Soul-Care Articles: Christ-centered, Spirit-led, Biblically-based, Clinically-sound, Truth-oriented

Posts tagged ‘Satan’

40 Consequences of Adultery

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by David Boehi — Family Life Ministries

If I committed adultery…

  1. My relationship with God would suffer from a break in fellowship.
  2. I would need to seek forgiveness from my Lord.
  3. I would suffer from the emotional consequences of guilt.
  4. I would spend countless hours replaying the failure.
  5. My spouse would suffer the scars of this abuse more deeply than I could begin to describe.
  6. My spouse would spend countless hours in counseling.
  7. My spouse’s recovery would be long and painful.
  8. My spouse’s pain would grieve me deeply and compound my own suffering and shame.
  9. Our marriage relationship would suffer a break in trust, fellowship, and intimacy.
  10. In our marriage, we would be together, yet feel great loneliness.
  11. The reputation of my family would suffer loss.
  12. My children would be deeply disappointed and bewildered.
  13. My grandchildren would not understand.
  14. My friends would be disappointed and would question my integrity.
  15. My employment or job performance would be affected.
  16. My witness among neighbors would become worthless.
  17. My witness to my family would be worthless.
  18. My testimony among my spouse’s family would be damaged.
  19. My service in ministry would be damaged.
  20. My ability to work within the church would be damaged.
  21. I would suffer God’s discipline.
  22. Satan would be thrilled at my failure.
  23. Satan would work overtime to be sure my shame never departed.
  24. My spouse might divorce me.
  25. My children might never speak to me.
  26. Our mutual friends would shy away from us and break fellowship.
  27. I would bring emotional pain to the person with whom I committed adultery.
  28. I would bring reproach upon the person with whom I committed adultery.
  29. If my affair partner is married, that person’s spouse might attempt to bring harm.
  30. My affair partner’s spouse might divorce her.
  31. An unwanted child could be produced.
  32. My part in conception might trigger an abortion, the killing of an innocent child.
  33. Disease might result.
  34. Some might conclude that all Christians are hypocrites.
  35. My business could fail because I couldn’t be trusted.
  36. My leadership among those I have led in the past might also be diminished in impact.
  37. My zeal for ministry would suffer and possibly result in others not continuing in ministry.
  38. My health would suffer.
  39. I might have to start life over again.
  40. This same sin might be visited upon my family for four generations.

It’s a pretty sobering list, isn’t it? What’s even more sobering is that many people will consider these consequences and still proceed in their sin. The fantasy is more important to them than the reality.

The biggest benefit of this list may be in helping us realize the need to set up strict safeguards to ensure that we are faithful in our marriage commitment. If I am convinced of what adultery would do to me and to my family, I will watch my wandering eyes, guard my thought life, and avoid any situations that could put me in harm’s way.

The fantasy is just not worth it.

Strongholds of the Mind VS. Divine Weapons

SOURCE: Taken from an article by Rick Thomas

  How do you take every thought captive–the battle for your mind

Have you ever had someone accuse you of something that was not true?

Have you ever accused yourself of something that was not true?

Either way, whether from you or another, any false argument launched against you can turn into a stronghold in your mind that will spiritually debilitate you.

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. – 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 (ESV)

We all are susceptible to false arguments that control our minds.

There are recurring thought patterns, if left unchecked, will become the dominating argument of a person’s mind, to the point where they become what the argument says they are.

To continue reading, please go to this link:  

https://rickthomas.net/how-to-take-every-thought-captive-the-battle-for-your-mind/

 

Praying for a Breakthrough

SOURCE:  Jon Bloom/Desiring God

A breakthrough is a military concept. When one army is able to weaken its enemy’s forces to the point of collapse, a breakthrough occurs allowing that army to invade and take its enemy’s territory.

But in war a breakthrough only really matters if it occurs at a strategic location. And the evidence that a location is strategic is almost always revealed by the amount of enemy forces amassed to protect it. An enemy led by skilled generals plans to ferociously protect what it prizes highly.

This means that an invading army can expect its attempt to achieve a breakthrough to be met by a barrier of fierce enemy opposition. Increasingly intense fighting always precedes strategic breakthroughs. Strategic ground is not yielded easily.

Our Breakthroughs Are Opposed by Powerful Forces

This is as true for spiritual warfare as it is for terrestrial warfare. In the spiritual realm, as opposed to the terrestrial, the church is an invading force. Though we can easily slip into a defensive, circle-the-wagons mindset, Jesus clearly intends for us to be aggressors, not merely defenders. The Great Commission is to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). In a world that “lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19), that’s militant language. Our mission: to liberate those the devil has taken captive to do his will (2 Timothy 2:26).

But we must keep in mind that strategic ground is not yielded easily. Whether we’re battling for breakthroughs against our own stubborn sin or the unbelief of a loved one or breakthroughs in the missional advance of our local church, reaching unreached peoples, rescuing persecuted believers, orphans, sex slaves, or the unborn, we are up against “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). We don’t know exactly what that means except that these forces are very strong.

Daniel’s Example

Daniel 10:12–14 gives us a brief glimpse of what’s happening. Daniel had been praying and partially fasting for 21 days to gain greater insight into the revelations he had received (Daniel 10:3) when an angelic being finally showed up with an answer to his prayers. This messenger said that he had been trying to get to Daniel for those 21 days, but had been detained by “the prince of the kingdom of Persia.” The chief angel Michael had to come and free him.

This experience of Daniel is an example to us. It’s not a formula that can simply be boiled down to pray and fast for 21 days and Michael will come help you overcome cosmic forces. But it is an example of what is taking place outside of our sight. God does not want us to know more about the angelic realm than what he has revealed in Scripture, otherwise Scripture would have revealed more. But he clearly wants us to know that there is more going on than we see so that we will pray to him and fast until he gives us an answer.

When God Moves, Satan Responds

The consistent pattern throughout the Bible is that every significant move of God is preceded by a season of increasingly difficult, discouraging opposition. And if we take Ephesians 6, Daniel 10, and other warfare texts seriously, we can understand why: God is invading what Satan considers his territory. God’s kingdom is breaking through the lines of the domain of darkness (Colossians 1:13).

If we are not encountering opposition, it’s likely we are not attacking a strategic location. But if we are, we are on to something. Where the enemy is fortifying his forces is where we must focus our assault.

And where the enemy is fortified, there is going to be a fierce fight if we are going to achieve a breakthrough. We are going to receive volleys of flaming darts (Ephesians 6:16). We are going to be attacked on the rear. There will be spies in the camp. There will be jeering and intimidation and accusations. There will be efforts to destroy our morale and determination.

A Call for Breakthrough Determination

So this is a call for holy determination. Keep praying and don’t lose heart (Luke 18:1). Just like in any large-scale war, there are many battles. Some breakthroughs are achieved relatively quickly; others require long, persevering endurance. But either way, breakthroughs require a determination to keep up the assault.

Usually breakthroughs are not achieved by prayer alone — there are works to be done and courage to be exercised. But real spiritual breakthroughs are not achieved at all without prayer. Concentrated, specific, persistent, prevailing prayer, often engaged in by two or more (Matthew 18:19), is needed to weaken our spiritual opposition. And fasting is a wonderful help. “Fasting tests where the heart is. And when it reveals that the heart is with God and not the world, a mighty blow is struck against Satan” (A Hunger for God).

So if you’re praying for a breakthrough and not seeing it, and in fact experiencing more temptations to discouragement, frustration, weariness, doubt, and cynicism than before, do not give up. Increasingly intense fighting always precedes strategic breakthroughs. Strategic ground is not yielded easily. You’re up against more than you know. But “he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). He has overcome the world (John 16:33) and he will give you justice (Luke 18:8).

Don’t lose heart. Grow determined. There’s a breakthrough ahead.

Four Steps to Fighting Spiritual Warfare

SOURCE:  Rick Warren

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12 NIV)

There are four things we need to do when we are battling spiritual warfare in our lives:

  1. Acknowledge the adversary. Satan is real (1 Peter 5:8-9). Why would God send his Son to fight what does not exist? The Bible says in 1 John 3:8, “The Son of God came to destroy these works of the Devil” (NLT). When you’re being attacked, it’s proof that you’re a believer. The more you make an impact for God, the more the Devil is going to fight you. You never outgrow it; it just gets more intense.
  2. Accept God-given authority. Most believers are ignorant about the authority they have to use against the Devil. Matthew 28:18-19 says we have all authority in heaven and earth. Then Jesus says, “Therefore go and make disciples” (NIV). He transfers the authority to you and me. He does that because he’s given us a specific mission (2 Corinthians 5:20).
  3. Put on God’s armor. When Paul wrote about the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:11-17), he was in prison chained to a Roman guard. Paul used the Roman centurion as a model for spiritual armor. Paul says, just as the Roman soldier is properly dressed to do battle, we also need to be dressed for battle. For instance, I will often pray, “Lord, I put on the helmet of salvation that will protect me from the thoughts the Devil will try to give me. I don’t want to think the Devil’s thoughts. I don’t want to think my thoughts. I want to think your thoughts, so that I may be a voice for you. I put on the belt of truth. Lord, I want to share the truth, not falsehood. I want to lead people into righteousness.”
  4. Aim the artillery. The battlefield for spiritual warfare is primarily in your thought life (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). The weapons God gives us to use demolish arguments are humility, faith, truth, and praise. Take every thought captive!

Who Is Responsible For Evil?

SOURCE:  Billy Graham

Are we responsible, or is the devil?

The answer is—both!

In other words, we can’t evade our responsibility for everything we do wrong by simply blaming the devil—but on the other hand, we also know he is behind the world’s evils.

Never doubt the devil’s existence, or his determination to do evil.

Yes, his ways are often unseen, and much of the time we may not even realize what he is doing. But since the beginning Satan has had only one purpose: to oppose God in every way he possibly can. Sometimes his methods involve deception—although often his actions are open and obvious. But his goal is unchanged: to block God’s will. The Bible says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against … the spiritual forces of evil” (Ephesians 6:12).

But do not doubt either our own ability to do great evil.

We have rebelled against God—and our rebellion continues to this day. Even when we know what is good, we often turn away and choose to do what is wrong. The Bible says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

This is why we need Jesus Christ.

We need Him to protect us from Satan’s schemes, and we also need Him to turn our hearts from evil to good. Is this happening in your life? Don’t be deceived, but put your life into Christ’s hands, and find your hope and security in Him—both now and forever. Jesus said, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28).

You Can Triumph Over Fear

SOURCE:  Karl Benzio/Lighthouse Network/Stepping Stones

Fear is a powerful emotion, one that’s often difficult to control.

It can freeze us in our tracks making it hard to protect ourselves. It attacks our ability to trust and compromises our ability to relax in relationships. It takes over our thought and decision-making processes, interfering with our ability to focus and learn. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Unfortunately, fear also impacts us in ways that are subliminal and, therefore, hard to identify.

We often repress intense fears. We push them deep and cover them up with other emotions like anger, depression, and anxiety. We overcompensate with pride, arrogance, humor, or a laid-back attitude.

If we grow up with unrecognized fear as a major organizer of our emotional life, we can have difficulty developing trusting relationships. Even when we overcome that and connect successfully with people, we still have trouble being natural or genuine with them. Sometimes we let them in partially, but build a hard-to-see inner wall, which is difficult for them to get through.

Satan wants us to be afraid of people. He doesn’t want us to be vulnerable in relationships. Instead, he wants us to cover up and react in ways that pull us away from relationships for what looks like self-preservation.

As we “practice” these dysfunctional responses over and over in the first 12-15 years of life, we get very good at them. Then when it’s time to start to really open up to God in deep and meaningful ways, those repressed, intense fears put us on guard so we actually resist giving ourselves to God.

You see, we don’t want to be hurt again, so we find other ways to cover up. We distance ourselves from dependence on God by being aloof to Him, being angry for what He hasn’t given us or our loved ones, feeling bitter about His “unfairness”, blaming Him for all the mistakes we made, and many other behaviors as well. It’s just where Satan wants us! In fact, it’s part of Satan’s battle strategy. We get sucked right into it, hook, line, and sinker.

Are you plagued with fear?

Today’s scripture makes it clear that God is telling us we can triumph over fear. He has given us a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline. He also tells us in 1 John 4:18 that perfect love drives away fear. God’s love is perfect, and He loves you.

As you grasp hold of that truth, you will be able to trust Him more. When you begin to understand how much He loves you, the power of the things you fear will wilt in comparison to the omnipotence of God. It’s like fear melting away when a loving parent comes into your darkened room during a thunderstorm to hold you and give you security.

Today, talk to God about everything. Believe that He loves you … and thank Him for His love. Recognize that His strength is stronger than any fear. Only then will you be able to walk in peace, not fear.

Remember that this is not a one-time event. We need to give all our cares and fears to Him daily, and commit to trusting in His love. Whether you conquer life or you fear it is your decision, so choose well.

Dear Father God, thank You for loving me. Thank You for giving me a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline. And please direct me to be a better steward of these gifts. Help me to trust You more and to accept Your perfect love. I know that only then can I overcome fear. I pray this and all prayers in the name of the One sent to forgive my sins and remove my fear, Jesus Christ; AMEN!

The Truth
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.   2 Timothy 1:7

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  Philippians 4:6

But Satan Stopped Us — Really?

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by  D.A. Carson [April 4, 2014 post]

Leviticus 8; Psalm 9; Proverbs 23; 1 Thessalonians 2

PAUL WRITES TO THE THESSALONIANS, “But, brothers, when we were torn away from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you. For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, did, again and again—but Satan stopped us” (1 Thess. 2:17-18, italics added).

The hindering work of Satan and his minions is attested to elsewhere in Scripture. In Daniel 10:13, for instance, the “prince of the Persian kingdom” is almost certainly some malevolent angel who delays the response to Daniel’s prayer by three weeks, and would have delayed it further but for the intervention of Michael.

Some have taken passages like this as evidence that God is finite, that the struggle between good and evil in the Bible is between a finite good God and a finite wicked Satan. When bad things happen to people, this is the work of Satan, and God has very little to do with it, except to oppose it—though not very satisfactorily in this instance.

Yet the God of the Bible is not finite and not so limited.

If he were, the entire book of Job would not make sense. The apostle Paul himself can describe his delays in categories other than “Satan stopped us.” For example, he tells the Corinthians, “I do not want to see you now and make only a passing visit; I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits” (1 Cor. 16:7, italics added).

Nor is this an isolated example. The Lord Jesus tells us of a time of such terrible destruction that, “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive” (Matt. 24:22, italics added). That really cannot mean anything other than that God intervenes to cut short those days. That in turn means he has the power to do so. The question it raises is why he did not do so earlier. Strictly speaking, the answer is not disclosed. Doubtless it is intertwined with other biblical themes: God sometimes allows evil to run its course, or much of its course, to expose its degradation; he is forbearing, leaving much time for repentance; he may have his own reasons, largely hidden, as in the book of Job. But always he is God, and his sovereignty is never truncated.

Paul frankly admits that Satan stopped him; in another frame, he might speak of the same event in terms of the Lord’s permission. He is not embarrassed by either description, and we must not be embarrassed either. Daniel can speak of a three-week delay; elsewhere he speaks of God’s unbridled sovereignty (e.g., Dan. 4:34-35). For him, the two are compatible.

