How to Avoid Spiritual Infections
How to Avoid Spiritual Infections
Joseph Lister, the nineteenth-century medic, is known as ‘the father of antiseptic surgery’. Lister was disturbed by the high proportion of patients who died from post-operative infections.
He became convinced that infinitesimal microbes, invisible to the naked eye, were causing the infections. He began to develop a number of antiseptic solutions with which to treat the wounds. Sure enough, the proportion of patients dying from infections decreased.
In a similar way, there are evil spiritual forces at work in our world today. They cannot be seen, but they wreak havoc in people’s lives, causing them to fall into temptation, moving evil people into positions of national power, manipulating people’s emotions, tearing them apart and destroying them.
But just as Lister’s contemporaries dismissed his theory of destructive microbes, many people today are ignorant or dismissive of spiritual realities. Yet you have the powerful spiritual ‘antiseptic’ to use against these destructive forces. It is vital that you learn to do so.
Thank God continuallyPsalm 136:13–26
Do you ever feel ‘under attack’ – from powerful temptations, overwhelming fears, major anxieties or from some other form of attack?
The ‘enemies’ in the Old Testament were often physical attacks, whereas in the New Testament they are usually spiritual attacks. But the outcome is the same – God promises to rescue you from all your enemies.
The psalmist gives thanks for what God has done. In particular, he thanks God for freeing us from our enemies (v.24):
‘God remembered us when we were down… Rescued us from the trampling boot... Takes care of everyone in time of need… Thank God who did it all!’ (vv.23–26, MSG).
The final verse summarises the psalm: ‘Give thanks to the God of heaven. His love endures forever’ (v.26).
Lord, thank you that you have rescued me through the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Thank you that your love endures for ever.
Stay close to Jesus1 John 2:12–27
Pippa and I were very young when we got married. We had no money to pay for our honeymoon. A friend kindly lent us a cottage in Scotland and another friend, called Micky, lent us his car.
On the way home, we crashed the car right outside Micky’s house. We rang his doorbell. Micky could see that we were both very upset. Immediately he said, ‘Oh, don’t worry about my car, it’s only a piece of metal!’ Micky loved God and he loved people. He did not love things; he held them lightly.
Do not love the things of the world (v.15). Don’t use people and love things. Love people and use things.
Your struggle is against the enemy within – sin (v.12), the enemy around – the world (vv.16–17), and the enemy above – the devil (v.14). You have already been rescued from these enemies.
- The enemy within (sin)
Jesus has rescued you from your sins: ‘I write to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name’ (v.12).
- The enemy around (the world)
Jesus has rescued you from needing to be intimately attached to the world. John writes, ‘Practically everything that goes on in the world – wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important – has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out – but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity’ (vv.16–17, MSG).
- The enemy above (the devil)
Jesus has given you the power to be free from the devil – the evil one: ‘I write to you, young people, because… the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one’ (v.14b). The victory comes from staying close to God: ‘Your fellowship with God enables you to gain a victory over the evil one’ (v.14, MSG).
John then goes on to warn his readers against false teachers who would seek to shake them from this firm foundation (vv.18–23). He encourages them to steer well clear of such false teaching. He highlights some of the marks of the false teachers, which you can use to identify them:
- ‘Lies’ about Jesus
Lies and deceit are the mark of false teachers, ‘no lie comes from the truth’ (v.21). John explains that ‘whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ’ (v.22) is a ‘liar’ and an ‘antichrist’, opposed to both the Father and the Son (v.23).
- Leaving the fellowship
These false teachers were individuals who ‘went out from us’, which was an indication that ‘they did not really belong to us’ (v.19). They often leave the fellowship because they leave the apostolic teaching.
- Leading people astray
‘I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray’ (v.26).
Have nothing to do with such false teachers, but instead root yourself in the truth of the gospel. ‘Stay with what you heard from the beginning, the original message. Let it sink into your life’ (v.25, MSG). If you do this, then you have nothing to fear.
You have the Holy Spirit living within you to lead and guide you; ‘the anointing you received from him remains in you’ (v.27).
Immerse yourself in Scripture (v.14), and in the fellowship of the church (v.19). This will protect and strengthen you. The key is to stay close to Jesus: ‘If what you heard from the beginning lives deeply in you, you will live deeply in both Son and Father. This is exactly what Christ promised: eternal life, real life!’ (vv.24–25, MSG).
Lord, thank you that you have rescued me from sin, the world and the devil; and anointed me with the Holy Spirit to lead and guide me.
Remember his victory is completeDaniel 7:1–8:14
Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil. Jesus lives within you. Through him you have the victory. When it comes to understanding who Jesus is and what he came to do, this is one of the most important passages in the entire Bible.
God spoke to Daniel through dreams and visions while he was lying on his bed. ‘He wrote down the substance of his dream’ (7:1). (When God speaks, it is wise to write it down so you don’t forget.) Daniel had a vivid dream all about spiritual warfare: ‘making war on God’s holy people’ (v.21, MSG).
There was an immediate historical fulfilment of the vision and dream. The four beasts, for example, represent four kingdoms – the Babylonian Empire, the Medo-Persian Empire; the Greek Empire and the Colossus of the Roman Empire (see commentaries for details*).
But this dream and vision had a far greater fulfilment. Daniel foresaw that there will come a time when evil is completely destroyed and eradicated from the earth (vv.11,26), and when God will reign supreme and eternally over the whole universe (v.14).
He also foresaw a great victory for the people of God: ‘the horn will be stripped of its power and totally destroyed. Then the royal rule and the authority and the glory of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the people of the High God. Their royal rule will last forever. All other rulers will serve and obey them’ (vv.26–27, MSG).
More than that, Daniel foresaw that the victory would be won by a messianic figure in the form of a ‘son of man’ (v.13).
‘I saw a human form, a son of man,
arriving in a whirl of clouds...
He was given power to rule – all the glory of royalty.
Everyone – race, colour, and creed – had to serve him.
His rule would be forever, never ending.
His kingly rule would never be replaced’ (vv.13–14, MSG).
Jesus spoke of ‘the Son of Man… coming on the clouds of heaven’ (Mark 14:62), and ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory’ (13:26; see also Matthew 24:30; 26:64).
This passage clearly had a profound impact on Jesus and his own understanding of himself. He often described himself as the ‘Son of Man’. The expression appears eighty-two times in the Gospels, all in the sayings of Jesus.
Jesus chose a title that did not have the same political overtones as some of the other Messianic titles. It spoke of a representative figure who would identify with human beings and ‘give his life as a ransom for many’ (Mark 10:45). It carried with it the idea of suffering (Daniel 7).
In his great love for you and me, Jesus, the Son of Man, suffered as a representative of the entire human race, so that you could be rescued from all the spiritual forces of evil in the world. One day, Jesus will return ‘with the clouds of heaven’ (v.13) as he promised, and victory will be complete (Matthew 24:30–31).
Lord, thank you for this amazing victory of Jesus over all the forces of evil. Thank you that all the powers of evil have been defeated and one day will be utterly destroyed.
‘His love endures forever’ is repeated twenty-six times in this psalm. Hopefully we have got the message!
Verse of the Day
‘Give thanks to the God of heaven.
His love endures forever’ (Psalm 136:26).
*See, for example, Ronald S. Wallace, The Lord is King: The Message of Daniel (InterVarsity Press, 1979).
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.