[This post is a compilation of a seven-part Bible study I taught last Fall, presented here together as one. I pray you are blessed in using these “Secrets of Strength” in your own life!]
Many years ago, we witnessed serious spiritual warfare, its impact on one family and their loved ones. Friends who had lived in another country for years moved back and became involved in our lives.
What we didn’t know then is they had been exposed to things the Bible warns us against such as mediums and witch doctors. Further, one of the family members was involved with porn and other activities directly opposite of Biblical values.
As a result, seeing spirits in their home was a daily way of life.
This couple had inadvertently given hell access to their lives and those of their children. But it didn’t stop there. Hell’s door was now opened wide to anyone with whom they spent time!
Spiritual darkness, demonic attack or oppression, is like COVID-19! It is a quick-spreading virus that preys upon the weak and unprepared!
The dark forces in this family’s home also ripped through their extended family’s homes with lightening speed and devastating effects. Within two years, there were three divorces in their close circle of friends!
That season began a journey that changed our lives. I saw the need for spiritual preparedness and started searching for the things that provide us with strength.
One step at a time, I discovered the secrets of His strength for all of life’s daily challenges. I found the protective gear for even the worst spiritual “virus”.
So, I want to share with you seven biblical concepts that will arm you continually against anything the world or hell can throw at you. Some of them are very basic, like Christianity 101. Others are more advanced faith! Together, they will change your life, if you apply them regularly. They did mine.
We’ve all heard the saying, “What Would Jesus Do?”
Is this just a quick way of figuring out what is right, a form of personal behavior modification that relies upon our own strength? Maybe.
But for real power to do what Jesus would do, how about we start by living the way Jesus lived?
Just a few years ago, I came into contact with yet another family dealing with serious spiritual warfare. Having already seen the damage it causes and not wanting to be vulnerable, I sought the counsel of a godly mentor.
She directed me to James 4:7, Submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee.
The verse reveals very simply the first step in defeating the attacks of the enemy: Submit to God.
Strength #1 = Surrender
My dad talked often about the concept of surrender when I was young, but I didn’t give it much thought or realize it was a daily choice. Reflecting on it afresh and anew after the conversation with my mentor, I came face to face with the truth in my own life: I was not surrendered and didn’t know when, or if, I’d ever been fully surrendered.
And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
Jesus’ life was a model of complete submission to His Father. No matter the personal cost.
What are the things that stand in the way of surrender?
– Sin – unforgiveness, selfishness, etc
– (Fill in blank)
I came to the surrender challenge with control issues and fear. But, I made a decision that day. I told God, “I am afraid, but I surrender anyway!”
You see, we don’t have to conquer the obstacles BEFORE coming and surrendering to Him. We bring the obstacles to Him and surrender anyway. He does the rest!
In spite of my fear, I discovered such relief in being surrendered. I found power in a way I’d never felt in all the years I’d fought to be in control.
I urge everyone to ask yourself, ‘Am I holding anything back? Am I truly surrendered to the Lord?’
Practical tip: I tell Him every morning, “Holy Spirit, I surrender. I am Yours. Take over this day.”
Which brings us to the next Strength:
Strength #2 = The Holy Spirit
JAMES 4:5 – He jealously desires the Spirit He made to dwell in us…
ZECH 8.2 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; I was jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I was jealous for her with great fury.
Who is Zion? We are!
Jesus modeled filling of the Spirit from the beginning of His ministry:
MATT 3:16-17 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up out of the water: and, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
From Talmudic Evidence of Messiah in 30 AD (http://www.windowview.org/hmny/pgs/talmuds.30ce.html):
“In the centuries following the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, the Jewish people began writing two versions of Jewish thought, religious history and commentary. One became known as the Jerusalem Talmud. The other was known as the Babylonian Talmud.
Both Talmuds recorded a unique event in the 1st Century:
“Forty years before the destruction of the Temple, the western light went out…”
The Miracle of the Temple Menorah
[In 30 AD] the most important lamp of the seven candle-stick Menorah in the Temple went out, and would not shine. Every night for 40 years the main lamp of the Temple lamp stand (Menorah) went out of its own accord no matter what attempts and precautions the priests took to safeguard against this event!