Did the Devil Make You Do It?

SOURCE:  STEPHEN MATTSON/Relevant Magazine

How much influence does Satan have in our everyday lives?

Here’s a scene familiar to all:

A film or television character, locked in inner debate. All of a sudden, poof, a tiny devil—sometimes styled to look like an evil version of the actual character—appears on one shoulder. This devil has some of a James Dean, rogue-ish appeal, and talks about how much fun it would to be to indulge in such and such.

It’s a clichéd trope, and though it’s not as common in cinema anymore, the general device is still used. There may not be a smirking devil on Walter White’s shoulder, but his endless qualifiers and excuses sure sound like the work of a cunning tempter yanking his puppet strings. And it resonates, because we’ve all been there. We know the feeling of entertaining a little tickle in our ear—one that sounds like us, but not quite like us. It gave rise to the phrase: the devil made me do it. But is that a fair assessment?

As Christians, we accept that everything good and pure within us is from God. We’re instructed to believe our good works, righteousness and holiness should be credited to Jesus working through us, giving us the strength, wisdom and power to accomplish His will.

We are quick to give God credit for anything positive within our lives. “Only through God was I able to do that!” or “I give glory to God!” are common expressions we use to acknowledge His supernatural ability within our lives.

The danger is that we can use this same logic for everything bad and evil we do—blaming Satan for our wrongdoings instead of taking personal responsibility for our actions. If God is responsible for our good, isn’t Satan responsible for our bad?

Thinking about Satan—the Devil—is often emotionally and intellectually draining, so many believers have simply stopped doing it. In a modern society that mocks and ridicules the belief that supernatural beings are engaged in an epic battle of good vs. evil, it can be easy to shy away from the topic of Satan. It’s hard to accept a supernatural realm when our perception is inundated with the physical reality of our everyday lives.

Contrarily, there are those who do nothing but dwell on spiritual warfare and become strangely obsessed with Satan. These individuals are often overcome with constant dread, fear and suspicion—crippling their lives. They stand on street corners and yell apocalyptic warnings from bullhorns and often appear to be suffering from delusions or mental illness.

To make matters worse, people often falsely accuse others of being demon-possessed or influenced by Satan just to promote their own agendas or because of misplaced fanaticism. We can be quick to label others as “Satan’s Henchmen,” heretics who spread a false gospel of deception, simply because we disagree or despise someone—often someone who has a different theological, social or political belief than our own.

How can we talk seriously about something that has been commercialized and comically popularized within our logic-driven and scientific culture? The topic of Satan is bizarre yet relevant, uncomfortable but necessary.

The worst thing a Christian can do is ignore Satan’s influence. Throughout the Bible, God warns us time and again about the very real presence that the Devil has within our lives—we should take the threat seriously. But can Satan actually control us? Can Satan cause us to sin?

It depends. For believers, the power of Christ has defeated Satan. 1 Colossians 1:13 promises that we have been delivered from the power of darkness. Jesus, through the crucifixion, defeated Satan. And while most biblical scholars agree that Christians can’t be possessed by demons, we are constantly facing a spiritual battle, and we can be influenced by Satan’s control within the world around us—but not within us.

Satan’s supernatural power throughout our universe can directly impact our lives. Satan can constantly tempt us, manipulate circumstances to oppress us and attack us through outside influence in order to wage war against our Christ-centered lifestyle. This should not be taken lightly.

We see Satan’s handiwork everywhere around us: through addiction, violence, injustice, abuse, sickness, suffering and pain. And while Satan attempts to destroy and cause death, Christ is restoring and bringing new life.

The Bible is clear that we will be held accountable for our actions, and Satan should never be used as an excuse for our own personal sins. And just like we can lie to ourselves by being self-righteousness and falsely claiming we’re doing God’s will (when we’re not), we can also be guilty of saying (and believing) we’re being controlled by Satan (when we’re not)—deflecting the ownership of our own sin.

As Christians, whenever we blame Satan for our sins, we’re empowering him while simultaneously ignoring Christ. When we do this we buy into the lie that Satan can bypass and overcome God’s redemptive grace in our lives—essentially negating the significance of Christ’s death and resurrection.

Ultimately, we need to realize that God has delivered us and accept the freedom He’s given through His death on the cross. By admitting that Jesus’ sacrifice has real consequences relating to our current lives, our entire perspective changes, and we become fearless instead of fearful, hopeful instead of hopeless, and bold instead of timid.

Embrace the love of Christ and reject the fear of Satan. Christians can be assured of Jesus’ victory while also being wary of the very real presence Satan continues to have throughout our world.

In the end, God has given believers the ability to bring peace, healing and renewal to the places where Satan is trying to create destruction. This is an amazing responsibility we have been given, so let’s embrace our God-given authority and positively change the communities around us—bringing hope and love to all.

Spiritual Warfare: LIVING IN LIGHT OF THE SPIRITUAL BATTLE

SOURCE:  Pastor Dean/Focus on the Family

Non-Christians live as if God doesn’t exist.

Too often Christians live as if the enemy doesn’t exist.

Yet the Bible makes it clear that we do have an adversary, and he has a terrible plan for our lives.

The apostle Peter put it this way: “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

And he should know. Remember Jesus’ words just before Peter’s denial? “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32).

As to the terrible plan Satan has for people’s lives, Jesus made it very clear that a battle rages in the spiritual realm: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).

Job, whom God called “a blameless and upright man,” knew just what an accuser this enemy could be (see Job 1-2). So did Joshua the high priest, also accused by the enemy but affirmed by the Lord (see Zechariah 3). Both of these instances pull back the veil that separates physical and spiritual reality to offer an eye-opening look into the spiritual realm.

In light of this, two priorities emerge for pastors and ministry leaders, both having to do with living in light of this spiritual battle. First, we must take seriously the fact that the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking to devour us.

In the preface of The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis warns: “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors.”

Let’s not fall prey to this “lion.” I’ve found the following practices to be helpful in my own life:

  • Start afresh with God every day. A good way to do so is to pray along with the psalmist David, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23-24).
  • Get into God’s Word every day. All Scripture is “God breathed” and quite profitable (see 2 Timothy 3:16,17). Also, keep in mind how Jesus, our example for life and ministry, responded to temptation (Matthew 4:1-11).
  • Pray every day. Jesus taught us how to pray (Matthew 6:9–13), which includes: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (v. 13). Pray on the armor of God. (Prayer and the Spiritual Battle)
  • Don’t give the enemy an inch. Play with matches, they say, and you’re sure to get burned! Give the enemy an inch, and he’s sure never to be satisfied until he has a “foothold” (Ephesians 4:27).
  • Practice praise and thanksgiving, moment by moment. The old adage is, “Garbage in, garbage out.” When you focus on praise and thanksgiving, your heart’s always in the right place to hear from God and resist the evil one (James 4:7).

While the first priority in living in light of the spiritual battle is to take spiritual warfare seriously in your own life, the second priority is to help those around you to do the same. Model and pass along the above practices. Don’t simply make a passing reference to Satan and demons; equip those around you to keep from falling prey to the enemy.

After speaking about spiritual armor for the spiritual battle (Ephesians 6:10-18), Paul gave a final exhortation to pray: “at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints” (v. 18). We’ll conclude with a final exhortation to pray as well. Indeed, these Spiritual Warfare Prayers from The Navigators will help you to keep your eyes on Jesus, stand firm in the faith, and experience victory in your own life and ministry.

When The War Rages: A Prayer of Victory

SOURCE:  Mark Bubeck

 Prayer of Victory

Loving heavenly Father, I praise You that Satan is a defeated foe.

I rejoice that his defeat was accomplished by the Lord Jesus Christ in His sinless life, His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension into glory. I look forward to that day when the Lord Jesus Christ rules, while Satan is bound in the bottomless pit. I know that Satan will ultimately be forever consigned to the lake of fire prepared for him and his angels. I rejoice that You have given to me, in my union with the Lord Jesus Christ, complete victory over Satan today.

I enter into my victory aggressively and claim my place as more than a conqueror through Him that loved me. I refuse to admit continuing defeat by Satan in any area of my life. He cannot and will not rule over me. I am dead with Christ to his rule.

I affirm that the grace and mercy of God’s  rule in all areas of my life through my union with the Lord Jesus Christ. Grant to me the grace to affirm Your victory even when experiences of life seem to say otherwise.

I thank You for these battles and all that You are seeking to accomplish in Your wisdom and design for my life. I accept the battle and rejoice in Your purpose. I willingly accept and desire to profit from all of Your purpose in letting Satan’s kingdom get at me. I reject all of Satan’s purpose.

Through the victory of my Lord and Savior I stand resolute and strong upon the certainty of my victory. In confidence I look to You, Lord Jesus Christ. When Your purpose for this trial is fulfilled, I know that it shall fade into the dimness of forgotten battles and a defeated enemy.

Through the precious name of the Lord Jesus Christ, it shall be so. Amen.[1]

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[1] Bubeck, M. I. (1984). Overcoming the Adversary: Warfare Praying Against Demon Activity (26–27). Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

Addictions – the Stone Gods

SOURCE: Taken from an article by Karl Benzio/Lighthouse Network/Stepping Stones

As kids, none of us sets out with the goal of feeling trapped in an addiction. Sadly, after a slow and insidious beginning, enslavement is the ultimate end for all addictive behaviors.

In certain key situations, addictions become our masters, the key authority in decision-making moments. So by definition, God is then subject to the addiction. A small percentage of people can feel the enslavement and lack of control. But most of us are fooled into thinking we aren’t enslaved, thinking we still have control, because the takeover is so subtle and usually occurs over a long period of time. The reality is that we easily become slaves to the objects that soothe us.

Being “trapped” is exactly where Satan wants us. He cleverly disguises our addiction objects. Because we aren’t stupid, and really don’t want to be slaves, Satan has to be subtle and crafty to help us progress down the pathway to enslavement.

People can find themselves obsessively and compulsively hooked on almost anything. The object of desire for an addict is always staring them right in the face. For some it’s using food as a source of comfort. For others it can be substances, alcohol, caffeine or pain pills. Subtler and more frequent options include control, relationships, anger, spending, Facebook, the phone, sports, TV, anxiety, panic attacks, guilt, fear, hobbies, money, power (think parenting tactics), a loud and intimidating voice, the silent treatment, avoidance … man, the list is endless! Just think of how many times these responses or objects got you into trouble. Yet you still do them! That is enslavement. In the end, we exalt ourselves above God and we want to feel good … no matter what.

People caught up in an addiction have replaced God with an idol.

They have found something that promises a good time, makes things better or easier to deal with, or makes the pain or struggle go away. What entered our life as a useful coping skill, tool, friend, or savior, quickly became a cruel master. The problem with idols is that we choose them because we want what we think they can give us, not because of what they actually are. We believe that they will do something for us, and we give them priority and ultimately, our devotion. But they are actually stone gods … illusions and lies that give us a little, but then trap us by interfering with the full, long-term relief that going to God will actually bring in full.

Today, readily admit you have an addiction. Be open with another person about what your top addiction objects are. Know as a Christian, that the Holy Spirit is in you to empower your pursuit of putting God on the throne of your heart, moment by moment.

Today’s scripture tells us that we are “crucified with Christ. therefore we no longer live, but it is Christ who lives within us.” This is the truth: we do not struggle alone. Christ is with us and in Him we are free. We slip daily. But don’t let Satan roll you over. Confess and understand why you turned to your idol instead of to God. With steady honesty and submission, and by applying God’s instruction and promises, you will be set free. When you are uncomfortable emotionally, notice what you turn to for soothing. God or ??? It’s your decision, so choose well.

Dear Father God, Today more than ever I need You to live up to that divine title of Savior. I need You to save me from myself, my addictions, my fear, my burdens. I am so tired of trying to do it on my own. I am weary and exhausted, stressed out and alone. Come to me and save me. Free me from my fears and help me to hold onto You, so that my life, my dreams, and my hopes can be renewed. I pray this in the name of the One whom You sent to set me free from all enslavement, Jesus Christ;  AMEN!

The Truth
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 

Isaiah 61:1

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. 

Galatians 2:20

Satan is Powerful But POWERFULLY LIMITED

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by June Hunt

Don’t make the common mistake of assuming that God and Satan possess the same power—or that the power of Satan is equal to the power of God.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Cast out of the heavenly realms to roam the earth, Satan has been given power, but only to the degree that the Lord allows. In the first chapter of the Book of Job, a dialogue between God and Satan confirms that Satan’s activity is limited and always requires the sovereign permission of God.

• Satan cannot be everywhere.

“The LORD said to Satan, ‘Where have you come from?’ Satan answered the LORD, ‘From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it.’ ” (Job 1:7)

• Satan has no absolute power over a believer’s possessions.

“Then the LORD said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.’ ‘Does Job fear God for nothing?’ Satan replied. ‘Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.’ ” (Job 1:8–11)

• Satan has no absolute power over a believer’s body.

“The LORD said to Satan, ‘Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.’ Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.” (Job 1:12)

• Satan has no absolute power over a believer’s life.

“Then the LORD said to Satan.… ‘[Job] still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.’ ‘Skin for skin!’ Satan replied. ‘A man will give all he has for his own life. But stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.’ The LORD said to Satan, ‘Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.’ ” (Job 2:3–6)

• Satan must obey Jesus.

“Jesus said to him, ‘Away from me, Satan! For it is written: “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.” ’ Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.” (Matthew 4:10–11)

• Satan must ask permission to tempt a believer.

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat.” (Luke 22:31)

• Satan has to leave if he is resisted.

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)

• Satan cannot protect his followers.

“Then he [Jesus, the King] will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’ ” (Matthew 25:41)

• Satan cannot prevent his own demise.

“The devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” (Revelation 20:10)

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Hunt, J. (2008). Biblical Counseling Keys on Satan, Demons & Satanism: A Sinister Reality (14–15). Dallas, TX: Hope For The Heart.

20 Ways Satan May Seek to Destroy You

SOURCE:  Paul Tautges/Biblical Counseling Coalition

He is the serpent, the Great Dragon, Beelzebul, the ruler of this world, the prince of the power of the air, the evil one, and the adversary. He is Satan. And—if you are a follower of Jesus Christ—he hates your guts with a passion. Like a roaring lion he is prowling about seeking to destroy you. How can you stand firm and resist the devil so that he will flee from you? First, do not be naive; you must consider his ways.

