Why the Truth is Important

by Trudy Adams

The Beginning of Lies

In the Bible, each of the persons in the trinity are strongly connected to truth. Moses said that God is ‘the God of truth and without iniquity’ (Deuteronomy 32:4). The Holy Spirit is described as ‘the Spirit of truth’ that will guide us ‘into all truth’ (John 16:13), and Jesus Christ told his disciples, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life’ (John 14:6). Truth is such an essential value to each of them that it is ascribed not just as something they do, but as who they are.

Because the trinity is truth, truth is therefore found in anything God says, or anything that is written in or spoken in accordance with his Word (the Bible). It thereby follows that a lie is the opposite – anything that is not spoken of God or that is not in accordance with his Word.

Satan is described as ‘a liar, and the father of it’ (John 8:44). It was he who first contrived and believed in a lie against God, who said ‘in [his] heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God’ (Isaiah 14:13). This thought was founded on the lie that Satan could be more powerful than God, and should be exalted and glorified above him. It clearly was not a thought that was in line with God’s will or purpose for the future, but rather in direct opposition to this. It therefore led Satan to being ‘brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit’ (Isaiah 14:15). Before this, Satan was an archangel in God’s kingdom – highly regarded and powerful – and he could have remained as such. Satan’s fall shows us the first problem with lies: they destroy relationships.

After being cast out of heaven, Satan, depicted as a serpent, used a lie to sever the relationship between Adam and Eve, and God:

‘And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?’ Genesis 3:1.

Eve replied, ‘God hath said, ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die’, to which the serpent said, ‘Ye shall not surely die … ye shall be as gods’ (vs 3-5). The serpent spoke directly against what God had said – he lied, and that lie led to the fall of man and to Adam and Eve being cast from the Garden of Eden. In fact, he didn’t just lie – he deceived Eve. Deception is the art of making a lie sound like a truth, or intentionally causing others to believe that a lie is the truth. This is something that the devil continued to do right throughout history – something he continues to do today.

There are many examples in the Bible of people who lied: Cain lied to God when he said he didn’t know where Abel was (Genesis 4:9); Abraham lied when he told the Egyptians that Sarah was his sister (Genesis 20:2); Jacob lied to Isaac when he pretended to be Esau in order to gain Isaac’s blessing (Genesis 27:19); Peter lied three times when he denied that he knew Jesus (Matthew 26:69-25), and Ananias did ‘lie to the Holy Ghost’ when he failed to offer up all that he had (Acts 5:3), leading to his and his wife’s deaths. In each of these examples (and in others in the Bible), the individuals invited a level of fear and torment into their lives as a result of the lies they told.

Why God Hates Lies

The Bible states that God hates lying and falsehoods:

‘Lying lips are abomination to the Lord: but they that deal truly are his delight.’ Proverbs 12:22.

Lying makes the list of God’s seven most hated things, twice:

‘These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: a proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, an heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, a false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.’ Proverbs 6:16-19 (emphasis added).

God is righteous (Psalm 145:17), good (Psalm 100:5) just (2 Thessalonians 1:6), love (1 John 1:8) and light (1 John 1:5). God loves when we stand in truth because, when we do so, we reflect his very image, preserve our relationships, and do not fall into sin:

‘Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? Who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart.’ Psalm 15:1-2.

It therefore makes sense that God hates lies, as they bring about the opposite of all he stands for. God wants us to have good relationships – with him, each other, and ourselves – and lies make that impossible. God wants us to do his will and live according to his Word – lies are in opposition to this, too. Satan uses lies and deception to draw us away from God, to disobey his will and sin, and to destroy our relationships:

‘The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.’ John 10:10.

Revelation’s account of Satan’s fall from heaven notes the breadth of his deception:

‘And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world.’ Revelation 12:9.

God knows that even the smallest deceptions can ultimately cause us pain or lead us into sin, so he therefore has no tolerance for lying and falsehoods. In fact, through Moses, he included it as one of the commandments:

‘Ye shall not steal, neither deal falsely, neither lie one to another.’ Leviticus 19:11.

Paul reinforced this law in the New Testament:

‘Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds.’ Colossians 3:9.

He noted that being truthful is an act of fellowship and love:

‘Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.’ Ephesians 4:25.

Deception is one of Satan’s most used weapons, which is why God gave us access to his son (the truth) and the Holy Spirit (the spirit of truth). That is, so that we can stand against him.

Because God is just, he has outlined strong consequences for liars and false witnesses – those who willingly cause unjust punishments to fall upon others. All liars will bear a punishment in the end, being placed in the same category as murderers:

‘But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone.’ Revelation 21:8 (emphasis added).

‘A false witness shall not be unpunished, and he that speaketh lies shall not escape … he that speaketh lies shall perish.’ Proverbs 19:5, 9.

A false witness gives a false account, often about themselves. That is, they may lie about something they have done, and falsely represent themselves and their actions to others. But many also falsely accuse and condemn others.

The term ‘false witness’ brings to mind images of a court room and someone falsely testifying against a defendant, perhaps causing them to be wrongly judged and unjustly punished. This is indeed a sin, but being a false witness actually encompasses much more than this. A false witness is anyone who causes people to believe an untruth about someone (or their situation). A gossiper who spreads untrue rumours about someone, leading others to think poorly of them, is causing that person to suffer unjustly, and doing as much wrong as falsely condemning an innocent person. A false witness damages a person’s character. They actively deceive people and cause them to believe something that isn’t true.

God, again through Moses, determined a law about witnesses to protect people from untrue allegations:

‘One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established.’ Deuteronomy 19:15.

We likewise should not believe anything that is reported to us about another person unless it is confirmed by two or three witnesses. Even then, we must remember that love ‘shall cover a multitude of sins’ (1 Peter 4:8). That is, we should not gossip about another’s sin or endeavour to make everyone aware of it:

‘A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter.’ Proverbs 11:13.

Sin must be dealt with and brought to light so its power can be broken, but only with the necessary and appropriate people involved. It is God’s role to pass judgement, not ours (Romans 2:1-5), for we are all sinners (Romans 3:23).

Why People Lie

Being honest isn’t always easy, otherwise everyone would do it all the time. There are many reasons why people lie instead. They may be jealous of someone and want to bring them down; they may be worried about losing their reputation; they may be trying to avoid a certain punishment; or they may derive some sort of pleasure from causing discord. But all of the reasons for lying are rooted in the same thing: fear.

People lie because they are afraid. Fear is Satan’s ultimate and most weapon, and all negative emotions (and most maladaptive behaviours), when fully explored, are imbedded in fear. People may lie because they are afraid of punishment, of others not liking them, or of not being accepted into the group (gossip, for example, is often used as a way of building relationships with others). A secure person who has a healthy belief in their own self-worth, built on God’s Word, generally does not have a desire to attack another person’s character, or falsely accuse/witness against them. If they have sinned, they are usually confident and secure enough to admit it and take responsibility for it, recognising that just because someone behaves badly doesn’t mean they are bad. They don’t feel the need to lie about what they have done.

People lie to protect their own reputation, even if it means destroying another’s, as they are afraid of being ‘found out’ as unworthy of love, relationships, rewards, or whatever else they may long for. They are afraid of being discovered for who they really are, and of thereby being rejected. Attacking another person, drawing attention to another’s faults, or making up stories that destroy another person’s character in the eyes of others, all takes attention away from the person’s own sins, faults, and sense of failure/worthlessness. Someone who perceives themselves in a lowly way is more susceptible to lying. When we are tempted to lie, even in the smallest way, we should always stop and ask ourselves, ‘What am I afraid of?’

We must always remember to ‘be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goes’ (Joshua 1:9). God has not given us a spirit of fear, but ‘of power, and of love, and of a sound mind’ (2 Timothy 1:7). Even if we have done the wrong thing, we must be courageous, own up to it, and face the consequences. We can take comfort in the fact that God is merciful (Luke 6:36), and refuse to add to our sin with lies. We must not let Satan’s use of fear stop us from doing what is right, or cause us to mistreat others.

Our perceived lack of worthiness is actually one of Satan’s greatest lies. He deceives us into thinking we have no worth, when God’s Word tells us that, through the redemption of our sins in Christ Jesus, we are righteous (made right; Romans 5:1), free of condemnation (Romans 8:1), ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ (Psalm 139: 14), and loved unconditionally (John 3:16). It is interesting that Satan deceives us into thinking the opposite is true, and that that then leads us to deceive and lie to others. Lies breed lies, and they can only be countered through knowing the truth:

‘And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’ John 8:32.

Lies bring torment – they sit against our conscience and fester fear of discovery and rejection. Speaking the truth can be hard, but it never brings torment. When we sin, Satan often whispers lies to us in order for us to keep it a secret, telling us that other people will be disgusted, think badly of us, or that we may lose our jobs or something else important to us. But Satan’s real purpose is to stop us from getting help, to stop us from being made free of the bondage of sin. When we bring sin into the light and confess it to God, we are set free of sin and ‘cleansed of all unrighteousness’ (1 John 1:9). Truth is closely connected to righteousness and peace (Psalm 85:10), and so we should pursue it.

Why Honesty Is Important in Relationships

Without honesty there is no foundation for a lasting or enjoyable relationship – whether that be with others, with God, or with ourselves. Lying to ourselves about something causes us to develop unhealthy beliefs about ourselves, and can stop us from growing into the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:14).

In our relationship with others, we must remember that people can’t read our minds. Being honest doesn’t just mean telling the truth about factual information, but also about the way we’re feeling. If we are hurt by something someone did, they may not even realise unless we are honest with them about how it affected us. If instead we hide the way we feel, we disempower the other person from doing something about the problem and refuse the relationship the opportunity to grow. They may also feel hurt if they realise we were upset with them but said nothing, or if they know we’re not being honest with them about the way we feel. All of this festers and damages our relationships, while being honest about our feelings can bring healing, solve a problem, renew hope, and foster good communication.

Another reason the truth is important is because when people don’t know the truth, they will try and guess it. That is, not being honest or open about something causes people to try and figure out what we’re not saying, or what the truth actually is. This breeds gossip, which can then foster more lies and deception that other people may mistake as truth. Finally, this causes many more people to feel hurt and betrayed when the truth is finally revealed, all of which could be avoided if honesty was applied in the first instance.

People are usually more hurt by the concealment of the truth than by the truth itself. As mentioned, some people lie because they’re afraid the truth will get them in trouble or cause another pain, but more often than not, while the truth may be painful, it is still usually less painful when delivered honestly. Holding back or lying to cover it only causes people to feel betrayed as well as hurt.

Determining to be honest doesn’t give us the right to harshly confront others with blunt truths, even if that truth is in regards to something about their behaviour that is hurting us or that requires change. Paul admonishes us to ‘speak the truth in love’ (Ephesians 4:15). This doesn’t mean that we soften the truth so much that it loses it meaning, or that we don’t address unacceptable behaviour. Paul is simple encouraging us to look at our intent when we speak the truth – we are to confront poor behaviour from a place of wanting to help that person, rather than from a place of wanting to hurt, embarrass, or shame them.

Honesty is important because lies rarely come on their own: one will usually be needed to cover another, until it spirals out of control. This becomes complicated for the one who started it and confusing for the one receiving it. More than that, living a lie is hard work. It means not being authentic to our true selves or enjoying relationships, and that is not comfortable for anyone. As mentioned, lies bring torment. While being honest about difficult situations may be uncomfortable at first, if it can be worked through, the relationship is strengthened, trust is built, and love is deepened.

This applies to our relationship with God, too. Truth deepens our relationship with him, and is how we are to worship him:

‘The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth.’ Psalms 145:18.

‘They that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.’ John 4:24.

Our sin, however, separates us from him:

‘But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.’ Isaiah 59:2.

When we are open and honest about our sins, it allows for our relationship with God to be repaired, which is what he hopes for:

‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’ 1 John 1:9.

‘As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live.’ Ezekiel 33:11.

John says that if we say we have no sin, we are actually deceiving ourselves (1 John 1:9), i.e. believing a lie:

‘If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth … He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.’ 1 John 1:6; 2:4.

