Activated

Endtime Insights: Pre-Tribulation or Post-Tribulation Rapture

By Scott MacGregor

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The term “Rapture” is not found in English-language Bibles, but made its way into Christian terminology as a transliteration of rapiemur (from rapio, or raptio), the Latin word used by Saint Jerome in his Latin Vulgate translation of 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, which describes how the saved from all ages, both dead and living, will be “caught up” to meet Jesus in the air at His Second Coming.

One of the major controversies regarding Endtime Bible prophecy concerns when Jesus will return to “rapture” all those who have received Him as their Savior. Will it be before or after the coming three-and-a-half-year period of worldwide trouble known as the “Great Tribulation”?

Those who believe in a pre-Tribulation Rapture contend that Jesus will return in secret to whisk all born-again (saved) Christians out of this world and into Heaven. Depending on when they believe the Tribulation starts, this would be either at the beginning of the Antichrist’s seven-year rule or at its midpoint.

Central to this pre-Tribulation doctrine are several Bible passages that liken Jesus’ Second Coming to a thief in the night, and also the supposition that the Second Coming and the Rapture are two different events.

Regarding His return, Jesus told His disciples: “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of Heaven, but My Father only. … Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left. Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:36, 40-44).

Here we have Jesus coming like a thief and people going up to Heaven in the Rapture at the same time. There is no indication that these are separate events.

In another “thief” passage, the apostle Paul states: “Concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, ‘Peace and safety!’ then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-3).

“Sudden destruction” and the labor pain analogy make it clear that Jesus’ return will be a shocking, woeful experience for those not taken—certainly not the secret, stealthy Rapture of pre-Tribulation doctrine.

The point that both of these “thief” passages are making is that Jesus’ return will be sudden and unexpected, so we need to watch the signs of the times and keep our hearts right with Him so we’ll be ready.

A third “thief” passage that is often applied to the Rapture is, in context, a specific warning to Christians in the city of Sardis, in Western Asia Minor (modern Turkey) who lived in the apostle John’s day. Jesus says, “Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you” (Revelation 3:3).

There is a lesson in this passage for us too, of course, and it is the same one that the previously quoted “thief” passages make: We need to keep our hearts right with Jesus so we’ll be ready to face Him when we die or are caught up with Him in the Rapture.

A fourth “thief” passage that is sometimes added to the mix isn’t referring to the Rapture at all, but rather the destruction and re-creation of Earth’s surface and its atmospheric heavens about 1,000 years later, at the end of the Millennium: “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10).

Now let’s look at some of the passages that support the post-Tribulation Rapture theory.

Just prior to His “thief” analogy, Jesus told His disciples: “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matthew 24:29-31).

Jesus placed His return after the Tribulation period—then His angels will gather His elect, all those who have received Him as their Savior, in the Rapture. He couldn’t have made that point clearer!

In addition, the apostle Paul explains that the Antichrist will already be in power and “sitting in the temple of God” when the Rapture happens, and we know from other passages that this happens after the Antichrist breaks the “holy covenant,” which triggers the Great Tribulation: “Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day [Jesus’ return] will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin [the Antichrist] is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4).

Paul also states that it will happen when the last trumpet sounds—the same trumpet Jesus referred to in Matthew 24:31: “The Lord Himself will descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we [saved] who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).

And finally, it is clear from the prophecies in the books of Daniel (c. 538 bc) and Revelation (c. 90 ad) that the saints—all those who have been born again—will be around in the Tribulation, because the Antichrist will war against them. In fact, several passages are even very specific about the length of this period.

“I was watching; and the [Antichrist] was making war against the saints, and prevailing against them, until the Ancient of Days [God] came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom. … He [the Antichrist] shall speak pompous words against the Most High, shall persecute the saints of the Most High, and shall intend to change times and law. Then the saints shall be given into his hand for a time and times and half a time [three and a half years]” (Daniel 7:21-22, 25).

