An Interview with Rob Ventura about his co-authored book Spiritual Warfare: A Biblical & Balanced Perspective
Here are some of my questions for you about your discourse:
1. Given the numerous volumes written on the subject of spiritual warfare, what do you think is the unique contribution of your book to this subject?
Dear brother, thank you for taking the time to read the book. I am glad you enjoyed it. Regarding your first question I would say that the unique contribution of this work is that it is a contemporary, concise, and scriptural treatment of this subject written by two Reformed authors. If you were to Google the stated topic you would find that there are dozens of books that treat this theme in a downright nutty way. However, what we have done is open up the central New Testament passage that addresses this issue (Ephesians 6:10-20) dealing with it historically, contextually, exegetically, and practically. As we have done this we have kept Christ our great champion central in all things since at the cross he defeated Satan, our great foe.
Brian, one reason why I am particularly excited about this new book is that it gives Christians from all different theological backgrounds a solid treatment of this subject in just 124 pages. Typically I would recommend to people who want to learn about this topic William Gurnall’s The Christian in Complete Armour but due to the sheer size of that volume, unfortunately many do not make their way through it. However our book can be read in a just few hours and the reader would be able to get the gist of the matter and be helped to stand strong in this great fight of all fights.
2. In Steven J. Lawson’s foreword to your book, he mentions that the flesh, our old nature, is one of our enemies, because it is “opposed to God and can do nothing to please Him” (vii). Lawson’s statement seems to imply that a believer in Christ has two natures: old & new. Does a believer have two natures: one that is opposed to God and one that is not?
Concerning your question, and I believe Dr. Lawson would agree, regeneration is an act of God whereby He quickens a dead sinner and implants a new nature in the believer so that he or she is now a new creation in Christ Jesus our Lord (2 Cor. 5:17). The Christian does not have two natures per se so that there is a kind of Yin and Yang, Jekyll and Hyde dualism going on in them. No, rather the old man has been crucified with Christ (Rom 6:6). Nonetheless as Spurgeon rightly said; “though the old man was crucified he sure is a slow dying.” To state the matter another way, although Paul says in Colossians 3:9, “you have put off the old man with his deeds,” he could also say in Colossians 3:5 “put to death your members which are on the earth.” See also Ephesians 4:22-24.
3. Your book addresses Satan as our great foe in spiritual warfare. Is Satan present everywhere at the same time? If he is not, does it mean that he tempts us indirectly through his demons? Also, can Satan read all our thoughts and foretell what we are going to do?
Satan is a great foe and according to the Apostle Peter he walks about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Pet. 5:8b). We must never minimize this fact. We must be balanced in our perspective concerning our great opponent. However having said this, Satan is absolutely not omnipresent nor is he omnipotent as God alone is. Satan can tempt us through a variety of means, yes, even through his cohorts the demons and this is why it is vital that according to Paul we give no opportunity to him (Eph. 4.27).
Concerning our thought life, since Satan is not God he cannot read our minds or foretell what we are going to do. However we must never forget that the mind is a major battlefield in spiritual warfare and such passages as 2 Cor. 4:4; 10:1-6; and 11:3 highlight this truth. This being so, Paul calls us to “take up the helmet of salvation” for in doing this we will be greatly protected in this regard.
4. It is said that without Christ you cannot resist Satan. Does an unbeliever have the power to resist the Devil? Please answer this question in light of two men, one who is a Christian and one who is not. Both were tempted to commit adultery. The Christian husband yielded to the temptation, whereas the unbelieving husband did not.
Without Christ we are the devil’s spiritual property. He is our spiritual father (John 8:44), we walk according to his power (Eph. 2.2) and are part of his kingdom (Col. 1:13). When God makes us spiritually alive all of these things change — praise God for this! Because of our spiritual condition before we are converted we absolutely cannot resist the devil. However regarding the scenario you stated above, regardless of who did what, the devil is never to blame for our sin because he cannot make us sin. As Christians we sin because our hearts are not yet perfected and so in the case of the believer falling into adultery and the unbeliever not falling, it seems that the one had less self-control than the other (sadly).