Lies we believe and/or tell damage our relationship with God, and that is one of Satan’s ultimate goals. He hopes that, through his lies, we will come to worship him instead. He is subtle, so he may lead us to do so without us even being conscious of it. He deceives quietly and slowly because he doesn’t want us to recognise his lies for what they are. He knows that, if we were to do so, we would immediately gain power over him.

Our Commitment to the Truth

As followers of Christ, we must therefore have a strong commitment to the truth. This means that we must not just abstain from telling lies, but from believing in them, too. Jeremiah warned against placing our ‘trust in lying words, that cannot profit’ (7:8), while Paul beseeched us to:

‘Mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which we have learned, and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.’ Romans 16:17-18.

We must be careful about what we listen to:

‘Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.’ Colossians 2:8.

We must also be careful and absolute about who we let into our company. As David said:

‘He that worketh deceit shall not dwell within my house: he that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight.’ Psalm 101:7.

Our commitment to truth also means we must guard ourselves against uttering deceitful words:

‘My lips shall not speak wickedness, nor my tongue utter deceit.’ Job 27:4.

We should not be as the wicked:

‘A wicked doer giveth heed to false lips; and a liar giveth ear to a naughty tongue.’ Proverbs 17:4.

When others lie against us, we can ask God to help us:

‘Deliver my soul, O Lord, from lying lips, and from a deceitful tongue.’ Psalm 120:2.

When we bear false accusations because we stand up for God, we can be certain he will bring us a blessing from it (and enact vengeance on our behalf (Romans 12:18)):

‘Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.’ Matthew 5:11.

John tells us that when we love others, we must do so ‘in deed and in truth’ (1 John 3:18), and that it is truth that sanctifies us (John 17:17). For John, there was ‘no greater joy’ than hearing that Christ’s followers were ‘walking in truth’ (3 John 1:4). Paul wrote that love ‘rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth’ (1 Corinthians 13:6). It was he who also encouraged us to think on ‘whatsoever things are true’ (Philippians 4:8), showing us how important it is that we don’t even entertain a lie in our mind. Solomon supported this idea when he wrote that ‘the thoughts of the righteous are right: but the counsels of the wicked are deceit’ (Proverbs 12:5). David actively chose ‘the way of truth’ (Psalm 119:30), and so should we. Truth is an important part of the armour of God (Ephesians 6:14) that protects us from Satan’s attempt to deceive us.

The Bible warns us that deceit will become more and more prevalent in the end days:

‘For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.’ 2 John 1:7.

‘For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many … For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.’ Matthew 24:5, 24.

We must therefore be vigilant (1 Peter 5:8), and ‘believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world’ (1 John 4:1). Wearing ‘the belt of truth’ ensures we are protected from Satan’s lies. As discussed in The Value of the Armour of God, ‘truth is power that gives us victory over the devil, and truth is found in God’s Word. When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, Jesus rebutted and overcame him by quoting the Word of God (Matthew 4). Satan tried to deceive him; Jesus won by speaking the truth’.

As Paul described, Satan will do his best to deceive us right until the end, so that he might rise above God:

‘Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.’ 2 Thessalonians 2:4.

Paul goes on to remind us that Jesus Christ will, of course, return, and then ‘shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming’ (vs 8). For those who believed in or told lies, there remains a single outcome: they will all ‘be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness’ (vs 12).

Until then, those who have indulged in lying can be redeemed, just like all other sinners:

‘He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence: and precious shall their blood be in his sight.’ Psalms 72:14.

Those who are lied against can rest in the knowledge that ‘the lip of truth shall be established for ever: but a lying tongue is but for a moment’ (Proverbs 12:19). God always takes care of us, just as he did Joseph. Joseph was unjustly put in gaol for several years because of a lie Potiphar’s wife told. However, God gave him favour and promoted him in prison and beyond, until he was second in charge in all the land. When he later saw his brothers, who had caused him to be in Egypt and in Potiphar’s house in the first place, he was able to say, ‘ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good’ (Genesis 50:20). Even if others tell lies about us, God will use it for good and bring about justice. In the end, we can praise God as David did:

‘The mouth of the wicked and the mouth of the deceitful are opened against me: they have spoken against me with a lying tongue … [But] I will greatly praise the Lord with my mouth; yea, I will praise him among the multitude. For he shall stand at the right hand of the poor, to save him from those that condemn his soul.’ Psalm 109:1, 30-31.

As Christian Israelites, seeking the salvation of the body in the end times, we have ‘hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began’ (Titus 1:2). Numbers 23:19 says, ‘God is not a man, that he should lie’. It is our role to become more and more like God in all things. That is, to become people who ‘cannot lie’ and who are committed to speaking the truth at all times:

‘Remove me from the way of lying … The proud have forged a lie against me: but I will keep thy precepts with my whole heart … I hate and abhor lying: but thy law do I love.’ Psalm 119:29, 69, 163.

Trusting in God

by Trudy Adams
The Ensign

Understanding Trust

The Bible repeatedly exhorts us to trust in the Lord, but translating that into something that is meaningful for us on a practical, every-day level can sometimes be challenging. There are many things that can worry us – an injustice committed against us, or our families, finances, job, past, future, or health, to name but a few. Even so, the Bible clearly says to be ‘anxious for nothing’ (Philippians 4:6).

Trust is an unshakeable belief in the reliability of something, to the point where we have no fear of it failing us. Trust cannot cohabitate with anxiety or worry. As we will see, God is the only one in our lives who is totally reliable and worthy of such unshakeable trust. However, often we say we trust in him but continue to worry about our problem, which is a contradiction. Trust can only exist when we truly give up our fear-based need to control a problem or situation, and allow God to take control of it instead.

Why Trust God?

‘They that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.’ Psalm 9:10.

Most things in our lives shift and change – people come and go, our health changes, or we may have a particular job one day but not the next – but God and his son, Jesus Christ, are ‘the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever’ (Hebrews 13:8). His word is also unchanging and therefore ever-relevant to us: ‘the grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever’ (Isaiah 40:8). While people’s moods, values, and intentions are subject to change, we can always rely on God, ‘with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning’ (James 1:17). Others may let us down, but God will ‘never leave thee, nor forsake thee’ (Hebrews 13:5).

Moreover, God wants to help us with our problems:

‘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.

As Peter said, we should cast all our care upon God because ‘he careth for you’ (1 Peter 5:7). God never runs out of compassion or faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-23), nor condemns us for our mistakes or problems (Romans 8:1). He doesn’t faint or get weary with us (Isaiah 40:28).

In Psalm 103, David tells us more about who God is, writing that he forgives all our iniquities, heals all our diseases, redeems our life from destruction, ensures our needs are taken care of, executes judgment to all who are oppressed, is merciful and slow to anger, plenteous in mercy, and has ‘not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities’ (vs 3-10). David goes on to remind us that ‘the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him’ (vs 17). He loves justice and, in his time, will always ensure we receive justice when we have been wronged (Isaiah 61:8). Unlike people, God has an eternal amount of mercy and compassion for whatever may be concerning us.

David also wrote about God as our protector:

‘The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.’ Psalm 18:2.

Each of these images represent unwavering protection and safety from an enemy – or whatever might be troubling us. God represents himself as a fortress, buckler (shield), or high tower because he is as strong and as unmoving as they are. If they do come under enemy attack, they take the brunt of any harm whilst protecting inhabitants behind or inside them, just as God protects us. As is written in Deuteronomy 31:8, in times of trouble, God ‘will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee.’

We can also rely on God because he has all wisdom and knowledge:

‘O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord?’ Romans 11:33-34.

He has the whole picture of what is happening in our lives as he exists simultaneously in the past, present and future (John 8:58). While we only ‘know in part’ (1Corinthinas 13:9), there is no end to God’s knowledge or ‘no searching of his understanding’ (Isaiah 40:28), as it is infinite (Psalm 147:5). As God said to Isaiah:

‘My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are you ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.’ Isaiah 55:8-9.

His thoughts towards us are also incredibly detailed and caring:

‘O lord, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether … How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand.’ Psalm 139:1-4, 17-18.

If we are to trust anyone, surely it is better to trust the one who knows us better than we know ourselves, is infinitely wise, reliable and unchanging, has our best interests in mind, and wants nothing more than to help us.

God Promises to Help Us

Because of who he is and his love for us, God continually promises to never leave us to deal with life’s difficulties alone, such as in Isaiah 43:2:

‘When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.’ Isaiah 43:2.

Psalm 91 is also a well-known passage about God’s promise to help and deliver us from traps, pestilences and plagues (sickness), terrors, attacks, war, fear, and evil in general, further promising to give his angels charge over us. It concludes:

‘He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him.’ Psalm 91:15.

God says in Isaiah that he will strengthen and help us (Isaiah 41:10). David describes God as our helper, too (Psalm 54:4). It was also David who wrote that, ‘many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all’ – not some, but ‘all’ (Psalm 34:19). Psalm 121 says:

‘I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth. He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.’ vs 1-3.

God doesn’t take time off when looking after us – he is always there and always working to bring about a good outcome and future for us (Romans 8:28). The only condition that must be fulfilled in order to truly receive his help and blessings is that we trust in him (Psalm 28:7).

The Blessings of Trusting God

Fully trusting God means allowing him to take control of a situation to the point where we no longer worry about or try to figure it out ourselves. It means focusing on God and his kingdom (through prayer, singing, fellowship, reading the Word etc) rather than on the problem itself (Matthew 6:33). It also means casting down thoughts or ideas that rise up against or shake the belief that God can be trusted, including thoughts where we try to reason and/or control the problem ourselves (2 Corinthians 10:5). Because we are used to taking care of things ourselves, trusting God can feel irresponsible and unnatural, but it is essential if we are to enter into peace and receive the blessings God has ordained for us. As David wrote, ‘blessed are all they that put their trust in him’ (Psalm 2:12).

In fact, in entering into this care-free trust – as children trusting a good father (Matthew 19:3) – we open ourselves up to many blessings. Deuteronomy 28 provides a long list of blessings we can receive when we ‘hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God’, including long life, safety, and prosperity. This is an idea Jeremiah reiterates when he says:

‘Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.’ Jeremiah 17:7-8.

Trusting God preserves us (Psalm 16:1) and can lead to salvation from persecution and trials (Psalm 7:1). It gives God the opportunity to shower us with goodness (Psalm 31:19). God also shields those who trust in him from attacks (Psalm 18:30).

David wrote that those who trust in God have reason to rejoice: ‘let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them’ (Psalm 5:11). Trusting God means no longer living in confusion (Psalm 71:1) or fear (Isaiah 12:2), and that God will direct our path so that our lives unfold in the best way possible (Proverbs 3:6). It also means we are blessed with ‘perfect peace’, because our minds aren’t troubled, trying to figure out a solution to our problems (Isaiah 26:3).

However, we often forfeit these blessings when we try to take care of matters ourselves or hope others will take care of them for us, thereby placing mankind above God.

Trusting Mankind

Before writing that we are blessed when we trust in God, Jeremiah issued a strong warning to those who place their trust in mankind instead, i.e. who seek and believe that mankind (whether that be themselves or another) will deliver them from their problems or meet their needs:

‘Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord. For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited.’ Jeremiah 17:5-6.

While the blessing of trusting God promised prosperity and good health, the curse of trusting mankind brings only dearth and desolation.

We trust ourselves or another when we dwell on and try to solve our own problems or meet our needs without God. In so doing, we are actually making mankind as gods – believing (perhaps inadvertently) that mankind alone has the wisdom and power to resolve an issue. But the first commandment is ‘thou shalt have no other gods before me’ (Exodus 20:3). To trust in mankind ahead of God is a form of idolatry – of making something else of greater importance than God. We are clearly instructed not to worship and serve ‘the creature more than the Creator’ (Romans 1:25). Doing so is a breach of the first commandment and, therefore, brings about a curse. God will not bring life to ideas and decisions that honour mankind above him.

Trusting ourselves or others also brings about pain and disappointment, as mankind inevitably lets us down. The Bible tells us that mankind is fleeting, but God is not:

‘As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more. But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children.’ Psalm 103:15-17.

As David said, ‘it is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes’ (Psalm 118:8-9). Or, as Psalm 146 says:

‘Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help. His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.’vs 3-4.