  1. He may slander God to you in order to cast doubt on God’s goodness and shipwreck your faith (Gen 3:4-5).
  2. He may tempt you to deceive others in order to create, or maintain, the impression of being more spiritual (Acts 5:3Jn 8:44).
  3. He may corrupt your mind and steer you away from the simplicity of Christ and His gospel (2 Cor 11:3).
  4. He may hinder [cut in on, as in a race] your gospel witness and steal it from unsuspecting hearts (1 Thess 2:18Matt 13:19).
  5. He may wrestle against you, fighting against your progress in Christ (Eph 6:12).
  6. He may tempt you to commit sexual immorality against your spouse as a result of neglecting the intimacy of the marriage bed (1 Cor 7:5).
  7. He may harass you with some form of fleshly affliction (2 Cor 12:7).
  8. He may blind the spiritual eyes of your unsaved family, friends, and neighbors so that they may not see the glory of Jesus in the gospel (2 Cor 4:4).
  9. He may keep your unsaved acquaintances in bondage to sins that hinder them from coming to God (Gal 4:8).
  10. He may smite you with physical disease (Luke 13:16Job 2:7).
  11. He may murder you (Ps 106:37Jn 8:44).
  12. He may sow tares [counterfeit Christians, sons of the evil one] within your assembly of believers in order to deceive and create disunity (Mt 13:38-392 Cor 11:13-15).
  13. He may lead you toward theological compromise by causing you to be friendly to false doctrine and its teachers (1 Tim 4:1-3).
  14. He may persecute you for your godliness (Rev 2:10).
  15. He may tempt you to do evil (Matt 4:11 Thess 3:5).
  16. He is—at this moment—prowling about seeking to capture and destroy you, chiefly through pride (1 Pet 5:6-8).
  17. He will most assuredly slander you before God in heaven (Rev 12:10).
  18. He may ask God for permission to sift you out for concentrated attack and temptation (Luke 22:31).
  19. He may use the power of suggestion to move you away from the will of God (Matt 16:21-23).
  20. He may try to cripple your effectiveness through confusion, discouragement, and despair (2 Cor 4:8-9).

How can you stand firm and resist the devil so that he will flee? The Bible exhorts believers to war against the enemy of faith by not remaining ignorant of his schemes (2 Cor 2:11); by submitting to God (Jas 4:7), being sober and alert and resistant to him (Eph 4:27Jas 4:71 Pet 5:8), and by not speaking lightly of him (Jude 82 Pet 2:10).

5 Defensive Pieces of Armor and 2 Offensive Weapons: We must put on the armor of God, which includes the defensive weapons of truth, righteousness, gospel proclamation, faith, and salvation. We must also employ the offensive weapons of the sword of Scripture and prayer (Eph 6:11-18). These are the only means by which we may firmly stand against the devil. “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (Eph 6:12).

Fighting the Unholy Trinity

SOURCE:  J. C. Ryle

The principal fight of the Christian is with the world, the flesh, and the devil.

These are their never-dying foes. These are the three chief enemies against whom the Christian must wage war.

Unless they get the victory over these three, all other victories are useless and vain. If they had a nature like an angel, and were not a fallen creature, the warfare would not be so essential. But with a corrupt heart, a busy devil, and an ensnaring world, the Christian must either fight or be lost.

The Christian must fight the flesh. Even after conversion they carry within them a nature prone to evil, and a heart weak and unstable as water. To keep that heart from going astray, there is need of a daily struggle and a daily wrestling in prayer. “I discipline my body,” cries Paul, “and bring it under subjection.” “I see a law in my members at war against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity.” “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from this body of death?” “They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts.” “Mortify your members which are upon the earth” (1 Cor. 9:27; Rom. 7:23, 24; Gal. 5:24; Col. 3:5).

The Christian must fight the world. The subtle influence of that mighty enemy must be daily resisted, and without a daily battle can never be overcome. The love of the world’s good things, the fear of the world’s laughter or blame, the secret desire to keep in with the world, the secret wish to do as others in the world do, and not to run into extremes—all these are spiritual foes which beset the Christian continually on their way to heaven, and must be conquered. “The friendship of the world is enmity with God: whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world, is the enemy of God.” “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” “Whatsoever is born of God overcomes the world.” “Be not conformed to this world” (James 4:4; 1 John 2:15; 1 John 5:4; Rom. 12:2).

The Christian must fight the devil. That old enemy of mankind is not dead. Ever since the fall of Adam and Eve he has been going to and fro in the earth, and walking up and down in it, and striving to compass one great end—the ruin of a person’s soul. Never slumbering and never sleeping, he is always going about as a lion seeking whom he may devour. An unseen enemy, he is always near us, about our path and about our bed, and spying out all our ways. A murderer and a liar from the beginning, he labors night and day to cast us down to hell. Sometimes by leading into superstition, sometimes by suggesting infidelity, sometimes by one kind of tactics and sometimes by another, he is always carrying on a campaign against our souls. “Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.” This mighty adversary must be daily resisted if we wish to be saved. But “this kind does not come out” except by watching and praying, and putting on the whole armor of God. The strong man armed will never be kept out of our hearts without a daily battle. (Job 1:7; 1 Peter 5:8; John 8:44; Luke 22:31; Eph. 4:11).

► Reader, perhaps you think these statements too strong. You fancy that I am going too far, and laying on the colors too thickly. You are secretly saying to yourself, that men and women may surely get to heaven without all this trouble and warfare and fighting.

Remember the maxim of the wisest general that ever lived in England: “In time of war it is the worst mistake to underrate your enemy, and try to make a little war.” This Christian warfare is no light matter.

~ J.C. Ryle

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John Charles Ryle [1816-1900] was a prolific writer, vigorous preacher, faithful pastor in England, husband of three wives (widowed three times) and the father to five children.

We Are Being Lied to All the Time

SOURCE:  John Eldredge

The devil no doubt has a place in our theology, but is he a category we even think about in the daily events of our lives?

Has it ever crossed your mind that not every thought that crosses your mind comes from you?

We are being lied to all the time.

Yet we never stop to say, “Wait a minute . . . who else is speaking here? Where are those ideas coming from? Where are those feelings coming from?”

If you read the saints from every age before the Modern Era-that pride-filled age of reason, science, and technology we all were thoroughly educated in–you’ll find that they take the devil very seriously indeed. As Paul says, “We are not unaware of his schemes” (2 Cor. 2:11). But we, the enlightened, have a much more commonsense approach to things. We look for a psychological or physical or even political explanation for every trouble we meet.

Who caused the Chaldeans to steal Job’s herds and kill his servants? Satan, clearly (Job 1:12, 17). Yet do we even give him a passing thought when we hear of terrorism today?

Who kept that poor woman bent over for eighteen years, the one Jesus healed on the Sabbath? Satan, clearly (Luke 13:16). But do we consider him when we are having a headache that keeps us from praying or reading Scripture?

Who moved Ananias and Sapphira to lie to the apostles? Satan again (Acts 5:3). But do we really see his hand behind a fallout or schism in ministry?

Who was behind that brutal assault on your own strength, those wounds you’ve taken? As William Gurnall said, “It is the image of God reflected in you that so enrages hell; it is this at which the demons hurl their mightiest weapons.”

There is a whole lot more going on behind the scenes of our lives than most of us have been led to believe.

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(Wild at Heart , 152-53)

Engaging The Unseen Foe

SOURCE:  Jerry Bridges/Discipleship Journal

Issues: Prayer is warfare with a defeated but still powerful enemy. When we allow our prayer lives to remain only on the level of immediate or “felt” needs, we risk the great danger of losing the struggle that God is ultimately interested in.

THERE’S a chapter in the history of the nation of Israel that I believe graphically illustrates the way we tend to operate as Christians.

Second Kings 3 records the account of Joram, the king of Israel, going into battle against the king of Moab. Joram did not seek God’s help or guidance for the fray; he simply made the decision and then enlisted the alliance of his former countryman, Jehoshaphat (king of Judah). Jehoshaphat didn’t pray either. After gathering up the king of Edom, they all went charging into battle.

In verse 9 we find out that they got into a supply problem: they ran out of water in the middle of the desert. Suddenly they wanted God’s help, and only then did they begin to pray (their method of praying was to seek the prophet). Their felt need was the focus of their prayer.

Water for their men and animals was a very important detail for those kings. But they were not out in the desert to drink water: they were there to fight a battle. Notice how God answered when he spoke to the prophet Elisha: “You will see neither wind nor rain, yet this valley will be filled with water, and you, your cattle and your other animals will drink. This is an easy thing in the eyes of the Lord; he will also hand Moab over to you” (verses 17–18). God had not forgotten the objective: to win the battle over the Moabites. The kings, however, had lost sight of why they were out there, because they were preoccupied with their immediate need.

THE TRUE BATTLEGROUND

As Christians, our prayer lives tend to dwell in the realm of water shortages. We seldom operate in the realm of true spiritual warfare. Go to an average prayer meeting, and I guarantee that 75 percent of the prayer requests will be for felt needs: for example, Jim’s neck. Now Jim’s neck needs to be healed, and I hope we are praying about it. But we never seem to get into the battle. As I’ve told my Sunday school class, “The only way that you can get prayed for at our church is to be in the hospital or out of a job.”

One year at Thanksgiving time I flew out to southern California to speak at a mission conference. My goal was to stimulate a vision among students and young military personnel for recruiting laborers for the harvest field. When I arrived at the Los Angeles airport, however, no one was there to meet me.

After wandering around the gate area and the baggage claim for forty-five minutes, I called the conference grounds. No answer. I thought, Well, I’ll get my secretary on this—she knows how to take care of these things. But when I called long distance back to Colorado Springs, no one answered the phone there either! Then I remembered that it was the Friday after Thanksgiving, and the office was closed. There I was, stuck.

It was then that I resorted to prayer: “Lord, if there is anyone in this airport looking for me,” I prayed, “help him to find me.” Not having much faith that my prayer was going to be answered, I headed out a nearby door to catch a bus to Pasadena. On my way out, I ran into a familiar-looking man on his way in. He was looking for me.

That was one of the quickest answers to prayer that I have ever experienced. Later on, however, I asked myself this question: “Did I pray as fervently for the real mission for which I was sent to southern California as I did that someone might find me at the airport?” In that airport, I was like Joram and Jehoshaphat, stranded in the desert without water. But the real reason I was there was not to get picked up at the airport, but to have a part in recruiting laborers for the harvest field. Jesus told us to pray that the Lord of the harvest will send forth laborers. That was the real battle.

There are three military terms that I feel illustrate various types of prayer: strategic, tactical, and logistical. Strategic refers to the ultimate objective—to defeat the enemy—and the overall plan, or strategy, to bring him into submission. Tactical means the specific battles necessary to achieve the ultimate objective. Logistical is simply supplying the physical needs of the army fighting the battle.

I believe that 75 to 80 percent of our prayer is for logistical items. For water in the desert. For someone to find us at the airport. For that sick person in the hospital. For the one who lost his job. All of these things are important, and we should be praying for them. But those kinds of things are almost all we pray about.

I would guess that 15 to 20 percent of our prayer effort is tactical, related to specific engagements with the enemy—the spiritual results of the conference I spoke at, for example. But that conference was only a specific operation; the overall objective was raising up laborers.

Very little of our prayer effort is strategic, or focused on our ultimate objective—the battle that God is really interested in. We need to remember that when we pray, we are entering into spiritual warfare. We are engaging a defeated but still powerful enemy: Satan, our unseen foe.

There are four primary aspects of this kind of warfare that are crucial to our success: first, understanding our enemy; second, identifying and learning to use the weapons with which to fight him; third, understanding the nature of our struggle with him; and fourth, focusing on the right objective in our attempts to defeat him.

UNDERSTANDING OUR ENEMY

In Ephesians 6:12, Paul says that our struggle is “not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Our warfare is with the devil and all of his evil angels. They are the spiritual forces Paul refers to in this passage.

The New Testament tells us four facts about the devil that we need to know in order to combat him. First, he is the ruler, with evil angels under him, of a kingdom in which all of the unsaved are held. When Paul wrote to the Ephesian believers that they were formerly dead in their sins, he was saying the same about us. We used to live in our sins when we followed “the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient” (Ephesians 2:1–2). We all used to follow the devil because we were all in his kingdom, under his dominion. When God commissioned Paul, he sent him to turn the Gentiles, the unsaved, “from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God” (Acts 26:18).

Not only does Satan hold the unsaved under his reign, but he also blinds the minds of unbelievers so that they cannot see the light of the gospel (2 Corinthians 4:4). That’s why witnessing often seems like pouring water off a duck’s back. Our speech comes across like a foreign language; the unbeliever just can’t understand.

When we witness to someone, we are launching an attack upon Satan’s kingdom. We cannot win this attack by our own power, because that person is under Satan’s dominion, and he is blinded by him. Jesus said that we cannot enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions until we first bind that strong man (Matthew 12:29). The strong man is the devil, and we bind him through prayer. That’s why we must enter into battle in prayer before we engage the unsaved in a witnessing situation.

The third fact that the Bible tells us about Satan is that he wars against believers, even though we have been delivered from his dominion into the kingdom of God. First Peter 5:8 says that he prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. The roaring lion is intended to symbolize the ferociousness of Satan.

When he attacks us in order to ruin us, however, he masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). In Scripture, light stands for either truth or moral purity. When Paul says that Satan masquerades as an angel of light, he means that Satan tries to convince us that his false teaching is the truth. When he tempted Jesus in the desert, saying, “Cast yourself down because it is written, ‘He will hold you up,”‘ Satan twisted the truth.

Second Timothy 2:22–26 tells us that Satan’s masquerade can be so deceptive that he actually takes believers captive to do his will. This is not demon-possession, but rather a diversion of our minds into false teaching, unimportant or peripheral issues, temptations, discouragement, and doubts about the truth of God’s word.

I vividly remember an event that occurred to me while going through an intense spiritual battle. I was looking at a particular promise in Scripture, when Satan planted this thought in my mind: “It isn’t true, is it?” That was just as clear in my mind as if he had spoken in a voice. He was seeking to make me captive to do his will by attacking my mind with false teaching.

We are at war with an enemy who has thousands of years of experience. Satan attacked Eve in the Garden of Eden, and he has been attacking God’s people ever since. He knows his strategy, and he is not locked up in logistics.

But Scripture gives us a fourth (and the most important) fact about Satan: he is a defeated foe.Colossians 2:15 tells us that Jesus Christ disarmed the powers and authorities and “made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the Cross.” This is the reason James can tell us, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Satan has lost the big war. He is now engaged in guerilla warfare against us, and we can defeat him in this day-to-day struggle.

USING THE RIGHT WEAPONS

In 2 Corinthians 10:3–5, Paul gives us a clue to the kind of weapon we need to battle Satan:

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

The war we are engaged in is for the minds and souls of people. Our weapons are not physical, nor are they those of human logic and cleverness. They are divine.

When you are engaged in battle and the objective is a person’s mind, what are you going to use? The truth. Satan masquerades as an angel of truth, but we combat him with the real truth—the word of God. Paul tells us in Ephesians 6 to put on the full armor of God, so that we may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. The list of armor is primarily defensive: helmet, breastplate, belt, sandals, shield and so forth.

In verse 17, however, Paul says, “Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is theword of God.” There are two Greek words that are translated, “the word of God.” One of them is logos, referring to Scripture in general. The other is a word that focuses on a specific passage of Scripture. In this verse, Paul is referring to the specific word of God—individual passages of the Bible that are brought to bear on individual battles. Just as Jesus answered Satan with specific passages of Scripture from the Old Testament when he was tempted in the desert, so we fight Satan with specific passages of Scripture that apply to the situation at hand.

Our first weapon in battling our foe is the word of truth. In verse 18 of Ephesians 6, Paul gives us our second: “And pray in the Spirit.” The second weapon is prayer. Whether we are evangelizing the lost, discipling believers, or trying to restore a lapsed brother or sister, the weapons are always the same: the word of truth accompanied by prayer in the Spirit. We need the Spirit of God to open our minds and release us from Satan’s captivity.

