Beware of Satan's Devices to Destroy Us


Why do we need to put on the Armor of God and what are some of those fiery darts that Satan throws at us to try to keep us out of the Kingdom of God?



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I know that we're all going through a very difficult time right now, with division taking place in the ministry of United and in the congregations. This is extremely hard on everyone, but especially the brethren who may be confused and unsure about what the causes of all this really are, and may be confused about what the outcome will be of what is happening and what they should do about it.

Today I would like to focus on the final outcome of what we're going through together as brethren in the church; and that final outcome, as we all know, will be eternal life in the Kingdom of God and in the family of God. I'm not going to get into specific issues. I'm going to try to help focus our minds and hearts, brethren, on where we're headed, where we're going, and how to get there. Since this weekend's theme is "Putting on the Armor of God," we're going to take a look at why we need to put that armor on and what are some of those fiery darts that Satan throws at us to try to keep us out of the Kingdom of God. Looking back, maybe you could, for a moment, think back on your journey so far in the church of God. How many years has it been for you? How many decades for some of you has it been? And how many along the way have been taken out of the church—I hope not out of the Kingdom of God, but certainly out of the church—by Satan?

We're going to take a look from my 51 years of experience in the church at what I have observed, for all of us, of the devices that Satan has used to try to destroy us and keep us out of the Kingdom of God.

Someday all of our trials will be over, and all that will really matter at the end of the day is that we hear these words from Jesus Christ...I don't know what words you're looking forward to hearing. Maybe the first words, maybe it's just "Welcome into My Kingdom, My dear son, My daughter." But I think we're also looking forward to these words from Jesus Christ, "Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord." Someday there will be exceeding joy when we finally are there, when we make it, by the grace of God, as we heard in one of the songs.

As Steve Myers said last night in his message, and I'm sure you're hearing it in some of the seminars from some of the presenters, we all have an adversary—the same adversary, the same enemy—who is out to destroy us if he can. That's his ultimate goal. That one enemy, the god of this world, his goal is somehow between now, for us, and the end of this age and the return of Christ, if there is any way that he can eliminate us or destroy us, take us out of the church, he will try it. And we're going to look at some of those ways and how to prevent it.

Satan is our enemy and he uses many different devices to try to knock us out of the church and out of God's Kingdom. I think we all know that and believe that and understand it. So let's look, first of all, at why we need to put on the armor of God. We've had some wonderful presentations. I was here for the Bible study last night and really appreciated Mr. Myers' presentation about that.

Turn with me again, brethren, and lets look at why we need to learn to put on the armor of God in order to defeat Satan and how to make it through any trial, any test, whatever may come in our personal lives or in the church. We'll try to put it all in the bigger context and bigger picture of what God Almighty is trying to accomplish in our lives and in His church. So we'll begin in Ephesians, chapter 6 . I'm sure you'll be turning to this scripture many times while you're here.

Ephesians:6:11 Put on the whole armor of God, why? that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil, or against the scheming of the devil.

So that's why we need to learn to put on, as Mr. Myers was saying, the armor of God, which is putting on Christ, His attitude, His character, His frame of mind, His love, the many things that Christ is, so that we might stand against the scheming of the devil, just like Jesus Christ did. And notice:

Verse 16 – ... above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench, to do what? to quench, or to put out, all the fiery darts of the wicked one.

So Satan is a master, isn't he, of knowing how to work on us, as human beings; and if there is any weakness or any way to try to hurt us—if possible, to completely destroy us spiritually—to cause us to become so turned off that we might even drop out of the faith and leave the church, { he will do it }. His ultimate goal would be to destroy as many human beings as possible from ever entering the family of God.

Let's notice next II Corinthians, chapter 2, verse 11 . We all probably remember this scripture quite well. It's where Paul said to the brethren in Corinth, and he's speaking prior to this about a brother who had been put out of the church because of personal problems and had been received back, and he's writing to the brethren to forgive this man. He says in verse 11:

II Corinthians 2:11 ...lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices, or his schemes.

And so, my question is, as we go through this trial in God's church together—not something we want, not something we ever thought would happen, not something we hoped for, not something anybody I know prayed for—are we ignorant of Satan's devices? That's the question. So as I cover some of these fiery darts, see if you agree that this is the way Satan works, that these are some of the significant ways in which Satan tries to keep us from being in the Kingdom of God. Let's begin with the first one, which I call one of Satan's key devices or instruments with which he has destroyed many people over the years, because they didn't have on the proper armor. The first one is this:

1. Anger, resentment, and bitterness

How much of that is in your life? How much of that is in anyone you happen to know in the church? Do you know anyone who is really angry and resentful and bitter about something or toward someone about something?

I don't spend a lot of time on the Internet. Maybe some of you do. But certainly there's a lot of that out there. There's just a lot of anger and resentment and bitterness; and this happens over hurts, wrongs, injustices—real or imagined. They may be real or they may not be real. But over the years, I think all of us certainly have come to see that Satan NEVER stops working on us to get us upset, angry, bitter, about something or someone, and even toward God. Especially toward God. But if he can bring about a root of anger, resentment, or bitterness toward someone that they feel has really hurt them or done great harm to someone, then so much the better.

