We are at war! I’m not referring to the war against terrorism, but a great cosmic war that has been raging for millennia. The stakes are very high. The battle is for the life, the soul and the destiny of each human being. The enemy is very dangerous. Satan and his fallen angels are fighting to destroy every human being, by keeping us corrupted, alienated from HaMakor the Source of Life and Blessing. His aim is to prevent us from being reconciled to God. Conversely, the Lord of Hosts, with His mighty angels, is fighting for people to be restored to Himself and to share in His eternal life. He has made the way possible, by sending His Son to take upon Himself the punishment for all our sins.
Life in this world is dangerous, because the god of this world is seeking to destroy human beings; but in the Ahchareet HaYameem (the Last Days), times will get even more difficult. Persecution will increase, as will anti Semitism and contempt for true Christianity. The world will become more corrupt. We must not allow ourselves to become ensnared by a world which ultimately will be dominated by a godless, immoral, anti Christ, anti Israel, false religious/political/economic system. We need to be all the more prepared and alert as we get closer to the difficult and dangerous Last Days.
Rabbi Yeshua told at least five parables warning His followers that though His physical presence would leave the Earth, He will return one day. Since we don’t know exactly when, we should constantly be alert, and always be prepared. The Lord wants us to be doing the things He instructed us to do, so that no matter when He comes, or if we die and meet Him face to face, our earthly lives will have been successful, and we will enter into the eternal and heavenly phase of our existence.
To be ready to meet Him, we need to be aware of the deceitfulness of sin. Sin is seductive and deadly, and comes to us in three ways: through the world, the flesh and the Devil.
Commenting on the temptation of “the world,” Ray Stedman tells us that “the world” is not the physical world in which we live. There is nothing wrong with loving God’s creation. God has given us an astoundingly beautiful and intricate variety of trees, plants, flowers, animals, fish and birds, insects, mountains, magnificent lakes and rivers, seas and sky. There is nothing wrong with loving the created aspect of “the world.” Nor is “the world” the lost world of humanity, because God Himself “so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” “The world” that we must watch out for is a system that ignores God or suppresses the truth about God. Its value system is more concerned with what it considers success in this life than the true success of life in the World To Come. It’s more concerned about riches in this life than the true riches in the World To Come. It’s more concerned about status in the eyes of men than the approval of the Ultimate Judge. It’s more concerned about the pleasures of this life than the bliss of the World To Come. Don’t be seduced by this world system! It’s temporary. It won’t last! It is soon coming to an end! Don’t love what the world loves. Don’t think like the world thinks! If you do, you may be ensnared by the deceitfulness of sin, and miss the joys of the Everlasting Kingdom.
Since neither the world nor the things of the world can make you truly happy, don’t allow yourself to become caught up in the pleasures and worries of the world. You don’t need the most money, the fanciest clothes, the latest gadgetry, the nicest or newest car, the biggest home (not to mention the biggest mortgage that comes with it), and your credits cards charged to their limit. If you restrain your desires, you will have fewer worries. You won’t be ensnared by the deceitfulness of riches, and your life will become more fruitful in the things that matter. If you restrain your desires, you might even be happier!
The second area that we need to watch out for is the flesh. The things which temporarily satiate the body like drugs, sexual promiscuity or alcohol, can’t satisfy. The flesh can’t make you truly happy. Oh, you might obtain some satisfaction at first, but in order to maintain that pleasure you will need ever increasing amounts. When it comes to the pleasures of the flesh, the law of diminishing returns applies you need more and more to get less and less. Scripture warns us against yielding to the lusts of the flesh, especially sexual desires outside of marriage.
The third area to be on guard against is the Devil. He primarily operates in two arenas: through false religion, and through tempting us where we are most vulnerable. If there is an area of the flesh where we are weak, the Devil and his demonic accomplices will target and then tempt us in that area, so that we become increasingly corrupted and ineffective. Since the holy God hates sin, this will have the added effect of taking us farther away from God. The other way the Devil seeks to destroy us is by keeping us entangled in false religion. Since humanity is already fallen, lost, headed in the wrong direction, headed for Hell, all our Adversary has to do is maintain the status quo for each individual born into this world. The occult, which appeals to our pride with its promise of superior spiritual power, will do nicely. But it’s not just the occult that can destroy us. Any other religion, any other path, any other way, any philosophy other than the one true Faith based on the God of Israel, His Messiah, and the Holy Scriptures, will destroy us! So be of sober spirit and be on the alert! Your adversary, the Devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Our hearts are so easily deceived. We can so easily rationalize flirting with the things of the world, the lusts of the flesh, and with the seductions of the Devil, convincing ourselves that we are OK when we are not, that we are on the right track when we are not, that we are acceptable to God when we are not!
Be aware of what is happening in your soul. Monitor yourself like the engineers at a nuclear power plant, who are constantly monitoring the temperatures, the pressures and the flow rates for all the systems. If they see things getting out of line, they immediately take corrective action. We can monitor ourselves by asking ourselves the right questions, and being brutally honest with our answers: Am I spending too much time on myself and on my pleasures? Is there sin in my life from which I need to turn away? How can I resist it? Am I failing to give of my time, talents and resources to the Lord? What would Yeshua be doing if He were in my position? Am I wasting time on things of lesser value? Are there more important matters that I have been neglecting? How can I serve my fellow believers? Am I filled with the Spirit? Am I praying enough, devoting time to talk to God during the day, thanking Him, praising Him for who He is and what He is doing? Am I losing my first love, becoming lukewarm, and drifting away from the Living God?
Life is so short; it goes by so quickly. We have so little time to serve God in this world. There are such great rewards to be gained for making the right choices, for the sacrifices to deny self, deny sin, and serve God. And, conversely, there are such terrible consequences for ignoring the Creator, for not being willing or diligent to serve Him! Don’t let your opportunities slip away! We will have all eternity to relax and have fun. In the meantime, while there is so much work to be done, and so few who are willing to do it, won’t you make the decision to do the work, and wait until the World To Come for gratification? Since you will reap what you sow, won’t you sow into the things of God? With eternal riches to be gained, won’t you invest heavily in the Kingdom of Heaven?
Most people are unaware of these spiritual realities, the battle we are in right now and the dangerous times that are coming. They are wasting precious time on trivialities and missing wonderful opportunities. They are like the man who works for the train system and has only one job to do, but it is all important to turn on a switch at the right time. If he doesn’t, two trains will wind up on the same track and collide with devastating destruction; but the negligent employee is asleep at the switch. Don’t be like him! “You who are asleep, wake up! You who are in a trance, arise! Search your doings and repent; remember your Creator! You who forget constant truth in vanities of the hour, and indulge all year in trifles which can’t profit or save, look rightly into your souls! Amend your ways and your deeds. Let each one of you give up his evil course and purpose” (quote from Maimonides). “Get up sleeper! Arise from the dead, and Messiah will shine on you. Pay careful attention to how you conduct your life. Live wisely, not unwisely” (quote from Rabbi Paul).
Do you know that we are at war? Be alert, prepared, filled with God’s Spirit, zealous, praying, witnessing, sharing in Messiah’s sufferings, carrying His cross and fulfilling your God entrusted responsibilities! As Adolph Safir said, “by constant faith in Messiah Yeshua, through watchfulness, through self denial, through prayer and fasting, by constantly paying attention to our way according to His Word, and with God’s grace, may each one of us reach our goal.”