Shepherds’ Conference 2010 – Friday Afternoon Notes from Steve Lawson
Posted by Brodie Wheaton | Friday, March 5, 2010 | 2:37 pm CT
Steve Lawson was the speaker this morning. He started with a tribute to John MacArthur:
There is not a day in my life when John MacArthur is not sitting on my shoulder, guiding me through his notes, tapes, and ministry. For most all of us John’s influence is used by the Lord to shape our ministries.
The Invisible War
Job 1:6-12 It has been well said that before God uses a man greatly, he must first break him greatly. God works best through broken vessels, crushed by the hammer blows of the devil. The more we desire to be used by God the greater our willingness to suffer for him. There is no easy pass in ministry. Every assignment is a killing place. Everyone is involved in spiritual warfare. The more we are at the frontline, the more we are caught in the crossfire between God & Satan. The taller we stand for the Lord, the more we will draw the fire of the devil.
Eleven of the twelve apostles died a martyrs death. The greatest preacher who ever walked this earth, the Lord Jesus Christ was despised and rejected…publicly crucified, a horrific death by public execution. “In this world you shall have tribulation”. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church and they became famous for what they said when tied to a stake.
Everyone of us finds ourselves in the midst of spiritual warfare. It is not a visible war, but invisible. It involves unseen conflict between God and Satan, heaven and hell, good and evil with no middle ground. There are no fence sitters, no draft dodgers, no neutrality. The taller we stand the more we will draw the enemy’s fire.
Job is presented as the epitome of godliness. Uz is in northern Arabia, this was a real man in a real place. His name was Job and he was blameless. Blameless means without moral blemish, beyond reproach in his character and conduct. Job was marked by character and integrity and no one could bring a charge against this man’s life. He is upright which means straight, without deviation from God’s holy standard, set apart to God; a straight arrow morally. He “feared” God which means reverence for the Lord; he took God seriously. He turned away from evil, not getting as close to evil as possible. He knew what it was to resist temptation. He guarded his heart and shielded his eyes. He was abundantly blessed and was a very successful businessman. This is a rare combination — a fear of God and eminently successful without selling out his soul to this world. This was the greatest of all the men of the earth; greatest in wealth, reputation, influence, and godliness.
Verse 4 is a picture of a family in complete harmony, love and camaraderie with each other, and the blessing of God is being poured out on Job. The goodness of God is dripping out of heaven on Job’s life.
Verse 5 shows he is the spiritual leader of his home. Job is the least likely candidate for a disaster that we could possibly find in the record of Scripture. Blameless, upright, fearing God, turning away from evil, spiritual leader, business leader, the mightiest of the men of the east. Job is marked out to suffer, not because of anything wrong in his life (no disciplinary action). He is singled out by the sovereignty of God because God deems him worthy of suffering for God’s sake. He is the example of the tallest tree in the forest that when the electrical storm gathers it will strike the tallest tree.
Job is the fulfillment of Jonathan Edward’s 63rd Resolution: that he would be the most godly man in his day. We would want this to be said of any one of us here today. But with great godliness comes great exposure to the enemy.
Verse 6 The veil is pulled back and heaven is made transparent before our eyes and we are allowed to hear God and Satan speak. Job has no idea that this is transpiring. It is a rare insight into the unseen world above. “Now there was a day” – this is a day like any day, a routine day in heaven. “When the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord” – these are the angelic hosts of heaven reporting to the throne of God, having been discharged with divine assignments to carry out the work of God and are seen as coming back with accountability and to receive more orders.
“Satan also came among them” – I know what you are thinking – You tell me God is holy, and no sin can dwell in the presence of a holy God. You say that there is no way that an unholy man can access a holy God that the only way is by the sacrifice and atonement prescribed by God and yet here we see Satan coming before God in the courts of heaven – How? I do not know. But here is Satan – once the highest of the angelic order, the one with closest access to God in heaven and the one who lead a coup against God to manipulate a third of the angels to turn to him while standing in the presence of God. That is how cunning the devil is…this is something that he does again and again and again. Some today deny the existence of Satan. The existence of a real personal devil is taught seven times in the Old Testament, by every New Testament writer and by Christ himself. He is quite simply, the evil one!
