A Woman's Perspective On The Times We Live In


August 31, 2016

"Be As Wise As Serpents, and Innocent As Doves"

     In our Home Church's study of the Book of Acts this past weekend, we made note of the ways that satan attempted to disrupt the growth and influence of the newly-formed First Century Church.  He tried to discourage the Apostles from delivering their supernaturally-charged message of "Jesus as Messiah" by inciting the civil and religious ire of the powerful Sanhedrin.  When Peter, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, shows them he is unafraid of their threats, the devil then whispers the sin of Pride into the hearts of Ananais and Sapphira and they lie to the Holy Spirit about their false generosity to meet the needs of the multitude assembled in Jerusalem.  God thwarts that plan by striking them dead on the spot.
     The next move in the cosmic chess match was to try to instigate division among different groups within the new Church, but Stephen, a man of remarkable faith, steps up and leads the congregation to reconciliation.  In retaliation, satan whispers lies and false accusations against Stephen, which results in a trial before the Sanhedrin and a death sentence for blasphemy -- ironically the same sentence brought against Jesus, whom Stephen proclaimed.  Again, the Adversary thinks he's poured cold water on the fire of Christianity, but God defeats his move by raising up the first martyr who is willing to die for his witness of Christ.  And all of this has happened in just the first seven chapters!
     But Jesus had warned the Apostles that this would be their lot; in fact, anyone who is willing to witness to the world of eternal salvation through Jesus, the Son of God, can expect that there will be a hard road before them.  In Matthew, chapter ten, after commissioning His twelve disciples and instructing them to continue the work He was doing, he then warns them that He is "sending them out as sheep in the midst of wolves", and then comes that turn of phrase that I wish to explore further ... "So, be as wise as serpents, and innocent as doves".  Just what did He mean by that?   
     The first half of that admonition is easy enough to discern.  Sheep are vulnerable in the midst of wolves, and are targets for attack.  As Matthew Henry explains it, "Wicked men are like wolves, in whose nature it is to devour and destroy."  This is the very definition of the goal of satan.  So, then what are we to make of the advice, first, to be "wise as serpents"?  
      I have seen some explanations from sources that I admire; John Piper and David Guzik both adhere to opinions that witnesses for Jesus should follow the example of serpents, or snakes, and "get out of the way; go under rock", or that "serpents are attacked by everyone, and must use creativity and wisdom to survive; so, avoid unnecessary trouble".  While both viewpoints accurately describe the action of snakes, I would like to offer another possible interpretation; one from a spiritual warfare point of view.
     Do you think it is plausible that Jesus could have meant for them to be wise from this standpoint ... to be wise and to have sharp and perceptive discernment and understanding of people and situations, and to be alert and aware so that you can maintain sound judgment in dealing with different  circumstances. 
     I suggest that both Mr. Piper and Mr. Guzik might put forth the argument that a snake's most common form of self-protection is avoidance.  Therefore, when confronted with persecution, we should seek practical and artful ways to avoid trouble with the Enemy, and seek a path of escape.  And I agree that this might sometimes be the best option and approach we should take.  
     But remember, it is the objective of wolves to "devour and destroy", and this is the task that satan desires to accomplish through any manner possible.  And what is Jesus's admonition in the face of satan's attacks?  Be wise as a serpent.  So, as we attempt to fulfill our commission from Jesus, we must discern how we are going to counter these attacks, and listen to the counsel of the Holy Spirit.  I contend that currently, the Church's only modus operandi is to follow a plan of "avoid and escape".  But is that the only approach that Jesus means for us in His advice to be wise as serpents?  Are we always supposed to run and hide?  What if He really meant something else?  
     What if being as wise as a serpent means to know and understand the Enemy's tactics?  It seems to me that by being aware of how our enemy thinks and acts, that we could be more effective in defeating him.  I'm not saying that we should go looking for the fight at all!  But I am suggesting that avoiding the fight at all costs  -- with no understanding that we have the power and authority of Jesus behind us -- we are giving up valuable ground to the forces of wickedness and evil.  Sometimes understanding our enemy -- instead of avoiding him -- might give us the opportunity to better protect ourselves.  Instead of defenseless sheep facing an onslaught of wolves, we can mount a supernatural defense, being wise as to how our enemy operates.