Yes, the Great Tribulation is going to be a trying time, but God will turn it to our good and help us come through it victoriously. Concerning that time, Daniel writes: “The people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits. And those of the people who understand shall instruct many” (Daniel 11:32-33).

The Great Tribulation will also be a time when many people will turn to the Lord, as those who know their God and understand what’s happening will manifest great powers and win to God’s eternal kingdom many of those who are disaffected with the Antichrist and his regime. The Tribulation trumpets will signal judgments on the wicked—not the just, who will be under God’s seal of protection during this time.

“These [the great multitude standing before the throne of God and Jesus] are the ones who come out of the Great Tribulation” (Revelation 7:14). In other words, they were there during it. God will deliver His own out of trouble, not from it!

 
 

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Why Worry?—You’re in God’s hands!

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God loves you! He is your kind and loving heavenly Father who personally loves you, His own dear child, and you are in His hands. He has made this beautiful world as a home for you to live in and enjoy, and He has lovingly given you a wonderful body, mind, and heart with which to enjoy it.

Sad to say, some people have gotten the idea that God is some kind of monster who follows them around with a big stick, always ready to clobber them! But the Bible says that “God is love” (1 John 4:8). He is loving and forgiving, and the only reason He follows anyone around is in hopes that they will turn around to meet Him, so He can receive them in His open arms!

Others say they don’t believe in God because they can’t understand Him. Well, no one can ever really understand God. It’s impossible! He says, “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). But even though we don’t really understand Him, we can look at the beautiful world He has made—the trees, the flowers, the mountains, the sea, the sky—and feel His love in His wonderful creation.

You don’t have to understand God in order to love Him, any more than a little baby needs to understand everything about his mother and father in order to know their love. This is why Jesus said that you have to be like a little child to enter the kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 18:3). There are certain things that you just have to accept by faith.

Jesus also said that “God is a Spirit” (John 4:24). He is all-powerful, all-knowing, and everywhere-present. Even the heaven of heavens cannot contain Him (1 Kings 8:27). He is not confined to Earth or our solar system or the Milky Way galaxy or even the entire universe. He is all and in all—far beyond the limited mind of man and our human understanding!

But because He loves us and wanted to show us His love, He sent His own Son in the form of a man, Jesus Christ. Jesus was like a picture of God, “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15), to show us what God is like—and all He did was love. He talked about love and showed love and lived love, and finally, in love, laid down His life for us, to bring life, forgiveness, and eternal joy to all who would receive Him.

So if you feel that God is far from you, maybe it’s because you haven’t received His love. There is an empty place, which God created in each of our hearts, that only He can fill. Nothing else can truly satisfy. If you would like for Him to fill that empty spot in you, all you have to do is open your heart to Him. He will give you His love that will change your whole outlook on life.

This is one of the wonderful things about God’s love: When we know that God loves us, we know that everything in our lives is going to work out in the end because He will take care of us. This is faith, and it’s faith in His love that keeps out worry and fear. “Perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). Receiving God’s love into your heart is like turning on a light in a dark room—the darkness has to flee!

Then you won’t need to worry anymore. You’ll know your heavenly Father loves you and that you and yours—your future, your health, your family—are in His hands. “Do not worry about your life. Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:25-26). He will care for His own!

Do you have God’s love in your heart? If not, all you have to do is pray and ask Jesus to come into your life! He says, “Behold, I stand at the door [of your heart] and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in” (Revelation 3:20). He loves you and will come in right now if you will sincerely pray this prayer:

Jesus, please forgive me for all my sins. I believe that You are the Son of God and that You died for me. I now open the door of my heart and I ask You to come in and give me Your gift of eternal life. Then help me to love You and to love others with Your love. Amen.

