The Continental Congress of the United Colonies met in Philadelphia in 1776 to ponder a mighty issue – that issue was INDEPENDENCE! A long, lanky, 33-year-old Virginian, Thomas Jefferson by name, was appointed to frame a document which, when read even today, sends chills up and down the spine. Many notables were at the gathering – among them John Hancock, who led off with his signature, writing it so boldly that King George II would be able to read it without putting on his specs.

The old bell ringer, who had been told to be on hand to start ringing as soon as word reached him that the Declaration of Independence had been adopted, was pessimistic, and said, “They’ll never do it! They’ll never do it!” Then, suddenly a boy appeared, running and shouting, “Ring! Ring! Ring!” And the event was history!

We who live today would do well to dedicate ourselves to the task of keeping that Liberty Bell ringing. Our New England forebears might have been quaint, gruff, and austere men, lacking somewhat in humor, but, judged by the legacy of freedom and worth they left behind, they were men of honor and integrity, and a people with a great compulsion. They would have agreed with these words from Psalm 127:1: “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain.”

Every time we sing, “Faith of our Fathers,” we should pause to ask ourselves these questions, “Does that faith still live? Is it alive in me?” And, if so, “To what degree does it live in me?” Perhaps it is good for us to canvass a few aspects of the faith of our fathers, and allow the past to sit in judgment on the present.

At the center of that faith stood a living and almighty God who was sovereign in the affairs of men and of nations. Benjamin Franklin said, “I have lived, sir, a long time; and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that God governs in the affairs of men.” It was because of that conviction, and because of a desire to worship God in freedom, that our forefathers migrated to these shores. They were willing to stake their lives on their faith – and this is the price that many of them did pay in the Revolutionary War that followed.

The wishy-washiness of much of our modern faith bears little resemblance to that which was held by those who formed and signed the Declaration of Independence. Examine the lives of many people today, both inside and outside the church, and you will often see some very shallow conceptions of God, and a shallow commitment to God. We say we love God, but we give so little of our time, energy, and material means. We accept His blessings but refuse His cross. We pledge allegiance to Him, but we do not seek His counsel. We ask Him for forgiveness but do not change our ways.

America’s earliest colleges were begun by the influence of the truth revealed in God’s Word. The Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights, and other national documents of importance were fashioned to a large degree as a result of concepts found in the Bible. The Bible must again be read, and taught, by mothers and fathers in America’s homes to their children if we are to be worthy of our heritage. Those who don’t read their Bible have no advantage over those who cannot read it.

Our forefathers were also a people who believed in worship – not all of them, of course, but those who laid our nation’s foundation on a solid foundation did. They could be found repenting of their sins. They built a legacy of freedom at great cost to themselves. John Quincy Adams said, “Posterity! You will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom! I hope you will make good use of it! If you do not, I shall repent it in heaven that I took the pains to preserve it.”

May we never forget the truth found in Psalm 33:12: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.”

The Bible is full of examples, exhortations, commands, and warnings about money. You will find no apology for the things it says about the use of money. Greed is everywhere renounced, and generosity is everywhere extolled. In fact, Jesus Christ had more to say about money than about heaven and hell combined.

I Corinthians 15 highlights the resurrection theme; then immediately in chapter 16 the apostle Paul says, “Now about the collection for God’s people.” Are these two themes discordant? Absolutely not, because it takes resurrection power to get money out of some church members! Finances may be the greatest reflection of resurrection reality at work in a Christian’s life.

The Bible basically says four things about Christian stewardship:

It is total, not partial. Everything you own came from God. What you give is not the only important thing; what you have left is also important. Many Christians feel that when they have given a small percentage of their money to God that they have fulfilled their responsibility, and that they can then do what they want with what they have left. Everything you own came from God, and all of it should be used in ways that honor God.