The battle for the souls of men and women is really not won in the witnessing encounter or the discipling meeting, but in prayer, before we ever get into those situations. Our actions are of course necessary, but it is futile to fight without paving the way by prayer against the devil.

THE NATURE OF OUR STRUGGLE

We are at war against a powerful, unseen foe. And our weapons are the word of God and prayer. In order to use these weapons successfully, we need to have an adequate understanding of the kind of warfare we are engaged in.

Several times, Paul uses a word related to prayer that means to struggle or to agonize. It is the word from which we get our word agony. The same word is translated “fight” in 1 Timothy 6:12—”Fight the good fight of faith.” Paul also uses this word in Colossians 1:28–29: “We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present every one perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling [or agonizing] with all his energy, which so powerfully works within me.” Here Paul is talking about our first weapon, the word of truth. But in chapter two, verse 1 of his letter to the people at Colossae he continues, “I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally.” In Colossians 1:29 Paul means, “I agonize in the ministry of the word.” In Colossians 2:1 he means, “I agonize in the ministry of prayer.” Both indicate intense fighting. Paul wasn’t just praying about those in the hospital and the unemployed. He was in the heat of the battle.

In Colossians 4:12, Paul commends Epaphras for the same kind of struggling: “Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling [always agonizing, always waging war] in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.” Epaphras had his eye on the battle. He wanted these people to grow up in Christ and stand firm in the will of God. He wasn’t just concerned about their logistical or felt needs. He was concerned about the spiritual aspects of their lives. And he waged war in prayer.

Are you in the battle? Have you agonized in prayer lately? Or are you still preoccupied with the material things of your life, as Joram was for the need of water, losing sight of the real battle and the real enemy?

FOCUSING ON THE RIGHT OBJECTIVE

Once we’ve faced the enemy, armed ourselves with the right weapons, and prepared ourselves for the rigors of battle, we can still jeopardize our success by losing sight of God’s ultimate objective in this spiritual warfare.

What is God’s objective? “For God so loved the world.” God so loved people that he gave his only begotten son. Christ died for them. This is God’s objective: people; not being found at the airport, or even having a great mission conference. Those are logistical and tactical operations.

In Genesis 12:3, God promised Abraham, “All people on earth will be blessed through you.” This hasn’t happened yet. Our job is to engage the enemy in warfare, to see that it does happen. God’s plan is going to be fulfilled, but he has ordained that this plan be carried out through prayer.

There are 412 billion men, women, and children on this earth right now. Most of them have never received the gospel. Have you prayed God’s promises into fulfillment for any of those people lately? Are you engaging Satan in battle through prayer? Are you asking God to bind the strong man, and claiming Christ’s victory on the Cross?

Jesus said that the harvest is plentiful and the laborers are few. He told us to pray that the Lord of the harvest would raise up laborers. The battle is not with unemployment and sickness and transportation arrangements. Those are necessary logistical items, and I am not saying that we shouldn’t pray for those things. God is aware of our friend in the hospital, or the man or woman out of a job. But I think that his attitude toward them is embodied in what he said to Joram: “This is an easy thing in the eyes of the Lord.” They are logistical details. He will also hand the enemy over to us.

My challenge to you is this: keep praying for your friend in the hospital, and keep praying for your friend who needs work. But remember that these are light things in the eyes of the Lord. Ask God to get you into the heat of the real battle. Ask him to equip you to engage the unseen foe, and then take your prayer life into the war for God’s ultimate objective. And expect him to hand Moab over to you.

Defend against Temptation

SOURCE:  Charles Stanley/In Touch Ministries

Read | James 1:12-16

To build a defense against temptation, we must understand how it works.

Every sin originates as a thought, often the result of a flaming arrow the Evil One shoots our way (Eph. 6:16). If a believer holds on to the thought, it becomes a fantasy—the chance to imagine what it would be like to pursue that notion without actually doing so. The problem with fantasies is that they can easily become entangled with a person’s emotions. This creates a desire, which brings the believer to the point where a choice must be made: he or she must either consent to the sin or refuse. This process is quite dangerous, as the progression from thought to choice can be almost instantaneous.

Wise believers determine ahead of time to resist temptation—before it enters their consciousness. There are two cornerstones to a good defense: the commitment to obey God, and the recognition that He is in control and has limited what Satan can do (1 Cor. 10:13).

We can further fortify our defense when temptation actually comes. Satan has a way of spotlighting the pleasure of sin until that’s all we see. But with conscious effort, we can retrain our focus to take in the bigger picture: Is this choice a violation of God’s Word? What are the consequences? Am I prepared to pay that price?

No defense against temptation is complete without Scripture and prayer. Every moment spent meditating on the Word and communicating with God builds our faith. As the bulwark around our mind and heart strengthens, we are ever more prepared to douse Satan’s flaming arrows.

Pornography: Q & A — Should I Marry A Man With Porn Struggles?

SOURCE:  Russell Moore

Should I Marry a Man with Pornography Struggles?

A couple of months ago, I posted a question about an ethical dilemma a recently engaged woman is facing. She just found out that her spouse to-be has had “ongoing struggles with pornography.” She isn’t sure what to do, or how to make sure the issue is sufficiently addressed. You gave your thoughts on the issue, and here are mine.

Dear Engaged and Confused,

Far too many women are watching “The Notebook” or “Twilight” for indicators on what kind of man they should marry. Instead, you probably should watch “The Wolf Man.”

Have you ever seen any of those old werewolf movies? You know, those in which the terrified man, dripping with sweat, chains himself in the basement and says to his friends, “Whatever you do, no matter what I say or how I beg, don’t let me out of there.” He sees the full-moon coming and he’s taking action to protect everyone against himself.

In a very real sense, that’s what the Christian life is about. We all have points of vulnerability, areas of susceptibility to sin and self-destruction. There are beings afoot in the universe who watch these points and who know how to collaborate with our biology and our environment to slaughter us.

Wisdom means knowing where those weak points are, recognizing deception for what it is, and warring against ourselves in order to maintain fidelity to Christ and to those God has given us.

What worries me about your situation is not that your potential husband has a weakness for pornography, but that you are just now finding out about it. That tells me he either doesn’t see it as the marriage-engulfing horror that it is, or that he has been too paralyzed with shame.

What you need is not a sinless man. You need a man deeply aware of his sin and of his potential for further sin. You need a man who can see just how capable he is of destroying himself and your family. And you need a man with the wisdom to, as Jesus put it, gouge out whatever is dragging him under to self-destruction.

This means a man who knows how to subvert himself. I’d want to know who in his life knows about the porn and how they, with him, are working to see to it that he can’t transgress without exposure. I’d want to know from him how he plans to see to it that he can’t hide this temptation from you, after the marriage.

It may mean that the nature of his temptation means that you two shouldn’t have computer in the house. It might mean that you have immediate transcription of all his Internet activity. It might be all sorts of obstacles that he’s placing in his way. The point is that, in order to love you,  he must fight (Eph. 5:25; Jn. 10), and part of that fight will be against himself.

Pornography is a universal temptation precisely because it does exactly what the satanic powers wish to do. It lashes out at the Trinitarian nature of reality, a loving communion of persons, replacing it with a masturbatory Unitarianism.

And pornography strikes out against the picture of Christ and his church by disrupting the one-flesh union, leaving couples like our prehistoric ancestors, hiding from one another and from God in the darkness of shame.

And pornography rages, as Satan always does, against Incarnation (1 Jn. 4:2-3), replacing flesh-to-flesh intimacy with the illusion of fleshless intimacy.

There’s not a guarantee that you can keep your marriage from infidelity, either digital or carnal, but you can make sure the man you’re following into it knows the stakes, knows how to repent, and knows the meaning of fighting the world, the flesh, and the devil all the way to a cross.

In short, find a man who knows what his “full moon” is, what it is that drives him to vulnerability to his beastly self. Find a man who knows how to subvert himself, and how to ask others to help.

You won’t find a silver bullet for all of this, but you just might find a gospel-clinging wolf man.

(Image Credit)

How an affair begins

SOURCE:  Andree Seu/World Magazine

A friend of mine told me that now she understands how adultery begins.

She went to a woman’s house to drop off a package as a favor to someone, but the woman was not home. The husband was, and they exchanged pleasantries for a few moments. My friend noticed the carpentry project the man was working on and commented on his artistry. She asked him a few questions about it, and it didn’t take much to encourage him to spill forth for an hour and a half about every aspect of the work. It was fun.

At some point in the conversation, the man made the comment that his wife doesn’t let him go on and on like that about his hobbies. That’s when my friend felt a curious check in her spirit. As she drove home, she thought with a shudder how she had enjoyed the flattery of being told she is a superior listener.

That was a narrow escape. We are warned of these sand traps:

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith …” (1 Peter 5:8-9).

This is the substance of life, which you may choose to take seriously or not. The devil is real and is busy. Like one pastor said, “You should see the top of Satan’s desk: It’s covered with overflowing ashtrays, crumpled papers, and half-drunk cups of coffee.” Satan comes in like an angel of light and departs with a fiendish cackle over carcasses strewn in the wilderness (1 Corinthians 10:5).

I personally know of an affair that started when a married woman I know told a married man I know that she had had a dream about him. That was one foot on the banana peel. It could have been nipped in the bud at that point but was not. Each small subsequent decision sealed their fate, and great was the destruction in the final scene.

Wives, love your husbands well, being their best friends. Husbands, love your wives well. A good marriage is a bulwark against the footholds of the Adversary.

When [I] Look Like Satan

SOURCE:  Adapted from a post by  John Piper

When People Look Like Satan

God made humans to reflect his image and advance the display of his glory over the created world (Genesis 1:26–28). But Adam failed in this commission.

Rather than have dominion over the serpent he succumbed to its craftiness. As Greg Beale explains, “Instead of wanting to be near God to reflect him, Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden” (Genesis 3:8 [so also 3:10])” (NTBT, 359).

Sin brought chaos and disorder. Things got all messed up. In fact, things became so backwards that Adam could be seen as actually supressing the image of God to reflect the image of the serpent, like a back-story to Romans 1:18–25.

Adam was the first human idolator who became something he was not supposed to become, looking more like the snake than he did his Creator. Beale explains how:

“Idol worship” should be defined as revering anything other than God. At the least, Adam’s allegiance had shifted from God to himself and probably to Satan, since he came to resemble the serpent’s character in some ways.

[He Lied]
The serpent was a liar (Genesis 3:4) and a deceiver (Genesis 3:113). Likewise Adam, when asked by God, “Have you eaten from the tree of the which I commanded you not to eat?” (Genesis 3:11), does not answer forthrightly. Adam replies, “The woman whom you gave me to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate” (Genesis 3:12). Adam was deceptively blaming Eve for his sin, which shifted accountability from him to his wife, in contrast to the biblical testimony that Adam, not Eve, was accountable for the fall (e.g., see Romans 5:12–19).

[He Didn’t Trust God’s Word]
In addition, Adam, like the serpent, did not trust the word of God (with respect to Adam, see Genesis 2:16–173:6; with respect to the serpent, Genesis 3:14–5). Adam’s shift from trusting God to trusting the serpent meant that he no longer reflected God’s image but rather the serpent’s image. . . .

[He Exalted Himself]
[Adam] not only stood by while his covenantal ally, Eve, was deceived by the serpent, but also decided for himself that God’s word was wrong and the devil’s word was right. In so doing, perhaps Adam was reflecting another feature of the serpent, who has exalted his code of behavior over and against the dictates of God’s righteous standard. But, if not, certainly Adam was deciding for himself that God’s word was wrong. This is precisely the point where Adam placed himself in God’s place — this is worship of the self.

G. K. Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011), 359f., headings and full biblical citations added.

Adam was a deceiver. He didn’t trust God’s word. He exalted his standard above’s God’s in the worship of himself. Humans, created to image the majesty of God, rebelled and imaged the character of the serpent. This was the fall.

And it’s not just Adam’s story, it’s our story, too.

Sin is not a thing we can just sweep under the rug. It’s not a little this or that. Oh no. Sin is most fundamentally our acting like Satan instead of reflecting the glory of God.

Think about that for a moment.

Fudging on the truth, spinning things a bit, ignoring God’s word, elevating our reason above what he’s said — these are neither struggles nor foibles, they are Satanic. It is to deny the most fundamental purpose we exist: to glorify God and bear the imprint of his holiness.

One motivation to a life of repentance is to see our sin for what it truly is.

What you put in — Your Mind — comes out…

SOURCE:  American Association of Christian Counselors

Mind Games

To renew your mind is to involve yourself in the process of allowing God to bring to the surface the lies you have mistakenly accepted and replace them with truth. -Charles Stanley

If your mind is filled with the Word of God, then it can’t be filled with impure thoughts. -David Jeremiah

Crazy thoughts… we all have them from time to time.

Consuming thoughts… those are the ones that won’t be denied.

Unrelenting thoughts… that won’t let you sleep.

Private thoughts… that stubbornly fuel emotions of lust, anger, fear, sorrow, and even hopelessness.

Infected thoughts… that are often destructive in relationships with those closest to us, even our relationship with God.

“Anxious thoughts (that) multiply within me…” (Psalm 94:19 NAS)

The scary part? When we start believing them. “For as a man thinks within himself, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7 NAS)

The antidote? “…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6 ESV)

However, we must not miss vs. 8 which begins with the word “Finally”— a word which could be translated “From this time forward”“Finally, (from this time forward) brothers, (and sisters) whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (ESV)

That’s a bunch of “whatevers” to think about.

What you fill your mind with will largely determine what type of thoughts you have. What you put in — comes out…

And there is a challenge; the “evil one”, known as the “father of lies”, constantly and consistently bombards our minds. And his mind games become a battlefield.

Paul said we should take “every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.”(2 Corinthians 10:5 NAS) Knowing it and doing it are two different things.

Speaking of war, when Paul delineates and lists the “full armor of God” used to “stand firm against the schemes of the devil” in Ephesians 6, he only records one offensive weapon — “And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (v. 17 NAS)

The spiritual weapon given to us by the Lord, to battle the formation of these debilitating and controlling thoughts, is God’s word.

Flip back a page to Ephesians 5. Paul says that Christ sanctifies and cleanses the body of Christ “by the washing of water by the word” (v. 26 ESV)

Our thought life can, and will be washed clean by soaking and meditating in His written word.

Spend time reading the Bible. Study it. Memorize it. Saturate your thoughts with it. Immerse your soul in it. Drink deeply of its truth. Let the word of God dwell in you richly.

As you do this, “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7 ESV)

It will turn your thought life around.

We Are at War

The Counseling Moment Editor’s Notes:  Yes, as the author of the article below states, “We are at war.”  That is a fact of life this side of heaven.  At the same time, we, who have a personal faith in Christ, are aligned with and belong to the One who has overcome Satan, death, sin, and the world and is the Victor in the war (Rev 3:21). 

SOURCE:  John Eldredge

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)

Have you ever wondered why Jesus married those two statements? Did you even know he spoke them at the same time? I mean, he says them in one breath. And he has his reasons.

By all means, God intends life for you. But right now that life is opposed. It doesn’t just roll in on a tray. There is a thief. He comes to steal and kill and destroy. Why won’t we face this? I know so few people who will face this. The offer is life, but you’re going to have to fight for it, because there’s an Enemy in your life with a different agenda.

There is something set against us.

