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October 15, 2017 The Invisible

 

Scripture reading: Daniel 10:1-13; 2 Kings 6:15-17.

 

[I. Introduction] One man of God has said, “We live in a world made by an invisible Being and this world is thick with invisible things.” Of course, he is absolutely right.

 

In Daniel 10 we see that Daniel was fasting from meat and wine for three weeks.  He was certainly praying during this time, as well. We know from the words of Jesus that prayer and fasting bring spiritual power. (Many of us could do with fasting and we might see power to overcome problems in our lives.) Daniel saw a vision of an angel. Even though the men with him did not see this invisible being they sensed his presence and great fear came upon them. They ran away.

 

Daniel was left alone with the angel and he was weakened to the point of having to be on his hands and knees, trembling. The first thing that the angel says to him is, “O Daniel, man greatly loved…”

 

Fear is a common experience of those who encounter angels. When the person seeing an angel is in a right relationship with God, the angel speaks words of comfort to relieve the fear. Here, he calls Daniel “greatly loved.” If you belong to the Lord you must know that you, too, are greatly loved. The Lord loves his own. If you do not belong to Him then you do not know whether you are loved or not. But you can know! The way you can know is by forsaking your sins (this is called repentance) and believing in Jesus. If you do not belong to him then do not hesitate to give yourself to him! You will find that Jesus’ burden is light and his yolk is easy.

 

Daniel is greatly loved. Then the angel says to him, “Fear not.” Why does Daniel not need to fear? Look at verse 12.

 

Then he said to me, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humble yourself before your God, your words have been heard…”

 

Right after Daniel’s name we see the word “for.” We all know what the word “for” means. It means “because” in this context.  Because Daniel had set his heart to understand God and because he had humbled himself he had no need to fear when he receives angelic visitation.

 

Have you set your heart to understand God? Have you? Or, are you just showing up in church because someone else is asking you to? Have you set your heart to understand God? Or, are you falling asleep during the sermons? (I may not be the most exciting preacher. But, my messages are all taken from God’s word and His word is exciting.) Have you humbled yourself? Or, are you just wading through life like a man wading through a shallow swamp trying to get to the other side?

 

[II.] When we seek to understand God and humble ourselves we encounter the invisible. Stop wading! Put on a snorkel mask and see what you are walking in. When I say, “Stop wading,” what I mean is that we must take our faith seriously. Stop plodding through life in ways that are scarcely different from your unbelieving coworker or classmate. Be different! Seek to know God! Maybe you sought to know him when you first became a Christian but you have fallen into the trap of the mundane. Maybe you have gotten caught up in doing nothing but working (or going to school), eating, sleeping, and being entertained. It is a trap! You are not seeing the invisible. Wake up! Seek God!

 

Maybe you have never sought God. Your predicament is worse than the one who has and then slipped. Seek God while he may be found!

 

Because Daniel was seeking to understand God and because he humbled himself he was given the privilege of seeing the invisible. He saw God’s angel.

 

Arthur Blessit was a man who carried a large cross around the world as a witness for Christ. He carried it in every nation on earth. That would be 324 countries! He walked 41,879 miles over 48 years! It is an amazing story. He started in Hollywood, California on December 25, 1969 and has never stopped. A movie was made about his life. It is called The Cross. It is an amazing film and I would encourage you to see it if you have not already. One time he was in a dangerous country, camped out alone in a remote area.[1] A group of armed terrorists came up to him and, the way they spoke, he was certain they were going to murder him. So he thought that, before he died, he would at least give them the gospel. He had some New Testaments in a box and he said, “May I give you something?” He turned around and reached into his box to get a handful of New Testaments to give them. After he gathered them up, he turned around and they were all gone. The best explanation is that they saw angels. What else could cause hardened criminals to flee so quickly?

 

This is like the angels that surrounded the Syrian army and protected Elisha. Elisha’s servant could not see them until Elisha prayed for him. Then he saw.

 

When we seek to understand God and humble ourselves we encounter the invisible and we will receive the protection of the invisible.

 

We must know that there is an invisible realm and conflict with unseen forces. It is not just good angels that are invisible. There are evil forces that are invisible. We read in Daniel 10:13, when the angel is speaking to the prophet:

 

            The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia, [2]

 

The angel revealed that there was a “prince” of Persia that fought against him. This “prince” is a fallen angel. This informs us that there are spiritual dominions over nations. Do not think that Kim Jong-un – Rocket Man, as our President likes to call him – is merely making his bad decisions in an uninfluenced way. There are spiritual forces behind him, even a fallen angel over North Korea. Do not think that the Ayatollahs of Iran have no influences over them. There are spiritual forces of wickedness behind them. But, how does this affect us at a personal level? We must know that there are unseen beings that seek to cause us to disobey God. They entice to rebellion. Even among God’s children.