It is an investment in eternity. II Corinthians 9:6 emphasizes a sowing-reaping analogy. If you sow bountifully, you will reap bountifully; if you sow sparingly, you will reap sparingly. The choice in both cases is yours. The giving of your money to God is one of the most significant expressions of faith. It helps you build your spiritual stock folio that will reap dividends both here on the earth and in heaven.

It should be regulated by what the New Testament teaches. I Corinthians 16:2 says this: “On the first day of the week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up so that when I come no collections will have to be made.” Two very important things about giving: (1) it is to be very personal, and (2) it is to be systematic. Following this pattern keeps God at the top of your priority list.

Attitude is more important than amount. Mark 12:41 tells of the time when Jesus was in the Temple near the place where worshipers were placing their gifts into the treasury. He called special attention to the widow who only gave her mite (the smallest size coin). He said that in giving her mite, though others would consider it to be very small, she had actually given more than those who gave much larger offerings. It is obvious that Jesus was saying that the attitude in giving is more important than the amount.

Remember this, fellow Christians: When you and I leave this world we will not be able to take any money with us – but by being good stewards we can send it on ahead. You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving. Your church can fulfil the mission God assigned to it only when it has the participation and support of its members – and that includes financial support. Unfortunately, lots of church members are not good stewards. Let me illustrate this fact by sharing with you one of my brief poems:

I know a lot of Baptists, who have a pious look,
They have been immersed, but not their pocketbook.
They put a few dollars in the plate, and then with might and main,
They sing, “When we asunder part, it gives us inward pain.

The book Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche sold almost a million copies within a few days of its release. The title, as we approach Father’s Day, raises an interesting question: How should a real man be defined?

First of all, how would God define a real man? One thing is for certain, God’s definition would be a lot different than the world’s definition. The world often defines a real man as having macho – physical strength, boasting, domination, strutting – in other words, the kind of guy who takes charge. Hollywood generally defines a real man as one who chases and conquers one woman after another.

Obviously none of these qualities would be on God’s list. God is looking for men who are authentic and genuine, men who have the strength to resist the tide of public opinion by standing for what is right and against what is wrong. God cannot use men who allow what others believe and do to determine what they believe and do. It takes courage and commitment to stand out above the crowd; it is easy to follow the crowd.

Real men know who they are. Their security doesn’t come from conquests or from drinking alcoholic beverages, but from inner qualities. They are secure because they know the One to whom they belong and seek daily to represent. Their words and actions demonstrate to others that they have chosen to serve God. They do not have to prove themselves to the world. They let their lives speak for who they are.

Real men know the importance of family. They believe that the family is the most important unit in society. They were taught as children to obey and respect their parents. It is within the family that they learned to appreciate the value of every individual. It is why, when they began to be attracted to persons of the opposite gender, they knew how to treat them with respect and dignity. Then, at the proper time, they were prepared to choose a mate and build their own family. The Christian home is the Master’s workshop where the processes of character molding are silently, lovingly, faithfully and successfully developed.

Real men are willing to learn. They know that they do not know all the answers. Those who think they have all the answers just haven’t asked all the questions yet – and in many instances even the right questions. Men who are willing to learn do not stagnate. They keep on growing throughout life.

When real men make mistakes they are able to say, “I was wrong. Please forgive me.” People who are totally unwilling to admit when they are wrong tend to dominate and mistreat people – family members, friends, co-workers, and others. And they wonder why they have difficulty holding onto friends.

Real men always seek to make valuable contributions to the life of the community in which they live. They know that the success of community life depends on each separate member being willing to work in a cooperative effort for the common good of all. They believe that every person, regardless of skin color, economic condition, or political persuasion, was created by God, is therefore important, and has unique contributions to make to the welfare of the whole.

Just as there were not enough real men in the ancient cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, there is a shortage of real men in many of our communities today. Real men are not the ones who get most of the attention on television or in newspapers. Still, they are around. God knows who they are – He created them, and is still creating them. If you are a member of the male species, maybe you are a real man. If you aren’t, you can be – with God’s help. Are you willing to let Him?