While it’s perfectly okay to seek and receive support from those around us and to discuss our issues with them, we need to keep this in balance by ensuring we’re not looking to mankind to do what only God can do, that is, that we’re not trusting mankind more than God. We can hear what others have to say and receive their help, but we are to look to God alone for our salvation and care. It’s also important to pick our confidants wisely – God can certainly work through our godly friends to impart the wisdom and guidance we may need, but urges us not to give consideration to the advice of the ungodly:

‘Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly … But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.’ Psalm 1:1-4.

Furthermore, we should never rely on our riches more than we rely on God; we should trust God to take care of our financial needs more than we trust our own ability to gather riches:

‘Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy.’ 1 Timothy 6:17.

As the proverb says, ‘the fear of man bringeth a snare: but whosoever putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe’ (Proverbs 29:25).

Anxiety-Free Living

When we truly trust in God, our mind is at peace. It follows then that, when we don’t trust in God, we feel worried and/or anxious. Fear is a symptom of a decision to take matters into our own hands, or to take responsibility for something that’s outside of our control or influence of change. If we allow it to grow, the worry and anxiety can reach a level where it impacts our emotional and physical wellbeing. We need to be sensitive to when we are feeling worried, and consciously make the decision to ‘cast our care’ – to shift the worry back to trust in God. We worry when we think we won’t get what we want, when we want it. But we need to trust in God’s timing and his plan more than our own (Psalm 31:15):

‘For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.’ 2 Timothy 1:7.

In fact, it is when we are fearful that we should trust God more than ever:

‘What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee. In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.’ Psalm 56:3-4.

God commands us many times throughout the Bible to not give into fear, such as in Joshua 1:9:

‘Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.’

Paul encouraged us to take our problems to God rather than worrying about them:

‘Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.’ Philippians 4:6-7.

Doing so allows us to keep our mind in the perfect peace Isaiah spoke about (Isaiah 26:3) and for God to have the control he needs to be able to do his work for us on our behalf – control he is not willing to share with us. There is a part we need to play, but we need to always ensure we are not trying to do God’s part.

The Part We Play

Although they are often subtle, there are indications in the Word about what part we can and should play when waiting on or trusting God. Yet, our part usually has nothing to do with actually solving the problem – something that can be challenging to our human nature – but bringing the problem to God.

Paul’s instructions above tell us that our part is to actively take our concerns to God in prayer and with thanksgiving. The first two verses of Psalm 91 also tell us we have actions to take if we are to receive God’s generous protection, i.e., we are to dwell in his presence, and believe and trust in him. Psalm 37 assigns us many actions for us to take in order to receive God’s blessings:

Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity … Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass … Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him.’ Vs 1, 3-5, 7 (emphasis added).

We need to seek God to direct our paths constantly. As is later written in this same psalm:

‘The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.’ Psalm 37:23-24.

Because we can never be as wise and knowledgeable as God, we shouldn’t rely on ourselves or others to find the way forward or to know what to do. We should, however:

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil. It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones.’ Proverbs 3:5-8 (emphasis added).

When we have a worry or a problem, we need to actively seek God:

‘Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.’ Jeremiah 29:12-13 (emphasis added).

We need only ask God for help, and then trust him to bring it to pass:

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.’ Matthew 7:7 (emphasis added).

‘Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee.’ Psalm 143:8.

But we must ask in full belief that God will answer, ‘in faith, nothing wavering’ (James 1:6). Without faith, it is impossible to please him (Hebrews 11:6). Of course, the answer we receive from God may not be the one we were hoping or asking for, but even in such times we must continue to trust God – that he knows the situation better than us and is working things out with our ultimate best interests at heart (Romans 8:28), even if we can’t see it right now. God and his son are truth (John 14:6), love (1 John 4:8), light (1 John 1:5), and peace (Romans 15:33) – those are the elements they will bring into our life, if we trust and obey.

Trust and Obedience

‘But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only.’ James 1:22.

If we are going to truly demonstrate our trust in God, we must not only seek his direction, but obey it when he gives it. A Bible search on what it means to love God invariably returns the same answer – to keep his commandments and do as he instructs:

‘If ye love me, keep my commandments … He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.’ John 14:15, 21.

Keeping his commandments is a loving act that comes with the blessing of making our way prosperous and giving us ‘good success’ (Joshua 1:8), or, as is written in Deuteronomy 5:33:

‘Ye shall walk in all the ways which the Lord your God hath commanded you, that ye may live, and that it may be well with you, and that ye may prolong your days in the land which ye shall possess.’

Christian Israelites believe that the ‘land’, while literal, can sometimes also be symbolic of our physical body (it also being made of earth) and that following God’s commandments can lead to us ‘possessing the promised land’ (Leviticus 20:24), or receiving the salvation of the body in the end days:

‘But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die.’ Ezekiel 18:21.

In our lifetime, we will face many battles – with ourselves and other people – but we must remember that the battle belongs to the Lord and that he will fight for us. When Jehoshaphat faced a great multitude of war-seeking Ammonites, the first thing he did was seek God’s advice and favour. A priest then told Jehoshaphat:

‘Thus saith the Lord unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s … Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the Lord with you, O Judah and Jerusalem: fear not, nor be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them: for the Lord will be with you.’ 2 Chronicles 20:15, 17.

Jehoshaphat and his men did as they were instructed and were victorious, just as we will be victorious when we seek God, trust in him and his directions, and obey.

Even if we have been treated unjustly, we need to remember not to avenge ourselves but that ‘vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord’ (Romans 12:19). It is God who will ‘cast out thine enemy’ (Zephaniah 3:15). As is written in Exodus:

‘The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.’ Exodus 14:14.

In other words, there are times when we need to keep still and quiet and let God do the work. Or, to put it another way, we should:

‘Take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.’ Ephesians 6:13.

Overall, trusting in God allows him to do the work that is too big, complex, or worrying for us. While we do our part in seeking and trusting him, and residing in peace, he gladly takes care of things on our behalf and in his infinite wisdom. We can trust that he will resolve our problems in the best possible way, and often in a way we could have never foreseen or contrived ourselves. God knows when we trust him (Nahum 1:7), and is eager to bless us when we do:

‘O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.’ Psalm 34:8.

When we are feeling anxious, trusting in God is the first and most important step we can take to return to peace and confidence.

Comfort in Grief

by Trudy Adams

The Old War

The opposition between life and death is one of the main themes of the Bible. God describes himself as the ‘God of the living’ (Mark 12:27), while Satan or the devil is described as having the ‘power of death’ (Hebrews 2:14). God initially designed us to be healthy, happy and immortal, but after Adam and Eve disobeyed him, sin and evil came into the world and humanity became subject to death (Genesis 3). As Satan gains his power from death, he proactively tempts and drives us towards sin so that we become more and more subject to death (1 John 3:8). Death, however, was never part of God’s plan. Everything God instructs us to do is to bring us life, but he does allow us to choose an alternative path if we wish to. Where God offers us healing and a cure (Jeremiah 33:6), the devil offers us disease and sickness. Where God offers us joy and an abundant life, Satan ‘comes to steal, and to kill, and to destroy’ (John 10:10). Where God offers us blessings if we do his will, Satan makes way for curses when he tempts us to sin (Deuteronomy 28). The devil tries to divert us from anything God instructs us to do as he knows that such things bring long life and blessings. The story hasn’t changed in thousands of years: God still desires us to have life, and life is still at war with death.

Hope After Death

Physical death is a separation. It parts us from our loved ones, but it is also a separation of the spirit from the body:

‘Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.’ Ecclesiastes 12:7.

While death is not God’s plan for us, and the Christian Israelite Church is focused on celebrating and pursuing life, death is an unhappy reality in this fallen and corrupt world. As we have seen, sin can quicken our journey towards death, whilst living righteously and within God’s will can prolong our life. (Not that sin, whether ours or our ancestors’, is always a cause of ailments, as per the story of the blind man in John 9:1-3.) But until Jesus Christ returns, we remain subject to death one way or another and, with it, the grief of being separated from loved ones.

Thankfully, God provides us with hope of life after death through soul salvation (Psalm 49:15) and the promise of a resurrection when Jesus Christ returns (Acts 24:15). For those who die in the faith of Jesus Christ, we can be assured that they are resting in peace and enjoying the presence of God. They are freed from all worries and torments. Jesus’ victory over death means there is no longer any need for Christians to fear death:

‘The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first.’ 1 Thessalonians 4:16.

For those who die without any belief in God or Jesus Christ, Christian Israelites believe they will still be raised at the final resurrection (Acts 24:15), and that in the end, ‘at the name of Jesus every knee should bow … and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is our Lord’ (Philippians 2:10-11). We know that God will ‘not leave my soul in hell’ (Psalm 16:10). We will be reunited with our departed loved ones one way or another. The promise is not designed to minimise our grief, but to give us hope that death does not and never will have the final victory over us. (See What Christian Israelites Believe About What Happens After Death and at the Resurrections for more information about hope after death.)

Grief in the Bible

It is good to be strengthened by the assurance of salvation after death and to know that our loved ones are safe and happy in heaven, but for those who remain there is the reality of a life without the deceased. Not only are they missed, but in some cases there is the added complications of no longer sharing responsibility with another person, or increased financial pressures, or not being able to fulfil plans that had been made for the future. It is not just the deceased person that is grieved, but the life that was and could have been enjoyed with them.

God tells us through Solomon that there is a ‘time to weep’ (Ecclesiastes 3:4), indicating that grief is a natural and expected response to death. The Bible is full of examples of men and women openly displaying their grief through shaving their heads, and/or wearing sackcloth and ashes, as was the case for the Jews at the time of Esther when they heard they were to be destroyed (Esther 7:3). The book of Job is a thorough exploration of the grief Job felt when he lost almost all that he had, causing him to lament, ‘let the day perish wherein I was born’ (3:3). Abraham mourned and wept for his wife Sarah (Genesis 23:2), and the children of Israel wept for thirty days when Moses died (Deuteronomy 34:8). David was so grieved over the death of his son Absalom that even his people turned to mourning (2 Samuel 19:1-4). Perhaps it was Absalom he was thinking of when he wrote:

‘Have mercy upon me, O Lord, for I am in trouble: mine eye is consumed with grief, yea, my soul and my belly. For my life is spent with grief, and my years with sighing.’ Psalm 31:9-10.

When Jesus came to help his friend Lazarus only to discover him dead, it was the grief of Lazarus’ sister Mary and other Jews that caused Jesus to ‘groan in the spirit’ and to feel ‘troubled’. Jesus himself wept when he saw Lazarus’s body. Even though he knew he would momentarily raise him from the dead, Jesus still felt the pain and injustice of death in that moment and its impact on others (see John 11:32-35). Isaiah spoke of Jesus Christ as ‘a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief’, who has ‘borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows’ (53:3-4). Grief was a natural emotion for Jesus and, because he experienced it so deeply, he can easily empathise with our experiences and help us to bear it.

Grief and Guilt

A common battle of the mind following grief is that of guilt – a battle that the devil wages by plaguing our minds with thoughts of ‘what ifs’ and ‘if onlys’. It’s important that we don’t try and take responsibility for things that are out of our control, that we cannot fix or change, or which were the results of another person’s actions. Usually we do the best we can in any given situation. If our best doesn’t give us the outcome we had hoped for, that doesn’t mean that we have failed or that the end result is our fault. Even if we deliberately commit a malicious act against another person or make an imprudent decision that places another in harm’s way, even to death, we can still find peace if we confess our sins (1 John 1:9). God is ‘merciful and gracious’ (Psalm 103:8) and will wash us clean from all our iniquities (Psalm 51:2). Punishing ourselves when we are grieving only compounds the feelings of despair, when we have every right to access the peace and comfort that our advocate Jesus Christ offers (1 John 2:1; John 14:27). Whether we are guilty or simply perceive ourselves as such, Paul reminds us that ‘there is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 8:1). Entertaining regretful thoughts gives place to the devil, but being ‘spiritually minded [i.e. focused on what God’s word says is true] is life and peace’ (Romans 8:6).