5. What projects are you currently working on?
I am currently editing a new book entitled Going Beyond the Five Points: Perusing a More Comprehensive Reformation that I am excited about. I am also hoping to start writing a new booklet with my co-elder Jack Buckley in a series entitled Cultivating Biblical Godliness for Reformation Heritage Books, the Lord willing.
This past summer, one of the former waitresses in my favorite restaurant stopped by to attend our Sunday morning service of worship. I had invited her to attend our service of worship ten years earlier, and now, during the time when our church family turns to shake hands and greet each other, lo and behold, there she was with her grown son. I slowly approached her. When she saw me, I said, “Wow, what a surprise! By the way, Linda, what prompted you to stop in? My 10-year-old invitation perchance? To which she responded gingerly, “Well, to tell you the truth, it had nothing to do with your invitation. I didn’t even know you were the pastor here, but when I drove by church and saw the title of the sermon, I thought… that sounds like a message meant just for me!”
How atypical, yet typical! How many people stop in to hear a sermon after reading the sermon’s title on the marquee? Not too many. Yet, at the same time, who wouldn’t enjoy hearing a sermon that God tailor made just for them? (Something we would all agree that only the Holy Spirit can do.) But, come to think about it, isn’t that why most people come to hear our sermons? I think most people listen to a sermon for one purpose: They want to hear a practical and personal challenge from God that is designed to encourage them to overcome their unique struggle/sin that keeps troubling them.
Sermon titles are important for many reasons, beyond arousing interest. Yet, even still, ironically, little attention is given to the topic of titling.
In his book, How to Preach More Powerful Sermons, Homer Buerlein writes, “I was dismayed to read in some books on homiletics that titling a sermon isn’t really important. One book maintained that a good title helps create interest in the subject, but no great effort should be expended in trying to come up with a catchy one.” (Buerlein, 1984, pp.22-25)
I concur with Mr. Buerlein’s comments. I believe learning how to title a sermon well is important. In fact, a memorable title is as indispensable as a handle to luggage. Thus, I re-submit the following operating premise:
In order for a sermon title to achieve maximum impact, it needs to contain the following five elements:
- Like an individual’s name, it needs to specifically identify the purpose of the sermon.
- Second, it needs to serve as a descriptive summary of the content.
- Third, it should entice the audience in a variety of ways to pay closer attention to the sermon.
- Fourth, it must be concise, and
- Fifth, it needs to be memorable.
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One of my favorite hymn writers is the blind hymn writer Fanny J. Crosby (1820-1915) who wrote over 8,000 hymns including “Blessed Assurance” and “To God Be the Glory.”
In her autobiographical book entitled Fanny Crosby’s Life-Story (1903), Crosby narrates the following account in which she expresses her thankfulness to God that, in His providence, she became blind. Crosby was not born blind. At six weeks old she had inflammation in her eyes. The physician, who tried to help her, mistakenly destroyed Crosby’s eyes. Consequently, she became blind for the rest of her life. However, she mentions in her book that if she could meet that physician, she would say, “Thank you, thank you—over and over again—for making me blind, if it was through your agency that it came about!” Why would Crosby do that? Well, in her own words here are two reasons why:
It seemed intended by the blessed Providence of God, that I should be blind all my life; and I thank Him for the dispensation. I was born with a pair of as good eyes as any baby ever owned; but when I was six weeks of age, a slight touch of inflammation came upon them: and they were put under the care of a physician.
What he did to them, or what happened in spite of him, I do not know, but it resulted in their permanent destruction, so far as seeing is concerned; and I was doomed to blindness all the rest of my earthly existence.
I have heard that this physician never ceased expressing his regret at the occurrence; and that it was one of the sorrows of his life. But if I could meet him now, I would say, “Thank you, thank you—over and over again—for making me blind, if it was through your agency that it came about!”