     Now for the second half of Jesus's instruction,  Be as innocent as doves.  John Piper says this means, as you go forth spreading the Gospel Message, "don’t give them any legitimate reason to accuse you of injustice or immorality. Keep your reputation as clean as you can."  David Guzik prefers the version which says to be harmless as doves, and implies that "remaining harmless would keep them from giving in to the temptation of retaliation."  He also quotes theologian Charles Spurgeon, who said the Christian "must be of a guileless [innocent, genuine] mind (without deception), that he do no harm."  
     I agree with all these learned men, and I would like to suggest one caveat to their discerning viewpoints.  In the realm of spiritual warfare, we really fight on two fronts, don't we?  One front is the spiritual realm, in which we battle the powers and forces of spiritual wickedness and evil.  The other is the physical world in which we counter the attacks of satan and his demons with the powerful message of Jesus's love and sacrifice.  So while we should be wise in knowing the enemy's tactics and how to defeat them in the spiritual realm, we also need to be wise about how we present His message to those who are lost in this world.  Remember the context in which Jesus is speaking: He is sending His representatives out into the world to spread the Good News.  That is a powerful counter-attack to satan's plans to "devour and destroy".
     We cannot approach the world as if we are going to war against them.  We must be a safe haven for them to hear the Word; we must not use His Message to cause harm; and we must be blameless in our approach and our testimony.  There should be a sense of peace about our delivery; after all doves are a symbol of peace.  And what better way to counter the devil's destructive attacks in a person's life than to battle back with a message that brings peace to a man's soul and spirit?  Being innocent as doves is a significant and powerful part of our spiritual warfare arsenal.
     Now that I've explained another way to look at this passage, I'm sure there are readers wondering, "So, what exactly, does being wise as a serpent look like?  What should we be knowing in order to understand the Enemy? I'd like to suggest just a few things that come to my mind:
1)  Studying exactly how God feels about oaths and curses, and what effects they have upon our lives.
2)  Studying secret societies like the Freemasons, Opus Dei, Skull and Bones and knowing the oaths and curses they take and what they mean to these groups.  And, as a believer, if these associations are connected to your family, you need to know that they can be renounced in the Name of Jesus, and you can be freed of their destructive consequences in your life, and the lives of your family members.
3)  Understanding what "legal authority" means from a spiritual perspective, and what it allows Satan to do.
4)  Understanding what a "stronghold" is and how satan uses them to oppress us; unforgiveness being one of the strongest and most oppressive.
5)  Researching and understanding that there is a very real satanic calendar; days on which sacrifices and evil practices are carried out.  These dates are not contrived on my part -- they have been followed for thousands of years; ancient, pagan rites passed down through the centuries and honored by modern followers of satan.  Don't believe me?  Check out the list here.  Christians don't even know they exist, so the enemies of mankind are allowed to carry out their diabolical rites without one prayer against them!
     What I am not saying is this:  that we should make this knowledge our priority, or that it should have equal standing with knowing and understanding God.  But I do not believe that He wants us to simply be sitting idly by, waiting for Him to come to our rescue.  He wants us in the battle and participating with Him, and that means getting out of our comfort zones, and our comfortable seats in the pew, and becoming more than robots.
     These are just a few of the ways that we can be "wise as serpents" -- by studying and understanding what the serpents do and how they operate!  In Luke 10:19, Jesus says, I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy" ... but, up until very recently, I had no idea what that meant or how to go about it.  I suspect it is the same for many Christians.
     The Church and the Body of Christ have done a good job about understanding and being "innocent/harmless" as a dove.  But I can't help thinking there is some significance to our Lord telling us to be "wise as a serpent" first ... and then to be "innocent as a dove".  If we are restricted in our witness and the bearing of fruit, due to the deep spiritual wounds that go unhealed, just how effective will we be in representing the power of Jesus's love?  If we at least consider getting free of our bondage to sin first, then I believe the sharing of our testimony and the Gospel of Jesus will be so sweet on our lips that it will be irresistible!
     To summarize ... Shouldn't we first understand how our Enemy operates, then listen to the Holy Spirit as to whether it is most prudent to avoid this confrontation, or to call upon our power and authority in Christ to confront it and defeat it?  And finally, I want to leave you with this interesting analogy from my pure Texas husband ... God wants us to use the brains He gave us; we'd better start understanding the schemes and tactics of the devil [and how to deal with them through the Lord], or when the evil that is prophesied to come upon the world occurs, it is going to look like Opening Day of dove season in South Texas! What a sobering thought....