Earnest Martin states:
“This ‘western lamp’ was to be kept lit at all times. For that reason, the priests kept extra reservoirs of olive oil and other implements in ready supply to make sure that the ‘western lamp’ (under all circumstances) would stay lit. But what happened in the forty years from the very year Messiah said the physical Temple would be destroyed? Every night for forty years the western lamp went out, and this in spite of the priests each evening preparing in a special way the western lamp so that it would remain constantly burning all night!”
The odds against the lamp continually going out are astronomical. Something out of the ordinary was going on. The “light” of the Menorah representing contact with God, His Spirit, and His Presence was now removed.”
Do you know what I believe happened in 30 AD? Remember, Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist at the start of His ministry, and the witnesses with them saw the Spirit of God descend upon Jesus like a dove. That has to be the moment the Spirit left the temple, to dwell in Christ!
Now, fast forward to 33 AD. What happened after Christ’s death and Resurrection, to the disciples/apostles in Acts 2?
Pentecost: the Spirit rushed into the room like a whirlwind and flames of fire appeared above each of their heads!
The Spirit of God had moved, from the Temple, through Christ, TO God’s people! Filled with the Spirit of God, they became a LIVING MENORAH, the LIVING Temple!
This is how precious the Holy Spirit’s filling is, it marks us as His Temple! We are MADE for Him, to house Him, and He jealously desires to dwell in us.
EPH 5:18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;
“Be filled” literally means, “be being filled”… ALL DAY…
One purpose of the Spirit: Fruits of the Spirit.
GAL 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness/gentleness, goodness, faith, humility, self-control.…
GAL 5:24 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
GAL 5:25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
How do we walk in the Spirit?
Practical tip: Talk to Him – involve Him all day long. Re-surrender as often as needed every day.
How I’ve learned to pray in every relationship whenever needed:
“Holy Spirit, come between us…” in every relationship where there is tension, difficulty or even just room for improvement!
Holy Spirit is the one thing you WANT between you and your spouse, children, neighbors, coworkers, clients, friends…
Think of what He brings between you: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness/gentleness, goodness, faith, humility, self-control… These heavenly gifts are healing, and healing is what they accomplish whenever Holy Spirit is invited between us.
I promise, if you practice that simple tip, you will see remarkable results in your relationships.
Back to Ephesians 5, listen to the rest of the passage:
EPH 5:18-19 Do not be drunk with wine wherein is excess, but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;
Part of staying in the Spirit is worship!! At home, every day…
Strength #3 = Worship
What is the purpose of worship? The first thing we may think is it is when we love on God, express gratitude. And that is true. But there is more.
At the heart of it, worship is the acknowledgement that we understand the reality of God’s existence and greatness. So, worship connects us to the basic TRUTH of existence:
That God exists…
He is our Maker and source…
He is enough to meet our every need…
He is amazing!
He gave all for us through Jesus, His Son.
We NEED HIM.
When we worship, we are connecting to Him and expressing understanding of the core reality of existence.
Worship is a FOUNDATIONAL link to REALITY. As a result, it wards off the father of LIES!
When we are connected to REALITY, lies cannot stand. It is a powerful spiritual tool against the enemy in our homes!
The most pivotal moment in worship may be when we are adoring Him and realize He is adoring us in return. We are set free in those moments!
YouTube – to find worship you enjoy – search for ‘live worship’ and find your favorites.
iTunes – purchase each song meaningful to you.
Create your own personal playlist and keep it fresh.
Other sources of worship music: cds, Spotify, pandora, etc.
Use your playlist in your home every day if possible. If you can’t sit down and listen, have it playing in the background of your home often.
Worship ushers in God’s presence and clears our homes of enemy lies.
It is a protective blanket of truth and peace for our families.
Strength #4 = Recognize Enemy Attacks
In this section, I’m going to share both failure and victories from our life in spiritual warfare. The difference in being prepared and being unprepared.
I said previously, years ago we had become involved with friends who had all kinds of dark spiritual activity in their home. They saw spirits. Did you know many people think spirits are souls ‘inbetween’ who need prayer to get into Heaven? But what does the Bible say about that?
LUKE 16:26 tells us no soul passes from hell to heaven, and no soul passes from heaven to hell.
SO, what visiting beings are these claiming to be souls? They are deceivers. They are demons!
