The Learning & Turning Corner

Spiritual Instruction for Those Called to Restore Israel

 

The Danger of Falling in the Spiritual Battle

Arye Powlison (1993)

 

 

But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons.... (I Tim. 4:1)

Keep Alert!

In the attempt to recover lost territory from the enemy, such as our current attempt to recover Messianic Jewish practice, there is a real danger of losing soldiers in battle.

It is easy to become confused in territory that is new to us, and through fear or deception we can find ourselves isolated from our lines of supply (i.e., fellowship). The danger is usually greatest for those in the front lines, who are doing things for the first time. We are in danger of becoming casualties of enemy fire through unfaithfulness (Eph. 6:16), or by becoming prisoners of war in a spiritual trap where we cannot fight. If we are spying out the land, we can become frightened by the giants we find there, forgetting that the battle is the Lord's. We might even lose sight of the Lord to such an extent that we are deceived into changing sides in the battle.

If you are among the first of your fellowship to volunteer for this spiritual war, for the restoration of the Jewishness of the Gospel, you are exposing yourself to the dangers of spiritual warfare (Rev. 12:17). You need to have your spiritual armor in place, and your weapons ready. Regardless of your experience or lack of it in spiritual warfare, you must be able to hear your Commander.

Do not try to fight alone, and do not lean on the arm of flesh (advice or support from fleshly sources). When David faced Goliath, he knew better than to rely on Saul's weapons; he also knew that he was not alone.

Satan is like a roaring lion, looking for people to devour. Do what you can to avoid becoming one of his victims:
*Do not overestimate your own strength or ability in matters of spiritual warfare.
*Do not get into an isolated situation where your defenses are battered for long periods without time to rest and repair the damages.
*Do not imagine that you have all the answers, or that you are capable in things which you have not studied. Overconfidence is one of the deadliest errors in battle.

There are quite a few who have fallen in this battle already. Some of them were outmaneuvered by people more skilled with their weapons. Some have left the battlefield wounded. Some are prisoners of war, conquered by fear and reduced to impotence as secret believers. Others have been seduced into defecting to the enemy. Some have turned back, deciding that the battle was not worth fighting after all.

Where Are You in the Battle?

Scripture declares that this battle should be fought (Jude 3-4), and that it will be won. The day is coming when all Israel will know their Messiah to be Yeshua of Nazareth (Zech. 12:10; Rom. 11:26-27), and they will all be committed to keeping the whole Law of Moses (Deut. 30:4-8; Ezek. 36:24-28).

Furthermore, this will happen before the Lord's physical return, when the future Elijah restores all things (Matt. 17:10-12 - spoken after John the Baptist had already been beheaded). Then after the restoration of Elijah will come the great falling away to the Man of Lawlessness (II Thes. 2:3, 8), whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth when He comes.

Where will you be in this battlefront? On the sidelines, looking on in curiosity? In the rear, cheering on the stragglers? Looking at the battle from above, like an armchair general? Or will you be personally involved? You may be called to first-hand combat, helping, supporting and fighting the good fight of faith (II Tim. 2:1-4).

In one sense, this is a conflict in which everyone contributes to the outcome one way or another: you are either helping, or hindering, or avoiding involvement. If you are committed to staying neutral, then you are implicitly supporting whoever currently has the upper hand.

Maybe You Should Not Go Out to Battle

Just because this is your Lord's battle, and you are connected with the people He is battling for, this does not automatically mean that you will be tossed into the fray. Nor does it mean that if you volunteer, you will automatically be enlisted.

When the people of Israel prepared for battle, G-d commanded the priest and the officers to urge the soldiers to count the possible cost before they went out to war, and to leave the ranks if the price was too high (Deut. 20:1-9). The aim was to weed out those who were unprepared to suffer loss in order to win, as well as those who were fearful in spite of the fact that G-d would be going with them (this kind of fear spreads to others - see verse 8).

Pain is expensive, but a soldier who cannot bear pain is out of the battle as soon as he gets wounded. If you are unwilling to serve Him in suffering, or if you can't trust Him to preserve you while in it, it is better that you do not join this battle. You will be like the man Yeshua talked about, who started to build a tower without calculating the cost of completing it (Luke 14:28-30).

It may take everything you own to complete this tower.

If you are not willing to serve the Lord that completely, then you do not even qualify to go with Him (Luke 14:33).

Will You Win? Evaluate Your Position

In your own part in this battle, there are no guarantees. It depends on how you walk with the Lord, what your experience and gifts are, who you are fighting against and where, and what sort of support you have. Every good soldier takes stock of his/her strategic position.