Fear of Death

Another problem that can accompany grief is fear. It is common for people who have experienced a loss to develop a fear of death, whether that be their own death or that of another loved one. We must remember that God ‘hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind’ (2 Timothy 1:7). We can ‘lie down and sleep in peace’ because God ‘only makest [us to] dwell in safety’ (Psalm 4:8). Jesus encourages us not to fear the future at all (Matthew 6:25-34). Any fearful thoughts we have about the future or otherwise are not from God, and anything not from God is of the devil, who is a liar (John 8:44). We must cleave to the truth that God gives us a hope-filled future (Jeremiah 29:11) and an abundant life (John 10:10). Even if the worse were to happen, we can remind ourselves that death means returning to God’s presence and living free of worry and torment – not something to be feared:

‘For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.’ 2 Corinthians 5:1.

Whilst we are alive, God offers those that love him protection from early death. Jesus gave his disciples power – power that extends to all Christians – to cast out demons and heal ‘all manner of sickness and all manner of disease’ (Matthew 10:1). James noted that ‘the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up’ (5:15). God promised the Israelites that he would bring them health, adding that ‘I will cure them, and will reveal unto them the abundance of peace and truth’ (Jeremiah 33:6). Psalm 91 is full of promises of protection from harm and of a long life for those who love God:

‘Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee … There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways … With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.’ vs 5-7, 10-11, 16.

When afflicted with illness, we certainly should not give into death but pursue healing and deliverance, being assured that God is prepared to ‘take sickness away from the midst of thee’ (Exodus 23:25). We may need to engage in spiritual warfare and ensure that neither sin nor the devil have place in our lives (Ephesians 6:12), through unforgiveness or otherwise. But healing is a promise that remains as real for us as it was for those who were healed by Jesus Christ himself. His power is ever present and available, for he says, ‘whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?’ (John 11:26).

The Bible repeatedly assures us that God wants us to have life (e.g. John 10:28, Deuteronomy 30:19), while the grave is rebuked. Isaiah highlights that it is the living who bring God glory:

‘For the grave cannot praise thee, death cannot celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth. The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day.’ 38:18-19.

David added to this idea when he wrote, ‘I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord’ (Psalm 118:17), and ‘in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?’ (Psalm 6:5). It is when we are alive – the way God created us to be – that we most honour God. David again reiterates this idea in Psalm 30:

‘O Lord my God, I cried unto thee, and thou hast healed me. O Lord, thou hast brought up my soul from the grave: thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit … What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Shall the dust praise thee? shall it declare thy truth? Hear, O Lord, and have mercy upon me: Lord, be thou my helper.’ vs 2-3; 9-10.

Of course, there are some who are not healed, or who are taken far too soon through accidents, or the deliberate, malicious actions of others. We may never understand why, and trying to rationalise it can sometimes compromise our mental and emotional well-being. As Deuteronomy 29:29 says, ‘The secret things belong unto the Lord our God’. There are some things we are not meant to know or that are simply a result of living in a world with sin and evil. What we do know is that God does not take pleasure in death or cause it.

Blaming God

It is common for anger and blame to accompany grief as we try to make sense of what often feels like a senseless loss. In their anger, many people blame God when someone they love dies.

In Psalm 22, King David lamented to God in despair (the psalm overall foreshadowing Jesus’ despair on the cross, where he too felt abandoned by God):

‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? O my God, I cry in the day time, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent.’ vs. 1-2.

However, within the same psalm David remembers that God is faithful, and determines to praise him:

‘For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard. My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation.’ vs 24-25.

Again, we are reminded that death is not part of God’s character or will. If anyone is to be blamed, it’s the one who brought death into the world – Satan. God actually so hates death that it is described as his enemy (1 Corinthians 15:26). An enemy is someone or something that actively seeks to harm another, or who is strongly opposed to another’s views. By calling death an enemy, Paul is showing us just how strongly God opposes it. God himself is living (Psalm 42:2), and he wants us to be living too. We were not designed for a world with death in it, and that is why death is so painful.

While we may come to understand that God does not desire death, the question that may still follow is that if he is all powerful and all loving, why did he allow someone to get sick, or die in an accident, or be harmed unto death? Unfortunately, we must return to the fact that we live in a world corrupted by sin and evil:

‘Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.’ Romans 5:12.

We must also remember that we have free-will, and with it make many choices a day. Some of those choices may seem inconsequential, such as what we eat for breakfast, but each and every choice leads to either life or death. God encourages to us to ‘choose life’ (Deuteronomy 30:19) but does not directly interfere with our choices out of respect for our autonomy. While mercy is always available for those who ask for it (Hebrews 4:16), ultimately we still face the consequences of our choices. Sometimes we can even be subject to the consequences of our ancestors’ choices (Numbers 14:18), unless we seek to break generational curses with the help of Jesus Christ.

Often people are the victim of other, living people’s choices though, or simply that of an accident. We can’t forget that God and Satan are still at war, with Satan and his evil spirits actively working to trap us unto death – sometimes directly, sometimes through other people. Sickness and death can be a sign of a spiritual warfare, but we don’t always know why death comes, or why God didn’t step in to prevent it. The more senseless the loss, the more difficult it can be to make peace with it.

The problem is that when we are grieved, traumatised and in despair, it is very easy for the devil to plant thoughts in our minds against God, thoughts of blame, anger, doubt and unbelief. Satan tried this very tactic on Job, telling God that Job would curse God if he lost all of his blessings. Job then proceeded to lose his children, livelihood and health, yet ‘in all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly’ (Job 1:22). His wife encouraged him to curse God just as Satan had hoped he would, but Job refused (Job 2:9-10). Like Job and David, it’s important that even in our despair we keep our mind focused on the goodness of God and cast down thoughts that rise up against him (2 Corinthians 10:5). If we don’t, the devil can easily tempt us to abandon our faith and lead us into depression, in which case he wins. Instead of walking into such traps, we need to remember it was God who gave his son to overcome death and bring us eternal life (John 3:16).

Anger Towards the Deceased

Like blaming God, fear, and guilt, anger towards our departed loved ones can prevent us from receiving comfort amidst our grief. Perhaps they made an unwise decision that lead to their death, or died as a result of self-harm, or left behind various problems for the living to deal with on their behalf. Perhaps they hurt a lot of people before they died and never made amends or apologised. Perhaps those who have suffered the loss feel angry due to a sense of abandonment and rejection, as if the deceased made the decision to leave.

Anger itself is not a sin, but it can lead to unforgiveness, which is. Paul tells us to forgive one another – whether dead or alive – as Christ forgave us (Colossians 3:13). Doing so prevents grief from being prolonged, and bitterness and resentment from taking root in our hearts. With God’s help, we can come to a place of peace free of the torment of unforgiveness. (For more about the process of forgiveness, see the article Understanding Forgiveness.)

Regardless of what the deceased did or didn’t do, God will not leave us bereft or unjustified. It is he who brings us comfort when we need it most, and who offers to be our strength.

The Comfort of God

In the story of Lazarus’s death, we saw that Jesus Christ was saddened by the grief of those around him. His father is described as the ‘God of all comfort’ (2 Corinthians 1:3). Both feel our pain and are there to strengthen us in our grief:

‘The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.’ Psalm 34:18.

‘My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.’ Psalm 73:26.

God is aware of every tear that we shed:

‘Put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book?’ Psalm 56:8.

He promises to be a ‘father to the fatherless’ and a protector of the widow (Psalm 68:5). Those who mourn are ensured the blessing of comfort (Matthew 5:4). Jesus Christ himself promised that, while it was time for him to return to his Father, he would not leave us comfortless, but that the Father would send a Comforter (the Holy Ghost) (John 14:26). While Jesus as a man could only minister to those he met face to face, the Holy Ghost is available to all of us at all times, especially in our darkest hours.

With the help of the Holy Ghost, God promises that eventually, joy will follow grief:

‘Sorrow is turned into joy before him.’ Job 41:22.

‘Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.’ Psalm 30:5.

God offers us ‘beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness’ (Isaiah 61:3). This doesn’t mean that we forget those who have died or must rush ourselves to feel better when we simply don’t, but that with God’s help, we can have hope for a happier future (Jeremiah 29:11). Where someone may have died unjustly, we can rely on God to take care of us and to bring something good from the situation (Romans 8:28). He also promises to exact justice and enact vengeance if needed and if we trust in him (Romans 12:19). For those who follow God, we can be sure that he will take care of our every need. He meets us with kindness and support both directly and through other people. When we are in need of comfort, we need only ask him for the Comforter: ‘How much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?’ (Luke 11:13).

Sometimes we may fear grief itself, that is, of never recovering from it. The more we are able to trust in God’s word, the more we can rest in his comfort so that even when those closest to us approach or succumb to death, we find ourselves ‘troubled on every side, yet not distressed … perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed’ (2 Corinthians 4:8-9). Such peace comes when we steadfastly believe that God will take care of us and supply our every need (Philippians 4:19). We only need to cast our care onto him, knowing that he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). God will never leave us nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6, 8). As he told us through Isaiah:

‘When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.’ Isaiah 42:3.

Comforting Others

Paul tells us that it is through experiencing tribulation and receiving comfort from God that we are able to comfort others who grieve:

‘[God] comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.’ 2 Corinthians 1:4.

Experiencing trials is like learning more languages to communicate with more people. Once we have adequately recovered from our grief with God’s help, we can then choose to provide hope and encouragement to others, often in ways we never could have done if it were not for our own lived experiences. While God provides his people with comfort directly, he often uses people to deliver comfort as well. In this vein, Paul encourages us all to ‘comfort yourselves together, and edify one another’ (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

We know that God protects those who have been grieved, particularly widows and orphans, but he instructs us to do so too:

‘Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.’ James 1:27.

Sometimes this means more than keeping them in our thoughts and prayers:

‘My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.’ 1 John 3:18.

It is by showing such love to others that we prove ourselves to be the disciples of Christ (John 13:35), remembering that ‘inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these brethren, ye have done it unto me’ (Matthew 25:40).

Jesus Christ’s Authority Over Death

One of the main ways Jesus Christ demonstrated that he was the Son of God with authority over the devil was when he raised people from the dead. This later culminated with his own resurrection, after which ‘death hath no more dominion over him’ (Romans 6:9). The writer of Hebrews says that Jesus tasted death for every man (2:9), that ‘through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil’ (2:14). Christian Israelites believe that Jesus’ victory over death paves the way for the physical body to be saved of death altogether at the end days, fulfilling God’s original design for us:

‘Our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.’ 2 Timothy 1:10.

Paul tells us that the ‘wages of sin is death’, but ‘the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord’ (Romans 6:23). In the end times and with the help of the Spirit, we will overcome sin and thereby death altogether:

‘In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?’ 1 Corinthians 15:52-55.

John wrote that ‘death and hell’ shall be cast into a ‘lake of fire’ and destroyed (Revelation 20:14). He adds that when Jesus Christ returns, God will wipe away our tears, and ‘there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain’ (Revelation 21:4). Jesus Christ will ‘loose those that are appointed to death’ as if from prison (Psalm 102:20). God will recreate the world as he originally intended it to be: free of sin and evil, and therefore free of death.

‘I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction.’ Hosea 13:14.

In the meantime, it is our role to ‘fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man’ (Ecclesiastes 12:13), and ‘by patient continuance in well doing, seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life’ (Romans 2:7). We must resist death until our days are either fulfilled or Jesus Christ returns. In so doing, we are then able to confidently say:

‘I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.’ 2 Timothy 4:6-8.

Overcoming Sin

by Trudy Adams

The Origin of Sin

Christian Israelite’s believe that the redemption of the body can be achieved in the end times through overcoming the power of sin (see What Do Christian Israelites Believe About The Faith of the Church). Sin is the act of straying from, disobeying, or defying God’s will. It first came into the world through the devil or Satan, who ‘sinneth from the beginning’ (1 John 3:8). Satan was one of God’s chief angels in heaven until he decided he wanted to become more powerful than God, saying, ‘I will exalt my throne above the stars of God’ (Isaiah 14:13). This sin led to a great battle, after which Satan was cast out of heaven and to the earth (see Revelation 12). Having failed in his attempt to overpower God, Satan then became determined to drive God’s greatest creation – man and woman – to death through sin.

Unlike Satan, God is inherently holy (without sin) (Isaiah 6:3). As such, he is unable to tolerate anything impure or unholy in his presence:

‘For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unright-eousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.’ Romans 1:18.

