The Gilted Prison
The truths in this book can take you to another level of maturity and freedom in Christ.
The Bible says in Matthew 25:19 that to those who have, more will be given. I am writing primarily to those of you who are really serious about walking with God. You don't have any intention of being deceived. You aren't yielding to the lust of the flesh or consciously walking in sin.
- You do not have the inheritance of God manifesting in your life that you should have
- You are not being the kind of soldier that God intended for you to be
-You are confused and frustrated at times because everything seems to look so good and you can't understand where the problem is.
The Great Deception
Many churches and individuals believe that prosperity and outward appearances of righteousness are signs of right standing with God. This is an erroneous belief that is common around the world, especially in America. It is not a belief that originated in our generation. It's been around for many, many years. In Matthew 23, Jesus was dealing with the scribes and Pharisees. He had said earlier that they came behind no one in keeping the letter of the Law. They kept it better than anyone else. Yet at the same time, he said they didn't know him or his Father. Their father was actually the devil. That was a pretty profound statement to make about the religious leaders of that time.
In Matthew 23:27-31, Jesus gave this warning. "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, pretenders (hypocrites)! For you are like tombs that have been whitewashed, which look beautiful on the outside but inside are full of dead men's bones and everything impure. Just so, you also outwardly seem to people to be just and upright but inside you are full of pretense and lawlessness and iniquity. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, pretenders (hypocrites)! For you build tombs for the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, Saying, If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have aided them in shedding the blood of the prophets. Thus you are testifying against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets."
That was a very strong statement. Outwardly, the religious leaders of Jesus' time seemed to be just and upright, but inside they were full of pretense, lawlessness and iniquity.
This is a typical tactic satan has used for generations. Even during Jesus' time, satan had infiltrated the leadership of the Jewish religion. He had brought deception to the point that they believed they were very righteous and that they pleased God in the things they did. The Son of God called them hypocrites. He also called them blind leaders of the blind. (Matthew 15:14) Outwardly, they looked very good, but they were full of sin.
This hypocrisy is what I am referring to in this teaching. Many times people have the outward appearance of being in right standing with God. They look nice, say the right things and use correct religious phrases. They study the Word of God and are able to quote many Scriptures. They are familiar with all the teachings in the Bible and may be knowledgeable on many key subjects. They might even be teachers or ministers, as the scribes and Pharisees were.
Yet the Lord said that such people are pretenders. They aren't real, because inside, where no one else can see, they are unrighteous. They are pretending to be something they aren't. They are full of lawlessness. There are things in their lives that do not line up with God's divine order. They are doing their own thing and they are full of iniquity. They have many private agendas they are trying to fulfill, as well as lusts of their flesh that haven't been mortified.
Jesus went on to say the Pharisees built tombs for the prophets and decorated the monuments of the righteous. Many times satan will encourage us to embellish and adorn our sanctuaries, our homes and even the way we dress to make things look righteous. We can build or adorn sanctuaries, yet still be hypocrites. There is a great deception that satan brings to churches, as well as to individuals, that causes us to believe that if outward things look religious, it is a sign that we are in right standing with God. Clearly, by the Word of God, that is not the truth.
There is also a common belief that prosperity is a sign of being in right standing with God. Many of the people who believe this become very grieved and offended at God if something happens in their lives and they are no longer prosperous. Many people who prosper don't know God at all. Some of the most ungodly people on the face of the earth are the most materially prosperous. There is no way that prosperity in the material realm is a sign of righteousness.
Paul said he learned how to be content when he was abounding and when he was abased. (Philippians 4:12) Paul was content whether he had abundance or suffered lack. He was prospering in the spiritual realm and it had nothing to do with the outward appearance of material prosperity. It had nothing to do with the amount of money he had or anything else he may have possessed. It had to do with his right relationship with God. It's important that we don't fall for the deceptions of satan in this area.
There are many prosperous churches with beautiful, ornate buildings and large congregations. We might assume that such a church must be in right standing with God because of the outward signs we can see. Yet we realize some of the most dead churches in the world have multi-million dollar buildings. Their leaders appear very pious, yet there is no evidence of spiritual life. Outward signs are not the confirmation that everything is right with God. It is a way that seems right. This is true for individuals as well as churches.
It is also true for businesses. It is easy to say we are prospering because God is blessing us. Yet many times the person running the business is doing things that aren't lawful. They are greedy and covetous. They lack mercy and compassion for others. They will do anything that is necessary to be successful in the business world. They often prosper financially due to ungodly tactics and try to justify it by bringing God's name into the business in some way. That doesn't mean that business is in right standing with God.
The same is true for the home. An outward appearance of prosperity or religiousness is not an indication of righteousness. It can be very deceptive to us and to others.
In Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25, the same thing is said. "There is a way that seems right to a man and appears straight before him, but at the end of it is the way of death." That is a very profound statement. There is a way that SEEMS RIGHT to a man. It doesn't appear wrong and it seems to be straight before him, yet the end of it is the way of death! Who would present to us as Christians a way that seems right that ends in death? Who would gain from that? Would God do that to us? Would we deliberately, consciously do that to ourselves? Of course not! Only one person gains from our doing something that seems right but leads us into destruction. It is satan himself and this is a common tactic for him. He deceives many people around the world by getting them to go in ways that seem right.