*How seasoned a fighter are you ?
*Do you walk in the Spirit?
*How do you react under pressure?
*Is the Lord your Lord also in the deserts and dungeons, or is He your Lord only in prosperity and success?
*Do you complain when you are thirsty or hungry?

*Are you a "hothouse believer", who has always been protected and sheltered from the storms of life?
*Do you know what it is like to have only the Lord in tough situations?
*Do you know how to obey Him when you don't understand the reason for it?

*What kind of training and discipline have you undergone?
*Who has been fighting by your side, and for how long?
*What experience and knowledge do you have of the Scriptures?
* How proficient are you in using the weapons of unconditional love and forgiveness?

*How well do you know your Lord?
*How well do you know Judaism? How well do you know your local Jewish community?
*How well do you know your spiritual leader(s) and your congregation?

*How dependable are you as a supportive member of your fighting unit? How often have you told someone that
you will be praying for them, and done it? How many times have you promised the Lord something and done it?
*Are you helping others more often than others are helping you? Do you habitually get into situations where you are in need of spiritual rescue or repair?
*When others in the Body hurt you, do you strike back? Withdraw? Or keep going with what the Lord gave you to do?

*Are you entangled in other pursuits? Do you ignore the world, or measure yourself by it?
*What have you done that others have noticed you for? Does their attention matter to you? Do you have spiritual ambitions to make a name for yourself in battle?
*Are you aware that when you are with the Lord, you are always in the only true majority? Or do you crave the support of others?

*How aggressive are you on your own initiative (without orders from your Commander)? Do you step out in the flesh when there seems to be no other way?
*How many footholds does Satan have in your life - is he able to trip you up in certain areas over and over?

These are all things which could help expose weakness and neglect in the way you engage the enemy, and what sort of situations you need to avoid.

If you are slack in the day of distress, your strength is limited. (Prov. 24:10)

You are not helping others if they expect your help and do not receive it. You are not fighting the Lord's battle if you are not following His instructions. You are not a soldier if you will only fight after the battle has been won. Lip service is cheap, so do not make commitments that you cannot keep.

Learn how to fight in the Spirit. Time spent effectively in the Spirit is rare, but that is where the victory is won.

The Conflict: Goals and Strategies on Both Sides

We need to be aware of what is being fought over in any spiritual conflict, and this one is no exception.

First, our enemy is seeking no less than our spiritual destruction. Failing that, he will settle for what he can get - whether sin, death, injury or discouragement. Just remember what is on top of his list.

Our destruction is not all that easy to come by, for he is not free to operate however he pleases; he must work within the restrictions permitted to him by G-d. In order to change those restrictions, as he did with Job, he must receive explicit permission.

This is not easy to understand for those with a simplistic idea of Satan and G-d as waging some sort of conventional war. They are not only at each other's throats; theirs is a war which must be won based on spiritual principles and truth. In this regard, Satan is just as capable of trying to use G-d's Word to his own advantage as we are. He also tries to use our own faults, whether real or imagined by him, and is not prevented from arguing his case before the throne of G-d. He sought access to Peter (apparently desiring to work him over in the aftermath of his denial ofYeshua), but was ultimately thwarted by Yeshua's intercession for him (Luke 22:31-32).

In the end, also because of G-d's Word, Satan knows that he will succeed with most of mankind. And he knows from G-d's Word that in these latter days he can seduce some believers into leaving the faith with false doctrines concocted by himself or his followers (I Tim. 4:1). So he goes around trying out different things as he thinks they might be effective, and G-d permits him to do so.

Why?

Why does G-d, who is so interested in our salvation, jeopardize that salvation by allowing Satan to have a try at derailing our faith? To understand this, we need to understand something else about G-d's goals for our life.

He is not only interested in getting us saved from the fires of hell; He wants us to develop into full-grown brothers of Yeshua, our Messiah. There is no way to exaggerate the importance of this calling of ours. It means that we need to become one with the Father as Yeshua is one with the Father (John 17:20-23). It means growing into the fullness of the stature of Messiah ourselves (Eph. 4:13). We have fully inherited all things in Yeshua (Rom. 8:32), and we are in need of training before we can responsibly receive our inheritance.

But wait, there is more: We are to judge the angels (I Cor. 6:3). We are seated with our Messiah Yeshua in His heavenly throne (Eph. 2:6; Col. 3:1). We have been given His glory (John 17:22), and will bear His Father's name (Rev. 3:12). What more can we ask? There is nothing else left, nothing greater that He could give us that He has not given us already. Are we worried about losing the petty little battles for glory in this world? Only if we do not see what is ours.

