Fear- Is It a Spirit?

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
II Timothy 2:7

As of late, I started incorporating some new habits that would lead to a healthier and productive lifestyle. Of course change is never easily accepted or implemented. The first few days were fine and then I started to get weak and desire to return back to my “Egypt.” Soon thereafter, I heard the scripture from II Timothy 2:7. Initially it was as a soft whisperer and then a ringing bell.

As if I were operating on auto pilot, I caught myself saying “I rebuke the spirit of ….” and then I stopped because I sensed I was in error. Back to the drawing board.

I pondered a bit and wondered, “Is fear a spirit?” Naturally my old school understanding rang with a resounding “YES” and in an effort to move on I returned back to auto pilot only to hit a road block. This apparent stumbling called me back to the scriptures and I reread the whole chapter and with my academic hat asked the fundamental question- is fear being used as a noun, verb, or adjective?

After comparing and contrasting other scriptures I concluded that the word fear was not used as a noun to identify a spirit; not as verb defining an action such as “fear the Lord” but more as an adjective, a descriptor of one’s spirit. Then I placed myself in Timothy’s shoes and thought if Paul were talking to me what would it sound like? Perhaps it would sound like this:

“Look, don’t be such a scaredy cat because God didn’t make you that way. He gave you all the tools you need: power, love, and a clear head.”

About 15 year ago, I and other church members were talking about Galatians 5:20-21 and Sister “Gladys” said these were spirits and she added fear was a spirit. Instead of searching the scriptures, I passively accepted someone’s interpretation which led me to unchecked error.

It is obvious with the words printed in black and white that these are deeds of the body and not spirits. The bible provides more details about demonic spirits in the New Testament than in the Old Testament, however, I was unable to locate any scripture that validated a spirit of fear exists.

My personal take away was more about my character than attributing blame to a spirit. The Lord was telling me to stop being such a scaredy cat because he has equipped me with all the resources I need to get the job done.

In the Cool of the Day

“And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day.”
Genesis 3:8

Have you ever found yourself in a bit of a pickle and after the shock of it all with the knowledge of irreversible consequences, expect God to come in with blazing, hot righteous anger to consume you? At some point in time we might imagine swift and immediate judgment but there are times he does not. Instead the Lord God comes when we least expect–in the cool of the day.

Adam and Eve crossed the line by ignoring God’s prohibition “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (1) At first glance it looks like all they did was eat the forbidden fruit but it is more complicated than that. They coveted the fruit they were told not to touch. They relied on an outside source instead of God’s word. They doubted God’s care for them. They didn’t believe the Word of the Lord and then they ate the fruit.

The Psalmist said, “his anger endureth but a moment; in his favor is life.” (2)

Adam and Eve had their hands caught in the proverbial cookie jar (3) and instead of running to God confessing their faults, they took it upon themselves to disguise their disobedience with fig leaves. Unlike theirs our fig leaf paraphernalia is a bit more sophisticated such as disguising sinful behaviors as legitimate. For example, living a lifestyle that supersedes current financial resources, giving a word of advice motivated out of jealousy and spite, or expressing concern about someone’s problems when it is nothing more than an opportunity to gossip.

How does God respond to all of this? By coming in the cool of the day. He walking in the garden at that specific time demonstrates a wonderful picture of grace. The grace or the loving kindness of God did not exclude them from judgment; rather, it enabled them to withstand the judgment by not experiencing immediate physical death and God provided appropriate coverings so they would not be double shamed by their sin.

Thank goodness the Lord does not deal with us after our sins nor reward us according to our iniquities. (5)

References
1. Genesis 2:17
2. Psalm 30:5
3. Genesis 3:1-7
4. Psalms 1:1
5. Psalms 103:10

True Prophets

A few years ago I saw a financial show on MSNBC about the making of counterfeit money in the United States. It was fascinating to learn how money was made, the materials and machinery used, and how lucrative a business of generating counterfeit bills had become. One thing that stuck out the most was an expert who said, “in order to identify a counterfeit bill you have to study the true.”

In the False Prophets and Teachers: The Fruit Test post, we focused on the behavior and beliefs of false prophets. The purpose of this post will be to focus on a few characteristics about true prophets.* True prophets are:

Called and ordained of God:
“Before you saw the light of day, I had holy plans for you: a prophet to the nations—that’s what I had in mind for you.” (Jeremiah 1:5)

Watchmen over the people of God:
“Son of man, I’ve made you a watchman for the family of Israel. Whenever you hear me say something, warn them for me.” (Ezekiel 3:17)

Model after the True Shepherd:
“I’m going after my sheep. I’ll rescue them from all the places they’ve been scattered to in the storms. I’ll bring them back, feed them, lead them into lush pastures, and make sure they get plenty of rest. I’ll go after the lost, collect the strays, doctor the injured, build up the weak ones and oversee the strong ones so they’re not exploited.” (Ezekiel 34:11-16)**