 
 

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Anchor

God’s Timing

A compilation

free-bible-studies-online-anchorThe first thing we need to understand about God’s timing is that it is perfect, just as all of God’s ways are perfect (Psalm 18:30; Galatians 4:4). God’s timing is never early, and it’s never been late. In fact, from before our birth until the moment we take our last earthly breath, our sovereign God is accomplishing His divine purposes in our lifetimes. He is in complete control of everything and everyone from everlasting to everlasting. No event in history has put so much as a wrinkle in the timing of God’s eternal plan, which He designed before the foundation of the world.

One would think, then, that by understanding the sovereignty of our Creator, patience and waiting would come a little more easily. Unfortunately, however, that’s not always the case. Our human nature can make waiting for God’s perfect timing a difficult thing to do. In fact, in the hustle and bustle of our frenzied lives, we often find it difficult to wait for anything or anyone. We want what we want now. And with our modern technological advances, we’re often able to get what we want now. As a result, we are not only losing our patience, but also finding it increasingly difficult to discern God’s timing.

Patience is a spiritual fruit (Galatians 5:22), and Scripture makes it clear that God is pleased with us when we display this virtue: “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for Him” (Psalm 37:7), for God “is good to those who wait for Him” (Lamentations 3:25). And our patience often reveals the degree of trust we have in God’s timing. We must remember that God operates according to His perfect and foreordained eternal schedule, not ours. We should take great comfort in knowing that, when we wait on the LORD, we receive divine energy and strength. “But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31). The psalmist reiterates: “Wait on the LORD; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the LORD!” (Psalm 27:14).

Another key to understanding God’s timing is trust. In fact, our ability to wait on the Lord is largely related to how much we trust Him. When we trust in God with all of our heart, forgoing reliance on our own, often erroneous understanding of circumstances, He will indeed give us direction (Proverbs 3:5-6). “The LORD’s unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts Him” (Psalm 32:10). To fully trust God, however, we need to know God. And the best way to know Him is through His Word. God’s divine energy is released in our lives through His inspired Word (1 Thessalonians 2:13). The work of God’s Word includes saving (Romans 10:17; 1 Peter 1:23), teaching and training (2 Timothy 3:16-17), guiding (Psalm 119:105), protecting (Psalm 119:11), strengthening (Psalm 119:28), and making us wise (Psalm 119:97-100). If we study and meditate on His Word daily, His timing will also become clear to us.

When we question God’s timing, it is often because we are looking for guidance or deliverance from a difficult situation. We can rest assured, however, that our heavenly Father knows exactly where we are in our lives at every moment. He either put us there or is allowing us to be there, all for His own perfect purpose. In fact, God often uses trials to strengthen our patience, allowing our Christian faith to mature and become complete (James 1:3-4). And we know that all things—including these difficult trials—work out for the good of those who love God (Romans 8:28). God does indeed hear the cries of His children and will answer those cries according to His perfect will and timing. “A righteous man may have many troubles; the LORD delivers him from them all” (Psalm 34:19). The plans God has for His children are good plans—to help us, not hurt us (Jeremiah 29:11).
—From gotquestions.org

*

There was a church sign that once asked the question: “Who was four days late, but right on time?”

The question, of course, was referring to the time when the Lord raised Lazarus from the grave after he had been dead for four days. The Nelons used to sing a song about the same subject called “Right On Time.”

Everything God does is right on time. His timing, above all, truly is perfect. Sometimes we might wait a long time to see a prayer answered, but when the answer finally comes, it is at the exact moment when it’s needed the most.

During Christ’s earthly ministry, He had a very specific time frame to do all that He’d come here to do. And He did every bit of it just as He had planned, as well as at the precise moment He had chosen.

This is something that Christians tend to forget at times. Just because He hasn’t answered when and how we think He should, it doesn’t mean He won’t answer at all. He will … when it’s time.

“And therefore will the LORD wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the LORD is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him.” (Isaiah 30:18)
—Tammy (www.keptbygrace.com)

*

If God is working in your life to bring out a special quality, the process may take some time. Lumps of coal aren’t turned into diamonds overnight; so it is with our lives.

