EMERGING FROM ONE BATTLE—ENGAGED IN ANOTHER
James spoke of what happens as a person allows sin in their life to go unchecked and unforsaken. “… sin, when it is finished, brings forth death.” (James 1:15) Sometimes a living death, T. S. Eliot called it “hollow men”—empty hearts, lives, and minds.
Professor David Wells, from another angle describes it in the bright glare of today’s setting. “When people are no longer compelled by God’s truth, they can be compelled by anything, the more so if it has the sheen of excitement or the lure of the novel or the illicit about it.” We all must admit there have been moments of temptation in all of our lives, when wrong was so appealing and on a razor’s edge of danger we stood. One step further and we would have been easy pickings for Satan. We were there, and we cannot forget how very close we came.
Such truth and honest disclosures should still take our breath away. Now, with time passing and having been delivered, it seems so shocking and jarring how near we were to a lifetime of shame. So many of us almost became living lies and counterfeit in our confession. Satan’s hot breath breathed down our neck as he made inroads to the control of us as we trembled in weakness.
All of the temptations Satan extends are, of course, well-present welcome billboards on the road of life. They have only one purpose, to get us to stop and never start again on the road to glory. A Puritan preacher said, “There is a spark of hell in every temptation.” It is a reality—we all face temptations to do wrong. It’s true, isn’t it? — Long ago in the Roman Empire a pagan philosopher said, “Things forbidden have a secret charm,” and you can believe an empty heart puts out a sign to Satan, “Come here! There is room for you!”
James’ words now even frighten us because it was always true, “Do you not know,” he asks, “that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4) So then, we almost made friends with the world and actually could have become “an enemy of God.” It’s frightening! We see it now, it had the potential to destroy the best part of our life as we know it today. We could have fallen, been stripped and robbed, and totally lost our bearings and ended in the dump of life! Paul never hid the fact that he was what he called “the chief of sinners.” He described it in Titus, “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.” (Titus 3:3, NIV) We see ourselves in this description.
So then, what is the takeaway lesson? It is surely this: all around us are people now facing the same danger that we once faced, fighting the same battle. People we love are about to throw it all away with mistaken ideas, with tragic misjudgment—temporarily blinded by the subtle work of Satan. In today’s setting, with all the attractions of sinful living in full bloom, the fight must be even harder for them than it was for us in our darkest chapter.
Paul talked about it—“For sin … deceived me, and … slew me.” (Romans 7:11), and he said, “… deceiving, and being deceived.” (II Timothy 3:13) Napoleon said he saw battles that went on for a day yet it was won or lost in a fifteen to thirty minute time period—a decisive moment told the tale of victory or defeat. Somebody you know needs you now as an intercessor and a warrior of prayer.
You and I must plead before God for the rare gift of spiritual discernment to be able to sense and recognize what is happening in others. Only then can we intercede with prophetic power. The person you pray for may at this moment have less seriousness, less depth, and even less interest in hearing the truth, so that prayer is the greatest weapon available. Some people are not ready to hear a warning—it falls on deaf ears. Believe me, prayer is the effective weapon.
Yet, here is where the water hits the wheel—does anyone else pray for them as you can? Really armed with what you sense and based on what you know about yourself! I speak of a friend tempted toward an affair, I am referring to a granddaughter ready for a moral compromise and maybe your own mate with a secret addiction to porn. And all this is just the start of the list I could offer up—there are so many other means and subtle tricks used by Satan in his ongoing warfare with God.
We are never any more like Christ than when we in prayer are committed to intercession. Intercession is a powerful word; it means we are asking for help for another person. Maybe they can’t pray or they will not pray for themselves. Now ask God for them. Spurgeon preached about that and he said, “Whether we like it or not, asking is the rule of the kingdom.” Ask! And ask again, for them.