Created in God’s image, Adam and Eve were initially perfect and without evil or sin, and God was therefore able to commune with them in the Garden of Eden. They were holy, but only until they disobeyed God’s instruction to not eat of the tree of good and evil, after which they were separated from God’s spiritual presence (symbolised in their removal from the Garden of Eden) (see Genesis 3). Sin always leads to our separation from God (Isaiah 59:2) and it was what made Adam and Eve subject to death for the first time:

‘For the wages of sin is death.’ Romans 6:23.

Christian Israelites believe that through Adam and Eve’s sin, evil entered their bodies, or what the Bible sometimes calls ‘the flesh’, thereby causing them and their descendants to forever struggle with sin:

‘By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.’ Romans 5:12.

The Bible tells us that God is the God of the living, not of death (Mark 12:27), and death was not part of his original plan – Adam and Eve would have lived forever had they not been corrupted by sin. Death, however, is part of Satan’s plan. While it was Adam and Eve’s choices that led to sin entering the world, it was Satan who gave them the idea to sin in the first place:

‘And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?’ Genesis 3:1.

Satan caused Eve to question God’s will, which led to her then disobeying God’s will. He drew her and then Adam into sin. He is continuing to do the same with God’s people today, often with the help of his demons, as his main purpose is still to draw us away from God and to tempt us towards sin and death:

‘The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.’ John 10:10.

God has called us to stand against Satan (see the article, The Value of the Armour of God), and thankfully has provided us with help to do so as ultimately he wants us to be ‘cleansed from all unrighteousness’ (1 John 1:9).

Absolution in the Old Testament

To help his people, the Israelites, remain in his holy presence, God outlined a series of laws through Moses, which are documented in the first five books of the Bible (including the Ten Commandments). These laws taught the Israelites right from wrong, and how to live according to God’s will. To break these laws was to sin:

‘Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.’ 1 John 3:4.

God recognised that the Israelites wouldn’t be able to maintain the laws perfectly, so he gave them a way to absolve themselves of such transgressions and receive soul salvation, i.e. through the sacrifice and offerings of certain animals that were perfect and without blemish (see Leviticus 16:24, 27 and Deuteronomy 17:1). The sin was transferred to the animal, which was then slaughtered, signifying the death of that sin. It was the shedding of blood that was particularly important:

‘And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.’ Hebrews 9:22.

God provided this system so his people could become holy again and thereby able to return to his presence, as ultimately he loved them and wanted to maintain a relationship with them:

‘O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity … I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him.’ Hosea 14:1, 4.

Overall, the Bible makes it clear that God wants us to forsake evil and return to a relationship with him:

‘Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.’ Isaiah 55:7.

‘As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways.’ Ezekiel 33:11.

One of the main themes of the Old Testament is that of the Israelites straying from God, leading to their persecution, and God then rescuing and redeeming them, only for them to stray again soon after. Humanity is not so different now and, like the Israelites, if we don’t make changes or repent, we too face the consequences of sin.

The Consequences of Sin

Adam and Eve showed us that we face consequences when we disobey God. Throughout the Bible, God continually gives us choices and makes the consequences of those choices clear, most notably in Deuteronomy:

‘Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse; A blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you this day: And a curse, if ye will not obey the commandments of the Lord your God.’ 11:27-28.

Following and obeying God’s commandments is good for our health:

‘Let thine heart keep my commandments: For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee.’ Proverbs 3:1-2.

Sinning is not:

‘When lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.’ James 1:15.

While this doesn’t necessarily mean we will face immediate death if we sin (just as Adam and Eve didn’t), it does mean that sin invites death into our lives, e.g. in our relationships with others, ourselves, and with God, as well as in our physical and emotional health. God set up the laws to protect our well-being, and breaking them brings pain and suffering not only to us, but often to those around us as well. All aspect of our lives can be and usually are affected. Christian Israelites also believe that sin ultimately prevents the body from being saved of physical death in the end days.

The Great Wrestle

Sin is a choice with consequences, but sometimes we struggle to make better choices even when we want to, sinning when we would rather do good. Paul tells us that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), while John says that if we say we have no sin, we are actually deceiving ourselves (1 John 1:9). Sin is a problem every person faces.

As mentioned, Christian Israelites believe that Adam and Eve’s sin led to evil entering their flesh. Paul tells us that it is the flesh that causes us to sin:

‘For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.’ Romans 7:5.

As Galatians 5:19-21 explains, there are many sins that result from the ‘works of the flesh’ and that stops us from entering the Kingdom of God. It is our fleshly desires that draw us away from God’s path and prevents us from dwelling in his presence:

‘But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.’ James 1:14.

Our flesh makes sin feel good, at least for the short-term, which is why it is often difficult to resist. We may want to do the right thing, but our flesh drives us towards that which brings instant satisfaction or reward instead (Romans 7:25), even if we know it’s not good for us in the long-term. This then causes a struggle within us, which then brings torment – and that is exactly Satan’s plan.

Paul most famously recorded his wrestle with sin in Romans:

‘I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.’ 7:18-20.

Paul makes an important distinction here – that when we want to do the right thing, but fail to do so, it’s actually not us but the sin within our flesh that causes us to fail. Sin is not who we are nor who we were created to be. It is not part of our identity, even though Satan would like us to believe it is so we feel badly about ourselves. It’s more accurate to think of sin or evil as a separate entity within us that Satan uses to lead us away from God’s will and towards death. It is our job to overcome that entity and to ‘crucify the flesh’ (Galatians 5:24). We don’t have to do so alone, as God provided us with help and a way for us to be totally free of sin and death. It was what gave Paul hope amidst his struggle:

‘O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.’ Romans 7:24-25.

The Greatest Sacrifice

Having watched his people struggle with and fall into sin for generations, God knew that we needed a powerful way to be free of sin once and for all, and to commune with him in the personal way he originally intended. Previously the Israelites had sacrificed animals without blemish to receive absolution from sin; God now provided his own son, also without blemish, as a sacrifice:

‘Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us … How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.’ Hebrews 9:12, 14-15.

Jesus Christ was born into the earth without evil and hence was able to obey all of God’s laws and dwell fully in God’s presence. As Jesus’ blood was without sin, it was offered and accepted as a sacrifice for the sins of all mankind and, as a result, we no longer need to make animal sacrifices for atonement.

It’s important to note that God didn’t wait for us to be perfect before he provided Jesus:

‘God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.’ Romans 5:8 (emphasis added).

Jesus’ death and resurrection was a direct victory over the sin and death Satan had brought into the world:

‘For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.’ 1 John 3:8.

Through Jesus, humanity was given another option. Rather than continually sinning and seeking salvation from that sin, Jesus’ sacrifice gave us the power and freedom to overcome sin entirely:

‘For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.’ Romans 8:2.

Sin remains a part of our world and we still have to make the choice as to whether we will take part in it or follow God’s laws. Jesus himself explained that while his death fulfilled the law of transgression or sacrifice, it did not do away with the other laws, which he said would continue until his second coming:

‘For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.’ Matthew 5:18-19 (see also verses 20-48).

This means that breaking God’s laws and acting contrary to his will remains a sin. The difference is that before Jesus came, we only had ourselves to rely on to follow God’s commandments, and therefore frequently failed. Now, in Jesus Christ we have the help we need to obey the laws and thereby remain continually in God’s presence.

It’s true that our souls are no longer saved through following the law or animal sacrifice, nor indeed through anything we alone can do as it is received by grace and faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9). However, all efforts to obey God’s laws will be rewarded at Jesus Christ’s return, and works are just as important as faith (see James 2:14-26). Christian Israelites believe that for those who accept Jesus Christ as the Messiah and seek his strength to obey God’s laws, there is the reward of immortality:

‘In the way of righteousness is life; and in the pathway thereof there is no death.’ Proverbs 12:28.

Paul says that ‘the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good’ (Romans 7:12). It is therefore important that we continue to abide by it.

The Help of the Spirit

While asking for and receiving God’s forgiveness when we sin is a great privilege (explored in the article Understanding Forgiveness), Christian Israelites believe the greater freedom is to work towards not sinning at all and to thereby become more and more like Jesus Christ – without blemish and able to dwell more and more deeply in God’s presence. To enable us to do this, God provided us not only with Jesus Christ, but the Holy Spirit:

‘I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.’ Galatians 5:16.

‘For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.’ Romans 8:13 (emphasis added. See also verses 8:10).

However, this is a life-long journey and we all fall short from time-to-time. While we are told to keep working towards perfection (Matthew 5:48), God provides us with forgiveness for when we fail and a promise that we don’t have to live condemned for our mistakes:

‘There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.’ Romans 8:1.

‘But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.’ Romans 5:20.

‘In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.’ Ephesians 1:7.

The first step in overcoming sin is to acknowledge our sins through repentance and confession to God (as David did in Psalm 51) and, where necessary, to others:

‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.’ 1 John 1:9.

Confession is an important part of being freed from sin as it allows it to be brought out into the light, rather than hiding it, for as Jesus Christ said, it’s the truth that makes us free (John 8:32).

We then need to receive God’s forgiveness and refuse to listen to Satan if he continues to cause thoughts or feelings of condemnation within us. These are lies; the truth is we are made anew, as if we had never sinned:

‘Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.’ Isaiah 1:18.

Once we have done this, we can then begin to work towards stopping the cycle of sin altogether.

No Longer a Slave to Sin

To prevent sin from reoccurring, we must firstly rely on God rather than our own striving to make the changes needed within us:

‘For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.’ Philippians 2:13.

‘Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.’ Hebrews 12:2.

While we work towards perfection, it’s important to realise that perfection can only be achieved through having God’s spirit within us. Until then, evil will always continue to be present within our mortal bodies to some degree. If we could be perfect within our own strength or through works without faith, we wouldn’t need God. This is why the Lord says that ‘my strength is made perfect in weakness’, and why Paul concluded that he can take pleasure in his infirmities as ‘when I am weak, then am I strong’ (in Christ) (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). While we must do our best to overcome sin, we must also realise that it is God who perfects us in his own time and through his own power. Condemning ourselves when we fall short can lead to unnecessary self-judgment and general unhappiness. Rather, we need to partner with God on our journey and realise that our weaknesses provide God with space to fill with his spiritual presence, much like water running into a jar of marbles.

With God’s help, our goal is to slowly become ‘dead’ to sin – i.e. completely impervious to its temptations:

‘Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you.’ Romans 6:11-14.

We can do this by spending time in the Word:

‘Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.’ Psalms 119:11.

Sometimes, we need to physically flee temptation:

‘Flee fornication … Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.’ 1 Corinthians 6:18-20.

Often it’s helpful to, like Jesus, go ‘about doing good’ (Acts 10:30) through helping other people. Doing so pleases God and helps us to focus on others rather than on our own problems:

‘Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.’ Romans 12:21.

‘But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.’ Hebrews 13:16.

The main way to overcome sin, though, is in the field of our thoughts.

The Power of Thoughts

Paul tells us that Satan corrupted Eve’s mind (through causing her to question God’s will), which is what led her to sin (2 Corinthians 11:3). It was also evil thoughts that led to the world’s destruction at the time of Noah:

‘And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.’ Genesis 6:5.

David faced many wicked people who sought his destruction. He saw the connection between such people and their thoughts:

‘The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts.’ Psalm 10:4.

Solomon also indicated that thoughts and character are interlinked, when he said that ‘the thoughts of the righteous are right’ (Proverbs 12:5). Paul explained that the kind of thoughts we entertain can determine whether we invite life or death (or God or Satan) into our lives:

‘For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.’ Romans 8:5-6.

Jesus Christ himself taught that sin begins with a thought:

‘I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.’ Matthew 5:28.

‘For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man.’ Matthew 15:18-19.

It is therefore clear that evil thoughts lead to sin, or that if we don’t entertain evil thoughts, we won’t sin. Thankfully, the Bible is full of suggestions as to how we can improve and protect our mind. Firstly, we need to fix our thoughts on God, which Isaiah says brings peace (26:3). We also need to ask God to give us the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16) and to renew our minds:

‘Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.’ Romans 12:2.

We need to actively and quickly close down thoughts that don’t agree with God’s Word:

‘Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.’ 2 Corinthians 10:5.

Paul tells us to focus our mind on whatsoever is true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report (Philippians 4:8). Doing so naturally forces out evil thoughts.

