Living Behind Enemy Lines – Situational Awareness

In simple terms, ‘situational awareness’ means nothing more than recognizing your circumstances; knowing what’s going on around you. For instance, a military commander must be aware of the total situation around him and his unit on the battlefield, as well as the bigger ‘strategic’ picture.  Total situation awareness is essential for successful military operations against any enemy, on any battlefield, for any warrior.  As Christians, and warriors in the Kingdom of God, we need to maintain complete situational awareness as inhabitants of planet earth (the battlefield environment), as well as our Commander’s intent (God’s strategic picture).

Sadly, we often lose focus of both our battlefield environment and our Commander’s intent, for a variety of reasons.  They range  from our tendency to focus almost exclusively on ‘personal’ growth and fulfillment, to applying human wisdom and worldly principles to the operation of the ‘postmodern’ church as a whole.  At both levels, the result is that the Lord of the harvest, the Holy Spirit, sits in the back of the bus as we arrogantly occupy the driver’s seat!

Dear readers and friends, it is past time to regain our ‘situational awareness’ and overcome our spiritual ‘nearsightedness.’  For that task, we need to ‘begin at the beginning’ of our lives as Christians and go from there.  In a familiar and often quoted verse of Scripture, the Apostle Paul tells us:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

What a promise – the greatest makeover of all time!  When we place saving faith in Christ, we step out of darkness and into the light, passing from death to life!  We are given a new nature in Christ as the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our being, giving us a desire to serve God and the power to live a life of obedience to Him. This is common knowledge, not rocket science.

Our ‘makeover’ is so complete that in another of his letters to the early church, Paul presents what is a mystery to limited human logic.

“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,” Ephesians 2:6 

This is a bit more difficult for human logic to grasp, but notice the past tense verbs in this verse. Paul is saying that as Christians, although we physically remain here on planet Earth, we have already been ‘raised up’ and ‘seated with Christ in the heavenly realms.’  Paul partially explains this mystery in more easily understood terms a bit later in the same chapter:

“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household. . .” Ephesians 2:19

A citizen is a legal resident of a nation, country or state.  Paul is saying that, at the moment of salvation, our ‘legal citizenship’ status changed!  One could say that if before we received Christ, we could have visited the ‘heavenly realm,’ we would have been ‘illegal aliens.’  We are not like the child born to an American military family overseas, who has dual-citizenship status until he or she is 18 years old and needs to make a decision.  We are NOT dual citizens.  Now listen to the Apostle Peter in one of his letters to the early church:

“Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.” 1 Peter 2:11 

Do you see the contrast here? Paul tells us that at one time we were ‘aliens and foreigners’ to God’s household, while Peter tells us that as Christians we are now ‘aliens and strangers’ in the world in which we live!

Why is the world in which we live ‘foreign territory,’ why are we ‘aliens and strangers in it,’ and how do we apply these truths?

First we need to understand that the world in which we live is not, in the strictest sense, the world that God created for the crown of his creation, human beings molded in His image.  In fact, Scripture tells us that the problem of sin in the world that was brought about by willful disobedience of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (the why), is much bigger than just our little piece of turf.  There is a clear description of the present condition of God’s creation in Romans 8:17-24, in which we find the following:

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” Romans 8:22

All of God’s creation is somehow tainted, polluted by sin, and in need of redemption.

Furthermore, our present world is not governed by God (although He is in complete control), but by a ‘temporary landlord’ ruling over the hearts of fallen man.

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.” Ephesians 2:1-2

“The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” 2 Corinthians 4:4

As believers, we are citizens of the household of God, with a new ‘landlord,’ servants of the Most High God, no longer bound by the god of this world.  And as members of God’s household, we are now foreigners and strangers to the world we live in and enemies of the ‘god of this world.’

I have come to the inescapable conclusion that we are living behind enemy lines!  Perhaps this has caused your thought process to pause for a moment of speculation.  Maybe  it came to a screeching halt because your first reaction was “No way!”  Then hear what the Apostle James had to say to believers in his day who were becoming a bit too ‘friendly’ with the fallen culture around them.

