What the Bible says about
(From Forerunner Commentary)
The word “shrewd” more closely captures Satan's character than "cunning." Shrewd means “sharp and clever in a selfish way.” Though “cunning” is not incorrect, “shrewd” has clearer connotation.
To be cunning and shrewd like Satan indicates malevolent brilliance—with the emphasis on malevolent. He is seeking to kill. His cunning is like that of a tiger, silently padding through the jungle with eyes malevolently seeking something to kill and eat.
Consider how clever his tactic was. He subtly made a suggestion rather than an argument to discredit God's authority, casting doubt about God's credibility. Satan asked, "Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?'"
Through the tone and inflection of his voice, Satan implied that there was doubt that God told them the truth. This is shown by the way Eve replied; she corrected him. She knew from the inflection of his voice that he was really asking a question and casting doubt. When she replied, she over-corrected.
Like a good salesman, the serpent got his victim to agree with him, getting the victim to say “Yes, yes, yes,” and then, "I'll buy it!" Eve was already influenced when she gave her reply because she over-corrected.
Satan successfully magnified God's strictness in her mind, reminding her that the way is narrow. She began to agree with him, thinking about God in terms the serpent wanted her to think. She began to agree, saying “Yes, yes, yes” to the salesman's ploys.
Satan immediately minimized the penalty, saying an outright lie, "You shall not die" (3:4). Then to clinch the sale, he offers her a reward: "You shall be like God" (3:5). What a price she paid! Satan offered a reward that must have seemed so big to Adam and Eve that they could not afford to reject it. What he offered was enough to reorient their lives.
They did not catch the complete significance of what he offered, but enough to know it was big. He offered the self to become the dominating focus of life; "You shall be God." He completely reoriented their lives by turning their focus away from obedience to God toward obedience to the self. He gave them the right to choose and to set the standards of right and wrong. They bought it hook, line, and sinker.
From that point on, mankind has viewed God as a rival and competitor rather than a friend—Someone with whom to compete and outwit rather than cooperate, for they were now gods too!
John W. Ritenbaugh
Satan (Part 2)
Peter asks for a sign that the "apparition" really is Jesus, and He replies, "Come!" His response contains an implicit pledge that Peter would not be engulfed in the raging waters. At first, Peter's confidence in Jesus' power sustains him as he walks on the water, but as doubt quickly creeps in, his enjoyment of the intensely spiritual experience soon fades.
Peter's zealous, impulsive faith is not absolute, convicted faith but humanly reasoned, self-assured, and immature, though it allowed him to attempt the seemingly impossible feat of walking on water. Jesus is gentle in His rebuke, not saying, "Why did you bother to come?" but gently asking, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" as He held out a hand to reassure Peter.
Despite his initial faith, Peter soon found himself facing a dramatic test. In the clash between sight and faith (II Corinthians 5:7), his impulsive faith vanished and fear took its place. Taking his eye off his Savior to focus on the raging waves, he sank but did not drown. Jesus saved him because He never abandons His elect. Poor Peter must have felt humiliation that night as his fear and failure revealed his weakness and lack of true faith.
Once Jesus entered the ship with Peter, the winds immediately ceased. Ceased in Matthew 14:32 means "to grow weary." The rough elements had spent themselves, having been overcome by supernatural power. In that instant, the ship was supernaturally and immediately moved to the shore.
Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Walking On Water (Part Two)
The skepticism of the disciples is quite shameful. A short time earlier, they had witnessed Christ miraculously feed the 5,000. They had seen His power multiply a few loaves and fish to fill the hungry crowd. Yet, confronted with an identical problem, they throw up their hands and say that it cannot be done.
Is that not what all of us do when faced with a new but similar trial? Each new difficulty appears as one from which there is no rescue. Why do we become so perplexed and discouraged? We know God heals and intervenes on behalf of believers. Like the Israelites in the wilderness, we seem to forget previous deliverances. What short memories we have! The person with true faith develops confidence from God's former interventions of faithfulness and love.