2 Timothy 1:7    "For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control."




     

7 comments:

  1. Good morning,Belle
    I read in a teaching some time back a comparison of the story of Stephen and his sermon on the day of his martyrdom and that several years later Paul gave nearly the same sermon to the same group of folks.Yet Pauls sermon caused the salvation of many souls that day.The gist of which was Stephen was very in your face[and he was right ]Paul came at them from a different non confrontational mode.Sort of like the old saying "catching more flies with honey than vinegar"In both instances the HS set the sermon yet worked in completely different ways;Is this not an example of wise as serpents and harmless as doves?
    In any case I remember it when ever I am tempted to get on some ones case ,whether its cleaning up their act or their theology.My husband used to call me" the warden".In Him Michele

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    1. Michele, I like the analogy you have made! It is a perfect example of both ends of the spectrum. And I also see it that both Stephen's and Paul's approach were the will of God and served His purpose for that particular time. It is up to us to listen to the Holy Spirit and discern God's voice and how He wishes us to present His gospel. Amen!

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  2. John B on Tribulation Now podcast has been blowing this conceptual horn for 5 years now. He also drives home the scripture in Hos 4:6 About gods people perishing for lack of knowledge. These scriptures implore believers to learn about the dark side and occult workings of the "Mystery of iniquity " from 2 Thes. Engaging with the dark side scares the pants off of the church but we are instructed to learn and combat the works of Satan in Yeshuas name. Until the church quits cowering in the corner with its eyes closed, Satan will continue to work effectively against christians.

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    1. Your words are bold ... but absolutely true! We need to look beyond the surface meaning of Scripture and the tired (and oftentimes weak) doctrinal explanations. The Bible is speaking to us about the approaching End Times ... we need to listen!

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  3. I've been reading your blog for quite some time and value your insight. In this article you point out that you look up to John Piper. I'm wondering if you are a Calvinist and if not, your thoughts on Calvinism? Also, if you are aware that John Piper is a "7 point Calvinist" (his words)?
    Thanks

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    1. No, I am not a Calvinist, although I am aware that John Piper is. I would not say that I "look up to him", but I am always willing to listen to the viewpoints of godly men, which is how I see Mr. Piper. I may not agree with his Calvinism, but there are some points on which we do agree. I like Paul Washer, for instance, but I do not subscribe to any of the TULIP precepts of Calvinism. I believe our God is big enough to incorporate pre-destination, pre-election, AND free will into His plan for mankind. Therefore, my allegiance is to Him, and not a theology created and named after a man.

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  4. Belle, I am with you on the Calvinism. So much is built around these doctrinal issues and it tends to separate the brethren rather than to equip us as a unified body of believers.When the restrainers hand is removed and the locust hybrid beings start their bloody little foray on earth I can guarantee you your calvinism or armenianism or doctrinal identifiers will be of little use. Find out where you are in regards to spiritual warfare and gird yourself in his power and authority then you will have the real biblical foundation that will be required to prevail for what is coming upon the earth and believers!

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