June has been a popular month to schedule weddings. When the famous politician and orator William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925) was a young man, he went to the home of the father of his prospective bride to ask him for her hand in marriage. Bryan was determined to impress him by quoting from the Bible, and he chose this verse: “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 18:22). He became more nervous than he already was when the father replied by quoting Paul’s statement: “Those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this” (I Corinthians 7:28).

Bryan, who was never at a loss for words, replied: “Sir, Paul had no wife and Solomon had 700. Therefore, I believe Solomon ought to be a better judge as to marriage.” I suspect that both Bryan’s wit and knowledge of Scripture impressed his prospective bride’s father and won his approval. Like every good father, he wanted his daughter to have a Christian marriage and a strong Christian home.

The stability of any nation depends on the stability of its homes. Immorality is attacking every stable institution in our society – especially marriage and the family. Marriages by the millions are unhappy, and many of them are failing. This is the bad news, but the good news is that there are lots of marriages and families that are happy and solid and permanent. So, what makes a marriage – any marriage – Christian?

The Hollywood version portrays marriage primarily as a physical relationship. This is certainly important. When Adam first saw Eve in the Garden of Eden he said, “She is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman’” (Genesis 2:23). In today’s terminology what Adam said is: “God, when I look at Eve the only word I can think of to use is, ‘Wow!’ I’m not really excited by the animals You created, but what You have now made by using one of my ribs blows me away.”

I believe the physical aspect of marriage is one of God’s most fantastic ideas. The tragedy is that so many couples see marriage only in terms of the physical. If the physical excitement wanes, they quickly get a divorce. This views marriage as nothing more than a short term option, not as a lifetime contract.

A woman in her seventies in a nursing home said to a man, “You look like my fourth husband.” “I didn’t know you had been married four times,” he replied. To which she said, “I’ve only had three husbands, but you look like my fourth.” A marriage that lasts all the way to the end of life’s highway requires and will be given a daily dose of total commitment by both husband and wife. For example:

  • It will have a commitment to priority. Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:31, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” A husband cuts the apron strings from his mother and father in order to become the spiritual leader of his new home.
  • It will have a commitment to fidelity. Many husbands and wives have forgotten that the words in a marriage ceremony say: “As long as we both shall live.” Every marriage will have good times and bad times – and both will surely happen. Many divorces are sought on the so-called grounds of INCOMPATIBILITY. That often means that he doesn’t have enough INCOME and she doesn’t have enough PATABILITY. In order to have a Christian marriage a husband and wife should seek to grow together emotionally and spiritually in such a way that they cannot conceive of life with anyone else.

Strong marriages are made in heaven, but God puts husbands and wives in charge of the daily maintenance. A marriage will last all the way to life’s sunset if Christ is Lord and every day’s agenda is built upon the foundation found in God’s Word. If Christ is Lord and love continues to grow, no mountain will be too high to climb and no valley so deep or dark to walk through all the way to the end of life’s road.

Pontius Pilate was the Roman procurator in Judea at the time Jesus was brought before Him to be tried. The Jewish leaders had accused Jesus of three crimes. They claimed He was guilty of misleading the nation, that he was opposed to paying Roman taxes, and that he claimed to be a king. All three charges were political charges – the kind that a Roman governor could handle. Pilate was primarily concerned about Jesus claiming to be a king, for this could have been a problem for Rome. He knew that if he dealt with this question properly, he could both please the Jews and impress the Roman Emperor at the same time.

“Are you the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked Jesus. And Jesus replied by saying, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place” (John 18:36). This convinced Pilate that Jesus was not a dangerous revolutionary. Thus, he said, “I find no fault with Him!” And he offered to let Jesus go free.