Preach Sound Doctrine that challenges and confronts:
“[Christ] is about to break into the open with his rule, so proclaim the Message with intensity; keep on your watch. Challenge, warn, and urge your people. Don’t ever quit. Just keep it simple.” (II Timothy 4:2)

Accountable to God for their Stewardship:
“Be on your toes—both for yourselves and your congregation of sheep. The Holy Spirit has put you in charge of these people—God’s people they are—to guard and protect them. God himself thought they were worth dying for.” (Acts 20:28)

Examples of Strong Character:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23,KJV)

Notes
*Unless noted all scriptures are taken from The Holy Bible called The Message by Eugene Peterson.
**Abbreviated version.

Spiritual Warfare: What’s the Real Deal?

About ten years ago the term spiritual warfare was the buzzword in Christianity. This included anything from rebuking a head ache from a “low level devil” to tactical warfare executed in the spiritual realm. Then the internet god (Google.com) exploded with experiential posts of exorcisms much like those in the movies and formulas on demonic expulsion. Books also were written by Christian authors who gleaned from the book of Ephesians, the organized army of Satan, and the prophet Daniel’s 21 day struggle to get answered prayer.

While the bible does not give spiritual weight and authority to these topics, it does provide us biblical cases of demonic existence. In fact, if you want to know how Jesus handled Satan, we are best served by looking at his example in the temptation in the Wilderness. (St. Matthew 4:1-11)

In terms of spiritual warfare, here is where we err.
1. Spiritual warfare is not a theological term. Anytime we take concepts and create a teaching, we are developing a doctrine that steers away from God.
2. We must walk in spiritual discernment in order to differentiate whether an event is spiritual (God), demonic, or human motivated.
3. Every adverse circumstance is not always demonic in origin. It could be what I like to call a “crop of crap.” In other words I am reaping what I have sown.

The concept of spiritual warfare has evolved from being a revelation of demonic forces to a stumbling block to deliverance. How can that be when Jesus has all power in heaven and earth? Friends, the way to God is simple:

“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)

Our approach to God is just as important as our receiving an answer, and if we really want to experience deliverance here is some biblical advice from Jesus himself.

~When you come before God, don’t turn that into a theatrical production either…Do you think God sits in a box seat? (St. Matthew 6:5)
~Don’t be flip with the sacred. Banter and silliness give no honor to God. Don’t reduce holy mysteries to slogans. In trying to be relevant, you’re only being cute and inviting sacrilege. (St. Matthew 7:6)
~Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. (St. Matthew 7:7)
~Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. (St. Matthew 7:13-14)

Note
*Scriptures are taken from The Holy Bible called The Message by Eugene Peterson.

False Prophets and Teachers: The Fruit Test

Many are easily impressed by personality than character because persona is effortless while building character takes work. We want to be around people who are exciting, full of charisma, and charm because in their presence we feel special and important. Conversely, those bent to “do the right thing” are branded as boring, naïve, and uneventful. This same perception can also be found in non-secular platforms.

I knew a preacher who was a well-known local and regional “celebrity” with long standing generational ties in Christian circles. People created more of a buzz about him based on his personality and position than on his sermons. Over time, we had a few exchanges and each time my unsettled feeling grew stronger.

During one Friday night service he was the preacher of the hour. The service was lukewarm but excitement arose when it was time for the preached word. One could sense the anticipation in the air and the people were becoming animated. As he preached, I would say about mid sermon I heard the Lord whisper the word “wolf.” Later I searched the scriptures* about wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Anyone familiar with these accounts knows Jesus was making a contrast between good fruit and bad fruit to illustrate his main point: behavior and belief. True prophets speak things which are beneficial and useful because they have good treasure in their heart (Luke 6:45) while false prophets cannot because at their core they are evil and wicked. False prophets can provide good information but it won’t be profitable for your Christian walk.
Understandably it is easy to dismiss character if good works are produced; however, by not acknowledging the hypocrisy we knowingly choose to listen to false prophets and be deceived. Here are a few questions you can use to determine the true from the false.

• Are they spiritual or carnal? (Galatians 5:19-26)
• Are the sermons dogmatic and divisive? Exclusively unique almost like a brand or niche?
• Does Jesus Christ sound more like a means to an end instead of the power of God?
• Does the Christian way seem diminished and blended with secular teachings?
• Do you feel flattered, unappreciated or exploited? Do you feel like all they want is your money?
• Do you feel spiritually stagnant? Do the teachings make sense? Can you apply them?
• Do you feel personally convicted of sinful behaviors or inconvenienced and annoyed but comfortable?

*St. Matthew 7:15-20 and St. Luke 6:43-45