During this same season of life, we met two young ministers. One had a unique testimony of his former life of unbelief and frequent marijuana use. In that old life, he saw what he called ‘gray people’ every night in his room. The gray people would pull mean pranks on him, lock him out in the yard, etc. His nominal Christian parents were powerless and didn’t know what to do.
However, God eventually moved no doubt due to their prayers, and when this young guy finally accepted Christ and fully surrendered, everything changed. He realized the beings were not ghosts, or souls, but demons.
He got his family together, prayed, and together they insisted the demons leave. They did, and his family was spiritually cleansed, renewed in every way. As part of his story, he would later became a minister.
That young man’s testimony had a lasting impact on me. These things are REAL. God has a mean and deceptive enemy who hates us! They will attach to anyone unprotected, and they will linger UNTIL we kick them out!
1 Peter 5:8-9
8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
Ephesians 6:10-18 The Armor of God
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness (PURITY) in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
Based on the above passage, we arm ourselves with:
– Biblical Truth
– Understanding and readiness to share the Gospel of peace
– Faith (fully trusting Him extinguishes enemy darts!)
– Word of God
– Praying filled with the Spirit
– Pray for each other, for God’s people
Purifying our homes is vital…
REMOVE ITEMS you know would be unpleasing or unwelcome in God’s presence.
Examples: Pagan symbols or pagan religious objects, impure movies, books, music, games that elevate the demonic – or even worse seek to contact them (such as Ouija boards), voodoo dolls, tarot cards, material on palm reading, horoscopes, and more! Anything that keeps you remembering an ungodly relationship, and whatever else the Lord convicts you to remove!
When you enter the land which the LORD your God gives you, you shall not learn to imitate the detestable things of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For whoever does these things is detestable to the LORD; and because of these detestable things the LORD your God will drive them out before you.
Isaiah 8:19-20 When they say to you, “Consult the mediums and the spiritists who whisper and mutter,” should not a people consult their God? Should they consult the dead on behalf of the living?
Have nothing to do with these things!
We do not pray to dead people, no matter who they were! No human ever had or will have divine power to hear and answer our prayers! No angel answers prayers, either… We do not pray to angels.
Listening and answering prayer belongs to the Lord and the Lord alone.
How to recognize thoughts and feelings from the deceptive enemy, the father of LIES:
1 John 4:1-4
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit (identified through EVERY THOUGHT AND FEELING), but test them to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.
WE DO NOT HAVE TO FEAR. When we are surrendered and filled with the Spirit, we have GREATER STRENGTH against the enemy! Because it is HIS strength.
2 Corinthians 10:3-5
3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought (or feeling) to make it obedient to Christ.
Literally, examine every thought and feeling that passes through your mind and heart. If it does not honor God or reflect the truth in the Word of God, reject it. When necessary, tell (the source of the thought or feeling) to leave in Jesus’ name! Keep up Strengths: Get and stay surrendered, Spirit-filled… etc.
James 4:7 Submit to God, resist the devil and he will flee.
More on how to recognize attacks; thoughts and feelings – not – from God. Those that contradict Scripture.
So, name the types of thoughts or feelings you may struggle with that are NOT from God, based on the above.
– fear or anxiety
We are told to meditate upon things that are good. After rebuking the thoughts not from God, welcome the Spirit again to fill your mind and soul with thoughts from Him:
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
Now let’s get to communication we have with the Lord. Every relationship is made stronger by healthy communication, right?
Strength #5 = Prayer
Pray without ceasing… I Thess 5:17
What does that mean? For me, it means acknowledging His presence with me continually.
If you had someone in the house with you all day and night, your mom, best friend, a spouse… would you ignore them, never say a word for days or weeks at a time? Well, maybe you would if the relationship is very unhealthy…
In a good relationship, you would have small, daily conversations about mundane things (‘what do you want to eat, can you pick up Johnny from school’… etc), and then occasional deeper conversations, right?
And that is what Jesus wants with us! Normal life where He is included.
It may surprise you to hear I talk to the Lord about even the smallest things, like what to wear, eat or cook… and ask for His thoughts. I’m frequently amazed the sudden inspiration that comes as I talk to Him about anything.
Really dwelling with Him means teaching ourselves to remember He is there. We don’t do anything alone. We may as well talk to Him, as we would if our bestie or spouse were there next to us. Because…. He is…
At work? Talk to Him in whatever challenge you face, whatever wisdom you need. Keep the Holy Spirit between you and your boss, you and co-workers, or clients.