Let's notice this in Hebrews, chapter 12, verses 14-15 , beginning in verse 14:

Hebrews:12:14-15 Pursue peace with all people... sometimes we're not very good at that, are we, when you think about our relationships—whether it's in a marriage relationship, a family, friends, the church, the ministry. We all still have a lot of learning, growing to do; but God says to pursue peace with all men , and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord...

And then, verse 15 , a well-known verse: ... looking diligently, or in some translations, watch carefully lest anyone , any of us, brethren, fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled...

And so, I just ask this question, as we go through this trial—and we've all seen what's going on. We know that, really, the arch enemy that we all have is not one another, even though sometimes we, as brethren, may be kind of "at" one another and in disagreement—we're not each other's enemy. I do not have an enemy in the Church of God. I mean any Church of God group, and that means all of my brothers in Christ. I have no root of bitterness, no hard feelings, toward any of my fellow ministers in Jesus Christ that I have known and worked with for so long and so many years; and I hope they don't toward me, because I am not anyone's enemy. I certainly would be the first, and have, to acknowledge that I'm very human and will make mistakes at times in judgment; but never intentionally.

Turn with me to Ephesians, chapter 4 , and we'll read verses 26-27 , first of all, where it says:

Ephesians:4:26-27 Be angry, and do not sin... so sometimes we do get angry, we all know that, over situations that affect us or hurt us. There is a righteous anger, but we're not to sin, and do not let the sun go down on your wrath. Don't go to bed angry and upset. Pray about it. Get down on our knees and pray until that anger is gone. Verse 27 nor give place to the devil. Don't give an opportunity to the devil by harboring anger and letting it dwell in our lives.

Notice verses 31-32 . It says, Let all bitterness... I like the NIV here. It says to get rid of ALL bitterness , wrath, anger, clamor... that means quarreling... and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. Put away malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you.

Over the years, you know, by one of those fiery darts, one of those arrows, by one of those ways Satan has been able to destroy people; and many people have taken themselves out of the church as they allowed anger, resentment, and bitterness to build up inside them toward hurts, wrongs, injustices, whatever the cause may have been. It doesn't matter to Satan, as long as he can cause that anger, resentment, and bitterness to turn inward and destroy that person, or outward to maybe hurt and destroy someone else.

I'll just make a few personal comments at this point. A lot of you don't know me. Some of you know me. Over the years, we've gotten to know one another. My wife and I have been in Cincinnati for six months now, approximately, as president; and when I speak, I speak to all, to all my brothers in Christ, to all my sisters in Jesus Christ. I want you to know that I love you. I love all of you. I thank you all for your prayers and love and support during this trying time. It's been difficult for all of us. I never imagined that it would come to what it has come to, the way it has, right now, in this way, at this time. I knew we had challenges before us, but I never for sure imagined it might come to this in this way within the United Church of God. But I know that Jesus Christ is the head; He is the leader. He is in charge. He has a plan; He has a purpose. I just want to assure you all, whoever you are, whatever you believe, whatever you're going to do, wherever you go, my brothers and sisters in Christ, that the United Church of God, an International Association , headquartered with the home office in Cincinnati, Ohio, will survive and will continue and will carry on the work of God with our whole heart and mind and soul and being.

There will be no change in doctrine. Sometimes I'm aghast and appalled when people think that I or some on the council are thinking or planning to change doctrine. We would do certain things differently if we had it to do over again, but I can just guarantee you, brethren, absolutely guarantee you...I didn't leave the Worldwide Church of God over 15 years ago, walked away—without pension, without termination, without any financial help at all—I didn't walk away for nothing. I walked away to be able to obey God and keep His Sabbath and keep His holy days and all of His commandments; and that will never change. I just want you to know that. No matter what you hear, no matter what you read, no matter what you think, that is never going to happen. We can't change doctrine anyway. You've heard that, but I just want to assure you of that, in case somebody is worried or thinks, "Well, they're not telling the truth." Oh yes, we are! I am telling you the truth. That has never even come up for consideration. We're never going to depart from God's law and commandments and Sabbath and holy days and way of life. Our lives are committed to that.

I can also, from my personal experience, tell you that the men on this present Council of Elders...I know them all, each pretty well, very well, in many cases. They're not bad men; they're good men. They're not immoral or unrighteous or unethical. They have made mistakes, like us all, like everyone before them. But they're good men, dedicated to God. They're imperfect, but they're men who want to serve God to the best of their ability. And we will do that, regardless of what you may think or have heard, or maybe what you feel. Certainly, as I have mentioned, they are men who would, if you were to talk to them personally, be first to admit, "Yes, I'm learning and I'm growing and I have made mistakes; but I am totally committed and dedicated to God and His work and His service." I know they are, and I believe they are, with all my heart.

We have not asked...I know some of my friends and fellow ministers feel that they had no choice but to resign. I would say all that I have asked of them as president—and I report to the council; the council appointed me as president; I'm responsible to them—that the only thing that we have asked of the men in the field and in the ministry is to support the consensus of the council. We've never asked for any personal loyalty to any man or individuals and never will do that.

