Tuesday, 8 February 2011

The Fellowship of Demons

Photo Credit: Melinda Taber
Flickr Creative Commons
“Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' 
and do not do what I say?”
Luke 6:46 (NIV)

In reading Matthew 24 the other day something struck me yet again. I'm not sure why that sometimes surprises me, especially given that my prayer often is that the Lord might reveal my shortcomings to me, so that I might repent and walk rightly with Him. So this time what hit me was the phrase “eats and drinks with drunkards” (verse 49). What is the significance of eating and drinking? Is there one? The answer is, “Yes.”

It is my belief that throughout Scripture eating and drinking often symbolizes having fellowship with those we are eating and drinking with. In other words, just as Jesus ate and drank the Passover meal with his disciples, and just as our Communion, or Lord's Supper, is a fellowship with God's people and with the Lord himself, so too “eating and drinking with drunkards” symbolizes fellowship with the devil and his demons, and is in effect, a “communion” with them. If such “fellowship” is not repented from, it will ultimately lead to hell (verses 50-51). Does this shock you?

Yes, we all have to live in this world and be witnesses unto the world, but “partying and getting drunk” (the Living Bible's paraphrase of Matthew 24:49) with the world is not the sort of positive witnessing that the Lord Jesus desires. It's quite the opposite, actually. Such activity is in truth an agreement by association with the world's system through “fellowship” with its demons.

Having a drink here and there is not the issue; getting drunk is always the issue, and it is especially wrong for the Christian to do so when in the presence of unbelievers. Why? If for no other reason, then because of the witness that we are expected to be to the non-believing world. What kind of witness for Jesus am I? What kind of witness of God's love are you? When the world looks at you and me, do they even see anything different about us? Do they see Jesus? I wonder.

Photo Credit: Robert Huffstutter
Flickr Creative Commons
The Apostle Paul says that, “What pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?” (1 Corinthians 10: 20-22 -ESV).

We would do well to be on constant guard against the many “snares of the devil” (1 Timothy 3:7). Have we fallen into the devil's trap in this regard? Is his noose beginning to tighten around our necks to the point where it “chokes” (Matthew 13:22) the power of God out of our lives, thus making us unfruitful?

And what about our prayer life? Is it effective, or somewhat stale? Are we experiencing answers to our prayers? If not, then why not? If our prayers can become “hindered” by even something as relatively minor (from the world's point of view) as an unrespectful relationship with our wives (1 Peter 3:7), then how much more so won't our prayer lives also become hindered if we continue to “eat and drink with drunkards?”

I'm not trying to become legalistic here, but think about it! God calls us to “be holy,” a word that literally means to “be set apart.” Set apart from what? Set apart from the rest of the non-believing world. Without holiness no one will ever even see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). If we call ourselves “Christian,” then it is also rightly expected by the Lord Jesus that we will also be holy. “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16). If I am truly a Christian, then I have taken in, and put on, the nature of Christ (holiness). If, on the other hand, I deliberately do not “strive” (Hebrews 12:14) for that holiness in my life, then can I really be a true Christian? The Lord alone will ultimately be the judge of that.

Paul continues on this subject. “But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler – not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. Purge the evil person from among you” (1 Corinthians 5: 11-13 -ESV). Do you and I call ourselves “brothers” in the Lord? If so, and if I continue to “eat and drink with drunkards,” then Scripture calls you to excommunicate me from your fellowship! This is serious stuff!

Photo Credit: Fergal of Claddagh, Flickr Creative Commons
Now I know there will be many who will say to me, hold on a minute, excommunication doesn't sound too loving. Nor does it sound too forgiving. We would do well to remember that even in Old Testament times God threatened excommunication to anyone who deliberately sinned by disregarding God's law. Like I said a minute ago, this is serious stuff! We would also do well to remember that God doesn't change (Malachi 3:6) and is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Holiness continues to be of paramount importance today as much as it was during the Old Testament exodus.

Excommunication doesn't mean no longer loved; if anything it means loving and praying even more. Jesus said, “For God so loved the world” (John 3:16) and “Love your enemies and pray for those you persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). No, excommunication must always be done in God's love and must always seek restoration. Paul says, “hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 5:5 -NIV). As much as that may seem unloving at first glance, it is actually a loving gesture since it seeks the saving of his spirit. The entire chapter in first Corinthians actually deals with this; the expelling of brothers in the Lord who have persisted in immorality. Again, this is serious stuff.

Photo Credit: Jim Linwood, Flickr Creative Commons
In the same way, to say that excommunication is not loving is the same as saying that God's sending someone to hell is contrary to His loving nature. We've all heard people say that; how can a loving God send anyone to hell? I would argue, how could He not? What kind of place would heaven be if all the wicked and unrepentant were suddenly allowed there too? That, then, wouldn't be very loving to the believers. Ultimately, in such a scenario, it wouldn't matter what anyone believed, for all would end up in the same place.

Contrary to the often misinterpretation on Matthew 7:1 (do not judge), we are to judge. No, we are not to judge in a condemnation sort of way, for only God can do that. But we are to judge in a discernment sort of way. Have we correctly discerned God's will in this matter? It seems to me to be a pretty serious thing if God's word instructs us to purge the hypocritical pseudo-Christian, who eats and drinks with drunkards, from our midst. Wouldn't you agree? Or do we want to continue, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, to practice “cheap grace?” He didn't practice “cheap grace,” and it cost him his life. Are you and I prepared to go there too? I wonder.

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John says, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father, but from the world (1 John 2:15-16 -NIV). In the same way, who is the prince of this world? The prince of this world is the devil, and his days are numbered (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). In the mean time, however, the temptations continue.

How well God must like you –
you don't hang around at Sin Saloon,
you don't slink along Dead-End Road,
you don't go to Smart-Mouth College.

Instead you thrill to Yahweh's Word,
you chew on Scripture day and night.
You're a tree replanted in Eden,
bearing fresh fruit every month,
Never dropping a leaf,
always in blossom.

You're not at all like the wicked,
who are mere windblown dust –
Without defense in court,
unfit company for innocent people.

Yahweh charts the road you take.
The road they take is Skid Row.
(Psalm 1, The Message)

Whose table are you communing at? Are you “eating and drinking with drunkards” at the devil's table with his demons, or are you eating and drinking at the Lord's table with his true saints? Choose your table wisely, for your choice will have eternal consequences (Matthew 24:51).

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