At home? Keep Him in-between you and your spouse, your children… seek Him in small and big things.
Is there a best time to pray?
When I was growing up, many teachers pushed a morning devotion as being the best. That works for many, but it is not a mandate in Scripture.
In the Psalms, check out when King David prayed:
PSA 5.3 My voice You will hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct [my prayer] to You, and will look up.
PSA 63.6 When I remember You upon my bed, [and] meditate on You in the [night] watches.
PSA 55.17 Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice.
When we practice God’s presence as King David did – remember he was called a man after God’s own heart – we make Him part of our whole day. And David was fighting literal battles against enemies of his nation. Surely, we can include the Lord in our crazy lives if David could include Him in his!
So, lets rephrase the question:
Instead of “is there a best time to pray”, ask,
IS THERE A BAD TIME TO PRAY? No, of course not.
A key in communication with God: BE HONEST and OPEN with Him.
He can’t heal as easily what we try to hide from Him.
He sees it already, and if we will trust Him, He will be there with comfort and answers.
Things that keep us from talking with God:
Busyness – we can over-commit in our lives. Guard your time and do only the things God has assigned you to do. There will always be someone with an agenda for you that doesn’t come from Him. Learn to recognize what is and isn’t from Him, and learn to say no.
What are signs an assignment isn’t from the Lord?
– Lack of passion for the task – may mean it is not in your area of gifting.
– Doing it has you so busy you don’t have time to talk to the Lord or to properly prepare for the things you are called to do.
– Doing it causes you to neglect yourself or your family.
…Recognize your priorities from Him and protect them.
Interruptions/Distraction – these are part of life, but we need to learn to recognize the difference between those that are normal and those that are brought by the enemy, keeping us from doing what we are supposed to be doing.
Be realistic! A busy mom with many young children, or someone working outside the home full time and raising a family will not have the length of free, quiet time with the Lord as someone who has neither.
Understand His grace and work into your day little chats with the Lord, include Him in your thoughts, ask Him for wisdom for the mundane and the challenges you face…
Sin and guilt – I used to let guilt (embarrassment, shame…) keep me from seeking Him out, I thought He wouldn’t want to talk to me because I was weak or selfish, etc. Felt I couldn’t enter His presence until I was perfect.
It is the opposite! Come as you are – He does the perfecting! He is waiting with LOVE and open arms EVERY TIME.
We’ve trusted Him for salvation. We’ve trusted Him with our eternity. Can’t we trust Him with our daily brokenness?
He is a gentle Bridegroom full of love and grace. He longs for our company, to deepen the loving relationship between us.
Learn to trust His love and constant acceptance of you. HE is SAFE, like no other relationship on earth.
Those of us who are married or have been married understand that there is no perfect marriage. The best relationships are good most of the time, great often, but it is still far from perfect. It is not satisfying 100% of the time. There are conflicts and hurdles to overcome. We have bad days.
This is one of the many reasons why we need our Savior, our Bridegroom, Jesus. He is perfect, He never fails, is never selfish, never distracted or distant from our needs. He loves us, warts and all!
The brokenness, sin and other issues will be worked out in relationship with Him. HONESTY (aka confession) is safe with the Lord. He does not condemn, He restores in love.
If we need help remembering God’s character… Psalms are good to read to learn the character of God through the eyes of King David, ’a man after God’s own heart’.
Do we have to follow a formula? No. Jesus told us not to use “vain repetitions”.
6 But you, when you pray, enter into your (quiet, private place), and when you have shut the door, pray to your Father in secret; and your Father who sees in secret shall reward you openly. 7 But when you pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. 8 Be not like them: for your Father knows what things you need, before you ask Him.
But, Jesus did give us a wise example with key elements in the Lord’s prayer [key elements below noted in brackets and all caps]. There is nothing wrong with reciting it once in awhile, so long as it does not become a meaningless repetition as he warned previously:
After this manner (a guideline) therefore pray:
[PRAISE] Our Father who is in heaven, Holy is Your name.
[SURRENDER] Your kingdom come. Your will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
[ASKING PROVISION] Give us this day our daily bread.