“You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” James 4:4

If you still aren’t convinced that we are living in enemy territory, I encourage you to read the entire chapter in James, followed by Jesus’ words to his followers in John, chapters 15 and 16, concerning what to expect from the world.

My friend, your opinion in this matter is between you and the Holy Spirit.  I merely encourage you to prayerfully consider the premise presented in the ramblings of an old soldier.  If you agree with the basic premise, you cannot escape the question: “Why are we still down here?”  Think about it.

 

What is Evangelism?

Many people use the word evangelism in different ways. However, what does the Bible say about this important word? When we look to Scripture, we run into a problem: there is no direct-equivalent word for our English word evangelism in the New Testament. Its origin is rooted in three Greek words:

euangelion—“gospel”—to describe what is said (Mark 1:14–15)

euangelistes—“evangelist”—to describe the person who is telling the gospel (Acts 21:8; Eph. 4:11)

euangelizo— “to proclaim the gospel”—to describe the activity of telling the gospel (Rom. 10:15).

Evangelism, then, is the English term for the act of communicating the gospel, an act conveyed in the New Testament by the verb euangelizo (‘to bring good news’).[i]

The verb evangelize is used over 50 times in the New Testament, including 25 by Luke and 21 by Paul. As stated above, its essential meaning is to announce or proclaim Good News. . The underlying picture is that of a herald or town crier who sounds the trumpet and conveys the news from the king. In that sense, the task of a herald isn’t to express his opinions or ideas, but to deliver his message in the humility of heart that must accompany such authority of speech.[ii]

After years of study concerning what it means to evangelize, this writer’s all-time favorite definition comes from Alistair Begg:

“To evangelize is to present Christ Jesus to sinful people in order that, through the power of the Holy Spirit, they may come to put their trust in God through Him.”[iii]

What a RICH definition:

1. It defines the mission of the evangelist – “to present Christ”.

While it doesn’t tell us exactly what to present about Christ, the Apostle Paul did in one of letters to the church at Corinth. He defined the gospel as being of first importance, and “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures…” (1 Cor 15:3). My friends, that is the core of the gospel message, the GOOD NEWS!

2. It defines the primary audience for the GOOD NEWS – “sinful people” who have yet to trust in Christ as the solution to the problem of sin.

3. It defines the power behind the proclamation of the GOOD NEWS – “the power of the Holy Spirit”. The Holy Spirit is the power behind both the proclamation of the Gospel, and the power behind a genuine affirmative response to the message of the Gospel.

4. It defines the goal of our evangelistic efforts – that “they (sinners) may come to put their trust in God through Him”. That sinners would realize their sinful condition and genuinely trust in Christ for forgiveness is the desired response to the message we proclaim. A ‘genuine’ response is one that pours forth from a God-opened heart (See Lydia in Acts 16), and one that is not the result of our ‘powers of persuasion’, whatever that might look like.

Simply put, our part in evangelism is to faithfully present Christ as the answer to problem of sin. It means that we need to talk about the BAD news (the problem of sin), followed by the GOOD NEWS!

When we look at what passes as presenting Christ in today’s evangelical environment, it seems clear that the bad news concerning sin, and the need for repentance, have all but been forgotten entirely! If you think that a mistaken notion, just listen/watch just about any sermon from any of today’s popular pulpits/stages while asking the question “Where’s Paul’s gospel?

When it comes to our personal efforts at sharing Christ, it’s always easier to talk about what receiving Christ means in terms of temporal and heavenly benefits than it is to share the bad news that at times drives people away. But remember Lydia. God opens hearts to hear the what we have to say, both the bad news and the good news.

What can be done to best prepare us for personal evangelism? For this old guy, there’s a simple two-part answer.

1. KNOW Paul’s gospel!

2. Ask God for 1) tears for the lost and 2) that He would open the hearts of those with whom we share His Son


[i] Jeremy Bouma, ‘What is Evangelism?’

[ii] Alistair Begg, Crossing the Barriers, Lesson 1

[iii] Ibid.