We are at war.

I don’t like that fact any more than you do, but the sooner we come to terms with it, the better hope we have of making it through to the life we do want.

This is not Eden.

You probably figured that out.

This is not Mayberry, this is not Seinfeld’s world, this is not Survivor.

The world in which we live is a combat zone, a violent clash of kingdoms, a bitter struggle unto the death.

I am sorry if I’m the one to break this news to you: you were born into a world at war, and you will live all your days in the midst of a great battle, involving all the forces of heaven and hell and played out here on earth.

Where did you think all this opposition was coming from?

(Waking the Dead , 12-13)

Evil Has A Name

SOURCE:  Taken from  The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) pp. 50-51

“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)

Satan prefers that we do not recognize his role in our conflicts.

As long as we see other people as our only adversaries and focus our attacks on them, we will give no thought to guarding against our most dangerous enemy.

Both James and Peter were aware of this danger, and they warn us to actively resist Satan’s schemes (James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:9). Paul gives a similar warning, reminding us that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12). 

Food for Thought

“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”
— C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

Who is your most dangerous enemy?

Think about it for a moment. What would you say? Odds are that among both non-Christians and Christians, most of us would answer in terms of flesh and blood; in other words, someone or some group of people. But as Ken reminds us, that’s just not the case. Three scriptural authors — Peter, James and Paul — all echo the reality that our most dangerous enemy in this life is Satan.

There is an enemy out there and we’re basically oblivious to his schemes – we’re asleep at the wheel. We just keep on blaming each one another, a.k.a., flesh and blood, for everything that’s going on. Ken says it well: Satan prefers that we do not recognize his role in our conflicts.

If we have any intention of living as peacemakers, it’s imperative that we live with an awareness of our most dangerous enemy. Now it is true that most of our struggle comes through flesh and blood, but we’ve got to be self-controlled and alert, remembering that it’s not ultimately against flesh and blood that we battle.

Q & A: Should I Marry a Man with Pornography Struggles?

SOURCE: Taken from an article by  Russell D. Moore

A recently engaged woman just found out that her spouse to-be has had “ongoing struggles with pornography.” She isn’t sure what to do, or how to make sure the issue is sufficiently addressed.  The following is a response by Dr. Moore:

Far too many women are watching “The Notebook” or “Twilight” for indicators on what kind of man they should marry. Instead, you probably should watch “The Wolf Man.”

Have you ever seen any of those old werewolf movies? You know, those in which the terrified man, dripping with sweat, chains himself in the basement and says to his friends, “Whatever you do, no matter what I say or how I beg, don’t let me out of there.” He sees the full-moon coming and he’s taking action to protect everyone against himself.

In a very real sense, that’s what the Christian life is about. We all have points of vulnerability, areas of susceptibility to sin and self-destruction. There are beings afoot in the universe who watch these points and who know how to collaborate with our biology and our environment to slaughter us.

Wisdom means knowing where those weak points are, recognizing deception for what it is, and warring against ourselves in order to maintain fidelity to Christ and to those God has given us.

What worries me about your situation is not that your potential husband has a weakness for pornography, but that you are just now finding out about it. That tells me he either doesn’t see it as the marriage-engulfing horror that it is, or that he has been too paralyzed with shame.

What you need is not a sinless man. You need a man deeply aware of his sin and of his potential for further sin. You need a man who can see just how capable he is of destroying himself and your family. And you need a man with the wisdom to, as Jesus put it, gouge out whatever is dragging him under to self-destruction.

This means a man who knows how to subvert himself. I’d want to know who in his life knows about the porn and how they, with him, are working to see to it that he can’t transgress without exposure. I’d want to know from him how he plans to see to it that he can’t hide this temptation from you, after the marriage.

It may mean that the nature of his temptation means that you two shouldn’t have computer in the house. It might mean that you have immediate transcription of all his Internet activity. It might be all sorts of obstacles that he’s placing in his way. The point is that, in order to love you,  he must fight (Eph. 5:25; Jn. 10), and part of that fight will be against himself.

Pornography is a universal temptation precisely because it does exactly what the satanic powers wish to do. It lashes out at the Trinitarian nature of reality, a loving communion of persons, replacing it with a masturbatory Unitarianism.

And pornography strikes out against the picture of Christ and his church by disrupting the one-flesh union, leaving couples like our prehistoric ancestors, hiding from one another and from God in the darkness of shame.

And pornography rages, as Satan always does, against Incarnation (1 Jn. 4:2-3), replacing flesh-to-flesh intimacy with the illusion of fleshless intimacy.

There’s not a guarantee that you can keep your marriage from infidelity, either digital or carnal, but you can make sure the man you’re following into it knows the stakes, knows how to repent, and knows the meaning of fighting the world, the flesh, and the devil all the way to a cross.

In short, find a man who knows what his “full moon” is, what it is that drives him to vulnerability to his beastly self. Find a man who knows how to subvert himself, and how to ask others to help.

You won’t find a silver bullet for all of this, but you just might find a gospel-clinging wolf man.

————————————————————————————————————-

Dr. Moore is the Dean of the School of Theology and Senior Vice-President for Academic Administration at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also serves as a preaching pastor at Highview Baptist Church, where he ministers weekly at the congregation’s Fegenbush location. Moore is the author of several books, including The Kingdom of ChristAdopted for Life, andTempted and Tried.

DEMONS HAVE FAITH!

SOURCE:  W. W. Wiersbe

It comes as a shock to people that demons have faith!

What do they believe?

For one thing, they believe in the existence of God; they are neither atheists nor agnostics. They also believe in the deity of Christ. Whenever they met Christ when He was on earth, they bore witness to His sonship (Mark 3:11–12). They believe in the existence of a place of punishment (Luke 8:31); and they also recognize Jesus Christ as the Judge (Mark 5:1–13). They submit to the power of His Word.

“Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord!” (Deut. 6:4) This was the daily affirmation of faith of the godly Jew. “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder” (James 2:19, NIV).

The man with dead faith was touched only in his intellect; but the demons are touched also in their emotions. They believe and tremble.

————————————————————————————————————————————

Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Jas 2:18). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.

We Are All ADDICTS !

SOURCE: Taken from an article at Lighthouse Network/Stepping Stones

We are all addicts.

Every one of us is addicted to comfort.

We all struggle to deal with discomfort, especially emotional or psychological pain. Even though we say “no pain, no gain”, it’s amazing how quickly we run from discomfort and pain, or need to quickly soothe it. You see, we are all born separated from God … and that is the ultimate pain. A temporary separation on the cross is what prompted even Jesus to ask God to have this “cup” pass from Him.

As kids, we develop strategies to deal with pain. Unfortunately, we aren’t mature and our “teachers” aren’t perfect. So developing coping mechanisms for physical, psychological, relational, emotional, and spiritual pain is random, faulty, and very short-sighted … not very effective for the long haul.

Our solutions are usually flesh-driven options, knee-jerk reactions, or immediate relievers. These “solutions” are the Addiction Objects … things we go to and rely on in a repetitive way to fill needs instead of looking to God for His answers. Now God could directly soothe us or He might choose to provide appropriate objects to fill our needs. But each time we need to look to Him first, not the object.

Addiction objects can be drugs, alcohol, food, or pornography. But they can also be anger (or any emotion), work, productivity, security, our intellect, kids, money, spending, “martyr complex”, exercise, our looks/physique, sports, TV, hobbies, fighting, control, a relationship, sex, texting, Facebook, Twitter, etc. If it is something that comforts you or relieves some negative feeling, Satan will use it as an addiction object. People can find themselves obsessively and compulsively hooked on almost anything.

One of the great lies that Satan perpetrates on us is that addiction objects offer self-protection. The truth is they are really self-destructive. Just look at Solomon’s experiences in Ecclesiastes, as he pursues everything under the sun for comfort, while leaving out God. He becomes overwhelmed, lost, and depressed, hen finally declares all objects to be vanity or meaningless when God is not pursued first.

When you are uneasy, lonely, stressed, etc, what do you go to first? Bingo! You found your addiction object. Next time, try to look to God first and see what He prescribes for your pain. He is the Ultimate Physician and Healer and is always available for drop-ins.

 Prayer

Dear Father God, for many years I struggled with the pain of needing to be needed, accepted, valued. I turned to my addictions for comfort, but they caused more pain. You have freed me from my bondage to all addictions, but I still struggle with a need for control. Help me tolerate discomfort, because your grace is sufficient. Help me to grow the Mind of Christ and to look to You as my ultimate Lighthouse of refuge and sanctuary. In Christ’s freeing name.    AMEN!

The Truth

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience– among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

Ephesians 2:1-3

 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9,10

 1 Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”;

8 Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher; all is vanity.

10 The Preacher sought to find words of delight, and uprightly he wrote words of truth.

13 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.

Ecclesiastes 12:1,8,10,13

“The Lord Rebuke You, Satan!”

SOURCE:  Discipleship Journal/David Daniels

Acquitted!

Satan’s Accusations Are No Match For Jesus’ Defense.

The problem started during “the rockets’ red glare.” My six-year-old was playing “The Star-Spangled Banner” for his elementary school talent show. For several months, Pearson had been learning to play piano by ear, and my wife and I were thrilled that he was confident enough to show off his skills to a listening public.

However, he missed one note—just one among a hundred.

When the piece concluded, the audience erupted in thunderous applause, but Pearson clearly was discouraged. After the show, I cut through the crowd to congratulate him for a fabulous job. His feelings of disappointment and self-criticism burst like bombs and destroyed his ability to bask in my praise. In his mind, he was a failure.

Like Pearson, I sometimes allow even the smallest errors to stifle my sense of success. I can spend multiple weekends crafting a project in my woodshop. Then, after all my hours of sawing, gluing, sanding, and finishing, friends will compliment me on my accomplishment. They marvel at the masterpiece, but I see the mistake.

Such is the tension of living as a Christ follower.

All of us carry past stains or flaws that Satan uses to convince us that we are failures. Like a wrong note or a crooked cut that seems to nullify an otherwise great job, past sin—though confessed and forgiven—can overshadow the abundant, joyful life we have in Christ.

At these moments, we need a reminder of grace. When the devil points out our spiritual blemishes and accuses us of sin, God provides an immediate defense to help us reflect on the past but not dwell there.

Court in Session

The exiled Israelites also struggled to overcome guilt for past sins. During the second year of his reign, the Persian king Darius permitted them to return home to Jerusalem. They had been taken captive generations earlier by the Babylonians, not because they were militarily inadequate but because of sin. The Israelites had traded the worship of God for idols, the holiness of God for sensuality, and the justice of God for selfishness. So God made their home like their hearts. Their city walls were demolished, their temple was destroyed, and their people were deported to live as aliens in a foreign land.

Ezra, one of the leaders during the time of their return, reflected on the reason for their defeat:

From the days of our forefathers until now, our guilt has been great. Because of our sins, we and our kings and our priests have been subjected to the sword and captivity, to pillage and humiliation at the hand of foreign kings, as it is today.

—Ezra 9:7

God’s people were under God’s discipline. He had used shaping, sharpening circumstances to correct them and redirect the course of their lives. Although God disciplined them out of love to produce the fruit of righteousness (Heb. 12:6, 11), it was nonetheless painful.

At Israel’s return to Jerusalem, this pain was unbearable. As the leaders stood atop piles of debris, they surveyed a city in disrepair and wept. The rocks and rubble were reminders of their former depravity and God’s severe discipline. How could they ever hope to receive His favor again?

Israel’s discouraging circumstances set the stage for the courtroom drama that unfolds in Zechariah 3. Zechariah was a prophet called by God to speak to Israel as they were rebuilding the city and temple. In a vision Zechariah received from God, the spiritual representative of God’s people stood before the angel of the Lord. Satan was also present—as the prosecutor.

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him.

—Zech. 3:1

This vision depicts the ongoing spiritual battle we, as God’s people, face every day: As we work toward restoration, the enemy attacks with accusation.

Accusation is one of Satan’s primary strategies. His name means “accuser” or “one who opposes.” In Rev. 12:10, he is called the “accuser of [the] brethren” (NASB). After he traps us in sin through temptation, he overwhelms us with reminders of our failure.

A scene from The Lion King clearly illustrates this strategy. The villain, Scar, leads his nephew, Simba, into the middle of a wildebeest stampede. Simba’s father dies attempting to rescue his son, and Scar blames the young cub for the devastating outcome. His accusations consist of a wickedly covert combination of “no one will ever know” followed by “I told you so.”

Satan repeatedly uses the same tactic against Christians.

Our accuser lures us into sin and then puts us on trial when we take the bait. Even after we’ve confessed and sought forgiveness, he continues to condemn us for our failures.

In Zechariah’s vision, “Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel” (Zech. 3:3). I know exactly how Joshua must have felt: exposed, ashamed, unworthy. The devil’s attacks cause me to question my position before God, the cross’s power over sin, and God’s protection from eternal judgment. First, I experience guilt—that painful sense that I am unclean and unforgivable. Second, my heart floods with doubt: Does God still love me? Is the cross big enough for my sin? Third, I drift into fear, wondering whether I really am saved; perhaps I have lost the eternal security I once possessed. Finally, I slip into hopelessness—that discouraging sense of irreversible defeat.

For the Defense

Fortunately, there were three people in the courtroom Zechariah saw. As soon as the devil stood to deliver his prosecution, the Lord rose to defend His servant:

The Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?…Listen, O high priest Joshua and your associates seated before you, who are men symbolic of things to come: I am going to bring my servant, the Branch. See, the stone I have set in front of Joshua! There are seven eyes on that one stone, and I will engrave an inscription on it, says the Lord Almighty, and I will remove the sin of this land in one day.

—3:2, 8–9

The courtroom judge became a criminal advocate. This is a picture of amazing grace. When the devil harasses us, God rises to our rescue.

God based His defense on His promise to send a servant, the life-giving “Branch” who would remove the sin of the people in a single day and deal with their failure once and for all. What God’s people at that time could only imagine, we enjoy fully today. Through Jesus Christ, God is both “just and the justifier” (Ro. 3:26, NASB). The Apostle John summarizes this remarkable assurance when he writes, “If anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One” (1 Jn. 2:1). Because of Christ’s work on the cross, the one who can damn me rises to defend me instead.

The remainder of Zechariah’s vision spells out Jesus’ threefold defense.

Grabbed by God

First, we have been chosen by grace. In verse 2, the Lord vigorously reprimands the enemy:

The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?

The people of Israel understood grace. Their nation was the fulfillment of the covenant (Genesis 12) in which God selected Abram to be the father of His chosen people, not because of his great ancestry, spiritual potential, moral lifestyle, or good looks, but as an act of grace. So when Satan’s accusations came, the Israelites could lean on the fact that their relationship with God wasn’t initiated or earned by them . They didn’t grab God; He grabbed them like sticks snatched from a fire. Therefore, their position with God was secure. Likewise, Jesus assured His followers, “You did not choose me, but I chose you” (Jn. 15:16).

Grace is difficult to grasp. I earn an income. My children earn an allowance. I earn a degree, a promotion, and a reputation. When the telemarketer enthusiastically informs me that I’ve won a free cruise, I laugh. Because nothing in life is free.

Except salvation.