So what needs to be done? G-d must pronounce us worthy of our calling (II Thes. 1:11; Rev. 3:4); we need to make sure of our being called and chosen by Him (II Pet. 1:10). We should not consider ourselves to have obtained our goal already, but to press forward toward our high calling in Messiah (Phil. 3:12-15). That is why the Lord allows us to be tempted, so that our faithfulness and worthiness may be made clear to all in the Day of Judgment (James 1:12; I Pet. 1:6-7). This is also one of the reasons that He allows divisions and quarrels in the Body of the Lord, that through them those who are approved may become evident, as well as those who are false (I Cor. 11:19; I John 2:19).

How G-d Keeps Us From Falling

Many are called, but few are chosen; few will be saved. If we will not be faithful to the end, we will not be counted worthy. I could fall away. You could fall away. Paul himself was not above considering that he could be rejected (I Cor. 9:27).

The Lord allowed Satan to put a thorn in Paul's flesh, in order to guard him from pride over the revelations that he was being given (II Cor. 12:7-9). The Lord, aware that Paul had a potential difficulty with pride, and yet wanting for our sakes to provide the revelations to him anyway, found a way to provide the revelations and also to keep Paul in humility. This way was to give Satan limited access to his body.

On the one hand, this was discipline for his pride, which could not have been thwarted without such a strategy. On the other, this was suffering for the Body of the Messiah, for had the Lord not desired to provide these revelations for us through him, Paul would not have needed to suffer. The simultaneous presence of both our need and Paul's pride made his suffering necessary.

Your suffering may be your guarantee of spiritual safety, so be careful about trying to escape it.

Paul turned to the Lord in his suffering, and was shown that in this case his suffering was to maximize his strength in the Lord for battle. He then decided to rejoice in his sufferings, because they allowed him to experience more of the Lord's power (II Cor. 12:9-10).

A Man wrestled with Jacob all night. At dawn He touched Jacob's thigh and put it out of joint. Jacob, not knowing the Man's identity, still sensed that He represented G-d (Gen. 32:30), and so he refused to let go until He blessed him. Although he had been wounded, he did not ask that his wound be healed. Instead, he asked for a blessing. Did he sense that the wound enabled him to receive a blessing that he otherwise could not bear?

Why did the Man touch Jacob's thigh? It says that He did so when He saw that He could not overcome Jacob; but even though his thigh was out of joint, Jacob still did not let go.

The Lord could have done any number of things to Jacob which would have been much more decisive. Instead, he did something which still allowed Jacob to hold on, if he was willing to bear the pain. This was the necessary price for Jacob in order to hang on for the blessing he wanted to receive. His new name, Israel, emphasized that G-d commended him for prevailing in the struggle by holding on (Gen. 32:28). This became a symbol for the sons of Israel, who remember Jacob's blessing and its price by avoiding the thigh tendon in animals that they eat.

Israel, for the same reasons of their own pride and the spiritual need of the nations, is being given a spiritual limp by the Lord as the strategy which will keep them humbled in the presence of His blessings on them. He has put them out of joint, so to speak, by hardening the majority while giving grace to a chosen remnant (Rom. 11:7-8; Is. 29:10). For centuries the nation has hung on to G-d's Law in their pain, blindness and sin, not even able to know Him through it. But the day is coming when He will restore and bless them, yet leaving the marks of His discipline on them. When they look back and remember what they have done against G-d, His Law, and His Messiah, they will no longer have a problem with pride (Ezek. 16:56-57; 61-63). They will at that time be properly called a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exod. 19:6), bringing blessing to the nations.

David, one of the most faithful servants of G-d ever produced in Israel, credits his faithfulness to the discipline G-d sent him in the form of affliction:

Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Thy Word... It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Thy statutes... I know, O Lord, that Thy judgments are righteous, and that in faithfulness Thou has afflicted me. (Ps. 119:67,71,75)

We see, then, that the price of our spiritual safety can often be suffering. It may also be the price of our service to the Lord's Body. As Paul said, we can have a part in the completion of the sufferings of Messiah for His Body (Col. 1:24).

Wrong Response to Suffering Can Put Us in Danger

It is required of us, however, that we be faithful in suffering as long as the Lord chooses to give it to us, and not just as long as we can appreciate it. Suffering itself has no virtue; depending on our response to it, we can be purified - or we can be condemned.

The people of Israel were expected by the Lord to endure hunger and thirst in the wilderness without complaining. Complaining in adverse circumstances was one of the things which aroused the Lord's anger against them (Num. 11:1). Those who complain in adversity have forgotten that G-d made both prosperity and adversity (Eccl. 7:14). Job had learned to accept both even before the visit of his friends (Job 2:10).