Prayer is also important in keeping our mind (and body) holy, and is something Jesus Christ instructed us to do for that very reason:

‘Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.’ Matthew 26:41.

Being thankful and grateful is another strategy to maintain a Christ-like mind:

‘In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.’ 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

We also need to spend time with others who share our faith, as doing so gives us the opportunity to talk with others about what’s on our minds. They can help us to be accountable for our thoughts and the actions that follow:

‘But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.’ 1 John 1:7.

But Remember, We Need Help

While all this is significantly helpful in the quest to overcome sin, we must remember that we only have power to do so through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, which we need to fully abide in if we are to truly eradicate the evil in our flesh:

‘He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.’ John 15:5.

We must never forget that it is through Jesus Christ that we have the victory (1 Corinthians 15:57). Remember, overcoming sin and walking in God’s commandments brings us blessings and allows us to live life as Jesus Christ intended:

‘I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.’ John 10:10.

God promises that he will save Israel from all sin (Romans 11:26-27). Through abiding in the Holy Spirit and focusing our minds on God, Christian Israelites hope to gradually overcome the evil within us, and save not only our souls, but also our bodies from death and destruction:

‘And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.’ 1 John 2:17.


Understanding Forgiveness

by Trudy Adams

The Challenges of Forgiveness

It is often difficult to forgive those who have hurt, betrayed or committed an injustice against us. We may feel that forgiveness means the offending person will ‘get away with it’, not face consequences, or not realise the impact of their actions. Or, we may worry that forgiving them will suggest that what they did wasn’t really that bad or didn’t matter that much, when the truth is, it did. Sometimes we are hesitant to forgive because we are afraid to trust them again or aren’t convinced they won’t reoffend in the future – we want to protect ourselves or others from further hurt. Sometimes it’s because forgiving them will change the way we interact with them, and we are unsure about what that will mean for us. Mostly, though, people struggle to forgive because they misunderstand what forgiveness is – a decision to obey God, separate to rebuilding trust.

What Forgiveness Is (and Isn’t)

Forgiveness is the decision to not harbour hatred towards another person because of something they have done. It is recognising (but not excusing) that they were acting out of their own wounds and/or under the influence of the devil (Ephesians 6:12). It is releasing them from the ‘debt’ they owe us and recognising that’s a debt only God can repay. It means treating them with respect and dignity if and when we see them again, just as we would for any other person.

Forgiveness does not mean putting ourselves in a position to be harmed again, especially when the other person has made no admissions, expressions of remorse, or attempts to change. This is also the case if they minimise their actions, or blame others for their behaviour. We can forgive people (even without them apologising) and treat them well while still having protective boundaries in place, even if only as a temporary measure, i.e. until changes are made and the issues are resolved. In some cases, not reinstating the relationship may actually be the healthiest thing to do, especially if the other person is not inclined to recognise or improve their behaviour or alleviate the impact of their behaviour on those around them.

It is vital that we maintain healthy boundaries with people who behave in a toxic manner or significantly impact our emotional well-being. Forgiveness is about releasing people from past mistakes, but doesn’t necessarily speak for the future – that is the domain of reconciliation. Forgiveness is an action taken by one person; reconciliation requires the actions of both parties, and the other’s willingness to commit to that process and make changes is not in our control. While we always hope reconciliation is possible and, with God’s help, work towards that whenever we can, forgiveness can thankfully exist either way.

God Respects Boundaries

Throughout the Bible, God regularly teaches us how to have positive relationships with others, including maintaining healthy boundaries, which he himself role-models for us. For example, if we don’t wish to engage with God or to have a relationship with him, he respects that and doesn’t harass us. If we sin, he withdraws himself from us until we recognise and deal with that sin:

‘But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.’ Isaiah 59:2.

He clearly tells us what behaviour he will and will not accept, such as the list in Galatians 5:19-21, and yet, if we choose to continue in sin, God allows us to do that, too. He never approves of our sin, but he gives us free-will regardless. He provides us with choices and tells us the consequences of these choices, such as in Deuteronomy 30:16-19:

‘I command thee this day to love the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply … But if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them; I denounce unto you this day … I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.’

He tells us what he hopes we will choose, but ultimately gives us the freedom to make that decision. He tells us what his boundaries are, and he respects ours in turn. If a person chooses to hurt another, they have the free-will to do so; the hurt person also has the free-will and choice to implement boundaries in that relationship, which in some cases may be the relationship’s saving-grace. But while boundaries are essential, we must not forget to temper them with forgiveness, just as God forgives us.

God’s Forgiveness of Us

God’s forgiveness is always available to us. God is love (1 John 4:8), so he does not harbour hate towards us – that would be contrary to who he is. But we are only able to access and receive the benefit of his forgiveness when we repent:

‘He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.’ Proverbs 28:13.

When we repent and ask God for forgiveness, he provides this and chooses to forget our sins altogether:

‘I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.’ Isaiah 43:25.

Note that he says this is ‘for mine own sake’. God wants to have a relationship with us, and he doesn’t want sin to compromise that relationship.

However, like us, God does not want empty words of apology either. He requires that we genuinely recognise the impact of our sin and make a firm decision to turn away from it, as David exampled in Psalm 51, and as Isaiah instructs us:

‘Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.’ 55:7.

Confession of sin is an integral part of receiving God’s forgiveness. It shows him that we recognise that we have acted contrary to his will, that we realise the impact of our sin, and that we wish to make things right. God may lead us to confess our sins to others, including those we have hurt or offended, and/or a trusted friend who will meet us with compassion. Doing so helps us to be accountable and leads to emotional and physical healing for all parties involved:

‘Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.’ James 5:16.

But it is especially important for us to confess our sins to God in order for us to receive redemption from our sin:

‘In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.’ Ephesians 1:7.

Christian Israelites do not believe that one person can forgive another on God’s behalf, or that people are absolved from their sins by confessing to another person alone and not to God. Only God has the power to forgive:

‘I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.’ Psalm 32:5.

‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’ 1 John 1:9.

There is no sin too bad or too shameful that God is unable to forgive. Sin can make us feel ashamed and impure, but God is able to cleanse us no matter the circumstances:

‘Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.’ Isaiah 1:18.

‘Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow … Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.’ Psalm 51:7,10.

‘There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.’ Romans 1:8.

At the same time, God has firm boundaries when it comes to forgiveness, in that he makes it clear that as we are forgiven by him, so too should we forgive others.

God’s Desire For Us to Forgive Others

‘If ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.’ Matthew 6:14-15.

The Word tells us several times that we are to pass on the forgiveness we receive from God. Not doing so can prevent our prayers from being answered and invite torment into our lives. God encourages us not to pray to him until we have given and/or sought forgiveness wherever needed:

‘If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.’ Matthew 5:23-24.

This principle of passing on God’s forgiveness is also explored in the parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:23-35), who owed his lord 10,000 talents. When the servant couldn’t pay the debt, the lord had compassion on him and released him from it. The servant then demanded a repayment of a hundred pence from his fellowservant – a minuscule debt compared to the one he had been released from. When the lord found out about this injustice, he said:

‘Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?’ vs 33.

The parable concludes with a reminder as to what happens when we refuse to pass on the generous forgiveness God has gifted us:

‘And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not everyone his brother their trespasses.’ vs 34-35.

This gives us some insight into how important the forgiveness of others is to God, and how unforgiveness provides the devil with an open door into our lives, thereby bringing torment. Unforgiveness is like a poison with a detrimental effect on our emotional, spiritual, mental, and even our physical health. It leads to bitterness, hatred and a desire for revenge. There are many cases throughout history where it has even led to murder, including that of Abel and John the Baptist. What can start as a minor emotion can fester and grow until we are crippled and controlled by resentment, which then steals our peace. Paul warns against this in Ephesians, again reminding us to pass on the forgiveness God has given us:

‘Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.’ 4:26-27; 31-32.

Unforgiveness is senseless in that the other person is frequently unaware and unconcerned about the issue or its effect on us, while we are suffering for their behaviour. It’s like punishing ourselves for what another person has done. Forgiveness releases us of all such futile suffering. It is primarily for our benefit.

While ideally a relationship is repaired and strengthened throughout this process, as mentioned, reconciliation isn’t always possible. The Bible asks us to try for reconciliation and provides some instructions on how to do so, while also acknowledging that boundaries may be needed:

‘Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.’ Matthew 18:15-18

While it is our responsibility to, ‘if it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men’ (Romans 12:18), we are not responsible for the actions and choices of others. We should always seek God’s advice on whether to pursue reconciliation or to remove ourselves from a situation. Sometimes we hang on too tightly to a toxic relationship; sometimes we give-up too easily. Only God knows which path will provide the best outcome for all.

When Reconciliation Isn’t Possible

Sometimes it becomes clear that a relationship is not reconcilable. The other person may set their hearts against us, refuse to change their behaviour, blame us for the problem, or try to pretend there isn’t a problem. They may behave completely irrationally and/or simply cannot be brought to understand any side of the issue but their own. They may reject God and his attempts to correct them. Some may even actively wish for our harm.

The Bible refers to such people as our enemies. While it is a strong word, it accurately describes their active opposition towards us and allows us to view the situation as it is – hostile. Thankfully:

‘No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper.’ Isaiah 54:17.

David’s psalms are full of accounts of his unjust struggles with enemies, and he lamented openly about how they grieved him:

‘For the mouth of the wicked and the mouth of the deceitful are opened against me: they have spoken against me with a lying tongue. They compassed me about also with words of hatred; and fought against me without a cause. For my love they are my adversaries: but I give myself unto prayer. And they have rewarded me evil for good, and hatred for my love.’ Psalm 109:2-5.

It is also David who tells us (from experience) not to worry or be fearful of enemies:

‘Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb.’ Psalm 37:1-2.

The Old Testament’s way of dealing with enemies was to seek an ‘eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot’ (Exodus 21:24). It wasn’t until Jesus Christ came that we were invited to step up to a higher form of morality:

‘Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.’ Matthew 5:43-44.

Paul adds:

‘If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.’ Romans 12:21.

Treating our enemy with kindness is a powerful way to wage war against our true enemy, Satan. By doing so, we may well convict the other person of their behaviour and provide them with a catalyst for change, sometimes without even saying a word. Kindness has the potential to break the power of the devil in their lives and gives them a glimpse of what following God can do for people. It also promotes God’s kingdom:

‘By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.’ John 13:35.

Both Jesus’ and Paul’s words can be difficult to process and put into action as our natural instinct is that the offending person doesn’t deserve kindness. It’s important to remember, though, that no one deserves God’s forgiveness and mercy, and yet he continues to offer it.

Jesus’ and Paul’s instructions are not just for the benefit of our enemy, but ultimately for ours as well, as being kind to our enemies prevents the rise of bitterness, jealously and resentment. When we pray for our enemies, we release ourselves from the responsibility of their behaviour and hand it back to God. Praying for them also allows us to develop compassion, as we begin to understand that the other person’s actions stem from brokenness, insecurities, delusion, trauma, and ultimately the direct influence of the devil. Such people need divine help to realise and overcome all of this if they are to ever change. We don’t have to like or approve of a person’s behaviours to be kind to them, and it doesn’t mean their behaviour is excusable. We don’t even have to continue in a relationship with them if it is not safe to do so. But we do need to forgive them and treat them respectfully.

Forgiveness is a decision we make regardless of how we are feeling. Often we need to decide to forgive before we begin to feel any better – otherwise we aren’t released from hatred and bitterness – but it is normal for feelings of hurt and anger to continue even after such a decision is made. These feelings are not usually a problem unless we choose to act on them in a sinful way, but they can also leave us feeling bereft. Praying for our enemies helps us to process those feelings and eventually be healed from them. Sometimes it can be difficult to know what to pray – substituting their name into a blessing like that of Numbers 6:24-27 can be a simple but meaningful place to start.

We can’t dictate how an enemy may act, but as we saw in David’s psalm, we don’t need to worry about them or be afraid of them. If we’ve done everything we can, we need to leave the rest up to God and remember that:

‘When a man’s ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.’ Proverbs 16:7.