Paul affirms this great truth by reminding his readers that our salvation is a free gift not based in any way on our merit (Eph. 2:8–9). None of us is strong enough, smart enough, or good enough to crawl out of the fire of judgment. We are simply sticks snatched away by Jesus, the righteous Branch.

Fortunately, we cannot undo what we did not earn. Since God chose us even with the stain of past sin, He doesn’t reject us when we experience present failure. His grace not only reaches to the depth of our deepest sin; it also reaches far enough to cover our sin day after day after day. Just as our goodness didn’t secure our salvation, so our sin cannot endanger it. When we are reminded of our imperfections, we can rejoice in the unfailing grace of God.

Squeaky Clean

Each year my oldest son, Grant, enjoys a summer camp tradition called Buffalo Hunt. During this activity, preteens chase their counselors through mud pits trying to steal token rubber bands from their wrists. By the end of the game, Grant’s clothing is so dirty, so stained, so foul, that even the strongest detergents can’t clean it.

Literature sent out before camp warns, “Have your child wear something that can be thrown away.” At least the camp is honest. The shorts and shirt are unredeemable. They’re filthy. They must be discarded.

So must our sin.

God doesn’t excuse, ignore, or minimize our sin. He calls it what it is. Joshua was “dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel [of the Lord]” (Zech. 3:3). The word filthy means “covered with excrement.” Sin is like dung in the presence of God. There is nothing that can be done but to strip it away and throw it out.

And that’s exactly what God does for Joshua:

The angel said to those who were standing before him, “Take off his filthy clothes.” Then he said to Joshua, “See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put rich garments on you.

—3:4

The ugliness of our sin is removed by the ugliness of the cross. Christ died to make us clean. That’s our second defense.

First Corinthians 6:9–11 describes sin’s repulsiveness and God’s remedy:

Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

I will never forget the first time I read those words. After the first few verses, inadequacy tumbled into hopelessness. The wicked have no inheritance in the kingdom of God! As far as I could tell, my life was hidden in the list of sinners.

Then suddenly, the passage changed direction. “That is what some of you were”—past tense (emphasis mine). I used to be a sinner wrapped in filthy rags. That was my identity. But I was washed by Jesus Christ and the Spirit of God.

Whenever a person comes to Christ, the old is stripped away (2 Cor. 5:17). God removes our sinful nature and gives us a new, Spirit-infused one. He also takes away the guilt or stain of our sin, throwing our transgressions “as far as the east is from the west” (Ps. 103:12) and forgetting them forever. Finally, He takes away our fear of condemnation (Ro. 8:1) so that we can live at peace with Him. We are not old stuff veneered to look brand new. We have been completely renovated, with all sin, guilt, and fear stripped away. So when we hear the voice of accusation, we can rejoice that we are clean!

New Threads

As quickly as Joshua’s clothes were removed, rich garments and a clean turban were brought out, and he was dressed in fine array. Not only was he clean; he was clothed.

Just before I was married, I purchased an antique wardrobe as a gift for my new bride. Because the auction find was covered in years of dirt and neglect, I spent many evenings after work stripping off decades of stain and varnish to reveal a beautiful mahogany cabinet. But the removal of the old was only half the restoration process. I also needed to reapply stains and sealants to protect the furniture from further abuse.

After God removes our sin, He redresses us in a new fashion. He clothes us in “garments of salvation” and arrays us in “a robe of righteousness” (Is. 61:10). This completes our defense against Satan’s prosecution. Our new clothes seal us from further accusation by identifying us as God’s children.

In the story of the prodigal son, when the wayward young man comes to his senses and decides to return to his father’s house and admit his failure, he hopes that he can at least have a room among the lowest servants. Instead, the gracious father receives his son with open arms and, after a moment of celebration, demands that a new robe, sandals, and the family ring be brought to the son. After all, a son must look like family, not like a hired servant.

In Gal. 3:27, Paul writes that “all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” As believers, we are wrapped in Him and His righteousness. This is our new identity. We are no longer strangers, but children. Not aliens, but heirs. Not enemies, but friends. Not sinners, but saints genuinely changed by Jesus forever.

I must be careful not to define myself by anything—positive or negative—other than the righteousness of Christ. I am not essentially Type A or a perfectionist or a pastor. My Christian friend isn’t an alcoholic, a divorcée, or an entrepreneur. There are no workaholics, Olympic champions, middle-classers, Gen-Xers, financial experts, or introverts in the kingdom of God. All that our Father sees is the righteousness that He has put on us. Everything else is a limiting, often unfair label—not an accurate indicator of our new identity in Christ.

This is our greatest defense against the devil. When he calls us a failure, a fraud, a hopeless sinner, we may stand firm on the truth that we are nothing less than righteous offshoots of the Divine Branch. Our life in Christ is simply learning to live what is already true about us.

Almost 200 years ago, Edward Mote penned words for a hymn that take on greater meaning in light of Zechariah’s vision:

My hope is built on nothing less

Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

I dare not trust the sweetest frame,

But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ the solid Rock I stand,

All other ground is sinking sand;

All other ground is sinking sand.

I have no other hope than what Christ has done for me and in me. I cannot trust any identifying factor in my life other than the righteousness of Jesus that He gained for me at the cross. I stand on the foundation of Jesus. The last verse of this affirming song summarizes this truth:

When He shall come with

trumpet sound,

Oh may I then in Him be found.

Dressed in His righteousness alone,

Faultless to stand before the throne.

Faultless. Without accusation. The devil may point his finger at us, but we stand innocent before the throne of the Eternal Judge because we stand clothed in Christ.

Case Closed

In November 1999, I conducted a private memorial service for four unborn children. Wesley, Richie, Jessica, and Drew had been aborted years earlier, and their mothers wished to honor them. As you can imagine, the service was filled with intense reflection, grief, and loss. If anyone faced the temptation to sink into the depths of unworthiness, these women did. But something had happened to each of them in the years since their regretted decisions. They had discovered a new life in Christ. They knew they didn’t have to bear the burden of their offenses. They had been chosen by grace, they were cleansed of sin, and they were clothed in Christ.

Grace triumphed. Jesus stood for them. They had been acquitted, and court was adjourned.

What Believers Ought To Do And Pray In Time Of Trouble


SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by Ligon Duncan [First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, MS] 

Luke 22:39-46 [reveals] Jesus, on the Mount of Olives, in the Garden of Gethsemane.

J.C. Ryle’s words about two aspects of this passage are rich. He says: “The verses before us contain Luke’s account of our Lord’s agony in the garden. It is a passage of Scripture which we should always approach with peculiar reverence. The history which it records is one of the ‘deep things of God.’ While we read it, the words of Exodus should come across our minds, ‘Put off your shoes from off your feet; the place where on you stand is holy ground.’ (Exod. 3:5)

“We see, firstly, in this passage, an example of what believers ought to do in time of trouble. 

The great Head of the Church Himself supplies the pattern. We are told that when He came to the Mount of Olives, the night before He was crucified, ‘He knelt down and prayed.’

“It is a striking fact, that both the Old and New Testaments give one and the same receipt for bearing trouble.

What does the book of Psalms say? ‘Call upon me in the time of trouble-I will deliver you.’ (Psalm 50:15) What does the apostle James say? ‘Is any afflicted? let him pray.’ (James v. 13) Prayer is the remedy which Jacob used, when he feared his brother Esau. Prayer is the remedy which Job used when property and children were suddenly taken from him. Prayer is the remedy which Hezekiah used when Sennacherib’s threatening letter arrived. And prayer is the remedy which the Son of God Himself was not ashamed to use in the days of His flesh. In the hour of His mysterious agony He ‘prayed.’

“Let us take care that we use our Master’s remedy, if we want comfort in affliction. Whatever other means of relief we use, let us pray. The first Friend we should turn to ought to be God. The first message we should send ought to be to the throne of grace. No depression of spirits must prevent us. No crushing weight of sorrow must make us speechless. It is a prime device of Satan, to supply the afflicted man with false reasons for keeping silence before God. Let us beware of the temptation to brood sullenly over our wounds. If we can say nothing else, we can say, ‘I am oppressed-undertake for me.’ (Isaiah. 38:14)

“We see, secondly, in these verses, what kind of prayers a believer ought to make to God in time of trouble.

Once more the Lord Jesus Himself affords a model to His people. We are told that He said, ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me-nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.’ He who spoke these words, we must remember, had two distinct natures in one Person. He had a human will as well as a divine. When He said, ‘Not my will be done,’ He meant that will which He had as a man, with a body, flesh and blood, like our own.

“The language used by our blessed Master in this place shows exactly what should be the spirit of a believer’s prayer in his distress. Like Jesus, he should tell his desires openly to his heavenly Father, and spread his wishes unreservedly before Him. But like Jesus, he should do it all with an entire submission of will to the will of God. He should never forget that there may be wise and good reasons for His affliction. He should carefully qualify every petition for the removal of crosses with the saving clause, ‘If you are willing.’ He should wind up all with the meek confession, ‘Not my will, but yours be done.’

“Submission of will like this is one of the brightest graces which can adorn the Christian character. It is one which a child of God ought to aim at in everything, if he desires to be like Christ. But at no time is such submission of will so needful as in the day of sorrow, and in nothing does it shine so brightly as in a believer’s prayers for relief. He who can say from his heart, when a bitter cup is before him, ‘Not my will, but yours be done,’ has reached a high position in the school of God.” (J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke)

 

Satan Hates You And Has A Terrible Plan For Your Life

The bad news: We have an enemy who actively seeks to destroy us. The good news: In Christ, we have the authority to keep him at bay until his final defeat

SOURCE: Timothy Warner/Discipleship Journal

The New Testament frequently reminds us that we have a spiritual enemy (Mt. 6:13, 2 Cor. 11:3, Eph. 6:10–18, Jas. 4:7). Peter further warns us to be “self-controlled and alert” around this enemy, whom he clearly identifies as the devil (1 Pet. 5:8). But unless we understand who our enemy is and what his tactics are, we give him a great strategic advantage over us.

Who Is Satan?

Just as the Bible nowhere presents an argument for the existence of God, it nowhere gives us an obvious explanation of who Satan is or where he came from. Jesus’ reference to “the devil and his angels” (Mt. 25:41), John’s account of the war in heaven between Michael and his angels and “the dragon and his angels” (Rev. 12:7), and the possible reference to him in Ezk. 28:14 as a “guardian cherub” have led many to the conclusion that he was a high-ranking angel who rebelled against God and led a group of the angels to follow him in rebellion.

Paul tells us that the coming of the lawless one at the end of this age “will be in accordance with the work of Satan.” This imposter under Satan’s control “will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple  . . . proclaiming himself to be God” (2 Thess. 2:4, 2 Thess. 2:9). Satan was acting out this ambition to be God when he tempted our Lord to fall down and worship him in exchange for all the kingdoms of the world (Mt. 4:8–9).

We know that Satan will never achieve his goal of being like God, and he knows it. No matter where we put Revelation 12 (describing a vanquished Satan and his angels) in view of the end times, Satan knows that he has a limited time to pursue his diabolical purposes (Rev. 12:12). Yet spiritual warfare is a fact of life as long as this enemy is still loose on the earth and the final victory of the Kingdom of God is in the future.

God allows Satan to retain his power and operate as a part of this world because God’s sovereignty over the world is not in question. God is able to use the work even of this enemy to accomplish His own purposes—to make us stronger rather than weaker.

We can conclude, then, that Satan is a powerful angel who rebelled against God and now sees God and God’s children as his special enemies. The other angels who went along with the rebellion are what we now call demons (Jude 6).

What Are Satan’s Objectives?

Satan’s goals grow out of his jealousy and hatred of God. What does Satan hope to accomplish?

Keep unbelievers in the dark. Satan would like to rule the world. Since that will never happen in the ultimate sense, he has to settle for something less as he deals with people.

For the unredeemed his strategy is to keep them from hearing and receiving the truth of the gospel. Paul tells us that “the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4). Satan tries to keep them from even hearing the message. If an unbeliever hears but does not understand, Jesus tells us that “the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart” (Mt. 13:19).

Render believers spiritually ineffective. Believers are in a position to bring glory to God by their very lives, and that’s something Satan is committed to prevent. In the Ten Commandments it’s clear believers are not to “take the name of the Lord your God in vain” (Ex. 20:7, NAS). God’s intent was far more than to prohibit the use of His name in oaths or curses. He was saying we should not be called “children of God” and then not live in a manner that points others to God. We are not to take the name of God on ourselves by saying we are His children and then not reflect His character. That’s why Paul says, “Whether you eat or drink [the most basic functions in life] or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God”(1 Cor. 10:31).

Peter says Satan’s aim is to “devour” us (1 Pet. 5:9). The root meaning of the word devour is “to swallow.” Satan will try to get us so swallowed up in worldly and self-centered living that we “fall short of the glory of God” (Ro. 3:23).

Hinder the work of God in the world. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians that he had attempted to come to them many times, but “Satan thwarted us” (1 Thess. 2:18, NAS). In Ephesians 6 Paul characterized Christian life and ministry as struggling against the demonic powers in the world. He clearly implies that if we do not use the spiritual armor and weapons provided for us, the enemy will press the attack and keep us from carrying out our Lord’s marching orders. Even when we are operating on faith, as Paul did, we are not spared the heat of the battle. Paul suffered many things (2 Cor. 6:3–10, 2 Cor. 11:23–33). Though much of his suffering came at the hands of human opponents, I believe Paul would have seen it as part of the battle with supernatural forces.

What Are Satan’s Tactics?

The more an army knows about the strategies and tactics of an enemy, the more effective it will be in combat with that enemy. Paul indicated that in his warfare with Satan he was not “unaware of his schemes” (2 Cor. 2:11). Unfortunately, the Christian army today is often quite ignorant of Satan’s schemes and becomes easy prey. What are some of Satan’s basic warfare tactics?

Deceit. Jesus said that when the devil lies he speaks out of his very nature (Jn. 8:44). He first appears in the Bible in Genesis 3 using deception to lure Adam and Eve into sin (see 2 Cor. 11:3). In Rev. 12:9, (NAS) he is called the one “who deceives the whole world” (see also Rev. 18:23, Rev. 19:20, Rev. 20:10).

If a person is openly attacked, he can defend himself. If he is tempted, he can make a choice. But if he is deceived, he doesn’t even know anything is wrong. In 2 Tim. 2:24–26 Paul says that some people in the church who were opposing the truth were in “the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.” He also indicated that the way out of that trap is the truth (v. 25).

Satan will deceive us about how powerful he is. Many people ascribe power to Satan that he doesn’t have, simply by fearing even to talk about him. Satan then will capitalize on this fear by attacking us—usually when we’re alone, when it’s dark, and when we’re in a weakened condition.

Satan also deceives us by offering us power to deal with the problem areas of our lives. People in all parts of the world, including what appears to be a highly secularized Western world, carry good luck charms, consult psychics and fortune-tellers, go to practitioners who use magic to heal diseases, consult with spirits claiming to be from people of past ages, consult the alignment of stars, and engage in a multitude of other activities we call the occult. Satan promises power but delivers only enough to keep his victims coming back, and he charges a very high price in the form of bondage in some area of a person’s life.

Satan also deceives us about spiritual truth. Paul tells the Corinthians, “I am afraid that just as Eve wasdeceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3). He wrote to Timothy: “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons” (1 Tim. 4:1).

