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From the Summer 2012 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

Hindrances to Discipleship

by Thomas A. Tarrants, III, D.Min.
Director of Ministry, C.S. Lewis Institute


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   Another essential is a proper perspective on reality. God and the devil are not equally matched opponents, as in some types of cosmic dualism. God is infinitely more powerful than the devil, who is one of His creatures. When God is called the LORD of hosts in the Old Testament, it refers to His position as commander of heaven’s armies—armies of angels who do His bidding. They are the vast majority of angels, far more than fell with Satan. These unseen divine agents are active in the world, serving and defending God’s people (Heb. 1:14) and battling the devil and his angels.
   At the battle of Jericho, for example, the commander of the LORD’s army of invisible angels appeared to Joshua on the eve of battle to encourage him and let him know that he was not alone (Josh. 5:13–15). Another instance is when Elisha and his servant were surrounded and besieged by the army of the king of Syria, who intended to kill them. When his servant reported this to Elisha, Elisha responded,

“Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed and said, “LORD, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha (2 Kings 6:16–17).

   Or consider the exciting story of Peter in the New Testament. Herod had just executed James and had arrested Peter, intending to kill him as well. Peter was in prison being guarded by four squads of soldiers. But the church made earnest prayer for him, and God sent an angel to supernaturally deliver him from prison (Acts 12:1–11). God’s angels are on assignments throughout the world obeying God’s orders in the battle against Satan and his forces (Ps. 103:19–21). And they also watch over each of His children (Heb. 1:14).
   Finally, we must use all the means of grace God has provided for our growth in grace. For those who have come to faith in Christ but have not yet been baptized, this means doing so as soon as possible. For every believer, it means being filled with the Holy Spirit daily (Eph. 5:18; Gal. 5:16–25), for “he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4), and it was in the power of the Spirit that Jesus overcame the devil (Luke 4:1). In the Spirit’s power, we must follow the example of the early church and be continually devoting ourselves to “the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). This is far more demanding than the halfhearted efforts most of us make. J.I. Packer elaborates on each of these:

Bible truth, preached and received through preaching, studied in the text, meditated on, applied to oneself, taken into the heart, laid up in the memory, taken as a guide for life; prayer, the regular exercise of communion and fellowship with God; worship with the Lord’s people, particularly at the Lord’s Supper but also in hearing the word proclaimed and joining in the prayers and vocal praise; and the informal fellowship and interchange of the Lord’s family as one stands by and ministers to another.16

  Wholehearted commitment to Christ as Lord and obedience to known truth are essential responses to God’s grace to keep walking in the Spirit and on the path of His blessing and protection. A spiritual mentor, whether a pastor, elder, or mature believer, will be very helpful for periodic counsel (including discernment of any subtle schemes or attacks of the devil against us). And our commitment to fellowship should include a small accountability prayer group (two or three people). Last, but by no means least, we must understand and actually put on the full armor of God (Eph. 6:10–18) and keep it in place day by day.
  Much more could be said on this subject, but these disciplines of grace will keep us under the protective canopy of God’s grace and keep us growing as disciples of Jesus. They will not exempt us from temptation or attack, but they will enable us to glorify God by standing firm when it comes.

In the next issue of Knowing & Doing, we will look more closely at the world and the flesh, two key allies through which the devil works against us and Christ’s kingdom.

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