Since it was the Jewish custom to let one prisoner go free at this Jewish feast Pilate offered to crucify Barabbas rather than Jesus, for he was widely known to be both a robber (John 18:40) and a murderer (Mark 15:7). It was at this point the Jewish rulers said, “If you release this Man, you are not a friend of Caesar” (John 19:12). Pilate could not afford to antagonize Caesar. So, he yielded to the pressure, asked for a pan of water, and washed his hands of the entire affair. He knew what was right, but he refused to do anything about it.

Pilate did not want to see Jesus executed. But he refused to either face the facts or to make an honest decision. By sidestepping the issue he was approving the murder of Jesus. In His teaching Jesus had condemned neutrality in facing life’s issues. He also demonstrated that doing nothing is in itself a decision.

The priest and Levite in the Good Samaritan story illustrate this, and so does the man with one talent who hid it so he didn’t have to decide how to invest it. And in His great judgment parable Jesus condemned the good people who did nothing for the hungry, the naked, the sick, and the prisoners. We who are Christians adopt Pilate’s attitude every time we wash our hands as a way of ignoring what God’s will is for our lives.

We know that it is God’s will for us to attend worship regularly, but we allow other considerations to have greater priority. We know that God has commissioned us to bear witness of our faith to persons around us who need a Savior, but we let it slide. We are aware that the leadership positions in our church must be filled if it is to make a positive impact on our community. But we say things like: “I have too many other things to do to get personally involved” . . . . “Other people have more talent than I do” . . . . “Visiting those who are lost is what we pay our pastor to do.” In other words, we wash our hands and walk away.

Every time we follow the example of Pilate we betray our Lord who came to the earth and took upon Himself our penalty for sin, which is death, so that we might be redeemed. When we fail to let Christ be the Lord of our lives, we betray the One “who bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, by being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness; by whose stripes we were healed” (I Peter 2:24). Jesus might have washed His hands and walked away from His mission of redeeming mankind. But He was Jesus Christ, and He could not – and would not – do that. He loves each and every single one of us that much.

For those of us who are Christians the point is this: until the worldwide pandemic caused by the coronavirus called Covid-19 is conquered, we should wash our hands regularly. But, when it comes to doing the things our Lord asks us to do in order to serve Him we should not wash our hands and walk away.

“What time is it?”

People have always had legitimate reasons to ask this question. They still do. Few questions, in fact, are more important – no matter what you do in life or what your goals may be. Only those who know what time it is can function effectively and productively in our modern world. Those who have no idea what to do, how to do it, or when to do it, never get anything worthwhile done. This is true in every area of life.

“What time is it?” is also a spiritual question every church should ask. As the church moves further into the twenty-first century it should know the following three things concerning time:

1. It is time to wake up. Sleep is obviously a blessing for people, especially at the end of a long day of hard work. Sleep refreshes and restores our physical bodies – both physically and emotionally. Sleep, however, can be a curse for a church. When you go to sleep every night you become unaware of what is happening around you; churches that go to sleep also become unaware of the spiritual needs in their surrounding community.

Noted sleepers in the Bible come quickly to mind. Samson slept the sleep of compromise when he laid his head on Delilah’s lap. Jonah slept the sleep of an easy conscience in the hull of a ship bound for Tarshish when God had asked him to preach to Nineveh. God sent a storm and a big fish to wake him up. Three of Christ’s disciples slept the sleep of indifference in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night before He was crucified – even though He had asked them to stay awake and pray with Him.

Churches go to sleep: (1) when they become largely unaware of Christ’s divinely assigned mission (found in Matthew 28:18-20); and (2) when they are unwilling to provide the time, energy and resources to carry out that commission. It is a needless tragedy when a church goes to sleep. An old southern preacher once said in a sermon to his congregation, “It is time for our church to wake up and sing up, preach up and pray up, and never give up or back up or shut up, until the church is filled up or we go up.”