Our ultimate loyalty, as we all know, has to be to Jesus Christ and Him only. We all know that and believe that; but what we have asked of our men is, as we have done all of our years in United so far—and I've been a part of the United Church of God since it's forming, on the council for the first five years, helped in the development of our governing documents...the most important governing document, yes, is right here, the word of God, the Bible! And that's where we fall short. That's where we look to...but just so you understand how I function and operate and why I do, I have supported every Council of Elders and every man on the Council of Elders and every president since United started, to this very day. I did not always agree with every decision made by the Council of Elders or the president, but I always supported the consensus when that decision was finally made. Whether I agreed with it or not or liked it or not, I always accepted that and did my best to make it work, even though I may have disagreed with certain things; and if somebody asked me privately, I would share, "Well, here's where I am on that issue, but I support, for the sake of unity and working together, the consensus of the Council of Elders," the way we agreed to operate from the beginning, to this day.

And guess where I learned that? Probably the same place some of you learned it. You've been around a long time. I learned it working under Mr. Armstrong a long time ago in the early years of the church and the ministry. LeeAnn and I were first brought in to serve at Pasadena in 1969 for 3-1/2 or so years and worked in church administration. It was kind of a shocking experience, coming to the headquarters of the church at that time, thinking that everything there was going to be perfect, almost like the Kingdom of God, with Mr. Armstrong there and the headquarters ministers there; and I found out, as we all know, that wherever there are human beings, even in the ministry, there are problems. And there were some very serious problems at that time.

Mr. Armstrong was human. He was God's servant; we all know that; we don't doubt that. That's our heritage. We learned the truth through him and his faithfulness; but what I learned early on, thankfully, thank God for that, was that no matter how serious the problems were—and they were very serious, to the point that I was at a critical crossroads at one point of whether or not I could stay with the organization because of the—not doctrinal issues, but they were moral, spiritual, ethical issues within the organization, and it was through much prayer and fasting that I decided I can't leave the truth and this church because of what's happening, because of even the conduct in the ministry at whatever level it may have been. It was a big, big test and trial in my life. But it got me to praying and fasting more, asking God in His own time and way to resolve that issue, which He finally and eventually did. I learned to wait on God under Mr. Armstrong until God guided him, used him, or intervened in whatever way He saw fit, to work out those problems; and they were very serious on many different occasions.

So the reason I will stand strong and firm with the present Council of Elders is not because I think they're a bunch of perfect men who have not made any mistakes at all. They're not! Neither am I. But I stand firm and strong with them because that's what I have always done in the Church of God and will continue to do until I'm absolutely certain that Christ wants me to do something else—and that did happen fifteen years ago, over doctrine and keeping the Sabbath and the holy days and the laws and commandments of God.

But I had to overcome a great deal of anger, even to the point of bitterness over certain issues in the church back in those years; and LeeAnn and I made up our minds, way back then, with God's help, that we would never, ever, in our lives or in the church, ever allow ourselves to become angry or resentful or bitter toward anyone for any reason, no matter what the problem was or how serious it was. Because we're not going to allow Satan to get to us in that way, and I say this because there seems to be so much anger and resentment on the Internet today. You just see the attacks. It isn't Christian. It just isn't Godly, and it just isn't of Jesus Christ. It seems to be, to me, that the result of it is of Satan, and maybe it's angry, hurt, resentful people. So be careful on that one, brethren.

I stand with what we've always agreed to. I expect God to work with me, continue to teach me, show me the error of my ways and mistakes; but I will stand firm and strong with what we all agreed to a long time ago and let Jesus Christ guide and direct us. We will carry on to do the work of God. No matter how many or how few we are—it isn't the numbers, is it, brethren? It is the attitude and the heart and the spirit. That's what is really important.

Let's move on to another one, but be aware of anger, resentment, and bitterness as one of the key devices of Satan, where he has destroyed so many peoples' lives and done so much damage in the lives of people. It has taken some people right out of the church, and they're bitter to this day toward individuals, ministers, or even some toward God.

Another device or tool of Satan the devil...we're talking about that's why we need to put on that armor of God. One of Satan's tools is:

2. Creating conflict and division

This is one of his most effective tools. He is a master at creating conflict and division, isn't he? He knows how to divide and weaken and destroy, if at all possible. Satan causes conflict and division everywhere—not just in the church, not just in our nation, not just on the earth, but even in the universe. He tried that, didn't he? We all know the story, when God cast him to the earth. So Satan is the author. He is the cause of conflict and division. We get caught up in it in the church—we're human beings—and in the ministry, many, many times in the last 50 years. We know that.

Notice and remember and think about this, that Satan causes conflict between nations. When you watch the news, every day, that's what you see constantly—wars, fighting, conflict. He causes conflict between races of people, between the colors; he causes conflict between different religions. He causes conflict between men and women. He causes conflict in marriages. He causes conflict between parents and their children. Can you think of anywhere that Satan doesn't cause conflict? What is your home like? How much peace is there in your home?