[CONFESSION AND CHOOSING TO FORGIVE – another form of surrender!] And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
[SEEKING GUIDANCE AND PROTECTION] And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:
[SURRENDER AND PRAISE AGAIN!] For Yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
Did you notice it was a Praise sandwich!? It started and ended with praise – acknowledging the truth of Who God is and how awesome He is. Remember, praise keeps us grounded in reality.
And surrender was evident at least three times, beginning, middle and end! Those things must be pretty important if Jesus mentioned praise and surrender so many times in the Lord’s prayer.
Again, we don’t have to pray in formulas or mindless repetition, but praise, surrender and confession should be the most frequent, daily and as often as needed during the day!
Remember, God is our “Abba” Father, meaning our daddy. We can talk to Him informally.
Jesus is our Bridegroom (i.e., closest and most loving companion, the One who always has our best interests at heart), we can relax in His presence and be ourselves.
The Holy Spirit is the presence of our Father and Bridegroom, with us continually, loving and dwelling in us! When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, it may surprise us how many things we ask of Him were already His idea.
So, what do we do in life when prayer is not enough?
Occasionally, some strong and entrenched spiritual battle will not leave with prayer alone. How do we guarantee victory against the enemies of God?
For maximum spiritual strength against the enemy:
Strength #6 = Fasting
28 And when He had come into the house, His disciples asked Him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?”
29 So He said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.”
Note: Isaiah 58 is a great model for fasting, and it basically says, do not announce to the world when you are fasting. Unless it is a group effort, it is usually a private thing. Keep up your responsibilities to your home, work, etc. Feed your families. Give food to the hungry, or extra to charity!
Again, fasting is MAXIMUM spiritual power, the biggest secret of Strength, right out of the mouth of Jesus! And when we practice it regularly, we become mighty warriors in the unseen!
I love superhero movies… The reason I love them, for me those stories reflect a shadow of something REAL. They imagine there can be humans with super powers who can defeat any foe.
The reality is WE as children of God have super powers, because we have HIM, the all-powerful. And we literally do battle in the unseen, with limitless power beyond fictional superheroes.
Is there a right or wrong way to FAST? There are many ways.
– Juice or broth
– Water only
– Veggies only (the prophet, Daniel, twice ate only vegetables and water for a short time)
I will tell you over the years, I’ve come to realize water only is actually easier for me. But, it took me getting free of addictions to do it. I had to break the sugar and caffeine addiction (slowly stepped down over a week or two until I no longer needed them) before I could skip them for even a day.
FYI, I had other reasons for getting off caffeine – not everyone has to avoid them altogether. If you can’t skip caffeine without a terrible headache, then have coffee but just cut out food…etc.
In other words, let grace be your guide! Listen to the Holy Spirit and do what works for you.
[For more tips, see earlier post on Faith and Fasting: How to Fast.]
The point is discipline – denying ourselves something in order to pursue Him more. He denied Himself and took up the cross for us. We can deny ourselves a meal once in awhile in order to pursue Him and His strength.
If anyone is interested, I try to fast at least one day a month. More when needed, and as led by the Holy Spirit…
Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the [e]hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 17 But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you [f]openly.
Note wording: When you fast… Jesus expected His people to fast regularly.
Jesus modeled fasting. At the start of His ministry, He fasted for 40 days.
Paul fasted for 3 days immediately upon his conversion.
Start slow and work up to train your body to expect occasional fasting. It is good for body and soul – healthy for our brains and digestive systems!
Did you know cancer treatments have been shown to be MORE effective when the patient has fasted 1-2 days prior?
Researchers have learned that healthy cells go into a protective hibernation during fasting, while unhealthy cells remain exposed. So cancer treatments are more effective on the exposed unhealthy cells while the healthy cells are sheltered.
Fasting does the same thing for us in the spiritual! Protects us while exposing the enemy!
Model of 24 hour fast – sundown to sundown. (Fasting one calendar day actually adds up to around 36 hours…)
Start with one meal, once a month, etc. The only wrong way to fast is never to fast at all.
Now, we finally come to the last Strength:
Strength #7 = Study the Word
Ideas why knowing the Scriptures are so important for each of us?
– to know truth vs lies
– foundational truth of existence, the Gospel
– His Spirit uses Scripture we know to minister and guide us
– to teach our children
– to know how to live
– to weed out false teaching
Today, we have high tech resources for studying the Bible. We are centuries away from being uneducated masses who can’t read, being taught by men who read in another language we don’t understand and who have total control over what we learn.