 

[III.] There is a spiritual war occurring and we must be alert and engaged.

 

If we do not know this we may be taken in by a scheme. Schemes by their very nature are subtle and difficult to discern. If you fall for one, you will suffer loss.

 

The success of any scheme is built upon a lie. This is what it means to be alert.

 

[A.] We must be alert to the devil’s lies, otherwise we may be taken in by them.

 

When I was a Revenue Officer with IRS and working in Hawaii in the 90’s I came across, as it turned out, the largest Ponzi schemes in the history of the state and one of the largest in the nation.  The con artist, Gilbert Ziegler[3], bilked people out of over 170 million dollars.  I had the privilege, if you could call it that, of referring the case to the Criminal Investigation division and they, in turn, worked with the Securities and Exchange Commission to eventually prosecute him and the other ringleaders.

 

My exposure to the scheme began when I received a very individual tax case, just a thousand dollars. (A Revenue Officer works both individual tax cases as well as business accounts.) I contacted Mr. Ziegler and, although he was willing to speak with me, he was evasive and would not answer my questions. So, I had to interview other people who knew him and I uncovered that he had actually started his own bank called Fidelity International Bank and registered it in the small island nation of Nauru. Nauru is only 8 square miles and the third smallest nation in the world. At one time, about 40 years ago, it was the per capita wealthiest nation in the world; but it is now one of the poorest after its sole export, phosphate minerals, ran dry. Banking con artists have to begin their operations offshore, where banking regulations are lax. Nauru was such a place.

 

Through my investigation I learned that he was selling $10,000 CD’s and promising a 20% rate of return per year. For the early investors this happened, but only because he was paying them from the money that came in from the new investors. It was nothing more than an elaborate Ponzi scheme. His scheme was slick. He had opened a physical location with a nice sign that read Fidelity International Bank. He had professional looking brochures. Ziegler was the primary salesperson. He would give frequent seminars where he promised not only a 20% rate of return, but that all investments were backed by the International Deposit Indemnity Corporation, or IDIC, a multibillion-dollar, multinational insurance corporation, comparable to the FDIC in the U.S., which guaranteed that any investment and any interest earned were safe. It was all part of the scheme because the IDIC was also created by Ziegler and headed up by his buddy, Douglas Ferguson. The IDIC was nothing more than a fax machine in a small office in Dominica (not to be confused with the Dominican Republic), an island in the Caribbean.

 

I issued a summons (a summons is a legal document, similar to a subpoena, which compels the person summoned to answer the questions put to them) for Doug Ferguson to appear in my office. He was smart enough to know that if he did not appear that he could be charged. So, he appeared. However, the only questions that he would answer were his name and address. Any questions about Fidelity International Bank he refused to answer on the grounds of the “confidentiality clause of the business contract” which he signed.

 

A fellow Revenue Officer and I attempted to serve Ziegler himself with a summons. In order to serve a legally binding summons, it must be served in person. It cannot be mailed or taped to a door. So, we staked out his beach front apartment and the Fidelity office location, hours on end. But, he kept alluding us. One time we were parked in front of his apartment from early morning just waiting for him to come out. He looked out his window and saw us in the parking lot.  Once he saw us he did not come out. He realized that a net was starting to close. He closed up his Maui office (that is where his sham of an office was located) and moved to Grenada. There he opened up another bank called First International Bank. I learned later that he expanded his scam worldwide. With his new bank he offered a 250% rate of return after five years with a minimum deposit of one million dollars, but no early withdrawals allowed.

 

I had gathered enough information to refer the case for criminal investigation, which was then accepted. It was eventually moved to Portland, Oregon because it was there that Ziegler began and one of his former partners was already under investigation there. The FBI also got involved and he was going to be extradited from Grenada so he fled to Uganda with Ferguson. There, he purchased a multi-million dollar home and compound (with other people’s money) and armed guards. He was extradited from there to return to the U.S. but there was a gun battle when the Ugandan authorities tried to arrest him. One of his guards died.

 

There was a trial in Portland and all of Ziegler’s ringleaders were convicted. Ziegler himself died of a massive heart attack awaiting trial. Several people lost all their retirement money. Many lost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Why? Because Ziegler was so slick, confident, and friendly that he completely fooled even smart people like doctors and other investors.  At trial, his ringleaders claimed that even they believed him and they themselves were taken in by him. But everything he said was a lie. He lived a lie.

 

This is the way the devil is. He lies. Everything he says is a lie. But he presents his lies in a veneer of apparent good. It even appears friendly.

 

We must be alert to the devil’s lies, otherwise we may be taken in by them.

 

[B.] We must know that the enemy’s penetration into the minds of men is extensive.

 

We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. [4]

 

The whole world lies in the power of the devil! This means not only him, but the angels that fell with him as well. If demons are a separate category of beings than fallen angels then it includes them, too. The “world” here is not the geographical world, but the world of people.