What is Satan here to do? The answer is found in his name, derived from a word = to attack, to accuse, an opponent in court, a prosecuting attorney bringing criminal accusation against a plaintiff. This is the purpose of the devil, to indict the people of God before the Holy One. C.S. Lewis says, “He is a grave digger”. We need someone to take up our case in heaven, an advocate who has never lost a case.
“The Lord said to Satan” – note the initiative is from God, “from where do you come?”. God knows everything there is to know, but the purpose of the question is for the devil to enter into the court of heaven his evidence regarding his sinister nature. “From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it.” Notice the devil is not in hell, the devil is on the earth creating destruction and appearing before the throne to bring accusation before the throne of God. Remember: “Be of sober spirit, your adversary the devil roams around like roaring lion…” He is stalking your path. He is the god of this age, the prince of the power of the air. Some say he is presently bound and chained…if so, he is on a mighty long chain!
Luther said, “I believe in the devil because I did battle with him this morning”. What does Satan do? He is blinding minds, stealing God’s word, opposing God’s work, tempting, sowing tares, attacking God’s word, spreading false doctrine. He never takes a day off, he is busy. Verses 8 “Have you considered my servant Job?” It is God who initiates the involvement of Job and Job is drawn into this by divine appointment. God issues this challenge. The devil is God’s devil and uses him for his own holy purposes – He draws a straight line with a crooked stick. “There is no one like him” God says, Job is in a class by himself. He has distinguished himself in this generation. Would you not want God to say that about your life? Job is the most righteous man on the face of the earth and he will suffer not because of anything wrong in his life but because of everything right in his life. There are times we suffer because of our sin, other people’s sin, a fallen world, but there are times we suffer for the glory of God because God has appointed it for us as a challenge between God and Satan.
Does God think highly enough of your spiritual walk to say to the devil, “Have you considered _(insert your name)___”? Does God see you as blameless, upright, turning away from evil. It is a badge of honor that God pins on a man faithful to the Word of God. “Blessed are you when men persecute you…rejoice for great is your reward is in heaven.”
Satan counters this. Satan is stunningly brilliant. The Lord’s words are in the air, Satan immediately answers “Does Job fear God for nothing?” This is sinister and is a frontal attack on the glory of God and the integrity of Job. He accuses Job of serving God for what he has received. It is an indictment against Job and God (as if God had to “buy” worshippers), it is by your blessing that you seduce them into worshiping you.
Job does not fear God for nothing, he has every reason to fear God. “Have you not built a hedge around him…?” God in His goodness (the invisible hand of God’s providence) was protecting Job. Job has been trying to crack the code to get at Job to ruin and destroy Job, but the providential hand of God has thwarted Satan. The devil had considered Job for some time, he is well known by the devil. Luther – “Would to God that I would be as well known in hell as I am in heaven”. “You have blessed the work of his hand” – the devil is pointing a finger at God. This is the charge “and his possessions have increased in the land”. Satan is saying, God you’ve been too good to Job.
There are only 3 places in the Bible where we hear Satan’s voice. 1) Genesis 3 when Satan tempts Eve. Eve lives in paradise, she actually has a perfect husband, she had everything, but one tree from which she could not eat because of the goodness of God He was preserving them from it. But the devil said God was withholding it from them. “God is not good enough to you” 2) Job 1 Here the devil is talking to God about Job. In this the devil says “God you are too good to them. 3) Devil’s temptation of Christ – if you worship me I’ll be better to you than God was to you. He is shrewd and scheming.
Verse 11 “But put forth your hand now and touch all that he has and he will surely curse you to your face.” Satan challenges God to strike everything Job had – he is diabolical. Will we worship God in tough times? Will we bless the name of the Lord when we enter the fire of affliction? Are we going to curse God or will we say I will worship the Lord? This is the challenge.
Verse 12 God is totally sovereign in this entire encounter. “Then the Lord said to Satan“ God is totally and completely in control, sovereign over the devil. Spiritual warfare is not a tug of war between two equals. Everything is top down to Satan. God is using the devil for the higher purposes of His own name. This is what He is doing with the devil even right now. He is using Satan as an instrument of His hand even as he comes against us to bring about his purposes.