There is no excuse for such skepticism. All of us have expressed similar skepticism in our failures in trusting God. The biblical words for doubt suggest being "suspended," "driven by gusts," or "fluctuating in mid-air." Doubt does not necessarily indicate a lack of faith, but rather a state of qualified faith—weakness but not its total absence. Hebrews 11:6 asserts, "Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." Like us, Christ's disciples obviously pleased God often, yet they sometimes displayed weak faith.
Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Feeding the Four Thousand
"Not lose heart" or "faint" (KJV) means to grow weary, to give in to evil, to turn coward. We must resist the human tendency of growing weary in prayer. We have a duty as the elect of God to pray. There are several major causes of losing heart: defilement, doubt, danger, distractions, and delay.
» The defilement of sin kills interest in spiritual exercises like prayer. Sin does not promote a good prayer life—in fact, it will stop it dead. "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear" (Psalm 66:18).
» Praying with doubt is faithless, making the prayer useless. Doubting the inspiration of Scripture and the power of God hinders prayer (I Timothy 2:8). As prayer and faith go hand in hand, so do unbelief and not praying.
» Prayer must sometimes be done at dangerous times. Danger weeds out the coward from the courageous. Daniel faced real danger in praying, but kept on praying, even though it led to the lion's den (Daniel 6). Today, our dangers are varied, but the danger of embarrassment often affects people more than danger of physical harm.
» Satan is a master of causing distractions, especially during prayer time. Probably every saint has experienced his mind wandering, causing him to think about everything except what he should be praying about.
» Few things cause us to lose heart in praying more than delays in answers to our requests. Jesus uses the Parable of the Persistent Widow to teach us that, though answers often appear to take a long time in coming, we should persevere and not grow weary in praying to God.
Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Persistent Widow
"Fool" means someone who is inconsiderate, somebody who is not considering the knowledge, the truth, the teaching, that they already had. They were not considering the events of the day in the right context. They were inconsiderate. He says it as if He expects them to come to the right conclusion about who was walking beside them and expounding the Scripture.
He also calls them "slow of heart," which means someone who is backward or not easily persuaded. A child-like mind was not yet developed in these men. So what do they do? They easily give in to doubt. This continued to the point that He actually had to make Himself known to them miraculously.
John W. Ritenbaugh
We Are Unique!
2 Corinthians 13:5
God, through Paul, commands us to examine our faith and to test ourselves. How can we know the strength of our faith—our belief in the words of God? One of the ways is to examine our fears and worries.
Nehemiah writes, "For this reason he was hired, that I should be afraid and act that way and sin, so that they might have cause for an evil report, that they might reproach me" (Nehemiah 6:13). Why did Nehemiah call being afraid a sin? Because fear and worry call God a liar, insinuating that His words about His sovereignty, love, power, and faithfulness are not to be trusted. Fear and worry mirror the attitudes of a faithless Satan who believes God exists but does not believe what He says.
Philippians 4:6 tells us, "Be anxious for nothing." In other words, we are commanded, "Don't worry about anything," another of God's absolutes. To have fear, worry, anxiety, or forebodings question God's goodness and care. They display a lack of faith in His promises of wise and gracious providence and cast doubts on the depth of the love God and Christ have for us. If we cannot trust God, how can He ever trust us? Why would Christ marry forever someone who doubts His love?
Rather than give in to fear and worry, we can choose—an action—to believe God and His love. If we believe in the depth of the love God (John 17:23) and Christ (John 15:13) have for us, believing those words, faith in that perfect love will cast out fear (I John 4:18) so that we can say as David did: "I will fear no evil; for You are with me" (Psalm 23:4).