2. It is time to get up. We know quite well the difference between waking up and getting up. How tempting it is to shut the alarm clock off when it rings. How easy it is to mash the snooze button and sink back on the pillow for a few minutes more sleep, but you would not have a job very long if that became a regular pattern. The church that is awake and alive and committed to carrying out its assigned task cannot afford to mash the snooze button, settle back on the pew, and just enjoy the fellowship with other Christians. A call to mission that only awakens serves no useful function until it causes Christians to get out of bed and become involved.

3. It is time to dress up. After the members of a church that is asleep wake up and get up, the next thing they must do is to put aside their night clothes – in other words, the things that caused them to go to sleep. And what are the night clothes that a sleeping church needs to put aside?

Apostle Paul said in writing to the Roman Christians: “And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber … The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13:11-14a).

Most people, when asked if they want to be successful in life, will automatically answer in the affirmative. But what does a person have to do to be successful? Is success just a seven letter word? Or is it much more than that? Listen to some of the ways success is defined today:

Aristotle Onassis, the Greek shipping tycoon who married the widow of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy said: “It’s not a question of money. After you reach a certain point, money becomes unimportant. What matters is success. The sensible thing for me would be to stop now. But I can’t. I have to keep aiming higher and higher – just for the thrill.” This statement reminds me of the richest man in my hometown many years ago. Although he owned several thousand acres of fertile farmland and virgin timber in central Georgia, he said to me, “I don’t want to own all the land in the world. I just want to own all of the land next to what I already own.” He didn’t consider himself successful. He wanted more and more. He died and left it all behind.

Barbra Streisand, popular recording artist said: “Success for me is having ten honeydew melons and eating only the top half of each one.” It is a strange and shallow way to define success.

Ted Turner, media mogul said: “I think success is kind of an empty bag, to tell you the truth, but you have to get there to really know that. I’ve always said I was more of an adventurer than a businessman. I mainly started CNN to see if it would work. And the same with creating the superstation – it was just out of personal curiosity to see if it could be done.”

There must be better ways to define success, and there are. Helen Keller was on the right track when she said, “Your success and happiness lie in you. External conditions are the accidents of life. The great enduring realities are love and service. Joy is the holy fire that keeps our purpose warm and our intelligence aglow. Resolve to keep happy and your joy shall form an invincible host against difficulty.”

Keller understood that “success and happiness” are partners, and that they are the products of what is within you. They are made possible through “love and service.” Those who genuinely love and serve others find joy. Though she was totally blind, Keller was able to see that lasting joy can only be experienced by those who are guided by a sense of purpose and use the intelligence God gave them in a constructive way. Those who do this try always to give their best and will be able to overcome the difficulties they face.

True success is not a matter of money, power, and ego; rather it has to do with issues of the heart – like compassion, kindness, bravery, generosity. It is an issue of character, not performance. In other words, the right kind of performance flows out of having the right kind of character. The right kind of character is the result of having a healthy personal relationship with God.

Finally, success is the result of (1) finding what God wants you to be, and (2) serving where God wants you to serve. Once you have done this you should put your shoulder to the wheel and give your best. This is true no matter what vocation you have chosen for your life’s work – as a teacher, a physician, a business person, a farmer, a Christian minister, or anything else. God has given you two ends – one for thinking and one for sitting. Your success will depend on which end you use – heads you win, tails you lose.

Asked the secret of his power as a preacher, an African American minister in Washington, D.C., replied: “It’s simple. I read myself full. I think myself clear. I pray myself hot. Then I let myself go.” He had absolutely no doubt about what it took to be successful at what God had called him to do.

Have you ever looked in the mirror and were disappointed with the person looking back at you? If this has never happened to you, it could be because you have a short memory. We get down on ourselves when we believe we do not measure up to our own standards, when we fail to do what we had planned, when we compulsively repeat old habits we thought we had left behind, or when our dreams are not fulfilled.

At such times the “if only’s” of of our yesterdays begin to invade the “what if’s” of our current experience and robs us of our joy. “If only I had done things differently … if only I had used more wisdom …  if only I had been stronger …  if … if … if” becomes a monotonous dirge of self-incrimination. 