When you think you’ve reached the end of your rope, just hold on a little longer. Patience is often the key that opens the door to God’s blessings, and sometimes we must be content to wait for His answer. While we may expect God to put an end to our problems right now, He may know that later is a better time. God’s timing is impeccable. “He has done all things well.” (Mark 7:37) Trust Him!

Faith is believing. Faith is trusting. Faith doesn’t quit. Faith refuses to call anything impossible. Faith refuses to be robbed of its joy and peace by circumstances or battles.

If we refuse to concede defeat, but rather hold on to God no matter what, if we determine to believe His promises, even though we may not see the fulfillment immediately, victory will be ours in the end. Such faith cannot be defeated. He will always come through for us.
—Shannon Shayler

 
 

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Endtime Insights: An Overview of the Book of Revelation

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At first reading, the book of Revelation is not only mysterious but also confusing. Understanding how the book is structured helps it become clearer.

Revelation can be divided into three sections of seven chapters each, with chapter 22 (which is basically a continuation of chapter 21) added to the last section.

The first section begins with an introduction, followed by letters of correction and commendation from the apostle John to seven “churches” of his day—communities of believers (Acts 2:44-47). Then, beginning with chapter 4, John relates his experience of being taken to God’s throne room in Heaven, where he witnesses Jesus opening a mysterious scroll that is sealed with seven seals. As each one is opened, a spiritual entity or an Endtime event is revealed.

In the following seven chapters, the Lord zooms in to give a more detailed look at the coming three-and-a-half years of worldwide trouble known as the “Great Tribulation” (Matthew 24:15-21). Here we learn of the spiritual struggle between good and evil, and of the rise of the Antichrist, who is depicted as “the Beast.” These events culminate in the Second Coming of Jesus and the gathering to Him of all believers.

The last section begins with events on earth immediately after Jesus’ return. The chronological order of events is interrupted by a two-chapter description of “Babylon the Great,” symbolizing the brazen materialism of this day and age, and more information on the Beast. It then returns to the chronological account of future events, beginning with a great celebration in Heaven with Jesus and those He has gathered to Him from earth at the Second Coming of Christ. This is followed by the Battle of Armageddon, where Jesus and His followers defeat the Antichrist, and continues through the thousand-year reign of Christ on earth to the happy ending when the Heavenly City, New Jerusalem, comes down to its eternal resting place on the newly recreated planet Earth and God Himself dwells with the saved (Revelation 21:2-3).

One question nearly everyone has is whether John’s descriptions are literal or symbolic. Undoubtedly there are some of each. Another thing to bear in mind is that he was seeing in a vision things he had never seen before—things of our day—so he had to describe them in the terms of his own experience and in language that the people of his day could understand. For example, John had never seen tanks or planes or guns or bombs or heard their roar. So if he was watching modern warfare, he might describe tanks as chariots or warplanes flying at then incomprehensible altitudes as locusts.

Many things in the book of Revelation remain mysteries or topics of speculation. As future events unfold, Jesus will help us understand more.

The bottom line
The forces of evil will never be able to completely overcome God’s people. In spite of all the wrath and atrocities that bestial man will bring against God’s children during the Great Tribulation—the coming three-and-a-half-year worldwide reign of terror against people of all faiths by the devilish dictatorship of the Antichrist and his regime—multitudes of us Christians will still be here to joyously welcome Christ’s triumphant re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere (Matthew 24:21, 29-31). Jesus is the only One who can stop us, and He will stop us then for a little while to take us home for a party, the marriage supper of the Lamb in Heaven! Then we’ll come back here and put a stop to the reign of the wicked! (Revelation chapter 19).
—David Brandt Berg

who | what | when | where | how | why

“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John” (Revelation 1:1).

What: The Revelation of Jesus Christ—“things which must shortly take place.”

Who: The divine author was God Himself, who gave the vision to Jesus Christ “to show His servants.”