So, the point is, Satan, the devil, is the author of what we are going through. It is not of God. Now, I know some blame me. I get e-mails and all, "Mr. Luker, you're the president. Do something. Stop this!" I wish I could. "Get everybody together." Well, I've talked to a lot of people and recommended that. The council has had innumerable discussions and conversations with many of those who have issues and strong feelings. They've met with them in confidential sessions, the Council of Elders, and in retreats to discuss what they felt and thought were the key issues that are dividing us and causing our problems—sometimes thinking that they were resolved or believing that they were, but they continue to come up, and they aren't resolved. So we can only do so much. I can't change hearts and minds on either side.

I'm loyal and support the Council of Elders. They know that. It doesn't mean I always agree with every one of them or with every decision that is made; but what I will do, once I see that the issues have been discussed and a decision has been made about what we need to do, my job as president is to carry out that directive and that decision, faithfully and loyally, unless it's something that would be sinful against God or breaking His laws or commandments. I would never do that. But if it's a matter of a policy or doing the work of God or how we move forward or how we're going to function or operate...I have to have deep feelings and convictions, as we all do, and operate according to my conscience.

Let's look at I Corinthians 14:33. I Corinthians, chapter 14 and verse 33. My point here today, brethren, in the message is to remind us, I'm sure, of what we already know; and that is that we are not one another's enemies here, any of us here, unless there are some who are so angry and so hurt that they won't even talk to you...and I know there are some that way. They're mad. They're hurt. They're angry. They're upset. They have reason to be, sometimes; sometimes they don't have reason to be. But I Corinthians 14, verse 33, says:

I Corinthians 14:33 – For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.

Some translations, instead of "confusion," translate that "disorder" or "division." So we know that God is not the author of division and confusion and disorder, but peace in all the churches of the saints. So Satan is the author of it. I don't blame human beings. I blame Satan the devil, because he wants to destroy the Church of God, prevent us from doing the work of God. He's behind it. I don't blame any of my brothers in Christ. I disagree with some of them. I disagree with some of the conclusions that some are reaching, obviously. I disagree with some of the decisions that they may make. But even some of my brothers (I can honestly say this to all of you) who have resigned and, especially this last week or so and may be resigning this coming week from the ministry of UCGIA, that I've talked to some on the phone and I've e-mailed some back and forth, and some have put it this way to me, "Denny, we've been friends for a long time. We stand on different sides of the issues right now, but we're still on our journey to the Kingdom of God and we both want to do the work of God. I hope we can still be friends." And I always say, "Absolutely! That's the way I feel about it as well."

You are where you are, and only you know why you are where you are, and only God knows your heart and only God knows what you believe and what you understand and what you've heard and why you believe that, what your personal experiences are. I understand that. And I've never forced any man to make that decision. What I have said is this, just so that you all know, I have said to the ministry, "Look, if you cannot, in good conscience, support this present Council of Elders and my presidency, if you feel for some reason that we are so bad or so wrong that we are incompetent, that we've disqualified ourselves, that we're unrighteous, whatever, if you cannot support us for whatever your reasons may be, then my recommendation would be to do the honorable thing and resign. Because how can two walk together, how can we have unity, how can we agree on what we're going to do to finish the work of God unless we do that?" That I have said to the ministry. I've written it in letters to them, but I always write it with love. It's not with, "I don't like these men out there." They will remain my brothers in Jesus Christ, every single one of them. They will remain my brothers in Christ.

You all might remember Mr. Dibar Apartian, a minister well loved in the Church of God over the decades who for fifty years or so did the French work, French broadcast, French literature, visiting the French areas. He died at 94 years old. LeeAnn and I went down to Charlotte, North Carolina, and attended the funeral service. It was a great blessing to be there. I met, and we met again, ministers and wives we hadn't seen for YEARS in other fellowships of the Church of God. It was delightful to be there. It was like reconnecting again as brothers and sisters in Christ. Mr. Meredith invited us to come to their headquarters office. We stayed over and Monday we went in and had a tour of their office in Charlotte. A very, very fine office. They have a little separate building nearby where they do their telecast, and we had a tour of that. Most of the people who were there, LeeAnn and I know and many of you would know their names if I mentioned them to you. They're God's people and they're brethren. I was able to sit down and have a wonderful, over two-hour, conversation with Mr. Meredith and his office and Mr. Richard Ames and Mr. Doug Winnail, who supervises their ministry. It was a very friendly, enjoyable experience. Mr. Meredith and I have been friends for a very long time. I worked for him for years in church administration at Pasadena. He knows me pretty well, and I know him pretty well. We're not in the same organization structure, but we're in the same Church of God. We're both still faithful to God, and it was good to see that and to feel that and to experience that. Both LeeAnn and I came away feeling good and thankful that we were able to be there and reconnect with brethren in other fellowships of God's church.