One reason knowing how to study the Bible is so vital, that teaching it to our children and grandchildren is vital, Jesus said in the last days there would be many false teachers.
But, if you don’t know the Bible, how will you know who is a teacher approved by God and who is teaching false concepts?
When you really learn how to study the Bible, you will even catch errors taught by well-meaning, good teachers. It is important to be able to compare what is being taught with what the Bible says.
When a teaching or our own thoughts contradict Scripture, what has to win? The Bible. We have to submit our thoughts to it, not it to our thoughts or feelings.
When I was a youth, my church had a visiting evangelist/teacher (Dr. Jack Taylor) who taught us in a week of ‘revival’ meetings something I’ll never forget. It is a statement about the Bible and its authority in our lives. It goes like this:
“I believe the Bible.
It is the Word of God.
Every Word of God is true.
Where what the Bible says
differs from my present practice or opinion,
I will repent.
I will change, with God’s help.”
The point is, the Bible is our foundation of truth. Before we form an opinion on any subject surrounding God Himself, how to live the Christian life, i.e., all matters of faith, we must first learn what the Bible says on that subject.
We align our thoughts and opinions with Scripture, not the other way around. If a teacher is telling you something different than what the Bible already taught, we trust the Word of God, not the human.
EXAMPLE (I’ve no wish to offend anyone, but this is a vital example of the Bible vs a respected leader, and how we should handle it):
The Pope – Has anyone heard stories about his teaching that concerns you? I’m not talking about political issues. Has anyone heard that he has taught crowds on more than one occasion that you don’t have to believe in Christ to get to Heaven?
He specifically told at least one crowd of people that even atheists will get to Heaven! This actually happened, it is well documented, and witnessed.
All humans are flawed creatures. They make mistakes and commit errors. This is why we must hold fast to the one trustworthy standard.
The Bible is the settled, unchanging truth. In a contest, Bible vs human, any human, the Bible must always win!
So, what does the Bible say about salvation?
Jesus said, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through Me. (John 14:6)
There is the truth. Jesus is the only way.
What the Pope said on those few occasions was contradictory to Scripture. Think of it. If we do not need Jesus to get to Heaven, then what is the point of the Bible? Of the Gospels?
If Jesus wasn’t the solution to our human problem, then the Bible has lied and should be thrown out. I wonder if the Pope understands the ramifications of those casual comments he made to crowds.
Bottom line, no matter who is speaking, the best preacher in the world, or even the Pope; if his or her teaching challenges or changes the written word of God, then we automatically know who is wrong. And it isn’t the Bible.
That is one blatant example of catching a false teaching. But, we must know the Scripture to catch it.
Jesus told us in the last days not only would knowledge increase, but so would false teachers. One has only to surf the internet to know both of these prophesies are playing out now.
Ok, on to practical tips for study!
Number one thing to do before attempting to understand the Bible:
Surrender and be filled with the Holy Spirit!
He will then be empowered to lead the way. His Spirit will lead you into all truth. John 16:13
Modern tools for learning God’s Word independently:
- Audio Bible! (many options in Amazon or iTunes)
- Podcasts (recorded audio files of teaching)
- The Bible movie series or other Bible stories
- BibleGateway.com (a FREE and fantastic tool for searching the Bible in any version. You can do a search of EVERY English translation of one verse with one click. Also offer commentaries and libraries of info to study, along with devotionals, etc.)
- crosswalk.com (FREE also with many articles, resources, and devotionals can be found there and much more)
- Kindle versions of Scriptures (Amazon)
- Complete Bible Reference Study Library by James Strong – I have a copy on Kindle and it is fantastic. I believe there is also an app. Contains the Bible, both Hebrew and Greek Bible dictionaries, concordances and more at your fingertips. It contains in-verse links to Strong’s Bible dictionaries. This allows you to literally dig into word studies of the original languages on the fly — can have the Kindle app, which is free, on phone and/or computer.
- Young’s Literal Version (I also have on Kindle) is always a good backup Bible version to have on hand, to check accuracy – if you can handle old English. It is one of the more accurate to the original languages.