How: Jesus relayed the vision through a heavenly messenger to the apostle John—also known as John the Beloved, one of Jesus’ original 12 disciples and the author of the Gospel of John—who wrote it down and sent it to the Christians (referred to collectively in the book of Revelation as churches) in seven cities in the region that roughly corresponds with modern-day Turkey.

Where: John received the vision on the Isle of Patmos in the Aegean Sea, where he had been banished during the persecution of Christians by the Roman Emperor Domitian “for [spreading] the Word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 1:9). It is believed that about a year after receiving the vision, John was released and permitted to return to Ephesus (in modern-day Turkey).

When: It is believed that John received this vision in 95 ad and wrote it down the following year, in 96 ad.

Why: Ultimately so that we who are living today would understand the events of the Endtime as they unfold. “You, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day [Jesus’ return] should overtake you as a thief” (1 Thessalonians 5:4).

 
 

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Answers to Your Questions: Is Your Mind “Free”?

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Q: Some of my friends seem to analyze and question everything. I can understand their not wanting to blindly conform or believe everything they hear, but their constant questioning often turns to cynicism. I say they’re taking their free thinking too far, and they say I am not a free thinker because I hold some truths to be absolute. What do you say?

A: You’re right—it is possible to take “free thinking” too far. And, yes, there are absolutes.

To show that they can think for themselves, which they consider necessary in order to establish their individuality, some people argue against all right and reason—the godly principles in the Bible, for example. What they don’t understand, however, is that such arguments don’t originate in their own minds, coming from nowhere. Thoughts are inspired, and there are only two sources—good and evil. That’s why it so important that we learn to process our thoughts, to discern where they are coming from and to wisely choose which thoughts to entertain and which to reject.

It’s a trick of the Devil (and a very effective and powerful trick these days) to get people to reject godly principles because they want to “be different” or “be themselves.” When people think such thoughts, though, they’re not really thinking their own thoughts but rather choosing to think thoughts that are inspired by the Evil One. It’s not the “free thinkers,” in their supposed individuality, who come up with those “original” thoughts; the Devil or one of his imps puts those thoughts there, and people adopt them as their own. So expressing thoughts that contradict the Bible isn’t a sign of individuality, but of accepting beliefs from the dark side.

In a sense, believing and conforming to the truth of God’s Word does make you a slave in your thoughts, but so does believing and conforming to the Devil’s lies. We all surrender our thoughts to one side or the other—light or darkness—so everyone chooses, consciously or unconsciously, who will be their master.

The desire to be a distinct individual is inborn, put there by God, and isn’t wrong. But there is a right way and a wrong way to go about pursuing individuality. True freedom and godly individuality do not come from thinking thoughts that are contrary to God’s Word. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Jesus said, “If you abide in My Word”—if you believe and follow it”—”you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32).

 
 

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The Quest for Individuality

By David Brandt Berg

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Lots of people have fallen for the Devil’s lie that if they read, follow, and obey the Word of God, they’ll “lose their individuality.” In other words, they believe that if they simply accept the truths of God’s Word by faith, they will become just like everyone else and will cease to be a unique, thinking person—that they will lose their “edge,” their intellect, and their ability to carry on thoughtful discussions.

If you stop to look around you, though, you’ll see that there is plenty of variety, intelligence, and individuality among those who don’t adopt this mindset. Within the body of believers who are all trying their best to follow Jesus’ teachings, there are all kinds of real characters! No two people are alike, and there are many big differences that set people apart.

Even if everyone were to believe and apply the Word of God, the Word is living, so its results are different in each person’s life. For example, if ten people were to read the Bible’s famous “love chapter,” 1 Corinthians 13, each might get something different from it. One may feel the Lord is telling him to have more outgoing love, another to be less pushy, another to be less proud, another to be less self-centered, and on and on. There is simply no way for people to become “mindless robots” or to lose their intellect or individuality as a result of living the Word!