In Psalm 78:22 (New Living Translation—NLT), David succinctly cuts to the heart of Israel's problem, and by extension, ours: ". . . for they did not believe God or trust him to care for them." Doubting God's love for us is at the core of the sin of faithlessness. This doubt was a major characteristic of our ancestors, ancient Israel. ". . . because the people of Israel argued with Moses and tested the Lord by saying, 'Is the Lord going to take care of us or not?'" [Exodus 17:7 (NLT)] They never overcame this sin of faithlessness. We must. The stakes are so much higher.
It is sobering to consider the fate of the fearful and unbelieving and the rank they are given in the list found in Revelation 21:8: "But the cowardly [fearful, KJV], unbelieving [faithless, RSV], abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."
God tested the faith of Adam and Eve and of Abraham. The former failed, the latter succeeded. Eventually, God will put every human being to the same test.
As we cope with these tests we need to stir up (II Timothy 1:6) and exercise that gift of faith God gave us at the beginning, to get back to that first love and dedication to the words and promises God has given us.
We have the same choice as Adam and Eve, ancient Israel, and Abraham had. It is our decision to make: to believe God or to believe what we see—the visible circumstances we face. Faith is life (Habakkuk 2:4), and faithlessness is sin (Romans 14:23) and therefore death (Romans 6:23). God entreats us to choose life (Deuteronomy 30:19).
Faith—What Is It?
Our Creator promises us wisdom—but only under the condition that we do not waver or be double-minded. I have sweat plenty over these verses through the years, having had to battle indecision. Likewise, when I pray, I have problems concentrating. I have battled doubts and fears when I have asked to be anointed.
But is simple mind-wandering or normal doubts the subject of James' reprimand? Or is it something else? Perhaps mind-wandering, indecisiveness, and doubting are more symptomatic than the actual causes of double-mindedness.
The apostle Paul writes that anyone who comes to God must believe that He is and diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). If we are in a conference with a human being, it is rude to tune him out, fall asleep on him, or become distracted. Some of my students have done that to me—giving me an insight on how God must feel when our minds wander when we pray, study, or meditate. Inattention and mind-wandering, although they are related to double-mindedness, do not seem to be what James had in mind.
The anguished father in Mark 9:24, who says, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!" might be accused of being double-minded, but he is not. He desperately wants to believe, and he asks for help. He is not of two opinions.
The Greek word translated "double-minded" in James 1:8, dipsuchos, in its literal sense means "double-souled," like having two independent wills. The words "with no doubting" in verse 6 are translated from the Greek words meedén diakrinómenos, which describes one divided in mind, who wavers between two opinions.
Some may wonder whether the apostle Paul, when he complains, "For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice" (Romans 7:19), was exercising double-mindedness. This state of struggle that goes on in all of us is not the same as double-mindedness. Paul's mind, he goes on to explain, is focused one way, in one direction (verse 22), but inherent in the flesh of every human being is an innate enmity toward God and His law (Romans 7:23; 8:7). Just like Paul, we also fail to keep God's law perfectly because we have human nature in us that is perpetually at war with God's Holy Spirit in us.
All of us have a deep-seated desire to be at one with ourselves. We will not realize this desire until we are totally composed of spirit. Until then, we can expect a spiritual tug of war to go on perpetually. As more of God's Spirit flows through us, renewing our minds and displacing our carnality, we will find it easier to keep our carnal nature in check. All of us, I trust, can point to certain areas in our lives that are now under control—but which at one time were not under control. The spiritual struggle occurring in all of us between our spiritual and carnal natures is not double-mindedness.
Double-mindedness is literally having two separate minds holding contradictory thoughts. Double-mindedness occurs in a church member when he has an implicit or explicit knowledge of God's law, yet deliberately harbors a sin, choosing to conceal it, repress it, or ignore it.
James supports this explanation of double-mindedness in James 4:8: "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts you double-minded." Anything one willingly does or does not do that is contrary to God's law (verse 17) makes one guilty of double-mindedness. Double-mindedness depends on a knowledge of and a willful intent to reject God's law, as the psalmist writes in Psalm 119:113: "I hate the double-minded, but I love your law." On the other side, being synchronized with God's law is equated with singleness of purpose and leads to peace of mind and a feeling of wholeness. The same psalmist writes, "Great peace have those who love Your law, and nothing causes them to stumble" (Psalm 119:165).