“Biblical Calvinism – An Introduction to the Doctrines of Grace” by Dr. Curt Daniel, Part 2

The Sovereignty of God

To begin, we must go back to eternity past to when God alone existed. “In the beginning, God”(Gen. 1:1). God has always existed and is self-existent (Rev. 1:8). God is therefore totally independent of everything else. He alone is totally free and self-sufficient. He does not need Man or anything in all Creation (Acts 17:25). He is perfect (Matt 5:48) and is therefore perfectly happy in Himself. God is so far above Man that we cannot even begin to comprehend Him of ourselves (Isa. 57:15). In sum, God is God (Ex.3:14).

Now we know that God created all things (Gen.1:1). But have you ever wondered why God created the universe? What moved Him to do that? Or even more, why does God do what He does? God himself tells us in His Word: : “Our God is in the Heavens. He does whatever He pleases” (Psa. 115:3; cf. Psa. 135:5-6; Job 23:13; Eph. 1:11; Dan.4:35). God does whatever He wants to. This is the mere pleasure of God (Matt. 11:26). God does as He pleases, always as He pleases, only as He pleases.

God willed to create a universe. But before He did the creating, He formed a “plan” (Jer. 49:20; 50:45). Scripture calls this His eternal “purpose” (Rom. 8:28, 9:11, Isa. 46:10-11; Eph. 3:11; Acts 4:28; 2 Tim. 1:9). It is a blueprint for everything, as it were (cf. Luke 14:28-30). It is not merely a wish or a command, but His decree that preprograms everything. He “works all things after the counsel of His own will” (Eph. 1:11; cf. Psa. 33:11). Thus, it is absolutely essential to see that God foreordained everything that will come to pass. He predestined everything that will ever happen, down to the smallest detail. “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things” (Rom. 11:36).

Moreover, God will never change His mind on this eternal plan. His purpose shall stand forever because God never changes (Jer. 4:28; 23:20; 30:24; 1 Sam. 15:29). Therefore, His purpose shall most certainly come to pass exactly as He planned it. Nothing can prevent it (Psa. 33:11; 148:3; Tit. 1:2; Prov. 19:21; Isa. 14:27; Heb. 6:17; Job 42:1). Neither Man nor demon nor angel can frustrate God’s eternal purpose from being accomplished, for all of their thoughts and actions are included in that purpose. God did not consult with us, not even by foreseeing what we would do or say. He consulted only with Himself within the Trinity (Eph. 1:11; Rom. 11:34; Isa. 40:13-14). With all this in view, then, we see that there is no such thing as chance, luck or accidents. There are no coincidences; everything has been predestined. Why, God has even determined in advance the flipping of a coin (Prov. 16:33; Jonah 1:7; Acts 1:24-26).

“The Lord God omnipotent reigns” (Rev. 19:6). God is King over everything that is, was or ever shall be (Psa. 93:1; 99:1; 103:19). He is an absolute monarch, yes, the most absolute monarch of all because He is King of Kings (Rev. 19:16). This is what we mean by the sovereignty of God. He has 100% total authority over everything. The universe is not a democracy; it is a kingdom ruled by God. And not only did He predestine all that happens in time, but in time He sovereignly guides all things through providence (Rom. 8:28; 11:36; Eph. 1:11). Lest somebody object that this does not seem right, God reminds us that the universe is His property and He can do whatever He wants to with it (Matt. 20:15). And He does just that– whatever He wants to.

The question then arises, “What is the final purpose for which God does all things?” Though God has not told us all the details of His secret plans (Deut. 29:29), He has granted us the privilege of knowing the bottom line. What is it? The final goal of the whole universe is the glory of God. “From Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to Whom be glory forever. Amen.” (Rom. 11:36). He foreordained and created all things to display His glory, and everything will give Him glory and praise at the end of time in eternity future (Prov. 16:4; Psa. 145:10; Phil. 2:11; Rev. 4:11). God is the First Cause and Last End of all things. There is neither chance nor fate. The universe has meaning, and so do we. We exist to give God glory.

This principle of the sovereignty of God must be clearly understood in order to grasp what Calvinism is all about.

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Part 1