Other resources I keep on hand in hard copy:
- The Interlinear Bible (contains Hebrew, Greek and English line by line on every page)
- Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance (the same thing included as part of Strongs Complete Reference Study Library mentioned above…)
- KJV Illustrated Bible handbook (includes summaries, author and date info, audience info, principles, and more)
- Nelson’s Compact Bible Commentary by Radmacher, Allen and House (contains outlines, illustrations, and more)
- Nelson’s Quick Reference Chapter by Chapter Bible Commentary by Wiersbe.
Ways to Study:
As unique as all of us are… there are varying ways to study. God made us, understands how we think and learn. Let His Spirit lead you!
- Chronological (a book at a time) or Topical (by subject)
- Devotional material
- Pastor’s Sermons – go over passages again during the week!
Study in a way that works for YOU.
-Some write things out in notebooks or journals
-Some highlight and underline and make notes in the margin,
-Some listen to sermons and podcasts.
-Some fill their home with Scripture – plaques and written verses
-Some do all of the above.
I keep a folder called ‘Study’ on my laptop. Whenever I feel inspired to make notes on a Biblical passage or subject, it gets saved there. Sometimes I make notes on my phone, and occasionally, I make notes in my Kindle app Bibles – they allow notes to be saved.
Not everyone has the same amount of free time. If you have young babies, you feed yourself spiritually where you can! You might write out a verse and tape it to the refrigerator for encouragement every time you open the door, or over the kitchen sink for every time you rinse a dish.
Any of us can surround ourselves with verse-of-the-day calendars or posters, or decorative art that displays Scripture! We will find ourselves quickly memorizing verses we see every day.
Remember, there is no perfect way to study for everyone. There is, however, a best way for you, and the Lord knows how unique you are…
There is no condemnation for those in Christ, who walk in the Spirit… Romans 8:1
The point is, in whatever position in life you are in, find the ways that work for you. But make a way to get the Bible into your mind on days other than just at church.
You will be giving the Holy Spirit a tool to use, to encourage you, to remind you of His wisdom. It is strength in difficulty, guidance in confusing situations, etc.
Final Tips to Consider in Study:
– What was the cultural backdrop behind the passage?
– Who was the audience intended by the author, and what might God be saying beyond that audience… to us?
– How does this apply to my life?
– If it is Old Testament teaching, what does the New Testament say about it? For the sake of forming theological positions, Old and New Testaments must be compared, for together they form a whole picture.
Also, resist forming an entrenched position on just one verse, unless it is a very basic topic like salvation – in that case, John 3:16 does the job quite well. But many other concepts must be studied in context, and across all of Scripture.
Doing such a search, you may find other verses bring clarity to a verse that seemed at first to disagree with the others. It is also a way to find mis-translations!
Study to show yourself approved (pleasing) to God… 2 Tim 2:15
Tips on Choosing Pastors/Teachers to trust:
1 Timothy 3 says teachers/leaders must have a stable home life (i.e., not divorced, remarried, or home falling apart). They must show evidence of personal discipline, not a heavy drinker, etc…
I won’t name names, but I know at least two respected American Christian pastors/teachers who do not fit the above qualifications. One well-known teacher of prophecy married his secretary after divorcing his wife many years ago; another very famous pastor separated and divorced his wife, but his church voted not to remove him from his role of head Pastor.
Both these men still have very public ministries. According to I Timothy 3, this is a problem. Home life not in order? Personal life not in order? Spiritual life may not be in order… and teaching is therefore not to be trusted.
It may sound harsh, but this is what the Bible teaches. The rules for leaders are for a reason.
Bottom line – be careful whose ministry you trust – know something about the leader’s life and walk. Make sure their life, family is in order, that they show personal discipline…
Tips from Bible study group as to additional trusted resources:
- Abide App
- The Bible App
- Bible Project on YouTube
- Holman Study Bible for Women and worksheets for kids
There are unlimited resources today for anyone to choose from. Find what works for you and surround yourself, arm your life with God’s word. You won’t regret it!
This wraps the seven Secrets of Strength. I pray you are abundantly blessed!
May you find the seven secrets: 1) surrender, 2) the Holy Spirit, 3) worship, 4) recognizing spiritual attack, 5) prayer, 6) fasting, and 7) studying the Bible, to be a foundational source of wisdom and strength for you today and every day.
We go from strength to strength… (Psalm 84:7)