The two most foundational truths that come under attack are the character of God and the identity of the believer as a child of God through faith in Jesus Christ. Once a person’s concept of God is perverted, his concept of what it means to be a child of God is affected. This sometimes takes the form of blaming God for all the bad things that happen in life. It also takes the form of believing we have to reach a certain level of perfection before God will accept us. Since people may not live what they profess but will always live what they believe, success in spreading these wrong beliefs gives Satan an inroad in the most foundational area of our lives—our hearts (Prov. 4:23).

Accusation. Satan is also called “the accuser of our brothers” (Rev. 12:10). He accuses us to God and he accuses us to ourselves. God convicts us of sin by showing us how to deal with it through the Cross. Satan accuses us to discourage us and make us want to give up. He will sometimes put an evil thought in our minds and then say, “And you say you are a Christian—look what you’re thinking!” I’ve talked with ministers and missionaries who’ve struggled with this. It’s one of the reasons Paul tells us to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:3–5).

Capitalizing on weakness. A standard modus operandi of Satan is to find a weakness in our lives and intensify it to a compulsive level (2 Cor. 10:3–5). Weaknesses such as the effects of trauma or a dysfunctional family or wrong patterns of thinking may open the door for his involvement. Satan doesn’t fight fair. He’s ruthless in his attacks, and God’s protection is not automatic just because we are His children.

Oppression through demonization. In demonization, a demon holds some measure of control over a person. This relationship has often been called demon possession, but that is a misleading term and, if used at all, should refer only to the more extreme forms of demonic control over unbelievers.

Satan’s henchmen, the demons, seek to establish strongholds in people—both Christians and non-Christians (2 Cor. 2:10–11, 2 Cor. 10:3–5, Eph. 4:27). Symptoms such as an inability to grow spiritually, compulsive thoughts or behaviors, and undiagnosable or untreatable physical symptoms may indicate a demonic stronghold. So do the more classic symptoms of superhuman strength, different voices, and an inability to cope with everyday life. A truly Spirit-filled believer will not be demonized—not because an evil Spirit cannot be where the Holy Spirit is (God is omnipresent) but because that person is appropriating the spiritual power and authority available to him as a child of God (Lk. 10:19, Eph. 1:19).

Oppression through demonized physical objects. God made it plain that His people should not bring certain religious objects into their homes. They were, in fact, to detest them and burn them (Deut. 7:25–26). Evil spirits can use such objects as a medium to come to people (Deut. 32:17, Ps. 106:37, 1 Cor. 10:19–20). For instance, a missionary child suffered severe nighttime disturbances until a ceremonial dagger hung in his room was removed and destroyed.

Physical affliction. Satan may also attack the physical body (Job 2:7, Mt. 9:32–33, Lk. 13:16, 2 Cor. 12:7). Sometimes physical attack is the result of doors we open to the enemy through our own sin, as in the case of a woman who had undiagnosable fevers and pain that moved about in her body. When she confessed and renounced her participation in occult practices, the fevers and the pain left with no recurrence.

Our Victory over Satan

It’s easy to focus too much on what Satan can do and be intimidated. Instead, we should focus on our resources in Christ so we can meet Satan’s challenges with confidence.

The decisive battle in spiritual warfare was fought and won by Christ at the Cross and the Resurrection. Paul wrote to the Colossians, “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Colossians 2:15). The writer to the Hebrews affirmed this victory when he said, “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death” (Colossians 2:14–15). Our faith is in the victory of Christ and in our relationship to Him.

Luke gives us an interesting glimpse into the process many go through to learn of their spiritual authority over Satan. In Luke 10, he tells of Jesus sending seventy-two disciples out to practice what He had been teaching them. When they returned, they said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name” (Luke 10:17). They seemed somewhat surprised at this. Jesus said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” I think He was saying their ministry had all the authority of the Kingdom of God behind it. To make it more explicit He said, “I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you” [this does not make you some special group of privileged, gifted disciples],”but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” [being a child of God gives you this authority] (Luke 10:18–20).

John McMillan, in his little book The Authority of the Believer, compares our authority to that of a policeman. A policeman’s authority does not reside in his own identity but in his position as a representative of the state. It doesn’t matter whether he’s one week out of the police academy or a twenty-year veteran. As policemen, both have the same authority.

So it is with the believer. It’s not one’s giftedness or age; it is being a child of God that gives us spiritual authority. Even a young child who knows the Lord can ward off the attacks of the enemy in the name of Jesus.

We are at war whether we like it or not. The only question is whether we can say with Paul “I have fought the good fight” (2 Tim. 4:7) by being “strong in the Lord and in his mighty power,” taking our stand “against the devil’s schemes” (Eph. 6:10–11).

What does the Bible teach about Satan?

SOURCE:  Randy Alcorn/Eternal Perspective Ministries

Satan and angels are created beings; and, as such, are totally subservient to God and limited in all their powers compared with the Sovereign and Omnipotent Creator.

“For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created by Him and for Him” (Co. 1:16). “For I am convinced that neither death, no life, no angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height , nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39). “For the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).

Satan and his fallen angels (demons) are, however, powerful, crafty, intelligent, deceitful, and committed to (permanently sealed into) opposing God.

“Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). “In which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2). “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar, and the father of lies” (John 8:44).

As created beings, Satan and angels (fallen or not) do not know God’s plan (except for that which is revealed). They do not know what God’s Decree contains, until it actually happens. “But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Mark 13:32).

Satan and the angels cannot read minds.

Nowhere does Scripture mention this capability for any creature. Yet, it specifically asserts God’s ability to know an individual’s mind. “Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O Lord, Thou dost know it all” (Ps. 139:4); “But He knew what they were thinking” (Luke 6:8)

Satan, demons, and fallen humans all know that God is real. 

“Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them.” (Job 1:6). “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder” (James 2:19). “Because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse” (Rom. 1:19-20).

This knowledge does not affect a fallen creature at all. Satan’s entire delusion is that he is “like God.” This is the reason he fell and introduced sin into the creation. “How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, you who have weakened the nations! But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High. Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol, to the recesses of the pit” (Is. 14:12-15).

This is the same delusion that he presented to Adam and Eve, and they chose it too. “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5). This is an intoxicating delusion. Someone who is operating their life based on “illusions of grandeur” will act irrationally consistent with their mental (or spiritual) illness.

Thus, even though fallen creatures know the revealed truth, and know that God exists, it is irrelevant to them. Satan is convinced that he is free to act, smarter than God, and able to thwart God’s plan. “Then Satan answered the Lord, ‘Does Job fear God for nothing?… Put forth Thy hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse Thee to Thy face’” (Job. 1:911). At every point Satan is focused on opposing God (cf. the temptation of Jesus in Matt. 4:1-11). Fallen humans also oppose God: “Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures” (Rom. 1:22-23).

Paul’s words in Romans 1 point out the primary way that Satan has opposed God.

He sometimes poses as an angel of light and offers counterfeit religions based on subtle misinformation: “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness” (2 Cor. 11:13-15). His other counterfeit religions are outright pagan. “They served their idols, which became a snare to them. They even sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons” (Ps. 106:36-37). “None of the daughters of Israel shall be a cult prostitute, nor shall any of the sons of Israel be a cult prostitute” (Deut. 23:17). “I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, and not to God; and I did not want you to become sharers in demons” (1 Cor. 10:20).

His final delusion will be with the Antichrist in a worldwide religion, and the only reason this will happen is because the Lord will remove the restraint. “Who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God…..And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he may be revealed….The one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders” (2 Thess. 2:469).

Satan considers himself successful in his opposing God. 

However, what he does not appreciate is that since he is created, even he and his demons are part of God’s decree. As such, Satan cannot do anything that is not allowed by God. And, everything Satan is allowed to do brings about the eternal plan of God, to His Glory. “Then the Lord said to Satan, ‘Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.’ So Satan departed from the presence of the Lord” (Job. 1:12). “He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him” (Mark 1:27). “And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day” (Jude 6).

Satan is so thoroughly deluded about his ultimate success over the Lord, that he actually attempts a physical over-throw. This same blinding delusion is reflected in the men whom he uses in the end times—”by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron” (1 Tim. 4:2). “And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. And the dragon and his angels waged war, and they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world” (Rev. 12:7-9).

Satan is so delusional that, in his blinding hatred opposing God, he willingly fulfills God’s decree as it is plainly revealed and known by him.

The devil cannot oppose God more vigorously than the way described in the final chapter of God’s plan in Revelation. He thus willingly charges into the face of sure defeat fully confident of victory. Such is the nature of evil. “And I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years” (Rev. 20:1-2).

Even after 1,000 years to contemplate the truth of the Scriptures, when he is finally released, Satan goes right back to opposing God exactly as described in Revelations. “And when the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison, and will come out to deceive the nations… And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:7-10).

Satan’s work is evil and suffering—exactly what the messianic promise ofGenesis 3:14-15 is said to ultimately defeat. From the beginning, God planned that his Son should deal the death blow to Satan, evil, and suffering, in order to reverse the Curse, redeem a fallen humanity, and repair a broken world.

Never Underestimate The DEVIL!

SOURCE:  J. C. Ryle

Let it never surprise us, if we are tempted by the devil.

Let us rather expect it, as a matter of course, if we are living members of Christ.

The Master’s lot will be the lot of His disciples. That mighty spirit who did not fear to attack Jesus himself, is still going about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. That murderer and liar who vexed Job, and overthrew David and Peter, still lives, and is not yet bound.

If he cannot rob us of heaven, he will at any rate make our journey there painful. If he cannot destroy our souls, he will at least bruise our heels (Gen. 3:15). Let us beware of despising him, or thinking lightly of his power.

Let us rather put on the whole armor of God, and cry to the Lord for strength. “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

~ J.C. Ryle

Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Luke volume 1, [Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1986], 108, 109. {Luke 4:1-13}

Lord, Why Can’t I Change?

The Necessity of a Renewed Mind

SOURCE:  Charles Stanley

Have you ever vowed to put an ungodly habit behind you, only to fall again soon after? Feelings of guilt can lead to a renewed commitment to never do something again. But the very next day, the cycle repeats itself as we give in to the same temptations. Our defeat leaves us wondering, What’s wrong with me? Our despair at repeated failure produces a sense of hopeless resignation and confusion. We want to know, Lord, why can’t I change?

All of us have experienced the problem of wanting to honor God and yet reverting back to old, sinful ways almost immediately. Isn’t the Christian life supposed to be more liberating and victorious than this? After all, the Bible says, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Cor. 5:17). Why, then, does habitual sin take hold of us? Wasn’t Christ supposed to change all this? If we are new creations, why do we still act like old ones? We feel as stuck as a ship run aground.

So how do we shake free from our sinful behaviors? First, we need to examine the way change occurs in the Christian life. Salvation is an instantaneous work of God, which happens the moment we receive Jesus as Savior. But from that point on, we enter a continual process of transformation called sanctification. The Lord’s goal is to mold us into the image of Christ, but this process requires our cooperation. That’s what the Bible means when it says, “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12). If we neglect this responsibility, we’ll find ourselves struggling with the same issues over and over again. But if we submit to the Holy Spirit, He’ll exert His influence in every area of our lives. Old sinful habits will pass away and be replaced with new godly behavior.

The path to transformation

Becoming the people God created us to be is an inside-out process. Because our thoughts govern each area of our lives—emotions, decisions, actions, attitudes, and words—any lasting transformation must begin with the mind. If all we want is to modify our conduct, we’ll never experience long-term success. What we need is a new way of thinking.

This can be accomplished only by what the Bible calls renewing the mind(Rom. 12:2). It’s not a sudden transformation but a lifelong process. At the moment of salvation, the Lord doesn’t erase all our negative and sinful thought patterns any more than He automatically removes our physical imperfections. If you had a scar on your arm before you received Christ, most likely you will still have it afterward.

We are all a reflection of whatever we’ve been thinking throughout the years. From early on, we are taught to respond to situations in a certain way, with a particular response pattern, and this impacts every area of our lives. In some cases, we can see how people’s expressions reveal the way their minds have developed throughout their lifetime—etching continuous worry, pain, and guilt on their faces.

Take a look in the mirror. Do you see the joy of Christ in your eyes? Or are the destructive effects of sin betrayed by your appearance? The good news is that whatever your thoughts have been in the past, God can teach you to think differently. He gives His Spirit to lead you through a process that produces real healing and lasting change.

Where thoughts originate

So, what triggers negative thought patterns? The Lord has given us physical senses so we can interact with each other and our world. The capacity to see, hear, touch, taste, and smell is an amazing gift from God, which affects how our thoughts develop and what we think. However, because we are continually being influenced by the fallen world around us, we don’t always use these abilities in a way that honors Him. We experience a sight, sound, smell, flavor, or touch that gives us momentary pleasure and we begin to think, What would it be like if I…? This begins the downward spiral—our senses trigger thoughts, which elicit destructive patterns of behavior.

James 1:14-15 explains, “Each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.” That is why we must be discerning about what we listen to and watch. It is also why the apostle Paul tells us to lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted, and instead be renewed in the spirit of our minds—to put on the new self which is created in God’s likeness (Eph. 4:22-24).

A second source of sinful thoughts is from the Enemy of our souls. Have you ever been thinking about some plan or task, only to have a vile, ungodly idea pop into your mind? You may wonder, Where did that come from? These are Satan’s attempts to distract us with his ideas and twist the truth, inciting us to disobey God. His purpose is to destroy our character and lead us astray.

The way we respond determines whether we fall to his enticements or stand strong against him. Will we, as Paul says, dwell on “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute” (Phil. 4:8), allowing our minds to be transformed by these things? Or will we take the bait?

No matter how our minds are bombarded by unwanted temptations, we must remember that as believers, we do not have to be enslaved by sin. We are not helpless victims, but sons and daughters of almighty God. We have within us the Holy Spirit—a positive, powerful influence that is mightier than the Enemy can ever hope to be. Because we are indwelled by God’s Spirit, we have the power to extinguish the Enemy’s flaming arrows (Eph. 6:16). We are also able to know the mind of Christ, take our thoughts captive to Him, and have victory over every temptation.

How your mind is renewed

God calls us to be watchful and guard our minds at all times. If we don’t, worldly values and purposes will subtly creep in and influence our lives. Whenever we allow ourselves to be conformed to the world, the Enemy gains a foothold in our thinking. And the more we yield to those thoughts, the stronger his hold becomes.

We must wisely choose which thoughts we will accept and which ones we’ll reject. It’s not enough just to resist the Enemy’s lies; we must also deliberately fill our mind with truth from God’s Word. Jesus used this technique when Satan tempted Him in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1-11). He countered each challenge with Scripture, saying “It is written . . .” When we are ready with a verse that refutes one of Satan’s falsehoods, we have the most powerful spiritual ammunition possible.

So consider: How diligent have you been about guarding your mind? Have you permitted the world to influence your thoughts? Or are you allowing God’s Word to shape your reasoning and values? You cannot coast through the Christian life. An unengaged mind is an open invitation for sin. If you’re distracted, having trouble praying or reading the Bible, your thoughts are not where they should be.