The hedge is then removed…but there is no panic in heaven, only plans for the glory of God’s name. Verse 13 We see catastrophe unleashed; here is hell breaking loose. Round one in vs 13-15. Do you think this all just “happened”? Round two vs. 16 Round three vs 17 Round four vs 18
Luther – “For still our ancient foe does seek to work us woe, his craft and power are great and armed with cruel hate, on earth is not his equal.” We are in this same warfare.
Verse 30 Job stands over fresh graves, his world has come to a halt, imagine the shock, the grief, the pain. “Then Job arose” – he had been crushed under the weight of this report. This is a sign of deep grief and sorrow. “He fell to the ground”. At this point the devil strains his ear to hear what he always hears – the curse of God, the blaspheming of God’s name, the shrieks and cries of one without desire for life. Instead he hears this “and worshipped” – which means to prostrate oneself before a superior. Job’s first response was to humble himself and lower himself before the throne of God, to ascribe honor and glory to God, whose ways are perfect and right. He worships God and makes this statement in vs 12 “naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job recognizes the sovereignty of God’s Word over his life.
Job cannot see into heaven and know of this challenge, he just knows that above it all God rules and reigns in the heavens and does whatever He pleases. Job doesn’t have to understand why, all he needs to understand is who – He just needs to know God. “Blessed be the name of the Lord”. Job blessed the name of the Lord, not to malign it by magnify it, not to blast but bless, not revolt but reverence God. This is the choice we must make as we are slammed to the canvas in the contest of this world in spiritual warfare. There are times when we are over our head and the affliction is painful – we must make the choice to say “Blessed be the name of the Lord”.
Verse 22 “through all of this” – all personal loss and painful ordeal…Job did not sin nor did he blame God. Job is held before us as a positive example of how a man or woman should live in the midst of difficulty and respond to the trials of life. Calvin said “I kiss the rod that smites me.”
God 1, Devil 0
How do you respond? When we find ourselves in a difficult part of the Lord’s vineyard. We are plowing rocky soil, or the storm is gathering and the difficulty has come, when there is a sweat on the brow…in our ministries and our lives. We must worship. The Lord has given and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord. Recognize the sovereignty of God. Romans 8:28. What others mean for evil, God intends for our God. He has a perfect plan for our lives. There are no maverick molecules in the universe. Spurgeon said “Make the sovereignty of God the pillow upon which I rest my head at night.”
John Bunyan author of Pilgrim’s Progress (with the smell of the prison is on every page). He would not be turned away from preaching the free grace of God and as a result was thrown into a prison cell. His wife had died and he had remarried a second time. His second wife was pregnant and suffered miscarriage. They never locked the door of Bunyan, he could walk out any time if he would just say he would not preach the grace of God. He remained 12 years. Had a blind daughter named Mary and could have said his family needed him and sought “common ground”, but he would not back down and remained in prison. When he was released he sat down and wrote “Advice To Sufferers”. No enemy can bring suffering upon man when the will of God is otherwise. This must be our bedrock confidence as we face the devil head on. God is God, He is sovereign, He has appointed and ordained my trials, it is God who will preserve me.
Steve Lawson then gave his own personal story. He was asked to write a commentary on the book of Job. So we decided he would preach through Job to his own congregation. He preached through Job 1 and Job 2, but when he reached Job 3 “all hell broke loose”. Someone broke into the church office, took the membership mailing list and sent a letter to members of his church indicting him with believing in the sovereignty of God in salvation and asking them to vote on whether they were a Calvinist.
By the time he got to Job 5, he felt it would honor God to resign. He stepped down and spent the rest of the year writing the commentary alone in the office over his garage, unable to preach the series. He then said, “How wise of God — if I am to write the commentary on Job that I must sit in the ashes of Job…to hurt with Job, to cry with Job. How wise of God it is to bring adversity into your life, trials and storms and dark nights of the soul, difficulty in ministry and antagonistic elders and rebellious deacons, or a shrinking church budget…to bring all of these storms of affliction so that you and I would be broken vessels, walk with a limp, identify with the hurting people we serve. His ways are not our ways. His ways are beyond our ways.
George Whitefield – “Happy you when we can look back and say thus I have been enabled to glorify God in the fire”.