Because we have the ability to remember things we said or did in the past, we have an inordinate capacity for self-scrutiny. The memory of past failures, the things we did that we should not have done, and the things we did not do that we should have done, rush to the forefront of our consciousness. Discouragement and depression set in.

Our conscious self shakes an accusing finger in our face. Self-condemnation takes over, and self-esteem goes quickly down the drain. It is at such times that we become vulnerable and are far more likely to say and do things that we never thought possible. We find it easy to treat others harshly, even good friends, because we have developed a low image of ourselves. It is extremely difficult to get up for life when we are down on ourselves. What would it take in times of self-condemnation to develop a new picture of ourselves as loved and lovable, as forgiven and forgiving?

Henri Bergson said in one of his books that it is the function of the brain to not only remember but also to forget. That being true, why do we easily forget so many things we want to remember, and remember so many things we need to forget? Why does one failure stick in our memory when many of our achievements are forgotten? Some people spend lots of money attending courses in an attempt to improve their memory, but I have never heard of anyone attending a course that teaches you how to forget.

Can a person develop the ability to forget what should be forgotten? The answer is “Yes.” God’s Word says that the best way a healthy forgetter can be developed is by the power of forgiveness. The damage caused by the memory of our failures can only be erased by learning how to accept God’s forgiveness and to forgive ourselves. We see this supremely demonstrated in the encounter by Jesus with a woman who was caught in adultery (John 7:53 – 8:11).

Put yourself in this scene: Jesus is teaching in the precincts of the temple when His teaching is interrupted by the jeers and frenzied cries of an approaching crowd led by scribes and pharisees dragging an unresisting woman. The Old Testament law (Leviticus 20:10) declared that a person caught in adultery should be stoned to death.

The hypocritical scribes and pharisees pushed the woman down before Jesus. They asked Jesus to affirm the Law’s verdict. The self-righteousness of the woman’s accusers and her embarrassment are evident in this scene. Would Jesus forgive her? The answer is in the affirmative. She did not go away saying, “What if I had not done what I did?” She did not blame herself any more by saying, “If only I had been strong enough to resist temptation.”

She went away totally cleansed and forgiven. How could she do that? She had learned that the forgiveness given to her by Jesus is like the perfume a trampled flower casts upon the heel that crushed it.

On two different occasions – the first time in 1952 and again in the mid-1960’s – I saw what is called an Unidentified Flying Object. On both occasions the UFO moved around in the sky in ways and at speeds that no government on planet earth – then or now – could possibly duplicate. Can you imagine the amazement you would have if a UFO landed in your church parking lot next Sunday, and space aliens from a planet somewhere out in the vast universe came inside your church and saw you and your fellow church members kneeling, standing or bowing in prayer, talking to Someone they could not see? What would they think?

I suspect that these outer space tourists would be impressed if you told them that it is in the mysterious action we call worship that we make contact with the Creator of everything that exists in the billions of galaxies throughout our immense universe, and that He is the Father and Sustainer of our spirits also.

So, the question arises, “What is worship?” An American named Dwight Bradley gave this answer:

“It is the soul searching for its counterpart.

“It is a thirsty land crying out for rain.

“It is a drop of water in quest of the ocean.

“It is a candle in the act of being kindled.

“It is a man listening through a tornado for the Still Small Voice.

“It is a voice in the night calling for help.

“It is a sheep lost in the wilderness pleading for rescue by the Good Shepherd.

“It is the same sheep nestling in the arms of its Rescuer.

“It is the Prodigal Son running to his Father.

“It is a soul standing in awe before the mystery of the Universe.

“It is a poet enthralled by the beauty of the Universe.

“It is a hungry heart seeking for love.

“It is time flowing into Eternity.

“It is my little self being engulfed in the Universal Self.

“It is a man climbing the altar stairs to God.”