This sounds strangely to you, reader? But I assure you I mean it—every word of it; and if perfect earthly sight were offered me to-morrow, I would not accept it. Did you ever know of a blind person’s talking like this before?
Why would I not have that doctor’s mistake —if mistake it was—remedied? Well, there are many reasons: and I will tell you some of them.
One is, that I know, although it may have been a blunder on the physician’s part, it was no mistake of God’s. I verily believe it was His intention that I should live my days in physical darkness, so as to be better prepared to sing His praises and incite others so to do. I could not have written thousands of hymns—many of which, if you will pardon me for repeating it, are sung all over the world— if I had been hindered by the distractions of seeing all the interesting and beautiful objects that would have been presented to my notice.
Another reason is, that, while I am deprived of many splendid sights (which, as above mentioned, might draw me away from the principal work of my life), I have also been spared the seeing of a great many unpleasant things. The merciful God has put His hand over my eyes, and shut out from me the sight of many instances of cruelty and bitter unkindness and misfortune, that I would not have been able to relieve, and must simply have suffered in seeing. I am content with what I can know of life through the four senses I possess, practically unimpaired, at eighty-three years of age. Hearing, tasting, smelling, and feeling, are still felt, in their fullest degree.
If God is sovereign, why do we need to pray? If He already knows everything, why do we need to tell Him what we need? Watch this short video to find out why.
Jonathan Edwards had a son, Timothy Edwards (1738-1813), who left home to study at the College of New Jersey (now called Princeton University). While in Newark, New
Jersey, Timothy became severely sick. To comfort his son, who at that time was only fourteen years old, Jonathan Edwards sent him a letter from Stockbridge, Massachusetts. In this letter Edwards offers a word of prayer for his son and reminds his son of his own duty to pray to God for mercy. Here is an extract from the letter:
Stockbridge, April 1, 1753
My Dear Child,
Before you will receive this letter, the matter will doubtless be determined, as to your having the smallpox. You will either be sick with that distemper, or will be past danger of having it, from any infection taken in your voyage. But whether you are sick or well, like to die or like to live, I hope you are earnestly seeking your salvation….
Till you have savingly believed in Christ, all your desires, and pains, and prayers lay God under no obligation; and if they were ten thousand times as great as they are, you must still know, that you would be in the hands of a sovereign God, who hath mercy on whom he will have mercy. Indeed, God often hears the poor, miserable cries of sinful, vile creatures, who have no manner of true regard to him in their hearts; for he is a God of infinite mercy and he delights to show mercy for his Son’s sake; who is worthy, though you are unworthy; who came to save the sinful and the miserable some of the chief of sinners.
Therefore, there is your only hope; and in him must be your refuge, who invites you to come to him, and says, “He that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out” [John 6:37]. Whatever your circumstances are, it is your duty not to despair, but to hope in infinite mercy through a Redeemer. For God makes it your duty to pray to him for mercy which would not be your duty, if it was allowable for you to despair. We are expressly commanded to call upon God in the day of trouble; and when we are afflicted, then to pray.
I earnestly desire, that God would make you wise to salvation and that he would be merciful and gracious to you in every respect, according as he knows your circumstances require. And this is the daily prayer of
Your affectionate and tender father, Jonathan Edwards.
P.S. Your mother and all the family send their love to you, as being tenderly concerned for you.
Note: This post is an excerpt from Jonathan Edwards: His Doctrine of & Devotion to Prayer (2013).
 “Letter to Timothy Edwards,” in Letters and Personal Writings, 578-80.
Here are seven tips for a happy Christian marriage coming from Mr. Don Verduin, a member of our church, who has been married for 67 years:
Make God the center of your life and marriage. Seek God’s will as found in the Bible, and make His Word your guide for all decisions you are required to make.