God's law itself is the vehicle of wisdom that the petitioner requests in James 1:5. It would be absurd for someone to ask to be filled with the spirit of the law and simultaneously be determined not to keep it. Sometimes we inadvertently do this when we ask a minister or counselor for advice on a problem—but have already purposed in our minds to do it our own way. Then when the minister tells us something that goes against what we have purposed to do in our inner being, a highly uncomfortable state of dissonance emerges.
Harboring any secret sin puts a tremendous strain on the nervous system. Psychologists have a name for this emotional/psychological turmoil: cognitive dissonance, literally "inharmonious thought."
People who have left the truth often report that they feel more at peace with themselves now than at any time they were in the church. This should not surprise us. When they—anyone, for that matter—tries to submit to God's law with a carnal mind, unbearable cognitive dissonance occurs. The nervous system plunges into a tailspin until it achieves a sense of equilibrium or wholeness. Carnal nature does not feel comfortable in the light of God's law: "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be" (Romans 8:7). The easiest way to find equilibrium is to reject the beliefs that send them into a spiritual dither.
David F. Maas
Spiritual Double Agents
Jude continues the nautical theme begun in verse 12 by calling the false ministers "raging waves of the sea." He describes them as storms in the church, causing trouble and turbulence wherever they go. James describes the doubting person in a similar way (James 1:6-8), as wind-tossed waves, double-minded, and unstable in everything. Such people will end up causing problems. Such waves toss people into hidden rocks, or as his brother Jude puts it, hidden reefs. Naive members can become caught in the turbulence and eventually be turned from the truth.
He then describes them as "foaming up their own shame." It is quite a picturesque phrase. He alludes to the foam on the beach after a storm. The strand is littered with all kinds of driftwood and other debris a storm can dredge up. They brag about their past feats as great accomplishments, but a godly eye sees them for what they are: shameful deeds.
He also calls them "wandering stars," another nautical allusion, this time to the movement of the planets. Mariners used the fixed stars - not the planets - to guide their ships over the trackless sea. They would align themselves toward a certain star to reach their destination. These teachers are supposed to be leaders, guides for those who are not as experienced on the road of life, but as we would say, they are all over the map! They go here and there, this way and that. It is the blind leading the blind, and anyone following them will fall into a ditch (Matthew 15:14). They are unreliable guides. They give horrible advice. They are not worth even talking to about one's problems because they will lead a person astray.
Jude foretells their fate at the end of the verse: "for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever." The literal translation of this is really dark: "Their fate is the utter darkness of darkness for eternity." Lights out forever! James 3:1 says that those who are teachers will receive the stricter judgment, and this is an example of it: the utter darkness of darkness forever. God takes the deception of His people personally.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Revelation 12:9 says that the Dragon, Satan, has deceived the whole world. But has the import of that really sunk in? The doubtful resistance that is in each of us does not go away easily. It remains though we are converted. It still needs to be fought and overcome.
If we do not condition ourselves to be aware and choose the right way, it will continue to exert its influence. Much can be done to lessen its influence, particularly continuing to develop our relationship with God through study and prayer.
As we exercise God's way, the influence of Satan the Devil begins to slip. There is a negative side to this in that, as soon as his influence starts to slip away, he tries harder to ensure that it does not leave us entirely. In other words, he picks up the intensity of his pressure on us.
But do not be disheartened! I Corinthians 10:13 is still in the book. God only gives us what we can handle, and He provides a way of escape. God is always there protecting us, making sure that Satan does not increase the pressure to the point that we are unable to bear it. We can be sure that as we continue to grow, and Satan steps up the pressure, we will be equal to the task. Do we have faith in that? We had better have faith because the intensity of the pressure will get greater and greater.
John W. Ritenbaugh
We Are Unique!
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