There is spiritual combat and your powerful prayers of intercession may be the last line of defense—believe that! So then seriously, are you giving time to prayer and fighting the battle on your knees? And with great intensity? Satan makes a cobra appear to be confection and a vial of poison appear to be a cup of affection—he never stops!
Here is the greatest of challenges; spiritual stamina in intercession is so rare and the temptation to cease to fervently plead is so great. Do you recall the uplifted hands of Moses on the hilltop overlooking the battle Joshua fought? It had a direct influence. (read Exodus 17:8-13) So it was his hands stretched out in intercession that brought ultimate victory. Notice verse 12, “Moses’ hands were heavy” and that is a vivid picture of much of our intercession—let us “pray without ceasing.” Beware of fatigue caused by delays and discouragements. Isaiah is our example, “… I will not hold My peace … I will not rest, Until her righteousness goes forth as brightness …” (Isaiah 62:1)
And, to be honest, we may be called, much like Moses, to pray on and on; possibly week after week and month after month. Be assured all our praying has a kind of cumulative effect, but in time there will be a sudden, decisive demonstration of God’s power. Therefore, “Continue steadfastly in prayer …” (Colossians 4:2) Let us intercede that God will “subdue their enemies, And turn My hand against their adversaries.” (Psalm 81:14) Victory comes at last to the faithful intercessor, but it is a hard fought triumph.
Nothing can be more the work of Satan than to convince someone, “I can get away with it.” They have forgotten that the words are true, “… be sure your sin will find you out.” (Numbers 32:23) The words sound too old-fashioned, but God is centrally holy and He means what He says. There are no empty words from God! God has never adapted to our wicked cultural learnings, and sin still has its lethal effect on anyone’s life. You must not dismiss the prompting from God to pray for full, supernatural deliverance. They must be rescued.
Are you interceding with conquering faith praying for the beginnings of a “contrite and humble spirit” (read Isaiah 57:15) in this person? Pray for unblemished moral purity to remain in place. But plead in prayer! God is not to be trifled with. There is now real danger.
Here is a rare challenge—in our day many preachers do not speak plainly and with authority about God’s standard of holiness—people no longer have a wholesome fear of God or of sin against Him. We believe just a little will not hurt. And here is a common thought—let me get it out of my system. But that’s a lie because it’s how you get it in your system! Believe me, no person ever dreaded, despised, hated sin excessively. This is what we are blinded to—all acts of sin are an expression of contempt toward the face of God and required the blood of Jesus—including those sins that are so seemingly insignificant. Therefore, pray with passion the words of Jesus, “deliver us …”
Here is the way Moses saw God—“majestic in holiness, terrible in glorious deeds, doing wonders” (Exodus 15:11). Only the Spirit of God can bring that to the mind of your friend. So that immediate impressions are made, “Flee! Flee from it like a fiery judgment about to come on Sodom!” So then, remember, on their behalf—those who make their eyes a fountain to wash Christ’s feet in tears shall soon have His fountain of grace to bathe in!
What is it to be an intercessor in prayer? It is to be selfless, it is to be aware and sensible, it is to be one who pours out their soul to God on behalf of another. It is to make a request with the aid and assistance of the Holy Spirit through Christ to God. It is to ask for the things God has promised and plead the promises. James said, “the prayer offered in faith will heal the sick man, the Lord will restore him to health, and if he has committed sins they will be forgiven” (James 5:15, REB).
What would real repentance do for them? Vance Havner describes it, “Real repentance produces confession and forsaking of sin, reconciliation and restitution, separation from the world, submission to the Lordship of Christ and filling of the Holy Spirit.” Pray that will happen in the life of the person you pray for now!
The old Christians of a century ago used a phrase that is often too strong for us—but it should not be, “Plead the blood, plead the blood.” The soul-cleansing blood of the Lamb! Don’t stop asking for spiritual discernment that you might be equipped as an intercessor of mercy. And again, I quote James to confirm all that has been written on this subject; this is how he ends his epistle, these are the last two verses, “My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” (James 5:19-20, NIV)