Matthew 7:13 and 14 list two ways of walking. "Enter through the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and spacious and broad is the way that leads away to destruction, and many are those who are entering through it. But the gate is narrow (contracted by pressure) and the way is straitened and compressed that leads away to life, and few are those who find it." There is a way that has a wide gate and a spacious way. It is a way that leads to destruction. This is the way that is spoken about in Proverbs. It seems to be right and many people enter into this way. The way that will actually lead you to God is a way that very few people find. The broad way, by comparison, that seems right is the way that most people are going. Do you see the great deception? God is not warning you about a way that seems wrong. It is the way that seems right that's dangerous!
There is obviously an evil way that people are going. This book isn't written for them. I am speaking to Christians. We aren't consciously choosing to go an evil way. If we do, we are in a state of rebellion and we have chosen not to walk with God. I'm speaking to brothers and sisters who have turned from what they know to be evil. They have purposed in their hearts to love God and know him. They have been seeking after God yet experience tells them that they aren't gaining the ground they should.
You may realize that the relationship you should have with God by this time simply isn't there. You may be very frustrated because you may have tried everything you know to do to get to God. You may have repented and made many fresh starts because you realized you were going the wrong way. You seem to end up on the same road again. You keep missing the mark. If that is normal for your life, that is a good sign that you have fallen for the deception of the way that seems right. You may have copied or emulated the outward appearance of someone who appeared to be religious, yet you don't feel any closer to the Lord.
Many people had close fellowship with God the day they were born into his family. They experienced a beautiful love relationship with him, but it faded away quickly. They have been struggling for years, trying to get back to that kind of fellowship and communion with God. Their labors have been unfruitful.
As you study the teaching in this book, you are going to receive many keys so that you can rescue yourself from the snares that satan has set. Remember, there is a way that seems right. It's not right. It only seems right! Many people are going that way. The fact that many are going that way and only a few are going the right way should be a sobering thought to each person reading this book. Are you in the majority or the minority in how you are walking with God? We must examine ourselves and confirm whether or not we are really in the faith. (2 Corinthians 13:5)
If the way that seems right leads to destruction, what are some of the signs of going the right way? That is part of what I am addressing. When you go through the straight gate and you are actually walking in the narrow way, there will be many signs that you are going the right direction. First of all, you will have peace that passes all understanding. You will have the joy of the Lord. You will know that you are heading the right direction because you can see fruit produced in your life that represents the nature and character of Christ.
In Galatians 5:22 and 23, nine fruits of the Holy Spirit are listed. As we continue to walk in the narrow way, our Father is going to continually work on our branches as we abide in the Vine. (John 15) We are going to produce fruit. As he prunes us and continues to enrich us, we will produce a greater quality and quantity of fruit. We will have more peace, joy, longsuffering, and all the other fruits of the Spirit. We will be able to experience a progression of growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord. We won't have high peaks and low valleys. We will have a steady, consistent climb from glory to glory. (2 Corinthians 3:18) There will be a process of clear revelation coming from God that is showing us old ways that need to be released and new ways that we ought to be walking in. Old things are going to start passing away and all things are going to become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17) We are going to see the old flesh fall away and become more Christ-like as we draw closer and closer to the Lord. We will find it becomes easier to get in the presence of our God and harder for satan to get us out. We will become more sensitive to the voice of the Lord our God speaking to us. We will become more consistent in acknowledging the Lord and him directing our paths.
You can read through the Word to find many other signs of walking with God. All you have to do is read any Scripture that explains what it is like in the kingdom of God, being in Christ, and operating in the Spirit. These Scriptures list many fruits that will be present in people who are through the strait gate and are on the narrow way. If those signs are not in your life, that in itself indicates that you are probably walking in a way that seems right. You need to examine yourself to make sure that you have not fallen for the great deception and gone through the wide gate and down the broad way that leads to destruction.
If you are a real child of God, you will usually repent when you get far enough down that road. When you see clearly that you are going the wrong way, you will put on the brakes. The problem is, even though you don't go on into destruction, satan has still stolen the amount of time you could have been making progress on the narrow way. He has hindered you, even though you haven't gone on into destruction. You didn't move into life either. You didn't come to maturity or receive your inheritance so you could be a soldier of Jesus Christ and destroy the works of the devil. From his point of view, he has neutralized you. By keeping you on that broad way that seems right, he has imprisoned you so you are kept out of the strait gate and the narrow way.
The prisons of satan aren't easily recognized. They aren't visible to our natural eye, yet the walls are there just the same. The one sure way to find out if you are in a prison is to try to draw close to God and go through the strait gate. You will find all kinds of hindrances that try to stop you from going that way. Those hindrances are the invisible bars of the prison that hold you.
I will be identifying these prison bars and how to be set free from them. Before you can really be set free, you have to first see the problem as it really is. Continue to keep your heart open as we look at different areas.