 

            And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. [5]

 

Satan deceives the whole world. He deceives people.

 

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25             correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26             and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. [6]

 

What all three of these passages tell us is that the devil and his spiritual forces have deceived the whole world. He has blinded people and they believe lies. We, too, can believe his lies.

 

How can we be rescued from the world forces of darkness and how can we fight the battle? The answer is by putting on the whole armor of God. This blessed fact is found in Ephesians 6:14-18. However, the whole armor consists of many items – six in all, seven if you include prayer. We need them all.  Yet, not all are equally important. I do not think that Paul has listed them in order of importance. But, I do think that he listed the most important item first. At the very least, it is the most important with respect to being rescued from deceit.

 

The first item of armor is the key item.

 

The first half of Ephesians 6:14 reads:

 

“Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth.”

 

The Good News Translation has:

 

“So stand ready, with truth as a belt tight around your waist.”

 

I’ve been lifting weights for over 50 years. When you lift heavier weights, especially lifts that employ lower body muscles, a lifting belt helps greatly. The tighter it is the stronger you feel. So it is with truth. The more we see the truth, the more tightly we wrap the core of who we are in it, the stronger we will be.

 

Remember what we just read in Second Timothy.

 

“God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth” (vs 25)

 

People are deceived. They need the truth. Not only the unbelievers. We must love the truth.

 

This is the most important point:

 

[IV.] In order to be victorious in the battle we are all in (in order not to be a casualty), we must know the truth. This is only the first step, but it is the most important one.

 

Christians who talk about spiritual warfare like to “bind and loose” spiritual forces through prayer. I’m not saying it is wrong to pray in that fashion. But that is not the emphasis of Scripture. In fact, the only “binding and loosing” in the Bible are the two passages in Matthew chapters 16 and 18 that deal with the forgiveness of people’s sins. Rather, the emphasis of Scripture is exposing lies with the truth.

 

Think about it. The principle weapon at the enemy’s disposal is not power, but deception. Even deception of God’s children. If the basic strategy for Satan’s spiritual assault is spreading lies, then the most important weapon we can wield is its opposite: knowing, speaking and spreading the truth.

 

Greg Koukl has said, “Spiritual warfare is much more about truth encounters than it is about power encounters.”[7]

 

[V. Application and Conclusion] How do we, then, become inoculated with the truth? We, of course, must receive the truth. And, there are two main sources: the Bible and the church.

 

You have heard me encourage you time after time after time: stay in God’s word. Read it. Study it. Love it. God speaks through these pages. It is a sure guide in deceptive times. There! I just encouraged you again about it!

 

Let me conclude then with the other blessed source of truth, the church.

 

If I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. [8]

 

The church is the pillar and buttress of the truth. A pillar holds up the structure. In the apostle’s view, the structure is truth. The church holds up the truth. It is a buttress, too. A buttress is a something that gives strength to a wall to keep it from toppling over. In the apostle’s view, the wall is truth. The church keeps the truth from falling over.

 

Why is it essential to not miss the weekly gathering of the church? So that the truth in your mind will be held up. So that the truth in your heart will not topple down. So that you will not be deceived, even self-deceived. We need the truth! The truth is found in the church.

 

The spiritual forces of darkness will give you many excuses to miss church. Do not heed them.

 

What ought we to do? First, belong to a church. Do not merely be a visitor. And, be loyal to the church to which you belong.

 

When we visited our son, Kai, at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy the first week of September, he was able, for the first time, to leave the base after being there for three months. We took the subway into New York City. He was required to wear his dress white uniform when off the Academy grounds. During a transfer on the subway we came to a stop and when he approached a gatekeeper, a man of Pakistani or Indian heritage wearing a turban, he raised up from his seat and saluted Kai with respect. This, of course, made us very proud and we think Kai was touched, too. Here was a man, an immigrant, who loved his new country and showed loyalty to it by saluting our son. He showed more loyalty than some millionaire athletes nowadays.

 

That Indian man’s loyalty is the kind of loyalty we need for our church.

 

Don’t be like an NFL football player. Be like a lowly immigrant. Because that is what we are.

 

Then you will receive a greater supply of the truth.

Then you will perceive the invisible.

Then you will receive protection from the invisible.

Then you will be alert.

Then you will avoid deception.

Than you will not become a casualty in the spiritual battle.

 

Put on truth as a belt tight around your waist!

 

 

 

[1] This account is from memory, having watched the movie 7 years ago or so. Some of the minor details may not be accurate.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Da 10:13). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[3] This was his real name which I can use since all of the information is now in the public domain.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Jn 5:19). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Re 12:9). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Ti 2:24–26). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[7] Solid Ground newsletter, July/Aug 2017.

[8] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Ti 3:15). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.