In addition to these words by Dwight Bradley worship is our response to what God has done and is still doing within and through us as we serve Him. This is illustrated by the beautiful story of a little girl who, after finishing her bedtime prayers, looked up and said, “And now, Lord, is there anything I can do for you?”

Centuries ago a psalmist gave one of life’s most important invitations concerning worship: “O come, let us bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our maker. For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand” (Psalm 95:6-7). It would be hard to define worship any better than that.

Is Satan just a figment of the imagination? Or does he really exist? A Gallup poll some years ago revealed that as many as 70% of Americans believe he exists, but half of that number see him as the sum of everything evil and not as a personal being. So, which is he – a personal being – or just a term used to define the forces of evil in our world?

The Bible certainly portrays Satan as a personal spiritual being. Jesus, during the wilderness temptations, knew him to be a personal being. In that case, one may well ask, “Why would God create someone as evil and abominable as Satan?” The point is that God created him – but not as an evil being. God’s Word describes him as having been created as a beautiful angelic being – the most beautiful of all the angels. He was called “the anointed cherub” (Ezekiel 28:14).

The Bible only lists the names of three angels – the archangel Michael, the angel Gabriel, and Lucifer, who later was called the devil. We are not told exactly how the angels ranked in heaven, but we know that Lucifer ranked high among them. Describing him, Ezekiel 28:15 and 17 state, “You were perfect in all your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you . . . Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor; I cast you to the ground . . .”

The Bible gives us even more insight into this fascinating but completely wicked fallen angel in the Book of Isaiah: “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground. . . For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God . . . I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High’” (Isaiah 14:12-14). God then gives His answer to this strutting egocentric being: “Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, to the lowest depths of the pit” (Isaiah 14:15).

Since his ejection from heaven, the devil has set up shop in the world and has established a very well-defined set of goals. According to the Bible he knows his time is limited, his opportunities short-lived, and his sentence already settled and certain. Therefore, in these last days he has dramatically stepped up his efforts to oppose mankind. In other words, he has pulled out all the stops, and goes regularly for the jugular.

His objective is to draw as many people as he possibly can away from accepting and following Christ. When he fails to keep individuals from accepting Christ as Savior and Lord, he will try to cause them to stumble and fall. He will use everything in his bag of tricks in an effort to immobilize or neutralize them so they will not make a positive difference in the world.

Know this: temptations are certain to ring your doorbell, but it is your own fault if you ask them in to stay for dinner. By yielding to the enticements of Satan you can lose in a moment what it took a lifetime to build. Temptation doesn’t sneak up on you. It often comes through a door that has been deliberately left open.

Christians need to know that the closer they stay in their daily walk to the Lord the safer they are. That does not mean the devil has no power on the earth today. What it means is that he no longer has the upper hand, thanks to Calvary. When Jesus proclaimed, “It is finished!” – the battle cry of the cross – these words reverberated throughout heaven and hell. Satan and his demon cohorts had been defeated. Christians today share that victory.

Even so, the Christian life is far from one of ease. It is a life marked by conflict, spiritual warfare, and intense opposition. The Bible not only likens the Christian life to war – it actually calls it a war. Satan is presented in the pages of the Bible sometimes as a dangerous wolf, disguised as a sheep. Sometimes he roars like a lion, but more often he comes like a serpent, in all his depravity and horror. Sometimes he even comes as an angel of light. Make no mistake – those who stay committed to Jesus Christ, the Christian’s Commander-in-Chief, will definitely meet Satan on the field of battle.

The Bible also describes Satan as “the father of lies” – but he forgot to patent the idea. That is why he is never too busy to rock the cradle of a sleeping Christian. It is also why he is perfectly willing for a person to profess Christianity as long as he or she does not practice it.

If you haven’t met Satan lately, it is probably because you are traveling in the same direction he is. You would be well advised to turn around and head in the opposite direction because you will definitely meet him at the end of your life’s journey. That prospect is definitely not an appealing one.