God’s Promise of Vindication

One of the reasons unforgiveness can be so hard to relinquish is because of the injustice of the situation. We may be afraid that if we let it go, they will ‘get away with it’ and that other people may start to think that person’s behaviour was acceptable as well. There is a natural instinct within most of us to want what is right and good, to want integrity, and justice for breaches of integrity. God is righteous (Psalm 147:17), and we are made in his image – it follows that deep down we want what is right, too. But only God can make things truly right.

Ultimately, we hang onto things because we want to control them. Trusting God to take care of a situation on our behalf is difficult because we have to relinquish that control, but that is exactly what we must do if we are to live in peace:

‘Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.’ Jeremiah 17:7.

‘You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.’ Isaiah 26:3.

We must trust God to vindicate us whenever he needs to. He may not need to if we have merely perceived rather than experienced an offence, as can happen, too – another reason we need to trust him rather than ourselves to bring about true justice. An important part of the forgiveness process is to examine our own behaviour and take responsibility for any possible contribution we may have made to the problem. We may well be the ones who are blaming others for our problems and who God needs to chastise, something that can (in time) bring happiness and a blessing (see Job 5:17, Psalm 94:12 and Hebrews 12:11). Or, it may be that we are making a minor event a major one and just need to let it go.

When we have suffered a legitimate injustice, though, God is thankfully a just God:

‘I the Lord love judgment.’ Isaiah 61:8.

He sees and recognises all injustices committed against us and promises to vindicate us for them:

‘Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ 2 Thessalonians 1:6-8.

He asks us not to seek revenge ourselves, whether in our thoughts, words, or actions, as this can interfere with the justice he can bring:

‘Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord.’ Leviticus 19:18.

‘Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath : for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.’ Romans 12:19.

God wants us to stay in a state of peace and love, which we cannot do if we are seeking to avenge ourselves. He can, however, avenge us on our behalf without falling into the trap of bitterness and hatred simply because it is impossible for him to do so. He is also equipped to truly understand the dynamics of the situation, including the other person’s brokenness, our part in the problem, and the devil’s contributions, all of which we often have no or little insight into until he reveals it to us. It therefore makes sense that God is in charge of vengeance.

We need to be prepared for the fact that vindication may not look how we expect it to. Firstly, God rarely avenges us when we want him to, but his timing is always perfect. Secondly, his vengeance does not necessarily mean harm will come to the other person, nor should we wish this. His plan is not to condemn or punish those who have hurt us, but to convict and change them, and to help them make amends or live out the consequences they need to so they can, if willing, face their problems and rise up as better people.

It’s true that God’s vengeance may mean a public downfall of the other person if that’s what they need to prompt them to change or to stop hurting others, but it may also mean they cease to prosper, or that they come to the realisation that they are wrong. Sometimes we may be avenged or justified through a simple apology and changed behaviour. Sometimes it may be a much bigger crime that is avenged through a fair outcome at court. We may be re-payed through another person altogether.

How God chooses to deal with wrong behaviour and repay us good for evil is up to him, not us. Our role is to demonstrate kindness and good boundaries, and to avoid falling into the trap of passing judgement on others.

Show Mercy; Don’t Judge

Paul tells us that:

‘All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.’ Romans 3:23.

This is a reminder that we all make mistakes, that we all sin, and that we all hurt the people around us from time to time. That is why Jesus encourages us to remove the ‘beam that is in thine own eye’ before trying to remove the ‘mote that is in thy brother’s eye’ (Matthew 7:3-5). God knows our frailty and shows us mercy accordingly:

‘For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust … But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children.’ Psalm 103:14, 17.

While Christian Israelites hope to overcome the sin in their bodies so that God’s spirit can become the life of their bodies, this is a work that takes time and which requires God’s ongoing grace and mercy. Mercy is showing compassion to someone when we actually have the power and position to punish them if we so chose, just as God could with us. Thankfully he is merciful, and he desires us to pass on his mercy just as with his forgiveness:

‘Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.’ Luke 6:36.

This doesn’t necessarily mean the offending person escapes the consequences of their actions. We all need consequences to truly recognise the impact of our behaviour and make changes. Being deprived of consequences can actually hinder our personal growth and deny the course of justice. But if we have a genuine knowledge of our sins and their impact, and wish to make amends, mercy may mean that consequences are less severe, or that we are treated with kindness despite the way we have acted.

Ultimately, the way we treat others affects the way we are treated:

‘Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.’ Luke 6:37.

Jesus further warns us not to let ourselves become judgemental (i.e. to place ourselves in a position where we think we know best about what another person deserves), as we may well suffer the judgement we had thought to place on them:

‘For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged.’ Matthew 7:1-2.

If we mistreat others, we invite mistreatment into our lives:

‘Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.’ Galatians 6:7.

The overwhelming message is that we need to treat others as God treats us, i.e. with forgiveness, love, and mercy, and in the way we want to be treated (Luke 6:31). This extends to how we want to be treated when we sin. If we want to experience the freedom forgiveness brings, we must offer it first.

The Greater Freedom

Forgiveness is key to our relationship with God and those around us. It is central to our emotional well-being, whether we are able to achieve reconciliation with someone who has hurt us, or not.

Sometimes we may need to forgive someone more than once, or even more than ‘seventy times seven’ times (Matthew 18:21-22), remembering that God has already forgiven us of more than we will ever need to forgive of another person. What’s important is that we don’t succumb to feelings of bitterness and hated and thereby give place to the devil (Ephesians 4:27).

It’s true that, even when reconciliation is possible, it can be hard to risk hurt again, but without taking that risk we would never have any long-term relationships. No relationship can receive a pain-free guarantee, but we are guaranteed to have access to God’s help and healing whenever we need it, making the risk, more often than not, worth it.

Our best hope is to reach a place where we are so secure in our relationship with God and in our self-worth that even if we are hurt by another person’s treatment of us, we are no longer devastated and certainly no longer controlled by it. This mirrors the way God operates in relationships – he is saddened by our sinful behaviour, but he never allows this to make him question or doubt himself. He doesn’t allow anyone to steal his joy or his peace, doesn’t react in an aggressive way or become cynical, and is not devastated or unable to function at his best however we behave – and we betray and fail him on a daily basis. It is a blessing that God doesn’t treat us according to how we treat him. Often we adopt an attitude of ‘if you didn’t treat me like that, I wouldn’t react like this’, but this binds us to another person’s behaviour and is a failure to take responsibility for our own actions. We can’t control how a person acts, but we can control how we react. When someone treats us badly and we can react in a godly way independently of them, demonstrating the Biblical principles of forgiveness, then we have reached an even greater freedom:

‘And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.’ Matthew 7:25.

The Value of the Armour of God

by Trudy Adams

The Whole Armour of God

Ephesians 6:11-18 is a passage that speaks about our need for the armour of God. It outlines what pieces of armour are required to protect each part of the body, with a spiritual parallel designed to instruct us in our fight against the devil or Satan – a fight otherwise known as spiritual warfare.

It begins with:

‘Put on the whole armour of God.’ Ephesians 6:11a.

Immediately we learn three important things. Firstly, it is up to us to put on the armour; God won’t do it for us. It is our responsibility and our choice. Secondly, we need to put on the whole armour – putting on one or two pieces won’t protect us from the attacks of the devil. Satan looks for any weakness, any part of us not protected, as an entry into our lives wherein he can come ‘to steal, and to kill, and to destroy’ (John 10:10). Thirdly, the armour comes from and belongs to God – that is what makes it powerfully resilient against Satan. That is why we need the armour:

‘… that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.’ Ephesians 6:11b.

God’s armour allows us to remain strong and unmovable – in our faith, our identity, our emotions, or any other part of us that Satan may be attacking. It empowers us to stand against his many tricks, schemes, and deliberate attempts to deceive and torment us, or to drive us away from God and life and towards evil and death. It is our job to stand strong in the victory Jesus Christ has already won for us (1 Corinthians 15:57).

Paul goes on to explain that we, as followers of Christ, are at war – but not with people:

‘For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.’ Ephesians 6:12.

It is not people themselves who are the ultimate problem in our conflicts and difficulties, but the evil within them that Satan draws on to tempt them to commit sins. Yes, people still choose to act on his suggestions and remain responsible for their actions, for which they then face natural consequences, often even with repentance (e.g. a murderer may seek and receive forgiveness and be freed from guilt and condemnation, but still serve time in gaol). But it is Satan who gives them the idea and motivation to sin in the first place, just as he did with Adam and Eve in the beginning (Genesis 3).

He isn’t operating on his own, either. He has mirrored God’s hierarchy of archangels and angels with his own spiritual authorities and demons, forming his kingdom of darkness. His demons are actively seeking to beleaguer and destroy God’s highest creation – his people. Satan hates God, and God created men and women in his own image (Genesis 1:27). It therefore naturally follows that Satan hates us, particularly those of us who choose to follow God and his son, Jesus Christ, the one who gives us authority over Satan and his dominion and thereby renders him powerless.

Verse 12 also highlights an important element of spiritual warfare – that it is a wrestle. This brings to mind a close, personal struggle with evil. It indicates an ongoing fight wherein we can gain the upper hand but quickly lose it if we don’t stay alert. Satan is grappling with us right back. We are not fighting with him from a distance. This is face to face, hand to hand, gritty combat. That’s why his attacks can feel so personal, long-lasting, and violating. It’s also why we must have armour.

Paul again reminds us of this in the next verse:

‘Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.’ Ephesians 6:13.

We need to do everything we can to prepare for battle, everything that the crisis requires, by putting on the whole armour of God. Once we have done this, our job is to stand and wait on God to do his part. Not to try and take responsibility for overpowering the devil’s whole kingdom; not to take on the role that only Jesus Christ can. But also not to run from the devil, compromise, live in fear, or flee (there is no armour for our back). Sometimes, God won’t give us the opportunity to stand against the devil until we have each of the armour pieces securely in place. He does this to ensure our victory and to protect us from any counter-attacks. We must stand, unmovable in our faith, integrity and identity as Christ’s followers, regardless of what attacks Satan brings against us, and we can only do this if we are wearing the whole armour of God.

The First Piece of Armour – Truth

‘Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth.’ Ephesians 6:14a.

In Bible times, men often wore long tunics that inhibited active work. To ‘gird your loins’ was to prepare oneself for movement, whether that be for travel or, in this case, for battle. This was done by tying up the tunic into a knot above the knees and tucking it into a belt or girdle, thereby freeing the legs to do whatever was required. It was symbolic of a decision to move or fight. Paul is telling us to make the same decision, but in this instance for a spiritual battle. Being spiritually girded means we are watching, alert, and ready for battle. Being girded with truth means that we know the Truth, who he is and what he stands for, and that we fight for this truth.

Jesus Christ tells us that he is ‘the way, the truth, and the life’ (John 14:6), that ‘ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free’ (John 8:32), and that ‘thy word is truth’ which sanctifies us (John 17:17). God makes it clear he hates lies when he says, ‘lying lips are an abomination to the Lord’ (Proverbs 12:22). Jesus also directly links lying to Satan:

‘[He] abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.’ John 8:44.

God loves truth and Satan loves lies. This is one of the reasons the two kingdoms are at war.

Satan loves to tell us lies. His favourites are subtle lies cleverly disguised as truths. One of his primary weapons against us is deceit – making us believe that lies are true. He might tell us (or cause others to tell us) lies about ourselves, others, our relationships, our future, and our purpose. In fact, anything is open to attack from him. This is all designed to lower our self-esteem, remove us of hope, and drive us towards spiritual, emotional, and even physical death such as through suicide. He also encourages us to lie to others and keep secrets from them, often about our sins, so that we will remain in and promote sin, which in turn separates us from God. (That is why confession of sins is important – it breaks the power that Satan otherwise has over us in those areas.) He especially likes to tell lies about God and Jesus Christ so that our relationships with them are hindered and we remain without their redemptive power; power that allows us to uncover Satan’s lies and overcome him.

Truth is power that gives us victory over the devil, and truth is found in God’s Word. When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, Jesus rebutted and overcame him by quoting the Word of God (Matthew 4). Satan tried to deceive him; Jesus won by speaking the truth, the verbal equivalent of a swordfight. It’s no wonder Paul mentions it first: truth is the foundation upon which everything else is built on.

The Second Piece of Armour – Righteousness

‘ … and having on the breastplate of righteousness.’ Ephesians 6:14b.