Make sure that you read the Bible every day. The Bible has answers for every issue that Christian couples face. For instance, take time to study Ephesians 5 – 6: 18 where God has listed rules for a happy marriage.
Church attendance is a must. As a couple, support your church with your prayers, gifts, and time. The fellowship with Christian friends can be educational and comforting. Also, be sure to tithe, and, if able, to give beyond your tithe. God requires giving and blesses those who give.
If God blesses your home with children, train them according to His way. The rearing of your children is a joy, but also a responsibility. Take time to read and explain God’s will for your children. Take your children to church with you. Teach your children the songs of the church, songs they will continue to carry with them throughout life. When possible, do all in your power to provide your children with a Christian education. To do so may require your family to change its lifestyle, but in the end God will bless your family.
Children will disrespect authority, especially that of their parents. In a loving way explain God’s rules and do not permit this sin to continue.
Sometimes the relationship between a husband and wife can become fragile. Take the time to see what God’s Word says and seek His will through prayer. Remember, God grants forgiveness to those who repent and ask for forgiveness. A husband and wife must do the same. A forgiving spirit will strengthen the marriage bond. Do not be slow to accept an apology and to grant forgiveness.
Whenever possible, a husband and wife should do things together: attend church, instruct your children in the catechism, help each other with the housework, or spend time together in the garden. Doing things together such as these will help build respect for each other, as well as leave a good example for your children.
Preach discriminatorily. Address both believers and unbelievers in your preaching. Don’t assume that everyone in your congregation is saved. But don’t think either that no one is saved.
Preach applicatorily. Apply your text to your listeners. With the use of practical illustrations, help them apply your message to their daily life. Remember a sermon without an application is like a lecture. You are preaching, not lecturing.
Preach clearly. Organize your thoughts. Avoid high-sounding words. Consider the children in your congregation. If you have to employ a big word (e.g. justification), explain it using simple words.
Preach evangelistically. Yes, preach against sin, but don’t stop there. Preach about salvation too. If you preach the Law without the gospel, you will make your congregation despair. Further, don’t think that the gospel is only for unbelievers. Believers need it as well for their sanctification.
Preach powerfully. Preach with the unction of the Holy Spirit, as the Apostle Paul did, “[M]y speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:4-5).
Preach prayerfully. Pray before, during, and after you preach. Humbly acknowledge that without God’s help, you can do nothing. Realize that God alone can change the hearts of your listeners.
Preach expectantly. Remember nothing is impossible with God. Expect greatly that He will do wondrous things—saving sinners and sanctifying saints. Be confident that His word will not return to Him void. He can even use your worst sermon to accomplish His wonderful plan.
Preach persuasively. Show that what you proclaim is God’s word. Announce, “Thus says the LORD.” Also, don’t be afraid to declare God’s truths, even if by doing so some of your hearers might be offended. You are not to please people but God.
Preach passionately. Love not only preaching but also the people to whom you preach. And if you love your congregation, you will feed them with spiritually nutritious food.
Preach faithfully. Be faithful to your announced text(s). Don’t just read your text, and leave it. Use it. Expound it. Preach from it.
Preach seriously. Preach in this manner because the very word that you preach is sacred. The God who has called you to preach is holy. Your message is a matter of life and death, heaven and hell. Thus jokes have no place in the pulpit. Preachers are not called to be entertainers.
Preach Christ-centeredly. Learn from Paul who says, “I…did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:1-2). In the words of the Puritan preacher William Perkins (1558-1602), “preach one Christ, by Christ, to the praise of Christ.”
Preach exemplarily. Live what you preach. Demonstrate holiness, not hypocrisy. Acknowledge with Robert Murray M’Cheyne (1813-1843), “My people’s greatest need is my personal holiness.”
Preach soli Deo gloria. Your ultimate goal in preaching is to glorify God. Never attempt to take that glory that belongs to God alone. Sing with Fanny J. Crosby (1820-1915): “To God be the glory, great things He has done.”
Oh, Lord, help me to preach!