Satan is a master, isn't he, of creating conflict and division. He has us now divided. That is, God's people who've remained faithful to God, who are committed for the rest of their lives to serve and obey God and to do His work until their last breath, he { Satan } has got us divided into various corporations and various groups, large and small; and only He { God } knows all of those who are truly converted and His people. And so my point here is, God allows certain things. God is not the cause of all of this, but God allows Satan, right now, on the face of the earth, to cause these things to happen; and we can only wonder and speculate, but even as we were talking there, it came up that, well, maybe what it's going to take to bring all of us back together—and when I say all of us, I mean God's people, whoever they are on the face of the earth, whatever group they're in, who are truly converted—that means they have God's Holy Spirit, they love God, they love His way of life, His truth, His laws, they want to be in His Kingdom, they're learning and growing—maybe what it's going to take to bring us all back together is something we know is coming, and that is the horrors of the great tribulation, when our nation begins to collapse and there are diseases and food shortages; the horrors of those things that lie ahead, when, maybe, in the Church of God the things that we have in common—the truth of God, the law of God, the work of God, the future that lies ahead—that the things we have in common are much more important than the things that divide us. God knows what it's going to take, doesn't He, brethren, because I have no doubt that all of us, whatever group we are in or a part of, are going to end up back together at the end of this age. There's only going to be one bride to marry Christ. There's only one church. The church is the spiritual body of Christ—God's people. And so, that's why I treat my brothers, even though they're going through some tough times right now—again, I mean this from the bottom of my heart—any one of my brothers who is not a part of UCGIA, I'd be very happy to shake his hand and, you know, "Someday, if we're not together now, we're going to be back together someday. Pray for us and we'll pray for you."

Satan is the author of division, not God. And He { God } will bring us back together. When division happens in the church, and it has happened—I forgot to list all the times in my fifty years, the number of times we've gone through { division } in the Church of God...and many of you've been around a long time where you've seen similar things happen in congregations or in God's church over the years. And we just keep our eyes on Jesus Christ, who is the Head, who will bring good out of it all. Good will come out of what we're going through, brethren. I just know it will. You know it will as well, even though it hurts right now, very badly and very deeply.

I had somebody call me while I've been here, and they called me on my cell phone and they were in tears, you know. They're in an area where this is going to happen, and they're just broken up over it. And I said, "Look, look, it will be OK. Just stay close to God. Just keep looking to Him and praying to Him, trusting in Him, and asking Him to guide you and be with you and be with all the brethren and be with all the ministers, and He will guide you. His Spirit will be in you and with you." But we'll learn through this, brethren. We're not going to quit or give up, are we?

That takes me to the next point. I only have four, so I won't go overtime. The next tool that I've observed and watched how Satan at times has tried to destroy me and other people, is discouragement and depression.

3. Discouragement and depression

Discouragements, long periods of discouragement, long periods of stress can lead to depression, which you all know is a more serious condition. When you become depressed, you become very negative and it's like every day you wake up, you don't want to get out of bed. You know, you just don't want to think about the problems in life or of that day or in the church. It's a heavy cloud of gloominess and darkness that goes from discouragement to depression. This is one of the tools of Satan the devil. He is the prince of the power of the air. We know he broadcasts attitudes and moods. It is his spirit that we're always resisting, through the power of God, resisting those negative thoughts and those negative attitudes and those negative feelings. They come from him. And he loves to discourage us, as human beings. His goal, if he can't destroy us in some of these others ways, is to wear us out, just to keep causing things in our lives that wear us down and wear us out and bring on discouragement and get us to the point of depression, where life is no fun anymore and it's black and it's dark and it's negative and it's bad. And you know this happens. Depression is a very common thing, but it is a tool of Satan the devil.

Let's look at a few scriptures about this. Turn with me to Proverbs, chapter 12, verse 25 . This one says this:

Proverbs:12:25 Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression...

God's word tells us. Anxiety means worry, fear; and we certainly have had a lot of that, haven't we, as we march through what we have been going through and are now presently going through and will be going through in the weeks and months ahead. I certainly have had my share of anxiety, brethren. Can you imagine? Would you like my job right now? I sometimes get up in the morning and I say, "God, what am I doing here?" Well, I hope what I am doing here is that I can have a right heart and a right attitude and contribute in some way so that we can all have unity and move on in our lives to serve God to the best of our ability. I've been around long enough to know that God works EVERYTHING out for the good for those who love Him and want to serve and obey Him, whatever they do, whatever they decide. But anxiety can cause depression.

Notice chapter 13 and verse 12.

Proverbs:13:12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick...

How many of us are so deeply disappointed and discouraged over United and our great hopes and dreams when we got started together over fifteen years ago? There have been a lot of heartsick people because of what we're going through and what it means. In a sense, we're going to have to start all over again. Whatever group there is, they're going to have to reorganize and decide how they're going to be governed and what kind of a work they're going to do. They've got to go through that, and we'll have to reorganize and re-look at things and re-evaluate things; but we'll do it. We'll do it. But my point is, hope deferred, disappointment, makes the heart sick. And Satan knows how to take advantage of that. Notice chapter 15, verse 13 .

Proverbs:15:13 A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance... but notice the last part of that verse: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.

The NIV says, Heartache crushes the spirit.

I've had a lot of heartache. How about you? It is not fun with brothers in Christ that I love and have worked with for decades, to have to be the one that maybe signs the termination papers. Most of the resignations are being sent to me as president. I got another one yesterday, another one today; I'm sure I'll get one tomorrow. But that's heartache and sorrow. It's not fun. And so, my point is, Satan can take a person down, any person, any individual, with heartache, broken hopes and dreams, anxiety, stress levels. He can take us to the point we just say, "It isn't worth it. Let's give up and quit."