Perhaps you feel as if you’re the rope in a tug of war between God and sin, constantly being pulled in two opposing directions. Don’t beat yourself up when you fail. Rather, confess and repent as quickly as possible (1 John 1:9). During those times, remember that you are engaged in a long process, and that you cannot renew your own mind. Trying harder and making promises to God will only discourage you, because in your own strength, you will never be able to change. True transformation is the work of the Holy Spirit—and it takes time. Therefore, submit to His leading, heed His warnings, and obey His voice.


Four Requirements for a Renewed Mind

  1. Fill your mind with Scripture—focusing on the Lord’s character, ways, and commands.
  2. Resist temptation and flee from it by understanding the thoughts and feelings that trigger a sinful response in you.
  3. Check the source of your thoughts—are they from God, your flesh, the world, or Satan?
  4. Rely on the Holy Spirit to empower you to resist sin and break free from its bondage.

Begin today

As believers, we can expect this process of transformation to continue until we reach heaven; however, the important issue is that we begin today.

Just as your area of struggle began with one act of yielding to temptation, so your path to victory can begin with one act of submission to God. Through the power of the Spirit, start saying no to thoughts that don’t belong in a believer’s life. At the same time, say yes to appropriate thoughts. When you fill your mind with truth from God’s Word, you’ll gain discernment and be able to more readily identify the thoughts and feelings that cause you to sin.

As you persevere in choosing which thoughts to allow, the bondage of sin will diminish and your mind will be renewed. This transformation, which began internally, will now be worked out externally as behavior changes. When you think right, you’ll act right. Areas of your life that you were powerless to adjust on your own will be refashioned. And Christ’s victorious life will be beautifully demonstrated through you so that others will see and be drawn to Him.

How to Be Happy in an Unhappy Marriage

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

After two failed marriages, Janice decided to try one more time for the relationship she dreamed of. Yet, just one year later, her marriage to Hank was crumbling. Defeated and confused, Janice cried out to God for some answers. “In that moment,” she says, “I began to realize that there is no perpetual honeymoon to any marriage. Sometimes it’s just plain hard work. It was then and there that God told me I could not depend on my husband to make me happy, I would only find my true happiness in God.”

Even as Christians, many of us have grown up with unrealistic expectations of marriage. Hollywood and Harlequin have taught us that we must find our perfect match—our soul mates—to be happy. When difficulties occur in our marriage, we may wonder, like Janice did, whether we have found the right person or may even think we have made a terrible mistake. After twenty-six years of marriage and over two decades of counseling couples I have learned that God created marriage to mature us and for us to enjoy, but it was never intended to fulfill us or make us happy.

Marriage is God’s great idea, but in every marriage there are seasons of difficulty and times of dryness where one or both partners may feel dissatisfied with the marital relationship. As we work to improve our marriage, sometimes our efforts don’t produce the changes we want. During these times, the question we need to ask ourselves is not, “Should I leave my spouse so I can find another person who will make me happy?” but rather, “Can I learn to find contentment and joy while in the midst of an unhappy marriage? And if so, how?”

Change Your Focus

Everyone I know wants to feel good inside but few know the secret to lasting happiness or even what happiness is. Is happiness a feeling of emotional ecstasy? Intense pleasure with life’s circumstances? An internal state of well-being or contentment? Happiness can comprise all of these things.

Several years ago my husband surprised me with a beautiful pearl necklace I had admired. I felt really happy—for about three days—until I began longing for some earrings to go with it. We all search for something to fulfill us and make us happy, whether it is people, objects, or positions of status. When we get what we desire, we feel a certain emotion we call happiness. This feeling, however, is always short-lived and, like Solomon with his 700 wives and me with my pearl necklace, we begin longing for the next thing we desire that will bring us more satisfaction.

While on a trip to Walt Disney World, I was struck by the number of cranky youngsters and frustrated parents. My children, like many others, were caught up in the excitement and wanted everything they saw. They felt elated whenever they got what they wanted but their happiness didn’t last. When the next thing they desired was denied, the thrill they felt just minutes before quickly deteriorated and they became miserable.

Soon after my Disney experience, I traveled overseas to do some speaking and teaching in the Philippines. I observed barefoot children merrily swinging on old tires, living in houses constructed from cardboard boxes. These children didn’t need lots of stuff to make them happy. Though maybe just for the moment, they were enjoying what they had.

Many of us feel dissatisfied in life because we are not content with what God has given us. We want more. How does this apply to our marriage?

Jesus tells us that where our treasure is, there our hearts will be also (Matt. 6:21). If our treasure, or deepest desire, is in having a great marriage or a fat bank account or certain other things we deem essential to our well-being, then we will feel unhappy when we don’t get what we want. For whatever has our heart, has us.

No one is more concerned with our happiness than Jesus is. He just tells us a different way of obtaining it than the world does. He tells us that happiness is never found by pursuing happiness or pleasure or people, but only found by pursuing him. He says, “Blessed (or happy) are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6). Too many of us hunger and thirst after happiness (or a good marriage or a big house), instead of hungering and thirsting after God. We forget that Jesus is the only one who can deeply satisfy our soul. Everyone desires unfailing love (Prov. 19:22); it’s just that we will never receive that kind of love continually from our spouses.

Created in his image, God designed us to experience happiness when something brings us great delight. For example, God is delighted when we find our greatest pleasure in him. But often it is not God that brings us our greatest joy but what he gives us. We desire his gifts but we don’t realize that our greatest gift is God himself. Oswald Chambers explains: “The great enemy of the life of faith in God is not sin, but the good which is not good enough. The good is always the enemy of the best.” We want and pursue good things, but often neglect the best thing. The Psalmist reminds us where lasting happiness is found. He writes, “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand” (Psalm 16:11). God’s love is the only love that never fails (Jer. 31:3).

Guard Your Heart

To find any joy in an unhappy or difficult marriage, we must learn to guard our hearts (Prov. 4:23). Many individuals who struggle in marriage get very good at guarding their hearts, but the walls they build to protect themselves are against their spouses instead of against their real enemy. In the midst of an unhappy marriage, our spouse may feel like the enemy, but God tells us that our real enemy is Satan and the Bible warns us that he is out to devour us (1 Pet. 5:8).

Satan’s goal has always been to get us to question God’s goodness and to doubt that what God says is true. Jesus tells us that Satan is a liar (John 8:44) and his strategy is to take something that seems true and twist it ever so slightly. In a difficult marriage, Satan may whisper lies like, “Why should you be the only one trying in the marriage? It’s not fair. Find someone else who will make you happy.” Or, “Don’t forgive, she doesn’t deserve it. You’re entitled to feel this way after what she did to you.” Or, “He will never be the person you want. You made a terrible mistake marrying him and God doesn’t want you to spend the rest of your life unhappily married to this person.”

Satan wants us to believe that God is not good and that he does not know what is in our best interest. Remember, he is not interested in our well-being or our happiness. He wants to destroy us and our families.

Guarding my heart not only requires me to be aware of Satan’s schemes, but to draw close to God and listen to truth. Don’t let Satan deceive you into believing that any lasting happiness can be found apart from God.

Live for the Eternal

In the midst of hardship, our natural response is to look for the nearest exit. That’s true of difficult marriages as well. Whether we exit in big ways like divorce or adultery or in small ways by shutting down and withdrawing emotionally, we want out. Yet the Bible tells us in James 1 that it is in the midst of difficulties that we have the opportunity to develop one of the most important disciplines we need to live life well—perseverance. Without this quality we will tend to live for what brings us relief or pleasure in the short-run.

I love to eat, especially sweets. I love tasting warm, gooey chocolate in my mouth, and I could be happy eating chocolate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Yet when I over-indulge, I’m plagued with other emotions like guilt and regret. I’m angry that I’ve sabotaged the bigger goal I have of gaining self-control and maintaining good eating habits. I’ve also discovered that when I succeed in saying no to the chocolate temptation, I actually feel happier with myself.

We only understand what makes us truly happy when we have a long-term perspective on life. Living for the moment can fool us into thinking that temporal pleasures bring happiness. The writer of Proverbs warns us, “At the end of your life you will groan, when your flesh and body are spent. You will say, ‘How I hated discipline! How my heart spurned correction!'” (Prov. 5:3,11,12). Many have discovered only too late, that what brought joy in the moment caused hardship and grief in the long run.

The apostle Paul reminds us that it was only when he kept the eternal lens fixed tightly to his spiritual eyes was he kept from utter despair in times of great difficulty (see 2 Cor. 4). Looking at the big picture gives us perspective in the moment and helps us see that God is good and is doing something good in us, even in the midst of a difficult marriage (Rom. 8:28, 29).

Knowing that you can find some joy the midst of an unhappy marriage will give you enough staying power to persevere until things change. You can experience a sense of well-being as you learn the secret of being content in whatever situation God allows in your life. When we take the high road in the midst of marital troubles it leads to growth and spiritual maturity. In addition to that, our children will watch an example of what it means to walk with God and to trust him in all things. And while enjoying these blessings you may discover that your marriage improves. However, the greatest happiness in all of life will come when we hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” And in the end, that is all that counts.

————————————————————————————————————-

Leslie Vernick is the director of Christ Centered Counseling for Individual and Families and the author of How To Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong (WaterBrook). She and her husband, Howard, live in Orefield, Pennsylvania.

NOTE:  If your marriage consists of physical or emotional abuse, you may also need to take measures to protect yourself and your children in ways that are beyond the scope of this article. Please consult with your pastor or Christian counselor to find ways to deal with this situation.

The Character and Intention of the Devil

SOURCE:  J. C. Ryle

Editor’s Note:  As brought out in the below article by J. C. Ryle, there is a devil, and we must be wise to his wiles.  At the same time, our focus must be ultimately upon Jesus.  Although a great and formidable foe to us, the devil is a defeated foe nonetheless (Col 2:15).

There is a devil!

We have a mighty invisible enemy always near us–one who never slumbers and never sleeps–one who is about our path and about our bed, and spies out all our ways, and will never leave us until we die.

He is a murderer!

His great aim and object is, to ruin us forever and kill our souls. To destroy, to rob us of eternal life, to bring us down to the second death in hell, are the things for which he is unceasingly working.  He is ever going about, seeking whom he may devour.

He is a liar!

He is continually trying to deceive us by false representations, just as he deceived Eve at the beginning. He is always telling us that good is evil and evil good–truth is falsehood and falsehood truth–the broad way good and the narrow way bad.

Millions are led captive by his deceit, and follow him, both rich and poor, both high and low, both learned and unlearned.

Lies are his chosen weapons. By lies he slays many.

~ J.C. Ryle

Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: John, volume 2, [Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1987], 125. {John 8:37-47}

DO I Believe In God MORE or LESS Today Than I Did Yesterday?

WHAT IS SATAN’S GOAL?

SOURCE:  C. Michael Patton

One of the most perplexing questions I struggle with concerning Satan is this:

Wait . . . first let me get something out on the table. I believe in Satan. No, not as an impersonal force of evil. No, not as the sin which exists within all of us. And certainly not as God’s equal on the ying/yang opposite side of good. I believe Satan is an intelligent creature who seeks to upset God’s plan at every turn. I believe Satan was created good and turned bad. I believe he is on a leash – often to my bewilderment, a very long leash.

Okay, now that that is out of the way. . .

One of the most perplexing things I struggle with concerning Satan is this: Does he actually think he can win?

I don’t know. Maybe he is so deluded he thinks the impossible to be possible (ala Origen’s view). Certainly he does not have insider intel that pushes his odds of success up a bit. His odds of success are perpetually set at 0. His odds of success, relatively speaking, are about the same as mine would be should I attempt a coup to make all of God’s plans backfire. However, God does give him freedom and uses him in ways that are very strange to me.

I mean, he has read Revelation, hasn’t he? You know the end? The fire and brimstone stuff? (Rev. 20:10) Even (at least some of) the demons seem to recognize their eventual defeat (Luke 8:31). Therefore, I don’t suppose he thinks he is going to win, though I am not totally dismmissive of the idea that his mind is so messed up that he may have hope.

But knowing that Satan cannot really win, I ask a second question: What is his goal?

Come on. Isn’t he a Calvinist? Doesn’t he know he cannot thwart the purpose of God?

I am not sure we can speak of his goal in the singular unless we go very general and say that his goal is just to dethrone God. But that can be understood in many ways. Certainly he is not attempting to take his place as Creator God, for Satan, like us, cannot create anything! Certainly he is not trying to take God’s place as the Unmoved Mover, for Satan is time-bound and … well … moving.

It seems this simple: like us, Satan is infected with sin and acts irrationally, desiring to elevate himself to be the center of the universe. How does he do this? By attempting to silence the worship of God.

With people, I am sure we might say that he simply wants to keep us from believing in God. I think this is illustrated well with the Parable of the Soils, where the first soil falls on the path and Satan immediately takes it, so that no belief is ever birthed (Matt. 13:19). He does not want people to believe God. That is what he does with you and me.

He seeks to steal our belief in whatever way he can.

With Christians, however, I don’t believe this is possible. Nothing can snatch us out of the Father’s hand (John 10:29). Surely he knows this. However, I don’t think he has a clue as to who the true believers are and who are representatives of the second and third seed in the Parable of the Soils. You know, the seeds that gain root, but don’t last? He does not know whether your belief is from God, or if it is something that can wither and die.

Either way, his goal is simple: the destruction of belief in God.

However, I don’t think we should conceive of this as outright atheism. This is especially the case when it comes to believers. All he has to do is handicap our faith so that it becomes ineffective or counterproductive. As you know, there are not many outright atheists in the world. There never have been. I doubt there ever will be. But this does not mean that campaigns for atheism are ineffective in the mind of Satan or that he is not cheering them on. Why? Because he knows that these campaigns, while not creating many atheists, are shaking foundations nonetheless.

While Satan’s aspirations may not be to create atheists, he does want people to believe less deeply and less accurately today than they did yesterday.

Remember the first confrontation humanity had with this creature in Eden? Remember what he said to Eve? He did not say, “God is not real. Don’t believe in him. You have never seen him. He does not really exist. We can explain existence through natural processes.” No, he just twisted God’s word ever so slightly. He affirmed God’s existence, but began to chop down God’s integrity. “God has not said . . . he just does not want you to be like him, knowing good and evil.” The result was not that Eve became and atheist or an outright unbeliever, she just doubted God’s truthfulness.

Whatever doubts he can bring about in your life, he will use. Maybe it is God’s existence. Maybe you are not on the verge of becoming an atheist, but you are believing less today than yesterday. From Satan’s standpoint, this is why he clocks in every day. Maybe you are doubting  God’s integrity, goodness, love, or plan. “Has God really said…?” is Satan’s message to you as he attempts to have you place God on whatever judgment stand he can. He hates God and he hates you.

It is not insignificant that when Christ taught the disciples to pray, he said about deliverance from Satan, “Deliver us from the Evil One” (Matt. 6: 13). I count six things Christ tells us to pray for. Six. That is it. Not one thousand. Not three hundred. Not even sixty-six. But six. Of these six, our battle against Satan is the subject of one of them. I think this is pretty significant.

There is a reason why the Bible begins by telling us about our confrontation with this odd creature. There is a reason why the end tells of his ultimate destruction. And there is a reason why the short Lord’s prayer tells us to recognize and pray about our battle with him. God has, for some reason, allowed him to roam. He is on a leash, but has been given permission. He wants to test your faith today. His goal right now is to make you believe less than you did before.

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