by Steven Chan
Brethren, as we start the New Year, we need to be reminded of the greatest danger that faces us this coming year. No, the greatest danger is not the political, economic or military developments in the country or globally.
The biggest danger facing each one of us is the threat to the well-being of our soul; the battle for our soul! The apostle Paul wrote in Eph 6:10-13: “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”
We face the “wiles of the devil” in this warfare. In his letter to Timothy, Paul wrote: “This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, …that you may wage the good warfare, 19 having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck.” (1 Tim 1:18-19)
The threat posed by the devil is real (not imaginary): In Pet 5:8-9, the apostle Peter warns us to be vigilant and to be aware of what the devil will be doing to ensnare our souls: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.”
We should not be ignorant of the wiles of the devil or his devices: “For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, 11 lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices. (2 Cor 2:10-11).
In the immediate context, Paul was urging the brethren to re-affirm their love for the erring brother who had been disciplined or chastised by the church and had repented from his wrong-doing. Paul explained: “This punishment which was inflicted by the majority is sufficient for such a man, 7 so that, on the contrary, you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow. 8 Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him.” If a brother repents, we ought to forgive and comfort him so that he will not be overtaken by the “sorrow” of having yielded to sin and having been corrected by the brethren.
If the brethren failed to “forgive and comfort” then we risk losing that brother to the “wiles of the devil”. This is a significant warning to each one of us that we have a solemn responsibility to think of the spiritual well-being of our fellow brethren, and to do whatever is necessary to help our fellow-brethren to remain in the faith.
If we failed to live in accordance with the teaching of our Lord, in this instance, to “forgive and comfort” the brother or sister who has repented, then we would be negligent in our care for him/her as he/she falls into the grasp of the evil one (1 Cor 12:24-26).
Similarly, if we failed to “chastise or discipline” an erring brother or sister, then we also fail to do what our Lord expects us to do: “For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? 13 But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.” (1 Cor 5:12-13; Gal 6:1-2)
In Eph 4:14, Paul warned “that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting”. He explained further in 2 Cor 11:3-4, 13-15: “But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. 4 For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it!… For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.”
One of the devices or wiles of the devil is that of deception: “that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world” (Rev 12:9) “The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, 10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.” (2 Thess 2:9-10).
So, we need to look out for each other, warned each other and keep on encouraging each other lest we fall: “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; 13 but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end” (Heb 3:12-14). To that end, we should not “forsake our assembling together”: Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. 26 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.” (Heb 10:23-27)
We need to realize the need to be wary of the devil and the distinct possibility of losing our soul in this coming year. Let us not grow weary in encouraging, chastising/rebuking and edifying one another: “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at[a] His appearing and His kingdom: 2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all long suffering and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. 5 But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2 Tim 4:1-5)