Let's look at the answer to this in Hebrew, chapter 12, verses 1-3 . Hebrews:12:1-3 is how to put on the armor of God so that Satan can NEVER, EVER destroy us this way, through discouragement and depression. Notice the first three verses of Hebrews 12:

Hebrews:12:1-3 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight or every burden , and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith...

So here's part of the answer, isn't it, to keep our eyes, not on the problem, not on the situation, not on where we are, because we as human beings cannot figure it out and we cannot solve it of ourselves. Only God can. It is a spiritual problem. But if we look to Jesus Christ, all of us, every single one of us, no matter who we are, then we will get through this and we will get through to the other side and we will all, hopefully, keep learning and growing and moving forward and serving God and doing the work of God and end up back together in God's time and plan and purpose .

Notice verse 3 :    ...consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.

So whenever you get discouraged, { put on the armor }, which you've done. That's why you're still here as God's people after all this time. I know you're doing this, putting on this armor. Look to Jesus Christ. Look up to Him. Lift up your heart to Him. He knows everything going on. And when I get up in the morning and pray, I make myself stop and think: "All of my brothers and sisters in Christ out there who are having a hard time now in going through a lot of pain and suffering and confusion, they, too, are looking up to you, Father. You're also hearing their prayers, as well as mine. You're looking down and seeing all of us. Help us all, Father, through this. Teach us what you want us to learn. Help us, Father. Save us. Keep us going."

One more scripture on this one. Philippians, chapter 4. Here's a section of the scriptures that is one of my favorites in all of the Bible. Philippians, chapter 4, beginning in verses 6-7 , where it says:

Philippians 4:6-7 – Be anxious for nothing... some translations say "don't worry about anything." Wow! What a mouthful. Don't worry about anything, brethren, right? Just don't worry about it. But here's what he says to do. Don't worry. Worry, I think of the term, when I'm worrying, that's a lack of faith and trust in God. It doesn't mean I shouldn't be concerned, but don't worry. Don't be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, that is, you know, petitioning God, every day , with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God... In other words, bring every burden, every concern, right, brethren? I'm talking to the choir, so to speak, God's people, here... let your requests be made known to God.

Notice verse 7 . Do you have this?  ...and the peace of God, which surpasses all... I always put in here, that surpasses all human understanding. God can give a peace that surpasses any human understanding in the middle of the toughest times... the peace of God will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

And then notice verse 13 . One we all know so well, maybe have memorized. Paul is sitting in prison, not knowing whether he will live or die, and he says this:

Philippians 4:13 – I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

We heard that again in one of the songs that was sung. So brethren, don't become depressed. Don't lose hope. Don't worry. God is alive. Christ is in charge of the church. He will bring good out of it. He will work it out for all of us, so let's not let Satan...if you see somebody who is just so deeply hurt and maybe see them slipping into discouragement or getting depressed, "What's the use? Can't trust the ministry. They're always fighting and dividing. Here we go again!" Don't trust us, brethren. Trust God! Trust Jesus Christ! We'll just keeping doing our best and keep asking God to help us learn and mature and grow up unto Christ.

The last device that I want to talk to you about—and this one may surprise you a little bit, but it is one that I have observed now for over 47 years full-time in the ministry that has destroyed the lives of many members of the church and many ministers and some wives in the church. What I'm about to { mention }, it may be a surprise to you. You might not think I would use this one in this way, but what I have observed that Satan has been able to use to destroy too many good men in the church and good women is alcohol abuse and addiction. And I know how that strikes you.

4. Alcohol abuse and addiction

This has been an area that I've had an interest in and a desire to understand better. When I began to notice and observe—and I'm talking now about past years and not about right now or present years or in the future. I'm talking about past experience that I've had when some of our leading men in the church had very serious drinking problems, very serious alcohol problems; and I began to watch and observe, you know, that addiction to alcohol is a gradual thing that takes place year after year, decade after decade. And I watched it destroy the lives in the ministry of some very good men and, in some cases, even the wives as well. And I think you all know that. You probably have a family member, someone who may have an alcohol or a drug problem. You see, to Satan, it doesn't matter what he uses to destroy someone, but this is one of his tools.

Alcohol is also called the secret addiction. You can be a closet drinker at home. You can drink on the job. People who need alcohol...and, again, sometimes it slips up on people. They may have a lot of stress in their lives. There are a lot of factors involved, but Satan continues to use the abuse of alcohol, which can...you can abuse it. Addiction means that the person finally comes to the point where he can't do without it, and he can't control it. You know what an addiction is. It's when you use drugs and alcohol and it's destroying your job, your marriage, your life; and you can't stop drinking or using it. Satan doesn't care as long as it will destroy you.

The first part of the brain that is affected when you drink too much...this is a fact, a scientific fact. I've taught the class and I'll be telling you a little bit more here in a moment about one of the seminars we'll be giving here on this very subject. The first part of the brain that is affected when you drink too much is the decision-making part of the brain, the judgment. A person who has an alcohol problem will think they're doing things { right }, "Hey, I'm driving. I've been in control," or whatever the decision may be. That's the first part of the brain that begins to be affected when you drink too much.

