up and said in effect, ‘I am right, you are all wrong!’

Without realizing it the moderns are dismissing Luther as a fool, and as an arrogant fool, because he stood alone. But why did he stand alone? There is only one answer. He stood alone because he had, seen the truth of God, and had known and experienced the blessed liberation it brings. He had seen the light and had also been awakened to ‘the wiles of the devil’. When a man sees this truth he has no choice. He does not force himself to stand alone. He does not even want to do so; but he can do no other. As Luther said, ‘Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God!’ And God did help him. Of course He did! God will always honour His truth and the man who stands for it. Of course such a man will meet criticism and sarcasm and derision; much mud will be thrown upon him. But that does not matter. The man who continues to stand, and who is ready to die for the truth of God, will have ‘the peace of God that passeth all understanding’ in his heart and mind. He will say with the Apostle Paul, ‘I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me’. He will ‘know both how to be abased, and how to abound; how to be full, and how to be empty’. He will be able to hold on his way quietly, steadily, knowing that God will vindicate His own truth sooner or later. As an individual he may be spat upon and trampled upon, or even be put to a cruel death. But God’s truth ‘goes marching on!’ It will be vindicated, it will be honoured by the Spirit; and he knows that ultimately, beyond this temporary, passing world, he will hear the most glorious words a man can ever hear, ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant’. There is nothing beyond that — to have the Almighty God and our blessed Lord looking down upon us and in effect saying, ‘While you were in the midst of all the confusion, you preached the truth; you stood for it in spite of everything — Well done!’

Heresies always result from the wiles of the devil, the efforts of the principalities and powers. Are your eyes open to it? Do you realize the relevance of all this to you as a member of the Christian Church? Are you being carried away by this loose, general, sentimental talk? God forbid that any of us should ever say that it matters not what you believe as long as you are a Christian. May God open our eyes, and having given us to see the truth, then enable us ‘to be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might’. ‘Take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.’

 

(*) originally posted The Highway website

 

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