Watch

Several times when speaking of future events, Jesus told His disciples to “watch.” Most people I hear talk about this focus on us watching for His return. Typically, they try to match-up prophecy with events going on today and figure out how close we are to the end times. But that’s only one aspect of watching. There are three:

  1. Watching for Christ’s return
  2. Watching yourself
  3. Watching for wolves in the flock

Each aspect of watching is vital for us as followers of Jesus Christ. We need all three and we need to balance them. If we only focus on watching for Christ’s return, we can get so caught up in the future that we neglect what God wants us to do in the present. If we only watch ourselves, we can miss important things going in on the world and the church. And if we only watch for people who may cause problems, we can become suspicious, judgmental, and self-righteous.

Watch, Keep Alert, Pray

When Jesus’ disciples asked about the end times, the first thing He said was, “Be careful that no one leads you astray” (Mark 13:5, WEB). This is one of the main reasons we need to watch ourselves and the situation around us. The closer we get to Christ’s second coming, the harder it gets to stay on-track for His kingdom.

“Watch yourselves,” Christ says, and don’t be afraid of the challenges coming to try and shake your faith. Watch for the things He has warned us of before hand so you’re not deceived by “false Christs and false prophets.” Watch, because you are like servants waiting up for their master’s arrival (Mark 13:9-13, 21-23, 34-37).

But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Watch, keep alert, and pray; for you don’t know when the time is. (Mark. 13:32-33, WEB)

When we look at all the instructions to watch recorded in Mark 13, it reveals how all three watchings we talked about are tied together. You can’t do one without the others, at least not effectively. This passage also reinforces how vital watching is for followers of Christ as we draw ever closer to His return. Read more

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Spiritual Persecution

In the sermon I referenced in last week’s post, the speaker briefly touched on a point that I wanted to make the subject of further study. Since I also needed a topic for today’s post, I decided to “kill two birds with one stone,” as the saying goes. This first section is going to summarize relevant parts of that sermon, then I’ll move on to my own thoughts on the subject.

In 2 Timothy 3:12, Paul writes that “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” There are no exceptions. However, as this speaker pointed out, we can all name Christians we know of who went through life without having to face the kind of persecutions mention at the end of Hebrews 11. His conclusion, from bringing in Ephesians 6:12, is that this verse includes persecutions from a spiritual source.

Not Against Flesh and Blood

The Armor of God passage in Ephesians talks about arming ourselves for our struggle against sin as if for war. It also gives us important information about who our enemies are and what must be done to overcome them.

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. (Eph. 6:10-13)

In his commentary on this passage, Matthew Henry describes the kind of assault we can expect from this type of enemy, who he describes as “subtle,”an enemy who uses wiles and stratagems.”

They are spiritual enemies: Spiritual wickedness in high places, or wicked spirits, as some translate it. The devil is a spirit, a wicked spirit; and our danger is the greater from our enemies because they are unseen, and assault us ere we are aware of them. The devils are wicked spirits, and they chiefly annoy the saints with, and provoke them to, spiritual wickednesses, pride, envy, malice, etc. … They assault us in the things that belong to our souls, and labour to deface the heavenly image in our hearts; and therefore we have need to be upon our guard against them. We have need of faith in our Christian warfare, because we have spiritual enemies to grapple with, as well as of faith in our Christian work, because we have spiritual strength to fetch in. Thus you see your danger.  (Eph. 6:10-18, 1. [3])

Overcoming Through Christ

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Seeing our danger is one step toward overcoming the adversary. We can’t fight something if we don’t recognize that is is putting us in peril. As in other areas of our lives, our focus should be on spiritual, not physical things. It is hard to be on guard spiritually if we are too focused on physical safety. Are we more worried about keeping our hearts, minds, and spirits safe than we are about protecting our lives? Perhaps this is one reason we are told, “do not worry about your life” (Matt. 6:25). To much focus on the physical distracts us from the importance of our spiritual future, the condition of our spiritual lives, and the danger from our spiritual enemy.

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. (1 Pet. 5:8-9)

We must be on constant guard, steadfast in faith, and strong in the power of our Lord Jesus Christ. The line right before this warning about our adversary reminds us where our true strength come from: “humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Pet. 5:6-7). To win a fight against a spiritual enemy and endure spiritual persecutions, we need the aid of our Spiritual Savior. When we fully submit to God, we can say along with Paul, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).