KEEPING THE POWERS OF HELL AWAY
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
byFrank L. Hoffman, Pastor
20 APRIL 1997
1 John 3:9-24
Last week we talked about scaring the hell out of each other.
Today, we are going to talk about keeping the powers of hell away.
We ended last week by looking at the fruit of the Spirit of God in a regenerated believer, as a comparison to the qualities of hell we had been discussing.
Listen carefully to the listing of the fruit Paul tells us about (Galatians 5:22-23):
22. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23. gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
If we are truly born again, then all these qualities should be in us.
It's not that we don't slip up sometimes; the point is that we recognize when we allow the qualities of hell to enter us, and immediately reject them, and return wholeheartedly to the Lord.
So, if we find that our nature is not completely loving, then we know that we are not wholly with the Lord.
Likewise, if we lose our joy, or our peace, or our patience, we should recognize that the powers of hell have entered us.
If we find ourselves being unkind, and not filled with good thoughts, something other than the fruit of the Spirit of God has entered us, and we should reject it.
And if we are not completely faithful to God or to each other, that too, is not of God.
And finally, if we are not gentle in our way of approaching each other and the rest of creation, or we do not have self-control, then we must rebuke the powers of hell around us that we have allowed to disturb us.
But we might say that when we come to recognize these things going wrong, it's usually too late.
And that may be the case for the moment, for we have lost the key indicator of the approach of the ways of hell.
This indicator is Love.
First of all, we are to love God, just as we are told (Deuteronomy 6:5):
5. "And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
This means to love God with every part of our being, and to such an extent, that nothing else can interfere with that love; that we would never have any doubts about it, or ever set it aside.
And it is this love that points out everything that is not of God.
Let's just think about it.
If we wholly love God we will also love everything He created, and we will feel His pain and suffering over the harm that has been done to so much of what He made.
It is our being attuned to God in this way that points out what is displeasing to God, that we would immediately stop doing something counter to the ways of God.
Or, that we would step in the gap between the forces of evil and the power of God and prevent the evil from coming upon ourselves or others.
This in turn brings us to what we are told in Leviticus 19:18: that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves.
Let's look at this in context.
If we wholly and completely love God, we will recognize the sins in our own lives, and rebuke them, and repent before the Lord.
And if we wholly and completely love God, then we will also recognize His love for us, personally, and we will receive His forgiveness.
This is part of loving ourselves.
Thus, if we wholly and completely love God and ourselves, then we should likewise feel this way toward our neighbors, and the whole of creation which God lovingly made.
And this brings us to what we are told in 1 John 3:9-24:
9. No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.
I don't believe that any of us really consider ourselves sinless, and thus may mistakenly think we are not saved.
And this is what the devil would like us to think.
But notice carefully what we are told.
If we are of God, we will not practice sin, and to practice anything, is to do it over and over again until we perfect it.
If we are of God, we will know when we are sinning, and turn away from it.
10. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.
And though we are not to practice sinning, we are to practice living righteously; until we perfect it in our lives, until the fruit of the Spirit, all of the fruit, are evident in every aspect of our lives.
11. For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another;
12. not as Cain, who was of the evil one, and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother's were righteous
Cain practiced evil things.
Abel practiced Godly things.
And it had nothing to do with their offerings, but the intent behind them.
If we are of God, as was Abel, we also might find the people of the world becoming jealous and violent towards us; but that is their problem, and not ours.
13. Do not marvel, brethren, if the world hates you.
14. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death.
15. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
16. We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
Abel never stole God's blessing from Cain, even though Cain probably thought this.
And killing Abel would certainly not bring God's blessing upon Cain, though Cain probably lied to himself about this, too.
Remember, God sees the intent of the heart.
Let's look at some of the other ways of keeping the powers of hell away.
17. But whoever has the world's goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?
If we find we have a tendency to be greedy or selfish, we need to rebuke such feelings and seek the Lord's help to overcome these things.
18. Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.
Remember, that deeds do not show the intent of the heart, that's why we are told that our deeds must be in truth; that we must honestly and sincerely want to help those in need.
19. We shall know by this that we are of the truth, and shall assure our heart before Him,
20. in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart, and knows all things .
This plays a great part in our keeping the powers of hell away.
If we constantly remind ourselves that God is with us, then we should likewise not fool ourselves into thinking that we can hide anything from God; thus, we are better equipped to practice righteousness, and rebuke sin, as we are told.
21. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God;
22. and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight.
23. And this is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.
24. And the one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And we know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.
The problem we have in not living for God is that we doubt the promises of God, and we fear the world.
This is exactly what happened to the disciples after Jesus' death; they didn't believe He would rise from the dead, and they feared the world that condemned Him to death.
Note one incident that occurred when the men who were on the road to Emmaus returned to tell the other disciples about Jesus' appearing to them (Luke 24:36-38):
36. And while they were telling these things, He Himself stood in their midst.
37. But they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit.
38. And He said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?
Even after they were told, they still had doubts and fears.
Even after Jesus appeared to them, they still had doubts and fears.
And it's these doubts and fears that give the devil an opening to attack us.
One of the best ways to fight off the powers of hell is to talk to ourselves more often and remind ourselves of who God really is, and about His attributes, as David wrote in some of his psalms.
Note the beginning of Psalm 103:
1. Bless the Lord, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name.
This is the way we are to talk to ourselves to bring ourselves back into focus with the ways of God.
And then, if necessary, begin to list some of the many accomplishments of God, and how they affect our lives.
2. Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget none of His benefits;
3. Who pardons all your iniquities;
Who heals all your diseases;
4. Who redeems your life from the pit;5. Who satisfies your years with good things,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion;
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle.
And here we make the full circle, for love is the greatest way of keeping the powers of hell away.
If we are of God, if we are born again, then the Lord has crowned us with lovingkindness and compassion.
If we limit our love or our compassion in any way, we limit the power of God within us; for to limit these things is to harden our hearts to some extent.
We need to practice our unlimited and unconditional love and compassion until its crowning glory is seen upon our heads.
And as we learn to do this more and more, we will also find that we have learned to keep the powers of hell away.
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