The breastplate protects the heart – one of the vital organs that we need to function and live. Elsewhere, Paul tells us that ‘with the heart man believeth unto righteousness’ (Romans 10:10). The heart is generally thought of as the home of emotion and passionate beliefs even in today’s modern culture. Perhaps this idea began in the Bible, which speaks of the heart as being the place where our core attitudes, desires, morals, motivations, beliefs and feelings flow from: ‘keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life’ (Proverbs 4:23). 1 Samuel 16:7 tells us that ‘the Lord looks at the heart’ (i.e. searches and understands our motives and desires), while Psalm 37:4 says that God will ‘give thee the desires of thine heart’ if we delight in him. Whichever way it is considered, the heart is central to who we are and in vital need of protection. Satan knows its value, so he is determined to destroy it.

Paul tells us in the above verse that the heart is protected by righteousness. Righteousness is the state of being made right with God – having a good relationship with him and, through his forgiveness, no longer being separated from him because of sin. We receive righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:9). It allows us to be freed from the guilt, shame and condemnation that sin otherwise brings. It means we are cleansed, made pure and holy, and therefore able to once again commune with the holy Lord. It allows us to redeem our sense of worth and to regain hope for the future. Righteousness is therefore strongly connected to both our self-esteem and our relationship with God. It also dictates a change in the way we live our lives – instead of indulging in sin, righteousness naturally leads us to do what is right and true. It increases over time as we draw closer to God and build on good choices. It follows that it once again gives us power over Satan. Like truth, righteousness is spiritual warfare. It is the truth about who we are in God’s eyes.

Satan will therefore counter it in any way he can. When he attacks our heart, he attacks our beliefs about ourselves – our worth. Once again using lies, he causes us to question our right standing with God. He reminds us of the bad things we have done. He has other people reject us. He tries to thrust guilt, shame and condemnation back onto us even when we have sought forgiveness from God for our sins. He attacks our emotions, causing depression, anxiety, fear, grief, sadness and difficulty in our relationships with others, ourselves, and God. To stand against this, we must ‘put on the breastplate of righteousness’ and remind Satan of the truth of who we are as God’s son or daughter, no longer burdened by past sins and mistakes. In this way we protect our heart from the devil and stand in a place of victory.

The Third Piece of Armour – the Gospel of Peace

‘And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.’ Ephesians 6:15.

Shoes indicate an intent to travel. Adequate protection for our feet allows us to trek long distances across varying terrains in different weathers or, spiritually speaking, through challenges and trials. Here, Paul is instructing us to put on shoes so we can spread the good news about the Gospel of Peace (that is, the good news that Jesus gave us the way to be at peace with God). This echoes the writings of Isaiah:

‘How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!’ Isaiah 52:7 (also quoted by Paul in Romans 10:15).

We spread this news by giving an account of our faith to others when God gives us the opportunity to do so. Sometimes we do this without words, that is, by behaving in a righteous way with integrity, respect and kindness, or simply setting ourselves apart from the world through honourable living. Sometimes it’s found in the conversations we have with those who are struggling in life; providing compassionate, godly support and/or advice in their difficulties.

But why is this spiritual warfare? Because it brings hope to people who are in despair. It allows more people to be reconciled with God and to join his kingdom. That means more people leaving Satan’s kingdom. This news is not good for him.

The verse also specifically calls it the Gospel of Peace. Peace means freedom if not from conflict, from distress and suffering in the midst of conflict. Peace is so important to God that he links it to his identity, describing himself as ‘the Lord of Peace’ (2 Thessalonians 3:16) and his son as ‘the Prince of Peace’ (Isaiah 9:6). The angels proclaimed ‘peace on earth’ when Jesus was born (Luke 2:14).

Why then does Jesus say, ‘Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword’ (Matthew 10:34)? The peace Jesus brings is between us and God, as his sacrifice made the way for us to have a direct relationship with God. It is true that it is our responsibility to ‘if it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men’ (Romans 12:18). But there will not be complete peace on earth until Satan is defeated in the end days. Until then, the two kingdoms remain at war, and we must pick a side (‘He that is not with me is against me.’ Matthew 12:30). Still, by spreading the Gospel of Peace, we give others the opportunity to find peace through a relationship with God, despite the spiritual battle taking place around us. Satan’s purpose is to torment and upset us – he does not want us in a place of rest, the very thing Jesus promises us if we come to him (Matthew 11:28). Remaining in peace is a way of fighting the devil.

‘The preparation of the gospel of peace’ suggests we are to adapt a readiness to speak about God at any time and, like Paul, to be able to say, ‘I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ’ (Romans 1:16). By putting on the ‘shoes’ to spread the good news, we are actively opposing Satan and his kingdom, and bringing glory to God[1].

The Fourth Piece of Armour – Faith

‘Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.’ Ephesians 6:16.

‘Above all’ – Paul immediately places particular importance on this next item. The writer of Hebrews defines faith as ‘the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen’ (11:1) and adds that ‘without faith it is impossible to please [God]’ (11:6).

Faith can be hard to differentiate from hope, trust, and belief, as all four entail conviction in things that can’t be seen or which are otherwise intangible, and yet they are different from each other. Belief is the foundation of the other three – it is a sound confidence and understanding that something is true. Trust is the belief that something or someone will meet our needs in the way we expect them to. Hope is the belief that something good will happen or get better in our future.

Faith is the belief that something or someone has the capacity to do whatever is required, even when we have no evidence of this. That is why we say ‘I have faith in you’ when someone is trying something for the first time, not ‘I have trust in you’, which sounds like we need them to come through for us personally, or ‘I have hope in you’, which sounds like we think they’ll get better in the future but are actually lacking in some way now. Faith is acting like we have proof before we have proof. Actually, faith stands in place of proof – that is why the writer of Hebrews says it is evidence.

That is also why it pleases God so much when we have faith in him, because it is a demonstration that we believe in him so much that we don’t need evidence of what he is doing or going to do. We just know he is doing it. There is no doubt. Faith also demonstrates a loyal allegiance with him (faithfulness). It leads us to pick a side. We can’t have faith in God and faith in Satan at the same time.

Paul says that faith acts as a shield and that it protects us not just from one or two darts, but all of them. These darts are described as ‘fiery’. Things that are on fire burn and spread, causing deeper and longer-lasting damage. But through faith, we are saved from all such spiritual and emotional damage. When we place our faith in God, he comes through for us in big ways.

Satan attacks our faith by causing us to doubt God. He makes us question if he really is doing anything, why he is taking so long, and if he really has our best interests at heart. Such thoughts seem innocent at first but can end up crippling our faith and then our identity. It is by raising the shield of faith that we are able to withstand all such attacks.

The Fifth Piece of Armour – Salvation

‘And take the helmet of salvation.’ Ephesians 6:17a.

A helmet protects our head and brain or, spiritually and emotionally speaking, our mind. It is likely Paul is referring to the latter rather than the former in this case. He speaks a lot about the mind throughout his letters and shows us how it can determine our allegiance to either God’s or Satan’s kingdoms. This is most notably explained in Romans 8:5-7:

‘For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God.’

Our mind is the primary space where Satan launches his attacks. It’s where he causes us to compromise the truth, question our righteousness, hesitate in spreading the good news, lose our peace to conflict, and doubt our faith.

All such attacks begin with a single thought that he slips into our mind so quietly we often think it’s our own (that way we don’t suspect him and chase him out). He could, for example, tell us that because we have failed at something we are a failure (a lie), and if we choose to dwell on that thought, low self-worth and even depression could soon follow. Before we know it, we feel trapped in a dark space.

But what we think on is a choice. Peter tells us to ‘gird up the loins of your mind’ (1 Peter 1:13), reusing the metaphor to show us that we need to make the decision to protect our minds from unholy thoughts. Paul tells us that ‘we have the mind of Christ’ (1 Corinthians 2:16) and that it is the ‘renewing of the mind’ that transforms us from worldly people to godly ones (Romans 12:2). Isaiah wrote that we remain in perfect peace when our mind is stayed on God (26:3). That is, when we actively cultivate godly thoughts. Jesus asks, ‘which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?’ and later exhorts us to ‘take therefore no thought for the morrow’ (Matthew 6:27, 34). He is of course talking about worrying, which begins and ends with the thoughts we choose to dwell on.

The ‘helmet of salvation’ explains that our minds are protected from Satan’s attacks through the knowledge that we have salvation in Jesus Christ. At the beginning of the passage, we remember that Paul began by saying we need to ‘put on’ the armour of God, an active choice and decision. This is especially true of the helmet – we have to actively take charge of our mind rather than simply letting Satan set up home there and believing everything he tells us, either directly or through others. This is not an area where we can afford to be passive. Without the helmet of salvation – the sound belief and hope that we belong to God – our mind is left unprotected. The best way to counter Satan’s attacks on our minds is by thinking on the Word of God (and on such things that fits Paul’s list in Philippians 4:8). This is, in fact, our best and most powerful weapon.

The Only Weapon – the Sword of the Spirit

‘… and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.’ Ephesians 6:17b.

In the same sentence Paul mentions the need for the helmet of salvation, he tells us to take up the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. That is because they are intricately linked – we fight Satan’s lies by focusing our minds on the truth found in the Word. This is the only weapon Paul references and the only one we need in our fight against the devil. As mentioned, this is exactly how Jesus overcame Satan’s attacks in the wilderness, as outlined in Matthew 4. Three times Satan tempted him to leave his identity, kingdom, and beliefs behind; three times Jesus responded by saying ‘it is written’ and quoting the Word of God. In the end, the devil left. James tells us to ‘submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you’ (4:7). That is what it means to stand against him. It may not always be immediate – sometimes we may even need to resist him for years before he relents – but once he knows we’re serious and have the power of God, he will flee in fear. Sometimes, we have to get spiritually and mentally violent towards him in order for this to happen: ‘The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force’ (Matthew 11:12).

The writer of Hebrews further explains the concept of the Word as a sword, and its connection to the mind:

‘For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword … and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.’ Hebrews 4:12.

To beat down Satan’s attack on our mind, we have to know the Word of God, believe it, and continually bring it to mind every time we feel the devil trying to tempt us away from God’s truth. The Word also allows us to see our thoughts and motivations for what they are so we can make corrections when needed and bring them back into line with God’s will. In the end, by taking these steps and getting our mind on track, the devil will flee.

The Power of the Spirit

‘Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.’ Ephesians 6:18.

While we need to take active steps to ‘put on the armour’ and stand against the devil, it’s not something we do on our own or in our own power. That is why Paul concludes this passage by reminding us to pray continually in the Spirit. We must rely on God and his direction at all times by going to him with all of our needs in prayer (Philippians 4:6). If we don’t, we’re not effective spiritual warriors. In the words of James, ‘the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much’ (5:16).

Paul also reminds us to ‘watch’ with all perseverance. Once we have achieved victory over the devil in a particular area, we can’t let our guard down. It echoes Peter’s warning:

‘Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist stedfast in the faith.’ 1 Peter 5:8-9.

We must always be strengthening our stand against him, watching for weak spots in our lives where he may try to enter in. It is part of the ongoing war we fight for God’s kingdom, and it’s one we’ll continue to fight until Jesus Christ makes his second appearance. In the meantime, we have all of his power and his might to have the courage to speak to the devil as David spoke to Goliath:

‘This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee … that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. And all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hands.’ 1 Samuel 17:46-47.

Paul speaks of supplication (prayer) for all the saints (those who share the same faith), indicating the need to support each other throughout times of difficulty and attack. Prayer will always be an important defence in spiritual warfare, for ourselves and for each other. It allows us to communicate with our King, who in turn comes to protect and deliver us:

‘The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles.’ Psalm 34:19.

Finally, we must remember that the armour is only powerful because it comes from God. In fact, it is God’s power expressed as armour. The power comes from having God’s spirit within us, as Paul says:

‘Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? … the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.’ 1 Corinthians 3:16-17.

‘For God hath not given us the spirit of fear but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.’ 2 Timothy 1:7.

‘I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.’ Galatians 2:20.

Christian Israelites seek to have God’s spirit dwell within us (to be the life of our bodies), and when we do, it gives us the power we need to overcome Satan in all his forms and to say:

‘Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ 1 Corinthians 15:57.

[1] For the Christian Israelite, the ‘good news’ is not just the salvation of the soul but of the life of the body.