One of the first reasons people fall away from the Lord is that they are unwilling to serve Him at the price of earthly comfort, which holds a place in their lives at least equal to the Lord. Perhaps they were not even taught that comfort can become an idol. Another reason is that they don't believe G-d will preserve them (much less do them good) through whatever suffering or deprivation He calls them to undergo.

Suffering does not produce these heart attitudes (idolatry and unbelief). They are merely exposed to the light in times of suffering, and we then have the choice to repent and receive cleansing, or to harden our hearts and justify our attitudes. Since these are sins that keep us out of the Kingdom (Rev. 21:8), a wrong response to suffering can prove us unworthy.

Other Reasons for Falling Away

Blessing can be just as much a reason for falling away as adversity:

But Jeshurun grew fat and kicked; you are grown fat, thick and sleek; then he forsook the G-d who made him, and scorned the Rock of his salvation. (Deut 32:15)

Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is my portion, lest I be full and deny, and say, "Who is the Lord?" or lest I be in want and steal, and profane the name of my G-d. (Prov. 30:8-9)

Unfaithfulness is also a reason for falling away (faith and faithfulness are the same word in both Hebrew and Greek):

And with whom was He angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? And we see that they were not able to enter in because of unfaithfulness. (Heb. 3:18-19)

Loving this world can choke out life:

And the one on whom the seed was sown among thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. (Matt 13:22)

But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many a pang. (I Tim. 6:9-10)

You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward G-d? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of G-d. (James 4:4)

Ignorance can cause G-d's people to be destroyed:

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest. Since you have forgotten the Law of your G-d, I also will forget your children. (Hosea 4:6)

And also pride:

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling. It is better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud. (Prov. 16:18-19)

Learning From Others' Mistakes

Here are some specific ways in which believers have become distracted while engaged in this fight, and what caused some of them to actually leave the gospel, abandoning either Yeshua, or the truth of the Scriptures, or both. They coincide with the previous categories.

Deceitful Spirits

- Submitting as if you are an unbeliever to rabbinic teaching opposed to Yeshua.
- Accepting as your personal rabbi someone other than Yeshua (following his teachings on what is holy and acceptable to G-d).
- Attraction to defiled doctrines (such as Kabbalah and related mystical teachings) which the Holy Spirit has not instructed you to study.
- Taking on parts of Jewish observance out of fascination, peer pressure, or other fleshly motive, before the Spirit has led you into them.
- Abandoning parts of Jewish observance based on pressures apart from the Holy Spirit.

Adversity

- Refusing to suffer rejection or persecution from the Jewish community or opposing believers.
- Refusing to endure various kinds of physical or spiritual problems due to Satanic attacks.

Plenty

- Fear of losing a good job, or financial supporters, in order to be observant or visibly Jewish, or to be known as a follower of Yeshua.
- Fear of losing wealth because of Sabbatical Year laws (i.e., forgiving debts) or the prohibition of collecting interest on loans.

Unfaithfulness

- Unwillingness to obey the Law when the Spirit convicts us, because of the resistance of our flesh.
- Being attracted by the legal fictions of Jewish Orthodoxy which pretend to keep a commandment.
- Refusal to be counted with the Body of Messiah when believers are under fire for their faith.
- Zeal for the Law when there are appreciative onlookers, but less than zealous before a hostile audience or when alone.

Desiring this World

- Wanting approval or admiration from the majority of believers.
- Wanting to be accepted by the Jewish people.

Ignorance

- Improper understanding of how the Gospel and the Law fit together.
- Listening to false teachings against the Gospel by Jewish opposers.
- Listening to false teachings against the Law by opposing believers.
- Laxness in searching the Scriptures in order to test all things (due to either laziness or naive trust in favorite teachers).

Pride

- Because of doctrinal pride, separating from other believers.
- Because of problems with observance, separating from other believers.
- Condemning or condescending attitude of Law-keepers toward Law-breakers, or vice versa.

Be on your guard against these and similar pitfalls.

You are not the first to travel this road, but that does not make it any safer to travel on. Satan will make you his special target until he becomes convinced that he is wasting his time (Rev. 12:17). Remember that others have already fallen away, and that more will do so in the future; do your best to make sure that you are not among them. Keep your armor in place, especially the shield of faithfulness. May G-d bless you.

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only G-d our Savior, through Yeshua the Messiah our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 24-25)


Comments or questions relating to this teaching can be directed to:
arye@restorersofzion.org

 

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