Romans:6:16 says...to save time, I'll not turn to that one. Romans:6:16 pretty much is a scripture that says you are a slave to whatever you obey. Whoever you obey, you're a slave to that, or to whatever you obey. We all have different addictions. There are all kinds of addictions, but I have watched Satan in the Church of God...you see, I go back to the time we used to have a little joke back in the 60s, "We're going to the feast of booze," feast of booths, tabernacles, right? In 1959, my wife and I, 1960, came to Ambassador College. It was called the Radio Church of God and then became the Worldwide Church of God, but it was when the church didn't have the moderation and the balance and the understanding; and everybody would go to the Feast and they'd go off to the liquor stores and everybody—not everybody—many people would set up a bar in their homes or in their apartments or wherever they were staying, and there was a lot of drinking. Too much drinking. And we heard Mr. Winner in his comment here so that it isn't a problem { during these meetings }.

Alcohol is the most common drug problem in the world. We hear about the problem from Mexico and all the drugs coming from there. The biggest drug problem in the church, in the world, is alcohol. Do you know why? It's biblically OK, socially acceptable, legal if you're of age, so it's an acceptable, socially acceptable, biblically approved use. And so it's a big problem, not because people want to abuse it or want to be addicted, but because there is a Satan the devil. There is a devil, and he will use it and has used it { to destroy }. And I think some of you could write down the names of some men and some women, men and women that I loved and worked with and for and cared for deeply who had a very serious problem with alcohol, that was affecting their judgment and their lives, and eventually ended up destroying their ministry.

Let's look at a couple of scriptures and then I'm going to tell you, in closing, about something I think you will enjoy if you have time to attend it. But look at these scriptures with me, just very briefly. Proverbs 20 , notice verse 1 , Proverbs 20, verse 1:

Proverbs:20:1 Wine is a mocker, intoxicating drink arouses brawling, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.

So we all know the Bible warns us against this kind of thing, and we see it many times with people. You know, I don't go around watching how much people drink. I just don't do that. I don't want to make that my business, but I've worked and served and learned enough about alcoholism that sometimes there are telltale signs of alcoholism; and the whole purpose that I bring this up, brethren, is so that we can help people, save lives. Notice chapter 23, Proverbs , chapter 23, verses 29-30 :

Proverbs:23:29-30 Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaints? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who linger long at the wine... and they would even mix wines and liquors, it says.

Notice down in verse 33 :   Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart will utter perverse things.

People who drink too much and become addicted to alcohol will say and do things they would never do otherwise. They would never do or say some of the things they do. So many times, brethren, you know, in counseling or in trying to help someone, and they can never quite seem to get their life together or their marriage together or their job together or anything together, I've learned again—and, please, not being judgmental, condemning at all toward people—but I've learned to say, "God, I wonder if there is some kind of a chemical addiction or problem I'm not aware of that I might be able to help this person with. Help me if that is the problem, if they're a closet drinker or if they are addicted to something, Father, we're never going to be able to help them get their life together until they stop drinking." And that's a fact.

Sometimes you have to stop using alcohol and sobber up, and the mind clears up and you think straight again. Then you can begin to help them. The Bible warns us.

One final one in chapter 31 of Proverbs, verses 4-5 :

Proverbs:31:4-5 It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine... he's talking about here during the performing of their duties and their responsibilities... nor for princes intoxicating drink; lest they drink and forget the law, and pervert the justice of all the afflicted.

And so the Bible warns us of alcohol abuse, an addiction, even in the Bible; and at this seminar, one of the seminars we will have here is going to be Understanding Alcohol Addiction and Recovery . My wife's sister, Myrna, who is a church member, is here. Myrna will be telling you her own story during this seminar. She has grown up in the church, went to Ambassador College in Pasadena. She'll be telling you her struggle with alcoholism. She is a recovered alcoholic, and, by the grace of God, got the help she needed. Myrna devoted her life to beginning to understand the problem and helping others. And so, she will be a part of this and she will be giving her story and helping you to understand the nature of alcohol and addiction and how you can help others who are struggling with this problem, what you can do about it. She does an excellent job.

Myrna lives in Branson, Missouri. She is the director of two alcohol and drug recovery centers in two cities—one in Branson and one in Springfield, Missouri. She's a professional in her field of teaching and understanding alcohol and addiction. So you will be hearing from her and seeing her PowerPoint presentation, so I think the first one is Monday afternoon, tomorrow, when that will be given.

I just wanted to remind you all before I close this message that United Church of God, an International Association , has what we call "focused education" programs. I see Gary Antion sitting over here and he's very much a part of this and ABC, our education programs; and he was on the Council of Elders when we developed this statement. This is taken from a ministerial newsletter of the United Church of God, dated July 1996—that's quite a few years ago—under the part of education called "focused education," so we have men and women in the United Church of God who are helping us to develop programs in all of the areas of needs where people are struggling with some very serious personal issues. And so, we wrote this:

The church recognizes that modern society is plagued with various social ills. Many of those who have been called into the fellowship of the church have been affected by such problems as substance abuse, sexual abuse, homosexuality, dysfunctional behaviors, and related marriage and family issues. It is our responsibility to minister to the needs of these people. The education committee of the United Church of God, therefore, proposes the development of the following educational programs to meet these special needs. We will develop educational materials addressing these issues for the ministry and the membership. We will conduct seminars for ministers and members regarding the various aspects of focused education.