I understand that if that were possible, no one would like that. It would make life boring and unchallenging. But that’s not possible. In fact, the opposite is likely to happen—the closer you draw to Jesus and the more you absorb His Word, the more your own personal gifts and strengths come to the fore. The Lord amplifies and enhances your natural talents and abilities, including your brainpower (all of which came from Him in the first place, by the way), and He makes you an even better person—a better you. And I’m not just talking about your spiritual life, but your imagination and creativity, your reasoning processes, your decision-making ability, your people-handling skills, and all the rest. The closer you get to the Lord and the more attuned you are to Him, the more of an individual you will become, because He will make you into what He wants you to be, which is different from what He wants anyone else to be.

Even if you were to read all the same Bible passages and memorize all the same Scriptures as a million other people, that wouldn’t take away your uniqueness. How you apply God’s Word in your life and how that Word is manifested in your decisions, your personality, your likes and dislikes, your faith, your reactions, and so on is what makes you an individual. The commitments you make to the Lord, the experiences you go through with Him, the love you give, the ideas you get from Him, the people you influence—all of that is what makes you who you are and defines who you are, and no one could ever be the same as you. It’s impossible!

You don’t have to reach out to the things of the world to try to establish your individuality. That’s a real trick of the Devil, because you think you’re becoming a different, unique person, but all the while his desire is to make you just like all the others who blindly go after the things of the world.

The Bible instructs us: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world” (1 John 2:15-16), and “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2).

Those who buy into the Devil’s lies end up conforming to the world. Gradually, as they yield their mind and thoughts and choices to the indoctrination of the world, they lose their uniqueness and become just like billions of other people who are in bondage to the darkness. That’s hardly being an individual!

The more of the world you take in, the more you are in danger of becoming not who the Lord created you to be, but a model of someone else’s thinking. Instead of a solid, loving Christian who knows where he’s going and is secure in God’s love, you’ll end up a poor lost wanderer spiritually.

What makes you an individual is not having beliefs that no one else has, but letting your belief in truths held in common with millions of other believers educate, inspire, motivate, and cause you to do things that are unique. The individuality is in what you do with your life.

So you have a choice: You can take God’s Word and all that the Lord shows you through your personal connection with Him and become the beautiful individual and unique expression of God’s love that He wants you to be, or you can go the other route and resist the Lord’s instruction, refuse His help, and miss becoming what you could have been. It’s up to you. That’s your freedom of choice, your freedom of thought.

“The more of the world you take in, the more you are in danger of becoming a model of someone else’s thinking.”

 
 

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Overcoming Vices

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We all have habits, both good and bad. Anything we do automatically, consciously or unconsciously, is a habit. Good habits such as tidiness, courtesy, punctuality, or good manners are a wonderful thing. But when the habit is bad for us or others, it’s what is known as a vice.

How many times have you tried to quit a bad habit but found yourself almost powerless to stop falling into it, no matter how hard you tried? The fact is that we all have human weaknesses that can turn into bad habits or vices if we’re not careful.

What most people don’t realize is that a vice is often more than just an ingrained natural reaction. When someone has a certain weakness and gives in to it repeatedly, very often the problem has its roots in the spiritual realm, where God and His angelic forces on one hand and the Devil and his evil spirits on the other try to influence our thoughts and actions. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood,” the Bible tells us, “but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12 KJV).

So to overcome a vice, you have to get free of whatever evil spirit may be behind it. According to God’s Word, there are evil spirits—demons, as they are commonly referred to—that specialize in playing up certain sins and vices to our harm, such as demons of alcoholism, drug addiction, smoking, gambling, gluttony, and eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, etc. These are some of the most obvious vices, but there are others: hatred, bitterness, pride, jealousy, self-righteousness, anger, negativity, criticalness, and lying and deception, to name a few. The spiritual powers that bind people to these other vices can be just as strong and destructive as the ones that drive people to compulsive gambling or drug or alcohol addiction.