We have a team of people, some of them God has called out of homosexuality, one of them in Seattle is a good friend of mine, and his struggle in life and the church has been that issue. He has come out of the lifestyle, and he's a part of our team helping people who struggle with homosexuality and many other issues. And then, one other point that is brought out here is:

We will assist those who desire to establish support groups to help those with these special needs. These groups would not replace outside groups, like Alcoholics Anonymous or Homosexuals Anonymous or Addicts Anonymous, or whatever...there are many helpful support groups, as you know, for God's people. And we wrote that what we will do within the church is help assist local congregations who so desire who have pastors who understand some of these issues and needs, and that these groups would not replace outside groups but would complement them.

I just wanted to remind you in talking about alcoholism, brethren, that Satan will use any addiction to destroy people. Pornography—we know that's a big one, don't we, today. Sexual addictions. Well, we're going to move ahead with these programs and make them available to the ministry and to members. Myrna, for years, has hoped, as she has spent decades in this field, that someday we may be able to have a Feast of Tabernacles site like we've had a singles site or a site for this activity, that maybe someday we would have a Feast of Tabernacles site, and each year it would be in a different place, that maybe the educational programs that year at that Feast site would be on all the issues of focused education, how to understand and help people with alcoholism or drug addiction, how to understand or help somebody who is struggling with homosexuality, how to understand and help someone who needs helped with sexual abuse or whatever.

So, brethren, the final point that I wanted to bring out here was alcohol abuse and addiction and how Satan has used that in the church over the years to hurt and damage and destroy the lives of many people in this church, including in the ministry. So don't let him do that to you, brethren. But support one another, pray for one another. Whatever lies ahead, brethren, don't let Satan destroy you personally, don't become discouraged or disillusioned, don't give up and quit. Protect yourself from Satan's schemes, from his devices, by putting on the armor of God. That's the theme of this weekend here and the seminars that we're having. We're here to learn how to better put on the armor of God, how to put on Jesus Christ.

We will get through this present trial, brethren. We WILL get through it. I think you all know that, don't you? I hope you do. We will get through this. We WILL carry on. The ministers of God will carry on. The Church of God will carry on. The United Church of God, an International Association , will carry on. We will finish what we started.

Thank you all, those of you, many of you, most of you, and what you have done to help United over the years in your support, your prayers, your faithfulness. Thank you, brethren. You are the church. Thank you for your love and for your support. You are God's people. God be with all of you until we meet again.


dust_i_am

dust_i_am's picture

So what do others think? Does this sound like UCG is turning "Pentecostal, charismatic" and "arch-liberal," as some people claim?




RICO

RICO's picture

addiction problems are such a huge issue with gods people,and a always wondered why.
Mr. Luker put this in perspective and I see how Satan uses this in his fiery dart arsenal to attack members of Gods Church.
As a teen,my five closest friends with alcohol problems came from families in Gods Church.Wow! Now I see why!
Thank you for the insight.




RW

RW's picture

I am not a member of the church, but I do visit this site daily since 2005. I was stunned to see some "major players" leave. But thankfully, some "heavy hitters" still remain.




Ward Shamblin

Ward Shamblin's picture

Mr Luker's sermon was excellent. I have been in the church for 46 years and have also seen many problems with members and ministers. I think Mr Luker hit the "nail on the head". I just hope that I don't let any of the many problems overtake me. I know that we all need to put on the whole armor of God.

Thanks




Nelson

Nelson's picture

Dear Mr. Dennis Luker,
These are truly Christian words, without the harshness characteristic of false and radical Christians but with firmness and humility of those who recognize our failures and the need for a realistic look to the shortcomings of our society.
Count with my prayers and I sincerely hope the success of the current goals of UCG, because speaking for myself I always run toward the words of "This is the Way", "Beyond Today-TV" and "United Church of God",where do I find Light to my way and spiritual strengthening.
God Bless You!




KARS

KARS's picture

@ dust_i_am
Mr. Luker is following in the footsteps of the Apostles Paul and John. These Apostles wrote letters to the churchs letting them know their shortcomings and letting them know about what good things they were doing.

Mr. Luker can lead us in brotherly love towards the right direction but in the end; we make the final choice.
Jesus Christ and his apostles did the same thing.
So we must ask ourselves; do we want to remain miserable for the rest of our lives? Or do we want to "take a look at the man in the mirror" and make that change?




Nelson

Nelson's picture

In the words of Mr. Luker, we must recognize the following phrase: "I came for sinners." Healthy people do exercises, have good nutrition and healthy habits but sick people need of remedy. The remedy that JESUS brought to us is the possibility of eternal life in the love of GOD. This also shows that there should be effort and dedication of the interested party. Having a realistic understanding of the facts and of the human society is not agreeing with this or that behavior but use the teachings of the CHRIST to bring the Word to those who are on the wrong track. "Repent of your sins" walk in the path of GOD and you will be healed. The understanding of the Word of GOD shows love and mercy without any political line religious just as Democrats,Liberals, Conservatives, Center, etc. . (Human society)but it brings hope to those who seek rest under the protection of our Creator.



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