There are demons that will try to cause damage in almost any area of your life if you let them. This is especially true if you already have a natural weakness along a certain line, like a tendency to be jealous or critical of others, for example. The enemies of your soul—the Devil and his demons—will play on that weakness and tempt you with it every chance you give them.

This is why God’s Word says to not give any place to the Devil (Ephesians 4:27). When you “give place” to evil spirits, it’s like having a boarder in your house who is bent on annoying you and causing you trouble and all kinds of damage. You may tell him to leave several times, but if he refuses, finally by the authority of the law—in this case the authority of God’s Word and the name of Jesus—you throw the rotter out!

But before you can get rid of him, you have to recognize that he is there—that there is an actual spiritual force binding you to that vice—and you have to want to be free of that vice badly enough that you are willing to confess your problem to Jesus, pray for deliverance, and take a stand against future temptation.

The moment you pray and ask Jesus to deliver you, you will be delivered. You have Jesus’ promise on that: “All authority has been given to Me [Jesus] in Heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). “Whatever you ask in My name, that I will do” (John 14:13). “If the Son [Jesus] makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).

When you pray, remind the Lord of these and other promises He has made in His Word. This shows you have faith in His ability to fulfill His promises. Never doubt for a moment that the Lord is going to answer, and He will. He has to because He has promised to.

Some changes are instantaneous, but others take a while. Even after prayer and spiritual deliverance, it often takes time to completely break free from the habit. The Devil and his forces don’t just give up and go away. They will try to retake the ground they have lost. But you have the advantage now. Before deliverance, the pestering spirit may have had quite a bit of control, but after deliverance it is within your power to resist its regaining control. This must become the new focus of your prayers. You must also take practical steps to fight falling prey to it again.

Some vices have such a strong grip on their victims that they’re almost impossible to overcome without spiritual reinforcements in the form of others’ prayers and encouragement. If, after praying for deliverance, strong temptation threatens to rob you of the victory over your vice or addiction, you may need to confess your problem to others who are strong in faith and ask them to pray with you against it, as well as to help provide support and safeguards to help you not give in to temptation. “Admit your faults to one another and pray for each other so that you may be healed [spiritually and physically]. The earnest prayer of a righteous man has great power and wonderful results” (James 5:16 TLB). “If two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in Heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:19-20).

Although you are delivered from the evil spirit’s grip, you still have the ingrained habit and will probably continue to be tempted in that area for a while, especially if it has been a big problem for years. But don’t give up! Resist the very thought of temptation! It’s not your fault that you get tempted. Nobody can keep temptation from coming, but you don’t have to yield to temptation. It’s like the saying, “You can’t keep birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.” The Devil can’t win unless you surrender! Hit him back every time he tries his tactics on you! “Resist the Devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

One of your best defenses against temptation, besides continuing to call on Jesus for help and claiming His promises, is to keep busy for God and others—work therapy that keeps you so busy with positive activities that you don’t have time to think about returning to your vice.

Support groups can also be a big help—having others to turn to who understand your situation and have perhaps been through the same or similar problems. “Two are better than one … for if they fall, one will lift up his companion. Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10,12). If you need help to overcome an addiction or other longstanding problem, contact them for prayer, encouragement, counsel, and fellowship.

In extreme cases such as longstanding physical addictions to alcohol or drugs, occasional help from a support group may not be enough—you may need the around the clock help of experienced professionals to get you through the detoxification and rehabilitation stages. It’s humbling to admit the need for such help, but it could save your life.

No matter how severe the case, deliverance can be yours through prayer and faith in Jesus. No one is beyond His help and nothing is too hard for Him (Jeremiah 32:27). “He [Jesus] who is in you is greater than he [the Devil] who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). Jesus is able to break any chain of vice or addiction that may bind you!

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Step One to Personal Progress
Prayer is the first and greatest step to bringing about change, because you’re asking Me to intervene and make a difference. You’re commanding Me to take over and get things rolling, to provide momentum in the right direction—a job I love to do.
—Jesus

 
 

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